Garden

It’s the time of year when I don’t get around to posting much on the blog. Too much to do outside! (Not to mention I’m now writing full time for The Prepper Project!)

dying peas

I’m kinda disappointed that none of the vines I planted have covered the arch trellises we installed. The garden has been somewhat pitiful this year. I’m not sure if it’s the heat or a soil issue, but the harvest has been meager.

I do know what I did wrong with the peas. A was flipping through my copy of Carrots Love Tomatoes when I came upon a section that says peas should never be planted with onions. See how pitiful my pea vines look? Apparently planting them together was a big no-no. (I should have consulted the book at planting time.) Remember our pea harvest last year? That’s what the peas should have looked like. Lesson learned. I’ve replanted bush peas with a fresh crop of carrots in a newly turned over raised bed for a fall harvest. Peas and carrots grow well together… “like peas and carrots”… easy to remember.

blossom end rot tomato

I can’t tell you how many dozens of tomatoes I’ve thrown out due to blossom end rot. I planted them with lots of crushed eggshells, and I’ve added Epsom salt to the soil around the plants, but so far I’m still having a lot of loss. Maybe I planted too many too closely?

ripening tomato

Fortunately, not all have been bad. I’ve been picking the good looking ones before they’re fully vine ripened to finish ripening indoors, trying to avoid more rot.

2015 onion harvest spring

Our onion harvest was decent. To cure the onions I let them sit in the hot sun for about three days. Now they’re sitting under the cover of our back porch to finish drying for another week or so- until the outer skins are papery and have lost their moisture.

onion harvest

I’ll braid the biggest sets to hang in our kitchen until I’m ready to use them. The smaller bulbs will probably be frozen. I tried pickling them last year, but found we weren’t fond of pickled onions.

squash

Handpicking squash bugs and their eggs seems to have done the trick. Our plants are looking healthy, and have been producing a nice little crop for us.

squash

What we haven’t eaten fresh, I’ve frozen to enjoy down the road.

onion and carrots

The carrots did okay, though I didn’t plant nearly enough. At least the kids enjoyed them straight out of the garden. I still have a lot canned from last year. I just planted more carrot seeds yesterday for a fall crop, so maybe we’ll get more.

Foraging

blackberries

I’ve been trying to stay on top of picking our raspberries as they’ve ripened on our bushes. We’ve also been foraging lots of blackberries to eat fresh and to freeze for later. I haven’t made any raspberry jelly or jam because I still have so much from previous years of canning.

Pests

japanese beetles

The Japanese Beetles have been awful this year. They’ve almost completely defoliated our fruit trees and rose bushes, and are now devouring our raspberries and grapevines. I’ve spent a lot of time handpicking them from our plants, dropping them into a jar of water to feed to the chickens (which love them, by the way). I finally purchased a couple of Japanese Beetle Traps, which have definitely helped. Next year I’ll put them out in early June to catch the bugs before they have time to reproduce. I’ve also read that sprinkling your yard with Organic Milky Spore Powder will kill the grub stage of Japanese Beetles.

grapes

Fortunately, Japanese Beetles don’t eat grapes… only the leaves. So far, anyways. I wish I could say the same for the raspberries.

Chickens

mama hen and chicks

On June 18th we had more chicks hatch out. Mama hen hatched 6 out of 8 eggs… 3 yellow and 3 black chicks. Watching babies hatch and grow never gets old! They’re still small enough to fit through the fencing, but the hen calls them back when she wants them closer. We also let them out to free range so she can teach them how to scratch and forage.

Staying Cool

kids swimming in pool

Summers are hot and extremely humid here in the southeast. Spending time at the creek and in the pool definitely helps! I love that these silly kiddos are learning to swim well also, a skill we should all have.

We’ve also decided to stay partially connected to the grid in order to use our air conditioner. I’d like to write more in depth on this at some point, but since we’ve learned that it is possible to switch our home between grid power and being 100% off grid, we’ve decided to stay connected as a backup to our solar system and for severe heat. Our A/C is set to come on when it gets 81* inside, which is surprisingly comfortable once you’re used to it. But once it gets much higher than that we all begin to suffer. I don’t like suffering, especially knowing we can avoid it. After trying to go without for as long as possible, I’m extremely grateful for air conditioning!!

Speaking Engagements

prepper expo

My family has also been traveling to Prepper Expos and other events where I’m teaching canning seminars and selling my At Home Canning DVD. I’ll be a keynote speaker at the next RK Prepper Expo in Raleigh, NC, July 11-12th. We’re still debating on the Atlanta show in August. We’ll also be in Saluda, NC for Rick Austin’s Prepper Camp, Sept. 18-20th. I always love talking to you guys at my booth, so come on out and say hello if you’re in the area!

I guess that pretty much catches you up on what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks, in a nutshell. I hope you’re all enjoying your summers!!