Tuesday, June 7, 2016

...where I belong...

There's just so much going on these days! I do not know where to begin.
If I thought the grass and weeds  were growing fast during may..... June brought a week of fine, warm and sunny weather and that stepped up the speed even more!
And I am so glad I did get that trimmer AND the extra battery. I could not have kept up otherwise. At least I know for next year I will not be fighting a hopeless battle, as I can start early and keep matters under control. Using rabbits and chickens to keep it in check is a no go for sure. And I discovered a hidden surprise in all that high grass; snails! And plenty of them, despite the warm and dry weather. Not good. They'll multiply rapidly when conditions get more moist and that right next to fresh, crispy green vegetables.... Mmmno. The grassy patch idea is shelved once more.

It looked like nothing I had sown outside the greenhouse had made it. The beans rotted in the ground, the onions and carrots never came up and neither did the spinach. We have 2 plants of those.... And some radishes with damaged and spotty leaves that are a far cry from the lush greenness that the rest of the garden is showing. The potatoes on the other hand seem to be thriving. The are already above ground and the garlic is going strong.

The other night I was busy in the garden, way past dinnertime, which happens quite frequently these days ( and which may come as a shock to those not familiar with gardening, homesteading and such. The picture pretty gardens in the magazines and online do not sleep after office hours), when I walked past the large rowan next to the stairs. I stopped, looked and listened as the tree was buzzing with life. It was as if the air itself was vibrating. The sudden warm and sunny weather had caused the blooms to open and many were taking advantage of that. Several species of hoverflies and bumblebees were zooming this way and that and I even spotted wasps joining in the feeding (and pollinating) frenzy. I lost a decent half hour of gardenworking time there. With that many flowers being fertilized we might expect a lot of berries. Which is good, because when dried they are excellent chicken winterfood. Or so I read. And speaking of winterfood; we missed out on the nettles.... again. And so I let them grow and will cut them later, tie them into bushels and let them dry as well. Again chickenfood.

This past week saw me very busy in the garden. Long days in the sun made me look as if I had been on a holiday, except that I had not become fatter. ;) Putting the trimmer to work until both batteries are depleted. Then I have to put the thing down and do something else while the batteries charge up again. Which is good, because this way the arms can recover from wielding and squeezing the button. On the places where I had room, I tried using the scythe. A completely new and different skill and technique. But it felt awesome, good, natural in a way. Even the sharpening of the blade, which I did with a stick shaped sharpening stone. This is the way....

And spending an entire weekend in the garden, together with my wife, planting all the things we had sown... That was a definite high!! Seeing the plantbeds filling up with small greens, planning and adjusting as we went along. We definitely have too little space! (No, I did not sow too much. Well, maybe a little....) We need the area the large greenhouse is standing on. So We will take it down soon and create 2 more plant beds as per the original plans. How and where we will use the large greenhouse next year.... that remains to be seen. Probably under the large birch, next to the kitchen window. It'll ruin the view though....
I am glad I wrote down the plans, steps and progress. A garden journal is vital. Keeping it up to date too. What I also wrote down are the soil conditions. The untreated areas are hard as a rock and I am beginning to wonder if that might have contributed to the non-germinating of the beans. I definitely need to get a lot of compost into those areas! The areas I covered with the old stable manure are easy to work with and in. The weeds in those beds are easily removed or weeded and the wilt rapidly in the sun. The large amount of natural material on top keeps the underlying soil cool and moist. So mulching under these conditions is a must! I was afraid that moist and rotting plant remains might harbour snails and slugs too, but no; the material itself dries pretty well, making conditions unfavorable for crop munching creepies.
Much to my surprise I had jumped to conclusions waayyy too soon! There are radishes, beets and carrots after all! And camomile. There are small spinach plants too. My wife's keen eye spotted those. A good thing I only weeded what I for sure knew were weeds; grasses, nettles, lupinus and other ones, of which I do not know the name. The onions however remain invisible.

I also got busy "building", erecting our second greenhouse. Much smaller then the other one being 2 meters shorter. But the walls are higher and it is slightly wider + has a back- and front entrance. More ventilation at the sides too. This greenhouse is meant to grow tomatoes, paprika and peppers and now it is packed with those, along with basil, carrots and marigold (tagetes). I needed to create an extra bed, which I made with the cardboard packaging in which the greenhouse came (how's that for recycling?), added a layer of compost on top (which still contained small twigs) and topping it off with a layer of  cheap plantingsoil we had left from the sowing. In between I watered these layers well, so the cardboard will not suck up all the moisture and the wet weight of the soil and compost will press it all down firmly.

I have made sure that the plant beds are anything but monocultures. During the planning stage I read and googled a lot on companion planting. This means that with your main crop you plant plants that are beneficial to that crop, either by feeding them or by repelling pests or by avoiding certain combinations, as they are counter productive. Marigold (tagetes) seems to be a good, overall pest deterrent as is calendula (which incidentally is also good for you) and nasturtium is good at keeping butterflies away from kale-species. Dill works in similar ways. The three sisters-system I mentioned in a previous post means the beans feed the maize, by adding nitrogen to the soil, whilst the pumpkins suppress weeds.
All is done now. In time before my full time working summer will begin. That rules out our trip to Norway unfortunately, but it will beef up our finances considerably. As a little extra I am made responsible for showing and teaching the boys at work all about Swedish nature; the allemansrätten, animals (No, there are no crocodiles in the lakes), plants and introducing them to the woods in general. Most know quite dry living conditions, mostly.

The temperatures remain summerly high and the sun is blazing. A good thing that we have access to lakewater, so we can properly water our newly planted crops. While I was planting the last bed, my wife was busy in the kitchen. We have plenty of rhubarb, so she made rhubarb lemonade again. 1 part lemonade, 4 parts water and we have a delicious and refreshing drink!!
9 liters of it, which gives us 36 liters to drink. That lasts us a month..... maybe.

And as icing on the cake did we have a fire at our garden fireplace, where we gathered with the whole family (after some persuasion). It felt good sitting there, using the place again (we did not last year. Not once!) and having the whole family there. It is so easy losing contact with teenage kids, even or especially your own. I felt blessed after last week. It all felt so good.
This is my place. All of this. This is where I belong.....


  1. Oh man, that rhubarb lemonade sure would look right at home in my fridge about now!

  2. Wow you have been busy and I have some blog reading catch-up to do! Everything looks absolutely wonderful there! My garden will look as nice as yours. I didn't plan on planting anything this summer. Just the potatoes. But I couldn't stand it after we had removed a rickety old mtal building that was a black widow spider haven. Underneath it we found soft soil that had not been compacted so I added some amendment and planted tomatoes, carrots and corn (my husband loves fresh sweet corn) and the corn is now up and the carrots not far behind. I planted tomato sets as we had not been able to start from seed.

    Looks wonderful!