Gardening During the Coronavirus Crisis

Something new for us this year – growing seedlings under lights. So far it is going well. It definitely beats trying to do it just by a windowsill. This way the seedlings don’t get all leggy. And while you can’t see it, we got a warming mat to put under the pots to help the seeds sprout.
This is in the master bedroom.
These are Chinese Five Color hot peppers. They promise to be a beautiful plant and I plan to put a couple in pots near the house.
We also planted other peppers, tomatoes, dill, marjoram, cosmos and marigolds.
Last week we had some limbs trimmed off the elm tree in the backyard. It had a lot of large broken branches hanging from it from the bad ice storm we had in 2018.
A perk from this was the wood chips the arborists left behind. I used it to cover the cardboard I’d laid down in the kitchen garden a year ago. This is the path. I also finished putting leaf mulch there on the top left of the photo. I hope to put flowers and or native grass there. That area is under the eave so it has to be something that doesn’t mind it dry.
The cardboard was there to kill the grass. I’m trying to reduce the grass, especially in areas where it is difficult to get the lawn mower.
This is a photo I took on February 26. It is the last of the onions we grew in 2019.
Besties

So far, social distancing because of the Coronavirus has been good for our garden. Last week we planted lettuce, carrot and spinach seed. Over the weekend, we planted onions and potatoes.

I should note here that our winter felt like a prolonged spring. Very strange. They say blooms are 3 weeks early this year.

First Snow

We got a few inches of snow yesterday. It was a pretty snow fall, starting around 9:00 in the morning and tapering off mid afternoon. This is our hawthorn tree in the front yard.
the dogwood
Darcy enjoyed it. Instead of going to the park for a walk in the afternoon, we played with her in the field.
The rosemary loves this spot under the eaves.
It’s even blooming with the mild weather we’ve had the past couple of weeks.
I love how the snow sticks to the coneflower seed heads.
This is the first year one of our three redbud trees produced seed pods. A good sign.
I love how this snow stuck to some of the tree trunks.
Our little American Holly in the backyard has quite a weight to bare
Making nut rolls for my mom.
It was a pleasant snow day.

Making Corn Tortillas

It probably wasn’t a good idea to make corn tortillas the night before Thanksgiving but we wanted to share it with our kids. I made the ropa vieja (shredded beef), salsa and refried beans ahead of time so that was good. We made the carnitas and rice and, of course, the tortillas that evening. Everyone helped in some way.
Luca and Dave share a dad joke.
When I bought this mixer I never thought I’d use it to grind corn we grew ourselves.
Using a tortilla press to flatten the ball of corn into a tortilla.
We had to nixtamalize the dried corn (bloody butcher, an heirloom variety) first. That involved heating and then soaking it in calcium hydroxide overnight.
Yum. They are very different from store bought tortillas. Heartier and more flavorful.
Dave ground some of the dry corn into cornmeal and I used it for the cornbread and sausage dressing to go with our Thanksgiving turkey.
Colleen and Sam
Frida and Darcy are checking each other out.
Here is a photo of the whole gang. We went to Gloria’s Pupuseria before going to Redbeards on Friday evening.
My sister and her two daughters visited us Saturday through Sunday AND NONE OF US TOOK A PHOTO!!! This is not the first time they’ve visited and I kicked myself afterward for not taking a photo. Ughhhh!!!
Catching up with some other November happenings – we finally planted the garlic. You plant a clove and get a head of garlic from each one. You have to keep the bed covered with some sort of mulch. Here we used leaves gathered along the sidewalk of Trinity Episcopal Church in town. Those leaves were destined for a plastic bag and I hate to collect leaves from our own property. Want to leave those for the bugs.
We also used those church leaves for the one crescent shaped bed in the front yard we cleared earlier this fall. This bed was so full of weeds that we decided to clear it of everything and start over. Not sure what we will plant here next spring. It may be all annuals so we can make sure we removed all the weeds – especially the tenacious wire grass.
This is the other crescent shaped bed. We didn’t get to this one. Maybe next year. So happy to have three volunteer trees in this bed – two oaks and I think the other is a crabapple.
I just had to take this photo of a pumpkin patch on route 340 in Stuarts Draft.

Black Kitty Day

It’s black kitty day and she posed so nicely for me.

A huge branch fell from one of the silver maples by the road.

I said I’d try to get the serviceberry tree in it’s fall glory and here it is. You might need to click on it to get a better view of it. I tried photographing it in at all times of day and in sun and clouds and it just wasn’t doing it justice. I think maybe it is because it is a delicate looking tree. The individual leaves are small and it is shaded by trees all around it.

Fall Color and Reflection

I hear it over and over again – women saying they love the fall because of the colors and the crisp, cool weather. I love the fall and spring for the mild weather and I also love them because they signal change. I love living where we have four seasons. Another reason I like the fall is because the days are getting shorter so my evenings are more relaxing. I’m not outside weeding or doing other garden chores to stay out of the hot sun of day, but still suffering through our heat and humidity that lingers into the night. I look forward to getting a shower and into my pajamas soon after dinner and spending the evening reading, sewing or sketching.

I noted the first fall we were here that we don’t have much fall color on our property. I have a cold and so was sitting quietly in my sunroom late yesterday afternoon and realized that while we don’t have a lot of bright color I was still enjoying the muted tones of early fall. So I grabbed my phone and went outside to photograph some color.

These aromatic asters bloom until first frost. This purplish blue color is a favorite of mine.

I’ve come to love columbine – it’s delicate spring flower and pretty foliage through summer and fall.

Tupelo tree – also known as black gum or sour gum

white oak

Dogwood tree

Redbud tree

Serviceberry tree – see the gold leaf in the upper left corner – this tree is just starting to turn. It’s kind of hidden behind other trees in our front yard so I keep missing it’s June blooms and golden fall leaves. Will try to remember to keep an eye on it.

This is one of our volunteer oaks in the front yard. I think it is a burr oak.

pear tree

Southern magnolia tree

Sassafras tree

Gooseberry bush

Rose hips

Sedum

Purple coneflower

barrenwort or bishop’s cap

Down with the brick walls

I took photos of our dismantling of the brick walls that line our driveway. Moffat paving said they should get to us in October so we are waiting to hear from them. They are contracted to take down the walls but I wanted to save some of the brick for a walkway in the kitchen garden. My neighbor, Nancy, says bricks are 50 cents each at Habitat for Humanity. It seemed worth saving what we could even though it is a messy job dealing with the mortar dust.

There was a good six inch gap between this wall and the asphalt. Dave used the tractor to nudge the brick forward so we could see what we can salvage. A lot of it has mortar that is too difficult to remove with our hand tool method. The original mortar is crumbling, but the mortar previous owners used for repairs was much newer and stronger.

The brick on this side started falling on their own. We were able to do the rest with hand tools.

Moffet doesn’t do brick. They will replace with a wall of block in a brown and grey. Just a wall, no pillars. I think pillars are a bit pretentious anyway. I expect we will fill in with plantings.

I invited Nancy to take any bricks she could chisel off. She got a shovel full on the tractor and Dave drove it up their steep driveway. She gave me some of their chinese chestnuts. Above are the roasted nuts. I’d never had them before. They are somewhat starchy in texture and not really much taste. I ate a few and put the rest in the freezer.

While thinking of chinese chestnuts, I have to set the record straight. A couple years ago I posted here that I though we had found a beech tree hidden among the privet we were chopping down. Well, come to find out, it was a chinese chestnut. Surely planted there from nuts gathered by squirrels at Nancy’s place across the road. Oh, well. I’d prefer the beech but won’t complain about a volunteer plant that provides food.

Fall is Finally Here

I’m sitting at a table with an open window at my back and the breeze is glorious! The first three days of October were around 90 degrees which is crazy. Today is beautiful and we are even expecting some much needed rain on Monday so keeping my fingers crossed.

Dave usually walks Darcy in the morning and we both go in the evening. Dave’s requirement to report to work in northern Virgina two days every other week means it is hard to get his hours in so I’ve been walking Darcy in the morning when I can. She plops herself down when she looks back and sees people coming up behind us which is pretty much always since it is a well loved park we walk in. I literally have to drag her to get her going again. Then the people say “oh, she’s tired” and I let them know she just wants to see them. She runs around the dog park for an hour so I know walking with me isn’t causing her to be tired. I enjoy walking again and can feel it is good for my body.

Letting her have her little break.

The red chokeberry bush

 in my nature journal

The paw paw tree leaves start turning color quite early. I harvested quite a few this year. They are best when I just pick them off the ground before they start to rot too much. I gave some away this year. Some people had them before and were happy to have them again. One had never had a paw paw and was surprised she like it.

Our one little pepper plant has given us quite a few large peppers. I expect this is the last of it. I made some sweet red pepper relish with these. The guys ate it on their chicken salad sandwiches last night.

 

Been Too Long

Having issues with getting photos in a post and have now figured it out.

A photo from July – Dave and a harvest of green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. The green beans did well for about a month and that was it. We’ve gotten a tomato here and there. The two plants just didn’t do well. Not sure why. We got so many cucumbers I canned bread and butter pickles and dill pickles. Without fail we have to make tomato sauce so we ended up buying seconds at the farmers market to do so.

Our big news around here since last post is that we adopted a five month old puppy. She is a labrador/hound mix. We were smitten at first sight even though I didn’t really want a big dog.

Her first visit to the vet.

She loves Dave best.

white wood aster

woodland goldenrod

Darcy and the cats have made peace.

Darcy has been with us for six weeks now. I can’t imagine a home without a dog.

Onion Harvest

I harvested the onions this week. It would have been nice to let them cure a little longer outside, but we are still getting a lot of rain and I was afraid they’d start to rot.

a few had started to flower

We got about 70 lbs. We store them in the basement – keeping space and good airflow around them.

Native Garden

I took these photos of our native garden last week.

from the sun room window

from the kitchen window

The redbud trees have grown so much this year. I can really tell by how much they take up the view out the window.

meadow petunia

orange coneflower