Pines Along the Road

We had 17 white pines growing along our road and the electric company comes around every few years and tops them. It looks awful so we finally took them down over three weekends.

Before

After

Before

After

September 30 – a view of our two paw paw trees on the right and a crabapple tree on the left. Pines are behind these trees.

October 14 – two weeks later. The photo is taken later in the day and season but I think you can see how it has opened up the space.

another before with the pines behind these trees

and after although not quite the same view. The trees on the left are some of our very tall pear trees.

lots of branches to shred

Our pear trees are so tall we can’t pick the fruit. Dave gathered these from the ground. I cut out the good parts to eat and they were pretty tasty.

Dave got to use his new tractor.

stumps left behind

We planted 11 red chokeberry bushes along the fence.

This one is particularly loaded with berries. These shrubs have pretty white flowers in the spring, berries form in the summer and the leaves turn bright red in the fall. Berries are edible for humans and birds though not very tasty. Even the birds leave them until late winter when other food sources are scarce. I also read that the chokeberries are a good urban shrub and don’t mind road salt. We aren’t in an urban area but we do have a school up the road so we get salted at any sign of inclement winter weather.

So nice to have this done.

The Second Half of September in the Garden

I’m very behind in posting my photos!

We had a lot of mulch left over from the landscapers so I edged this bed, weeded and mulched it. In the foreground is foxglove, then wild geranium (a favorite of mine) and the fig bush.

Another view.

These are the lantana and meadow sage I planted in a bare spot of our native garden. I know the lantana isn’t native and it is just an annual here. Not sure about the meadow sage.

Just giving an update of the landscaping we had done. This is blue mistflower. Unfortunately, the 3 other plants died so they replaced them with irises (you can see one of the irises there on the left).

On the left are coneflowers (orange or pale purple, not sure as they didn’t bloom for us yet though I know they planted both). Toward the back are strawberries and lavender is on the right.

Wild quinine

The strawberries really took off.

I love the wild geranium because it is so hardy. It’s doing great here even after being on a tarp for almost a month. It has a very shallow root system so we just raked away the mulch, scooched the geranium off the tarp, and then sprinkled it with the mulch. Two months later and it looks like it was never disturbed.

I think it was late August when the landscapers returned to plant the white wood asters under the yew tree.

An aromatic aster

I took the rest of these photos right after they returned again to plant the “chionoides” rhododendrons.

The asters bloomed profusely late September and into October. They attracted a lot of pollinators.

The Home Stretch

Dave has spent the spring and summer painting the ceiling and trim and priming the walls of the foyer, stairway and upper hallway. A little bit here and there. Now we feel like he is on the home stretch by starting to paint the walls. I chose Benjamin Moore’s Green Tint. It’s a greyish green. We’ve been using their Simple White throughout the house.

Eggs and Chickens, Chickens and Eggs

Here is our eggs collection for today. Given that we have close to 20 chickens this isn’t very much. And it is actually a good count. For quite a while now I’ve only been collecting 1-3 eggs. That little brown egg is the first from this years pullets.

The chickens have presented a challenge for us this year and we’ve kind of just thrown up our hands. They were breeding like rabbits and we quickly found we had too many for our coop. They are free range so that is good but it was causing a problem at night. The young birds started roosting in the nesting boxes and then the hens didn’t want to lay in there because of the poop. I wasn’t good about cleaning them out and so the hens started laying elsewhere.

At one point we had more than 40 chickens. We sold some and gave some away and were down to about 35 chickens. Then last month I saw a fox after them. Did a count that night and found we were down to about 23 chickens. Boy, were we not paying attention. Then the following week Dave saw a hawk after them. Today I saw a hawk fly away as I took some melon rinds out to the compost. I saw something down in the pasture. Went to investigate and it was a dead hen. Why couldn’t he/she have gotten a rooster! We butchered 2 of the roosters last weekend so now we have 20 chickens or less.

Not sure my numbers are adding up right (or subtracting). The bottom line is we aren’t getting many eggs considering the number of chickens we have and we have a predator problem. Looking on the bright side – we no longer have a problem with too many chickens in the coop at night and I found the pullet egg in the coop – on the floor and not in a nesting box, but that’s okay!

The Summer of Fruit

Another sweet watermelon

Zinnias in the kitchen garden

purple hulled cowpeas

The pollinators love this Sedum in the front bed.

Little Tansy flowers.

Dried cowpeas

We even harvested a ripe fig this afternoon. We need to move this bush. It doesn’t get enough sun. Just have to figure out where to put it. It will be interesting to see if we get more than just these two figs. The others are still very small and green.

I think fruit has done so well this year because we did not have a late freeze in the spring. They’ve had a long stretch of warm weather. That is coming to an end. The last two nights have been in the 40’s. Very cool for this time of year.

Harvesting Melons

Just a quick post to help me remember how to harvest melons. We had neighbors over for a cookout/potluck Sunday and I asked Bobby how to know when it is time to harvest watermelons other than a yellow bottom and a deep sound. He said the little curly cue on the vine near the melon should have turned brown. So we harvested one and it was a little too ripe but still very good and sweet. I have harvested two more since then. Seems they all ripen at once! As far as cantaloupes go, Bobby said you have about a day or two between the time they ripen and the time the bugs find them. The loupes in the photo above look like they should be beyond ripeness. I cut into one of them and it was very good. I think the watermelon had better flavor than any I’ve gotten at the grocery or farmers market. I can’t say the same for the cantaloupes I’ve cut into so far. Maybe we’ll have to try another variety next year.

We opened up the barn garden for the chickens. There were just so many squash bugs. I think the butternut squash is a bust this year. Oh, well. Some things do well and others don’t. What does and doesn’t changes every year. Can you see the egg at the bottom of the above photo? I saw Bonnie making clucking noises near the marigolds and made note to check later for an egg. She didn’t disappoint!

A Cool August

Catching up with the photos on my phone. We’ve had unseasonably cool weather. I’ve been wearing flannel!

We were excited to harvest our first watermelon a couple of weeks ago.

It wasn’t quite ripe. It was okay and will ask our neighbor about how to determine ripeness. We got the seeds for these Crimson Sweets from him a couple of years ago.

I bought this geranium from Elk Run Farm – a vendor at our Saturday Farmers Market. I think it is called apple blossom.

This is our first cantaloupe. We thought we were late harvesting it since the bugs had already gotten to it. We’ve found that the bugs are a good determination of ripeness. We’ve harvested others that have a strong scent but when we cut into them they aren’t quite ripe.

A Melon Petit Gris de Rennes – a sugar-sweet French favorite! We just have to be diligent and get them at peak ripeness before the bugs do!

Saving seeds – the cantaloupes (actually I think they are technically muskmelons though I’m not sure of the difference) and the large brown seeds are from bitter melons.

I love this African Violet. I was admiring the way the sun hit it a few mornings ago.

Our rain garden during a heavy rain.

Our harvest from yesterday. Lots of bitter melon. No one but me seems to go for it. More muskmelons, Doe Hill peppers (a small, yellow, sweet variety), green beans and apples. I made an apple pie and apples sauce earlier in the week and these went to Doris, our neighbor. She says she peels, slices and freezes them to use in the winter time.

Bitter melon on the vine.

The Staunton Historical Foundation holds noontime walking tours the first Friday of the month. Usually we are in the historical section of our downtown but today we went to Montgomery Hall Park which is about 4 minutes from our house. We took a hike in the woods during the rain. This is a wall from a bank barn. The barn burned down in a blaze many decades ago. The hike was led by an archaeologist. It was very interesting and fun to go tramping in the damp woods.

Just a pretty view.

 

Pear Harvest

Last nights harvest. Those are 13 bitter melons in the background.

We picked a pear a few days ago and let it ripen on the kitchen counter. Juiciest and tastiest pear I’ve ever eaten.

We went out and harvested what Dave could reach.

A Little Harvesting

Yesterday morning was absolutely gorgeous. We did some much needed harvesting.

We grew purple pole beans thinking the purple beans would be easier to see. Not the case since the vine is also purple. Though aren’t they beautiful!

Our July felt more like August and now August is feeling more like September. The temperature was in the 50’s Saturday night. Lovely sleeping weather but the tomatoes don’t like it. We are seeing a lot of die back in one of our plants so we harvested the tomatoes to send up to my mom. Hopefully, they will finish ripening for her. So she doesn’t have to wait, we also bought some ripe tomatoes from the Farmers Market on Saturday. Dave took up quite the load of tomatoes for her this morning (on his way to work) which might last her the two weeks until next time.

We have a lot of bitter melon on our vines. It too has slowed down in ripening. I was hoping to let these get a little fatter but we are expecting cool weather this week – 70’s mostly – so I just went ahead and picked them.

Frieda came over to investigate

and pose.

Oregano, thyme and rosemary

I stuffed the bitter melon with ground lamb seasoned with the fresh herbs, sea salt and onion. I then baked it for 40 minutes at 375 degrees. I thought it was very good. Damian thought it was too bitter and Dave wouldn’t try it.

We’ve had so little rain this summer that this was a very welcome sight this morning. We had at least 3 hours of steady rain. Hallelujah!

Winnie’s Double Bloom Day Lilies

My mother-in-law brought these double bloom day lilies with her from South Carolina to Maryland. We took some to Virginia –  our townhouse in Vienna, to the house in Springfield and finally here in Staunton. This is the first year they have bloomed here. We transplanted them from the place we quickly stuck them when we moved here. They are now getting enough light to shine!

By the way, she took some back to South Carolina!