Garden Journal

Dreaming, Journaling and a New Year

journals

I’m a firm believer in journaling. Writing down your thoughts and reading them later is an essential part of growth. Journaling is an important part of my life. I enjoy keeping track of accomplishments and recording failures because it enables me to see growth in my life. I don’t even have to record things very often for it to be helpful. I think journaling should be something everyone should AT LEAST TRY.

I have several different journals that are updated on various occasions. I don’t actually write in these journals very often but, I am of the mindset that doing something is better than nothing. As long as you have something to look back and reflect on, you will likely benefit from journaling.

I started journaling when I was a child. Most of my journal entries resembled lists and notes back then. But, I also daydreamed a lot and would often write them in a diary. Dreaming is huge part of journaling , if you ask me. Like most children, I really enjoyed daydreaming. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I remember getting excited about going on long car rides. This gave me plenty of time to dream about horses. Especially, car rides along a countryside. The countryside is the absolute best place to be riding a beautiful grey stallion. So naturally, the horse lover that I am, I was eager to imagine myself riding a horse across the countryside. My imaginary horse was an excellent jumper too. Any obstacles in the way were no match for my trusty steed. But, I’m also a bit of a realist so if there were too many obstacles I would cease my riding daydream and start a new daydream that made more sense.

So, what does my walk down memory lane have to do with journaling anyway? Well, without imagination, dreams and a childlike spirit, journaling would be boring. I think people who feel recording their thoughts and dreams a waste of time have lost a part of themselves. Maybe it’s the part that grew up and has to pay bills and buy groceries. Or perhaps the dreams stopped because life got to busy. All the more reason time should be made for journaling, if you ask me.

Journaling comes in all shapes and sizes. We can record our thoughts in drawings, scrapbooking or in stories. And we don’t have to spend a lot of time with it either. I started a diary for my oldest daughter when she was a newborn. I tried to write in that thing often but it didn’t happen. At first the entries were days apart, then months and then years. It would have been really cool if I had kept up with the monthly entries but when you add two more kids and a whole host of other responsibilities, journaling gets put on the back burner. But guess what? I have eighteen years worth of journal entries all in one book. Though some entries are years apart, I still have them. I love reading those entries.  I love looking back and seeing how I’ve grown from the child I once was and remembering  the first’s of parenting. So, something really is better than nothing when there are years behind you. There are enough pressures in the world, lets not make the pressure of journaling often take value away from journaling sometimes.

I have a journal for just about every area of my life. The garden journal keeps track of what I am learning about gardening in my area. I keep track of what variety of  vegetables and fruits that are worth growing. My garden journal has been extremely helpful to me. I think I have avoided repeat failures because I took the time to write down things that did and didn’t work. I also have a general homesteading journal. Lots of drawings of future barns and animal enclosures in the homesteading journal. I have several personal journals as well. There is really nothing like looking back and recognizing how God has worked in my life. God can truly do amazing things in a life that is open to growth.

My challenge is to those of you who have given up on or never tried journaling , to give it a try(again). The year 2013 could be the beginning of the wonders of self discovery. And, don’t forget to include dreams in your journal entries. Draw pictures and paste objects in them too. Just like you probably did when you were a child 🙂 .

Fair Weathers “mini” Ranch Garden Update Part 2

If you haven’t already, read part 1  here. Let’s jump right into part 2 of our garden update.

Cabbage

I have mixed feeling about growing cabbage. It feels like it takes forever  for them to grow and they take up so much room. I think next year we will plant them closer together and see what happens. I am trying to decide if they are worth it for us to grow. I’m still not giving up on them but I don’t want to give them an entire row next year.

Beans

I really loved the Chinese Green Noodle bean last year so much so I decided to grow many more plants this year. They’re great for stir fry meals and they don’t have strings. This year, I also added the Chinese Red Noodle bean. Unfortunately the flavor of the red is not as good as the green. I’m not sure I will grow them again next year. I will have to research red bean recipes before I decide either way.

I was so confused about another bean plant in my garden. I thought I only planted red and green noodle beans in one particular row but this other bean plant came up. I thought for weeks that my the seed packet had been mismarked. I harvested the beans but didn’t know what to do with them since they were an unusual bean. They are red and have a kind of waxy texture. I’m sorry to say I never ate any. I worried they might be some kind of poisons bean plant that was accidentally switched with my red noodle bean packet. Well, when I finally figure out what they were it was a little late to start harvesting. They are called the Moonshadow Hyacinth Bean and apparently can be poisonous. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I decided to buy these. I’m not fond of things that have the word POISONOUS in the description. One thing is for sure about these plants is they have beautiful eye catching flowers. Everyone who toured my garden commented on them. Sadly, I will probably never plant them again. By the way, these beans can be eaten but it must be when the pods are small and tender.

Amaranth

Amaranth really is a beautiful easy to grow eye catching flower. We grew three different kinds of amaranth this year -Love Lies Bleeding, Hopi Red Dye and Golden amaranth. All very unique and pleasing to the eye. Loves Lies Bleeding is the variety I planted last year. The flower heads clusters are droopy and the leaves are green. In most catalogs that I have seen these seeds sold, it appears that the flowers are red but they are actually a dark pink. We added the Golden and Hopi Red Dye amaranths this year. Each amaranth has a unique desirable quality. The Golden amaranth is all gold, both leaves and flowers. The Hopi Red Dye leaves, steam and flowers are a deep burgundy color. As the name suggests, the Hopi Red Dye amaranth was used by the Hopi Indian tribe to make dye. I believe they also used the seeds to color foods.

Amaranth is a winner in my garden. The three varieties I planted all made great cut flowers for bouquets. Since most people have never seen amaranth flowers, they always offer the awe factor. Amaranth seeds can also be harvested and used for cooking.

Corn

I finally got smart and only planted one variety of corn this year. In years past I tried to grow different varieties close together not realizing they will cross pollinate and create strange versions of corn. Last year I did a popcorn varieties next to an eating variety. The two created some crazy corn babies  :).

You can plant two varieties of corn close together but you need to be sure they have different pollinating times. I plan to plant two different varieties of corn next year but with different days to harvest lengths.

Pumpkins and Winter Squash

My favorite pumpkin, Fairytale Pumpkin, cross-pollinated with another variety and created some crazy but cool looking pumpkins. I was a bit disappointed because now I can’t create another pumpkin man for Christmas. Oh well.

We did get a decent amount of my favorite squash this year, Hokkaido Stella Blue. Last year I didn’t plant very many because I didn’t know they were going to be so good. This year I decided to plant a lot but only ended up with a lot of little ones and I am not sure why they were not as big as last year. Perhaps it was the way I watered or maybe because I didn’t use the Mittleider fertilizer mix. I will be doing things differently next year. I am hoping to get more T-frames built so that the winter squash and melons can grow up instead of on the ground. By the way, Hokkaido Stella Blue makes the best squash soup EVER!

Berries and Grapes

Our raspberries did much better this year. I was happy with the amount we got but the size of the berries were small. I think I may need to fertilize them more next year.

Strawberries were yummy when we had them. We didn’t get very many even with having a lot of strawberry plants. I think the plants need to be replaced. A local farm let me take up some of their old plants. What I didn’t realize when I took these plants was that as strawberry plants get older their fruit production goes down. I get now why the farm was happy to have me dig up the old plants. Apparently the variety of strawberry plants I have only produce well for a few years. We will buy new plants for next year. Probably an ever-bearing variety.

Grapes didn’t do all that well but that’s because we didn’t water them properly. We did get one decent cluster of grapes from one of the three vines we have. My hope is to get more grape vines to boarder the garden with next year.

Flowers

A garden is not complete without flowers, if you ask me. I love the colors and pleasant smells they bring to the garden. We planted a lot of varieties this year. We had Chamomile, Asters, Zinnias, Four O’Clocks, Hollyhocks, Amaranth, Sunflowers, Calendula and Dahlias. Sunflowers are a must for our summer garden. The plan for next year is to plant them every two weeks so that I they come up all summer. The saddest part about planting large sunflowers is that eventually they die and since they are large it’s very noticeable when they are dead. Hopefully planting them in succession will solve this problem.

Not only are flowers lovely to look and smell, many of them also are good for medicinal purposes. The plan is to plant more flowers that can be dried and added to my medicinal herb chest.

I’m so glad I finally finished this update! I’m not sure if you enjoy reading my updates as much as I enjoy writing them but I hope so. The great part about journaling your garden experiences is that you have a record of things to do and not to do for future gardening years. Besides this blog, I also have garden notebooks I record my experiences in. My notebooks are more for taking notes, writing out plans and drawing plans of my dream garden. If you aren’t already,  I would encourage you to start journaling as well. You will not regret it :).

How did your summer garden grow? Are you growing a winter garden?

Fair Weathers “mini” Ranch Garden Update Part 1

This year’s summer gardening season was good in a lot of ways. I feel it could have gone better but overall it was good. Like every year, I made some mistakes. Thankfully, I usually learn from my mistakes and do better the next year. That’s what I love about gardening. It’s like piecing pieces of a puzzle together. The joy that comes from finding the right piece to fit the puzzle. I just LOVE it!

The Tomatoes

Last year we had a ton of tomatoes that had to be picked green because the frost came before they were ripe. This year the same thing is happening except I have been able to harvest some ripe ones all summer. We still have a ton of unripe ones. Thankfully we went  through a warm spell that gave the tomatoes a few extra weeks on the vines but we still ended up with boxes of green tomatoes. We’re going to have ripen them in the house like we did last year.

The T-frame we built for the tomatoes worked much better this year than last. Though, I think it would be even better next year because we will have it all ready from the beginning. The hope is since the vines will be trained earlier, they will climb better up the ropes.

We ended up with way more cherry tomatoes than I meant for. I really like the varieties I chose ( Pear and  Sun Gold ) but there were just too many of them. Next year I plan to plant only one or two cherry tomato plants .

Summer Squash

I think we did good with the summer squash this year. We designated one corner of the garden where I planted 3 plants together in the same mound. Last year we had more squash than we could handle and I didn’t want a repeat of it. I was happy with the amount that came from these three plants.

Greens (Lettuce, Kale, Chard, etc.)

For some reason I have had a horrible time with growing lettuce. I started early this year but the squirrels also found it and munched on it until it was gone. I covered it but apparently not good enough. Then I tried again in a container and after it finally got enough to where I think I could harvest, something else started eating it. I think the birds or mice found this batch. Kale and chard are doing really well. I planted a red and green chard as well as a wild kale.

Tomatillos

This was the first year I’ve grown tomatillos. I was very impressed with how much fruit they produce. I’m making lots of Salsa Verde. I think next year I will only grow a few plants though. I purchase a purple Tomatillo variety to plant next year. I think purple salsa will be fun to make.

Peppers

I was pleasantly surprise at successfully growing bell peppers this year. We didn’t get that many and they were not that big but seeing as how I thought I could never grow them, I am happy with what we ended up with. I grew them from seed too. In years past I tried growing them and they just seem to go so slow and never produced any peppers. Not sure what made this year different.

I purchased a six pack of Cheyenne pepper plants in the spring. We ended up with a ton of peppers from those six plants. The plan is to dry them and grind them up to make chili powder and for the medicinal herb chest. We will probably not need to grow them again for a few years since the harvest was so good. I also purchased jalapeno pepper plants and have more than I can handle. Note to self, grow fewer jalapeno plants. There are only so many things you can do with jalapenos.

Melons

We ended up with a decent amount of delicious watermelon. We had they same problem as we had last year though. All the watermelon ripens at the same time and we can’t eat six to eight large watermelon. I need to plan a watermelon party next year or something. I did end up freezing some water melon puree. Not sure what I am going to do with it yet but I will figure it out ;).

We only ended up with a few cantaloupe and they were delicious. A few were lost to the gophers. I really don’t like gophers :(. Next year we plan to grow our melons up the T-frames. Hopefully that will save the melons from getting eaten by gophers at least.

Garden Huckleberries

I was really happy with our Garden Huckleberry bushes. We had about three bushes that were only about two feet tall. They seemed to produce a lot for the size of the plant. Some kind of critter also liked them because berries would go missing when I was just about ready to pick them. The nice thing about this plant is that they keep producing berries all summer.  I think we will plant more huckleberry plants next year. Since these berries are toxic when eaten raw , I will need to put up a warning sign or something. I used the berries to make pancake syrup. Since they are tart it’s good to mix them with some other type of berry and sweeten with honey.

Garlic and Onions

I am so happy that I decided to plant lots of garlic last year. I ended up with a lot of bulbs that will probably last me for a while. I do go through a lot of garlic so this fall I decided to plant twice as many. I also planted a variety of garlic that produced a large garlic seed. The seed can be planted and can be harvested either the first or second year after planting.

We also ended up with lots of green onions and a decent amount of white and red onions this year. I am so excited about the yellow multiplier onions I purchased from Territorial Seed Company. These onions are like bulbs and one bulb can produce  10-12 onions. Talk about sustainable! I may never need to buy onions again.

Potatoes

Another bad potato year. I think I know the piece of the puzzle that is missing here. I need a very loose soil mixer for them to grow in and a better way to water them. I’m going to take the advice from this article my friend shared with me. The plan is to dig trenches and fill them with dead leaves and other mulching material this fall for next years harvest. I am hoping this will solve some of my problem with growing potatoes. Plus, I will get an early start on the planting season. I pray it will be successful.

Well, that’s part 1. Stay tuned for part 2 🙂

Summer 2012- Fair Weathers Ranch Garden Update

I love gardening! It’s very rewarding but it can be time consuming. Much of late winter and spring I am preparing  my garden for plants to grow in it. Then, I plant most seeds and seedlings in late spring. After that, I am actively maintaining the garden and weeding for the next month or so. I get a few weeks of not having much to do except for harvesting a few things here and there and keeping the weeds down (and water of course). And then, it’s harvest time in late summer/early fall. Which also happens to be the same time school starts for my kids.

We have monkeys in our trees 🙂

Every year I have dreams of having a leisure summer. But, I have come to the realization that spring and summer are actually some of the busiest months of the year and I should get it out of my head that I have “extra time”. Between preparing the garden and caring for all the babies animals being born, there is little time for extra things. Though I do manage to find time for extra things, thankfully.

Our gardens are growing up really nicely. Like last year I got a late start so most of my harvesting will be in late summer/ early fall. I have harvested a few things so far. We have had peas, garlic, onions, carrots, kale, chard, spinach, green onions, cucumber, strawberries, artichoke and a few raspberries (very few).

I’ve been very pleased with the garlic and onions this year. I planted an elephant garlic I bought from the store and it produce some nice sized garlic. This year I learned that you can cut the tops off of your onion tops for green onions and they will keep growing. I have cut my onion tops 3 times and the greens keep growing back. A friend of mine said you can do this for years.

I have been really battling the rodents this year. I have had several sunflower plants eaten by gophers. They also got some of my garlic and potatoes. I have also had some grounds squirrel trouble. They like to take bites out of my melons and squash. Most of the time they don’t eat the whole thing but just leave marks. It’s quite annoying.

Picnic Watermelon and Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon.

 

I am growing Georgia Rattlesnake watermelon again this year. Man, do those melons grow fast. Everyday I feel like they have grown an inch.

Some of the amaranth I grew last year reseeded so I have one huge Love Lies Bleeding amaranth growing in one of the rows. I also plant two other varieties of amaranth- Golden Giant and Red Hopi Dye. I am very pleased with both of these. I think the Red Hopi is going to be gorgeous.

The Love Lies Bleeding amaranth is to the right of me on the photo.

I added a third garden area this year. We call it the Upper Garden because it’s on the upper half of our property. It’s really not all that fancy though so don’t get too excited :). We are growing corn, pumpkin and squash in this area Upper. This garden area is likely going to be temporary. I do realize that we really need more space for the space hogging plants like squash but I think we will have to move the squash/corn garden somewhere else eventually.

This is the first year I really feel like the gardens are thriving with less work on my part. Taking time to prepare the garden is essential. It’s also important for me to be in my garden regularly for weeding, pest control and harvesting. But, if I could give only a few pieces of advice to new gardeners, it would be – amend your soil, get weeds while they are small, fertilize regularly and water consistently.  Though if you are anything like me, you will ignore this advice until you have discovered the importance on your own ;).

How is your garden growing? I love to hear all about gardens in different areas. It’s fascinating to me 🙂

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