Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reporting and planning

Its that time of year again. Time to send off the progress report and start to plan for next year. It is so hard to sit and do schoolwork when its beautiful out and I'd rather be playing in the dirt. We'll finish up in a few weeks, but continue doing math review through the summer so we don't lose what has already been learned. You can see the Little Man here working on his grammar.

This week I have to sit and write up the progress report, ed plan for next year and letter of intent. I send them all off at once in June every year. The school dept seems to be happy with that set up.

As a part of writing up my ed plan for next year, I end up doing some basic planning. I also purchase the bulk of what will be used for the year. It is so much fun opening up all the new curriculum to see what we'll be doing. The kids have already been pawing through next year's science and wanting to get going with that. The kits for experiments look like so much fun! This picture shows our math and history for next year, along with some art supplies for the art program. I still don't have everything, because there are lots of things backordered, but enough to keep me busy for quite a while anyway.

My homeschooling group will be having a curriculum night in a few weeks. Its always so fun to see what everyone is using. I seem to always come away with a huge wishlist to add to our schooling. For now, I'll be going through the things I already have.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Orchards and gardens

This weekend I've been taking advantage of the cool weather. This strange hot May we have had has been messing with me! Usually Spring in New England is pretty cool and one day in June you wake up and its summer. Spring this year has been different. It got warm and for the most part has stayed that way. In fact its been quite hot, with quite a few days in the 90s so far. So after a few 90 degree days last week, we have had a weekend of 60s to 70s with some light rain in between. Perfect weather!

My neighbor and I decided to add to our front yard orchard. You see I own half a duplex and fortunately have neighbors that are all for having edibles all over the yard. We already had 2 apple trees, a cherry and a peach. Yesterday we added 3 more apples and another peach. The original trees are doing quite well, but have been invaded by lovely green worms that are eating their leaves. The seem to especially love the cherry tree. I had to get some Bt to spray on them. So far it seems to be doing its job, but it almost killed me having to spray them. I know Bt is organic, but it still just didn't seem right. In the end it came down to spraying or losing the trees, so spraying it was. The picture above is of the new trees. If you look in the back between the 2 large bushes my other neighbor has a lovely older peach tree.
This is showing some of my broccoli and cabbages. After losing all of them to cutworms last year, I planted them in cups with the bottoms cut out. So far so good! In the back bed you can see the cuucmbers, watermelon and squash that are coming along well. The cucumbers and watermelon were started inside and transplanted yesterday. The squash were direct sowed a few weeks ago.
This is another shot of my tomatillos with lovely little flower on them and some basil.
Here is a shot of my front garden/jungle. I have lots of bulbs planted here that have had no problem spreading all over the place. Right now the irises are blooming. When we bought the house there were about 6 of them, now I have over 20. In between all of this mess are some perennial herbs. I have chives, oregano, mint, sage and thyme in there. Its hard to tell this time of year though.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Passing on the addiction

I've been a bad girl. I went and got all my friends and neighbors addicted to gardening. There is the one neighbor who always had a small veggie garden with starts from the local nursery. Her garden is now 3 times the size, has many new veggies and much of them are from seed.

Then there is the neighbor on the other side who never had a veggie garden. He got a bad case of tomato envy, apparently I wasn't giving him enough to satisfy the craving. I've found fresh, garden tomatoes are like crack, once you have them you can't stop. He now has a veggie garden of his own and I'm sensing some expansion happpening there as well.

I even got one poor friend ripping out perrenial flower beds for veggies! Her hubby wasn't too thrilled at first, but now he wants to expand as well. Muahahaha!!!

Its all part of my evil plot to take over the world and get everyone eating the 100 foot diet. Hold onto your hats folks, I'll get you too!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nature Club Fun

Here they are. A motley crew of nature hikers. They're off to find animal tracks.

I am so fortunate to be part of a fantastic group of homeschool moms. This is a club that a few of us formed to take the kids on nature hikes and just have lots of fun. Today was run by J and was about identifying animal tracks. It was quite interesting seeing that looking at the way a nut was eaten can tell you what animal was there. I wish I had paid attention more, but I was busily socializing instead. I just can't seem to help myself. It's just so wonderful to be around a group of like minded people.

Here are a group of the kids looking for tadpoles. The tracks were cool, but the tadpoles had the kids enthralled. They were everywhere today!

Here are a few of the cuties, including my own Pooh Bear.

Here S is showing off a Robin's egg that he had found. We learned that when the babies hatch, the adults throw the eggs far away from the nest to fool predators. Pretty smart, eh?!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Slumber Party

We had a frost warning last night. All my happy little plants got covered by sheets for their warm and snuggly slumber party. They all made it through. I discovered before covering them that something had made off with 2 of my tomato plants. They are gone as if they never existed. Thankfully, I have some extras. Now i have to go put all the cages back up.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Forced Cleaning

I hate to clean. I really do. This is not to say that my house is a pigsty at all times. Its certainly sanitary. However, it is almost never spotless. The areas that need to be clean are, the rest is a crap shoot. There are lots of piles in my house with various things I'm too lazy to put away, or things the rest of my family is too lazy to put away.

So, imagine my distress when while cooking for a potluck last night, I discovered that my oven was dead. After some last minute re-thinking, I got the dish made and off I went. This morning I had to wake up to reality. I knew it was the bottom heating element and when I looked in it was confirmed. The darn thing was in 3 pieces. How dare it break on me! Just because I use it and abuse it, does not mean it can just up and die. I spent a few hours longingly thinking of the very expensive oven that I would love to replace it with. Then I had to enter the world of reality. My reality is that we just don't have that kind of money to be throwing around. Thankfully a friend had a great referral and I'll have a fixed oven tomorrow afternoon for a pittance.

After the relief of it getting fixed, I realized the mess behind the stove. Now, I don't know about you, but I am not a Flybaby. My stove and refrigerator were last moved when we put in the new floor... 3 years ago. It was pretty gross back there. Now its all pretty and clean and it can proceed to get filthy again from here until the next appliance disaster. I have no intention of moving them again, until forced to do so.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beating the rain

Since it was just about to rain I figured it would be a good time to get things in the ground. We're due for rain today and again on Saturday. I'm thinking that they'll love the nice rain, but the wind that has sinced picked up is not making me or my plants very happy. They'll probably be fine though.
This is a picture of some of the basil I put in.
Here are the tomatillos that my sister in law gave me.
Lastly a few of the tomatoes. You can see the one in the back is laying down on the job. He needs a little support I think. The picture of my peppers doesn't want to upload, so I'll have to put that up another time.

I also planted the onion starts I got at the local farm stand and oregano and chives purchased at the same place. The last thing planted is the bush beans. It won't be long before its all big and lush and green. Doesn't it amaze you how tiny they start and how quickly they grow to unbelievable sizes?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Independence Days Update.

I've been reading Sharon's blog for ages now. She has been doing the Independence Days now for about a year or so. I figured it would be about time for me to join in.

Plant something: In the last week I've planted 6 blueberry bushes, a bed of lettuce and cucumbers and watermelon. The rest is either in the ground or sunning itself on my deck.

Harvest something: Nothing yet.

Preserve something: I haven't done much in the last few weeks in this area. We're still using up the last of last years produce.

Reduced waste: All the boxes from hubby's computer business have made their way into my garden as pathways. These will reduce weeds and feed the earth at the same time. I don't know if this count as well, but to reduce energy waste I put up my clothesline this week!

Preparation and Storage: My basement was recently made more usable, so all of my storage foods are now easier to get at. I'm also looking at using my bulkhead as a makeshift root cellar this year.

Build Community Food Systems: Our little town has just announced its first Farmers Market!! I am so excited. I have also traded extra seedlings for eggs, and other seedlings that I needed.

Eat the food: I haven't been able to eat anything from my garden yet. Hopefully soon!

Pictures of progress

Here are a few shots to let you see what is happening around here. This first picture is of my cucumbers sprouting in my front window. The cups with nothing happening yet are the watermelons. Hopefully they'll be up soon.

This next picture is of my second round of broccoli. There are already a few in the garden, but I needed more!

Here are the tomatoes and peppers sunning themself on the back deck. There are also 2 tomatillos and an eggplant from my wonderful sister inlaw. I blame her for my addiction to gardening. She's also very much into organic and heirlooms.

This is a overview of the main garden. There are cardboard boxes in the walkways to keep down the weeds. Not much is growing in there yet, but there are a few cabbage, broccoli and onions. The peas are also up along the edge. Beets, chard, zucchini, butternut squash and baby blue hubbards are in but not up yet.

This is the cold frame I talked about that is now a lettuce bed. If you look closely you may be able to see a few baby sprouts just starting to poke their little heads yet.
Here is a photo of the pile of sod that will be a new bed. I'm still so thrilled with how well it broke down. This year it will be an overflow bed, next year it will become a permanent bed for garlic and onions.
Lastly this is a picture of my peach tree. Behind it you will see a cherry tree and one of my 2 apple trees. I'm planning at least 6 more trees this year. Right after this was taken, I pulled most of the blossoms off. That might seem mean, but I really want the tree to put its energy into getting big, healthy and strong. If it is working on fruit, it may get week and die. Believe me there were so many tiny peaches on there, the poor thing would have bent to the ground from the weight.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Back to blogging

So, I've been away for a bit. My cyber-stalker is going to have more to read apparently. HI!!

After a dreary winter, it is Spring! Something I needed with every fiber of my being. I have a to-do list a mile long that I have been slowly chipping away at. One thing that has been kicking my butt this year is... age. Usually Spring awakens and I'm out and digging, planting, expanding and weeding with a vengeance. It's taking much longer this year. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm still a force to be reckoned with... its just doing me in this year!

Part of the problem may be that I've also expanded an incredible amount at this point. I worked so hard last year expanding my garden by 700 sq feet by myself. Now its just mammoth. This year the expansion isn't nearly as huge, but I'm also caring for and prepping last years expansion.

Something I'm especially happy with is my composted sod. When I took all the sod off last year with the expansion, I ran out of places to put it in my back yard. I also ran out of energy to get it there. My resolution was to make a big ugly pile of sod next to the garden. I then put a big, ugly blue tarp over it to cook the grass seeds. Lo and behold, when the tarp came off, there was the most gorgeous deep dark loamy soil left behind. Its so beautiful, there is a huge temptation to dig up the sod in the back and truck it back to my garden! This area is now a 6x12 bed that will have a box built around it. For the summer it will be an overflow bed, but after that it will be a permanent allium bed. I'll put some sand and more manure into it and the fall will see the planting of several dozen garlic cloves and next Spring the rest will be planted with onions.

Today I created a lettuce bed as well. My darling brother in law made me a wonderful cold frame last year. It is so superbly built, except for the plexiglass lid, which warped and eventually snapped in half. It has been sitting sadly, waiting for a use. Today I found one. I moved it over next to my new sod bed and lined the bottom with paper bags from the grocery store( I sometimes forget my reusable bags). Then there is a layer of mulch to also keep done the weeds. This is topped with a few inches of manure and finally a layer of last years potting soil. Lettuce was sown in the top and voila! Its actually quite pretty.

There are so many wonderful things happening right now that I feel a little silly complaining of my lack of energy. Things really are getting done. As soon as I wrestle the camera from my 4 year old, I'll post some pics.