One afternoon in the garden

It’s summer… warm, lovely summer with long days, homemade popsicles, water balloons, and everything growing like mad.

As you can see above, our sage plants, after a long latent stage as poor little sticks, have grown to be mighty bushes. And our tomatoes, though still green, are already very promising. I also put in some new pepper plants.

Here is also one very annoyed mama hen. Doesn’t her whole attitude speak very plainly: “Do not get close to my chicks, or else?” After a heartbreaking result with our previous batch of chicks – some sort of predator dug its way into the coop and just made off with all our chicks, plus two of my favorite chickens, leaving absolutely no trace – I spent hours reinforcing the base of our coop with local rock. I know pouring concrete around the base would have been more effective, but we just can’t afford this right now.

Anyway, we now have fifteen new chicks, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I hope we can raise them into nice stock of pullets who will lay plenty of eggs for us in a few months.

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Improving your soil

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We don’t have ideal soil – to put it mildly. It is heavy and has a high clay content; it’s muddy and slippery in winter, and sticks to rubber boots until we have clogs so heavy we can hardly lift our feet. Once the rainy season is over and it dries up, it becomes rock hard. Oh, and it’s also full of actual rocks, large and small, which makes clearing up space for a garden bed one challenging job. Using raised beds with imported high-quality soil has been great, but would I like to have friendlier soil all over our property? Sure!

Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“Practically any soil – whether it’s sandy, or has a high clay content, or is somewhere in between – can benefit from generous amounts of organic material being worked into it. Back when we used to keep goats, there was a place in our yard with plenty of brush that needed to be cleared and I often tethered the goats there. Apart from the brush it was pretty arid, but next year, beautiful tall lush grass sprung up there as if by magic. It was goat manure, left over winter to rot and decompose, that did the trick.”

Weeding Made Easy

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Do you have a least favorite garden chore? Mine is probably weeding, but with raised beds, things have been a lot easier for some time now. Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“The best time to pull weeds is after a good rain, when the ground is nice and soft. Once our ground dries, it gets the consistency of hard clay and weeding becomes increasingly difficult. This doesn’t go for the raised beds, of course, which are always kept nice and fluffy. I have taught my kids to always give the beds a quick look-over and pull up every tiny weed they can find – sometimes we even make a contest as to who pulls up most.”

Keeping chickens significantly reduces weed level as well (one of the many benefits of having our feathered friends around!). Also, things do get better with each year that passes one the same plot, if you are diligent and pull up young weeds without letting them go to seed. When I look at our yard today, I actually think to myself, “wow, this looks almost well-kept considering to what it was two years ago!”

Growing Fenugreek from seed

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A few months ago I thought I’d try to sow some dry Fenugreek seeds from the store as an experiment, and they thrived in a sunny spot in the garden during the winter and spring. Yesterday, as the plants were already exhausted, I pulled them up and sowed some beans instead.

Fenugreek seeds grow in pods, much like peas and beans, (though the pods are smaller, of course) and can be eaten both fresh and dry. The plant has many beneficial properties, among them lowering blood sugar and stimulating milk production in nursing mothers. The dry seeds can be soaked and made into hilbe spread, after the Yemenite tradition, and also added to soups and stews.

For more information on using Fenugreek, read here.

Spring, an exciting thing

I spent some time in the garden this morning (while I really should have been getting the house in order for Pesach, but never mind) and as you can see, the sage is in full bloom and the first beans are hopefully poking their heads up.

My tomato seedlings look a bit puny,but I hope they will improve as we get more sunlight hours.

Moreover, we already have our first two broodies of the season! So hoping for some chicks soon.

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Our neighbor’s dog has had a litter of puppies. My kids are delighted. Here you can see the mother dog looking on intently (but not at all in a hostile manner) as Israel is gently touching one of her babies.

The garden is coming to life!

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After a long time asleep, our trees are finally coming back to life! This week I was excited to see these beautiful snowy-white apricot blossoms. It is a young tree, only about 4-5 years old, but last year it bore excellent fruit. Other trees are stirring awake as well, the rosemary and sage are in bloom, and I have a bunch of tomato seedlings started indoors, from seeds we had never tried before, which promise especially large tomatoes (I don’t recall the exact name at the moment. It’s written on the packet). We ordered some and thought we might as well give it a go this year.

Overall, spring is here in earnest: a beautiful and exciting season, full to burst with juices of life but, alas, also of necessary chores such as getting the house in shape for Pesach, which prevents me from being outdoors as much as I would have liked in this glorious weather.

Melons

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Above is one of the melons we grew this season. We only grew a couple of vines for the experiment, from seeds we saved a couple of years ago from an especially delicious specimen (which we bought at the store, by the way). We planted rather late and the melons sure took their time to ripen, but the wait was definitely worth it. The fruit was small, but very fragrant and sweet, since we allowed it to fully ripen on the vine before picking. I think I’m going to save seeds from this one too, to plant next year.

And, yes, in the background you can see some more hot peppers! The bounty sure doesn’t stop, and I’m going to make some more hot sauce soon.

You can read more about growing food from supermarket scraps here and here.