Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Year of the Squash

I've mentioned previously that there hasn't been a lot of time (or motivation) for blogging this summer. One thing that has been consuming much of my time is our garden. Nearly every morning since late June, I've donned my garden attire and spent at least an hour watering, redirecting vines, and picking produce.

Yes, this is what I put on each and every morning, unless it has rained the day before, which hasn't happened often. Long sleeves and long enough pants to keep my skin from too much exposure to mosquitoes. They haven't been as prolific lately, due to the higher temps and stronger winds, but for a while there, I feared being carried off by the little buggies! The hat isn't for keeping out the sun, because as you can see, the garden is mostly shaded in the mornings. The hat is to keep mosquitoes off my head, as well as itchiness from poking my head between tomato cages to reach the fruits and/or to water the squash vines on the other side. It seems that my skin is particularly sensitive to green bean leaves. After I pick a bucket full of beans, my hands and wrists are flaming red and ITCHY!!! I've tried wearing gloves, but then it's impossible to pick beans. Several washings with my homemade soap takes care of it, though.

The above photo was taken a month ago (see how long this post has been in the works? ha ha!), and the plants nearly completely cover that empty space in which I'm standing. I named the squash vines 'Seymour' because they just keep growing and growing, and taking over the entire garden, and they are always hungry for MORE WATER!!

Being in the garden in the mornings makes me feel closer to God, somehow, and so much of my time out there is spent talking to Him. The bees don't mind my prayers; in fact, they add their own praise tunes!

For what reason I'm not sure, Some Postman feels the need to plant far too many tomatoes in our garden each year. There are still tomatoes in the freezer from 2010! I asked him to put in less this year, so he reduced it to eight plants. Eight plants which produce enough tomatoes for five families. I've been sharing the bounty with a couple neighbors, and experimenting with salsa. We can't eat the stuff fast enough, so I must learn how to preserve it by canning. Those itchy beans went nuts this week, so I'm going to need to can those, as well.

The single cucumber plant that survived the initial planting didn't make it for long. It gave us three cukes, then croaked. We're not without cucumbers, however. About once a week, our neighbor John does a "drive by cuking", leaving a sack of them on our front porch. He rang the doorbell once, but usually he just drops them off. That's the best way to get cukes, if you ask me!

Seymour is a collective of 12 mounds with at least two squash or squash-like vines in each mound. We aren't sure exactly what varieties of squash each of them is producing, but as time goes on, it's becoming more clear. I think the seed in some of the packets got mixed up, because what's growing does not match what the packets were labeled! One mound is full of "volunteer" vines that must have grown from the pumpkins I tossed in the garden at the end of the fall last year. The mounds in the center of the garden have grown into the tomato cages, so a lot of their produce is hanging from the cages. This makes picking tomatoes challenging, but it will be really easy to pick the pumpkins when they're ready!

Acorn Squash

Baby squash of some kind

Pumpkin and a possible cantaloupe

White pumpkin (a volunteer plant)
Cantaloupe? Doesn't look like the picture on the seed packet!

Pie Pumpkin (another volunteer)

Various ornamental mini pumpkins (more volunteers)
Peppers are good crops for us; apparently our soil is just right for them. We plant bell peppers and banana peppers, and they always produce a bounty! Usually they aren't ready for picking until September, but this year, I began picking them last week. We've been eating them as I pick, but yesterday there was enough to fill one of my dehydrators. In the past, I've chopped and frozen peppers, but my freezer is full enough now, and drying them will take up much less room. It's really easy to re-hydrate them to use in recipes - just cover with boiling water and let stand a few minutes.

Bell Peppers

Banana Peppers
In the spring and early summer, we had two rows of lettuce - mixed greens for salads and a broad leaf variety for the chickens to enjoy. Once the heat of summer cranked up, the lettuce was all gone. We had hoped to plant carrots in that section, and later some fall lettuce, but Seymour took over that area, too. It is The Year of the Squash for our garden!

Yesterday morning was a "pick day", and it was plenty hot even first thing in the morning. Not even half way down the row of beans, my back was hurting and the sweat was rolling. I was tempted to complain, but then I thought of the refugees in the Middle East and the homeless all over the world. They would be happy to pick beans, no matter how hot and no matter the pain. So instead of complaining, I thanked God for my lovely garden and the never-ending row of beans. Amazing how much easier the picking went after that!

Ah, gardens are indeed a good place to get closer to our Father God!

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