Grit Blogs > Of Mice and Mountain Men

Woodworking Green Stuff

Of Mice and Mountain MenThis post will primarily be a gardening update. Gardening has become very weird the past couple of years, and a bit frustrating. But first, should you ever find yourself unable to get to sleep and out of milk to warm, you might peek into my Smoky Mountain Woodworks page on Facebook.

I’ve been detailing the projects I’m working on again: that should put you to sleep in no time. When I’m not working on anything, I share other people’s projects that I found interesting. Don’t look at those: They’re stimulating and will get the brain wheels cranking again.

Seriously, when I was furniture-making full time, I always posted daily updates of what I did and how I did it. Many customers commented that they loved being able to watch their custom creation coming together, and it instilled a better appreciation for the amount of work and attention to detail it takes to build fine furniture.

On to the business at hand ...

I watered the garden this morning, so now it’s raining. Good. It’s been dry for days and I’m sure I didn’t put out all the water I should have because the gnats and skeeters were eating me alive. Something bit me on the upper lip and it’s swollen up like someone punched me. Welts all up and down my arms. Argh! So the added rain is very welcome.

The garden is doing right pitiful. Well, largely pitiful. OK, a little pitiful. Actually, now that I think about it, we’re not doing too badly, considering what has been tossed at us. We’re just not where we normally would be by late July. The peas have burned up, which would be normal for July, but they didn’t come up until just last month, so they got a really short time to produce anything. The lettuce bolted and I replanted. I have a few small sprouts surviving under a shade cloth but growing very slowly. Out of the 64 radishes I planted, I got two, and one of them I left too long (hoping it would get bigger) and it was too woody to eat. Blight attacked my taters, borers are in the stems of my zucchini, the neighbor’s dog keeps peeing on my herb bed and it withers up. The herb bed withers, not the dog. I’m not sure I’d want to eat those herbs anyway. I’m thinking electric fence. Tomato leaves are curling up – maybe I’m not watering them enough: they need lots of water.

I did get some turnips from my winter bed, also got a few taters that were missed last fall, overwintered and came up this spring, froze off, and came up again. Stubborn lil things! I’m removing the blighted vines from the summer tater boxes and hoping the parent tubers will send up more greenery to finish the season. I’m pretty sure the blight was caused by flea beetles that stressed the plants to the point they got sick. I should have gotten the diatomaceous earth sooner. But I didn’t. Now it’s on hand and at the ready.

Garden Update - Zucchini

I got a half-dozen nice zucchinis off our vines before they started wilting and stopped producing fruit. I read a GRIT article about vine borers that suggested slitting the stems lengthwise to open the stem and dig out the borer worms. I tried that and found not worms but tiny black beetles. One plant was too far gone and just broke off. I cleaned out the other three. One has two zukes on it again, but they don’t look well. I replanted all four hills, we may have time to try again for a fall crop. But I need to find out what those beetles are and how to deter them. I don’t think an electric fence will work here.

The cucumbers had to be replanted four times before any of them came up. Once they did, they are doing well. No blooms yet but the vines are climbing up the trellis rapidly.

Garden update - corn beans 

My corn is doing well. That’s a first! I pulled a couple of ears that were ripe yesterday, we’ll eat them tonight. Another two or three are ready, and others are getting close. More are just coming on. That works nicely: better than everything coming ripe all at once. Thirty-six stalks planted, average twi ears per stalk: Somewhere around 72 ears of corn all at once? Not good. Space them out over a month or two: good deal, some to eat now some to freeze for later.

I co-planted Roma beans (a flat, stringless green bean) amongst the corn. I waited a bit too long to plant those and the corn has shaded the plants so they aren’t growing as fast or robustly as normal, but they are starting to produce a few beans. I’ll harvest a handful on Friday. As I cut out spent corn stalks the beans will get more sun and do better. I think.

garden update - tomatoes

The tomatoes are setting a fair number of maters. They’re nowhere near ripe yet, but they are there. If they don’t get the blight or eaten up by some bug army, we should get a good harvest from those. Eventually.

Japanese beetles were turning my black bean leaves to lace, so I hung out a couple of beetle traps.  Those are half-full in a week’s time and the beans are recovering nicely – and setting pods.

garden update - grapes 

Beets, onions, strawberries, blueberries have all yielded small amounts: not like past years, but hanging in. The grapes still aren’t setting any fruit: lots and lots of leaves and vines, but no fruit. Maybe they will next year. I need lessons on how to prune a grape vine to help it grow properly.

I planted some Triple Crown Blackberries and some black raspberries that a friend gave me from his garden. Most of the raspberries died, one hangs in and is trying to make something of itself. One blackberry is doing well enough that I’ve trellised it, arched it over and tip-rooted it. The other blackberry is psychotic – spreading out sideways in several directions rather than upwards. I dunno: maybe it’s a phase it will outgrow, like boys who sag their pants. I’ll let it grow until I get something long enough I can train.

garden update - peppers 

I have puny pepper plants. There, I said it. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth. In the past, my peppers would shoot up to 3 to 4 feet tall and required sturdy stakes to tie them to so they didn’t topple over under the weight of their many peppers. This year, the seeds I planted refused to come up. Eventually I bought bedding plants and put them in. Those are struggling and are still no taller than 16 inches, but some are bearing peppers. I have eight plants, each one a different variety of pepper. Two varieties I could not find as bedding plants, so I left those cells empty ... and the seeds finally sprouted. Germination time was at least three times longer than it should have been. But there they are: much younger than the other plants, also struggling, but hanging in. I must give them credit for trying.

garden update - canteloupe

My cantaloupe vine almost died out, but has recovered and is starting to grow vigorously and has a few blooms. I need to move out the Alyssum that is in the box with the cantaloupe before it gets smothered.

garden update - flowers 

This was the first year I made an organized attempt to plant flowers that would draw beneficial bugs. I had as much trouble getting the flowers to sprout as I did the veggies: replanting three and four times before any came up. I can’t tell with certainty that they are doing their job. I do see more bees this year than I have in the past, but ladybugs and lacewings are conspicuously absent. The few ladybugs I do see tend to be the yellow ones that are reported to be carrying a parasite that kills the American Ladybird Beetle. More woes of the Asian invasion.

We got a really late start to our season this year because of a very late frost that forced a major do-over. Hopefully we’ll get an equally late onset of winter so our growing season can even out. We will see. Outguessing the weather has been my major challenge this year, and the professional weatherguessers have been no help at all. In fact, I’m starting to think that if they say it will rain; I’ll go water; if they say it will be sunny, I’ll plan to stay in and do some woodworking. One way or another I always manage to keep busy, so that’s a good thing anyway.