Tuesday, September 25, 2012

6 Take-Aways of Summer

We recently returned from our big vacation on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and one thing always strikes us.  When we leave, usually Labor Day weekend, summer is still in full swing, green and hot.  When we come home, a mere 7 days later, it’s suddenly chilly and leaves are falling off the trees.  Just what happens in that one week we’re away?

As another growing season winds down, it’s time to take note of the most prominent lessons learned:
Some of our butternuts
1)   You only need to plant about a fifth of the amount of squash plants that you think you’ll need.  This also applies to zucchini, pumpkins, anything that grows on a vine.  We have zucchini the size of Louisville Sluggers and plenty of them.  Along with the pumpkins, they filled in their fenced-in yard and then proceeded to go over, under and through the mesh to prove their point that they could.  Likewise, the butternut squash in the front garden also took over real estate much like something in a B horror flick, intertwining with cabbage plants and smothering the lettuce.  The way they spread and sprout, a lot of world hunger could be relieved by the planting of a mere three zucchini plants per continent. 

This year's new perennial bed
2)  Newspaper mulching is a winner.  We tried it on the raspberries and basil, with delightfully weedfree success.  It all but eliminated the need for future weeding and is well worth the initial time investment.  I did learn to not attempt to do it on a day with the most remote of breezes, as you will spend equal time chasing newspaper across the yard as putting it around the plants.  The depth of the mulch is important, too, or else the weeds will poke their way to the sunshine and eventually the newspaper will begin to show through, waiting for the first stiff breeze to go for a ride somewhere.  But with a good layer of mulch, it looks great and does the job.  And, in the late fall, it can just be rototilled under.  It sure beats weeding every week.  (Thanks to Annie Gregson for the idea!)
3)  Don’t be afraid to improvise.  After lots of searching online for ways to braid onions, and not really understanding any of them, I sat on the porch with some twine and just tied a bunch together, trying to keep them tight so they look neat.  Hey, it works.
4)  Trial and error is a good thing and, with a good bottle of wine or two, can actually be fun.  We continue to learn the finer points of canning.  Larry did a quasi-successful and then a successful batch of canning beets.  Personally, I’ve become a fan of blanching veggies and we did about 25 pounds of tomatoes.  You boil them for two minutes, put them in freezer bags and into the chest freezer they go.  Quick, easy, done.
Bring on winter!
5)  Never underestimate the power of the right tools for the job.  With our dandy new (to us) tractor and woodsplitter, we were done with all our firewood by our target date of Memorial Day weekend.  There’s nothing like looking at those killer stacks of wood all summer, seasoning beautifully, knowing that you’re  done with the job and you’ll have fantastic heat all winter.
Gotta love that man!
6)  Never give up the ghost.  My thoughtful husband just spent two weekends on the outhouse renovation project, accomplishing what I could not – securing the little building in a reasonable modicum of squareness and replacing the roof.  I know there were other projects he would have much rather been working on, as a falling down outhouse is not a high priority (unless you need to utilize it as an outhouse, which we do not).  I pulled it out of the ash tree it had been leaning against several years ago and braced it somewhat, but it was a poor band-aid at best.  Larry knew I’d been wanting to fix it up for years, bracing it and hoping the next winter wasn’t the one that would bring it down, and bless his heart he jumped on it and did a wonderful job.  We’ll put cedar shakes on the roof and somehow finish off the base of it with stones.  Our neighbors, who keep insisting “Ye Olde Crescent Moon” is a historical structure, will be very happy.  And no, we will not be using it as an outhouse.

I’m sure I’ll think of more things but I think I’ve rambled on enough for one post.  Thank you to everyone who has commented on how much they like my blog and ask when I’ll be posting something again.  I promise to be better about keeping all of you in the loop.  Until next time, happy homesteading!