Monday, August 3, 2020

Today suddenly felt like fall, cloudy and cool. I doubt if summer has given its last hurrah. Terry says the heat returns next week. Meanwhile, we took advantage of the pleasant day to work outside. Terry spent some quality time with his weed whacker. Hilda and I picked the two rows of corn that mature 10 days faster than the rest.

The corn harvest from the early varieties, minus what we'd already eaten

We sat on the downstairs patio and shucked the corn. The earliest variety was “Sugar Buns,” at 72 days. This was the first time we tried growing it, and it may be the last. The cobs were small, and many did not get pollinated on one side. Also, a lot of them had corn borers and/or earwigs. Ewww. The other early variety, “Bodacious,” matured in 75 days. The ears were beautiful, long and full. Definitely worth growing again. As Hilda and I shucked the corn, we tried to remember what bodacious meant. She thought it was a southern expression for extra large. I had a sense that it sometimes had sexual connotations, but I wasn’t confident enough to say so. What would that have to do with corn, anyway? So says the first definition is southern, meaning “thorough, blatant, unmistakable.” It also has three slang definitions, “remarkable; outstanding,” “audacious; bold or brazen,” and “sexy, voluptuous.”  Still not sure what any of that has to do with corn. Remarkable, perhaps.

When we were done shucking, we had two trays of corn and a muck bucket full of leaves and silks.

The corn ready for processing

We blanched each ear, cut the corn off, and packaged it into 9 bags for the freezer. There are still six rows of corn in the garden. I think we’ll have enough. This is one of our better years for corn.

We picked a few ears of other varieties just to check on it. They were deemed too immature to freeze. The chickens really enjoyed them, though. Everyone loves corn on the cob!

The Baltimore orioles are gone. The hummingbirds are still around. I got a picture of this little fellow sitting on the weather vane we brought home from Uncle Dick’s.

Hummingbird riding the horse's tail

With their breeding season long over with, the tom turkeys are starting to hang out together. First we saw a group of 5 and a group of two, but now we often see all 7 together. They remind me of the old guys that hang out in McDonalds every morning drinking coffee. Harrumph, harrumph.

Five toms hanging out together

We worry when we see them in the river birch. There seems to be something there that they eat, possibly caterpillars, but they are getting quite close to the grapes. We will be covering the grapes with netting soon so we don’t lose the whole crop.

Three toms dangerously close to the grapevines

The broilers don’t seem to be aware of how big they are getting. Five of them were trying to share the same dust bath today. It didn’t look awfully comfortable.

Five broilers, one dust bath. The one at the top looks like it has two heads, but one belongs to the chicken behind him.

The last time my brother came to visit, he told me that he had never been able to get a crispy pie crust unless he used a particular brand of ceramic pie plate. I went right out to a high-end kitchen store to get one. It turned out the store was going out of business, so I saved 10%. This weekend, I used it for the first time, and the general consensus was that the crust was crisper.  

Peach pie in the ceramic pie plate

The pace of ripening tomatoes has picked up. We wait so long for the first tomato, and in the blink of an eye, every flat surface in the house is covered with them. One more blink, and they’re gone until next year. Time to live in the moment.

Monday, July 27, 2020

High Tunnel Grand Finale

The harvest is gearing up. I take great satisfaction in being able to harvest enough food to make a balanced meal. In reality, we grilled a steak to have with the sweet corn, zucchini, and potatoes and saved the rest for another day.

Saturday's harvest

The chicks have started perching on the windbreak in front of the door to the coop. The Americauna pullet, sitting by herself on the right, has plumage quite different from any other Americauna we have had. She looks like a miniature eagle.

Chicks perching on the windbreak

The lisianthus are blooming profusely.


Sunday was The Big Day for the high tunnel. Pat, Nancy, and Jane, bless their hearts, got up early so they could get to our house at 7:30. Early morning is usually the calmest, and we absolutely could not get the cover on the high tunnel in any kind of wind. Also it was the coolest part of what soon became the hottest day so far this summer.

Terry had everything worked out. First, we spread the cover on the driveway, measured from each end, and marked the middle.

Measuring and marking the center

Next, we rolled one side to the middle…

Rolling one side

And then the other side.

Rolling the other side

The cover looked like this.

The rolled-up cover

We put tape around both ends and the middle.

Taping the roll

We carried the cover to the high tunnel. Terry put clamps along the east side of the frame to support the cover while we got everything ready to hoist it to the top.

The cover resting on clamps

Terry had put a rope over the center purlin and fashioned a large hook out of heavy wire. Jane took her position on the west side of the frame, holding the rope. Terry and Pat got one end of the hook attached to the rope and the other end around the rolled-up cover.

Jane holding the rope

Terry gave poles to Nancy and Pat. He climbed a ladder on the northeast corner; Pat climbed the ladder in the middle, and Nancy stood by the southeast corner. I took a position at the top of the scaffolding on the north side of the high tunnel.

Terry lifted the north end of the cover to the space between the door frame and the center arch. He put a rope around the north end and handed it to me. He then moved to the ladder in the middle of the south end. Pat took the tape off the middle of the roll.

Terry (on ladder at left) lifts the north end of the roll

Pat and Nancy pushed on the cover with their poles while Jane and I pulled on our ropes. Terry grabbed the south end of the cover. I held the north end. Jane and Pat managed to release the hook from the cover. Jane took the rope down.

Pat and Nancy push while Jane and I pull

When Terry and I had the cover centered, we took off the tape and let the side drop. In theory, gravity should have taken care of it, but we had to do some cajoling and shaking to get it to unfurl.

The rolled-up cover at the top

I held the north end with the center mark over the center purlin. This was my view of what was going on, although I hung on with both hands when I wasn’t taking a picture.

My view after the sides unfurled

On the other end, Terry was temporarily securing the south side.

Terry temporarily attaches the south side

He joined me on the scaffolding, and we put wiggle wire in the channel as far as we could reach. Terry leaned way over the scaffolding to get all the way to the door frame while Pat kept the tension.

Finishing the north side

I thought it would be a good idea to move the scaffolding to the south side to finish, but Terry just about burst an aneurism when I suggested it a few days before. THAT would be much too hard and time consuming. So we did the south end on ladders. The trouble was that the ladders were not tall enough for either one of us to see the top of the high tunnel. Terry stood on the top of the door frame (width = 4”) to get the wiggle wire into the highest part of the channel. I was glad Hilda wasn’t watching. It would have made her very nervous.  I didn’t feel so good myself.

When both ends were attached, we put wiggle wire down the west side…

Pat holds the cover taught while Terry installs the west wiggle wire 

And the east side…

Same deal on the east side

And then it was time to have pecan caramel rolls for breakfast.

Time to break for breakfast

After we were sufficiently cooled down, we went back out to put on the hook for the doors. First, we unrolled the doors.

Unrolling the door

Terry drilled holes and put hooks down the side and an eyebolt at the bottom.

Drilling holes for the hooks

He tied a rope to the top grommet

Tying a rope to the top grommet

And threaded it through the hooks and grommets until it could be tied off at the bottom. This corner is where we have the “rabbit hole” door, which is why some of the hooks are forward rather than on the side.

Lashed down big door by the "rabbit hole" door

The procedure was repeated in the other four corners, where all of the hooks are on the side of the door frame.

Example of the lashing of the other three doors

All that remains is the installation of “anti-billowing” ropes along the sides. We saved that small project for a cooler day. The hard part is done!

A storm came through that evening. Terry and I went out and shut the doors and sides. I was afraid that the plants we have in the high tunnel would bake, but it would be a small loss compared to having the high tunnel rip apart. We will learn over time what it can and cannot take.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

High tunnel, Part 9

Everything’s a-poppin’ here! The chicks are eating voraciously. We just had to go out to get another bag of feed. They spend the heat of the day inside the coop. In the evening, they venture out more and lounge in the grass. One of the Americauna spends a lot of her days outside. She’s a loner, always wandering around by herself, eating bugs and grass seeds.

Our loner Americauna

Here’s a picture of the dark brown Americauna.

Another Americauna

And a Wyandotte.

A silver-laced Wyandotte

The meat chickens are getting meatier. Note how much bigger they are than the pullets.

Size comparison of a hen and a broiler

For reasons I don’t understand, the chicks like to hang around the fence.

The grass is always greener....
Hanging out in the corner by the fence

Sitting in the doorway is fun too. Maybe not so much fun for the chicks that are trapped inside.

Three broilers in the doorway

The grape jelly is all gone. The orioles have fledged their chicks and will be moving on soon.

Dad Oriole feeds a baby on the weather vane
A few years ago, they always left at the end of June. We pick a time to stop buying jelly. Too many times, we have opened a jar of jelly, taken one spoonful out, and had the orioles disappear. Then the grape jelly languished in the refrigerator until the next spring. Now we just stop putting it out as an encouragement to begin their trip south.

My Johnny Jump-Ups have gotten spindly but are still blooming their cheerful little hearts out.

Spindly, yet floriferous Johnny Jump Ups

The wildflower seed mix, which started out as a lot of boring white baby’s breath, is expanding its color palette. And look at that massive sunflower!

Mixed flowers with a giant sunflower

I found a white poppy. Who knew? I prefer the red, of course.

I did not know poppies came in white

The bee balm is feeding many bees. I am learning that this plant is kind of invasive. I have to do some serious dividing before next year.

A bumblebee on bee balm

It also attracts butterflies. This is a skipper, named for its erratic flight.

A skipper

The peas have formed pods but are not quite ready for harvest yet.


I think we will have sweet corn before the end of the week.

Sweet corn

I picked the first Napa cabbage.

Napa, before

After I cut off all the bug-eaten leaves and got rid of the creepy earwigs that were between the outer leaves, it looked like this.

Napa cabbage ready for stir fry

Terry and I put one side panel on the high tunnel this morning. First, we rolled it out in the driveway and attached a pipe to one side and secured it with clams and screws. I handed Terry tape, and he taped over all the screw heads.

Pipe inserted, screwed in, and taped

We took it to the high tunnel and attached the panel by snapping wiggle wire into a channel. It went faster than we thought it would.

Wiggle wire in channel

Soon it was all done.

The side panel done

And now we can roll up the side!

Terry demonstrates the "flick-of-the-wrist rolling apparatus