Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Me and the Little Red Hen

Posted on | June 4, 2010 | 6 Comments

Apparently Mother Nature doesn’t know that the summer solstice is on June 21st.  Like everyone else, she assumed that summer started on Memorial Day.  So she sent us a week of heat, humidity and thunderstorms.  Which is fine with me since I had just planted some seeds and didn’t have to worry about keeping the soil damp.  Guess Mother Nature knows best after all.

But today dawned bright and sunny, meaning it was time to get back to the garden.  I rounded up my slaves, um, children, gathered some tools, and remembered the tick spray when we already half way down the driveway.  Same old, same old.

The garden loves the rain.  And the shade of the taller plants means some of spring’s crops are still hanging on.  The kids are not very appreciative of this fact as they are incredibly bored with harvesting lettuce, chard, and mesclun.

Unfortunately, they also sick of eating it so there will be much whining over this afternoon’s chef salad and tonight’s side dish of sauteed swiss chard with garlic and red pepper.  Good thing I earned my degree in Ignoring Whining over the past 10 years.

The kids did have a blast gathering cucumbers, squash, and zucchini.  We even found this funky specimen that appears to be 2 squash that grew together.

This is a living example of how I feel when the kids have been following me around all day until I scream,  “Will you please get off my butt????!!!!!”

They did help me spray raw milk, sprinkle food grade DE, and clip some of the blackberry sprouts pushing up through the raised beds.  As a matter of a fact, a fist fight broke out over the use of the  sprayer.  Doesn’t this look so fun to use that you would punch your brother in the stomach over it?

I figured it was time to cut my losses and released the kids from garden chores so they could climb trees, throw rocks in the pond, and search for fool’s gold in the driveway.  When someone ended up with gravel in their eye (someone always ends up with gravel in their eye),  I agreed they could return to the house and make forts out of pillows, blankets, and all the furniture downstairs.  Which is a guarantee that the next time I’m enjoying a book on the couch and pull out an afghan to snuggle up, it will be covered in dog hair from being dragged on the floor and probably have some dried up Cheez-Its stuck to it or wet spots from spilled juice boxes from when it was used for snack time inside a fort.

Did I mention that yesterday was the last day of school for my kids?  Yep, we are now on summer break.  I don’t appear to be starting out very strong, do I?  Note to self:  make a Chore Chart and buy an extra box of Tension Tamer tea at the store.

With the kids off to destroy the house, I could finally concentrate on getting some work done in the garden.  I pulled up lots of weeds encroaching on my veggies.  Baskets and baskets full of weeds.  There is actually a basket hidden by this overflowing pile of wild onion, crabgrass, and some thorny plant that is attempting world domination, starting with my raised beds.

That’s OK, though, because I have a crew readily available for eating baskets of weeds.

Oh, and this guy, too.

With the weeds cleared away, I thinned the okra that, for some unknown reason, I overseeded and planted alarmingly close to the eggplant.  Perhaps I didn’t thin it enough,  but I hate to be overzealous since it appears to be under attack from something eating the leaves.  I suspect the striped beetle I see around the garden.  Which narrows it down to the bean leaf beetle, cucumber beetle, or Colorado potato beetle.  Perhaps even some of each.  Don’cha just love organic gardening.

I spotted my nemesis, the squash bug, among the zucchini.   So I spent a mind numbing amount of time picking off bugs and scraping off their nasty little egg clusters.  Note to self 1 :  move forward with plan to allow guineas into the garden.  Note to self 2: this would involve getting up after dark, pulling guineas off their roosts and putting them in garden and hoping nothing kills them during night.  Note to self 3:  sigh

To avoid sinking into depression, I moved on to pinching the suckers off the tomatoes and tucking them neatly into their cages.  A nice, orderly tomato plant.

Except for this tomato plant.  This one was left over from the transplants I grew myself.  I lost the tag to identify it, it was tiny and wilted, and I didn’t have a spot in the garden for it anyway.  But I didn’t have the heart to toss it into the compost pile.  After all, we spent 8 weeks together, nestled by the warmth of the wood stove during the darkest days of the year.  So I shoved it into an empty spot next to the beans and gave it the cheap inverted teepee type of tomato cages that should have held its spindly yellow growth just fine.  Of course, like all vegetation that you don’t need or expect to grow, it is flourishing.  As a matter of fact, I think it ate the cage.  It certainly couldn’t be neatly tucked in.  So I just snapped off all the branches threatening the beans and left it alone.  I am naming it “Medusa.”

Speaking of transplant varieties that lost their labels, what the hell is this?

Obviously I thought it was a cucumber plant since I planted it with the cucumbers.  Obviously, it is not.   I though it might be butternut squash but this has green and white stripes like a watermelon.  Have I inadvertently created a vegetable with the appearance and sweetness of a watermelon but the phytonutrients, fiber, and antioxidants of squash??  Let the children rejoice and the mothers cross Providing Proper Nutrition off their to-do list!  If it’s not a watersquash, and you know what it is, please let  me know.  I can handle the disappointment in order to satisfy my curiosity.  Really I can.

Because even if I haven’t created a new vegetable phenomenon, this is the first year that my Three Sisters Garden is taking off.  Look closely and you’ll see the pole beans preparing to climb the corn stalks and the squash seeds thriving in the foreground.

A Three Sisters Garden replicates the way Native Americans grew corn, squash and beans together and used them as a staple in their diet.  I’m not sure how Native Americans lived through the winter because every time that we attempt this type of garden, it doesn’t work.  And I’m not really sure why.  Last year I even used fish emulsion as a fertilizer to simulate the fish that the Native Americans buried in each hill of seeds.  All I got was one row of corn and a long snaky strand of beans that ran parallel to it.  However, it looks like the powerful Indian Spirits have smiled upon my determination and rewarded me with a burgeoning crop this year.  I hope it keeps going strong.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Or beat your tom-tom.  Whatever it takes.

By the time I had everything set to rights in the garden, I was covered in dirt and sweat.  The sun was beating down mercilessly and I guessed by its position in the sky that my exhausted return to the house would be greeted with a chorus of  “We’re starving.  What’s for lunch?”  And then I saw it.   I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Ripe blackberries.  Not a lot of them.  Just a few, lush and juicy from the past week of heat and rain.  I thought my eyes were deceiving me and that they would be still be rock hard.  But when I tickled them, they dropped into my sweaty palm and immediately left a stain of a few drops of juice.  Ah, fresh delicious blackberries.

Quickly, I tucked them in my pocket and began the trek to the deck, carrying the overflowing basket of greens and veggies, the sprayer, and the bucket of DE .  I rinsed off my Sloggers, hung my garden gloves on their peg, sank into the patio chair with the cordless phone, and dialed up the Little Red Hen.

“Hey, Red,”  I said, “How’s the garden look this year?”

“Well, you know,” she said, “The rain did wonders for the corn but I couldn’t get the pig, the turkey, or the dog to help hoe the weeds in the rows.  I had to do all the hard work by myself.”

“I hear ya,”  I empathized.

“But,” she continued with a smile in her voice, “while I was in the garden hoeing the corn, I found the first red cherry tomatoes.  I ate them all by myself and you cannot imagine how good they tasted!”

“Oh,”  I chuckled as I popped plump, luscious blackberries into my mouth, “I think I can.  I really think I can.”


6 Responses to “Me and the Little Red Hen”

  1. Tanya
    June 5th, 2010 @ 5:48 am

    So cute. Love the idea of using the same methods that the Indians did. Thanks for the education about the Three Sisters Garden.

  2. Annabelle
    June 5th, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

    we got our first black berries too! what a nice treat… now if I had only kept it to myself and not shared the surprise with the kiddos!

  3. Veronica
    June 9th, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

    Wow…so nice to see berries this early in the season!!

  4. va_grown
    June 10th, 2010 @ 10:04 am

    We finished our lettuce and broccoli last week and I’m so excited to see our first raspberries coming in. I’m not much of a food gardener, but I’m going with the “keep trying and eventually God will take pity on you” philosophy. 🙂 Enjoyed the pics!

  5. Jenn
    September 1st, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

    Did you ever figure out what type of squash you grew with the cucumbers was? We have the same growing in our garden. I thought I had planted zucchini!

  6. Andrea James
    March 8th, 2014 @ 1:22 pm

    That unidentified squash looks like a Kershaw variety. Extremely delicious and makes the best tasting pumpkin pie… A favorite variety in the south.


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