Fall is Almost Here…

…and the garden is winding down. 

This summer, in southeastern PA, has been a weather rollercoaster.  A pleasant but dry June was followed by a HOT and even drier July.  August brought some cooler temperatures and rain.  Lots of rain.  And flooding – especially with the arrival of Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Depression Lee.  Philadelphia recorded its wettest month EVER in August!  My garden is looking a little unkept now – to say the least – since I haven’t been tending it in the rain.

I had several firsts this year in my veggie garden!  I harvested my 1st asparagus from the bed I started last year.  I tried growing tomatoes from seed planted directly into the ground.  I didn’t spray any insecticide (I only use 100% natural sprays when I need to use them).  I also saw my 1st lacewing in my garden!

Last year I planted 10 asparagus crowns and only 2 didn’t make it.  The other 8 began sending up spears in April and I was able to harvest a few during a 2-3 week window.  New research has shown that you don’t have to wait till the 3rd year before harvesting, and harvesting the 1st year after planting actually increases the buds that are formed by the crown.  For more information on growing asparagus, click here.

For the 2nd year in a row my seedlings didn’t grow more than 2 inches.  Although I haven’t figured out the cause yet, I tried planting my tomato seeds outside at our last frost date (for our zone 6 garden, it’s May 15th).  I heard someone say that they regularly do this and harvest tomatoes the same time as their neighbor who uses started plants.  I must say I was a little skeptical, but my seeds sprouted and grew.  I trellised and pruned them, and they began to produce fruit.  I ended up harvesting tomatoes the same week my father-in-law, who used started plants, did!

This summer I didn’t spray my garden at all with pesticide.  I usually use an all-natural product called Pyola from a company called Garden’s Alive.  It’s a concentrate made of pyrethrins and canola oil that you dilute with water and apply as needed. I did use diatomaceous earth on my eggplant to try to control the flea beetles that were attacking it, but after seeing my 1st lacewing in my garden I decided to try to do without spraying the entire garden.  In addition to the lacewing, my Garden Patrol also included Wheel Bugs,

adult wheel bug eating a bumblebee


hatchling wheel bugs and eggs


wheel bug nymphs

Praying Mantises,

praying mantis on a tomato plant

various spiders, native and Asian Ladybugs,

pink spotted ladybug


checkerboard ladybug

frogs, American Toads,

American toad

various songbirds and Milk Snakes .

juvenile milk snake

I truly enjoyed all of the life in the garden this year and always wondered what I’d see each time I worked in it.  I have big plans for next year and I’m anxious to start on them.  We’re going to finish putting mulch down in between the beds to eliminate the need to mow the garden.  I’m also adding a perennial herb bed with rocky areas for snakes and toads to hide.  The birdbath will move to the center of this bed.  Lastly, we’re going to plant 2 organically grown blueberry bushes next spring.

Stay tuned for updates along the way!

New Life

Every year we experience the wonderful miracle of life here on our farm many times over.  Sometimes it happens right under our noses without us knowing.  Tonight I found a female Tiger Moth laying her eggs on our front door.

Female Tiger Moth

Amazing to watch!

Laying another egg!

Tour de … Fleece?

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Tour de France, the 22-day long bicycle race across France starting on July 2nd … but how many of you have heard of the Tour de Fleece?  I’m sure if you’re familiar with Ravelry you’ve heard of it! 

Many handspinners around the world spin yarn while the cyclist are racing.  That’s right … 20 days of spinning at least a little each day with 2 rest days.  For some, it’s simple.  Others have it a little more challenging, especially those who have 2 young children, animals to feed and a growing garden. 

I did manage to spin every day that the cyclists rode.  To kick off the Tour I even made a special dinner on July 2nd…  One of our homegrown turkeys, rubbed with a mixture of olive oil and herbs de provence (brought home from Paris by my aunt!) rotisseried on the grill.

I also watched a lot of the race and really became interested in it.  Noah loved watching it with me in the mornings, and Dave and I watched some of it at night, too.  We all gasped when Johnny Hoogerland crashed and cheered for him when he continued racing.

Some days I only managed to squeeze in 10 or 15  minutes but most days I spun for 30 minutes or more.  A few days I spun on my drop spindle because I didn’t have time to sit down at my wheel.  We also left for camping a couple of days before the Tour was over so I packed my drop spindle to take with us… it takes up far less room than my wheel!  I posted photos of my daily progress to my Flickr account, but here’s a collage of my work:

Tour De Fleece collage

Noah’s Birthday

Noah turned 4 this year! He had a great birthday party – the theme was Handy Manny. The day turned out very nice…sunny and warm so the kids could go swimming.

We had pulled pork, pasta salad, grilled veggies and potato salad. I also cooked a leg of lamb on my new rotisserie that turned out terrific! I used a recipe from BBQ University…here’s the link: www.bbqu.net/season2/210_4.html#leg_lamb.

For Noah’s toolbox cake, I used chocolate chippound cake frosted with almond flavored buttercream icing. I covered a wooden dowel with plastic wrap for the handle and iced that, too.

August 9th – My Birthday

My birthday was a nice, relaxing Sunday. Rainy morning…we got home from church and the rain gauge read 2″. The rain cleared up in the afternoon so Dave and Noah went outside to do some work.

Close to dinner-time more dark clouds started moving in, and the Weather Channel said we were going to get a strong storm. Dave fed the animals and I ordered dinner. I was halfway there when the clouds opened up and I got soaked just running from the car to the restaurant! The closer I got to home, the more leaves and branches I saw in the road. Our driveway was just littered with branches! When I pulled up to the house I saw the tree in our front yard had blown over!
I went around the back of the house and hurried in the garage. There was just a flurry of excitement when I got upstairs. Noah had been at the front window and watched the tree fall. Dave was in the kitchen and saw the wind carry Noah’s empty pool from the deck across the backyard and pin it against the fence. The pvc railing on the pool broke and so did the fence rail.
While Dave watched the pool fly through the yard, the tree by the back barn fell. It missed the barn but took down part of the chicken coop fence.

Another tree fell near the back pasture at the edge of the woods and our neighbor lost 2 trees…one took the rungs off a section of our fence. The storm didn’t last too long at all but the damage was high. About a half hour after the storm past we lost power for about 6 hours. What a day!
Dave came home early from work on Monday and stayed home on Tuesday. He repaired fences and started the long job of cutting up the trees.