Category Archives: Farm

Our crops and other farm experiences

The melons are coming…

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There are five melons hanging on the vines in my greenhouse!  In two weeks they went from being walnut size to baseball size.  They all look healthy and strong dangling without any support on the vine.  The melons are coming!

There is actually a sneaky sixth melon on the shelf behind the pots.  It is the largest of them all.  It is growing on a piece of vine that grew out down instead of up.  Six melons are coming!

I am thrilled with the cantaloupes this year.  They are substantial gardening prizes for all my efforts to date.  The golden globes of the greenhouse!

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Melons of the North

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Settling in to the greenhouse

Gardening is about challenges.  The elusive cantaloupe melon is one of my annual challenges.  For someone who does not naturally have a green thumb, the ability to grow things in a greenhouse with an irrigation system is my only hope.  Last year I planted some Charantaise melon seeds I had received for Christmas.   These are a small french heirloom melon.  The plant was amazing. It grew so much I felt like it was in a Stephen King novel and the vine was going to take over the greenhouse.  Ever weekend when I came up to the cabin I had to go at the plant with my secateurs to keep it somewhat contained and hopefully focused on fruit development.  I managed to get one small fruit which we ate with sheer delight.

This year, like my eggplants, I started these plants earlier and on a heating mat to try to fool the little seedlings into believing that we were somewhere in the tropics.  The plants were then moved into the greenhouse when the risk of frost had passed.  This year I planted Westcoast seed’s Halona Cantaloupe seeds.  By the time I transplanted them they looked a little gangly and sickly, but in the warmth of the greenhouse they have become lush and full of yellow flowers.

There are two confirmed small melon sightings and many small possible future fuzzy melons so we shall see how the next two months of summer go for these plants.

The secret to growing melons in the north is to grow them in a greenhouse and trick them into thinking that they are living down south.

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The Queen of the South

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Year of the Eggplant

 

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And so it begins…fingers crossed we get eggplants.

Last year was our first year of gardening in our greenhouse.  We focused on tomatoes – and boy did we grow tomato plants!  They were the giants of our greenhouse.  We did however, also experiment with peppers, herbs, cantaloupe and eggplant.  The eggplant last year was an interesting success.  Though they never produced a single eggplant, the small little seedlings we had started on April 6 (Westcoast Seeds: Ping Tung Long)  –  were potted in the Greenhouse on June 3.  They bounced back into huge lush plants.  Purple flowers taunted us – but no eggplant.

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End of the Season

This year we have declared the “year of the eggplant.”  With the conservative goal of growing one actual eggplant – we shall see how it goes.  With the experience from last year we made a few changes.  We started the seeds earlier on March 17, on warming pads under a grow light – we also selected an eggplant seed (Westcoast Seeds: Traviata) that is better for a short growing season like Alberta.

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Eggplants and Cantaloupes on heat pad

Two weeks ago the seedlings were potted in larger pots in the Greenhouse on May 28 and now we wait and see if they can do their magic.

Within a week we saw growth and after two weeks there were clear buds developing.

With the irrigation system providing a twice daily drip, and the miracle grow vegetable fertilizer on the soil, here’s hoping that we have a prosperous year of the eggplant.

 

 

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Sometimes the moment is breathtaking

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Stunning Sunset

Wow.  Speechless.  Just take a moment to breathe in the beauty.

We had a visitor today.  A very dear friend who had been absent from our lives for too many years.  Lovely how these sorts of friends you just pick up where you left off.  The connection is real and established and just needs reacquainting. She came out to see us – but also our country weekend home.  On this particular evening the golden hour came with a vengeance and delivered these breathtaking skies.

We wandered out to a neighbour’s field and took photos of the golden and pink light on the landscape.  The air was remarkably still this evening – unusual for here.  No wind. There was an absolute quiet still that added to the magic of the evening.

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Golden hour in the field

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Pink light on the trees

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So pretty it is worth sharing another photo!

So lovely to be with my dear friend – so stunning to have such a beautiful summer night. Sometimes the moment is just breathtaking and you have to let it soak into your memory to draw on when you need to be reminded that life is wonderful.

 

 

 

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The Greenhouse Experiment Report

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Nearing the end of a successful first season

This year we set up a greenhouse at our cabin as we were not having the best luck out in the garden.  It was either too dry or too wet – and our season is short – so we wanted to try the idea of a somewhat controlled atmosphere with some increased warmth.

Except my basil plant which I bought at a local hardware store as a small seedling, everything in the greenhouse was grown from seeds.  I started them back at home in front of a sunny south-facing window.  When it was time to plant them – I planted a lot.  I still had a few extra tomato plants and pepper plants so I popped them into the garden.  I gave them the same luscious compost rich soil but I will admit I didn’t give them much more attention than that.  On weekends I would water them but they were not the benefactors of our irrigation system in the greenhouse.  In essence they became my control subjects.  What is the difference if a plant is grown in the warmth of a greenhouse with a twice daily drip irrigation system?

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The control subject (tomato) in the garden by the porch is relatively healthy and has some tomatoes forming

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Control subjects (peppers) growing above sceptic tank with onions -show minimal signs of growth

In comparison to the control subjects, the plants that were placed in the greenhouse have for the most part flourished.  Some tomato plants are over 8 feet tall and they are heavy with ripening tomatoes.  The pepper plants have all done fairly well with all of the plants generating peppers and more still to come.

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In the greenhouse the tomatoes are like a jungle

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The pepper plants are healthy and producing a delicious variety of peppers

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The harvesting begins

Overall the greenhouse experiment has been exceptional and exciting.  A verifiable success.  A controlled environment of good soil, some fertilizer, regular drip irrigation, protection from wind,  and most importantly the lovely warmth (approximately 38c most days).

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The Golden Era of Hay

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Golden hour in the hayfield

The golden hour just before the sun sets is a magical time in the country.  The sky to the east is a subdued version of the sunset to the west.  The light is a warm glow.  When the hay is growing the sun catches the tips of the hay, and if there is a slight breeze to cause them to sway like waves – it is a sight to see.  I also save a little piece of my heart for round hay bales.  I love how they sit out in the fields silently waiting to be collected and taken to feed livestock.  There is also something almost architectural about hay bales.  I don’t really want to know exactly how they are made as I prefer to just see them as little mysterious hay rolls.  During the golden hour they are organic monuments to farming in the golden age.

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The Illusive Owl

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An rare daytime owl sighting

We have been hearing screeching at night and I did a little internet research as to who might be making this sound.  In our area it is likely the Great Horned Owl.

One very early morning  in early summer, my husband popped outside the cabin and suddenly realized that there were three large owls.  Two on the roof of our cabin and one on the garage roof.  As he realized they were there they all flew away.  Each in a different direction and each with a huge wingspan.

Since that day we have had a few owl spottings – mostly down by the pond.  Just as you realize what you are seeing it has swooped eloquently overhead and through the trees out of sight.  The illusive owl is a wonderful prize.  It is interesting to note that we have very few, if any,  hawks around this summer.  They too are well aware of the appearance of the owls this year.

I captured this photo today down by the pond.  I patiently waited until the owl became irritated enough by my presence to fly out from his tree overhead.

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A Month in the Greenhouse

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Everyone continues to grow

The plants have all been in the greenhouse for one month now.  Many seeds were started three months ago and it is hard to believe how far these plants have come in that period of time.  Most of the tomato plants have been moved down to the floor now to give them room to grow up toward the top of the greenhouse.  I have pruned the plants to keep them focused on growing the main stem.  Most have the telltale yellow flowers and a few have small tomatoes starting.

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Might have peppers, eggplants and melons after all

My plants that were all so small I wasn’t sure they would make it have started to show real progress.  For the first time I think it is possible that I might actually harvest some peppers, melons and eggplants.  All were so small that they would have been dwarfed by large pots so I chose to grow them in the smaller peat pots.  It is exciting now to see the melons reaching up the twine and starting to form yellow flowers.

The real early producers have been my cucumber plants.  Outside of the greenhouse these failed in my garden the past two years of attempts so this is particularly exciting for me.  In the greenhouse these plants are easily reaching up the twine to start to grow along the wires.

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Socrates cucumbers are the early stars of the greenhouse

My little cucumbers are developing and will soon find themselves on my plate! One month in the greenhouse and I am still excited with our success.

 

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All that is good in the world

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Late Afternoon in the country

Late afternoon when driving back to the cabin after a long emotional day of cleaning out my late father’s house –  we came upon three young male deer in this field.  This one in the photo was the last one to try to get over to the security of the long grass.  They were all so beautiful to watch. They bounced effortlessly across the grass.  The clear blue sky with the light fluffy white clouds above the vibrant green countryside was breathtaking. Everything that is good about life was there in that moment in stark contrast to the earlier part of the day spent sorting out the humble possessions that stay behind after a life is over.

Everything that is good in the world was in the endless blue sky, the pastoral fields, the vibrancy of the young bucks, the classic structure of the fencing, the whisper of the breeze in the grass, the patterns of the crops in the distance and the quiet in the moment.

My brother and I paused for a time by the side of the country road.  I took this photo but we didn’t speak.  We didn’t need to speak.  The wonder was unspoken.  All that is good in the world was present in us in that moment.

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Jute String Theory

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The String Experiment

After adding yet another five tomato plants to the greenhouse – we moved them around and reset up the irrigation system to handle the additional plants.  The indeterminate tomatoes in large pots were moved to the ground so they have the most space to grow vertically.  Vertical is the theme of the greenhouse.  After watching a number of YouTube videos of other greenhouse enthusiasts I decided to give the string theory a try.  We placed three wires across the greenhouse.  Two along the sides and one in the centre.  Then for all the plants that need support and will grow up a string (cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes) we attached jute strings that either connect with the wires or wrap directly above on the rafters.

 

The cucumbers seem quite happy to have the support of the string and the space to stretch out.  The melons aren’t all large enough to even reach the string but in time hopefully they too will grasp the jute and head upward.

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Happy Yellow Flowers

The tomatoes will apparently need coaxing to use the string.  I almost feel like I can watch the tomatoes grow in the greenhouse.  They have been very happy with the heat and the drip irrigation system.  The top of the soil looks dry but the water has been flowing out the bottom of the pots when watered.  The plants all look so healthy and happy so I am presuming that the roots are having to find the water deep in the pots which is making them that much healthier.  They seem to all be standing a little bit taller with the string supports.

Happy healthy plants make for a happy healthy gardener.  Another little experiment I am trying is to place milk jugs full of water in the greenhouse on the north side.  The theory is that they heat up during the day and release that heat at night which will help keep the ambient temperature a bit warmer on our cool Alberta evenings.  Though I read that I should paint them black – I went with motivational statements instead which make me happy regardless of whether or not they are doing their job.

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Gardening is a series of learning moments.  This jute string theory is yet another opportunity for me to grow.

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