Garden Update: July 2024

Every year, my husband says something like “this is not a good year for the garden”. It’s either too hot or too dry or too cold or too wet, but usually it’s all fine in the end.

This year… is not a good year for the garden. We’ve had a combination of too cold and too wet. It’s already the first week of July and our garden is weeks behind compared to last year.

For the most part, this will likely be okay. Things might take a little longer and be harvested a little later in the season, but they’ll be fine. Other things that are harvested late in the season — like popcorn, for example — may not do that well. As always, we will see what happens.

One casualty already has been the black beans and kidney beans. Almost none of them have come up. We’re wondering if it was too wet and the beans ended up rotting. John has replanted a ton this past weekend. They might end up being harvested a little before they’re fully dried but in the past I’ve found I can just run them through a dehydrator and they’re fine.

The plants really enjoying this weather seem to be the underground vegetable crops, particularly the garlic and potatoes.

Potatoes and garlic growing in the back yard.

The garlic is about waist high, which I think is the tallest I’ve ever seen it. In this photo you can also see all the curly scapes growing out of the garlic in the front half of the photo. Scapes are the flower stem of the garlic plant. You want to cut or pull these off before the flower opens, otherwise the garlic will stop growing. I’m planning to harvest all the scapes tomorrow—I’ll pickle a bunch of them and the rest I’ll turn into some fermented garlic scape hot sauce.

Not loving the weather this year is the tomatoes, peppers, and corn. Normally this view would be lush and full, but this year it’s kind of depressing.

Small plants in the neighbour's yard.

The weather seems to be taking a turn for the better, though. Today is supposed to be hot and sunny, as is much of next week, so hopefully we’ll see a growth spurt in these plants.

Small tomato plants.

Food for a year

Really, a few plants not growing isn’t that big of a deal — I go grocery shopping every week, so I can always pick up a can of beans if the crop at home isn’t successful. But we like the challenge of eating only what we grow.

We haven’t had broccoli since, I think, January, when our frozen harvest ran out. We just harvested a little bit this weekend and I’m so excited to have broccoli again.

We’re at the low point in our food cycle. This is the food storage room in my mom’s basement. (We use her place since we don’t have a basement, and in return she has free access to whatever she wants.)

While we’ve got a few things left, it’s quite empty. The freezers are mostly empty too.

In a few months this will be FULL of jars and boxes and the freezers will be stuffed to the brim as well…provided the garden picks up some speed with all the growing. Then we’ll eat well until the spring when our choices narrow as things run out and we’ll start dreaming of the upcoming harvest and new round of amazing food.

Mushroom beds

The BIG new project this year are our new mushroom beds!

We’ve been wanting to grow more plant-based protein, which is partly why we’re upping our beans this year, and mushrooms were part of our plan. We weren’t sure if we were going to get it off the ground this year or not.

I received a great mushroom book for my birthday back in March—Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation by Tradd Cotter—which gives great instructions for how to set up mushroom beds on your property. (Despite the complexity of the title, it’s a remarkably novice-friendly book.) But… I was overwhelmed and decided to make this year the research year so that next spring I’d be ready to go.

In the meantime, I follow a local mushroom spawn producer on Instagram and saw a post about mushroom spawn kits that would be great for a garden. After a few DMs to get my nervous questions out of the way, I picked up the kits and we created our first mushroom bed for black pearl king oyster mushrooms.

Bags of mushroom spawn and sawdust pellets.
Mushroom spawn and sawdust pellets.

With how easy it was to set up—and it’s still to early to see how productive it is—we hit up the mushroom guy for some more, and we’ve set up a second bed for white oyster mushrooms.

I’ll do a full post on at-home mushroom production later this summer. A friend of ours has done an in-the-house mushroom set-up that’s quite impressive, so I’ll take some pics and grab some details from him to share in my eventual mushroom post.

Pride season

For many parts of the world, including Winnipeg, Pride happens in June.

As a fairly-masculine cisgender white gay man, I realize that I have a lot of privilege in society. Folks who have different gender and attraction identities or different gender expressions, or have different intersections with skin colour, socioeconomic status, and disability do not have as easy an experience as I do just existing. I don’t experience much homophobia and discrimination, though it does occasionally come up.

When I started this blog, I made a conscious decision to be openly queer here. I want this website to be a place where absolutely everyone is welcome.

Most homesteading sites would make the same claim, but then they also post Bible verses, make explicit statements about the importance of family and children, and often express a distrust of society. While all of these are perfectly fine to find important and have on one’s site, it does not create a welcoming space for 2SLGBTQ+ people who are interested in homesteading. And when I’ve gone onto some of these homesteaders’ social media accounts, I’ve been further alarmed by the content I’ve seen. Unfortunately, most homesteading sites and folks are not welcoming to queer people—they might in theory be, but not in practice.

I imagine some future people reading this section of this post and demanding what someone’s bedroom activities has to do with growing tomatoes. And, really, if that’s your question then that highlights the problem. If a straight person can post about their spouse and kids and importance of family in their post, then why can’t I post about my husband and the importance of Pride in my post? It’s that old double-standard that continually oppresses queer people and their identities.

If you’ve read some of my posts, you’ve likely seen references to my husband. I don’t hide it.

I’ve decided to take a tiny step forward—I’ve updated the banner graphic at the top of this site to include a progress pride flag.

There may be future inclusive changes and posts, once I figure them out. I know one thing I’d like to do is compile a great list of queer homesteaders and farmers. I follow a great account on TikTok, but a list need to be more than one item long. 🙂

Garden and project photo dump

Here are random photos of the things I’ve been up to the past few weeks!

We’ve added chamomile to the garden this year, so I’m working on plucking these flowers and drying them for tea.

Chamomile flowers.

The saskatoons are ripening; when they’re a dark purple, they’re ready. The challenge is to get them before the birds do. Last year on a Saturday evening I looked at the saskatoon bush and thought These look ripe, I’ll harvest them tomorrow morning. Twelve hours later, Sunday morning, the birds had completely decimated the bush, eating every single saskatoon. As I walked up to the bush to take this photo, a robin gulped down a berry and flew away.

Unripe saskatoon berries.

In the realm of preserving projects, I finally tackled the chicken broth. I’ve had a few chicken carcasses sitting in the freezer for months and they needed to get used up before this year’s harvest started filling the freezers again.

I took the carcasses, covered them with water, and added dried herbs and seasonings from last year’s garden. Piled on top here, you’ll see parsley, thyme, and a powered seasoning made from dried onion and garlic peels.

A pot of chicken broth with seasonings on top.

Once it’s boiled and then simmers for an hour or two, everything gets strained and the broth is then canned using a pressure canner. I ended up with just over eight litres of broth.

A jar of chicken stock.

I also made a batch of chive blossom vinegar for a friend. It’s normally made with white wine vinegar, but this batch is made with unseasoned rice vinegar. It has a lovely chive flavour and smell, and a gorgeous pink colour. Over the next few months the colour will fade and turn brown, but the taste and smell will stay the same. I’m hoping to get the recipe up on this site soon.

A bright pink bottle of chive blossom vinegar.

A new-to-me recipe this year is fermented chives. Chives are ridiculously difficult to preserve. Drying or freezing them diminishes their flavour pretty quickly, so it’s very much a use-it-fresh type of plant…which is disappointing because they produce so much chives and you can only eat so much in a meal. These fermented chives turned out pretty nice. If anything, it intensified the chive flavour and smell, and the fermenting has added a bit of a sauerkraut flavour to it. Fermented foods usually last at least a few months in the fridge.

A small jar of fermented chives with a spoon sitting in it.

I’ve also got my annual batch of dandelion wine underway. It’s really cloudy right now, so it’ll take at least a few months to settle and clarify. Normally dandelion wine is made with orange and lemon juice, but I stumbled across a recipe that used lemon juice and ginger and couldn’t resist. So this will be my first batch of dandelion ginger wine. Fingers crossed it tastes good!

A big carboy of golden-coloured dandelion wine

And, lastly, we almost have a gazebo on our deck!

We host a lot of barbecues in the summer but the mosquitoes and wasps make it incredibly unpleasant. We usually have a big mosquito net that drapes over the patio umbrella, but it tears so easily that it barely lasts a summer before we need a new one.

We’ve been talking about getting a gazebo, but we were always put off by the cost…until my mom and step-dad found this abandoned gazebo frame sitting in the middle of a field on public property outside the city. John and my step-dad went back to take it apart and bring it home and they put it together on the deck.

We’ve ordered mosquito screen siding. We couldn’t find the right gazebo canopy since each make and model is different and we have no idea which one this is, so we ordered extra mosquito netting so we can at least wrap the top of this with netting and prevent the bugs from coming in. In a future year we can look at a more formal canopy. All the netting arrived yesterday, so we’ll have it put together this weekend.

A gazebo frame on our deck

And that’s about it for this month’s round-up!

5 thoughts on “Garden Update: July 2024

  1. The black beans and kidney beans didn’t work because they were too old. This year I learned that for seeds, every year will degrade their quality. The new beans I planted were only a year or two old, and proper seed, the ones we’ve been planting were from the store, and likely grown in 2019. Fingers crossed!

    I will be covering the Saskatoon bush today with a net to limit bird access to only surface berries. And I expect this coming week the peppers and tomatoes will finally get a boost, especially with all the water in the ground.

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