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This past week, we did a lot of weeding, planted a second round of lettuce, beets, beans, and peas, and dealt with a seriously ill child, including making 1 and a half round trips (1 hour each way) to the ER. No fun, a lot of stress, but hopefully we’re out of the woods for a while, and the big umbrella of life that covers children, husband, garden, friends, family, community, and home will be normal for a while. I celebrated our return to normal by switching out our winter bedding for the lighter summer bedspread. What? That’s not celebrating? Well then why does it make me so happy?!

Just an update, we dodged the bullet. We actually had a threat of frost for the 29th and 30th, so covered both nights. It never really got to the ground though – some rooftops had frost when we woke up – but I’m still glad we covered it. Now time for the second round of lettuce, beets, carrots and onions, and plenty of weeding.

It sometimes happens in the northern Dakota. Two years ago we had a blizzard on May 16th. So, the risk is always there.

Tonight, May 29th, there is a chance of frost for Kulm, so we covered all the plants we could within reason. I found this handy chart from Purdue (see bottom of article) that helped me easily decide what deserved our attention and what could fend for itself. Even though they are tougher than they look, we decided to cover the peas anyway… they just looked so wonderful that we couldn’t help but coddle them!

Here’s the next step in our growing cucumbers: their “devil tongues”!!

And, another big milestone in my personal journey into rural life… Today I received my first tick bite. I’ve been stressing about it for years, knowing it was a certainty at some point. I’ve brushed many off of me, but had yet to be bitten. Even though it seems like a sort of baptism, I could have happily gone about my whole life without it. But, now it’s passed and I don’t have to stress about its eventuality any more.

We also found this guy hanging out in the barley:

We think it’s an ALBINO barley sprout! We’ll be watching it closely to see if it is able to mature.

Here are some pics of the garden tarped and blanketed (with Jordan saying a little prayer that all our work covering was for nothing). We’ll know tomorrow!

This week has been exhausting. But, for all intents and purposes, the garden is IN!!! There are a few things will get a second round of planting (i.e. lettuce, beets, corn), and a few that go in later (sweet potatoes, eggplant), and some afterthoughts that I’m not real concerned about happening one way or the other. It feels VERY GOOD to have it done.

Thank you, thank you, Beth Andrys! She has allowed me to bring the kids over for daycare everyday the past week! Without question, not even half as much would be in now, if not for her amazing care. And, the kids love it there, so it sure makes it easy on me to leave.

Total for Wednesday and Friday is 49 tomato plants, 92 peppers, and 8 melon hills. The peppers have a bit of a story… I dug 35 holes and put 24 peppers in. Then I decided those aphid-eaten leftovers were definitely not worth the effort I was putting into them, AND Jordan wanted me to space the rows further apart so he could till between them. So, I filled all the holes and REDUG (not sure about that term) the holes — actually, Linda did most of the digging — and put 68 new pepper plants in, nice healthy ones this time, purchased at Kusler’s Greenhouse, here in Kulm. All 68 holes were dug and peppers planted yesterday. This is me about 1/2 way through, cursing silently (that’s what that funny smile is):

I picked the kids up from daycare and still had about 20 left. The good news is, kids pass the time pretty happily when they are surrounded by dirt and machinery.

In the first pic, you can see they were riding the 4-wheeler, which Jordan hooked up to the garden trailer yesterday. Grandpa Bill made the trailer for us last year from an old pick-up bed, and it has been very useful getting our tools back and forth! Here’s a better look:

Tomatoes went in well. I read in a few places that tomatoes like lots of calcium, and planting eggshells right with the plant is a great way to give them that extra calcium. A friend of ours heard me talk about the idea, so she saved me 15 dozen eggshells from a catering job she did! So wonderful, and it was just enough to put a handful in with each plant.

And we have more newbies coming up! Our first cucumber, kale, wheat, barley, and popcorn! Jordan planted the last three only 5 days prior, if you recall. All that careful attention pays off, boys and girls.

If you ever wondered what a corn plant looks like right when it splits through the soil, here it is, with my thumb for comparison:

A curled shoot, spiking through the ground. It will unfurl into the first leaf, also called the flag leaf.

And, I almost forgot to mention my big discovery. During all my digging, I unearthed something. This giant rock! The 4-foot yard stick is there for size comparison (I don’t know why it is a 4-foot yard stick… or why someone would make that).

Every time my shovel hit rock I would move over a little and try again to see if I could get to the outside of it and leverage it out. Despite the heft you would assume latent in my 5 foot 1 inch frame, I soon realized that even if I dug deep enough to get under it, I could not lift it out. So, I had to abandon the hole and move on. For a very brief moment early on, I let myself imagine it was a real treasure chest! It was an exciting moment!

Now we get a very short breather before we have to start weeding like mad.

Jordan took a very short break from custom planting to put in his popcorn, wheat and barley. The wheat and barley are for a home-brewing experiment he’s planning for this winter. And the popcorn is his cash crop of the future. He can talk himself into being a supplier for Orville Redenbacher if you let him talk long enough.

Here’s the very precise Jordan planting his popcorn JUST right.

This is also why I don’t even help him plant “his” crops. Mistakes in this area are unforgivable, so, for the sake of our marriage, I work elsewhere while he’s in the garden. But it sure makes him happy!

And when we say we plant the garden by hand, people, we mean BY HAND!

If you have good eyes, you might be wondering, “Why is that popcorn black?” It’s a variety called Dakota Black Pop, a 90 day maturity corn. Last year we planted a 112 day variety, CRAZY for our short growing season. It only made it because of the above crazy, i mean BRILLIANT!, farmer who did this a few times when it got below freezing:

that's how you friggin tarp some corn!

And that, friends, is how you tarp a friggin corn field. We had to use a few tarps, but the point is, the corn survived!

Today I planted red, green and lima beans, and cabbage. I forgot my camera, so all you get is my “after” shot of my dirty face. Tomorrow… TOMATOES! That’s a big day.

Yesterday I planted the leafy greens section of the garden. 2 10 foot rows of iceberg, 2 romaine, 1 spinach, 1 tat soi, 1 bok choy, and 1 kale. I also marked off a second section so I can repeat the whole process in about 2 weeks, because I’m just a glutton for punishment I guess (or fresh lettuce salads!). I have been thinking about the delicious fresh salads we had last year, a spinach and beet salad with orange dressing in particular. I can’t wait!

Josh and Lynda planted 99 potato plants today before the expected rain tonight. We put in 70 Pontiac red and 29 Yukon gold, roughly. I think next week will be time for peas?

I also had a welding lesson from Grandpa Bill. I’d never seen welding done, and he is a very good welder. He attached a metal handle/stick to a rake head that had come off its wooden handle (bc they ALWAYS do). I’m trying to rig up a device to mark the rows instead of running twine down every row to make sure they’re straight.

This works to make the rows evenly spaced, but it doesn’t guarantee they’ll be straight. I had to adjust a few rows of potatoes that were bowed in the middle from using my new rake method. We’ll see how helpful it actually ends up being.

Unfortunately I did not have my camera, because it would have been a great pic, but we finished the welding lesson by all standing outside in our welding helmets and staring at the sun. Why not?

On Friday, the kids and I arrived back from 2 weeks in Texas. The seedlings were leggy to say the least.

So, today I transplanted all the tomatoes (pic to come). The peppers can wait a few days. Now I need to decide what to do with the empty stage 1 planters. There’s so many things to get started!

We did our first day of spring work today: picking rocks before Larry tills the garden next week. A fitting lenten activity, I think. Empty space is so promising.

Seeing the first sprouts from my little starters is so exciting. It doesn’t feel like planting time yet because it’s still cool out most days, yet there they are. At first, they are prayerful, bowed over with folded hands, then, in what feels like minutes, their hands go up and two little green leaves seem to be giving you that peaceful newborn baby stare. I see potential for great things!!

Leo, of course, quickly pulled two sprouts, but I think I saved at least one. And, though we’ve had all but 1 or 2 of the tomatoes germinate, none of the cherry bell peppers have sprouted yet.

I also started the rest of our peppers today — red knight, apple peppers, banana/wax, early jalepeno, and some jalepeno seeds we saved from last year.