2012 In Review

2012 In Review

If time really is speeding up, then 2012 was certainly a testament to that for me!  I can’t remember a year that breezed by that quickly, yet thank goodness I still managed to pack in a lot of activities and projects that made it feel like a productive year.  I can’t complain.  Although life’s hardships, tragedies, natural disasters and economic conditions here and around the globe cause misery for many and keep the stress levels high for most people on the planet, I thank God for the blessings of good health and work that allow me to live in my world relatively sane and comfortable… so far.   I am full of gratitude and do not take any of the good things in my life for granted.  Everything can change in an instant!  My prayer always is that love, forgiveness and peace will manifest themselves in the hearts of all God’s children, and that we will all try harder to heal our world and make it a better and safer place for everyone.

I haven’t posted a journal entry for quite some time now because I got side tracked doing some remodelling on my house.  Since September I’ve painted the outside of my house, the entire inside except for the two bedrooms, had the porch rebuilt, replaced two doors,  laid down new carpet, vinyl & floorboards, and my bathroom got a complete face lift with all new EVERYTHING!  After water started spurting out from the wall above my shower head, I figured it couldn’t wait any longer!  It was intense work and required putting many other activities on hold for a while until everything got done, but it did get done and just in time for Christmas!  It feels almost like I’m living in a new home now, and I love it!  Now I just have to demolish the back deck and will hopefully get a new deck built in March, just in time for springtime gardening.  I can’t wait to be sitting outside on my new back deck this next summer with a glass of wine after a long day of working in the garden!

When I look back on 2012, I can feel very satisfied with all that I accomplished in the garden and how much I learned.  After the Black Locusts came down and the logs were cleared out it was a long overdue opportunity for me to make many changes in my backyard landscape.  Everything changed when the garden was exposed to more sunlight, and the flowers in particular flourished and grew to new heights.  Some of the sunflowers were probably ten feet high and the giant Delphiniums were almost eight feet. The highlights of the year were probably the new green house, learning to propagate successfully, expanding the growing areas, building the hay & tool shed on my own, finishing eight more feet of brick pathway, successfully transitioning my two new chicks into the existing flock, planting new plum and cherry trees in my back yard, saving more seed varieties, and growing new varieties of vegetables and fruit this year.

The new varieties I had the most success with were the winter quash varieties, the kale, and the dry bush beans.  My raspberries were the greatest surprise, and I have to say that they gave me the most satisfaction of anything else in my garden.  The asparagus also seemed to do very well the first year.  It should be eatable next season. The celery got planted too late but hopefully will produce stalks this year. The ochre, turnips & rutabagas were problematic.  It probably isn’t possible to grow ochre in this climate anyway, and I will plant the turnips and rutabagas in another part of the garden next summer where the soil doesn’t get so hot and dry.  I will plant them later as well so that they will mature in the fall like the carrots and parsnips.   The cucumbers always do well, and I decided as pretty as the lemon cucumbers are, I still prefer the Cypress cucumbers to any others.  The watermelon didn’t do well, but the cantaloupe did okay, even though they never grew very large.

My cold storage of the winter squashes is going well so far. It’s January now, and they are doing fine outside in plastic bins filled with straw underneath a tarp.  I didn’t have enough time and energy to build the storage shed I wanted on the side of my house, but it will be my next outdoor building project this next summer.  For the time being, I need to figure out which recipes I want to try with my winter squashes.   I got a great harvest of red and yellow onions earlier, but I let some of them get wet so they started to mold under the tarp, and I had to throw some out.  I still have quite a few left that are now stored indoors to ensure that they remain dry and warmer.  I’ll be much more careful next year.  My leek are still in the ground and I pull them up as needed.  So are my carrots and parsnips.

My potatoes did great, but my sweet potatoes didn’t.  I think they needed more sun exposure, so I’ll plant them elsewhere this year.  My cabbages and broccoli did great, but not the cauliflower. The Brusselsprouts didn’t form tight enough sprouts, and I was too busy to try to harvest the best ones during the fall before they expanded into loose little cabbages on the stalks.  I figure that nothing ever really gets wasted though.  My chickens are enjoying them now, and whatever doesn’t get used will always go into the compost or remain on top of the soil for good mulch.

The strawberries never produced what I had hoped, but the raspberries more than made up for them, and I was able to eat practically a handful every day for over two months.  I didn’t expect my Boysenberries to produce anything the first year, but hopefully this coming season they will do better.  My blackberries did great, but I didn’t make the time to pick them for jam or freezing.  We had another great year for blueberries, and I froze what I didn’t gobble up and give away.

All the eggplant varieties did okay where I planted them, but I just wasn’t in the mood to do much with them and only used a few in cooking.  I think they would have done better had they been in a sunnier location. After the late start with tomatoes and hot peppers, everything finally matured enough by late September so that I could make plenty of salsa to freeze.  My bell peppers didn’t do so well for some reason.  I got some good ones, but most were pretty scrawny.  I really think it’s the soil condition.  I will bring in tons more manure next season and mulch even more.   Thanks goodness for that long Indian summer, but not getting rain for over three months really felt strange, and it was hard to keep everything moist.

My pears, as I already mentioned in a previous post, did horrible after the cold and wet spring, as did many of the pears in the Willamette Valley, but the apples did great! At least I managed to get two pears from my Anjou, two from my Bartlett, and three from my Flemish Beauty. I also got two really nice pears from my Asian pear tree, and it was just the first year!  The Flemish Beauty and Asian pear tree didn’t seem to suffer from the cold, wet springtime conditions like the other pear trees.   The fruit tree that surprised me the most was my miniature nectarine.   It produced about a dozen nectarines.  They weren’t very big or pretty, but they were not diseases and tasted fantastic!  All the spraying I did probably paid off.  The peaches were a disaster as usual.  I am going to pull out the scrawny peach tree in the middle this year and will give the remaining two one more chance to produce.  I will make the effort to spray them several times instead of just one and see what happens.   If they can’t pull it together then out they will come.   I need that space for something that will produce.  The three variety cherry tree way in the back corner generally produces some good cherries, but the birds always end up getting them.  Next season I’ll try hanging some little objects from the branches to see if that helps keep the birds away.  The Concord grapes and Himrod grapes produced in abundance, so the chickens and I were very pleased, and I also managed to make 8 quarts of juice from the Concords which I froze.

I managed to can a few more things this fall as well.  I got enough apples from a friend to make plenty of applesauce, but ended up buying pears, peaches and cherries for additional canning.  I canned pickled beets also, and 24 jars of tuna at a friend’s house.  Once you taste real tuna canned in jars you can never fully appreciate the store bought canned tuna. 

One of the funnest new things I did, and most satisfying in the herb and spice department, was drying out my Hungarian paprika peppers and the Cayenne peppers and then grinding them into powder.  I never expected it to be so easy, and next year I will definitely plant more of both varieties to use in cooking since I use so much of those particular spices.

It’s barely been three months since the official end of fall, and we still haven’t really had a cold winter yet, but temperatures have dropped into the freezing zones this week, so that may finally trigger the roses and other plants to stop shooting up little blossoms here and there and take a break.  Sure enough, when I look outside I see that my hardy Fuchsia is now drooping and ready to go into hibernation.   For me, that is the true sign that winter has arrived.   I am already excited about spring 2013, and I’m looking forward to starting in on my new projects.  Time to make a list!!!

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