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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cucumber Tipi - Part 3

In spring, I covered the tipi with plastic to protect the cucumber sprouts from the cold and the wind -- and the marmots. I should have done it sooner, before a bunch of the sprouts got eaten... there is always more protection to install than I can keep up with.

The shelter really came in handy when Fawn and I got caught in a downpour! 

It was raining cats and dogs, but we were cozy with the cucumbers. 
 Above is the one start that I grew inside the house this year, a much-needed backup plan for my direct seed experiment (below). 

The direct seeding was a feasible trial in terms of temperature and timing, but a drawback I hadn't considered was vulnerability to wildlife. Indoor starts have an advantage in that department, being away from marmots during their most tender stage.

A great place to ride out the storm!
The spiral is the heavy gauge trellis wire I installed, 
featured in Cucumber Tipi Part 2.

When my sprouts got eaten (before the plastic went up), I wondered if all this preparation would result in a live tipi after all. Then I experienced another serendipitous provision: my friend Harris said that he had some extra Armenian cucumber starts -- ones he did not need! He offered them to me, and I felt like the luckiest garden lady around, driving home that day with those green beauties at my side. Above, you can see them freshly planted in the ground.

While planting the new starts, I noticed a plethora of earthworms in every shovel full. In a garden that had absolutely no worms in the beginning, it has been really fun to see them proliferate. They particularly liked the alpaca manure I laid down on the tipi floor, under the cardboard, in Cucumber Tipi Part 1. There is nothing like manure and cardboard to make earthworms happy. 

These starts made my heart soar -- a second chance!

When we entered a record-breaking heatwave at the end of June, I knew the plastic would have to go. Walking into the tipi was like walking into an oven.


I pulled the plastic back, and as much as I wanted to leave it open, I didn't want to lose my second round of plants. I put sheer fabric up to make the plants less obvious to marmots passing by.  (left two photos: July 2nd; right: July 19th)

Above right: Fawn and her friends, looking for cucumbers on July 16th.

From flowers to food...

At last our favorite garden snack begins to form!

It's a dream come true. A cucumber tipi that you can enter to escape the sun's heat, and to munch on the crispy cool goodness of summer's bounty.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Alderwood Archeology

The Alderwood Patch has come a long way from its days as a garbage pit, the way we found it when we bought the property.

Not only has the garbage been removed in a dump truck, and hugelkultur built up underground, but this year, a favorite childhood plant of mine has volunteered, bringing a sure sign of a microclimate shift! Scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale), a wetland indicator plant that sometimes grows outside of wetlands, popped up in the Alderwood Patch this spring, like a miracle in dusty sagebrush/Ponderosa Pine country. So how are things going underground, helping to alter the balances of moisture and temperature?

In March, I decided to rebuild the raspberry trellises as they were not tall enough. I made the circle bigger and as a side benefit, began some hugel-archeology with the post hole digger.

When I hit wood, at first I thought that was as far as I could dig. Then I decided to use the breaker bar (spud bar) to see if the wood had decomposed enough to dig through.

Indeed, I was able to put the post hole right through the hugel wood.

This is the condition of the alder wood in March 2015, after being in the ground since August 2013 (one and a half years). 

The Alderwood Patch with its new trellis posts

A couple months later...


The raspberry blossoms attracted a wide variety of pollinators this spring. 
This might be a Cuckoo bee from the genus Nomada.

The raspberries have been alive with many kinds of bees.

My favorite: the bumblebees!

Fawn says that even the green leaves smell like raspberries.

At last they start to ripen...

...and how fitting that the wildlife got the first one! 
It seems there may be enough to go around this year, though. :-)