July 24th Update

If we can acknowledge that what we see in the world is not all there is, we are strengthening our eyes of faith.  We can live clinging to the good even when it feels like our fingers are getting rope burn.  Whatever we do we can't let go of the truth.  In the dungeon, the way out isn't found by lowering our expectations.  The way out is through letting the keys open the doors to free our hearts and allowing them to soar upward, toward the goodness they were created to hold.  

Plow straight ahead through the middle, no matter how uncomfortable it gets.  Stay down from the castles in the air.  Stay above the dungeons in the dark.  And don't forget- you have been recognized.
~Excerpts taken from the book:
Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of A Women's Soul by John & Stasi Eldredge

 Everyone has times in their life when things seem to crumble around them.  For me it was the year that my grandfather passed away.  It was some time ago, however may other things at that time in my life were challenging.  Truthfully I found it to be too much to bear (alone that is).  I pressed into my time with God and remember that it was so hard to feel him with me.  At that time I was reading the book "Captivating" and found the quote listed above.  It gave me hope and began to sooth my soul.   I remember writing the quote on lined paper and hung it on my bathroom mirror so that I could read it each morning.  Along with my friends and family encouraging me and my quiet time I slowly started to see my heart heal and my soul feel restored.  

Circumstances are very different now, but life still brings challenges.  Some are not so obvious to those who don't know us well, but that doesn't lessen the difficulty.  Situations may be in a different form, but they can still bring feelings of "rope burn".   This past month I reflected on that time years ago and could still remember some of the lines of this quote.   Then a couple of weeks ago while cleaning the basement I came across a box with that same lined paper and my handwriting.  What a God thing.  I have placed it over my sink looking out the window to the garden.  I read it every morning as a reminder "to plow straight ahead" and to remember "I have been recognized" and I matter to my heavenly Father. 


Texas Garden Tour #1

Unique. Creative. Beautiful.

That is how I view other people's gardens.  I love to see how someone else has tailored their yard, land, or space to make something grow.  

I find that I learn so much from "visually" seeing different ways of doing something.  I believe there are many other people out there that learn this way also, so I have decided to randomly select some gardens to tour (of friends and families we know) throughout the year.  Maybe this will spur you on to a new concept or simply show you that there are a vast amount of ways to garden!  

Along the way remember that your garden doesn't need to "look" one certain way or follow certain steps to be successful.  You learn as you go.  The key is to start a garden in order to gain experience and then keep at it to develop and have success. 

Last year we were able to see my Uncle's garden in Texas and I was amazed!  At the time were still newbies to the idea of raised beds and we had just installed 2 of our own beds back home.  Imagine my shock when the  I discovered the "small garden" my Uncle had consisted of 8 raised beds!  Not to mention the fruit he had growing along his fence line.

He took me on a tour and I felt like a child asking what everything was.  The thing that astonished me the most was the variety of plants that he was growing.  He had carrots, onions, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, asparagus, radishes, basil, lavender, cilantro, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, and black berries.   Enjoy the pictures below!
Green Peppers
Banana Peppers

Lavender & Basil
Cilantro, Basil (both purple & green)
Bed of Strawberries with Asparagus plant
Red Skin & Yukon Gold Potatoes
Yukon Gold Potatoes & Cucumber
4 varieties of Grapes growing on fence
Hope ya'll enjoyed the first Garden Tour!  More to come.


Relinquishing Control

He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.  He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. 
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.   
Psalm 147:10 & 11
There are so many times when I attempt to control things in my life.  I have recognized this tendency and everyday I am working to give my day and schedule up to God.  I read the verse above today at lunch and it reminded me of how I still have areas that I need to remember to trust God with.

Gardening has really taught me this life lesson in a tangible way.  Everyday when I walk out into the garden I see how things have grown and changed and how little I can ultimately do to control the plants outcome.  Yes my family and I take care of the plants to the best of our ability but there are so many other things that we just can't control.  

Growing plants is also work.  One can't expect to just put a seed in the ground and walk away.  You have to take care of the plants and monitor them.  You could read all the gardening books in the world and you would still learn that its the actual daily experience of working with the garden that teaches you the most.   It is the same with our lives.

If you are reading these posts my hope is that you would be encouraged.  I have very little actual experience up to this point in the garden.  My goal is to share with you our successes and also our failures so that you can learn along with us.  Along the way I will share truth that has transformed my life.   May you find it to be authentic.


Downy Mildew and Striped Cucumber Beetles

We have had rain for the past 2 weeks and cooler weather and it has felt like spring outside.   Earlier this week it warmed up again to very humid and hot air and was very uncomfortable.  Then the past 2 days it has cooled down again.  I started noticing some yellow and white spots with some brown on the leaves of the cucumbers last week.  I should have researched it right away but have finally gotten around to it.  I have discovered that the cucumbers have Downy Mildew.  
Downy Mildew patches on our Cucumber leaves
From my research this disease occurs mostly in moist cool weather (normally occurring in spring and fall).  You discover it most of the time after rain or lots of dew.  Sometimes it goes away after the weather becomes warmer and the sun is out more often.
BED #4 with Cucumber vines in back (July 9th)
I have removed most of the diseased leaves in hopes of stopping the spread of the infection.   I could choose to use a copper fungicide, which is an organic fungicide but I have decided against that.  I have read that the copper can be toxic to worms and microbes if it builds up in your soil.  If I have enough time I may try aerated compost tea which can prevent the spread of the disease.  I did save some compost just to do this!
Striped Cucumber Beetle
I have also spotted another type of beetle in the garden!  The Striped Cucumber Beetle is on our Cucumbers and Winter Squash!  I went out tonight and using my glass jar filled with water and soap I knocked them into the jar with a Q-tip.  They fly away if you try to use your fingers so I found that this method worked well.  I found many of them in the yellow flowers on the Cucumbers and the orange flowers on the Winter Squash.  I am going to be on the lookout for them each day!  The best thing you can do is to keep preventative measures in place and continue to trap them before they do harm!
June 15th Row Covers still on

June 20th Row Covers removed on Beds #3 & #4
The good news is that we did keep our row covers on the Cucumbers long enough so that the plants had time to mature.

Cucumber seeds started indoors: May 1st
Cucumber seedlings planted outdoors: May 18th
Row Covers removed: June 20th  (plants 7 weeks old)

Hopefully this extra time the plants had to grow and develop will allow them to withstand some beetles.  I am going to be on the lookout because I read that the Striped Cucumber Beetle can transmit Bacterial Wilt, Squash Mosaic Virus and increase Powdery Mildew (which we already have on the Zucchini) and Black Rot.  Yikes!!
Yellow Zinnia
On a more helpful note I am going to start to read up on the different harmful insects so that I have a more educated understanding and a visual picture for the future.  I think I saw this Cucumber Beetle a couple of weeks ago, but I was too busy to look it up!  Here is a helpful link to Identifying Harmful Insects


Garden Challenges

All gardens have their challenges.  From year to year you learn from experience.  It really parallels with life.  No matter what anyone says problems and issues will arise.  You have to learn that this is part of having a garden.  

You can most certainly be successful and really enjoy the process but first you have to learn to relinquish control.  If you want every plant to be perfect and nothing to go wrong then I suggest not attempting in the first place.  If you are up for the challenge and want to learn from the challenges and rise above them then you won't be disappointed.

In the last week we have started to see some "challenges" in our garden.  Below I am going to share with you our reality!  

CHALLENGE #1: RABBITS in the beneficial flower beds
Rabbit appearing to be innocent
Two years ago rabbits invaded our plastic chicken wire fence and attacked our carrots.  This year however, they can't get into the main part of the garden.  However, they have been chewing away at the beneficial flowers in the front of the garden! 

LESSON LEARNED: Next year the support wire for the Zinnias needs to go all the way around the 2 beneficial flower beds so they can't get in!

Beneficial flowers in front of garden
 CHALLENGE #2: JAPANESE BEETLES in the beneficial flower beds
Japanese beetles on Zinnias
Damage to leaves from Japanese Beetles
The Japanese Beetles are alive and well.  They have been eating the leaves of the Zinnias.  They basically eat all the foliage on your plants and you just find slivers of leaves.  I look for them and when I find them I pick them off and smash them. 

LESSON LEARNED: Next year I want to try to plant some more natural repellents for these pests which include: catnip, chives, garlic and tansy.
CHALLENGE #3: ASPARAGUS BEETLES continue to attack!
Asparagus Beetle Larvae
This year the Asparagus Beetles have been on the plants daily.  I find at least 2 or 3 of the adult beetles and then 10 or so of the larvae.  Its a daily battle that is really getting tedious.  

LESSON LEARNED: Next year we will make the row covers taller and keep them on the Asparagus all season! 

Powdery Mildew on Zucchini leaves
Powdery Mildew has already attacked the Zucchini leaves!  Last year it got the Summer Squash before I knew what it was.  This year I should have taken more preventative measures.  However, now I can only try to keep it minimized.  It won't go away at this point but maybe we can keep it from spreading.

I am going to try a solution of 1 tsp. baking soda to 1 quart of water.  Then I will spray it on the leaves.  The baking soda is supposed to raise the PH which creates an environment that Powdery Mildew doesn't enjoy.

LESSON LEARNED:  Next year I am going to be preventative and spray the leaves with the baking soda solution BEFORE this happens!

CHALLENGE #5: Inadequately pollinated Winter Squash
Inadequately pollinated Burgess Squash
Inadequately pollinated Butternut Squash
I have been trying to hand pollinate some of our squash this year.  This is because last year I noticed that some of the baby squash started to form and then turned yellow and were brown on the end and dropped off the vine.  I thought maybe they just had some disease, however when I researched I found out this was not the case!

When I researched this I found that it was because more than one bee visit needs to happen to each fruit in order for the fruit to have enough pollen to properly form.  So these inadequately pollinated squash have had at least 1 bee visit but they are not getting the extra visit!  

I have read that there has been a decline in pollinators in recent years and this has been a common complaint of gardeners.   I was hoping that when we planted the beneficial flowers that they would draw more bees to the garden.  I know that I have seen more bees than in the past, however somehow they are still missing some of our squash!

LESSON LEARNED: I have tried (sort of) to get up early and hand pollinate.  I have only been successful a few times (with getting up early that is).  Next year (or this week) I have to wake up early every morning for a couple of weeks when the Squash flowers open up.

KEY POINT: (I just learned this) they only open in the morning and stay open for one day! Its important to hand pollinate as soon as you can after the flowers open up. 

Onions, Parsley, Broccoli, Basil and Zucchini
I continue to find it very worthwhile and fun to garden!  To end on a more positive note that same day I was able to harvest all of the vegetables above to use on July 4th for our cookout!  We enjoyed it all and its amazing how good vegetables taste fresh from the garden to your table. 


June 30th Update

The verse I read today was:

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge."    Psalm 19:1&2

Standing outside today was beautiful.  I tend to love spring weather and it always passes so quickly.  However, today it has felt like spring again!  There was a light breeze and the sun was out to light the sky yet some clouds kept the temperature at 73 degrees.  I wasn't able to stay outside as long as I would have liked (we are in the process of finishing up some interior work in our house) but I relished every moment I had in the garden. 
Zinnias in full bloom
I am always amazed at how small I feel under our giant Maple trees.  Just standing in our yard reminds me that God is amazing!  We have prayed this year that God would bless our garden.  We know that prayer has already been answered in part.  We have been able to share with others our seedlings, crops as they produce and the knowledge we have gained from this process.  

BED# 1- (pictured below) Asparagus, Parsley, Tomatoes & Basil.
Still battling the Asparagus Beetles (next year we will make a taller row cover & keep it on all year!)
I need to dry some of this Parsley because we have an abundance.
(Late plant) Tomatoes & Basil after Peas were harvested
BED# 2- (pictured below) Cauliflower, Broccoli, Corn, Pole Beans & Winter Squash.

We just harvested 2 of our 4 Broccoli.  Yumm!  I think we may have waited too long on one of them.  This is the first year we have been successful with Broccoli.  Row Covers made the difference!  No more of those little green cabbage worms this year! 

Identifying our Winter Squash by the fruit:
Burgess: Winter Squash #1
Butternut: Winter Squash #2
Spaghetti: Winter Squash #3
Buttercup OR Delicata (too early to identify): Winter Squash #4