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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Green Green Green

Welcome back to the green green summer of 2016 at Cascade Bluff! All that green of course means rain, and we've had plenty of that this year. Here are pix from June 2016 - I know it is already July. More to come soon!

Spring (yes, June is really still spring up here) in Cook County, MN means exuberant growth of trees, shrubs and wildflowers and this year was just terrific for color and beauty. 

First a quick view of our "front yard" where you can see the impact of all the rain on our blueberry bushes looking really healthy. 

Then under the eaves of the woods, a nodding trillium and a bluebeard lily...
Cute little lily with poisonous blue berries that show up later in the summer...
Not a flower, but an adorable tiny visitor no bigger than the tip of my thumb, hopped by while I was weeding in our future shade garden! 

The wild prickly rose bush that sprouted near our well was particularly lovely this year...

I discovered some wild blue flag, a type of wild iris, growing near our riverbank... stunning!

So it isn't all about the wild stuff, it's also about what mischief we are getting ourselves into THIS year. Courtesy of our friend Regina, I am trying a new gardening strategy this year based on this book (a gift from Regina, thank you!) 

Some of you may recall that we built these elevated garden boxes last year and placed them on our patio with some success ... at least no woodchucks found them and the snowshoe hares don't seem to notice the greenery a yard off the ground... So this year we placed them along the south side of our workshop and are giving this location a go...
According to Mel Bartholomew (author of the book above) the key to square foot gardening is the soil mix... he named his after himself, of course... Mel's Mix... equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and compost. 2 of 3 ingredients here...
The box ready to plant...
Getting prepped for "square feet"
The claim is that you can place a single seed closer together than "normal" seeding techniques using this soil. We shall see how it works... they seemed awfully close together to me. 
Here is about 10 days into the experiment with a few beans sprouting....
And then I didn't forget the "Big Garden" ie the raised beds made of cedar logs and filled with dairy farm dirt (periodically enhanced with homemade and other compost.) Last year's new bed of asparagus was mighty tempting to harvest... but I contained my enthusiasm and let it all grow like crazy for year two. Asparagus is something like med school - a lesson in delayed gratification! 
Always a glutton for punishment, I am also always thinking ahead (just like any good gardener) to next year. So Val razed down a 40 by 15 foot area that was thick with wild raspberries and I hope to "solarize" the area (ie kill the damned things with heat and suffocation) in preparation for 2017's garden expansion. Hopefully that will include onions and potatoes, maybe winter squash! For those who are wondering why anyone would want to get rid of delicious raspberries, just come on up for a visit anytime and see that if left to their own devious devices, the Cascade Bluff raspberries would take over the world - certainly our little corner of it! We have PLENTY of raspberries left, believe me! 
Late last year we used the extra cedar wood from those elevated garden beds and made a 4 x 4 ft square garden enclosure... here it is getting ready for planting with more "Mel's Mix"
Inside the "original" raised bed (with the 2015 PVC and chicken wire fence that Regina helped me build) with a few lettuce and radish sprouts 

4 x 4 bed filled... 
... and me wearing the one truly essential clothing accessory for the north woods in June AKA "Dreaded Black Fly Season"... the best bug shirt in the world! (Actually, the brand is "World's Best Bug Shirt" and it really is great... ) 

Have I mentioned the rain? This was just one of the many deluges we've had so far this year. We seem to be getting more rain than averages of year's past and more of it falls in massive, rapid storms, like this one - nearly 3 inches in about 4 hours. Wow, the level rose fast in that gauge! 
So what, you might be thinking, could oodles of rain bring out in your crazy-ass daring friends up north, who pretend that they are 25 rather than 60 and 61? 
Projects!  More projects!! 

Here is just some of the equipment used for this particular project, which involved as you might imagine by the "stuff" cutting down trees... 

BTW I hope you will take note of our "solar powered chain saw" there on the R - it is battery powered, and so up here, since our juice comes from our solar panels, it is a solar-powered chain saw! 
Here's Val, in nearly-full bug regalia, getting ready...
...to sacrifice just one of the several small trees necessary for our "project" - all of the trees "lost" for this project were either standing dead or not thriving by the way...just in case you were worried we were going to run out of trees anytime soon...
Fully loaded ATV (also "solar powered"...) 
What the...
Where in the world are these crazy-assed intrepid women taking these trees? 
Well, of course, to the spot on one of our trails we affectionately call The Sinkhole! This pic doesn't do it justice at all... this is the site of a spring, no doubt, that is wet every year but this year was a pool of standing water about 30 by 10 feet and knee deep. This photo shows some temporary hunks of wood I'd placed just so we didn't get our boots filled with mud and water every time... obviously not a long term solution. 
So after researching "rustic road bridges" and other such things, we discovered that this duh-huh idea has a name - a "corrugated road." Take a bunch of long logs and lay them down perpendicular to the road. Voila - a corrugated road! 

Nearly done...
All finished! 

Sheesh! We were so darned tired after two full days of cutting down suitably sized trees, hauling logs from all over the place, and getting them to the Sink Hole for our new "bridge" that we pretty much collapsed. Walter supervised our rest day... he's very good at supervising rest days.
As June continued, the garden flourished... 
I framed up the fence for the new 4 x 4 bed... 
Thinning out gave me my first 2016 harvest of a couple of tasty radish bites...
The bush beans seem to like Mel's Mix...
...looking pretty good...
... added a couple of other containers for salad greens, herbs and some tomato plants from the local school plant sale...

And radishes being radishes, they grew like mad and wow, look at that huge purple one! Size of an egg and if I'd waited much longer it would have been the size of a goose egg! 
And of course through it all, Walt and Magpie had much fun watching our antics and wondering why we were slouching on our REAL job which is to scratch the kitties heads, all day, all night. 
The July report from the Bluff will soon be coming... probably a part 1 and 2 since so much has been happening up here at our New World! 




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