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June. Already?

There’s something about the nicest months of the year – time speeds up and weeks feel more like days. It’s a hilarious juxtaposition from my childhood when it felt like Summer lasted for pretty much half of the year. If only.

How was your Memorial Day? We did the usual fun and games starting with the parade Monday morning with my family and following it up with an early cook-out. Bratwurst, an assortment of deli salads, homemade guacamole, and fruit.

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There’s something wonderful about eating summery foods in the summertime. You could eat this same plate in January and it just wouldn’t be as good.

The day before all the festivities I had been sitting at the gas station waiting for Ben when I noticed this weird flaky stuff coming into the car. A few minutes later I smelled smoke and by the time Ben returned to the car we could see a large bloom of smoke coming down one of the main roads. Off to investigate.

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Turns out it was an apartment building that caught on fire. We arrived and there were a bunch of fire trucks but no one was doing anything, which I thought was odd. It was a good 15 minutes before they started spraying the water. You could see the smoke coming out through the entire length of the complex’s roof line.

The water coming out of the house really ripped apart the roof. It made the roof look like it was made of cardboard or some other flimsy material because of how easily it blew off.

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After a while some of the firefighters went inside to check things out. They returned with one of the tenants’ cats.

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I have a really hard time with house fires. I remember watching one as a kid and it made a lasting impact. People probably thought I lived here because I was crying and everyone else just looked mildly interested.

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I hope all the spectators have renter’s insurance!!

That’s as much as I could watch. It started feeling weird gawking at someone else’s misfortune. If it were me, I wouldn’t want all the people setting up their tripods and video recorders to capture it all for Facebook or whatever. We left.

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The news said they were still investigating the cause but that everyone had been out at the time it started and they rescued 4 animals. No injuries, thankfully.

Even though I’m not posting as much (and I need to work on that), life is pretty much the same as any other year. We’re working on transporting rabbits off our property (caught 3 but I spied another one last night, so time to re-bait the traps!!!).

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I’ve been out walking more and taking pictures of flowers I like. I lost a few of my new shrubs over the Winter and that was frustrating because of the lost time/money. So now I need to start again.

I definitely want some daffodils like these, but I think the bulbs need to be planted in the Fall… so I’ll have to hold out a bit.

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I also like these irises. They have smaller leaves that aren’t as thick and I think they look really pretty.

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I probably need to head to a nursery and have them help me. Ideally I’d like to pick things that flower at different times so I have something pretty to look at from early Spring to mid/late Fall.

My front yard garden bed is prepped and waiting! The little columbine I planted last year survived along with some flowers from my flower pot that re-seeded themselves.

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But, I REALLY need lily of the valley. I’m just not sure where to plant it where it would get ample shade and how I’d prevent the bunnies from snacking on it all day…

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One of me favorite smells!!

Well yesterday was pretty much perfect – the temp was in the mid 70s with a light breeze and low humidity. Sigh. Let’s repeat that for another 3 months, ok? Today it might hit 80 but I’m hoping the humidity is still low. Maybe I can get some more yardwork done. I’ve weeded my vegetable garden THREE times and can’t seem to get it to a spot where I can start planting, so I’m a bit behind there. Maybe I can get one of the beds done today so it can take advantage of the rain that’s supposed to come all weekend? We’ll see.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

When it’s NOT the bunnies…

Hey there – if I told you next week would be the start of August, would you believe me? Hmm not sure I’d believe me! We’re hanging in there with the July humidity that makes me cringe. I put up with -10 degrees in January because I don’t like sweat trickling down my back during a short walk down the driveway to get the mail. Unfortunately WI is home to both freezing winters AND humid summers. At least we have brilliant spring/autumn weather. That’s something 🙂

We’ve been doing an OK job keeping up with rabbits this year so I was really upset when my lilies were beheaded just before blooming yet again.

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I almost thought it was a kid playing a trick because normally the rabbits chew down the sides of the plant first and then make their way up to the top flowers. This time it looked like everything was clear-cut right across the top and the sides were left unscathed.

I was puzzling this for several weeks until one morning when I went out to my garden…

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Immediately I noticed something seemed wrong but I couldn’t tell exactly what that was. Then I spotted the back fence looking a little beat up – like something pressed right up against it and stretched it out of place.

Upon closer inspection – something devoured the tops of my beans and pea plants! Oh no!

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All the tops were chewed right off. There can be only one culprit: deer. We’ve seen random deer wander through the front of our yard only in the dead of Winter so this is surprising. I’ve never had deer problems before. Honestly, if it isn’t rabbits, slugs, ants, black bugs, clear worms, or Japanese beetles… I *really* don’t want to have to layer pesticides over everything but I’m just not sure what to do next.

I picked at a few raspberries and found the tiny clear worms in several of them – which makes me leery about opening and inspecting every one before I eat it. Our strawberries were watery and super tiny. I’m thinking of hanging up my berry hat and sticking to the veggies, which I have better luck growing.

The peppers are plugging away nicely. I don’t think this will be a bumper crop like the last couple of years but I’m hoping for enough to make some diced up bags for freezing. (That’s so wonderful during the winter). Too early to tell if these will rebound but so far, they just look so tiny.

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Did I tell you about my squash faux-pas? I planted just two zucchini seeds in one section and two yellow squash seeds in another – and then forgot which was which. Normally that wouldn’t have been an issue except one bed had both seeds sprout and the other had zero! I couldn’t determine which was which so I planted two of each back in the first bed. Now I know, the zucchini didn’t take on the first try. The squash are already producing though, so maybe this will work out because I’ll have more staggered crops.

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You can see how much smaller the second attempt plants are in comparison:

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Oh! I’m growing a bumper crop of weeds this year too. The dirt we bought was just teaming with weeds and it’s been a painstaking job to rip them out and keep up with them. Not only are there TONS of pricker plants (my favorite 😦 ) but lots of these guys:

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One of my friends posted on Facebook that these are edible… Hmm, naw I think I’ll just yank and discard!

Because the deer ripped off the tops of my peas, they don’t have their little vines to wrap around the top of my trellis. The result is that we needed to tie them back up so they wouldn’t flop on down into the ground.

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The beans are coming back- but slowly. Since a ton of the flowers were eaten, I’m not sure what we’ll get for a crop. I’m wondering if it’s too late in the year to try another planting…

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One thing doing really well is my cantaloupe plant. It’s crazy! Now I’m just hoping I get lots of fruit off it.

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Looks like we might get a nice-sized storm today/tonight which will help the lawn and my garden. I’ve been toting buckets of water every day but with the high heat, I’m probably not giving them as much as I should be.

Ben’s off to an after-work event tonight for one of the vendors he works with so maybe I can putz around in the garden. If it’s raining, then just picture me in front of HGTV with iced tea and a partially-crocheted baby blanket in hand. I’m SO exciting. 😉

Have a great day!

The Longest Days

Happy Monday. I hope your week is off to a terrific start! I was on the way to work this morning when the news snippet talked about these being the longest days of the year. I really noticed it on Saturday night. I had to go into work at 9pm for a night time deployment and it was still light out. At 9pm! I love the Summer. OK, it’s not really, technically Summer yet but it was almost 90 this weekend and that’s Summer enough for this gal!

9pm sunset:

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We felt a little like vampires over the weekend – only creeping out to work on things in the early morning or right around dusk. It was pretty humid and I get way too tired in the heat. On Sunday morning (right after being up late for the deployment), we high-tailed it to the strawberry patch to grab a box of beauties before the heat got too bad. We lucked out and managed to stay relatively cool through most of the picking. It wasn’t until the last 15 minutes or so when we started to feel hot and sticky… time to leave!

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Strawberries are Ben’s favorite fruit so berry picking is a must around this house! Now we have a heaping flat for shortcake, lunches, and I’m planning on freezing some for smoothies. Mmm

My own strawberry patch is looking like a failure. I got a couple handfuls of itsy-bitsy watery tasting berries. The majority seem to be chewed up by tiny black bugs. If they were gorgeous and sweet, I’d be more angry but these guys almost aren’t worth the effort to pick…

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I hate to resort to pesticides so instead I’m wondering if I should just rip all these out and try another type of berry for next year. I suppose it could also be my soil or maybe they aren’t getting enough sunlight; I’m not really sure what the issue is. Maybe I should stick to veggie gardening instead. 🙂

Speaking of, the veggie garden has been planted and already is seeing some interesting results. I cut back on the peppers this year (we still have some from last year’s harvest in the freezer) but still will have the color variety with green, red, yellow, and orange

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(Note how nice that bed looks) Four of the peppers I got from the local organic farmer and the other four were from Walmart. Oddly, the ones from Walmart are looking a little yellowed and don’t appear to be growing much.

We dumped in a new bag of soil to each of the beds right before planting. I had a few bags leftover from last year (they went into the pepper bed) and the new bags yielded a MOUNTAIN of weeds. Oh baby – this is not fun work.

The bed in front is trying to be a cantaloupe. I think I killed two of the three plants by trying to separate them too soon. Whoops! Hopefully the last one will yield some fruit. We like to try one new thing each year and ‘loupe it is for 2016. In the back bed I have yellow and green beans. I only filled half the bed thinking I’d wait a few weeks and plant another few rows to stagger the produce. In the meantime, the weeds are growing there nicely. 😉 Finally just off to the right you can see my tiny plot of peas. They are doing really well.

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So my funny “oops” moment came when planting my zucchini and yellow squash. I planted two zucchini in one bed and two squash in the other bed. Then I promptly forgot which bed was which. This wouldn’t be a problem except that one bed had both plants sprout up and the other bed was a total dud. I can’t imagine 4 zucchini OR squash plants unless we wanted to eat that 3x a week for two months. I planted two of each in the bed and am crossing my fingers when (if?) they come up I’ll be able to spot some differences and rip out the extra ones. I’ll keep you posted.

It wouldn’t be my yard if the rabbits didn’t find a way to destroy my pink lilies:

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But my peonies are doing great. They are in the back of the house and bloom a little later than everyone else’s. I planted these the summer before last and it’s doing so well.

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I bought a peony cage to keep them upright and off the ground. I wasn’t sure how well it would work but it does keep the bulk of the plant upright and even with some pretty massive winds, they’ve kept in place.

At first I was pretty blue that I messed up and got a single instead of a double, but it really is very pretty and fragrant. Maybe I can get a few more planted for next year.

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Well, it’s 8:35 and looking light enough out for a walk. I think I’ll go and take advantage of this extra sunlight. Bye for now!

 

How Does My Garden Grow

Now that we’re in early Fall, my garden is starting to look unkempt and overrun. After months of carefully weeding every little weed and daily watering, the garden is looking like a rotten pile of weeds and disarray.

My tomatoes decided they wanted to grow anywhere BUT inside the tomato cage. It’s almost impossible to pick them when they are all over the place and so many are laying on the ground inviting bugs to come and nibble on them.

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Another problem is that the seeds of the rotten tomatoes seem to pop back up all throughout my garden the next year. In the past I’ve tried to be strategic about the ones I remove and the ones I leave… but I’m realizing that I just have too many tomatoes. I love nothing more than a sweet cherry tomato right off the vine but Ben has to be coaxed to eat a few sliced up in a salad.

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Next year I’m going to try growing my cherry tomato in a pot on my porch. My mother does this each year and has a lot of success so I thought it would be something to try. It will remove all the rogue tomato growth and give me room to try growing something new.

Here’s one of my “walking paths” that has been overrun with rogue tomato plants. I’m stepping over them and often squishing them. It isn’t pretty.

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My other rogue plant is my cilantro. I started a plant two years ago from seeds and it grew into a LARGE and lovely plant that returned year after year. Last year I must have let it grow too much and it went to seed, so I found dozens of mini cilantro plants popping up – in my other walking path!! It got tedious to keep picking the tiny sprouts so I decided to let them grow a bit and pull them when they were a bit bigger – and then they got huge with established roots that are difficult to yank up.

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Where do you even walk? This is even more of a problem than the tomatoes! I definitely use the cilantro and like having it for recipes but it’s becoming a mini garden nightmare as well. I think I’m going to try porch growing for this herb next year as well.

It’s a frustrating time in the garden because you’re trying to pick, keep things hydrated, avoid the ginormous weeds that seem to pop up and fester in between your plants – plus we have just way too much produce. Since you never know what will do well in a given year, it’s hard to predict – but I think next year I’m going to move more towards things that can be sliced and frozen for later use.

We’ve always had a lot of luck growing peppers which is great because we blow through dozens every year and a 3-pack of organics run almost $6 in the store. Last year I was slicing and freezer-bagging well over a dozen bags and ended up giving many away but it was a great problem to have and I loved the colorful spread of peppers we had.

Last year…

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This year I bought the usual yellow and red but also picked up some orange peppers hoping for even more color variety and nutrient depth… but something wasn’t quite right…

I’m not sure how but it looks like the plants we bought were some kind of bell pepper / Anaheim pepper hybrid. They have the top of a bell but are long and taper like an Anaheim. Oh, and they aren’t normal pepper size – I call these my Fukushima peppers because they look like they suffered from some nuclear radiation fall-out.

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That’s a bit bigger than a “normal” bell pepper size on the far left – and the mutants right next to it.

I mean, really?

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My plan had been to make several batches of stuffed peppers and freeze them for easy Winter meals. However, because these peppers taper quite a bit at the bottom, they don’t stuff as well as a regular bell. They also don’t seem to be turning red or yellow at all – and I like the sweetness that red/yellow peppers bring.

My one plant of yellow “bell” peppers are weird too. They turned out yellow but they have a weird shape that isn’t quite a normal bell either. I have no idea what happened this year – it’s bizarre!

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We already gave a dozen of my mutants to my family for their salsa-making. I have plenty still hanging on the vines that I’m trying to leave on a bit longer to see if they will turn color – but it’s a fine line because I don’t want them to rot and have to check often.

So there you have it! Tons of peppers, too many tomatoes, and a large pile of zucchini and yellow squash occupying the kitchen table. Nothing didn’t grow so it was a successful year of gardening! Next year I’ll switch it up a little bit and try my hand at some new things… plus I need to do some Winter research to find a better way to combat the bugs (they really like my soil – and my fruits too!).

April Yard Update

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It’s now looking AND feeling like Spring around here. The grass is greener, the sky looks bluer (is that a word?), and the plants are popping up. That also means plenty of yard work and yard clean-up that needs to occur! All of a sudden we went from a perfectly painted front porch to one that’s chipped and looking pretty terrible. This wasn’t on the 2015 repair plan but we may want to get started on it anyway because it’s such an eyesore.

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I think this weekend we’re going to attempt another coat of paint and *hope* that doesn’t peel off the back deck. I really don’t want to have to start from scratch. I’m just not sure why this well-rated deck paint/stain is cracking after less than a year!

012One of my interesting new purchases was this wasp trap. You fill it with sugar water and hang it outside and wasps are supposed to climb inside and not be able to get out. Anything that helps control the wasp population is worth a try!

035Here are my beautiful wind chimes. They sound so pretty – I just adore them. In the background you can spy my rose bushes and shrubs that need a serious face lift!

034While I’m more of a variety person, the rose bushes that flank the front of the house do really well and produce pretty blossoms for months. You can’t beat that. I have a few clumps of day lillies and then these ugly and dying shrubs that I want to dig out. I just need to figure out if I’ll be digging them out myself or hiring our for that.

039I’m not sure what I want to put there instead but I figured I’d worry about that after I have these removed! Definitely thinking something pretty for the fall and maybe a small flowering bush… or more tulips!

Hello, welcome to my house. I enjoy having this be the first thing you see:

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Argh!!! lol – this has got to go!

The other side of the front walking path has my tiny flower garden and two more large shrubs. These shrubs are healthier… but I’m thinking of ripping them out too because they block my flowers from view.

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The tulips are going strong. No nibbling so far. 🙂

030And here’s a plant that looks like a daffodil but has never bloomed in all the years we’ve lived here. Should know what it is soon!

031My bleeding hearts seem to be multiplying. What started as 1 plant is now 3 in the bed and 3 small others that have seeded on the stone. Crazy!!

029Little seedling – anyone want a white bleeding heart?

032My rose bush that I planted last year is growing! Hurray for surviving the first winter. There’s some good growth and hopefully plenty of blooms this year.

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A good look at my entire flower bed. Still needs some good new soil and a thin layer of mulch. I can tell why they didn’t mulch though – this bed is cramped and there are a lot of random plants that seem to be spreading out.

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We’re amassing a huge pile of clippings which will get taken to the brush site this weekend. Lots of our ugly shrubs have been severely chopped back until we either remove them or swap them with something else.
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So good stuff overall. There always seem to be a mountain of projects we want to do but those have to get balanced with time, money, and how much back labor we want to put into it. It’s all a process – but it’s great being out in the fresh air working on stuff!!!

Holy Peppers

We are getting to the very end of the garden season around here. With our week of vacation quickly approaching, I started picking the remaining peppers out of the garden. No chance I want to risk them getting a sheen of frost on them!

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Our pepper crop grew really well last year but with almost twice as many plants this year – we’re experiencing a bumper crop! We’ve been picking a pepper here and there all summer as needed and I couldn’t believe how many were still out there.

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Four trips later and all the peppers were collected!

…and the newlyweds were caught being newlyweds…

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We changed out of our work clothes and decided to get started on the older crop of peppers we had picked last week. That way these new guys could sit and start coloring.

016I love the color!!! 🙂 Ben was the master chopper and chopped and diced all the peppers up. We’re about 1/3 of the way through now.

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I’m hoping we have enough time to get the rest chopped and packaged before we leave. I am pretty excited about all the money we are saving having ample peppers now. Otherwise we’re paying over $2 a pepper in the store. Yay for homegrown!! We used our new Foodsaver machine to vacuum pack everything. They make re-sealable ziplock bags that you can vacuum pack. Those are incredible. I can see us getting more of those.

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I’m *almost* wondering if we’ll actually eat this many before next year’s crop. That’s a lot of peppers for two people! 🙂

August Garden Updates

Happy Monday!

It’s always rough for me to start a new work week but the trick is to start planning the fun activities and to-dos that will keep you busy until the next weekend begins. I had grand plans for lots of walking but that nagging leg pain is back again, so the weekend was spent foam rolling. Luckily I’m already noticing improvement – so I just need to keep doing it. Maybe I need a daily check off calendar on the fridge or something…

It’s about time I did a nice garden update, so I’ll walk you around the garden to see what the late summer and little rain has done to my bountiful oasis.

The green beans are just about officially done now. There’s a few stragglers here and there but the top leaves have all fallen off (or eaten off by something mysterious?). I was considering ripping these all out right away and planting a late crop of snap peas… not sure.

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We’ve gotten 6 or 7 large zucchini and we are still getting a few more flowers blooming so I think we’ll get a couple more before this plant dies off too. We only had one zucchini make it this year so there’s not as much produce as last year when we were swimming in them.

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I’m not sure what to say about the tomatoes but they were a bust this year. The plants got so heavy they all toppled over exposing a lot of their roots. The two plants we actually bought turned out to be romas, but we still have some caged and un-caged plants that re-seeded from last year – including a cherry tomato that looks like I may get a dozen or so from. Hurray!

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The #1 thing we wanted the garden for was peppers and I’m happy to say they are doing really, really well. We’ve picked 3 so far and there are a ton waiting to be picked. I’m monitoring because I need to pick them before they start rotting but I’d like to let them have more time to turn red/yellow. Either way, each one of those babies saves us a whopping $2.28 – the price of an organic pepper in our local grocery store. I am keeping a running produce tally so we can see when we begin to break even on the garden. The pepper haul should help!

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I spent all of June/July picking the flowers off our strawberry plants to force more root growth. Now, however, we’re experiencing the late crop of berries that we can actually eat! Whoop! We got a wind whirly-thingy for my bridal shower that (so far) has done a great job keeping the birds off my berries. The couple we grew in June got eaten right away – but not these – and I can only guess it’s because of the colorful distraction.

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Check this out – I get this crazy smile every time I see them:

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Super healthy plants – tons of new shoots and lots of berries yet to come. Every day now I’m able to walk out back and pluck a handful or two. It’s just perfect.

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Judging by the amount of blooms, I’d say we’re still going to have berries for a few more weeks yet. That’s crazy for Wisconsin. I had not expected to get anything this year, so this is a fabulous bonus. For the 10 plants at $1/each, we’ve already gotten our money’s worth out of them.

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As wonderful as the strawberries are doing, the opposite can be true about my raspberries. They seem to be constantly attacked and chewed by bugs.

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It’s totally gross and nasty but I’m at the point where I’ve been picking them off the leaves and then crushing them under my shoe. I’m over 20 nasty critters demolished now – and somehow I doubt that’s making any difference…

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I hate to spray and I’m just hoping they don’t interfere with the fruit production next year…

Although, I’m seeing some interesting growth making me wonder if maybe we’ll see a few, tiny berries yet this year.

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But, overall, the fruit garden looks like it’s thriving. If I could keep the bugs away, it would have been a 100% success year one. Everything is growing nicely and all but 1 of the 20 fruit plants I bought survived the transplant.

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We still don’t have the actual door made yet – but the makeshift wrap-around fencing is working just fine. No critters have tried burrowing underneath (yet).

So I’m really, really pleased with the gardens this year. I think each year I’ll learn a bit more about what grows well in this environment. I already feel smarter and more confident then I did last year. This is, of course, the best part of the gardening season – when you get to harvest all your goodies daily!! 🙂