Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Too Many Carrots? What To Do...

Tendersweet carrots in a wide row.
       Last year something in the soil kept my carrots from germinating.  Those few that managed to sprout disappeared mysteriously within days.  Finally, after spreading coffee grounds to kill slugs and spraying for insects in general, my third planting was successful.  My crop was sufficient but the experience made me paranoid, so this year I sort of went overboard.  I planted fifteen feet long, foot wide rows of Danvers Half Long and Scarlett Nantes, and a thirty feet long, foot wide row of Tendersweet.  I broadcast the seeds thinly to more or less eliminate the need to thin.  I weeded the rows only once before the carrots provided their own living mulch. I kept them watered through our very dry summer, now and then pulling a few lambs quarter or pig weed. 
Tendersweets fresh from the garden.
       I've already processed over twenty-five pounds of carrots.  That looks like about a third (or less) of what I'm going to harvest.  While I like carrots, this could be excessive.  But I planted them; they grew.  Now it's my responsibility to figure out what to do with them.  It isn't in me to see them wasted.
Golden coins ready to freeze or can.
        First choice is freezing small pieces for use in stews, pasties and other dishes, and somewhat larger coins to serve as a side dish.  So far there are fourteen quart bags in the freezer.  I've never canned carrots, but I'm planning on seeing how that goes during the next couple of weeks.  I expect most of the cans will find their way into my daughter's household, since the grand kids love this vegetable.
       Raw carrots used to be my favorite, but that preference changed last year when I first made sweet carrot soup.  This makes such a great side dish to a winter meal. Twelve pounds of carrots have gone into soup this year.  Ir you want to try a batch of this, peel and dice two pounds of carrots, simmer in three cups of vegetable stock until very tender, puree, reheat and add one and a half cups of orange juice and two tablespoons of honey.  Serve warm with fresh parsley garnish, or freeze.      
Sweet carrot soup ready to freeze.
      Last fall I stored several pounds of carrots packed in damp sand in the basement.  As an experiment it worked fine, but I've used only a handful of those.  It wasn't that they didn't keep well; more a case of what was in the freezer was already half way to being table ready.
       I'm looking for other ways to use this year's bounty.  The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has a Carrot Cake Jam recipe that looks interesting, but I know I can't use all the carrots out there.  Whatever doesn't get processed in my kitchen will go to a community food bank.

Note:  See September 8 post Too Many Carrots - Second Edition

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Starting a New, Very Small Orchard

       There's no such thing as a free lunch, even when "lunch" is less lawn to mow.  Today I paid the first two installments on the project I posted about yesterday, the hard-to-mow block of grass between the rose garden and livestock loading chute.  First, I wrote the check for the two quince trees and two wild sour cherry tress I plan to put here.  They come cheap, but very short: one to two feet and three to six inches, respectively.  The quince is supposed to top off at twelve feet tall and twelve wide, while I can expect the sour cherry to reach fifteen by fifteen feet.  I picture that working well in the available 25 x 33 foot space.

Two quince trees in our back yard.
        Why do I want quince trees?  Nostalgia may have something to do with the choice. My father-in-law often recited the poem about the owl and the pussy cat who went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat, taking some quince which they ate with a runcible spoon, so naturally, we gave him a couple of quince trees.  Since he loved jellies and jams, that's what I made for him from the fruit.  These trees are more than twenty-five years old now.  I have no idea how long they normally live, but the one on the right is doing very well while the one on the left is dying a little more every year.  When Dad planted it, it was crowded by some wild plum trees and never seemed to get a foothold.  Although I like the fruit, I don't like the location of these trees.  They block the view from the kitchen window, and I have no idea how much longer even the robust one will survive, so replacements seem to be called for.  The fruit is supposed to have many more uses than jelly, and is itself a pectin substitute you can use in combination with other fruit.  It even has medicinal applications; its seeds are used to make hand lotion.  Considering that the "trees" I'm buying are only between one and two feet tall, it will be a while before they'll yield the fruit to experiment with!        The second installment payment I made today was the physical part.  I dug a trench from the rose garden foundation to the barn, pulled up the construction grade edging from the south end of the rose garden and relocated it in the trench.  The edging doesn't extend all the way to the barn, but that's okay since there will be more vehicular traffic there that would only damage it.  I removed some of the taller weeds around the loading chute preparatory to spraying with an herbicide.  I got a little carried away with the weed removal and worked down the west side of the barn, taking out poke weed, grape vines, lambs quarter, burdock, etc., a regular jungle you couldn't walk through.  Now you can. I sprayed where the trees will go and the loading chute, but the mosquitoes discouraged me from venturing into the shade by the barn.
Wild strawberries and common cinque-foil as a ground cover.

        I checked the wild strawberries and common cinque-foil I planted earlier this year in the evergreen garden.  They're sending out runners that I can use in and around the loading chute and, maybe, as a ground cover in this very small orchard.
       I am so looking forward to not mowing this particular area again that I can't begrudge all the work that will go into permanently getting rid of this little patch of grass.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Problem Areas To Rose Garden and an Orchard

       When I took photos of the farm before we moved here, I apparently took none of this area.  I suppose it looked so hopeless that I never expected to do anything with it.  Now that's the bull pen vegetable garden between an asparagus patch and the metal pole barn down the hill, and I have plans to eliminate the need to mow the foreground.    
       Mowing this small patch of ground involves tight turns, too-close contact with the asparagus and dealing with the slope to the loading chute.  I loath mowing this section.  So, I won't, not ever again!
This 25 x 33 foot area lies between the loading chute and rose garden.
       I believe it was 2004 when I started cleaning this area. The goal at that time was to create a rose garden within the foundation of what was once a horse barn.  That barn was, so the story goes, destroyed circa 1930 by a "tornado" while the owner took a nap in the house.  We suspect it was actually a micro burst rather than a tornado, but in either case, the barn collapsed, leaving only the stone foundation. For decades, the foundation and surrounding area were used pretty much as a dump site. I expected to cart away a lot more trash than I did.  Later, I learned that my mother- and sister-in-law had started to clean the foundation years ago--to make a rose garden--but had abandoned the task as more trouble than it was worth.
       Getting rid of the trash was only part of the task.  The floor of the horse barn was clay, great for horses, lousy for roses.  So I took out the clay and replaced it with top soil gleaned by the wheel barrel load from around the farm.

The rose garden in the old horse barn foundation. 

       The fence around the rose garden is salvaged from old fences elsewhere on the property.  The cement steps were a gift from my father-in-law to his wife many years ago and originally led to the front door to the house.  One of the climbing rose bushes on the far fence was also a gift from Dad to Mom.  I found it in the weeds near the barn in the background, struggling to survive.  This is the first year it's bloomed for me.  The other roses on that fence are from the farm across the road, rescued after that neighbor died a few years ago at the age of 97.  He'd moved there in 1951, the same year Riley's family came here. To the right, not visible in this photo, are some old fashioned white roses that came from the farm up north where my husband's father grew up.  A lot of history here.
       I pulled up coils of half-buried barbed wire in the area between the rose garden and loading chute, and I'm not sure I got it all.  As a result I'm not eager to till this plot, so the idea of planting a few trees has appeal.  I have a mail order ready to go for a couple of quince trees and two wild sour cherry trees.  The Oikos Tree Crops catalog claims that quince is one of the most widely used fruits in the world.  Really?  It's difficult to even find recipes for it here in the States.\
       The trees I'm ordering are little, bitty things so I can't say that the ground cover under them will probably be strawberries and cinque-foil; rather, I'll say that that will be the ground cover around them.  Riley has given his blessing to whatever I want to do around the loading chute as long as he can get to the areas where animals might actually be kept, eventually.  Right now, I'm leaning toward planting lots of strawberries and cinque-foil to see how these plants handle shade and traffic here.
       I really like my rose garden.  Riley says it needs a solar-powered bird bath as a centerpiece.  I hope he'll think of that when he wondered what I'd like for Christmas. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Finishing a Pathway with Bricks

        Years ago, I salvaged some attractive bricks with the expectation that someday, I'd find a use for them.  And I have.  Finally.  I've already used some of them for two openings through the mum hedge that extends to the left in the photo.  For the rest, my mission is to create a more attractive pathway through this high-traffic area. 
Heavily traveled path from side of front porch around house to back.
       The first step was to remove plants and dirt to a depth equal to the depth of a brick plus an inch. I didn't want the resulting base to be level because I want water to run off, not puddle on the bricks.  The ground is hardpacked so I didn't feel a need to tamp before I added sand.  From what I've read, two inches of sand may be optimum, but I used only about an inch.  I arranged the bricks on the sand, taking care that their tops were at the same level.  I used a masonry hammer and chisel to get the shapes I needed to fill odd corners.  I did not use edging retainers that would hold the bricks in place even though this is a really good idea. My excuse is I'm working on a budget, and I simply didn't want to bother with them.  Time will tell if I goofed there.  I told my husband about the option of mixing sand and cement (1:4 ratio) to use to fill the cracks between the bricks.  He didn't want me to do this because the mix would eventually absorb moisture, harden, and make the arrangement permanent.  Instead I worked play sand into the cracks, watered it in, added more sand, watered it, and again, until the cracks were filled. I swept away excess sand.

Finished project.

        The path leading to the right needs additional mulch.  Aside from that, this project is complete.  As projects go around here, this was a small one, but the pathway looks so much more...finished.  Such a lovely word.   


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Growing Your Own Wheat for Baking

       The blog  I posted earlier today on baking bread from wheat I grew has resulted in more questions than I feel comfortable answering through Comments.  Tina's questions sent me searching for my husband's book Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon. 
       The wheat I grew wasn't planted neatly in a specified plot.  It volunteered where the tomatoes were planted last year and mulched with straw.  I haven't finished separating the grain yet.  So far I've gotten only the three cups I needed for the bread I baked yesterday.  I expect at least another six cups, hopefully a lot more.
Wheat waiting to be threshed and about three cups ready to grind.
       According to Logsdon's book, you can expect a bushel of wheat from a 10x109 plot.  A bushel is 60 pounds and will give you about fifty one-pound loaves of bread, using little or no purchased white flour.  He advises preparing the seedbed with a rotary tiller, raking, broadcasting the seed, then raking it lightly to cover the seeds.  Using a cultipacker to cover the seeds and give good seed-soil contact will improve germination.  He talks about planting 2 bushels per acre.  The suggested plot size is 1/40 of a bushel, so that's 1/20 of 60 pounds, or three pounds of seed.
        When to plant might be your biggest concern regarding wheat.  Around here we plant winter wheat in the fall after the Hessian fly is no longer active.  Logsdon says this is usually around mid-September.  He also says it's better to plant the wheat later rather than earlier.  If the weather is too warm for too long, the wheat may grow so much in the fall that the cold will kill it.  An October planting may work for you, depending where you are.
       Logsdon claims that there isn't much to do to care for the crop.  I certainly didn't do much for mine.  I think I pulled a few of the more obnoxious weeds. 
       The next step would be to check if your wheat is ripe.  Pick a few seed heads, rub them vigorously between you palms, blow away the chaff, and chew a few grains.  If it's chewy, it's not ripe.  You want it crunchy.  My husband questioned my grains' ripeness after I'd already threshed some.  He said it nearly broke his teeth. 
       Because my "plot" was so small, I used scissors to cut it.  You may want to use a scythe.  If you don't get the wheat out of the field in a timely manner, you will loose it to wildlife, especially birds.  Again, because my plot was so small, I could cover the whole area with a floating row cover when I noticed the birds were zeroing in on my crop.  I wasn't even sure at that point if it would be worth the effort of harvesting.  But eventually, I cut it and brought it onto the porch to dry further on a drying rack.  For larger harvests you may want to bundle the wheat in the field, tying double handfuls (or what's comfortable to you) with twine and stacking them together like you see in old paintings.  I wouldn't leave them unprotected in the garden though.
       To thresh the harvest, Logsdon recommends spreading an old sheet on a hard surface, placing a bundle of your harvest on it, and beating it to death with a broom handle, plastic bat, or some other suitable club.  He says you don't really have to hit hard as the grain will shatter fairly easily onto the sheet.  You won't get every kernel this way, but it's a lot faster than rubbing the seed heads between your hands like I've done.  Take advantage of a windy day or a fan to blow away the chaff and straw.  Pour the harvest from container to container several times until you're satisfied with the level of cleanliness.  Logsdon says not to worry about eliminating every bit of hull; it all grinds up nicely and only adds to the fiber content, he says.  Personally, I hand pick the grain until it's clean.
       We bought a manual grain grinder but we're not happy with it.  It took hours to grind enough flour for a few loaves.  My Vita Mix is quick and gives a fine enough flour for baking, but I'd be interested in hearing about something that's reasonably quick and doesn't take electricity.
       Thanks you, Tina, for you interest and your questions.  I love questions.  They push me to dig deeper and learn more.  Have you tried grinding corn?  I have a really terrific old family recipe for Johnnie Cake.

Homemade Bread--From Scratch

        In my introduction to this blog, I warned potential readers that I would stray from the main focus of Lawnlessness in order to share recipes using what I've grown. I'm about to do that.
        I've been baking bread from scratch for decades, but for these loaves, I scratched a little deeper.  I used grain grown here in my garden. Growing my own wheat is something I've wanted to do for many years, but this happened by accident.  
Three loaves of homemade bread made with homegrown wheat.
       Last year I mulched the old vegetable garden with straw.  This year I planted most of that garden to peas as a first step to renovating the depleted soil.  The west end where the tomato stakes stood didn't get planted or even weeded.  Most of the "weeds" were wheat volunteers.  When the heads started to fill out this summer, I covered the area with a floating row cover to keep the birds at bay.  Later, I cut the stalks with scissors and laid the harvest on a wooden clothes drying rack to finish drying, again covering it with a floating row cover.
       Lacking a machine to do the work, I separated the kernels by rubbing handfuls of "beard" (seed heads)between my gloved hands.  Works okay for small amounts, but I sure wouldn't want to make a living doing this.  I poured the results from bowl to bowl in front of a fan to remove additional plant parts, then hand-sorted what was left. Tedious.  I reminded myself, several times, to enjoy the process and anticipate the final product. 
Home-grown wheat
       I make the best bread!  I think so and others have told me that I do.  I'm going to share with you my recipe for the everyday bread we use around here. These are simple loaves, but over the years I've added so many little nuances that this may sound kind of complicated.  Please don't let this discourage you from making your own bread! The stuff you buy in the store is so much tasteless paste by comparison.  If you've tried making bread before and haven't been satisfied with the results, maybe some part of what follows here will help you.
       The recipe I use originated with Betty Crocker as Rich Egg Bread.  Ingredients:  1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees. Use a thermometer to be sure), 1 Tablespoon yeast (I buy it by the pound, not in little packages, and keep the bag in the freezer), 1/4 cup sugar, 1-1/2 cups milk scalded and cooled to 105 to115 degrees (I just warm it up in the microwave), 1 Tablespoon salt, 1/4 cup solid shortening, 3 eggs, 7 1/4 to 7 1/2 cups flour.
        If you're using a metal bowl, warm it with hot tap water before starting.  Sprinkle the yeast over the half cup of warm water.  Stir in sugar and warm milk.  Let the yeast work for up to an hour.  It will look sort of foamy.  If it doesn't, your yeast may be old, or the water or milk may have been  too hot and killed the yeast.  Add four cups of flour and beat for two minutes by machine.  At this point I use three cups of fresh whole wheat flour ground in my Vita Mix and one cup of unbleached all-purpose flour.  Recently, I tried substituting store-bought whole wheat.  Texture and flavor both suffered.  I won't do that again except in an emergency.  Add salt, shortening, eggs, and another three cups of all-purpose flour.  Mix and knead, adding additional flour if needed to easy handling.  Add too much flour and the loaves will not cook in the middle.  I used to do this by hand, kneading for five minutes.  Now I use the lovely machine my husband bought me. (He really appreciates the bread!) 
       Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled.  Punch it down and let it rise again.  A second rising improves the flavor.  Shape into loaves, three if using 7-1/2x3-3/4x2-1/4 or 8-1/2x4-1/4x2-5/8 pans; two if using larger pans.  Flatten the dough with a rolling pin or with the fleshy part of your hand to an oval about fourteen inches long and ten inches wide.  Turn the sides toward the center to a width that will fit your pans.  Use the rolling pin again to remove possible air bubbles. Roll the dough into a cylinder.  Pinch the bottom seam with you fingers.  Use the side of your hand to make a flap to seal both ends.  Turn these ends under and pinch them to hold them in place.  Cover and let rise until about doubled again.  I don't recommend that you let the dough rise more than an inch or so above the top edge of you pan*before it goes in the oven.
Use the side of your hand to make a flap at both ends.
       Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Every time you open the oven, the temperature drops at least 25 degrees.  The dough needs heat to "spring" in the oven.  This is a final rise that takes only a few minutes once the bread has gone into the oven.  If it happens at all.  If it does, it's an indication that the yeast is, well, happy. You want the yeast to be happy.  So 500 to start; adjusted to 425 as soon as you put the bread in.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake about 25 minutes more or until done.  I cover the loaves loosely during the entire time with foil to keep the tops from browning too much.  The bread is done when taping it produces a hollow sound.  Immediately remove the loaves from the pans and cool on wire racks.  If the bread looks really pale when you take it out of the pan, it may not be thoroughly cooked, in which case, you might want to put it back in the pan and return it to the oven.  If you like a soft crust, wipe the loaves with butter or shortening, or spray lightly with olive oil.
       Everything I've read says to let the loaves cool completely before slicing, but fresh, still-warm buttered bread is a real treat.  So is fresh, still-warm sliced and toasted bread.  You do this, though, and your loaves will be gone before they've cooled.
       It's been a long time since I've had a failed batch of bread.  When it did happen, I made crackers.  The kids loved those.  Sometimes, I'd save some of the dough for dough gods.  To make these, roll golf ball sized balls, flatten them, slip them into hot oil, turn once when first side is a golden brown, roll them in confectioners sugar and serve warm.  Don't overcook.   
       There's that saying that man can't live by bread alone, but I suspect the person who originally said this meant that food wasn't all one lives for, because you can survive on little in addition to bread--unless, of course, what you're eating is that store-bought stuff.
*Spray bread pans with a non-stick spray for easy release and easy cleanup.   

Monday, August 22, 2011

What to Plant on Slopes?

      What can I plant on slopes?  Specifically, what can I plant in the livestock loading chute and on the slopes to either side?
Loading Chute
      This is what the loading chute looks like now.  You're supposed to back your pickup truck up to the higher (left) end, then run the critter from the holding pen up the dirt ramp between the wooden fences, and into the back of said pickup.  It's been, oh, twenty years since this was last done here.  The weeds have taken over.  Now my spouse is having fantasies about getting some livestock.  So whatever I use must be able to survive foot traffic.
Day lilies
  Day lilies would be pretty as long as we don't actually use the loading chute.  I can imagine what they would look like after a struggle to load a recalcitrant bull.  They'd recover, but in the meantime, wouldn't look so nice.  They might make for slippery footing too.  That can be a problem when you're dealing with a large, angry or scared animal. I think I'll leave them to the ditch for now.
Water feature closeup.  Sedum and evergreens.

       A rock garden on either side of the chute would look really great!  This is a close-up of part of the waterfall hill beside our front porch.  Sedum and evergreens are an attractive combination here.
       But when you're working with animals, you don't have the luxury of watching where you put your feet every second.  A turned ankle when dealing with a skittish animal could ruin your day.
Sweet potato vines

      Sweet potato vines?  They might survive being trampled, but getting the critter to move into the truck could be a serious problem.  Creatures might take exception to being told to MOVE if they'd rather stop to eat this tasty stuff. 
     Somewhere around here there's a photo of the six foot slope along the side of the driveway leading to the garage, which is located under the house.  This used to be an erosion nightmare or a ragged mess of weeds, depending on which section you viewed.  Now it's covered with periwinkle.  This is a really solid erosion control.  It looks really good.  It's easy to propagate.  So why not use it around the loading chute?  Many people consider this plant to be invasive.  Since it does spread so readily and it's not indigenous to this area, I hesitate to put it where it could so easily get out of control. 
       Creeping thyme would work, I think, but I plan to use it in so many other places, that I feel that putting it here would be overusing it.
Wild strawberry and common cinque-foil.

       This might be my best bet.  Both wild strawberries and common cinque-foil are low and lush, fast growing and hardy, and native to this area. I asked my husband what he thought of this choice.  He considered for a second, then said wonderingly, "Why didn't I think of that?"  I guess that means he thinks it's the perfect solution.
      What it means to me is more dead grass.  I have to kill what's there before I can replace it. I think I can "borrow" from the evergreen garden as the strawberries and cinque-foil there take root and spread.   

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Strawberry Patch Instead of Grass

Bull pen 2003
        Once upon a time, this was the bull pen, home for the massive creature who sired my father-in-law's herd of Black Angus cattle. When we moved here, it hadn't been used for anything for years and was chocked with weeds and trees so that the metal barn in the background was hidden from view. Wire from the fence lay half buried in a foot of partially composted grass. Tendrils from a gone-crazy wisteria vine were everywhere. I remember looking at the whole area many times, thinking that I'd never be able to clear out all those big trees and do anything useful here.
Bull pen 2011.  The only thing recognizable is the post on the left.
       Miracles do happen.
       I never intended any of this to go to grass. My initial goal was simply to get rid of an eyesore. The first section I cleared became the strawberry patch, which produced about 125 pounds this year. I admit that this is the first decent crop I've gotten. I believe the reason for the improved production was that last year I adjusted the soil pH and side dressed the rows with compost.  
      My plants are June-bearing, which require a yearly renovation after the harvest.  Renovation involves four steps: mowing the tops, tilling the rows, thinning the plants, and fertilizing.  For the first three steps, I I use a shovel and clippers.  It takes longer, but it's quieter and, I suspect, less stressful to the plants as well as to me.  Removing the tops reduces mold and promotes new growth.  The rows should be "tilled" to about ten inches wide.  Plants within the row shouldn't be closer together than four inches. I use straw to mulch between the rows.  This eliminates most weeding, except that I get a lot of volunteer wheat, which is much easier to pull out than pig weed, mallow, and a lot of other weeds I could name.  I'm not real obsessed with pulling it as summer germinating wheat won't survive a Michigan winter.

 Renovated strawberry patch in late July.
      Instead of compost, this year I used12-12-12 fertilizer at the rate of two to three pounds per 100 feet of row.  Now all that remains is to keep the patch watered and weeded, and to train the new growth into rows.  Well, not quite all.  A straw mulch during the winter is a good idea.      
        I read somewhere that the size of the strawberry crop is determined in September of the year before the harvest, so it's important to do the renovation as soon as the year's crop is finished and to keep the patch well watered.
       The patch has been in this spot for several years.  Won't be long before I'm going to have to give serious consideration to relocating it.  Darn, just when it's looking so good!

Friday, August 12, 2011

That Was Then. This Is Now.

       There’s so much I want to do here that the overall task can be daunting and discouraging. Finding a photo like this can convince me that I really am making progress.
       This is the section to the north of the front yard as it appeared when we inherited. The photo was taken from the back corner of the house.

Northeast Front Yard, circ 2001
This is a more recent photo taken from the same position.
Northeast Front Yard, circ spring 2011
       The transformation began before we moved in. There was no drain field for the septic tank. Overflow from the tank puddled in the lower left corner of this area. My brother-in-law told me that putting in a drain field would cost $5000. I didn’t have $5000, but I refused to move out here until this problem was taken care of. I studied up on the subject and put it in myself. I built it to code using a shovel and some matches. You can’t see them, but there are a lot of stumps (and roots) in that tall grass. Riley pushed wheel barrels of stone for me and Chris and Randy helped one day, but I figure I did at least eighty-five percent of the work.
        I like to think of myself as focused. Others might describe me as, well, nuts.
       The line of trees to the north is still there, as are most of the trees along the road, which is straight ahead in the photo. My daughter, Chris, helped a lot in removing trees and roots in the garden, which now measures 40X115 feet. This was the vegetable garden for my husband’s family for more than forty years. I realized last year how depleted the soil is. My vegetables are planted elsewhere this year. Here, I planted peas this spring, followed by buckwheat as a green manure crop. My plan is to clean out a neighbor’s barn and build a nice big manure and straw pile that will get spread over the entire garden once it’s composted. Haven’t started that task yet.
       That’s grass in the foreground. I can tell the drain field works well, because this is usually the lushest grass anywhere on the property, which means more frequent mowing. A niece suggested planting Zoysiagrass so I wouldn’t need to mow.. This is a warm-season grass. In Michigan it would be green and invasive for two and a half months, dead-looking the rest of the year. My Master Gardener Manual says Michiganers should avoid its use. One of these days (years?) I’ll get around to experimenting with thyme, lawn daisies, evening primrose and other ground covers. Probably not sweet potatoes, though, since the drain field would contaminate anything grown underground here.
Herb Garden
      Those big bushes on the right are lilacs. The closest one has been there for eighty years or more. Between the lilacs and vegetable garden is my herb garden. I dug that out with a shovel five years ago. My husband and grandson made the boxes. The contents as well as the ground around them are mulched. The herb garden’s west side is edged with a stone path from the lilacs to the veggie garden. I'm working on deciding what herbs I want in the boxes and what I'll put elsewhere.  I like the boxes for table herbs because they're safer from doggy unpleasantness.
       Note the large rock in that path. Many years ago, my father-in-law put that rock on the other side of the lilac bush to hold a sundial. He never got around to putting it together. I had it moved because the lilac bush grew to shade it too much, but the sundial Dad bought is upstairs. Finishing that project is on my to-do list. It’ll be the perfect "finish" to my herb garden.