The Weekly Digs #170

by Becky

The fourth of July we went and played at the lake, but that morning I spent some time in the garden trying to get a few projects tackled! I’ve been working on stringing up tomatoes which is a constant thing, the tomatoes grow so fast this time of year! 

Blister Beetles Attack

If you watched my most recent Youtube video, you’ve heard me talk about this already and may want to skip over it. But for those who haven’t seen it, here is the story: 

On that same fourth of July morning, I also walked over to my potatoes and saw something unusual. They looked like they were getting eaten by something. I thought it might be potato bugs since I know many struggle with them but it wasn’t. It was striped blister beetles and lots of them! 

I tried to get rid of them by putting soap and water in a bucket, then shook the plants into it. It worked, or so I thought. We had a good holiday of fun and fireworks. 

The next day, I looked at my potatoes and they were completely defoliated. Lesson #1 about blister beetles- They are most active at night! 

It was good to learn, because then I knew when to look for them. By that point, the blister beetles had decided to scatter throughout the garden. I spent 3-4 hours a day in the evening and night for the next 2 days trying to keep them from defoliating other plants.

My back was killing me from bending over the plants and working on this every night. I couldn’t help but start crying from pure fatigue and frustration. I put a ton of effort into the garden and this year the garden problems have been more extreme! 

I didn’t share this on Youtube, but in my fatigue I also felt like a terrible gardener because so many things aren’t working this year.

So seeing me frustrated and sobbing, Cam said we needed to pray for help and to have faith that God would do the rest. So we did.

The next night, I went out checking diligently among all the tomatoes, brussel sprouts, and peppers. There were no beetles there. Not one! Then I saw a frog right where there were many beetles the day before and knew that it was part of the answer to our prayer!

I continued to look around for the beetles and found them all congregated on a 15 foot section of potatoes. They were there in the thousands. The fact that they all gathered in one small area was the other part of the answer to prayer.

I was out until 1am that night making sure I got every single one I could see.  The next night I went out again to the same area and I caught about a hundred. Way less than before and they are back to manageable levels, yay!

Other garden news:

  • Harvested all my onions. I haven’t counted them all but we have a lot this year! It’s a wonderful thing. I plan on freeze drying my white onions as soon as I can get around to it because they only last a few months in storage and because dried and freeze dried onions that are pre cut are convenient to add to soups.
  • Harvesting green beans, cucumbers, all the rest of the cabbage, cherry tomatoes, and herbs.
  • Planted Arkansas Razorback Cowpeas, Lima Beans, and Cherokee Trail of Tears Black Beans.

Preserving

  • Canned another 25 pints of dill pickles
  • Started a batch of cucumber kimchi. I need to finish it after writing this!

Home Projects

I don’t talk too often about house projects but we always have a few going on in the background. When we built our home, in order to save money there were a few cosmetic things we wanted to do ourselves. This weekend Cam painted our bedroom. It was white before and I was tired of sleeping in a white box. 

I don’t fall asleep easily so I figured something very dark would be more conducive to sleeping. 

An interesting little known fact, my first public blog (started 2014) was about fixing up and decorating our previous home. I then started a new blog where I talked about both gardening and home decor/ design. After a few months, I decided to only blog about the garden and created “The Seasonal Homestead” in 2019.

I really enjoy decorating and love how a beautifully designed and decorated room makes me smile when I’m in it! My surroundings have always had a substantial effect on my mood. I’m a very visual person and maybe that’s why it effects me so much. I’m also an artist which is the other reason I care about it a lot.

But I found when I blogged about home design a lot I became more consumed with having material things. So instead I put my focus in the garden and it’s been more enjoyable, easier on our budget, and better for my mental health.

An interesting twist is that in the last year a home tour has been the #1 thing requested in my emails from readers of the blog and viewers of our YT channel. 

Originally I didn’t think anyone was interested in seeing our home. But those who are interested have gone out of their way to let me know. Consequently, I will be sharing a home tour on Youtube when I get a break from the garden and preserving (haha who knows when that will happen, maybe a few months from now?!) and I’ll also be posting some more details of our house plan, design choices we made for homesteading (double pantry is one example), and perhaps some of the building process here due to all the interest. 

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15 comments

PamR July 10, 2022 - 11:34 am

I for one would love to see a house tour! I have seen the bits about the pantries.

Regarding the pest problem, I will be a broken record and repeat what I’ve said before because the problem is far worse now. Plants that have not reached the 3rd or 4th stage of health will always have pest and disease problems.

The way plants reach those levels of health is by being able to access the biology in the soil. If the biology is not there, they do what they can but seldom reach Level 2 of health.

Using silage tarps to kill weeds also kills the biology. It’s just too hot for it to survive. The biology take 3 months to recover, and if you plant right after removing the tarps, there’s little or no biology for your growing plants. Mycorhyzae fungi are even more important for plant health and it takes 9 months for that system to recover.

I understand why the tarps are being used, they save you so much time and effort, in the beginning. But think, if the plants aren’t healthy enough to kill or deter pests, are they putting out healthy enough food for your family?

One way to tell is to borrow a Brix refractometer and test the produce. That will give you a fast answer and is very simple to use.

I’d give serious thought to ditching the tarps and finding another way to improve the soil and keep the weeds down. This non-profit organization has many of the answers to these problems and has helped me hugely over the years:

https://bionutrient.org/

I know the horrible struggle you are facing and can fully understand the frustration leading to crying for relief. I hope my words will help relieve some of your struggles. You work so hard to provide for your family, and I so want to see you succeed without the heartbreak.

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theseasonalhomestead July 11, 2022 - 4:20 am

Hi Pam! Thanks! I’m trying to keep an open mind about this because I know you want to help. But I’m not quite convinced yet that the tarps are the root of the problem. I do think my soil biology could always get better. In the main family garden, now that things are settled I only use the tarps 10 days max for terminating cover crops. The mass of the cover crop keeps the soil much cooler than setting it directly on the soil.

Can you point me to some specific studies? I’ve also checked out buying a Brix refractometer in the past but wow they are expensive for a good one! Do you borrow one from your cooperative extension? I’m also curious how you terminate cover crops without a tarp in your personal garden. Flail mower?

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PamR July 14, 2022 - 4:22 pm

It only takes a few hours at a temp over 145F to kill the biology. Once dead, it doesn’t recover for months. I can not point you to specific study as I learned about it from lecturers at the NOFA Soil Conferences. Most particularly, John Kempf. I’ve found his information to be very sound over the years. He has many webinars and podcasts. I find him very interesting to listen to and he dives deep into the science behind what he teaches.

https://www.advancingecoag.com/webinars

I joined https://bionutrient.org/ for $50 and at that time they gave you a refractometer with membership. I don’t know if they still do that or not.

I do not use cover crops because of the termination problem. I’ve used hay mulch, NOT straw, exclusively since 1992. It takes a while longer to get planted with that method, but there’s VERY little weeding all season. The soil doesn’t loose moisture and the biology is fed.

Having said that, John Kempf says green mulch (cover crops) trumps brown mulch (hay, etc) every time. But as it’s just a small garden to feed 2 for a year (compared to yours), this method has worked well for me for a very long time.

I have often wondered what growers who do cover crops did to make the soil plantable. I was aware of the tarps, but discounted that method. Big growers used a crimper or no till machine behind a tractor, but that’s not feasible here either. So I did wonder…

I guess the best way to see how hot they get is to put a thermometer under there right on the soil, then you’d know for sure.

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theseasonalhomestead July 16, 2022 - 8:04 pm

Thanks Pam. Good information. I listened to John Kempf per your recommendation from a few months ago. It was a while ago so I don’t remember it very clearly. I’ll definitely check out the link you gave me here to the webinar for a refresher. Perhaps I can listen to it as I garden since time is of the essence during summer 🙂 I’ll have to do that test with a thermometer a couple inches deep in the soil under tarps next time just to satisfy my own curiosity.

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PamR July 18, 2022 - 10:57 am

I was doing a blog post on potato bugs and could not find my notes I made at the soil seminar where I heard it. So I googled John Kempf and plant health and found this webinar:

https://www.advancingecoag.com/plant-health-pyramid

He has obviously advanced far from when I was able to attend soil conferences and the pyramid he speaks of in this webinar is different from what I learned 11 years ago.

So I am now listening to this new info so I can write correctly about how I’ve seen it work here.

This is a sort of quick synopsis of the basics of plant health and worth listening to. I sure hopes this helps you in your battle!

PamR July 18, 2022 - 11:32 am

I’ve gotten into the questions on the above webinar and about half way in he addresses both your flooding of the tomatoes and what happens when your plants are in 95F or higher temps for an extended time. Both problems you are currently dealing with and how it affects plant health.

Jen Painter July 10, 2022 - 2:07 pm

Thank you for sharing your miracle about prayer. It touched my heart. Your family is so incredible. You are doing so much better than you think. Keep up the great work. Sending hugs

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theseasonalhomestead July 11, 2022 - 4:26 am

Thank you!

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Joanna July 10, 2022 - 7:40 pm

Oh my goodness…I CANNOT wait for a home tour!! I’m happy you have enough cucumbers to make pickles AND kimchi ❤️ Would love to see that process. Have you gotten any rain yet? How do I go back and read your blog. I can only go back to around “My sweet digs” to around # 20…I’m sure it’s because I don’t know what I am doing. Love you, girl. You are AMAZING! ❤️

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theseasonalhomestead July 11, 2022 - 4:28 am

Thanks Joanna! I will look into the weekly digs and see if I can get them so you can organize by oldest first. I’ll get back to you if I can make a switch on my website and get that to work!

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Laurel M. July 10, 2022 - 9:25 pm

Yay!! A homestead home tour would be awesome!! Sorry about the bugs. In Utah, it’s ear wigs. They eat everything and like to hide under dry mulch. It’s impossible to keep the mulch moist, and the mulch is necessary to keep the ground moisture. Thanks for sharing your struggles, Becky, you’re doing such a good job and I learn a lot from you.

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John July 10, 2022 - 10:32 pm

I love your content and the way you’re doing everything as a family! Super inspiring. Comments are closed on this one… https://www.theseasonalhomestead.com/how-to-build-a-low-tunnel/ … I have been searching high and low (in Canada) for 1/2″ x 10″ PVC 315 psi … it’s all 600 psi. Where do you get that thinner wall 1/2″ pvc pipe?

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theseasonalhomestead July 11, 2022 - 4:26 am

Thanks! We got it from a Lowes Home Improvement store. The last time we bought it was a few years ago though and there have been so many supply chain problems since then so maybe they are out of stock or don’t carry it anymore.

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Cheryl July 11, 2022 - 1:05 am

That’s so frustrating. I hope they really are gone, or at least manageable now. I’ve been on Harlequin bug squishing duty. It’s probably a lost cause. They are so small when young, but at least I hope to delay them enough to keep harvesting the broccoli. I love your weekly updates.

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theseasonalhomestead July 11, 2022 - 4:30 am

Ah yes, I’m very familiar with harlequin bugs, they are starting to show up again here too. Best of luck!

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