THE FUNNY FARMER: An astonishingly boring, painful, humorous and occasionally insightful approach to gardening and life as amom, a former psychotherapist, and apparently a life-long patient.


My name is Cherie and I live in Southern Maine with my husband and two young children. I have a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and still have about 10k in remaining student loans to prove it. I left the field of practice three years ago, so this is not the place to be posting any suicide notes, okay? But if you want to hear about my garden and my gremlins, my pests and my problems, well then you just sit right down and read on!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Creative Trellising for Veggie Gardening

Our of respect for climbing specimen, consideration of space limitations, and the joy of experimentation, I have taken to trellising this year more than any other. 

My father's cucumbers sprawled in his large vegetable garden and I was not even aware until recently that they have a climbing habit!  I have two cucumber varieties this year.  One is a Striped Armenian and I fashioned a climbing structure in a raised bed out of leftover decking lattice (well, perhaps "fashion" is not the best word...).  My second variety is pickling cucumbers because I adore the mustard pickles I grew up with.  Sooo tart and yummy, I WILL have pickles this fall!  I rummaged around my "potting shed" and garage and emerged with an old wooden ladder that should have been thrown out years ago.  I read that I should loosely tie the vines with fabric to the support, so that's what I'll try unless anyone else has a good suggestion.  My reading on trellising cukes has been very interesting!  Many claim that their trellised cucumber plants are less succeptible to disease, become more prolific, and create better shaped cukes that do not have white/yellow markings from laying on the ground.  My thinking is that they might be easier to find as well!

My next climber (no, not Matilda) is green beans.  More creative in my seed purchasing this year as well, I bought the Fortex Green Beans which claim to be long, slender, and stringless.  I can't wait to see/eat them!   G  Make no mistake that although I like creative shapes and colors, my veggies are ALL chosen for taste as well!  Like my dad, I used to plant my green beans in either side of a low row wire trellis.  This was sufficient, but I'm curious about the teepee method for space considerations.  I built a teepee out of three bamboo poles and planted 8-10 seeds around each pole.  I placed the poles in two different beds so the climbing will use the least amount of space as possible.  If all goes well, Matilda will LOVE the resulting tunnel even more than she likes it now!
For my first planting of snap peas this season I used my old method which is a foldable wire fence.  Functional, not ugly, but not very interesting to look at either.  I have attached a pic from my second planting of snap peas with an aesthetically improved "trellis".  After wandering the aisles of Lowe's for trellises (there are many options and most are quite pricey) I came home with an insta-fence.  It has panels that lock together and come apart so it's versatile from seasonn to season.  I'm a wee bit concerned about it toppling from weight with the anchors it came with.  If that becomes a problem, I'll have to stake it into the ground more firmly next time with another method.

These fencing pieces I purchased with the visions of containment, not climbing.  My raspberry bushes had become quite aggressive so I pulled up many of them and created a "row" with a fence piece on each end, one in the middle, and string attached to the sides to keep the branches from drooping into the lawn.  I am quite sure that the "posts" it came with will not be sufficient, so my "things to do" list includes anchoring them more firmly.
Does anyone out there have any creative trellising ideas/suggestions/pics?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Plant*A*Row Washout

There is this really cool project called Plant-A-Row For The Hungry that urges home and commercial gardeners to plant a separate row of veggies to be donated to your local foodbank.  I really like this concept because my past food drive donations tend to include things like canned soup and macaroni and cheese, things that are non-perishable and unfortunately not terribly healthy. 

My Community Garden has two plots designated for the PAR program, and last year was the trial run.  There are two Community Gardeners who head-up the PAR plots by coordinating the designing, planting, watering, weeding, harvesting, and delivering.  With the first-year glitches, early blight, and some garden flooding, the harvest was not as bountiful as hoped for.last year.  Many are committed to making this year be more plentiful.

My contributions so far have been a week of watering & weeding and the donation of several of my seedlings including tomatoes, cucumbers, husk cherry, patty pan squash, basil, brussels sprouts, and broccoli.  I'm pretty excited to watch the harvest grow and be delivered to our local pantry.  Though our community has a well-earned reputation of being pretty wealthy, there are segments that are definitely in need.  I personally am of the sound belief that it is shameful that ANYONE is hungry is the United States of America.  Absolutely shameful.

Having worked in social services for many years, I have witnessed far too much poverty, poor health, and hunger up close and personal.  In fact, my parents and grandparents experienced poverty and relied upon the good will of others on occasion.  My son's world is far from that reality and I have struggled with how to introduce him to poverty without completely overwhelming and shocking him.  I have concluded that the Plant A Row program is the way to do it.  One of my many hopes for him is that he becomes a charitable and compassionate member of society.

So this afternoon I dragged Oscar along to the PAR planting day.  On the car ride I reminded him of our conversations about how some people have don't have enough food to eat.  The first time I told his the laughed at me, thinking I was putting him on.  We talked about how healthy foods are typically more expensive than unhealthy foods.  And we talked about the importance of doing what we can to enable as many people as possible have healthy and sufficient food.  It is a lot to process for a child who is fortunate enough to have enerything he needs, but he was very thoughtful and considerate with his observations and questions.  Yay!  That's my boy!

Arriving at the Gardens, the organizers were busy building a teepee for pole beans.  Oscar and I carried our gift of seedlings and we looked over the sketch to deterine the location or babies would call home.  Not long into our planting adventure, the skies opened up and drizzle turned pretty quickly into rain.  Hearty and optimistic at first, we soon succumbed to the drenching rain and post-poned the planting. 

After everyone packed up and left, Oscar and I stayed behind just a little bit longer to splash about and to explore the talent, creativity and beauty within our Community Garden.  Some of my favorites today are the robot scarecrow, ski-pole poles, and the bedspring trellis.  Perhaps today wasn't such a washout after all!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Flower Seedlings Inventory 2010

While I was largely successful with my vegetable seedlings, my flowers seedlings did not thrive quite so well.  I wish I had take pics today for proof.... nuts.  Admittedly, I did give my vegetable seeds more attention since their success will cut my grocery bill.  So the flowers were not necessarily planted on their recommended dates and planted in cell packs rather than soil blocks. 
The zinnias are a few inches tall, but most are only a couple inches tall. I'm a little concerned that they won't survive/thrive the planting.  They have been outdoors in pots for a few weeks now, so I guess this is as good a time as any. 

I hope to plant them this weekend, and am trying to figure out what goes where according to height, spacing, and light requirements.  I'm also documenting what has survived for future reference.  Perhaps I'll just do veggies by seed next winter/spring...  We'll see....

So this planting planning summary is not terribly interesting reading.. my apologies :D  Perhaps this cutie-pie ocean pics will help....

Some flower seedlings that actually survived:

Marigold - Durango Outback Mix
8-12" height

Angel's Trumpet Datura - double yellow
16-20" height, spacing 2-3'

Ornamental Kale
24" height, full sun, 4" apart, horizontal support

Amaranth:  Strawberry Fields
24" height, 6-8" spacing, full sun
Serenade Mix - China Aster
25-34" height, 6-12" spacing, full sun, support

Cramers' burgundy Celosia
30-36" height, 6-12" spacing, full sun, horizontal netting advised, no fertilizer

Pampas Plume Celosia
33-48" height, 6-12" spacing, netting, no fertilizer

Giant Dahlias: 40-50", 9-12" apart, full sun, no support, do not disturb roots
Creamy Yellow

Ornamental Grass:  Love Grass ?
Morning Glory
Cardinal Climber - 72-120"
President Tyler - 72-96"
Hyacinth Bean - Ruby Moon
10-20', full sun, 12" spacing, trellis/support

Sunflower Collection:

Cosmos:  Sea Shells
40-48" height, 9-12" spacing,

Hopefully I'll have plenty of flower pics over the next few weeks!!!  If I don't spend too much time at the ocean, that is....

Thursday, June 3, 2010


This post topic relates to previous posts about manageability and moderation.  I tend to have "manageability issues" that allow some areas of my life to flourish while others are largely neglected.  My seedlings project was successful overall, however there are a few areas of my life that are in need of a little attention (ummm... like clothing my children, perhaps?).

Take for example my home.  It has not been dusted, vacuumed, cleaned in... well...  I'm too embarrassed to try and figure out how long.  A new friend is coming to visit next week and I HAVE to get this place into ship-shape before then.  There is germination soil on the windowsill, dustbunnies procreating in every corner, and mysterious odors coming from the refrigerator.  I did clean the toilets yesterday, but that just scratches the surface.  A WHOLE lot more work needs to be done.

Then there is my health.  Staying up so many late nights with my seedlings interfered with time that I should have been sleeping.  For me, not getting enough sleep sets off a whole domino effect of other problems like not exercising.  I also haven't been meal planning well, which for me is a "recipe" for potato chips and pasta.  Not so good at all.  So before today's trip to the grocery store, I am actually MENU PLANNING so that I purchase foods that are healthy, incorporate food preparation into my schedule, don't purchase more food than is necessary, and actually eat well.  Still recovering from surgery, I can't do much more than walking for exercise.  That's needs to go into my health schedule as well.

Being an extravert, I have accumulated some very lovely friends over the years.  However I owe so many phone calls and emails it's kind of bumming me out.  I have been assured by wiser mothers than myself that your social life does come back as your children get older.  But they tend to follow that comment with, "But don't wish it away!"  Okay, okay.  I don't want them to grow so fast, but I WOULD like to stay in contact with people who are important to me.  I did catch up with a few last weekend while also engaging in some family fun.  Read on.

Family Fun time had been neglected for far too long, and that was addressed over Memorial Weekend.  The four of us went camping with a group of friends for three nights in Acadia, one the most beautiful places in the world (not that I've seen THAT many places, I"m just saying).  If there is such a thing as a spritual vortex, Acadia is one of them.  We cooked on Coleman Stoves, had group feasts, slept in tents, made s'mores, hiked around, explored, and had a whole lot of fun.

Yes, you read correctly.  We went camping over MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND  - a sacred time for gardeners!  Ideally this would have been a major planting weekend, but the camping trip won out.  Fortunately the good weather this spring had allowed me to plant many things early, so most of that work has already been done.  And a lovely neighbor was kind enough to water my garden while I was gone (because of course it only rained in Acadia, not Southern Maine). 

Upon return, there was definitely some evidence of neglect.  Some of my salad greens are overgrown and need to be pulled out.  Mystery weeds are battling for dominance.  However my seedlings are looking pretty darned good!  Some of my radishes are ready, my second wave of salad greens has grown significantly, my snap peas shot up, and my sunflower seeds have popped up out of the ground.  My "unplanted" seedlings have been relocated from my deck (yes, I have my front window AND my deck back) to a concrete walkway and ready to be planted in my garden, the Plant-A-Row Garden, and the rest given away.

So here an effort, yet again, to get into balance.  My shopping list is ready, the rain has taken care of my garden's need for water, and I'm off to run errands.   Fortunately people, plants, and things are mostly resilient to periodic stints of moderate neglect.