Gentle Rains

New garden babies greeted by the softness of nature

Clouds and mild temperatures

Kindness to the settlers

Moments without harshness

Thank you

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Spring Planting by the Moon

Thanks for letting me use your image, whoever you are!

The moon is barely a waxing crescent. It was new just two days ago. I recently learned that waxing is for above ground crops, waning for below. Crescents are for leaves and gibbous are for fruits. So I guess I maybe should have waited a week or so for the snow peas but oh well. Also, plant when the moon is in an earth or water sign, never fire or air. The moon will be in Pisces until noon tomorrow when it moves into Aries.

Last year my dad told me to plant by the moon (using the Farmer’s Almanac website). I told him that I didn’t have time for that nonsense, but ended up with a lot of germination trouble. (Sorry, Dad.) With a little planning it really isn’t hard, so I’ve decided to try and plant by the moon this year.

January 20th I started my leafy greens and today, with the help of Tilly (the tiller) and Gordon who spent 2 hours with Tilly earlier this week, the babies went into the ground.

So it doesn’t look like much now, but it’s very well spaced and I think the plants will be huge and lovely soon enough.

I transplanted collards, broccoli, kale, chard, lettuce, mizuna, and arugula. Also planted seeds of green onions and snow peas.

Collards
Salad Bowl Lettuce
Mizuna
Arugula
Snow Peas

Silas helped me for a little while and gleefully proclaimed, “This is just like 2016 when we spent a lot of time in the garden together!” Five minutes later he started whining that he wanted to do something fun and ditched me to go into the house. (Yes he describes his memories by year and yes it’s weird.)

We did it, Tilly!

Tomorrow morning Gordon and I are installing his lovely addition to the chicken coop.

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Silas picked the first daffodil for me

My Valentine’s Tiller

I still want chocolate

Gordon surprised me with this beautiful thing he found on craigslist for $150. It runs like a dream. We were able to chop up the entire garden in under a half hour. It makes the place a smaller, more dealable world. It’s my first very own gasoline-powered yard equipment and I love it so much. Between this guy, my claw-fingered garden gloves, and Gordon’s repair to my cultivator, I should be able to better manage the weeds this year. Love love love.

These guys are scheduled to go in the ground next Saturday, while the moon is a waxing crescent in Pisces. Baby lettuce and brassicas and some arugula (which excites me and I’ve not previously grown).

Here you see Scout helping me to thin the babies out.

So THAT Didn’t Work

Organic gardening, amiright?

So I’ve been battling squash bugs, which initially exclusively entailed hand squishing and crying. But then my brother Winston suggested diatomaceous earth. A bit of online reasearch confirmed it and also recommended neem oil. I excitedly dug in my garden shed and sprayed one evening and dusted the next.

While thoroughly drenching my plants in a maximum concentration of neem oil, the bugs showered without care. I believe one asked me to pass him the shampoo right before I squeezed his guts out.

The next evening I came armed with my bag of diatomaceous earth. Noticing that the neem oil seemed to have burned the leaves, but that there were no obvious legions of critters scurrying, I happily began heavily dusting everything I could. My adorable (yet idiotic) puppy rolled all around in the dusty squash beds and was subsequently bathed and banned from the garden. (The non-food grade DE is like 20% “other” ingredient(s)….and I’ll be damned if there’s a way to find out what it is.)

A few days later I realized that I had some withering, unpolinated squash and come to think of it, I hadn’t been seeing my normal crazy numbers of morning bees. Holy crap! Did I kill my bees? Or did they just break up with my garden because of my crazy DE cloud? I decided was time to rinse off the dust layer. Hopefully my weapon had been in place long enough to make the bugs go somewhere else (further than my poor ripening tomatoes they’re presently contaminating).

Rinse rinse rinse….huh. A few really yellow dead looking plants. And bugs. Lots of bugs. Scurrying around in the lovely shower. Scurry scurry scurry. They don’t give a fuuuck.

And check out these eggs that look like they got laid ON TOP of the diatomaceous earth.

Oh and lets not leave out the beauty of new life that hatched during my inactive battle.

I squished whatever I could easily see. Probably about 100 nymphs and adults. But I didn’t go hunting. I’m done. They won and I’m firing all the garden toads and spiders for incompetency.

But I may want to hire this guy. What he lacks in ability, he sure makes up for in tenacity.

This wasp was repeatedly trying to fly off with his dead grasshopper lunch.

A Better Day

The morning was cool, a welcome break from the usual stifling July days. So the family came outside to accompany me on my rounds.

I crushed my latest squash bug findings, but noticed that even under constant attack the plants looked healthy and pollination was in full force.

And I found some blossom end rot on a couple of small watermelons, but it allowed the girls a treat.

And of course we were entertained by a couple of wild dogs.

A bit later I fried up some okra (and snuck in a green tomato), getting people to happily eat their vegetables. After which Gordon said, “You grow us veggies and cook us veggies. Thanks for taking care of us!” Which made me feel less like the Little Red Hen and more like myself.

And finally (speaking of hens), the larva trap was full of fun chicken treats.

The chooks weren’t too keen on eating out of the pie pan, but happily gobbled up the squirmers once I dumped them out.

And here’s the larva trap. Its a plastic flower pot with some bait (rotten apple) wedged into the (vermi-) compost pile and covered with a pie pan to keep light out.

However, it gets raided at night by my compost thief. I was happy when I noticed that the soldier fly larva was back (discovered them last year) because these guys really make nice fast compost, plus now I have chickens to enjoy them.

And some other good news is that neem oil and diatomaceous earth should help with the squash bugs. So off to work I go! I really feel too lazy, but that’s ok. It’s nice out and sitting indoors on my arse isn’t really good for my body or brain.

Xoxo

It’s Too Much!

I’ve known that my Black Krim tomatoes were getting out of control. They are way past due for tying to their stakes. As a matter of fact, I’ve only done it once. And so I had this:

That was the worst example. When I was finished staking and cutting, I ended up with these:

And now I know in my heart the origin of Fried Green Tomatoes:

Once upon a time there was a lady who had a homesteading dream and a full time job with a long commute. Though she had a family, they weren’t much into gardening and so she had to try and keep up with the maintenance on her own. She couldn’t — and so along with a garden full of weeds, pests, and southern blight, she also ended up with a lovely bundle of green heirlooms that wouldn’t likely ripen. So she fried them and had to eat them all because her family hated them. Too bad, they can eat canned ravioli. The end.

20170729_115157

The Selfish Gardener

….And while I’m in an angry gardening mood, let’s discuss something else: Sharing Homegrown Produce.

I dream all year of bounty. So many of everything that we’re bursting at the seams. I dream of days spent laboring over jars of tomato sauce and salsa, and of shelves full of pickles, pickles and more pickles! And of course this sort of processing madness comes only after we’ve eaten all the fresh food that we can, and passed out buckets to neighbors and co-workers.

But then reality gives me a lovely bounty that looks more like this:

It’s truly a blessing. It makes us eat better and we creatively prepare new recipes. The harvesting part is a ton of fun. But it’s not a ton of food (at least not like in my fantasy produce festival).

So comes my quandry: sharing. I simply don’t want to. And sometimes I do it anyway. And then I end up getting excited about it because I think other people will be excited about it. But most of the time I’m underwhelmed by the responses. Sometimes people say yum, but sometimes it seems almost like I’m forcing my produce on them.

For instance: my neighbor. She’s a vegan as far as I know and can easily see my garden getting bigger and bigger. I therefore feel compelled to share with her. And honestly I want to (but out of my fantasy garden). And granted, she’s like a city girl, indoorsy and wears makeup every day and all that. So she doesn’t get it. The labor, the love, the study, and sometimes the agony that I put into my garden. A small basket of various items along with a dozen eggs (for her non-vegan husband) is a gift. Or it would be if I didn’t give it so begrudgingly. I didn’t start out being so selfish I don’t think. She tells me thank you but never tells me if she ate it or liked it so I feel like my treasures are not appreciated. It makes me especially not want to share.

I think of this tonight because my neighbor previously mentioned that she’d like some squash because she loves it. So far we’ve gotten like 6 yellow squash which are to-die-for delicious and may be the best thing this year. I keep not being able to force myself to share those. I’ll expect to bring a couple over and they end up in my fridge. So tonight, with the discovery of a squash bug infestation of biblical proportions, I realized the two in my fridge may be the last.

I decided to tithe with the garden gods and give the two yellow squash to my neighbor, along with my largest ripe tomato, two peppers, a bunch of cherry tomatoes, and a few pretty small tomatoes. I texted her and asked if they were dressed enough for a two second veg drop off. She said “no lol 🙂 but tomorrow is fine”. Fine. Fine? Not great? Not awesome? Fine, you can bring them tomorrow if you insist.

Maybe I’m being petty. Splitting hairs because I’m upset about the bugs. So in order to elicit some passion or sympathy or something, I texted her that I’d been waging holy war on the squash bugs and that I may have lost. Her response: “Hahahahaha lol”.

The squash went back into the fridge.

Kale Yeah!

We ate some kale fresh, gave a lot to the chickens, but largely my spring crop was ignored.  The day I (finally) processed the chard, I already knew that the kale needed attention. And that was over a month ago.

My lovely abundant garden is a weedy mess. It’s time to start working on fall stuff (which will likely be minimal because I’m wearing down) and I really need to get in there and do some cleaning.  So I started with cleaning out the kale. 

The kale was tough and may not come out very good but we are going to eat it, damn it! 

Outside we washed it, pulled it apart, and deveined it. Then I brought the big washtub in and began processing it, batch by batch. I scooped up big bowls full, chopped it, sorted through it, washed it in a vinegar bath, transferred it to a plain water bath, then steamed it. After finding two cooked baby caterpillars, I freaked out and sorted through all the steamed stuff again, and washed it a fourth time before packing my jars. After two pressure canning batches (and about total 12 hours of kale fun) I was still quietly and secretly fretting over the amount of suprise protein that may be in the jars. 

But then I read this article and felt a hell of a lot better! My cans are probably worlds less buggy than the ones I buy. And they are poison free, to be sure! I tell my kids to eat earthworms if they ever get lost in the woods and so if they find a caterpillar, I’ll just tell them it’s their survival training. 

Cucumber Love

Many years ago I had a cucumber addiction and would visit a roadside vegetable stand almost daily, just to buy a few for eating whole. I mostly chalked it up as some cruel Freudian craving because I was very pregnant and Gordon was temporarily living a thousand miles away from me. However I apparently just truly love good cucumbers. 

I’ve never grown cucumbers before, but with all of the pickling experiments I’d been doing, I wanted to try and grow a pretty heavy yield. However, as was typical for this season’s start, I had germination problems. I planned for 30 plants and ended up with maybe 16-18 (I forget) of two varieties: Parade Pickles (heirloom seeds I picked up on Etsy) and Picklebush (Burpee).

I didn’t even realize that some cucumbers were climbers and some were bush variety until my dad told me that he always grows climbers for space reasons. Then I studied really hard to figure out what I had and how and where to plant them. Perhaps the name PickleBUSH would have sent a signal to a more confident gardener, but not me. I had to obsess for a few days, never sure that I had it right until the plants themselves showed me that all was ok.

Parade Pickles

I love the way my parades look. They are beautiful plants growing so prettily up their fencing trellis. The cukes themselves are dark green and almost perfect cylinders, becoming striped as they thicken.

Parade Pickle
Parade Pickle

The Parades have an almost floral flavor to them. Picked when small, the skin has very little bitterness. 

Picklebush

The Picklebush plants are wanderers, but not crazily. They are supposed to be compact for smaller garden spaces. 

Picklebush Pickle

Their color is bright green and I find that they are narrower at the blossom end, but that it seems to even out somewhat as they grow. The picklebush flavor is mild and delicious. They are a very refreshing summer snack and although I still prefer the smaller ones, the cukes that have been left on the vine for a couple of extra days are still great with almost no bitterness. 

Cucumbers, cucumbers, cucumbers! Oh how I will miss them when they are gone! Tuesday I picked enough to try a small batch of pickles. I found a recipe that I thought Gordon would enjoy — good old vinegar-based, shelf stable Bread and Butter.  (Food.com)

They turned out great! I was worried that I’d overcooked them, but I did not. They have a lovely crispness about them, even after cooking the pickles and the 10 minute water bath to seal ’em up good. Next time I will cut the sugar by maybe a third and make the pickle slices a bit thicker. Also maybe more onion would be good. I added a few cloves this time around. 

Today I assembled some tried and true lacto-fermented kosher dills (but tossed in a handful of green beans and a few jalapenos). Also found a cool idea online to pickle squash with basil instead of dill, so I’m trying that with garlic (and a few baby carrots for fun), also lacto-fermented. The dill I had stored in the freezer in a gallon bag because it was all ready when the pickle plants were newborns. The large leaf basil was freshly picked today.

I love the fermented kind of pickles for not only their healthy probiotic properties, but because they’re so easy to do! So far I’ve found that everything works well with a 3.5% salt water brine poured over whatever ingredients you like. Then they can sit (in a tray of some kind) on the kitchen counter for 2-3 weeks depending on what it is and how big the pieces are. (I did a chopped onion and it took forever!) The fermented pickles should get bubbly and then cloudy and usually they have some minor pressure explosions (hence the tray). And you can just keep tasting until they’re done. But tasting messes up the dynamics inside the jar, so it’s an adventure. 

I’m excited to try weird basil squash pickles. I’ll let you know what happens!

Gardeny Morning

Unusually crisp air and a bit of extra time made my morning trek around the yard especially nice.

Tomato Alley seems to be adapting well to being all tied up to stakes.  I haven’t grown Romas or Russian Queens before, but whichever these are, they are my tallest plants.

This guy is just adorable:

And in the old spring side of the world, wildness abounds.

The volunteer mystery squash is most decidedly a pumpkin.

This gardeny morning gave me a smile to take with me to work.