Sunday, June 27, 2010

Potato Berries and Bat Houses

So, turns out that potato berries are actually the seed pods of potatoes, and that if you are truly DIY and punk rock you can grow potatoes from SEED you save yourself from these berries, as explained here. (also, OMG what an awesome blog! so glad I found her even if she stopped blogging last year)
I don't think I am that punk rock, but it's good to know.
Now, on to the dilemma of where to put my bat house. It has to be fourteen feet off the ground. I obviously want it near the garden (for pollination and mosquito control) but I don't want it to be too noticeable because our neighbors already think we're weird--don't want to have to explain why I am inviting bats to my homestead. Yes, I should relish the opportunity to demystify bats. But I have to admit I don't really relish it.
Anyhow, so it seems that erecting a pole specifically for the bat house would call too much attention to it. I'd nail it to the black walnut tree but right now it is covered in poison ivy and I am totally afraid of poison ivy. So, it should probably be attached to the house. I don't want it too near a window because as much as I LOVELOVELOVE bats, I don't want any accidentally flying in a window and having babies that can't get out until the spring. So, I was looking at the house today and for the first time ever noticed this:

I don't know what those pieces of wood are actually about but they seem to be the exact dimensions of the bat house and dang it, there goes that magical garden luck again. I'll report back when the bat house has arrived.

Fourteen Beans, a New Mystery, and a Brilliant Scheme

This morning I planted FOURTEEN varieties of beans. Certainly I don't expect them all to be successful, but I kinda let my fancy take me when it came to placing bean orders and well, some of them were just so cute I couldn't pass them up. I've got some pole and runner varieties(which have all been planted around the corn stalks) and a bunch of bush varieties, both fresh eating and drying. Some are ok in both forms, so hopefully I can enjoy plenty of fresh beans in the late summer and then some dried beans in winter. I am most excited for the Mayflower Pole Bean, which is said to have come over on the Mayflower and been maintained in the Carolinas to the present day (and which shares a name with my street!) and the Calyso bush bean, which is the cutest bean ever. It looks like a cow! I'm also looking forward to some straight ahead snap beans---Bountiful stringless(an heirloom green), Cherokee Wax and Romano Gold (yellows)
I did not innoculate any of my beans so I am hoping for the best. Next year I am determined to get innoculant--in fact, I may just go ahead and order it with my winter seed order to make sure I have it on hand.
So, the planting of the beans corresponds to the ripping out of the peas. I plucked my final snap pea harvest today---it was sad, but the hot hot weather does not make for sweet peas. The bed looks totally different now:

More sun for the basils and okra. More room for the BROCCOLI and CAULIFLOWER OMG. I am going to try direct seeding them. I don't have super high hopes but we'll see. The garden this year has been all about incredible luck so maybe it will work out with the brassicas too.
On the incredible luck front, here's a sampling of the volunteer tomatoes:

Clearly, not all of them are going to be black cherry. Some of them definitely are, but I can see three distinct shapes to the baby tomatoes we have going so far. I am thrilled.
Here is something I don't remember seeing before:

These are some kind of fruits growing on my POTATO (specifically Yukon Gold) plants.
I will immediately google this to figure out what is going on, but I was kind of shocked to see them today. What could it mean? Besides this mystery, things in potato and onion world are looking hella good. I think it is going to be time to harvest the first potatoes REALLY soon. I cannot wait.
And now to my brilliant scheme. You may remember my enormous volunteer butternut squash from the last post. Here are a couple of shots now:

It's out of control and has completely taken over the small bed where I planned to plant some brussels sprouts. I had just decided to give in to it and let it have the box when I spied this:

I trashpicked this ladder a long time ago, thinking I would use it for something in the garden. Originally it was going to be for the peas, but then we forgot. Then it was going to be for the beans, but then it turned out that I got more bush varieties than climbing varieties, so I didn't need it. But how about this: I could plant the two ends firmly in the ground, tie it together at the top (in a triangle formation) and then DRAPE this enormous squash vine over it! All the squashes could rest on the ladder rungs. Dude would be up off the ground, giving me actual planting space back! I am so excited and proud of myself for having this idea, but there is no way I am going to try to execute it now in the 80 and climbing heat. But the idea is there, and I think it will work. Huzzah.
I leave you with a few other garden scenes for good measure:
Quickie, the fabulous hybrid corn-

Salad box finally taking off! That lettuce is looking so lucious-

The cucumber vines are starting to climb!

My asparagus is coming back, thanks to some love and compost tea from Rebby-

Two artichoke plants seem to be making it! So excited-

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Early Sunday Garden Photos

For some reason this morning I popped awake at 5:30am with "Doin the Butt" by EU in my head. It didn't seem like it was going to go away, so I thought I would get up and take advantage of the early morning hours. I love my garden at all sorts of times of the day, but early morning when the dew is on the leaves is a particularly magical time. I think I have farming in my blood, maybe.

You have no idea how much this means to me. In fact, after taking this picture I put these guys in a vase so I can admire them for the rest of the day.

Here's the yukon gold and white onion patch. The potatoes are flowering now which means very soon I will be digging them up and enjoying their yellow fleshed goodness.

The other potato varieties are growing like crazy and starting to flower too!

These gorgeous sunflowers came back in the wildflower box. They are flanked by some ornamental kale seed fronds. I don't know if you've ever let kale go to seed but it's a pretty incredible thing. Each of these fronds contains thousands of tiny seeds. Maybe I'll have a kale yard next year!

The snowpeas and shelling peas are about done, but the sugar snaps are just getting started. They are so delicious. Love.

I finally weeded the strawberry patch and tried to train some of the suckers to go in the direction I would like them to go. I have read a very Nancy Drew method is to stick them in the ground with bobby pins...I wonder if I still have any of those around?

Giant mystery squash takes over the world! Seriously, it is taking over the box where we had the spinach, and it is completely shading out some carrots that were planted in there too. I will let it do it's thing in hopes that it is indeed a butternut and I get several pounds of surprise butternut squash like I did last year.

It's flowering!

The salad mix is finally taking off in the salad box by the side of the house, but I planted some out in full sun too just to be sure.

Early Sunday Garden Photos, PT2

Rhubarb! My dad asked for an apple-rhubarb pie for father's day. My rhubarb isn't ready yet (next year) but I am happy to know it's his favorite.

The radishes. These daikons are FINALLY making roots, but the weird heirloom radish mix I planted seem to all start forming roots and then pushing up out of the ground and growing sideways. I don't know what this means.

Here's a tiny pepper on one of the plants we bought from Garden Dreams. I'm not sure what kind it is.

The oregano and sage are totally going to seed already because of the early hot weather. I REALLY need to divide these plants because they are getting overcrowded in their box. Maybe I'll transplant some to the front of the lot.

There will be okra!!!!

Volunteer morning glory. I love this color.

Close up on one of the marigolds. They are humungous!

Behold kohlrabi! I can't wait to crunch into these fellers.

Here's the recently harvested red russian kale, and the sea of dragon carrot tops before I pulled them up. You might be able to just see how they are close to choking out some pepper plants.

Here's a wide shot of the greens post-harvest. Everything seems to be coming back!

My first real successful carrots. These are called Dragon Carrots and they are gorgeous red and very tasty.

Here's my wild and wooly dill patch, with some parsley and cilantro mixed in. I really need to reconfigure this bed because it is super hard to weed without stepping on stuff, especially where my artichokes and asparagus are at the back.

Cucumbers! From the righthand side: poona kheera, hmong red, and orient express, a fast growing pickling cuke. I am excited for them!

Here's a close up of my sweet corn---this is Quickie, a hybrid variety that I grew last year successfully. The corn is just about high enough now that I can start planting beans!

Here's a very closely sown patch of chinese cabbage. I am surprised at how row like it is because I don't normally sow greens in rows. Obviously I am going to have to do some serious thinning. I think I was sowing these seeds right before a rainstorm and going too fast.

Here is the new tire of Caribe purple potatoes I planted. I had so many seed potatoes left over I felt bad, so I started some new ones. I'm excited to see them.

This is what the chard looks like after last Sunday's massive harvesting. Chard will always come back, sometimes better than ever.

I am really excited to be growing some Hopi Blue Field Corn for grinding into flour. This number of corn stalks might make enough for one batch of tortillas, but it is an endangered species and I am happy to help it keep going. And next year if we have the lots for real I am going to grow SO MUCH CORN along the fence.

Blackberries! They're still red, but look how big and lucious they are!

Finally, arugula. I tried starting it two different times in the small salad box where it grew like crazy last year with no luck. Maybe the varieties I have this year need more sun? In any case, I am glad to finally have salad going gangbusters.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Another Productive Day In Paradise

It's not really paradise....the TV room is still in a state of construction, the shower is leaking, the basement is damp, both toilets really need to be cleaned....but it was a super lovely day and we got a whole lot done. So it felt like paradise. And it's paradisical to have a weekend off together these days...doesn't happen too often anymore.
So, we got up and had some waffles for breakfast and made a plan for the day. Basically rebby worked outside and I worked inside. She mowed both lots and weedwacked and macheted ALL DAY LONG. Our weed situation was pretty out of control in the front of the house thanks to all the rain, but she took them all down. We had a huge weed wall along the front of the adjacent lot, and she took that down too. It was mighty impressive.
Inside, I tackled laundry, including washing all the flannel sheets to put in storage. I don't know I'll get them into storage today, but at least they're all clean. I also CLEANED OUT THE REFRIGERATOR. Like, not only did I take everything out and wash down all the parts, but I got rid of all the condiment bottles that had a quarter inch of stuff in the bottom, and I tossed a couple jars of fermented stuff that didn't pass the sniff test. (As long as the food is submerged in brine you can keep fermented foods in the fridge for a REALLY long time, but there were a couple jars of kimchi that seemed a little dry on top and didn't smell lovely. So out they went.) Then I took everything out of both freezers and inventoried them. We are usually pretty good about keeping track of what's in the freezers and what we use, but since we just got a whole bunch of new meats I thought it was worth doing a new list. And sure enough, we had forgotten to cross some things off the old list, so were laboring under the illusion that there were more pork chops than there actually were. But now it's all up to date.
Another indoor project today was blanching and freezing a bunch of those greens I harvested yesterday. I'd love to eat them all fresh, but there is just no way we'd get to them quick enough, and nothing makes me sadder than vegetables I GREW going bad in the fridge. So I blanched and froze some snow peas, shelled peas, kale, chard, and beet greens. I kept the spinach out for salads and one bag of beet greens for fresh stir frying. And there will be more peas of all stripes for sure...though it looks like the snow peas and shelling peas might be done pretty soon. I don't know if the chard will come back again or not, but I've got a whole new crop of red russian kale, and the kohlrabi leaves to contend with. And collards are starting to sprout too! Lordy.
Finishing off the uber productive day by making peppermint stick chocolate ice cream, and gravlax. It's been a really good day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Some More Garden Pictures

Our Farmlet!

It's coming up on 4pm and like real farmers, rebby and I have put in a full day's work already. We anticipated a rainstorm (which hit about an hour ago) but wanted to do a lot of work in the garden beforehand. So after a really beautiful night at the Point listening to Kris Kristofferson sing like a prophet over the cell phones and innane conversations of stupid people all around us, we went to bed early and got up early and headed down to the Strip to replenish the protein coffers. I got a big wad of catering money this week, so it was a super happy coincidence that our favorite grassfed beef man (Patrick from Harmony Hill Farm in Evans City) and the chicken man (West Liberty Farms) and the Salmon People (Wild Alaskan Salmon Company) AND the lamb lady (Pucker Brush Farm)were all there. Our Pork People (Heilman's Hogwash Farm) were there too, but we are all set on pork. So we got a giant brisket, and two ny strip steaks, and a bag of ground beef. A whole chicken, two sockeye salmon filets (one of which is going to be gravlax in short order with garden dill!) and two pounds of ground lamb. It's a great feeling. I had to stop in Wholey's for butter (they stock the amish roll butter and unsalted butter in big chunks which keep nicely in the freezer) and they had wild caught Mahi Mahi on sale, so we got one of those as well. That will be tonight's dinner. After stocking up on tortillas and Reynas and a few other odds and ends at Stamoolis, we headed home. Unpacked the groceries and headed right back out to do recycling and get a load of garden soil. Most of the first load went to the potatoes---three of them (the Swedish Fingerlings, Red Clouds, and Buttes) got their third and final tire today, and I dumped a bunch of dirt on top of the Yukon Golds too. I had ground planted them because I read that they didn't really respond to hilling, but the plants were getting so tall I thought it couldn't hurt to give them some more soil. We'll see. The Caribes are lagging behind a little, but I'm sure they'll catch up soon. I started one more tire of Caribes today too, just because I had so many seed potatoes left and I felt bad for them. And there aint nothing wrong with having more potatoes, right?
So we dumped most of a truckload of dirt on the potatoes, and then rebby went to get another truckload while I started the girl chores of laundry and washing out all the accumulated plastic bags on the counter. There were a LOT of them. Now they are waving in the breeze on the clothesline (after taking another shower in the rainstorm.....hope the sun comes back out to dry them!) When rebby got back we unloaded the second load of dirt and I made a bunch more Three Sisters mounds. I am trying to grow blue hopi field corn as well as Lucious, Country Gentleman, Stowell's Evergreen, and Quickie. The first and last are hybrids, the middle two are heirlooms. I have high hopes but low expectations about my ability to grow corn. Last year we had a total of six ears, I think.....but I only planted six plants. This year each mound has six plants in it, so hopefully the yield will be better. I can't wait till the corn sprouts so I can start planting beans! I have, I kid you not, FOURTEEN varieties of beans. Some of them will go in the raised bed where the peas are when the peas are done, but most of them will grow in the Three Sisters mounds where they can climb up the corn stalks. Then once the beans sprout, I plant the squashes around them. Woo!
Besides the corn, I planted some bok choy and mustard greens today in the spots where I pulled up the early beets earlier this week. I got a nice looking beet crop! So pleased since last year I only got tiny roots and big bunches of leaves. This year the spring beets did a much better job of forming beets. We're going to eat some of them tonight, marinated in balsamic vinegar and grilled. With some goat cheese on top. Oh yes.
Afer all the planting, I harvested. The chard was out of control and the spinach was bolting already! So I cut a big laundry basket full of greens. Then picked through, washed, spun and bagged em. Three gallon bags of chard, one of dinosaur kale, one of spinach. Feels good. We are stocked up!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Let's Not Forget the Kales

I am a champion grower of kale. Here is photographic evidence.

This is actually kohlrabi, but you can eat it's leaves like kale.

And this of course is actually chard, but again...kale like.

Here we go. We had our first red russian harvest last night, steamed with butter and salt. Delish.

I really love the dinosaurs. I've seen photos where the leaves are like 3 feet long, but I doubt mine will get there. It's just too yummy!

The whole gang.