Friday, July 31, 2009

I Ate It.

And it was good. I ain't even gonna lie.

A girlfriend of mine was over for lunch and I chopped her up some yellow and green peppers from the garden for her salad. She found out I didn't eat peppers. When she deduced that I had never actually tasted a pepper before (apparently the lingering contamination of what you pick off of pizza doesn't count), she made it her mission to get me to eat them, but acquiesced to allow me to drown the raw slices in ranch dressing.

I can't believe it, but I was actually afraid. It's a strange feeling to be so afraid of a food that's benign. It's not like I was going to chomp down on a hissing cockroach. This was only a pepper. A stinky, fowl smelling, down right ugly pepper, but still only a pepper. I promise you I must have looked like the boy eating new food when he scrunches his nose, takes a deep breath, closes his eyes and surreptitiously bites off a smaller piece than would constitute the actual ingestion of the item.

The yellow pepper was actually good! It didn't quite make me want to sass my granny, but it was better than a sharp stick in the eye. The green pepper, however, tasted like tushy. Tushy and lighter fluid. Never again. I'd rather bury myself in sand and have a kid stand over me wiggling multiple loose teeth than get near another one of those again.

I'm proud. I ate new food that I grew in my own garden. Maybe I should add my own spot on the sidebar underneath the boy's and the girl's since they've remained pretty much stagnant in their eating patterns here recently.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Garden Blogger's Death Day: Cucumber Carnage

It's the last day of the month so you know what that means!! It's Garden Blogger's Death Day! It's when we can say I tried, but it died, and not feel poorly about it or ourselves.

Here you go sports fans. Steel yourselves, for I present you cucumber carnage with a side of beans and tomatoes. AAAAAHHHH!!!!! Oh the humanity! My eyes, my eyes!!!

I wound up just clipping off the entire trellis instead of attempting to unwind every last cucumber vine. I think the cost of new trellising would go under the "sanity expense" line in the checkbook. I've set them out in the yard to wither so it's easier to get them in a garbage bag (no compost pile here), but the rain has kept them from totally withering and now they're heavy and yucky. Hopefully it will dry out this weekend and I can bag them up then.

The lavender is a loss as well. Seems like the constant rain didn't agree with it. "Oh, look," you say, "it's in a pot. You could have just brought it inside." Could have. Didn't. Now it's dead. However, it is giving off a lovely cinnamon like scent which is nice.

Lastly, the tomatoes in pots are all done for. Every last tomato has BER and the leaves are chewed to bits. They'll be making an exit this weekend.I don't think I'll try tomatoes in pots again. The only thing that's done very well in pots has been my banana peppers. I'm most likely going to do more of these next year, but that may be the only ones I do which is a bit counterproductive because I don't even eat them. I'm most likely going to move two of the blueberry bushes to the larger containers that the tomatoes were in and I'll find something to do with the other pots.

No tears for me on this death day. We're making room for the fall crops. Woohoo!!!

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Peach Barbecue Sauce

***Second post for tonight** The first isn't gardening related, so I added this one as well.

This is the second time I've made this, and yet again, it has turned out more as a topping rather than a sauce. I don't have a food processor or chopper or anything, so I can only get a peach as finely chopped as my dull knife will allow. Regardless of the consistency, I love it. It's sweet from the peaches and has just enough red pepper flakes to make the back end burn (no, not that back end, silly). It's so easy to prepare. I got the recipe off of Ball's Fresh Preserving site under Zesty Peach Barbecue sauce. You can find the recipe here.

I was able to use peppers and the red pepper flakes that came from our garden, so I only had to purchase the peaches, onions and garlic. I had everything else at the house. Peaches are rather cheap here at the moment, so I thought to take advantage of it. Since mine is chunkier than a sauce, I put it on top of my chicken during the last ten minutes or so of its cooking time. I really, really suggest it. You can it in a BWB, so it's amazingly simple and dresses up baked or grilled chicken without much thought.

Try it!

The morning comes early. Sweet preserving dreams.

Early Mornings and Furloughs

The mornings come early. They always do, for after our gardening dreams, what better time is there than those first predawn moments standing outside with a cup of smooth coffee, surveying your garden from afar, with the moist air enveloping your skin and the damp earth caressing your nose. These are your minutes before the shower, the television or the screaming children assault your senses and manhandle you into the day. These are your few cherished moments to prove to yourself that you are alive, that this is your life, and you are content.

For ten months out of the year, mornings do come early at the Ribbit household. The alarm goes off at 5:00 AM, and the mad dash out of the house begins. Rarely is there time for those moments of solitude and reflection during the school year as there is over the summer, for it's still midnight dark when we leave the house. During the school year, the children's internal alarm clock runs on full tilt. Neither holidays nor weekends are sacred. 5:00 AM is morning, and morning for everyone it is. During summer vacation, however, the children are lulled into complacency and their natural sleep rhythms allow them to slowly extend their sleep, and I get my five minutes of surveying the garden-predawn bliss.

As luck would have it, just when the kids get used to the new pattern, it's time to go back to school.

Or is it?

I've been furloughed for the first two days of preplanning and then another day later in the school year. PLEASE note I'm not complaining about the pay loss. There are worse things in this world and my situation could be much more dire. We're one of two families in my neighborhood that has both spouses holding steady jobs, and the man had to let one of his employees go last Friday. Things could be much worse and that I'm not debating. So I loose three days of pay. It's not a big deal in the long run at all, but it does make me stop and think. I used to say that there were a few industries that would always be safe from the largest hits of any recession: people will always get sick, need food, and have children who need educating.

Yes, the last is a fact, but the government that relies on a lot of that tax revenue then get hit hard themselves. It's unavoidable.

Again, cut my salary if you have to. I don't teach for the pay, I teach because I have to. I'm not a whole person unless I'm in front of a classroom. You have to HAVE to do teach, or you can't and fail. The majority of us are like that. So you furloughed us for the first two days of the school year. You know we'll be bitter and fussy, but you also know we'll be there anyway because we teach, and we'll be D*&^ed if we're going to stand in front of our students on the first day not having our acts together. Those kids don't know 'recession' from a hole in the wall and they're not going to suffer because of it.

I may not have Kraft cheese on my sandwich next month (note tongue in cheek tone), but I'll be holding that Styrofoam cup of industrial strength, institutional coffee and surveying my students' progress as religiously as my garden's. I'm going to have my act together, and I will be content that first day. I will be content, and I'm not smiling until Christmas. :)

Rant over.
The end.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Zipper Peas/Cream Crowder Peas

My neighbor's mother-in-law grows zipper peas in Florida and sent back zipper peas to share. I just had to try to grow them, myself. They're cowpea like and also called crowder peas because of how the peas are "crowded" inside the pod. Cook them up with a few of the snaps intact and you've got some good, good eatin'.

I had a hard time finding them on-line and most of the places wanted more money than necessary for the seeds and for you to mortgage your house to afford the shipping costs which in most cases were more expensive than the seeds, themselves.

I went to a local farm supply store on a lark and sure enough, they had a four cubic foot bag just full of them. I took "a scoop" for $1.75. You can't beat that. Here's a picture of the bag minus a few hundred seeds I have already taken out.

The main bag did carry a yellow label which I wish I had gotten a better look at. I saw the words "Caution" and "Lower Than Average Germination," but for $1.75 for a scoop, I didn't think I could argue. The warning label was right. Sure enough, germination is about 20-30%. The seeds are covered in a pink coating which seems to absorb water and hold it in close to the seed, but all it seems to do is help the pea rot in the soil. I tried to uncover some of the seeds I planted a week ago and had a devil of a time finding any. The ones I did find were mostly rotted out.

I decided to try to pre sprout some of them in some paper towels. This way I'll get an accurate look at the germination rate and they'll hopefully take to the ground better once pre sprouted. Here you can see that the coating has already absorbed most of the water in the paper towel after only an hour.
The plants don't look like your average pea. Here's my Alaska peas. The tendrils are just now reaching out to grab the silly pea sticks I put out for them.
Here are two pictures of the zipper cream peas. Very different looking, aren't they; they're almost more bean looking than pea like.

I've read mixed statements on if they're a climbing pea or a short bush. Seems like no one has a good consensus. I put some string out there for them to run on, but it looks like they'll bush instead. I'll give them a week or so more and then take out the strings if it looks like they won't be using them. By then I'll also know if any of the second planting of peas came up and be able to fill the blank spots with the new crowder peas I'm trying to pre sprout. I've also heard conflicting things on if they're a fresh pea or ones you should dry first. I've tried to do my research, but I'm coming up flat. Anyone have experience with these or crowder peas in general?

I'm really, really, really hoping to get a good turnout from these guys. I'd like to have enough for a few dinners, but with peas, you always need much, much more than you'd think because once you shell them, you might as well have only picked two or three.

MMMM...peas. The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Congratulations! It's a...tomato hornworm?

Not quite the welcoming home present I was looking forward to, but I must say I was excited to see one of these up close. I had no idea just how large they really were. In spite of how destructive they are, I must say these guys were rather cute and very interesting to watch for a while. Yesterday I found two and today I found six more. All of them except for three today were hosting parasitic wasp eggs so they would have met their demise soon enough if I hadn't found them when I did. It was amazing to me that since they were hosts to eggs that I only found two of them yesterday. The white of the wasp eggs stuck out so clearly that I'm surprised I missed them at first. All eight of them had to be there yesterday, I'm assuming. Boy, do they camouflage well.

I took out the four romas in the corner yard and now only have the heatwave and celebrity growing in the side yard where I found the four hornworms. Those plants are doing so much better in that location since they get full sun. I'm thinking of moving all of my tomatoes and peppers over there next year. The side yard gets double the amount of sun as both corner yards and you can certainly tell the difference in production and general health of plants. The boxes back there are only two feet wide, but if I plant tomatoes and peppers in the back row of the longest box, I can plant smaller items in front of them.

I'm also looking in to moving the trellis up one square in the corner yard's large box. This way, I can plant on both sides of the trellis and double my square feet for trellising that box. I'm a bit worried that I'll destroy the entire trellis by attempting to move it and I couldn't secure the netting to the bottom anymore, but it's worth a shot. I could always weave a bit of pipe through the bottom of the mesh to weight it down. It's a project I might just start working on tomorrow instead of waiting for spring. If I can get it done, I may get one more planting of beans in and then have the extra space for my peas as well. How fun!

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vacationing in a Community Garden

You can take the garden away from the girl, but you can't truly take the girl away from a garden. :)

While we were visiting my grandmother in Laguna Woods Village in Laguna Woods, California, we passed by what at first looked like the remnants of an abandoned and overgrown storage facility. There was chicken wire covered structures, piles of debris, ladders and general insanity. I almost didn't give it a second thought until I spotted a PVC hoop house and a squash flower reaching through the main fence, hailing me as we drove past.

It was the community garden! The chicken wire served as plot dividers and trellises, the debris piles were composting and the ladders were to reach the citrus trees. It all made sense!! The man, the boy and the girl suffered through a walk through one of two community gardens the residents of the village can let. In total for the two gardening centers, there are 868 available plots, 253 fruit tree plots, and 89 shade house plots. To rent a 0-200 sqft plot, will cost you 26$ a year, up to a 400 sqft plot is $40 and a larger is $53. The residents can rent as many plots as they like although not exceeding 800 sqft. The only negative was that the centers are only open 3 days a week and only during limited hours, but they are locked to discourage vegetable theft, which is apparently rather prevalent.

We only walked through half of one of the gardens, but it was amazing. Each plot was cordoned off with chicken wire and judging by the monstrous bunnies we saw, it still wasn't enough. Here is a map of one of the garden centers. We toured the area to the left of the parking lot.

This garden boasted several awards that were attached to the chicken wire enclosure.

The beans were over flowing this trellis!

More beautiful beans. I've never seen so many flowers on one vine.This flower garden also had many awards. This was also the first time the man had ever seen a giant sunflower(not pictured here). The heads had died back already, but they were still majestic.

This gardener built her own little shelter with the squash vines. She was tending her garden and showed us her trumpet squash she was growing. She pulled that seed packet right out of her garden bucket, to show me while she pointed out the other things in the garden for the children.

Many gardens had signs which personalized them.

One gardener was very insistent that we take a cucumber that she just picked. What is it with gardeners, me included, always trying to pawn off cucumbers on others? We took it graciously, but she couldn't identify it for us.

It was interesting to see the difference in the plots. Some plots were very sculptural and some more casual. Some were totally flower based while others focused solely on vegetables. It was rare to see a plot showcasing both. As well, some were meticulously manicured while others, judging by the bolting broccoli and lettuce, had obviously not been tended in months. I mostly enjoyed the boy getting very excited when he recognized some of the leaves and flowers of plants that we grow in our own garden. It makes me feel like he's paying attention after all.

I've got to get out there to tend my own garden today. I found two tomato hornworms yesterday and ripped out some melons and all of the cucumbers. Powdery mildew is running rampant now and reaching over to the other corner yard to my butternut squash, but we did get some good rain last night. I'll post more of an update later today.

The Prodigal Gardener Returns

The garden could wait. The trip could not.

The morning comes early. Sweet, sweet family dreams.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Separation With a Little Less Anxiety

When you know you're leaving home for a week, is it crazy to seriously be considering a web cam for your garden?

I'm just askin'. Just kidding, but also just askin'. :)

We can't be in two places at once. Sometimes situations call for us to be away from our jobs or other responsibilities. This is why we have sick days, personal leave, vacation days, substitute teachers, and wonderful neighbors who water our gardens and promise to panic if they see a U-haul parked in our driveways.

You do all you can in order to be prepared to be absent for a span. Even if it's just one day, you clear off your desk, lay a writing utensil and paper pad at the ready, roll up the water hose, and store the fertilizer and gloves. So you may just happen to leave a cup of soapy water around the okra just in case a Japanese beetle roams by and decides to go for a swim. No one's begrudging you of that, but no matter your preparations to leave your garden, it still feels worse than dropping your dog off at the vet.

I'm not as gently neurotic as I was the first time I left the corner yard for the wedding in St. Louis. Then, things were new to me and I wasn't as secure in my garden. However, this time everything has fallen into place garden wise. The plan to have the high maintenance crops out of the garden by our trip has worked perfectly. The only things now producing are the tomatoes and peppers with a few melons lying around. The butternut squash and the bush beans may flower while we're gone, but everything else is in the seedling stage and those that do bloom can wait until we're home to harvest.

This trip, however, is different. We're going to California to visit my grandmother. She hasn't seen the children since the girl was three months old, and it's been-done time to go. I'm ecstatic, I'm thrilled, I'm giddy, I'm apprehensive, I'm nervous, I'm terrified.

It's a five hour plane ride. With a 5 and 2 yr old.

You can release that quick intake of breath you just took. Be grateful you're not sitting next to us.

Things will be the way they'll be. We'll get there. We'll get back. I'm not above a small shot of benadryl; I've bought suckers to stop up the mouths of the youngin's and chocolate to sooth the demeanors of our fellow passengers.

Yes, we'll get there. We've needed to get there for some time now.

See y'all in about a week. Sweet gardening dreams.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Luxuries, Potatoes and Butternuts

I figured buying all of the materials for the raised beds, seeds and transplants would be pushing the financial envelope enough without garden gadgets. I've been using my husband's shovel and a small little rake and hoe that I believe were once my mother-in-law's. However, most of my close in gardening is done with the boy's toy hand shovel and rake. They're metal and have the cutest little bumble bee handle, and he reminds me often that they belong to him and I need to ask before I use them.

I did purchase a stellar pair of gloves and once I burned the stems of my plants with sprinkled fertilizer, I bought this little beauty.

It's main purpose is to help distribute the liquid fertilizer from the bottle you insert on the other end, but it's real help is that you can switch it to use just water. The nozzle has different settings and my favorite thing is that the trigger locks on or you can turn the whole thing off.

I know many of you have drip irrigation, but the hose I use to water the corner yard doesn't have a nozzle at all and the hose for the other corner yard does have a nozzle, but it's so powerful it will kill you as soon as look at you, let alone shoot all of your soil and plants right out of that box. It really is better suited to pressure wash the driveway. :)

Now I can water with style and even take a break to talk to my neighbor over the fence without letting water run everywhere.

I'm a happy gal.

It's been a while since I've showed you the other corner yard. Things are moving along there quite nicely. The sweet potatoes are just now vining, although some are showing some very holy leaves and others just look quite funky.
The butternut squash looks like it will flower this week. This picture was taken last weekend.
The butternuts are rooting every so often like the sweet potatoes are. Call me ignorant, but I didn't know they did that. Makes me wonder when people say to trellis you take away its ability to get nutrients by not letting it root at every nodule?

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Friday, July 17, 2009


The banana peppers are still going strong and the cayenne peppers are turning red at an amazing pace. They're so beautiful! My oven doesn't go low enough and I don't have a dehydrator, so I'm trying to hang dry them. I wash them well and thread a piece of thick thread through the base of the stem of each one and tie the two ends together. I then take another piece of string and tie the length of peppers to the shelves in my cabinet door. Because they're hanging in a dark place (unless, of course, the door is open) they should retain most of their color.

The picture looks much nicer if you ignore my messy pantry door.

I'll probably grind these up and make some red pepper flakes.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Nurturing of an Assassin

Back in June, I took these pictures of a brood of baby assassin bugs that took up on my cucumbers. They were on the same cucumber for the longest time, but when they would travel, they traveled together. Each time I thought I could harvest that cucumber, I'd grab it to turn it around and get spooked by one or two of them on the reverse side of it. I could never harvest that cucumber because they always came back to it and I didn't want to upset them by taking away their little home.

I did start to notice this week that their numbers were getting fewer and fewer until there was just one or two left. These two were the only ones left as of yesterday and you can see how they'd grown and transformed over the last three weeks.

The dynamic duo decided to vacate the cucumber which I was finally able to cut off the vine, and now seemed to be happy on the leaf, yet I only saw one while I was out there watering this afternoon.

Goodbye little friends. There's plenty of work for you out there. Hang around as long as you wish. The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.
****breaking news****
The boy has just informed me he knows why dinosaurs are extinct. Apparently it was summer vacation, and they got so bored, their bones just fell out right there and then. This is apparently evidence enough to warrant going out for lunch and ice cream after our trip to the park tomorrow. I negotiated down to a picnic lunch, but said the ice cream sounded great. The Mayfield Dairy is right down the road. Ice cream for $1.50 anyone? We'll be there after the park.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In With the New

It's just amazing to me that our summer season is coming to an end right when a lot of the country, or for that matter, other countries, are just at the start of theirs. July and August here are just so hot, nothing sets fruit and everything complains.

I've found that the fall garden is much more difficult to plan than the spring and summer one. You have an idea of where you'd like to plant your fall crops, but they're dependent upon the summer crops finishing their production in time for them to mature before the frosts. I'm finding all of my fall planning is more fly by night and as long as I plant the shorter items in front of larger items, or at least when the smaller items have started to trellis, I'm good to go. I've drawn my grids and mapped where things will be planted. I did it pretty fast. It has me nervous.
Come August 1, there's going to be a lot of seed starting and veggie clearing, and the fall will be in full swing come September.

The last squash is coming out of the ground tomorrow. It's covered with powdery mildew and isn't producing. I'm debating whether to take out the cucumbers as well since they're not flowering. They may start again when it gets cooler, but by then it's time for the snap peas to go in. Since I ripped out the zucchini and first squash bush and it's gotten so hot that the cantaloupe and cucumbers aren't flowering anymore, the bees have just disappeared so whatever does happen to flower, goes unpollinated. Maybe it's too hot for the bees as well. Yellow jackets, however, are out in force.

New things are growing, however! In the space vacated by the first set of bush beans, I've planted rutabaga. Some are just now showing themselves. I hear germination is rather low with these guys, so I may have to replant them in a week or so, although I do have a few squares popping up. They can get rather large I hear, so I only planted two per square in opposite corners. Here's one that just came up today, but the picture is blurry. My camera is having difficulty focusing up close lately.

In the place of one zucchini bush and the squash plant, I've put those zipper peas I'm so excited about. Some are breaking ground already and hopefully will be ready to produce when the temps cool down late August.

Since the other corner yard had a blank box, I put some Alaska peas in which also are starting to come up. The late fall/winter sun never makes it to this part of the yard, so I hope they have enough time to produce before then.
I think we may have some good looking bush beans by the end of July.
The second set of pole beans are growing strong as well. I hope I can get them to adhere to the trellis.

The sugar snap peas will go in the first of August. I think I'm going to let them take all 9 sqft of trellis space I have in the back. Maybe this will get me enough to eat and freeze for the rest of the year. Any other idea of trellisable fall veggies?

The morning comes early, and the fall won't be far behind. Sweet gardening dreams.

How Sweet It Is

***I'm having a devil of a time publishing this sucker with the correct paragraph breaks. It shows it's correct in the edit view, but doesn't format right when published***

This morning, as I stood on the back deck and surveyed the garden, I said out loud to myself, "Where's my cantaloupe?" My largest cantaloupe usually hung off the side of the bed; you could always distinctly see it behind the foliage, but now it was gone. When I got to the bed, I confirmed it. The cantaloupe was no longer hanging from its vine. It was on the ground. Woohoo!! I read that ideally cantaloupes fall off the vine into your hand when they're ripe. This one didn't even wait for me, however it seemed to have had a little help from a few slugs that lingered on the empty vine, but the cut end smelled divine.
**Paragraph Break**
Here's today's harvest. I enjoy looking back at old harvest pictures and seeing how they change with the season.
I don't think I've picked jalapeno peppers in three weeks. I used three tonight and froze the rest.
**Paragraph break**
This is the beautiful melon before we busted into it.
And here it is in all its liquid gold beauty. It was fantastic.
Sweet, soft, juicy, purely delicious. Every once in a while you can get that perfect cantaloupe from the store that is so soft it actually tastes like cantaloupe and not just a colored, crunchy something-that-resembles-melon. This is that melon. This also marks a first for me. I've never grown a fruit before. I'd say this was an okay first shot.
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I updated the sidebar where I record the bits and pieces the kids eat. The boy did eat a piece. He kept telling me how delicious it was, but making that face which masks horror. The girl kept repeating over and over that it was delicious, she loved it, she very much liked it. She smelled a piece, licked it and sucked on it a bit, but I doubt she ingested any of it. It still counts.
***Paragraph Break***
Taking a page from Granny's book, here's our garden dinner tonight. We had a ground beef, potato, taco, chili whateveryouwannacallit casserole. From the garden was: tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers and okra.

Why would there be okra in something resembling a taco bake? Why is okra in anything. There's never enough of it to do anything major at one time so it winds up making cameo appearances in everything. :)

The morning comes early. Sweet, delicious, cantaloupe gardening dreams.

***And why did the paragraphs all of a suddent start working down here? I swear it has something to do with when you upload the pictures in relation to how much you've formatted and typed already***

Monday, July 13, 2009

Corn Will Soothe All Sorrows

The summer garden is on it's way out, I'm afraid. The zucchini and one squash plant were exterminated last week by the SVBs, the bush cucumbers, bush beans, and pole beans were ripped out some time ago. The vining cucumbers still have some on them, but they've stopped flowering. I suppose they're done as well. I've got a second set of bush beans that have yet to set and I just started some new pole beans and peas; the peas have yet to break ground and I'm anxious about them.

The next things to go, I'm afraid, are the second squash plant and cantaloupe, both of which are showing powdery mildew. I'm hopeful we can harvest the one cantaloupe before we leave town next week, but even though I'll be sad to lose those plants, again, it works well with the "have everything out of the garden before we leave" plan.

The only things out there still working hard are the tomatoes and the bell peppers. You know, we haven't gotten a colored pepper yet. They sure do take their time about it, don't they. Sweet potatoes are still looking strong; they have some holes in the leaves, but I'm not concerned. The butternut squash is also in the young stage, but looking nice and strong as well.

With everything either at the start of life or at the end, I have good news to report.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the boy has corn.

Or he will soon, hopefully. I went out there and tried to hand pollinate and shook them a bit just in case. I hear tell you need to do this every day for about 3-4 days, so we'll see how it goes. He wanted corn so ridiculously much and I'm so glad he may actually get some.

To revisit the tick issue from yesterday, this morning I asked my neighbor if he was having problems as well. He said his daughter had four on her just yesterday and the woman next to him has mentioned the tick issue as well. It's good to know that we're not the only ones, but goodness, that's a lot of ticks for the entire neighborhood to be having a problem.

We've got the bug man coming on Wednesday to take a look at things. He may not be able to do anything, but at least he's coming out. We'll just have to keep a close eye on ourselves until the situation abates.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ticks and Trellises

I am fed up with ticks. I don't know if I'm traipsing them in from the garden, if the dog is bringing them in, if they're availing themselves of our home by their own volition or what, but they have got to go.

I don't recall ever having ticks on me before, but I've had five lovelies this past month who have sunk their piercing jaws into me, held on, and wouldn't let go for love or money. I've found one on the boy, the man's had two and tonight, we found one on my mother that she obviously picked up at our house (No, Mom, I wrote it and deleted it three times. I'm not going to tell them where it was although now I'm sure they can all guess).

I'm done. I'm done. I'm done. I'm going to call and talk to our bug man tomorrow. There's not much he can do if they're hitching a ride on us from the outside in, but what if they've started their own commune or love nest or whatever. I'm highly irritated. Every time my hair brushes the back of my neck or something the like, I immediately think, "TICK!" and jump around waving my arms like I'm fighting a pterodactyl. The boy has even asked me to stop grooming him like a chimpanzee.


So what do I do to calm down? Go out to the garden, what else? :)

I planted another set of pole beans where the bush cucumbers and purple beans were in the side yard.

I was just going to let them sprawl all over the place, but I found these two short trellises 50% off, so I snagged them. They'll at least allow them a little height. Yes, I need to straighten up that yellow pear tomato. I'm thinking of running a line from the top of the retaining wall to hold it up.Speaking of which....This location gets really, really good sun all year, but it directly faces my neighbor's house, so I've tried to keep it tame, but I'd love to put a real trellis here for beans and peas. Questions: will beans/peas climb single lines or does it have to be mesh? Here's my thoughts. I could double up a few lengths of stringing by looping it around the top rail and securing the loose ends to the box. Now, I couldn't go straight down because that would be too close to the wall, but those boxes are only 2 ft wide. If I brought them down and secured them to the front of the box, it would give a slight slope to the line. I'm thinking individual string would be less unsightly and easily covered by the vines than full blown trellis weave.

Does it sound like it would work? Can you even envision it? If I can find a way to trellis this area simply when needed, I wouldn't have to erect an entire huge stand alone trellis for my other corner yard box.

While you're mulling that over, look back to the picture and then to the tomato bushes on the right. Do you see him?

Yup! There he is. Much happier, tucked away in his safe home. We're about to have our first thunderstorm since he came here. I know it's silly, but I want to go and bring him inside.

The morning comes early. Dream about that trellis idea for me, okay?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wolverine, Peas and Barbecue

Wolverine, the boy's Venus Fly Trap, has flowered. We've watched the flower stalks grow for days now and the boy was so happy to see that flower yesterday morning. Being that we know absolutely nothing about carnivorous plants, we never knew he would flower.

Again, since we knew nothing about it, we decided to look it up. It's pretty isn't it?

It's going to die now.

Apparently you should do everything you can to keep it from flowering and at the first sight of a flower stalk, you need to cut it off immediately and the plant may recover. Now that it's extended this energy to flower, and they're apparently pretty fragile plants, he's not going to make it much longer.

I'm having that "parent" moment when you feel like you need to run to the store for a replacement goldfish. It's silly, but he's really attached to that plant. He talks to it and tries to catch ants and flies to feed it. Maybe we can convince him it's a seasonal thing, but with his recent fascination and fear of death and dying, I'm not looking forward to it.

In the garden world:

The eggplant did not like the heat of June one bit and died back. They were in larger pots than the blueberry bushes were, so I transplanted two blueberry bushes to those large pots and then a third into a pot they vacated because it was larger than the pot the third one was in. Hopefully if I baby them during the next few days, they'll do well in their new homes.

I went ahead and planted some zipper peas where some of the zucchini was. I think I have until Aug 30 to plant peas and these are supposed to be rather tolerant of heat, so I think the rest of July and early Aug should be fine for them.

On a lark, I put some more beans in the side bed where the bush cucumbers and purple beans were. They're pole beans, so we'll have to rig something up for them directly, but I think they'll do fine.

The sweet potato vine is sprinting to fill the space the zucchini vacated. I'm finding differing bits of advice as to whether you should cut the runners of the sweet potato vine to make larger tubers under the main plant or let them grow and have many smaller tubers. I'm letting them run for now, but maybe I'll snip them closer to harvest time? Goodness, when IS harvest time for them?

I'm thinking the cucumbers are going to come out sooner rather than later. They aren't flowering anymore and the last 6-7 I've pulled off are bitter as the day is long. That's not good for the bread and butter pickles I made last night. I thought I smelled a bitter one, but dumped it in the bowl with the rest. Then the whiff hit me. I dug out as many as I could find, but someone ins going to have a few bitter bites. I don't think even pickling will save them.

I did, however, find peaches for next to nothing and canned some spicy peach barbecue sauce. I can't wait to try it.

Garden pictures coming tomorrow!

The end :)

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Death of an Institution - 6 Institutions, That Is

They found me. They always do. You can't hide from them. You can change your locations, till up your garden, move miles and miles away from anyone with anything resembling a garden, but if you plant, they will come. All you can do is stave off the attack. But you will loose. You always will.
Oh the humanity!! "All my pretty one? / Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? / What, all my pretty chickens and their dam / At one fell swoop?" The bones! Look at the bones!!! Ok, so the Macbeth bit is pushing it, and there are no bones, but still. Yuck (note whiny voice), I liked those plants. I suppose I can't be greedy with 20+ pounds of zucchini, but I'm still sad.

In case you haven't figured it out, the SOB's, oh, sorry, the SVB's (squash vine borers) got me. How in the world they found me I'll never know, but by the looks of it, they've been at it for quite a while. I didn't have to cut any of these plants open to view the carnage. What you see is how I found them.

Mixed feelings here. Yes, they were still producing fantastically, but they were all already tinged with powdery mildew and I was going to rip them out in a couple of weeks anyway when we went to California so I could start the fall garden when we returned. This just upped the time table a bit. I'm just fussy that those rotten SVB's dictated when it would happen.

Things are looking up, though. I found the zipper peas I was looking for at the local feed store. I think I can actually plant them in the spaces the zucchini vacated and still get them in on time. I know they vine pretty fiercely, but I'm going to try to do it without trellising them if I can.
It does look empty down there now, but I'm looking forward to the peas.
I went to the store to buy more compost to fill in some beds , and yes, I asked for help this time...the girl kept showing the boy who helped us "Mommy's boo-boo" which erased any pride comeback I might have had. I don't know if it came from the compost which is the most likely or in the bed itself, but I pulled up the most amazing, massive earthworm you've ever seen. I'm half positive it came from the compost bag as I've never seen hide nor hair of an earthworm of any sort around this place, but both kids saw it slither out and were so amazed they tripped over each other to go get the man to come see it.
I suppose everything has a silver lining, right?
The morning comes early. Dream of earthworms, not SVB nightmares.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pride Cometh Before the Fall, Although Just Barely.

JenGC left a comment on yesterday's post that, "There is never a dull moment at the Ribbit house huh!" I got the comment after stumbling in from running our morning errands. I don't think JenGC knows how right she is. We don't even have to stay home. The drama follows us.

Our last stop of the morning was to run into the Wal-Mart to get some coffee and bleach, not to be consumed together, of course. While I was there, I picked up two 40lb bags of compost to scratch into the dirt where the bush beans were so I could plant some rutabaga. Usually when picking up soil bags, I like to balance the bag across the shopping cart like I do dog food in order to make it easier to get my arms around it to transfer to the car. No such luck here. The cart was far too wide and the bags too short to drape across. I knew when the bag hit the bottom of the cart that this was going to be trouble, and toyed with the idea of asking the register lady to call some help, but decided to hoss it out, myself.

Not the best decision of my life.

I got the first bag out and in the car just fine, however, my grip slipped on the second bag, so I balanced it on the side railing of the cart to adjust my hold. It's amazing the things your mind can process in an instant. The cart began to tip towards me and I knew instantaneously I was going to fall backwards. I judged my position, knew I was neither going to hit the cart return to my right or my rear view mirror on the left and was pretty sure I'd miss the curb behind me. Not fully trusting the calculation between my head and the curb, I made the distinct decision to let go of the bag and thrust my elbows behind me just in case the curb was closer to my head than I thought.

I fell completely backwards. Letting go of the bag, the only thing that kept me weighted forwards, resulted in propelling me backwards like a slingshot, but I judged correctly and got my elbows beneath me just enough to only tap my head on the asphalt.

I swear. You can't make this stuff up.

I lay there for just a second, trying to work out what happened, then I heard the boy in the car wailing that his mommy was dead. The shopping cart was on its side; the compost was now flat on the ground and I knew there was no getting it up with my Bert-and-Ernie arms. To make matters worse, the man who witnessed the entire show and who was parked just on the other side of the cart corral, snickered and pulled out of his parking space without a hi-de-do.


A few seconds later, someone did come by and say he didn't see it, but his daughter yelled straight in his year as she watched me fall, so he came to help. I choked down my pride, decided to be a girl, and let the man pick up the cart and cow excrement. I thanked him for helping and told the little girl she had a gentleman for a daddy, something every girl should wish for.

By the by, the boy was still sobbing throughout this because Mommy's elbows were bleeding and he was convinced I had broken a bone and his mommy was dying and wouldn't be his mommy anymore and the police were going to come get him, but he didn't want a new mommy and what would happen to his sister, but I wasn't really going to get in the car with those bloody elbows, was I? Because that would make a mess.

The girl, who henceforth had remained silent on the issue says, "Mommy, you fall. You silly goose, Mom. Mommy, whydju do that? "

I don't know why, but I do know I'm incredibly grateful I moved both kids to the car before I started unloading the cart. It's something I always do without thinking, but now I know it's for good reason.

So now I'm sitting here, several hours later, the impact still lingering in my elbows, waiting for the feeling to return in my little fingers and nursing my bruised ego with peach cobbler.

Those rutabaga had better be worth it. :)

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's Here! It's Here! It's....Santa Claus?

When Kate from Gardening Without Skills said that my comment had randomly been chosen to receive the gnome she was giving away, I originally thought it was a 'virtual' gift and was just tickled to be able to post a picture of it on my sidebar. But true enough, the gnome was tangible; it arrived at the house and the gnome's features expressed an eagerness to be out of his box and in his new garden home so he could get to work.

Rather, this, of course, is what he would have been thinking had a 2 yr. old not intervened. I had my back to the counter while digging the refrigerator for dinner. The girl declared it was Santa Claus sitting there on the counter. I agreed, and humored her, for yes, in spite of its yellow coat, pointy hat, greenish pants, and watering bucket, it did have a beard and all things with beards are Santa Claus. My foray though the refrigerator must have masked the sound of a chair being lugged across the floor, for the next thing I knew, the girl snatched the gnome and tore off through the house kissing and super speed rocking it. I just knew she was going to break it.

To ensure the gnome's inevitable fate, I dropped the bucket of beans and took off after her. The dog caught wind of the action and chased me chasing the girl super speed rocking and kissing a brand new, breakable, gift gnome that I was going to be dam*&$ if it were to break before I got it in the garden to get the chance to decapitate it myself with the sprawling water hose. It didn't help the commotion that the boy jumped on the ottoman and broadcasted a play by play of the dog chasing me chasing the girl super speed....well, you get the picture.

When it was all over, I do believe the lovely gnome rolled his eyes and pleaded to go home to Kate and Crew.

Here he is, after much initial excitement, all in one piece, and in the side yard guarding the tomato bushes with all his might. He was moved in between the two tomato plants after his photo shoot where he'll be more protected from the hose, 2 yr old rascalls and able to survey and maintain the side yard to perfection. He's an absolute dear and I love him already. He, on the other hand, is kindly reserving judgement on us.

Thank you, Kate!

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.... Gnome, get to work.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Vegetable Conspiracy - Revisited

I was walking around the garden this morning, trying to see if one of my zucchini bushes has truly lived out its life, when my neighbor's girlfriend's father (I'll give you a second to follow that...ready?) popped his head over the fence, scared the fool out of me, and began talking about my tomatoes. He waxed on about never being able to grow any, his plants this year not ripening quickly enough, and how much he just loves fresh tomatoes from the garden for his salads.

I took the hint and pulled 7 ripe Romas off and handed them to him across the fence. He was just as thrilled to have them as I was to give first. Then, I remembered. He used the word 'salad' the summer time.

A few months ago, I posted about the distinct possibility of there being a conspiracy within the vegetable world whereas when you have all of your lettuce, radishes, and peas for your salads, your tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are yet but well protected seedlings and have yet to see the light of day. (You can click to go to the original post. I'll wait...OK, ready?)

His comment about a summer salad (this would be one with lettuce and not pasta as the vegetable gods would have us believe) brought everything back to memory. The powers that be in the vegetable world have got us hoodwinked. They try to bamboozle us in the summer by inundating our gardens with beans, squash, peppers, tomatoes, okra, melons, and zucchinis enough to feed a small country in the hopes that it will escape our notice that we are without the main component in a basic salad, and that's 'salad' as in the real thing, baby, with lettuce, peas, carrots, red cabbage, radishes and more. The same holds true in the fall and winter, for then we're occupied with Cabbage Lopers, ravenous squirrels, rogue ravens, and frost and freeze warnings which hold our attention just long enough for us to not long for those plump, shiny, red orbs.

I call shenanigans. You may have won this round, but the gardener will prevail. For we can make salsa with those tomatoes and peppers, and fresh fall or spring lettuce goes awfully nicely on a taco salad.

The morning comes early. Sweet veggie mingling dreams.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pain and Wonder

Last night I canned some fantastic salsa from a recipe on GardenWeb. My neighbor laughed at me. She could funnel salsa all day long whereas I don't usually touch it, but I've come to realize I don't like my salsa cold. I like it heated through and this salsa when heated to cook was good. Fantastic at that, but whereas I had some of the ingredients from the garden, I had to supplement. I canned it, it worked amazingly well and now it's sitting its purdy self on my shelf. Hopefully when I open a can in a month or two it won't kill us all, for this could end up being "The Coroner's Yard," yet.

Note to self...your hands may have stopped burning quite some time ago from the capsicum in the peppers you cut for the salsa, but that means nothing to your eyeballs when you go to take out your contacts or even put them in the next morning. And yes, the hottest pepper I cut was a little jalapeno. Yes, I'm a wuss; yes, I've been told it before. I still say peppers smell badly, but I've got respect for them now.

Today, I just HAD to find something to do with that gargantuan zucchini. We've got tons sliced and shredded in the freezer, we're not relish eaters, and I know that it's not safe to can zucchini without a pressure canner, which I'm not interested in. But, what I could do is make some zucchini salsa and freeze it! Yay, more salsa!!

You'd think I'd remember to wear gloves, this being less than 5 hours removed from the morning contact experience.

Yeah, me too. But anyway, I made the salsa, got rid of the Goliath zucchini and two of his friends, but the recipe called for nutmeg. I'm not a big nutmeg fan, but I put a bit in. It's not as good as the one I made last night, but it's something new, the zucchini is used, and it's in the freezer.

Harvests are getting smaller. Here's today's. The bush cucumbers over in the large bed are going to get pulled out tomorrow. They've produced one cucumber to the same seeds in the side bed's 20 lbs. They're dying back, have no new blooms and just not worth the water. I still have a few on the vining cucumbers to last the month.

I put the tomatoes on the counter to use for tomorrow's picnic, but I took the red chilies and strung them together to dry.

I hung them in my cabinet in the dark to try to maintain their color, but I've got no idea what to do with them. Seriously, I'll never use them in anything and my new found respect for a measly jalapeno is not helping me look at these things favorably.

But on from the pain to the wonder....

There's just something cute about a baby cantaloupe. There's not much more in the garden which could possibly be cuter.

Except a baby watermelon. Smile for the camera, baby watermelon!

Now grow, darn you, grow!
The morning comes early, but I'm still stalling since I'm afraid to take my contacts out. Sweet gardening dreams.