Monday, November 30, 2009

Harvest Monday AND Garden Blogger's Death Day

How coincidental is it that harvest Monday falls on the same day as this month's Garden Blogger's Death Day.

Let's start with the life: While watching the man cut down the tree yesterday, I got a little hungry, so I went to the garden for a snack and pulled out a carrot.

I can officially say that I can grow carrots. This thing was a monster and fed both me and the man. Look how the end is bowed from where it reached the bottom of the bed and ran into the hard ground. We didn't even have to peel it. I just washed it in the spigot and it was good to go!

As for the death, they're not technically 'dead' yet, but the cayenne and banana peppers in the pots on the front walk have got to go this week. We never ate the banana peppers like we should have and I have more cayenne peppers than I know what to do with, being that I've never used a cayenne pepper in my life. I've dried them, hung them, and stored they sit. They sure are pretty, however.

So, enjoy this iconic day, for the harvest is the soul of the garden that death can delay or take away , but never diminish its wonder.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Felling of a Giant

****ADENDUM**** When my brother-in-law came back this afternoon to fetch the remaining wood, he showed us where the tree had already split straight down and was ready to fall. We had no idea it was already split. I'm glad we didn't give it the chance to fall.****

Having a nemesis can be a great thing. It fuels your ire, thwarts all your well honed plans and jumps up and bites you when you least expect it.

When your nemesis is below you on the Chain of Being, you may just have a chance.

Back in April I posted about my nemesis, a massive oak that overhangs the garden, and, subsequently, the house. There's one limb in particular that fuels my ire because it overhangs the garden and delights in dropping bushels of acorns on my beds which must be primed to sprout and dig in for glory as soon as they hit the earth for those suckers sure do root fast. This same limb thwarts all my plans for garden design since shade is a fierce antagonist to growth. Well, we saw the limb's ante and raised it the full tree, for as you see below, the tree was growing out from behind another large oak, just reaching for the sun,

and the sun just happened to be in the direction of the house. So, the story goes that we had a dead pine in the forest that needed culling, and my brother-in-law knew a good tree climber who took care of it right quick.

We pointed him in the direction of the offending limb, and it went the way of the pine.

However, once cut, we could truly see that it was the tree, itself, that was the danger to the house, so down it came.

And now there's a blank spot where the beautiful oak used to be.

When we moved into the house, the oak was one of our favorite things, yet we've had numerous trees fall all around us and knew this one to be a danger in our soil. Yes, it's straight Georgia clay, but with all the rain we've had, the oaks are toppling one by one. It's better to be safe than sorry. I'm thinking it may have granted the garden a half an hour to an hour more sun....that is if it doesn't do as a good nemesis should and bite me in the end by giving the other trees more room to spread out and hinder the sun if not as much, then certainly more so than the original branch did. You know, I'd almost be disappointed if it didn't.

Until then, we've got a cool little two tiered stump from which the kids can play, "King of the Hill."

I'm thinking our holiday cards from now on will be taken right here, in honor of my nemesis.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Trains, Templates, The Continental, And My Father

My dad's a neat guy. He's knowledgeable about just about everything and can build, create or remodel anything you give him. He rebuilt the basement as an apartment for my sister, installing an entire kitchen and laying tile in some intricate patterns. It looks fantastic.

By profession, my dad was/is a graphic artist. He drew this train for the boy when he was born:

Yes, that's all hand drawn. Isn't it fantastic?

He's also fun-loving and does the best impression of The Continental that I've ever seen:

Ok, so he's the only loon I've ever seen dress up as The Continental, but who's counting.

So when I called him about making a template for the square foot/raised bed garden and showed him a picture of one from someone else's blog, he went ahead and made me one. It's just fantastic! I'm spatially challenged, and this willy-nilly planting I've been doing has me irritated. This is going to make things so nice and neat next year.
I think he's going to do a 16 hole one for radishes and carrots which will be equally amazing. We tossed around the idea of hinging four of them together to either fold together to use as a single square or unfold to make a 2x2 planting block. Now THAT would be awesome since most of my varieties are planted in large blocks like that.

A few weeks ago, I posted pictures of him cutting up his black radish. When I took the picture of the template, he made the comment about always being the hand model, so here he is in his full glory.

Thanks, Dad!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Hopefully you got to spend time with your families as we did. It's been a long day and even a longer night. The girl is so over tired she can't settle down. Right now, she's pitching a fit on her floor. Hopefully she'll fall asleep there and I can move her to the bed in an hour or so.

I pulled some of the kohlrabi from the garden. More came out than I needed. Because of the close spacing, when one came from the soil, it invariably brought another with it. Dan was completely right! It tastes just like a cabbage with a small finish of light radish. It was really good sliced raw and dipped in some ranch. Here's a picture of the veggie tray, made completely from veggies from the garden. It's so nice to see it all come together like this.

We also had a curry chicken ball as an appetizer. I loved it, but I'm thinking curry is something you either love or hate, even if it's in small doses.

Instead of making a sweet potato casserole or souffle, I took all the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and marshmallows and made individual casseroles right in the potatoes themselves.

I tried to get a picture of the turkey, but by the time I got to it, it had already been carved.It was a wonderful night.

Actually, it was even better because of something my father made for me. I was so crazy-excited I jumped up and down, and what's better is that it's garden related! I'll post about that tomorrow.

The morning comes early...and even earlier now that it's already 10:53 and the girl just fell asleep. Sweet gardening dreams.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kohlrabi Is as Ready as It Ever Will Be.

I know they're not large, but they're as big as any I've seen in the grocery store recently, and I'm not thinking they'll be destined to grow much larger based on the crowded conditions. I really planted too many of them too close together.

I went back and looked at Dan's old posts on his kohlrabi and he says he uses them in slaw and they have a nice, almost radish like I serve them sliced and then raw with bit of ranch dressing?
I have a HUGE fear of the cheese grater or any grater for that matter. I sliced off almost an entire knuckle once and don't relish doing it again. If I could slice them and serve them raw, they'd go good with a raw veggie tray for Thanksgiving.
Sound plausible?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Missing Person's Report: Jack Frost

Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but it's just rather odd. We had some cool nights in October, but they were nothing to write home about. Then for these past few nights we've hovered in the 37-39 degree range, but we're far overdue for a real frost if not a freeze.

Note, now that I've said this, we'll have a freak freeze, but so far, we're looking good even for the next ten days.

I wonder if this will really be a nice and mild winter, or if we'll catch up in the end. Easter weekend is usually our last frost, and it has been a doozy in the past.

Lettuce and broccoli are loving it!

I actually just might be able to put my own veggies on the table for Thanksgiving, something I wasn't able to do last year because of heavy frosts. That will be very cool.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanks For the Props, Peeps!

Many thanks goes out to Dan from Urban Veggie Garden Blog for the "Best Blogs Award" he passed on. Dan takes some of the most amazing photographs of his garden, harvests and all of his beautiful surroundings in Ontario. Check him out!

Like Dan, several weeks ago I was tagged by GrafixMuse's Garden Spot for an "Honest Scrap Award." She's doing great with her garden that she resurrected from disuse by a former owner of the house.
I'm thrilled and kind of tickled that people come around here to see how the corner yard is faring. Seriously, who sits around reading garden blogs.

Wait. I sit around reading garden blogs. HA!

Both awards state to pass them on to 15 or so garden blogs I keep up with, but since we run in the same circles and read much of the same blogs, I though to see if it was 'blog acceptable' to ask YOU to tell me what new garden blogs I need to keep up with. Can one ever really follow too many garden blogs?

What I look for in a garden blog:
Plenty of photographs to follow along with
A TRUE account of gardening where strengths and failures are reported
An honest sense of humor can't hurt

So leave a link to YOUR favorite garden blog, or shoot, even your own blog and I'll be happer than a dead hog in the sunshine. I'll put the list together for the next post and fulfil my obligations to the awards.

Thanks again GrafixMuse and Dan!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Final Word: Zipper Peas/Cream Crowder Peas

The zipper peas came out some time ago. Actually, over a month and a half, I'm thinking. I never got enough to make a dish out of, which was sad. For some reason, the ants just love sucking the sap (or whatever it is) from between the stem and the flower bud. The unopened flower bud then falls off before the pea pod has a chance to grow. On the off chance they miss a flower, they then attack the joint between the stem and the growing pod. This was a picture of the storm damaged crowder peas before I ripped them out. I planted them by the SFG spacing and they did fine, but again, I didn't get much out of them.
Here is a picture from today of one lowly crowder pea plant. Yes, this is one pea plant. It's amazing the difference when they're given their space.
However, don't get too excited. The ants found this one just as well and I never got one single pod from the plant.
Do I still love zipper peas? Yes, most certainly, but I don't think I'll be growing them again. It's just not a feasible crop for a small scale garden. Now I get to plan what's going to take its place!!
The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed At Earning Lettuce Love...

Try, try again,

and again to beat the squirrels,

and again to thwart the chupacabra/dog,

and again to allow the acorns time to fall,

and you will be rewarded.

I harvested my first bowl of lettuce and chard and a fantastic carrot to boot. There is really nothing like that crisp nutty taste of fresh lettuce from the garden, is there? I honestly can't believe the lettuce is doing so well. I wrote it off as a loss for the fall, especially because of the acorn damage, but planted some transplants from the store on a lark because I was bored. I'm so grateful I did.

We've had an unusually mild fall so far; we've yet to get a good frost, but I'm not complaining. Things are growing well and in about 2-3 weeks there should be one head of broccoli ready to harvest. The rest will come in time.

This spring I planted the broccoli in a checkerboard pattern which worked out well. This fall, I tried the actual square foot gardening spacing for broccoli and it's not working as well, just as I had predicted. The plants are crowding each other out and competing for space. Since the sun moves to the side of the garden, and not directly overhead, there are some plants markedly smaller than the others. Some have even yet to start to head. Avarice got the better of me this fall, but I'll be sticking to the checkerboard method from now on.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Culling of the Cauliflower

I told ya it looked sad.
This was the only cauliflower left standing by the unmerciful chupacabra/dog. It thrived, hidden among the broccoli, for months, when all of a sudden, one afternoon, it looked like this. The leaves had no spring and were rubbery and limp. You could bend them almost in half without snapping them. The general opinion was that it was root maggots. I knew what I was looking for because my peas had gotten root maggots in the spring, but when I ripped out the plant, there were no root maggots at all. I was rather surprised, but maybe they're just way down in there and didn't come up with the plant.

I tried to get as many of the acorns as I could out of the largest bed. So many of them had already tried to root in. As I raked them to the end of the box, several little larvae of something or another came up with them (a different bed than the cauliflower's). Looks like I'll be using the tiller something fierce come the early spring to rip up any casings in the soil. Ants have also taken over the largest bed.

Has there been any consensus as to whether ants are bad or good for your garden? Will they eat my seeds, or take from or add to the soil nutrients? Should I get rid of them and keep them from coming back, or just suck it up and wear shoes out there so I don't get bitten?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Cost of a Stamp and The Value of a Friend

I never thought I'd be old enough to reminisce about the price of staples. I took economics. I knew prices raised with inflation. Why didn't older people realize this as well and just accept it as fact. Now I find myself musing over the days when I could fill my gas tank for $10.00 or make a phone call for .25. The other day, the boy wanted a gum ball; the slot held two quarters. Even dollar stores are experimenting with larger denominations, holding to the fact that 'dollar' could mean any denomination of a combination of paper bills and not $1.00 itself. Prices on staples (bread, milk, cheese) do go up over time, but usually it's a gradual rise that we don't notice until we're there. Stamps, on the other hand, are quite a different matter. Whereas stamps held their ground in the .32 to .37 range for years on end, now it seems they raise the price every 6-9 months. However, we slap them right on the envelope regardless and send them on their way.

When Stefaneener of Sicilian Sisters Grow Some Food fame saw the post on how much my father loved black radishes, she offered to send me some German blue radishes. I'd never heard of them, but I was eager to give them a try. I never thought twice about asking her to affix the postage stamp to get them here, but when the seeds arrived today, they arrived with fanfare and an unexpected entourage.

I expected an envelope. I received a package. A good sized one at that....sent to Georgia. From California. Pricey it was. Far too pricey and big of a box for seeds, yet the seeds were there.

Aren't they beautiful, Dad? I can't wait to grow them. However, you'll have to help me translate the growing instructions.

But I said the seeds arrived with fanfare and an entourage:
I can only surmise this is Stefaneener's very own home-produced honey from her own hives. She wrote a fantastic blog entry about the process behind making it.

I salivated the entire way home, prolonging the decadence I knew was to be mine. It's delightfully unrefined, slightly textured, yet smooth, and pure self-indulgence. The sweetness is most assuredly there, but light, airy, earthy, and not overpowering. It's what honey should be. It's peerless.

Thank you Stefaneener. I'm giddy, but I'm sending back your postage whether you like it or not. Now you can decide if it's accompanied by some banana jam or a chunky peach and red pepper sauce.

The morning comes early. Sweet honey filled dreams.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cole Crop Carnage

Ok, so maybe 'carnage' is too strong of a term, but it's alliterative, so it works. The cabbage in the side yard was looking fantastic. The front head is doing much, much better than the back one. I'm not thinking I can grow them front to back when the sun only travels in front of the box. I'm also realizing that one per square foot is far too little room for them. I remember looking through seed catalogues last year and seeing a miniature variety. That may be something to look into next year.
They looked great one day and the next day the leaves are turning brown from the edges in. Not all of the leaves, mostly the outer ones. I'm thinking it may just be natural and not something major that's wrong with them.

Now, there is something majorly wrong with my only remaining cauliflower plant. It was beautiful one day and completely limp the next. You can't stand the leaves or the stems up and I'm guessing by tomorrow the entire main stem will be limp as well. Rather odd, that. I'll most likely pull it just in case there's a disease or something that could spread to the broccoli that surround it.

I pulled five onions today to use as green onions in some potato and sausage soup. They smelled very good, but very strong. They'll surely flavor the soup well.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lasting Lettuce Dreams

When the acorns had just about finished their migration from the trees to the ground, I took the chance and planted more lettuce to replace that which was obliterated. Now that we've captured and corralled the Chupacabra-dog, things are looking up in the lettuce world, and just as it seemed garden salads would be a pipe dream, I'm planning to go stock up on salad dressing.

I'm thinking that I can safely harvest a few leaves by the middle of next week. I just love the taste of the buttercrunch lettuce. The heading lettuce isn't growing as obviously as the buttercrunch. Last year's didn't head either, but just formed spider-like leaves all around. I assume I can just cut off those leaves like the butter crunch, but I'll let them go a little longer before I do that.

Since I knew I was planting this second attempt later than I should, I chose to use transplants from the nursery rather than chance starting my own. I'm glad I did, because the ones I did plant on my own for a second attempt are still very scraggly and haven't gotten true leaves yet. I found this variety of red lettuce. I've never tried this kind before, but it seems to be growing well.
I'm thinking about purchasing one of those "lettuce mix" group of seeds for the spring. It may be nice to add some variety to the mix. I'm not too keen on the more spicy lettuce, however, so I'd need to find one with a rather mild mix. Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Garlic Growth

When I first planted my garlic, I thought they wouldn't sprout until Spring. Then, I learned that sprouting a couple of inches would be fine if protected over the winter.

Now I'm hoping a couple-few inches will be okay as well.

The garlic in the raised bed is growing like mad. Most all of the cloves have sprouted, although there are a few that don't want to be seen as over achievers and seem to be holding out, which is fine with me as long as they sprout in the long run. There will be no freeloading in this garden bed, my dears.

I'm planning on giving them a good layer of straw for the winter (Shoot, do those shoots need sun during the winter!?). Our nights can be low, but the days are usually not too bad. Very seldom will it stay below freezing all day long. I hope these guys man up and bulb up come summer.

I'm more worried about the three left over cloves I put in the small container on the deck.
They're sprouting as well. I can put straw over the top, but I know it will get colder than the raised bed will. You can grow garlic in much harsher winter conditions that we have, so I don't think the soil freezing will be a problem, it's the freeze and defrost on a weekly basis that has me nervous.
It's exciting to watch them sprout. At least I know they have a chance.
The morning comes early, although actually it's a bit later, however no one has yet to see fit to let my daughter know. It's been a week for goodness sake. Adapt already. At least we're all ready to leave the house on time.
Sweet gardening dreams.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Harvest Monday

No pictures of today's harvest, but I did pull two carrots, also well formed, long, but not so thick. They were maybe a finger to a finger and a half in width, but keep in mind, I have scrawny fingers, so this isn't very big, but I was needing me some carrots. I wonder if I planted more now if they'd do anything being that we have a relatively "easy" winter. Yes, we have nights under freezing, but the days rarely stay so. Our extension service says we can plant carrots in Jan/Feb.....think it's worth a shot, especially if I keep them covered with straw? Now that I've actually found the joy of the garden carrot, I'm hooked!!

I also pulled two tiny kohlrabi, one white and one purple. I would have pulled a third white, but I think it got "watered" by the dog recently, so I left it alone. Not much I can do with two runty kohlrabi, but they needed thinning, and I can shave them with some ranch dressing....I think...

The morning comes a bit later these last few days....I wish someone would tell the children that, however.
Sweet gardening dreams.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Have Proof!

The carrot went in her mouth.

It took several attempts on her part. She seemed uninterested, so I tried to take the carrot away from her. This was met with a insistent, "I can do it. I can do it," and barrage of arm flapping, feet pumping, and multiple evasive maneuvers on the girl's end. She would then fuzzy eyeball that carrot like it was about to sprout wings and take off with her Dora the Explorer doll. We performed this dance multiple times. She really wanted to take that bite, but just couldn't bring herself to do it.

She finally did it. It wasn't so much a bite as it was a scraping of teeth on orange flesh, but she took a bit off none-the-less.

And promptly spit it out and fed it to her brother before I could stop her.

But I do have proof that vegetables did grace the lips of that child.