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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What I've Been Doing, Among Other Things

I think I'm in love....
This is Shane.  I wish I could tell you that he's mine, but I'm merely dogsitting for a neighbor.  Shane is a lovely boy, though.  He reminds me a great deal of Rufus, because he's a big sweetie.  I am hoping that this experience will get Steve ready to go looking soon, although I really want to get the front yard enclosed and landscaped before we get a new dog.  Maybe by my birthday, which is in October.  At any rate, it's really nice to have a dog in the house again.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Couldn't Have Said It Better

This, from the Bedlam Farm journal :

"People need to understand what is being lost before they decide that the cheapest way is always the best way."

To see the whole post:

http://www.bedlamfarm.com/blog/2010/08/26/marie-washington-county-fair/

All I can say is, "exactly!"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eggs-zactly!

Until I get my own chickens, this is the best I can do
We all know about the recent recall of over a half a million eggs coming out of an Iowa egg ranch owned by Jack DeCoster, who has a history of treating animals inhumanely and treating his fines (when he gets caught) as the cost of doing business.

Well, I say his is criminal neglect and that this time, he needs to go to prison, and his businesses need to be shut down.  Maybe that will get his attention.  It would certainly set a precedent and serve as an example to other animal factory owner/operators.

My fear is that this latest national recall will wind up with more expensive government agencies and watch dog solutions, when what this country really, really needs is a decentralized food system.  If food were distributed very locally, then sicknesses would be very local, and it would take the CDC a lot less time to track down where the problem originated.  This egg recall occurred after months of investigation, and in the meantime more people were sickened.  Not to mention, that more chickens were abused in the process.

The answer is not veganism.  The fact of the matter is that this planet is not large enough to support its population as vegans.  The fact is that animals can be turned out to forage on lands that are not arable or otherwise suitable for crop production (not to mention that if most vegans knew how many mice and other ground-dwelling animals got thrashed to death in a combine, they'd probably just stop eating altogether).

The answer is not factory farming.  The answer is local and regional producers who treat their animals humanely.  The answer is consumers who will support these producers that treat their animals humanely.  This is the only way that we can get meats, eggs and dairy to come from animals that are happier and healthier than they are now.

If Jack DeCoster can't go to jail over this, I hope that at least it wakes up America and sets everyone on the path to really knowing and caring about where their food came from and how it was raised and produced.  I really do.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A First Year Gardener's Lessons Learned

These last several days have been busy with harvesting and putting things up, and getting the garden ready for fall planting.  It's also been spent thinking about where I've been failing and what I've been learning about producing food for us.   I'm not getting near enough food put away for this winter, and some of my crops have been a near-total bust.  I also find myself re-examining the idea of a French potager, with its focus on producing fresh food directly for the table, versus the American way of growing a ton of stuff for putting up and consuming later.  Not that the French don't have their confitures and brandied fruits, mind you.

I knew going into this that people who are serious about maximizing their food production keep some sort of records, and I really meant to do that, but fell down on the job there.  I also knew that to really get the most from the smallest area, and have continual food, and not a glut of lettuces that won't keep, no matter what you do, you really have to succession plant.  I'm good at getting stuff into the ground, but really stink at getting stuff harvested at peak.  And isn't growing your own all about harvesting and eating fresh food at its peak?  Well, it isn't entirely for me.  For me, it's learning how to replace a lot of store-bought food with home grown food, because I really believe that in the not too distant future, food prices are going to skyrocket, along with everything else whose economy of scale is based on cheap oil.  It is just plain going to be harder and more expensive to get stuff, food included, and I don't plan on going hungry, or letting my loved ones go hungry.  So getting better at growing and reaping is really important to me, and to that end, I must get better about succession planting and keeping records.  And just plain managing everything.

It also seems to me that although there are scads of gardening books written on the subject of vegetable gardening, a gardener really has to learn by trial and error in his or her own garden what will work for them.  That garden is also set in a particular agricultural zone, but at the same time, has its own microclimate, so the time to plant what and when has to be learned.  In addition, the gardener has his or her own likes and dislikes and/or needs, when it comes to what to plant.  And the weather and its vagaries will determine what survives, when to water, when to harvest, and what goes in next.  It's a lot to learn.

So if you'll indulge me, I'd like to pass on what I've learned with this year's garden, and why.  Maybe it will help you.  It will most certainly cement the lesson for me, at the very least.

Tomatoes: tomatoes are about the most important crop to us (after all, Friday Night is Pizza Night), and ours are nearly a bust this year.  I chose a variety with higher acid for canning, and did not stay on top of the suckering.  I also didn't take notice when they were to bear fruit, and didn't pay attention to whether they were determinate or indeterminate.  Knowing whether or not they were parthenocarpic  (self-fertile) would have been good to know as well.  The result was that for seedlings started in mid-February, my tomatoes did not start bearing until a full six months later, and most of the tomatoes are hardly bigger than cherry tomatoes.  Thank goodness I also planted Burbank for slicing, which are determinate and covered with larger fruits; I think these will wind up saving my bacon, so to speak.   Next year, I'll choose an early-bearing variety that is determinate and parthenocarpic, and an all-purpose variety would be nice to have as well.   At this writing, Siletz, which is an extra-early bearer of four to five inch fruits that weigh up to seven to ten ounces each, and Gill's All-Purpose, which is an early bearer of three to three and half inch fruits, are tomatoes of interest.  I'll also plant them by off by themselves, and stay on top of the suckering. 

Bell peppers: I won't do mini-bells again.  I thought they'd be good to have on hand frozen for when you need just a little bit of bell pepper for something, but they seemed to be a waste of space, and were just a pain to process for freezing.  I'll look for a heavy-bearing regular sized variety next year.

Carrots: The Nantes type seem to be the perfect length and size for my beds at only six or so inches long, and they were delicious freshly pulled out of the ground.  I did learn that when they say that carrots shouldn't be transplanted they mean it- don't try it.  I have two groups of carrots to compare: one was perfect, the other was forked, and not with just two forks- some had as many as five.  They were planted in the same imported soil in two different raised beds; the only difference was that the nice group were direct seeded and the awful group was transplanted there.  You may draw your own conclusions, but I'm not transplanting carrots, or any other root crop for that matter, again.  The other thing that I learned was that I definitely need to pay more attention to getting them out of the ground on time. And succession plant- I use a lot of carrots.

Three Sisters:  the experiment was good for getting more food out of the same space and I would try it again, but the soil has to be a lot more fertile to begin with, and the beans planted have to be second stringers, not main crop. The Quickie hybrid corn, which is an early variety, was delicious when it was just ready, but I left the remainder on the stalk too long and they got starchy.  On the Country Gentleman heirloom corn, which is a later variety, I may never see ear one- they're lodging, which is to say that they're falling down.  I also noticed before that happened they were a bit anemic-looking.  And then finally, we had a set of terrifically windy days, so instead of the pollen blowing gently down and onto waiting tassels below, the pollen appeared to be being blown clear of the cornfield.  I'm not sure anything could have fixed my pollination woes, but I am pretty sure that a fish buried underneath each mound would have gone a long way toward fertilizing the whole thing; I mean, if I'm going to stick to the Native American way.  By the way, if you do use buried fish or fish guts in your garden, be certain to cover them amply in wood ash to keep raccoons from digging them back up.  I learned that from a great organic gardener who learned it from his mother, who was Creek Indian.  So at this point, I'm not sure if I'll have sweet corn or not next year.  I would like to try a field corn if for no other reason than to have it for my own cornmeal and chicken corn.  We'll see.  On the bean front, the Romas I planted were delicious, but I didn't plant nearly enough, which is why I think the Three Sisters field should be kept for second stringer beans.  Green beans are super easy to process for freezing, and we like green beans a lot, so next year, I'll plant an area with just Roma beans.  The beans coming out of the Three Sisters will just be a happy extra, maybe for immediate eating, but I won't base my freezer stash on them.  The jury is still out on the pumpkins, because it will be awhile before I can harvest them.  I will say that they look great, and were prolific- at last count I have sixteen little pie pumpkins, and over the weekend, I found a second Triamble squash.  I wouldn't do any other pumpkin than a pie pumpkin, because I'm not into jack o'lanterns, so why waste the space?  I'm just not into Halloween.  Spend one of them as staff in a nightclub and you'll be cured of that, I promise.  Alcohol and costumes do strange things to people's inhibitions.  But I digress….

Cabbage:  the cabbages were good, although I had to fight the slugs and cabbage butterflies for them.  They might do better in the ground, rather than beds, however.  They need a lot of space.  I also think that where I've chosen to grow my fall and winter crops isn't going to work- it's too close to the fence and they won't get enough sunlight.  I'll plant the winter cabbage in the beds currently occupied by the cucurbits, and keep my fingers crossed.  Then next spring, I'll plant a couple for making summer slaw wherever I think one can be tucked in, and next summer, I'll plant the autumn sauerkraut-making stock in the large bed currently occupied by this year's Three Sisters.  I'll plant the garlic where I'd planned the winter cabbage, instead.

Garlic:  this year's was my first, and boy- did I learn a lot. I planted the entire head, six inches apart on offset rows.  I think my spacing was alright, but a great majority of the garlics I harvested were way too small.  What I've since read is that you plant only the largest cloves off the head.  I saved the four biggest heads of the Oregon Blue I was able to harvest this year, and then ordered a pound of Music, and a pound of California Late White, which is supposed to be a super long keeper. I'll plant them directly into the ground, rather than waste the space of a raised bed.  Garlic just takes too long for the beds. 

Onions:  there was nothing I could have done about the onions making flower stalks.  That was a trick of the weather, and all you can do is shrug your shoulders.  I did get a few braids from them, and dehydrated some more, and the rest of the little ones are piled in a colander awaiting their fate as part of dinner or onion marmalade.  Of the three varieties I planted, Borretana, a flattish Italian variety, Copra, and Redwing, a purple variety, I think I like the Copra best.   When it made large onions, it made really large onions.  They are also supposed to be one of the longest storing varieties.  I had planted my main crop of all three varieties in the same bed with the tomatoes, which I have learned not to do;  I think they would have done better and been ready sooner if they hadn't been overshadowed by the tomatoes, and if they'd been ready earlier, perhaps they wouldn't have developed flower stalks, which onions are not supposed to do until the next year.  Huge lesson.  I'll have to figure out just where to put them, though, because at the rate that I use onions, and the rate at which they grow, they are going to take up a sizable chunk of real estate.  Maybe pull out the hydrangeas out front and replant that bed next to the garage in onions.  Hmmmm....

Summer squash: I mentioned in an earlier post that I didn't like the Eight Ball zucchini.  The Flying Saucer patty pan squash were great, however, so I'll do them again next year.  However, I think I'll keep it at a maximum of two plants.  

Melons:  the melons are small, which I think is the result of too many plants; I couldn't bring myself to thin them.  The plants are, for the most part, also fading due to verticulum wilt (at least, that's what I think it is).  Interestingly, the Hapless Honeydews, which did not receive the benefit of bubble wrap when the late spring kept temperatures too low and protection from the late hail, are doing way better than the other two varieties that did get covered.  The HH, which were confined to just two plants (because that's what germinated) had at last count five good-sized melons on them, and no signs of wilt.  Since none of the melons will be ready to eat for awhile yet, I can't say if I have a favorite out of the bunch, but I will say that I won't grow too many of any single variety, and I'll start them much later and not worry so much about covering them.  They are evidently a lot tougher than I gave them credit for.

Beets and turnips:  the only way that I really like beets is oven roasted in olive oil and sea salt, and since I don't like to run the oven in the summer because it heats the house up, why the hell did I plant beets so early?  Now I have a bunch of woody beets.  Next time, I'll wait and plant for a fall harvest, when I'm more likely to pull them out and roast them.  Ditto the turnips, only I like them for a fall or winter vegetable medley cooked with carrots and leeks in butter with black pepper.  So beets and turnips get planted later for autumn and winter.  That will leave a lot of room in the beds.

I think that I need to decide what I want to grow for putting up, and then find places in the ground away from the raised beds for those crops.  The raised beds should be used for intensive potager gardening.  I didn't have things like lettuce this summer, and I understand that there are varieties that can be grown through the summer.  I didn't have scallions; I didn't have the easy radishes, which Steve loves.  I don't have enough eggplant- I think a minimum of two plants would have helped.  I could have used far fewer slicing cucumbers- the other morning I harvested nine big ones off of six plants, and was only able to find homes for four of them.  I have way too much French sorrel.   If I intensively gardened fewer beds, I could let lie fallow the remaining beds and build up the fertility in them.  Or maybe turn at least one of them over to June-bearing strawberries.  I guess I just had a bad case of beginner's enthusiasm. 

Since I really believe that each gardener has to learn on his or her own terms what will work best for them, I don't expect that anyone reading this should find it a huge help.  But if it helps at least a little, then I'm glad of that.  What did you learn this year that you can pass on?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

There's No Place Like A Sense Of Home

House after the first snow storm of December 2008
Tonight one of my favorite bloggers, Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm, posed the question: how long does it take for a house to feel like a home?  I think that's a really good question, because the last couple of days have been spent working on this house, which does and does not feel like home to me. Yet.

I didn't feel like I was home in the first house I bought until the day I stood back from hanging up all my tools above my new work bench to look at them.  The sense of that place being home flooded over me quite unexpectedly and in a rush.  I still had lots of remodeling to do and projects to complete, but for some reason, having all my tools put away in their very own places made me feel very much at home.

This place is different, and I can't think why.  On the one hand, this isn't my house; this is our house, and just Steve being in it makes it home, of course.  But the tools have had their own places almost from the beginning, and that's not doing it for me this time.  Part of me hasn't relaxed yet, and maybe it's because there's still so much to do around here.  I think that must be it, this time.  Maybe when I get everything done, and can relax, it'll feel like home.

Or maybe I'll get just one random thing done and the sense of home will hit me like a house falling out of the sky.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Almost Midnight Confession

 I have to confess something.  I'm kind of ashamed of it, because in all other aspects of my life, I'm really trying to live as globally conscious and green as I can, so this is a big deal for me.

I'm still on paper statements.

There- I said it.

Ever since my mother caught one of the life insurance companies trying to cheat her out of my father's death benefit, I've been very wary of a paper trail for the important stuff.  Well, okay- what happened was that they tried to deny paying on the life insurance policy my parents had purchased by saying that she hadn't paid one of the premiums. 

"Oh yeah? Which one?" she asked.  They named a date ten years prior, which was pretty sneaky and reprehensible, actually.  By law, financial institutions only have to keep copies of records for seven years.  I learned that when I worked for one.  A really good institution might keep theirs for as long as ten years, but most don't.  What they hadn't counted on, was Mother having every single one of her canceled checks.  She produced a copy, front and back, of the check paying the premium that she 'hadn't paid'.  The insurance company had to pay up.

That lesson has stuck with me all these years, and I've been a fanatical record keeper.  I have all the household bills done up in binders going back to when I took over the books from Steve in 2004.

They've actually come in useful a couple of times when we needed to know when we bought something or how much we paid for something.  Then the bank statements go in a separate binder, and the mortgage statements go in another.  It makes me feel secure that I have this stuff where I can get at it.

But you know what? I need to get with the times, so starting in 2011, I'm going paperless- at least as far as the bank and mortgage statements go.  I'll need to set up files for storing this stuff on my machine, and figure out some sort of fail-safe- like backing it up on a thumb drive or something.  The other thing that I want to do about the same time is get back to recording our expenditures. I used to do that assiduously before we moved to Oregon, but I got out of the habit.  I'm pretty sure that we're paying next to nothing to live (the mortgage and my projects excepted) but I need to track it to see how we're doing. 

Once I know that, I can figure out how close we are to really simplifying.  Or retiring.  Or maybe semi-retiring.  I've always thought that early retirement was a fairly noble goal.  You know- make enough to not be a burden to anyone, but vacate a job so that someone younger and hungrier could have it.  That smacks of noblesse, doesn't it?

My younger sister, who has a high-powered job and a McMortgage in San Francisco, told me last weekend that between she and her husband, they have eight phone numbers.   That just seems crazily over-connected and over-complicated to me.  They have a nice house in a good neighborhood in a swell city and two lovely daughters, and I don't envy her one iota.  I would not want her life for love or money or both. 

You know, one of the things that I loved about Steve was his beautiful lack of ambition. I didn't want a guy killing himself over his career, trying to get ahead and spending all his time at the office.  I wanted a guy that was going to be home nights with me and knew that life is not all about working, because it's not.  So this homesteading thing is really about trying to simply reduce our expenses and simplify our lives so that we can enjoy what time we have left with each other and the planet.  But if you took one look at my office, you'd know I have a long, long way to go on this simplification thing.

Going paperless ought to really help with that.

To live content with small means:  
to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly;
to listen to the stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
to bear on cheerfully, do all bravely, awaiting occasions, worry never;
in a word to, like the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
                            --William Henry Channing

The Beginning Of The End

Fewer and fewer plants in the mellowing light
I am probably pushing things here, but for my money, the beginning of the end of summer is here, and I couldn't be happier about it.  Not that the Portland area has been frying like the rest of the country- far from it, although it's ninety-eight out there.  This has been one of the cooler summers we've had, certainly since I've been here.  An early fall would admittedly not be good for my tomatoes and melons, but it would have its merits.

The light is mellowing out, like it does in the autumn, and autumn is my very favorite time of year.  Always has been.  This morning I harvested the last few pickling cucumbers for the last batch of pickles.  The vines were pulled off and piled into the wheelbarrow.  I also harvested the last single Eight Ball zucchini and those vines were also pulled and piled into the wheelbarrow.  They both appeared to be suffering from verticulum wilt, which I can't account for since it's a soil-borne fungus, and I imported my soil.   Obviously, I could have imported it with the soil, but I also have it in other parts of the yard that did not get imported soil.   I'll let the plants dry out in the wheelbarrow some and then burn them, after which I can add the char to the compost piles.  To add them now would be disastrous.  I have it (the wilt) in the raspberries as well, but I'll have to live with it because the only way to kill it is to solarize the soil.  Fortunately, that's a fairly easy thing to accomplish.  But I certainly can't solarize soil in which I'm growing something long-lived like raspberries!  I may have to replace them, at some point, at which time I'll solarize before replanting.

So what is soil solarization?  Soil solarization is the practice of baking soil under clear plastic in the sunlight to kill off anything that's living in it, basically.  Depending on how good a job you do, soil pathogens and parasites like nematodes can be killed to a depth of eighteen inches.  To do that, you need to flatten the soil so that you have the best contact possible between the plastic and the soil, and you need to moisten the soil, which makes some organisms more susceptible to cooking in the ensuing heat.  I have also learned that clear plastic is better than black plastic (which surprised me) because it allows more radiant heat to build up under the plastic, i.e., in the soil, than black plastic does.  The other thing you need to do for maximum effectiveness, is to do this for four to six weeks at the height of the summer.  Needless to say, I'm not going to get the maximum benefit because it's well after the height of summer, but if I can kill some things off in these next few days, that will help a lot.   Obviously, if you opt to solarize your soil properly, you'll need to commit chunks of space during the height of the growing season.  I still think it's a good idea, however, and it would require the same kind of letting lie fallow the ground that you turn over to green manuring.  Kind of a sacrifice, but worth it in the long run.  I'll have to choose a bed or two to do this to, and will probably green manure it first this fall and winter, grow something early in it next spring, solarize it over the summer, and then grow a winter crop in it.  This works with the whole crop rotation thing.  Before I forget, another benefit to soil solarization is that it makes some nutrients, like nitrogen, more bio-available to your crops.

Save the onions!
I've also decided what to do with all the onions I pulled last week.  I can't store the onions that made flower stalks, which is a whacking two thirds of my crop.  I was going to freeze them, but I'm quickly losing space over to things I hadn't planned on freezing,  so the larger of them I'll chop up and dehydrate, and the smaller I'll turn into onion marmalade and can.  Since it's supposed to be as hot tomorrow morning as it was today, it looks like I'll be up before dawn cooking again.  I think I'll do it outside, though.

But getting back to the beginning of the end, I, for one, am going to milk this part of season for all I can.  Autumn comes but once a year, and since this is the first year for me for Big Gardening, I'm going to enjoy it.  The only thing that could wreck that is if I actually found a job and had to go back to work.  Which would be ironic as hell.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Canning Day

The weather has finally decided to become summer again, and it's expected to be ninety-five over the weekend.  It was high time I got the pickles and sauerkraut canned before it got too hot for them and spoiled our efforts.

Canning day
The pickles went off without a hitch.  I started at six o'clock this morning and had all of them canned up in fairly short order.  I had a slice off a couple of pickles from different fermenting batches; aside from tasting like they need more time, they also taste like they're going to be decent, and none were mushy.   One thing that was odd (but not a hitch) was that one of the jars made a strange sound and after I got everything out of the canner I found this one:

Canning phenomenon

The cap buckled outward.  I haven't been canning very long, but I haven't had this happen before.  Has anyone else had this happen?  Do you know what caused it?  This jar is going straight into the fridge, as soon as it's cool enough.  No sense taking chances.

The sauerkraut did not go off well, however.  First, it didn't seem to be completely fermented, even though it had stopped bubbling and had been held at anywhere from sixty-eight to seventy-four degrees for four weeks.  On the plus side though, there was no mold.  Just no sour, either.  I also learned that I don't like it fermented with extra stuff in it.  Per the instructions for weinkraut, we also added a (very) few juniper berries, some caraway seeds, and a bay leaf.  I think things would have been okay with everything but the caraway seed- I just didn't like how it smelled.  Next time I try this, I'm sticking to straight sauerkraut, too. No weinkraut.  I'm also not doing it with cabbage I've poured my heart and soul into trying to rear.  I'll buy a few organic cabbages this fall and try it again.

Since it wasn't sour enough, I ladled the remainder of the pickling liquid (water, salt, vinegar, and a wee bit of sugar) into each of the jars and processed the first seven.  Then it dawned on me that maybe they still weren't acid enough and maybe I needed to process them in my pressure canner.  After a thorough search high and low for the instructions that came with the canner, I discovered that they indicate that sauerkraut should be canned in a boiling water bath, not a pressure canner.  This was after I had Steve go to the trouble of digging out my pressure canner, of course.   I'm worried about the kraut not being acid enough to be safe, but the pressure canner instructions say not to use the pressure canner for sauerkraut.  It's two o'clock in the afternoon and I've been canning since six this morning.  Now what the hell do I do?

I call the Food Sciences and Technology extension at Oregon State University, that's what I do.   Their Food Safety Expert is on sabbatical.  Just between you and me, what the hell is the Food Safety Expert doing on sabbatical during canning season, I'd like to know.  The woman on the other end directs me to the extension for my county, which is Clackamas.  I tell her I only have the Master Gardener's information.  She gives me a number.  I call it.  It's a fax number.  Somewhat deafened by the high pitched whine, I call her back to get the real number, which she gives to me.  I call it.  They can't answer my question and suggest that I call the Food Preservation Safety Hotline and they give me the number for that.  I call that and I finally get to talk to someone who knows what to tell me to do.

Freeze it.  

Which I do, but not until after I've poured sauerkraut juice into my Birkenstocks and all over the front of the cabinet and the floor.

Did I also mention that I finally got around to calling the State of Oregon Employment Department today and after a very long wait on the phone, I found out that I qualify for extended benefits, but since I haven't looked for work this week yet and she can't reopen my claim for the future, I'll have to call back next week and go through it all over again.

It's been a helluva day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kent's Ginger Beer

I mentioned before that my sister and her family were here on Sunday.  Among the things they brought with them was a liter bottle of ginger beer that Kent had made.  It was delicious.  I was intrigued by how simple his description of how to make it was, and asked him to send me the recipe. 

"I can write it down for you if you want," was his reply.  Armed with pen and paper, this was the result:



If you click on it, you can better see the recipe.  This recipe was on the sweeter side;  if you like your ginger beer sharply gingery, add more ginger. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Verdict On Eight Ball Zucchini

The eight ball zucchini was decent eating, when the squashes were little, but then, what zucchini isn't good when picked as a baby?  However, because of their round shape, they were difficult to extract from the plant, because they'd wedge themselves pretty thoroughly between the leaf stems.

As always happens when growing zucchini, or any summer squash really, several got away from me and they grew to small pumpkin size.  They also looked mighty like pumpkins.  Tonight I harvested a couple to make into zucchini bread, so they wouldn't be a total loss.  They were very tough to cut into, and the interior kind of smelled like pumpkin.  I looked online to find out how they were developed, with no such luck, although I did find out that they are an F1 hybrid.  So even though I can't find anything on what went into making that particular F1 hybrid, I'm convinced in my own mind that a pumpkin is in there somewhere.

These are going into the freezer
I think the bread turned out okay, but the bottom line is that I don't like this zucchini.  Ronde de Nice is a round French heirloom that might be fun to try, but I find round zucchini hard to harvest, so I'm not sure I'd try another round zucchini.  I think next year's zukes will be a regularly shaped zucchini.

Speaking of summer squash that got away- I have a couple of patty pan squashes on the vines that are huge, but it's okay; I'm saving them for seed.  Patty pan are my favorite summer squash, and I like the green ones, not so much the yellow ones.  These ones are called Flying Saucer, and if you want to see one, there are three in the picture in my last post at about seven o'clock in the colander.

Maybe I'll just stick to patty pan and skip the zucchini altogether.

The Makings For Tonight's Dinner

Monday, August 9, 2010

I Got One!

I found my first, and so far, only Triamble squash!

Well I'm A Dumb Bunny

My sister and her family from San Francisco are making the grand tour of Oregon and stayed with us last night.  They left about fifteen minutes ago and I just realized I didn't get a picture of them.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tales From The Woodcutter's Wife

Once there was a garage that had no wood rack, but it had a lot of wood that needed stacking neatly.  The woodcutter's wife thought to herself, "here it is August already, and I have no rack for the firewood. I guess I'd better get cracking on that."  So the woodcutter's wife and the woodcutter went off to the Big Box Store and bought a lot of large lumber, which they brought home with a rented truck. 

On the first day, the woodcutter's wife cleared the garage of all the older wood.  She then labored to get four upright supports installed.  It took All Day.


On the second day, the woodcutter's wife made much worse progress than on the first day.   There were only two more uprights and ties done by the end of the second day, and that took All Day.


On the third day, the woodcutter's wife was determined to make better progress with her wood rack, because it was already taking a day longer than she'd anticipated.  At the end of the third day, the woodcutter stuck his head in the garage and said, "Are you going to finish that today?"
The woodcutter's wife replied, "I have to- I'm out of clean grubbies for tomorrow."  But alas, at the end of the third day the end of the rack was nowhere in sight.

On the morning of the fourth day, the woodcutter's wife threw a load of grubbies into the washing machine.  When they were clean, she eschewed the drying rack for speed and tossed the clean but wet grubbies into the dryer.  Once the grubbies were dry, she donned her favorite Work Pants and set about finishing the wood rack, and finish it she did.  The woodcutter was well pleased with his wife's efforts, and said, "I guess this means I have to finish splitting all that pine."  He helped his wife put away all the split wood they already had.  It filled up half the rack.  The woodcutter's wife was a little worried because she knew there was more pine out back than they had room for in the new rack.  She said, "It doesn't seem to hold as much as we need, but it holds more than the other rack did." 

The woodcutter's wife decided they would worry about that when they needed too. Right now, they still had room in this rack.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beginner's Luck

I must say, I think I must be having a real spate of beginner's luck with my garden this year, although I had a smaller one last year.  I'm learning a lot with it, like, there is such a thing as having planted too much, and succession planting really is a good idea.  Right now, I'm building a firewood rack in the garage, on which I'm way behind- we should have ordered firewood in July, so it has to get done, but stuff is happening in the garden and I need to be there!  I really should have watered today, but didn't.  Tomorrow, I must- the garage can wait.

I need to attend to my tomatoes.  They are just going nuts, and the fruits are smaller than I expected, probably because I didn't pinch suckers and they are just growing all over the place.  They need to be cut back.  This morning I did manage to knock down all my onions that are close to ready.  The darn things are making flowers, which is the fault of the weather.  I read that onions are not supposed to make flowers- they're biennials, so what's happened with our freakish weather is that they were hot, then things cooled off again, then they warmed up again, so the onions have been tricked into thinking they have survived a winter and now it's time to set seed.  The problem is, I planted all storage onions and you can't store onions that have made a flower stalk.  So crap!  This was supposed to last me until the autumn onions are ready.   So now I have to figure out how I'm going to save them. Probably chopped and frozen.

I have more cucumbers to pick.  The Eight Ball zucchini has gotten away from me, and now I need to make bread.  I need to deal with the French Sorrel bed which has also gotten out of hand.  My carrots are getting woody and splitting, so I've decided to dry the commercial carrots that are still in the fridge and harvest my carrots for fresh use.  I should probably do that tomorrow.  And how do I tell when the parsnips are done?  They're biennials as well, and somewhat toxic the second year. Have they suffered the same fate as the onions and how do I tell?

I originally meant to mention that what makes me think I have beginner's luck is all the woe and sad tales I read and hear about folks having trouble with their gardens this year because of the weather, some of them very accomplished gardeners.  My sister is about to give up gardening because of her bad luck, and she majored in Agronomy!   But after reading about things that are going wrong in my garden, I'm thinking I'm very lucky to have it producing at all, much less to the point that I can barely keep up with it.  I'll water tomorrow, and pick stuff that's ready, and maybe get the tomatoes under control, but then I have to get back into the garage and get that darn rack done.  It's taking a lot longer than I thought it would.

Homesteading is hard work.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Best Seed Tags For Free

Over the weekend I received yet another pitch from AARP, which I have no intention of joining.  This time instead of the plasticized paper cards, they sent plastic cards.  I recycled and shredded the accompanying documents, as appropriate, and set aside the plastic cards to deal with later. 

Then today, while casting about for something to use for tagging six packs, my eyes fell on the darn AARP cards.  Is the other side completely white? Yes! That makes them way better than old insurance cards, which tend to wilt when watered.  But way a second...does writing on them in pencil work? Yes! Can it be erased so that I could use them over again? Yes!  These are way, way better than anything else I've tried so far.

I imagine that any plastic card someone sends as part of a marketing campaign would probably work, as long as they're a light color on the reverse, and then you don't have so much plastic to dispose.

The best seed tags for free.  Next time the AARP mailing comes, I won't be so quick to growl at it.