Tuesday, November 9, 2010

november, blue

A blessing of fall weather last week let me do almost nothing in the yard, since my child still thinks it is the season to strip and get soaked, and then needs emergency transport to a hot bath.  Biggest need in the garden department right now is some good ideas about how to have fun outside with your clothes on.
During some alone time I ripped out the completely dead and dried tomato plants.  That whole thing - despite much bitching and whining (I can be so boring) - worked out great this year, with no green tomatoes and no unfulfilled blossoms.  I am still going to do everything different next year; how could I not?
I would like to say that the war against the slugs has commenced in earnest but the truth is that I only filled my beer traps for two days and they are so foamy-full of dead slugs I can hardly bear to dump them.  The still-alive slugs probably just crawl right out over the loose bodies of their kin.
Two sad things in this picture: a house which betrayed its chickens and now stands empty and quiet, and that little green strip of tangle-foot - too little, too late, as evidenced by the aphid-scarred leaves of our scraggly little Fuji tree.  The great thing is, I'm not even that sad.  I still think it's beautiful. 
"Mama, you put this fing on so the cats don't poop in your darden?"
Technically, sweetie, your Dad put it up.  I think it's to keep the slugs warm.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cold and cucumber

Funny thing about fall, at least this fall: you get a 45 degree day, and green beans.  

Some of these are the scarlet runner that I planted way too late when we finally got the side yard tilled in - what was that, July?  Hopefully this blog will tell me because otherwise - what the hell is it for?  They were so beautiful I was happy to have them even for a short while and I will be pretty happy to shell them too, I think, though how depressing to cook a fuschia colored bean and end up with something brown.  Also several miniature squashes from the same child-play-structure idea which I think was a good one but implemented too late and also without thought for how pokey it would be climbing around under squash vines.  But it did bring some dimension to that side of the yard. Also three figs, which the damn ants are making holes in the ends of and I have just had it about up to . . . really, it's hard for me to get that pissed off about pests, since they're just doing they're best at what they have to do, but it does make me feel sort of stymied, or like a slow and steady period of failure is on the horizon.  Ah, well, more on that joyful topic later.  Also a ton of beautiful if slightly under-ripe San Marzanos which I will roast into oblivion, as per Orangette and Louisa Weiss.  Also green beans.  Ha!  And also another small collection of mystery peppers, likely all very hot.  And Also, last and least, one very tiny, very spiny little cucumber.  Farewell summer, farewell!

Sandy says

The yard sounds like a children's book.  I like that; I hope it is true.

oh fall, i love you

You are jolly, full of food.
You know card tricks.
 You watch and wait.
 You smile behind your secrets.
 You are the great, humble handmaiden, helping us on to our destiny.
Fatting us up, as the dark doors close.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Oh, this season fills me full of ideas, and tomatoes.  

This last load came in yesterday.  I've been just squishing them in their own juice and adding lemon and salt.  This time there are so many San Marzanos, maybe I will do them separate from the others.  I recall a year in which the Brandywines were pink and very different tasting than the beefsteaks.  They must have done some crazy cross-pollinating this year, because the only distinguishing characteristic is the heirloomy cracks and puckers that some display.  And the fact that all the 'Brandywines' set and ripened so much faster.  Mystery.  What tomatoes we grow next year are gonna live in the boxes attached to the neighbors house anyway, and I'll probably just buy starts because eff tomatoes already.  Although what am I doing talking trash, since in this challenging summer they have produced beautifully and I basically ignored them completely starting in July.  It will help to have them alone so I can not water them at all once they set fruit.  Basically, the only time I want to eat tomatoes is in July, and they never ripen til August.  So.  Corn and pole beans next summer.  

In other notes, don't grow any of those stupid yellow cucumbers.  or those other lumpy, smooth skinned ones (where do I get these seeds?) - grow only the ones from last year, pictured above, that grow long and skinny with spines.  And try to get some seed for some tiny pickling ones, maybe even gerkhins.

Beets.  The triumph of beets.  Grow more.  

Carrots.  Grow less unto the point of none.  Spend all your farmer's market money on the amazing nantes that the professionals grow.  And on peaches, but not, please, on apples, which you are going to turn to sauce anyway.  

Lettuce.  You can never be too good at timing with garden greens.  It is so hard and so worth it.  

Which brings us to: slugs.  Turns out, all that lovely newspaper and straw that has been making the pathways so nice for our feet has also been a slug breeding ground.  Ditto the grass along the edge of the beds which is so lush and impossible to cut with anything but shears.  So,  hopefully we will get some free bark chips soon and I will have a killing spree before the next round of arugula comes up (er, gets planted).  Since the last - big - planting came to literally nothing more than a healthy generation of slugs.  

Which brings us to the sad but also happy fact there are no longer around here any permanent residents who eat slugs.  After the summer of disappearing chickens, our last, lonely, traumatized girl went home with Amber in a cardboard box under a bag of free bread.  It might be a while before we try again, and that's ok.  My vision for this little plot of ours is less and less about covering every inch with straw and poop.  I'm gonna try to put some energy and money into the food forest part of the garden this next year, and maybe we'll join a CSA in the spring, and we can try to visit that farm, and Zenger, and Sweetwater, and all the animals around our neighborhood a little more, and just generally try some different things and feel fresh.  

Sunday, September 5, 2010

eating out the yard

i didn't grow it

But i sure did pick it.  With help, of course.

Monday, August 30, 2010


You think it isn't going to work.  Then you think it is, maybe.  Then you are completely positive that this year, the watermelon project is a bust.  Which is as it should be after all, since you never grew a watermelon before, ever, and this is not, after all, Texas, and especially not this year, with our 72 degree summer weather stretching out blissfully between rain storms.  Except for when it gets incredibly hot for a weekend and of course you are out of town.  You look at the shriveled vine on your return, and you know beyond the shadow of a doubt: I have killed this plant.  It won't even make another flower.  And then, a few days later, there it is.  Between the potato pots, where it is as cozy, I suppose, as possible, bedded down in bark and dead weeds, a watermelon the size of your fist.  Maybe it will ripen, maybe not.  If it does, maybe it will be orange, like the amazingly flavorful variety from which I saved the seed last summer, or maybe not.  Very likely, the one bite inside will go in Zelda's mouth, not mine.  But the feeling when I saw it was pure, delicious surprise.

Otie brought Zelda a miniature white pumpkin last fall, just before Halloween.  She held it and said his name for weeks.  Then I guess it went in the worm bin, because here it is again.  In a couple months, she can give it right back.

Friday, August 27, 2010

the dance

Plant, harvest.  Plant, harvest.  Harvest, plant.  

In a small space, planning and use become the essential parameters.  I am interested in how it looks, how the plants interact, growing challenges.  But I am mostly interested in eating out of my backyard.  I want the freshest, easiest to grow, most interesting and variable produce I can get.  I want what I cut out of the yard to scream at me: I AM LUSCIOUS!  

There are seasons, like early spring, when it is mostly planting, very little harvest.  And seasons like late fall  when it is pretty much all harvest, no planting.  But all the long stretch through the belly of the season is about finding the right dance.  As far as I can tell, the more often you plant, the more evenly distributed the harvest is, and the fresher and more vibrant the loot.  Planning a nice tidy bed with anew row of lettuce to be put in each week, so that the planting eventually circles around and fills in the space out which you have recently harvested, seems like a pretty straightforward endeavor.  For better or worse, it is one that does not interest me.  Even so, I have to plant often, in my own circular, messy, undefined way, and the spaces that are available are the ones out of which I have lately taken food.  So it works out.  

But when it gets warm, and the growth goes fast and furious, there is suddenly double the work.  Each visit to the beds requires the edited bag of seeds, the trowel, the scissors, the gathering basket or salad spinner, and some nearby place to chuck the weeds.  If it's before August 15th, I usually have a yogurt container of organic fertilizer trailing around after me as well, unless Zelda has already distributed it to "the so hungy plants".  Plus the camera.  And, if I'm really lucky, the crumpled, stained, rain-spotted scrap of paper which is known as the garden plan.  

If I would just stay home and water regularly, I like to think that everything would fall into place.  Certainly, I would still fail to anticipate the week of rain at the beginning of July and have to replant all the beans, and I would still hurry the peas into the ground long before they ever had a chance.  But - as I have done for the last two summers - going out of town for a month between July and August can really throw your flow.  

Luckily, I have a small garden, and one third of it is full of green tomatoes.  So the double time dance that is happening these days will soon be reduced to pulling out a head of lettuce, and planting three lettuce seeds in its place.  At which point I will direct all my energies to that other problem: use.  All those green tomatoes . . . 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Home again

So many green beans!  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Cut flowers, broccoli.  I wanted to, and I did!  Success that you eat and gaze at, and forget.  How beautiful.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer Came

I don't know what happened.  It's August.  This has been a crazy season.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I am so grateful for Sweetwater Farm.  We loved ourselves and our lives there, we learned to love growing food there, we made Zelda there.  And this past weekend, I think it reminded us of what we had forgotten. 

Peas, and happy endings

So, the peas are too close together.   I planted too early; the succession didn't work; they are all bearing together, right now.   Some of the english peas got so sick. 
And she doesn't care, at all.  


Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Eight of them.  Two for Jojee, and six left for us.  We'll trade or harvest the males by winter, keep four or five girls to feed us through the cold.  Grow, babies, grow.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Set backs, Progress, Passion

The dogwood.  We have really grown to love that tree.  It showed signs of this sickness last year, but we took it for some kind of scalding, since it came right after that long late-July heat wave.  My hypothesis is that this spring has been too wet, too long.  Gee, more evidence.  I have some spray on fungicide, but it totally gives me that feeling - you know, throwing rocks at the sun.  I think we're doing everything we can for it.  Please, tree, pull through.

The cherry tree.  When we first moved here we made the mistake of buying one of those dumb self-fertile trees with four kinds of cherry grafted on it.  There are so many things wrong with this idea, and with the results of this idea.  I can't even get started.  So, now we have this rapidly expanding, imbalanced, confused specimen that has been completely colonized by aphids.  It happened to all the trees, I put up barriers, a little late in the game.

**(Note to self: put up barriers as the leaves are forming, as part of a spring routine, even ritual.)

The apples are doing fine, recovering slowly, unfurling their new leaves, leaving the damaged past behind.    But the cherry.

Try as I might, I cannot help being totally grossed out by aphids.

At least it's providing a sexy atmosphere for the lady bugs.

And, Gay and I cleaned up and I planted.  Victoria lettuces, my free nantes carrots (good luck on that one), cucumbers, more black hollyhocks (all in #3 under cover); radishes, more arugula (#1); more red sunflowers along with the lettuce from the other day and the lettuce starts and the red chard in #2.  When I put the beans in there it's gonna be niiiice.

I keep fantasizing about how great the trees are going to look in a few years, or how quickly the flowers will grow in July, but the truth is that the garden will never be perfect.  I will always have dreams and ideas and changes and plans.  That's passion.  

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rain, peas, Gaga

Too much rain, if you ask me.  I know, I know.  I know all about it.  But this last couple weeks, too much.  Moving on.

Worms rock.  We should remember to crush up the eggshells before we put them in the bin.  When I harvest, the worms are all hiding in the shells and they get smashed to smithereens.  Sorry worms.

This is where all that pesky bolting parsley was.  Gay Riley cleaned it right out and is slaving turning it into salad.  That spinach is there in that basket because it was bolting too.  Hey, everybody, how about a nice big salad on this cold, rainy day?  

The new peas I got this year (Dwarf Grey from I don't know because I used them all) rock my world.  

See those pinkish purplish flowers?  Sweet.  My english pea seeds from last year on the other hand, are producing these super short super slow vines with wrinkly brown tops.  They are bummed out.  Did I get the seed wet last spring?  Did I plant them too early and they got rotty?  Is there something in that end of the bed?

And, we couldn't figure out for our lives how to tie up the peas this year so Jeff came up with this plan of stringing wire the whole length of the beds about two feet up from rebar in the four corners, to keep the individual bamboos from tipping in as the weight of the peas on the twine grew.  The result is that there is so much going on and I tie the stupid peas up all the dang time.  He predicted this, but I refuse to use that plastic netting that we have all tangled in the garage because then you can't compost the vines when they're done.  But I saw this in our photos from last year:

See that tall structure there on the end?  That's the way we're doing em next year, with the favas somehow interspersed or interplanted and also radishes.  Can I also just say how much more amazing everything looked last year and that these pictures were taken June 6, and this year the favas are about eight inches tall and full of slug holes and the tomatoes are less than half as big?  And the garlic?  Are you kidding?  Rain?  Are you?

But we did grow some big lettuce.

And I am ripping this garlic out while it's still green and pickling some asparagus.  Then I'm going to plant all lettuces and arugula.  Screw the simultaneously dying and flowering (what could be more tragic than that) watermelon plant on my kitchen counter.  I don't like watermelon, do you?  

Noooo.  I oney yike wain.