Sunday, August 31, 2008

August 31, 2008

Good day, good day.  The weather cooperated, though I didn't get much done in the garden.  I did dig around about a foot down into my yukon gold bed and didn't find anything.  I was afraid to dig too much so I gave up.  Whatever's in there will hold for a while so I'm going to let them cook a bit more.  I may even cover them to keep the rain from providing irrigation. 

But good news, I found flowers on my cantaloupe! Tomorrow they should be big enough to tell if they're male or female.  Of course they should be male first, followed by females a few weeks later.  But you can bet I'll be hand pollinating any female flower I find!

We also were hoping to pick some berries or maybe harvest some plums, but their not ready yet.  DoubleD's right when she says in years past we'd have harvested all there was to harvest by now.  Here's to hoping there will be plums and blackberries to harvest this year. Without it, there will be no PB&J sandwiches for a year, for my kids or I.  Yep, I regularly eat them for lunches or even dinners if I get home way late.  But I can't remember when I've had store-bought jam or jelly, and I'm not going to start now.

Speaking of preserving, we did harvest five more mini-cukes for pickling.  Then, for the larger ones, we cut them into fourths (wedges) and started the pickling process.  To begin with, we mixed up the pickling spices from a recipie found on the net and raiding my mother's and brother's spice racks.

The only things we're misisng here is Mace (whatever that is), and dill seed (we figured we had fresh).  Then we cut up the cucumbers...

The next step was to layer cucumbers, spices and dill.  But wait, I've got to show you my farmer's market dill find (thanks to my brother for calling me to tell me about it). It's so tall it took two pictures to get it all in, hehe.

That's right, they were 3 feet tall and my house smelled like dill even before I started marinading.  So here's one of the layers of pickles to be...

Note that we threw in six cloves of garlic from my brother's garden, then came the thick layer of fresh dill.  I had more than needed so I laid it on heavy. Why not?

So, now that mix is marinading in vinegar and that mess for the next 4 weeks in the garage with a plate weighed down to keep it submerged. It says it will have foaming and scum.  So in anticipation of that, my corn pot (I'm not needing that this season /sigh) is resting in a pastry/cookie sheet.  The mix smells great!  Much better on my wife than the bread and butters did.

We also would love to can some beans since I've got far too many to eat for all three of our families.  But all my mother's canning books say you need to use a pressure cooker to preserve any veggie without acid in it.  We don't have a pressure cooker. Anyone experienced with preserving know of a way to can beans or the like without a pressure cooker?  The last thing I need is MORE kitchen tools.

Anyway, in case you thought I just sat around eating bon bons the rest of the day, I also started making a loaf of no-kneed sourdough bread.  And my mother is pleased that her white flour starter is 90% ready for her to take home.  But since you're probably tired of the progression shots, here is the current finished product. 

It needs to sit under plastic for 18 hours.  Tomorrow morning I'll do the final proof and bake it!  I can't wait.  Tonight I thought of something. We've got that rosemary plant that's taking over our yard. I bet that would be great in sourdough bread.  The possibilities are endless.  Now if only I can bake it without my make-shift cloche breaking on me.

Also, I took a few more pics of my garden.  Enjoy...

Here are some tomatoes that are almost done...

And here is a funny S'shaped broccoli plant that grew leggy behind the cauliflower.  It's twin we harvested tonight and I essentially boiled it in the microwave along with some frozen corn for the rest of the family and it was very tasty!  Yay!  It may not be as healthy as lightly steaming it, but if I'm eating it, it's better than nothing.  Same will go for the beans thanks to the peanut gallery!

And here are Judy's marigolds.  Funny that my brother hadn't heard of marigolds as an amazing companion plant. But they're pretty also.  At least I think so.

However, if they're supposed to draw in bees to pollinate anything, it's not working. hehe\

Lastly, I've been hanging out at with some new local and not-so-local garden buddies, most of whom are either existing or homesteaders in training, so I'm learning a ton.  Anyway, there was talk about clothes lines for drying laundry, and how they're hit and miss in the PNW where it can rain at a moment's notice.  Tough to get your clothes dry if they get wet.  Here's what we've done to dry almost all our shirts, pants and some other laundry.

It was a quick re-build after my father grabbed a hold of it to keep from falling off a ladder, ripping the old one from the ceiling.  It works. Cheap PVC desigend to fit a very small laundry room! 

Yeah, I know, this is a gardening blog, so why am I bothering with making bread, pickles and saving energy.  Tis the season for saving money and preserving what we grow. 

Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

August 30, 2008

Where has the year gone?  It's almost September. That's what everyone keeps saying at work.  I could say the same thing about my garden.  Where has the summer gone?  My plants echo that sentiment.  The weather turned back to a plesant 70 degrees, so I finally got the back yard mowed, but since the weather has been so awful, the grass hasn't grown much so it still didn't look so bad, except the few weeds I haven't had a chance to keep up with and the various varieties of grass that grow while the rest of my lawn didn't.  But now it looks good, and the front yard looks green again where the the city had messed up the natural grass that was drought resistant and stayed green year round without any water from me, fed by the high water table.  When you mess that up, you get brown grass.  Funny to see a swath where they took out the natural grass all down the street, it's all been brown when it used to be green.  Ah well, now the kids have sidewalks, so it's not all bad.

I digress. I also dug up my compost and fixed it with the grass clippings and kitchen compost and some more of my mom's shredded bills.  But to save you thinking I just recycled the countless pictures I took of the process I go through to fold and fluff my compost, here is a picture of the finished product, it's getting really huge, though the pile had shrunk by half since the last time I fluffed it.

Anyway, the cool weather has definitely helped my cool-weather crops.  My lettuce's sprouted, both seeds I put in each hole. I hate doing that but since the last planting didn't work I didn't want to take chances.  Now I have to catch a tiger by the toe and pull one.  I also have to do that considerably with my carrots after I sprinkled tons over the area where I got shoddy germination.  Now it seems everything germinated.  That's the upshot of the poor weather for you.  And the odd thing is that the cukes and tomatoes haven't seemed to be bothered by the cool weather. I think I've got a handful of new pickling cukes ready in the next few days. 

Speaking of that, we were rushing around all day so I didn't start my pickles marinating.  Tomorrow my mom's coming over and we're starting it out.  We're using her crock pot liner and she's bringing over the stuff for the pickling spices.  Seems you can buy them premade from McCormicks, but what's the fun in that?  Between our three families we should have most all the spices that go into it.  Anyway, my wife isn't  happy about making pickle chips or slices.  She likes the hole pickles.  I explained to her that we only have about a dozen or two pickles a season from these 6 plants. Did she want 24 pickles or a several pints of pickle chips because I let the cukes get much bigger than a regular pickle?  I'm not sure she's convinced, but tough.  I told her next year I may not do corn and then I could do tons of cucumber plants.

As for preserving the beans, alright folks, thanks for you comments. I will boil the heck out of them.  Hehe, I've got it in me that the less cooking the better the veggies are for you, but I'll try the boiling technique for the Blue Lake beans.  I guess some nutrition from actually eating them is better than none from not eating them at all.  I'm also going to preserve them so I can pull a pint from the cupboard rather than grabbing a can opener for Del Monte or Dole.

My mom also had me check to see if the blackberries were ready to harvest.  She, like me, has heard tons of people saying they've been harvesting for a month now.  But ours aren't ready. They don't get full full sun, but close.  I don't know what to think, and I sure hope they do eventually ripen. If not, that would NOT be good.  We rely on them for three families worth of blackberry jelly, which is a family favorite.  The irony was not lost on me that I have hardly ever tasted store-bought jams and jellies in my entire life.  We've always had home made.  So come on weather, come on blackberries!  At least the plums are almost ready. They're purple and big, just not squishy at all.  Close though.  So at least we'll have plum jelly. hehe Not the same.

I also want to install the brackets for my hoop covers.  You never know if this weekend will be our last good weather weekend of the year.  It would suck if it was, but I don't want to be setting it up in the freezing rain like last time.  I want to be able to throw up the covers all by myself in 5 minutes like I can the completed bed #1.

Lastly, for those of you that care about my sourdough starter.  Last night after I finished posting to my blog, I finished off the starter recipe!  And if you recall, I had dutifully been going through the steps of the recipe without hardly anything happening in the way of bubbles.  Still on Eric at Breadtopia's say so, I kept moving on.  So what made me know I'd arrived last night was this when I opened the margarine container to mix it for the last time that day...

Now THAT'S frothy!  And when I stirred it, there were bubbles like that throughout the mixture.  Not only that but it was as sticky as taffy, but came right off the spoon, exactly how it was supposed to.  So I decided to move on to the final step and transfer it to the final container...

Don't mind the fork, my 2 year old put it there, he calls them three horns (he loves the Land Before Time videos), or Cera (Sarah) who is the triceratops.  Funny huh? I thought you'd like that aside.  Well, I was pretty loopy by that wee hour of the morning so I went to bed.  The instructions say that after you transfer it wait an hour and the bubbles should be back.  Well I was asleep by then.  So this morning I took this picture and emailed it to my mom, who promptly wanted her starter, hehe.

So today I also pulled out a tablespoon of the starter and put it back into the margarine container.  This time I fed it with white flour since she didn't want my wheat variety.  According to Breadtopia, you can make a different variety simply by using a tablespoon of your wheat and feeding it exclusively with white or rye.  After twice daily feedings of 1/4th cup of white it'll be 99% white starter with no dicernable trace of wheat. 

Now I have to figure out what I'm going to use as a proofing basket when I make my no-kneed bread.  What a problem to have, huh?

Enjoy your garden!

Friday, August 29, 2008

August 29, 2008

Well, I took a look at my blog stats today, and it seems I've got a devoted group of under 150 that like my ramblings.  That's cool. I mostly started this to show new gardeners like myself that you can make 1,000 mistakes and still harvest exceptional veggies for your family.  Of course the competitive nature in me would love to see more folks reading my blog, but I'm not a political analyst (though I minored in politics), nor am I a sports columnist (though I watch the Seahawks), and I bet those blogs get tons more traffic.  Anyway, what I'm trying to say is if you like reading my blahg, thanks, it keeps me honest and I think more often than not it keeps me accountable to my garden, which is what's needed for a successful harvest.  Enjoy!

Well, tonight I went out to harvest some more cukes and check out the garden.  While I was out there I took a bunch of pics so I thought I'd share.  First, my cucumber plants are really taking off, which is odd for warm weather plants to grow so well in our crappy winter, I mean summer weather.  But look at these plants...

Notice the two pickles on the top left, and another growing on the top rightish. I attriblute those to my force pollination.  I regularly grab a male flower and tickle anything female, no matter if it's growing or open or closed or shriveled.  I figure it can't hurt.  And here is today's results... drum roll please...

Now those were the first harvest of my slicers, but boy don't they look yummy!  I'm not sure if they'd make good pickles if I sliced them thin?  I plan on slicing my dills using my mandolin for even 1/8 inch slices, maybe even chips.  I've got to do that tomorrow or the ones I picked a week+ ago will go soft on me.  We'll see, I may even pick a few more of those smallish ones that would make good baby dills whole.

Oh, and speaking of cucumbers, I had to comment over on GW tonight that it's funny how closely cantaloupe plants resemble cucumbers. I know they're both related, but they look and act identical until the fruit forms from a polinated female bud.  To show you just how close they look, here is a picture of my cantaloupe plants gamely trying to make a go of it this year.  I may have had a chance if Mother Nature hadn't decided to head south for the winter.  Who knew she was a snowbird...

Poor little cantaloupe, the've got their tendrils out searching for a trellis to climb and I refuse to break it out.  Let them sprawl all over between the two potato bins, or even climb the apple tree. Who cares, they're coming out after the first frost anyway, which I just learned yesterday from a great site, NOAA's Climate study website, which allows you to determine the probablility of the first fall frost or last spring frost down to your closest big city. For me it's Everett (though I hate using it since it's 15 miles north). For me I've got a 10% chance of frost on October 7, but a 90% chance by October 29. With those odds, I may even have a shot if we get some decent warmth between now and then... see my brother's prediction of an "Indian Summer".

Were to go next, ah yes, I mentoned potato bins.  Well, the Yukon Golds still look as lethargic as always, so I'm not sure if they're ready or not. Digging a potato is definitely in order this weekend.

Man that one was blurry, sorry, don't know what happened.  Anyway, either a coon sat on my russets again or they are dying too.  I think it's the crappy weather that's making them think it's October.  Doesn't matter, they've cooked in the ground long enough.  There better be tons of potatoes down there.

I know it's tough to tell, but that is much wimpier than they were last week, and all the flowers have fallen off!  That's a good sign.

Before I go back to my garden area, the plum tree also thinks it's fall, because the plums are ripening.  Look at the color on these...

And despite hundreds dropping to the ground and joining the compost pile, I've still go hundreds and hundreds on the tree. Best harvest in years. I'm sure it's the grass liberation and compost/mulching I did around the base.I wonder if I'd done it around the drip line like I read.  That'd look funny and bad, but I bet the tree would love it. The kids and I on the other hand would not enjoy the yard much though, so no dice.

Now back to the garden, and I'll start with the tomatoes.  They're ripening nicely, at least the Early Girls are, but the weight of the tomatoes are snapping vines and drooping them badly.  No mater how much I work them into the trellis they still fall down.

Ah well, I'm almost looking forward to ripping them out and hanging them upside down in the shed or garage to ripen over the winter months for fresh tomatoes.  Let's just hope the lettuce speeds up so I can enjoy a winter salad.

And look at this broccoli.  I think I'll ask my wife to make bake potato soup and I'll add the broccoli for a broccoli baked potato.  Sounds yummy.

You can't see it from the picture, or even if you're looking, but once this broccoli's harvested, there's another one hidden in it's shadow coming up right behind it.  Not bad.

Oh, and I saw DoubleD's wall of pole beans (Blue Lake), and I just had to share my own wall of Blue Lakes.  Well, maybe not a wall, but since it's covering the old door to the garage, maybe it's a door of pole beans, hehe.

I'd really love to harvest all the bush beans that have been hanging out for a month and the fresher pole beans and can them.  That way I can have green beans all winter and maybe I'll like the taste better if they're more like Del Monte.  I hate to say it but I like canned green beans better than fresh.  I know, sacrilege.  I'm afraid I'm like that for peas too, well frozen that is.  That's why I'm growing snap peas this fall only. I like them the best of snow or shelling.  Anyway, I'd like to can these this weekend if they're any good still.  Any ideas?

Lastly, I mentioned my corn being harvested too late. Well here's my corn bed. Still looks good, and there are some really full cobs. I will try them again, but I'm not holding out much hope.  Ah well. Live and learn (with 44 SF of garden space /sigh)

Well, the weekend's turned such that the weather's now supposed to be lower 60s and dry.  I'll take it!  The plants would rather it be warm but I'm good with no rain.  Maybe I'll even get my brackes up for my hoop covers. Wouldn't that be nice?

Enjoy your garden!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

August 28, 2008

Well, I'm sort of on the mend. I hate this appathy sickness.  I work, I come home tired and don't want to eat, or do much of anything.  I even snapped at the kids while reading them a bedtime story.  Grrr.

Anyway, today was supposed to be the day to start marinating my cukes, but that'll wait til tomorrow.  I've decided to see if my beans that have been on the vine for a month are ok to eat, then can them.  I love canned beans, not so much the fresh ones. I never have and still haven't found a taste for them.  I figured if they were mine I would.  No dice.  Maybe if I can them they'll be enough like Del Monte's that I'm used to that I'll grow them again.  Otherwise it's more trellis space for cukes.

Speaking of which, if I hold of pickling much longer, I'll have tons more to add to the pot. hehe

I also read today in my book that my corn is likely past maturity, meaning I waited too long to eat it.  All that work for a stupid harvest error. You only have a 10-day window. Who knew that?  I had expected to ask Judy when to harvest, but she's busy so I played it by ear.  Bad idea. (yeah, I missed the pun, oh well).  I also read that the small ears are proabably normal, and that commercial growers sacrifice taste for size (bigger is better).  That'd just mean we eat 2 ears each.  No biggie.   Still not sure I'll do corn again next year.  I was that thrown off by the bad taste.  Ah well, some good some bad.

By the way, last quote from my book. I finished it.  It had a lot of good information, but the guy is very much a traditional row gardener.  That's great if you're field testing for Territorial Seed Company or homesteading in New Zealand, but gardening on a postage stamp requires SFG or the like.  Anyway, Thanks Tim for suggesting it.  I learned a ton!

On the bread front, I got a response from Eric at Breadtopia.  450 is fine for his recipie and I should just move on with the starter steps regardless of the bubbles.  Today's addition was more flower than water so it's really sticky now. Elastic but sticky.  Not sure why it's not working, but it's not great.  Maybe it'll all work out. I'll keep you posted.

Lastly, it's not particularly garden related, but our blender is toast. Well at least the caraffe is.  It comes apart into four pieces to be washed, but for some bizare reason, it's been impossible to come apart for the last week.  My dad even tried his pistol-grip-belt opener.  He lifted himself off the ground trying to break it loose.  No dice.  So we priced out a replacement and it's like $90 plus shipping.  Right now we're debating on buying a new caraffe or a new blender.  Smoothies are tough on blender motors.  Several times using it on ice-crush I smelled something burning.  Not sure how long it'll last.  Besides, we've had our eyes on a Blendtec blender.  It's arguably better than the VitaMix but still really, really expensive.  Like $400.  /cough  Of course we do use the blender 4 or so times a week. And it does many more things that we may make use of that we don't currently because we can't. Like make hot soup, or ice cream, or if you've seen the cool promo videos, turn metal robots into powder, muahahaha! hehe

Ah well, since the weather's going to look like this this weekend...


Chance of Rain

65° F |

54° F


65° F |

52° F

Rain Showers

59° F |

47° F

Partly Cloudy

61° F |

49° F

Partly Cloudy

67° F |

52° F

I'm not sure if I'll get everything done I want to. At least Sunday and Monday will be decent and I get it off since I'm a banker.  Maybe I'll do canning etc. on Saturday and work in the yard Sunday and Monday. 

Enjoy your garden!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

August 27, 2008

Well, the weather's still bad, very Octoberish.  In August.  I recall in high school playing tennis at this time of Summer and it was 99 degrees.  Today it was 60 and rain with very few cloud breaks. It was dark at noon.

To top that off, this bug is lingering something fierce.  I have no appetite but food tastes good.  It doesn't sit well with me, but it tastes good.  I'm getting better but I still have no desire to eat my tomatoes.  And tonight was supposed to be the day I start to pickle.  Maybe tomorrow.  I need to get dill.

The good news is that the hand pollination job I did is paying dividends.  I've got a half-dozen pickling cukes coming along, but only one ready.  Of course I should be harvesting my two slicers that are almost a foot long.  Trouble with so few plants getting a determinate-like harvest is hard.

I've also got tons of beans that I am not sure I feel like eating.  I told my brother to come harvest them and either eat them or maybe save them up for possible canning this weekend. 

Oh yeah, and I was surprised to find some ripening tomatoes. In all this rain, they're ripening.

Anyway, this morning I read that potatoes should be kept dry to toughen the skins once they start to die.  The Yukon Golds are clearly dying and yet the rain keeps watering them.  Maybe I need to cover them?  Grrr. I'm so close and now the weather's not helping at all!

Enjoy your garden!

Monday, August 25, 2008

August 25, 2008

Short post tonight as there is nothing particularly garden related to say.  I will however, talk about the weather.  What started out as a decent morning such that I didn't even think to bring a coat to work, ended up pouring rain with thunder and lightning.  It was also dark at 4:30 due to the dark clouds.  It reminded me of October/November weather.  It also made me wonder if the clouds will let enough light into my garden under those hoop covers to grow veggies during the winter.

On a research note, I read up on carrots in my Growing Veggies West of The Cascades book and according to Steve Solomon, I planted my carrots too late.  He says plant no later than July 10th, because if they don't grow a tap root before the first frost, they'll rot or something.  I was under the impression that I could grow them under cover.  Now Mr. Solomon doesn't consider a hoop cover, it does concern me.  Carrots and peas due to the late planting, especially if today is any indication of the next two months.  I sure hope my brother's right about his theory.  I'll be mad if I missed the opportunity to have two pea crops in a year. 

Lastly, my sourdough starter is still showing those same two bubbles. I'm hoping they invite more to the party over the next day.  I also have been pinging DoubleD about my bread as she is also experienced at no-kneed bread making.  That woman is phenomonal.  The CFO of a Puget Sound city, a nearly homesteading gardener and a bread maker.  She amazes me.  Anyway, she said she uses the liner of her crock pot to make bread in.  Unfortunately her recipie only calls for 450 degrees and mine for 500.  I'm not sure it would hold up to 500 degrees, but maybe if I ask Eric over at Breadtopia if his recipie can be adjusted down to 450, I could use our liner and my pizza stone.  That should work, and if it doesn't break for DoubleD, mine shouldn't either.  Hehe I hate to test it at 500 for fear it'll break and I'll have to buy a whole new crock pot AND a dutch oven. hehe.  She did say she wouldn't use it long-term for fear of breaking on repeated usage, but if I like the bread I'll spend the $20 for a dutch oven and find a place for it in my crammed kitchen (the real reason I don't have one already).

Anyway, tomorrow I add more flower to the starter, and use spring water instead of pineapple juice.  I had to buy a gallon of the stuff as it was the smallest container they had, though I only need a few tablespoons, hehe. Hmm, I guess I could have driven up to North Lynnwood and bottled my own artisian well water that would probably have done the trick. It only needs to be clorine free to avoid the clorine stopping the fermination process.  I sure hope it's frothy tomorrow. I guess I'd have to email Eric again if not to see what to do. His test batch was bubbling by now.  The only difference with mine is I used a solid tub not a transparent one.  Not sure if it matters, his instructions didn't specify clear. /shrug

Ah well, enjoy your garden and hope your end of summer weather is better than ours!  Wish me luck to have more tomatoes ripen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

August 24, 2008

Well, I'm not quite sure I'm out of the woods yet, but today was a busy day, so that may have had something to do with it.  Another could be that my youngest is still sick a week later.  Very odd.

It all started with reading a message from a gardening buddy of mine in Poulsbo (DoubleD) from  She informed me that for fall harvesting of peas, I should have had mine planted in early August, not late August.  So I rushed out to plant, only to remember that you pre-soak peas for best germination.  So while they were soaking, I planted more carrots and spinach for the third time.  Given how poorly these seeds are germinating, I spinkled the carrot seeds in the general locations of where the final carrots need to be spaced, and I'll thin significantly as needed if they come up.  Frankly, I think it was a mistake to keep my seeds in the garage.  Though it was cool in the winter, it's quite warm in the summer, which is bad for seeds.  Unfortunately keeping them in the fridge doesn't allow for spontaneous planting if you have to warm them up to room temperature before planting each time.  Ah well, seeds are cheap if you buy from one location and buy all at once since it's the shipping that kills you.

While I was out there I figured maybe the spinach didn't like being in direct sun, so I grabbed a screen from one of my cold frame windows and positioned it to partially block the sun for the longest part of the day.  No clue if it'll work or what, but here's what I mean...

Nothing's planted in the front of that bed except for a few squares of radishes.  As I mentioned before, I don't really have need for all that space.  As for the peas, I want them to catch up to have a fall harvest, but I really don't want them growing up and attaching themselves to the trellis since it's got to be removed to put up my hoop covers.  Kinda a catch 22 really, because my pole beans, tomatoes and cukes are all using that trellis and I don't want to cut it. hehe.

The other thing I wanted to do before I went back to work was to mow the lawn.  The grass hasn't grown an inch in a month, which is really really odd, but the weeds and other grass-like plants in my grass have grown, so I needed to mow the weeds.  Unfortunately the forecast for afternoon showers meant 12:01.  So I spent the better part of two hours dodging drenching showers to get the front lawn mowed.  The back is cleared but I ran out of time before we had to go to a birthday party for my dad, who's 69 today.

I was really excited to go to my folks because we were going to do a pickling party there with my brother.  Our cukes are not getting any fresher in the crisper so this was the last chance before next week to do any pickling. It just takes too long to do in an evening if you're learning.  Anyway, we get there and find out that he's going to do bread and butter pickles, which are a fancy name for sweet pickles. My wife can't stand sweet pickles. In fact the smell of them makes her ill.  Also unfortunately, we found that it takes 2-3 weeks of marinating to make dill pickles, with regular tending to the brine to skim off the scum.  Given her reaction all night to just making the sweet pickles, it looks like I'm going to be skimming scum for pickels I really don't want.  That's love for you. hehe.

Actually, it's not that far off the work going into my sourdough starter.  Which by the way, is looking quite nice. I did the second step today, adding more flower and pineapple juice to the mix.  When I went to stir it later I found what looked like a couple of bubbles.  It's supposed to get frothy at some point over the next two days. I can't wait. That will prove it's working.  So tomorrow I'll be on the lookout for a dill pickle recipie and go buy some dill and onion etc.  Hehe, fun.  At least now I've seen pickles made.  My brother borrowed two cukes from me to make his batch, and ended up with 4 pints of pickles.  Not bad I guess, though a lot of work for a small amount.  /shrug Anyway, I look forward to canning more stuff.  Maybe green beans.  I can't say I like them fresh, maybe canned will be better.  I'll chat with my mom.

While I was making pickles, my brother and I got into several gardening discussions. One I wanted to share, especially for my local readers.  As everyone is aware, we've kinda skipped a month, I say we skipped August because this is NOT August weather by a long shot.  Tie that locally to the fact that we had our latest snow in 100 years this April (remember the late-night hoop cover incident) and you can see a major problem for warm weather crops.  So my brother's theory is that we will have an "Indian Summer" of a 70 degree September and warmish October.  His theory has some facts to back it up.  For instance, plants and animals may know more than us hairless apes.  According to my brother, dogwoods and lilacs should have changed their color and dropped leaves in late August. They're showing no signs of fall despite the cooler, wetter weather.  Further, domesticated animals haven't stopped shedding which they should have done weeks ago in preparation for cold weather, and squirrels haven't started bulking up for winter as they should in August.  He's got several good points there. 

So maybe I'm in for more cukes, beans, and ripe tomatoes, as well as bigger potatoes? and even maybe a cantaloupe or two.  Go figure.

Hope you had a good weekend. Tomorrow I go back to work and try really hard not to work long into the night to catch up, hehe.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

August 23, 2008

Well, I don't quite understand it, but I'm still ok. NO ONE in my family has ever escaped this. We know the illness like clockwork (though my youngest has been throwing up for the better part of a week now, so we're not sure about this one.  Anyway, enough about the sickies, this is about my garden.

Speaking of which, I actually got out in the beautiful weather today.  After getting a chastising call from my brother who stopped by to borrow back the family ladder, I did some spring... err.. fall cleaining.  I ripped out the wilted/bolted lettuce, the probably bolting broccoli and my brown pea plants.

It was a good thing too, because my compost bin was looking sad.

But on top of the ripped out greens from the garden, I had my stash of composting supplies to come to the rescue!

I worked them into my badly needed fluffing and folding of my compost pile.  I also worked in my kitchen compost, some of the dozen Starbucks bags of grounds, and my stored shredded bills (good use for them). 

And here's what the result of the fall cleaning...

I also preped the beds with some straight coffee grounds mixed into the top inch or so. It's darn near fertilizer at 20:1 CN ratio where 12:1 is fertilizer.  But what's even cooler about it (besides it's FREE!) is that being 20:1 means it won't burn plants like fertilizer will.  Mostly I did that because my new compost isn't quite ready since I keep adding to it, and my old is not quite the right mix with all that hardwood sawdust.

Anyway, you can't see it but I've planted some carrots that didn't germinate all that well so I need to replant quite a bit.  Though as a test I pulled up the thining and burried them in open spaces (no clue why I had multiples when I clearly planted one per hole).  I've also planted some lettuce that didn't germinate, which is odd because it's never had a problem germinating before.  Seems everything's problematic to germinate in the summer.  My spinach didn't come up well at all. 

My brother's building his hoop covers (going for the house look rather than a simple hoop), so I guess it's time I installed the brackets on the other two beds.  If I'm still healthy tomorrow I'll do that.  I should be.  I'm also hoping to corner my brother to do a pickling party.  Neither of us has done any canning but we're using my mother's set-up. And both of us has over a half-dozen pickling cukes on ice waiting to be pickled.  I don't eat pickles, but my wife loves them, so I'm hoping to make them for her (and I will have a bite since it's from my garden).

Oh, and while I was ripping the peas out, I found a handful of peas that I didn't harvest.  I recalled my brother purposefully doing that to harvest seeds for next year.  So I cracked open the pods and came up with this.

Not sure if they're viable or what, but I guess it couldn't hurt to plant them. /shrug

But on penalty of having my harvest stolen by someone happening by to borrow a ladder, I harvested my tomatoes, including the big one, which isn't big at all, but is the first ripe Momomato. 

It's odd that the first rippening fruit is on the bottom. I guess its because they're the "oldest" fruit.  And speaking of the lowest part of the plant. I noticed the lower leaves have spots all over them.  I admit I may have starved them a bit for water over the last week because I stupidly knew it was raining.  Not sure.  Any ideas?

Sorry for all the blurry pics, they look great on the tiny Blackberry screen. 

Now for a random potato bin update.  First, the Russet bin, which by my calculations, you can't even tell there is a bin!

Seriously, there is a potato bin there.  Hehe you can actually see it from the other side, which doesn't make sense as it's the north side.  Now you've seen the good, now the ugly...

No clue if the rain we've been getting was insufficient to keep them healthy, or they're telling me something. So I watered them deeply (both bins to be fair) and we'll see what happens.  One of my plans this vacation was to dig a potato. Maybe tomorrow.

Lastly, and this one's for Judy, here is an update on my Minnesota Midget cantaloupe...

I'm not sure if they know it yet, but there's no way this wacky summer season is going to let them mature.  I'm not even sure I'm going to bother errecting the trellis for them.  I can always just let them flow over the sides and do what they want.  Which won't be much since we skipped a month.

But aren't they cute?  They're real troopers.  Next year I'll start with plenty of time to let them mature, and find a top for this SWC. hehe

Well, that's it for tonight.  It was a bit easier today without my youngest (he was staying the night with Nana since he was the healthy one, well at least we thought he was).  My eldest wasn't particularly interested in the garden (he lacks patience), but we had fun outside and with his puzzle books.  Tomorrow should be fun if the weather holds.

Enjoy your garden!

Friday, August 22, 2008

August 22, 2008

Well, this was a wasted day for gardening. Oh and let me say up front don't expect a post for me for the next two days. You see, my family has been cycling through the same bloody 48 hour stomach flu that we've had one or two times each for the last several years.  Funny that it took me this long to recognize it. Normally I'm one of the first to get it. That's what threw me off.  Anyway, this nasty bug is thankfully short lived.  It makes you unable to keep ANYTHING down, and I mean anything including water and flat Sprite/7-Up, for 24 hours.  You can almost set your watch by it.  Then, the next 24 hours is spent feeling like you've run a marathon without eating up for it, but can't seem to find the will to eat.  Funny how that works. You can keep something down but you have no desire to try, despite going 24 hours without food.  It's a very good cleansing ritual. 

First my youngest had it, which is another reason it threw me off. 2 year olds have energy if they're on death's door.  That was a few days ago, so he's 99% better now, though not quite with his appetite back.  Today was spent nursing my DW and DS, washing sheets, stuffed animals, clothes, towels and the occasional seat cushion while comforting a 4 year old that only partially gets it.  His mother is more cut out for this.  She's a saint.  I just looked out side as they lay on the couch watching repeat episodes of Curious George and Little Einsteins, lamenting the sunny 70 degree weather. 

All I got done today for my garden was to do some research online. I found that beans and cucumbers are companion plants. I don't think I knew that. I just planted them together because I needed the trellis space.  So when I read that, I remembered that I had forgotten to harvest from the other jungle.  It's easy to forget becaus you literally cannot see the cucumber plant between the monster tomatoes and the wild pole beans.  I pulled 2 more cukes for pickling out of there, just a bit smaller than the ones from yesterday.  They'll make great pickles.  Which reminds me. My brother expects to pickle tomorrow or Sunday.  I think I'll have to cancel.

You know, it's funny, I feel basically fine. It's like I know my future.  So I've prepared for it the best I can by super hydrating myself knowing I'll be dehydrated for the next two days, and had a nice big early dinner hoping to digest it to give me strength.  Sorry for belaying the point, but I remember last year not really caring if I made it through it, as silly as that sounds.  My wife hasn't gotten up from the bed or couch except to relieve her stomach of whatever we were foolish to feed her, and she's a very strong woman.

So, if my premonition is correct, I will not get to fluffing and adding to my compost pile, pickle my cucumbers or spend the rest of my vacation playing in the garden.  Ah well. I've got more vacation time, it's just busy at work so taking time off is difficult.  Goodness I've got to become a homesteader and drop off the grid, hehe.  I guess first I'll have to learn to love all veggies. /sigh

Oh, the good news. My sourdough starter is acting as planned.  It is very stickly and elastic, and it's starting to lose it's pineaple smell (the acid kills a bacteria that will stop the fermination process) and it's starting to smell a bit sour.  That's a good sign.  No frothing but that's not even anticipated tomorrow. You feed it anyway.

Well, hope you have a productive and enjoyable weekend in your garden.  If you hear from me, that means I'm not dying. Either way, I'll be back Monday.  Enjoy your garden!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

August 21, 2008

Well, this post will be a long one.  So much to say, so let's get started...

First off, I want to parrot the comment from yesterday's post from Jordanne from PTF and their sister sites, including  It very well been a timing coincidence that led to the severe uptick in spam.  I concur that everything is being done to ensure that the PTF sites are as safe as any site out there due to the diligence of Jordanne and others in the PTF family.

Today was a busy day, getting a ticket for not noticing a no-right-on-red sign, failing my second emissions control test after spending $250 to fix it, and rain hampering much of my plans for the garden.  However, I did have a blast at Jump Planet with the kids (great workout!) and did get out in the garden for a bit of thining and planning.  While I was out there, I couldn't help but notice that several of my cucumbers were ready, or perhaps past ready, to harvest.

I think that huge yellow one will either be toast or a slicer, but the rest will be used this weekend.  I let the yellow one stay on the vine longer than normal to test to see if that plant was my slicer or a pickler.  It's odd because I've got what are undoubtedy slicers seemingly growing from the same plant, though it's possible it's from the center one just growing into the next square.  Anyway, if the yellow's bad, I'll compost it, otherwise it's salad material.  The rest will be used to make pickles this weekend.  My brother just harvested the same number of slightly smaller pickling cukes from his 18 plants today as well.  So we've got a date to pickle this weekend.  Should be fun. I just hope I can get two or three per jar, hehe.

As you can see, the trellised cukes are taking to it very well, though I did have to grab some vines from the sides and back and train them a bit.  I also took a moment to hand pollinate whatever I could find.  I even did the one that is a mutant. Half cuke and half baby stump.  I somehow doubt that will turn out right in the end.  I didn't take a picture because it was deep in the jungle.  Speaking of the jungle, I noticed some spots on the leaves.

It's likely due to too much water, since it's been raining off and on for a week now.  We'll see if it spreads or bounces back.

While I was at it, I couldn't help but notice that the silks on the original corn planting were turning brown and the last plantings were forming silks left and right.  In other words, just as I had hoped it would happen.  So I went to the Seneca Horizon and checked a cob.  The tip didn't have any kernels, but where it did, the fluid was milky! Yay, corn is done!  So tonight I grilled up some steaks, baked some potatoes and boiled me a pot of water.  Then I went out and harvested some corn.

When I got inside, I shucked the corn and tossed it into the boiling water.  I wanted it as fresh as possible so I only let it cook for a few minutes.  I also didn't want to taint the flavor so I didn't add sugar to the water like I do for storebought to make it sweeter (shh, don't tell anyone my secret hehe).  To my great disappointment, the corn was edible, but nowhere near as tasty as store bought corn. I am not sure what went wrong. Maybe I harvested too late.  Maybe it cross pollinated with the Precocious, though that shouldn't matter with sh corn, in other words, not the supersweet varieties.  Or maybe it's just how it's supposed to taste and I'm just used to the supersweet varieties.  But this was as fresh as fresh can be and it wasn't sweet at all.  Grrr. If I don't get better results from the rest of this harvest, that'll be the reason I stop planting corn.  There are so many possible reasons not to, but that one would take the cake!  Ah well, the rest of the meal rocked!

On a random note, I just had to share a broccoli story.  I call it the tale of two broccoli plants.  One was transplanted with his brethren but never really grew in the shadow of other plants.  The other was direct sowed late and so shaded by cauliflower leaves that it grew leggy such that I didn't think a head could be supported.  The head started to form first on the transplant, though months after I'd harvested the other transplants.  However, right away it stopped maintaining it's tight symetrical head.  Something was wrong.  The direct sowed one formed a head really late, and only after the cauliflower had been harvested and the weather turned foul and the leggy stalk bent into an S such that the head was resting on the ground.  That head looks like this now...

Notice that the bed board is directly under it, supporting it's weight.  I moved the S to avoid it taking over the adjacent square. I'd like to plant that for fall. This will be harvested before the hoop cover goes on, so no worries.  I don't think I'll be growing broccoli next year so the tale of two broccoli will have to be an unsolved mystery.

Back in side, while I was talking to my brother about pickling this weekend, I had a snack.  I took the week-old cucumber and mini-tomatoes that have been sitting in my fridge unprotected and cut them up and had a cucumber and tomato salad.  I must say, even after a week in the fridge, they still knocked the socks off of storebought any day!

The last thing I'll mention for today is that I've been interested for a while now to create a sourdough starter and make my own sourdough bread.  We eat high fiber healthy bread all the time, but I miss my sourdough, so I figured for special occasions I'd make sourdough bread.  So I found this video on breadtopia... Breadtopia's Sourdough Starter Video and this on making No-Kneed Bread.  I've had the sites bookmarked for quite a while now, but when my mother asked me to share my starter when I made it, I knew I should actually do it.  Researching it farther I found that it takes a week to make the starter and then bake a loaf of bread from it.  So my original plan was to start the starter the day I went on vacation.  Best laid plans and all... I didn't start until tonight.  I took detailed notes from the video and went and got wheat flower, pineapple juice and spring water from the store when I bought the potatoes (I didn't have the courage to check to see if I had some to steal from my bins yet).  Then after the kids went to bed, I created this...

Now it's sitting covered on my counter for the next 2 days, with me babysitting it by stiring it two to three times a day.  I sure hope using a yellow margarine tub is ok rather than his clear tub.  In other words, hope light doesn't factor in. /shrug.

I also don't have a dutch oven or a cloche to bake my bread in. I've shot an email off to Eric at Breadtopia to see if I can make due without the perfect vessel until I decide this is right for me. Then I think I'd buy the dutch oven rather than the unitasker cloche (AB would be proud of me).

Well, that's all I can think of for tonight. As I said, long post.  Hope you've enjoyed reading it.  And if you haven't already, check out the PTF sites and   What the Dervaes family has done for themselves, their community, the environment and the world through the power of the internet is nothing short of amazing!  Check them out and I think you'll become as addicted as most are to their story and experiences.

Enjoy your garden!