Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September 30, 2008

Well, I got out in the garden after work again. In fact, the kids were outside when I got home.  I must say I didn't do a whole lot, mostly puttered.  Theraputic. 

Only two of the last batch of peas sprouted so I took a cue from Rebekah and soaked some more peas.  After an hour I just planted them haphazardly in the in the squares that I had one or two seedlings in the hopes that something grows.  It's reminding me of the bush bean incident all over again. You'd think that area of my garden is dead or something, but once they get going they grow fine. 

The reason I'm so adamant about these squares is that they're in the middle of the bed.  The planned trellis configuration will focus all the growth to the middle so it fits under the hoop cover.  At least that's the plan, if I can get these seeds to grow.

After planting I sprinkled some of my doctored 5-10-10 veggie fertilizer with bloodmeal over it and watered it in.  Maybe it's just me but I think the lettuce I fertilized yesterday looks perkier, and so does the cantaloupe!  It's probably just wishful thinking. 

Finally I watered and checked on my next harvest.  My cukes are going gangbusters. I swear I've got 2 more jumbo slicers and a half dozen pickling cucumbers that are either ready now or will be ready this weekend. That and I counted a handful more just starting out. I even hand pollinated one that looked like it needed it.  Insane!

Oh yeah, I found reference to a cool idea for deterring raccoons (and other nocturnal pests).  It's a solar powered red light that blinks like an eye.  Apparently nocturnal animals fear being watched, so they stay away from this.  Not sure how many I'd need but at only $30 a piece, it would be a reasonable investment if the number was small enough.  Interesting.

Well, I'm going to hit the sack early tonight. I stayed up way too late last night getting re-acquainted with GardenGirl's forum.  Whew, I'm on a ton of forums.  They're all great.  Each has their own special people who are equally passionate and knowledgable about gardening etc. But what's a guy to do?  Is it too much to ask for a universal forum and community site.  I must say even in beta mode Freedomgardens.org is the best design, and with over 1,000 members it's always hoppin', but GardenGirl has some high powered contributors and she's very very active on the boards herself.  Then there's Gardenweb and Ft2Garden.com.  Both have dear friends but at least GW it's mostly a few of us helping out others.  Don't get me wrong, it's fun and I love helping others, but I hate it when someone asks a question of me and it takes me a week or more to get back to that thread and see it.  Whew.  I've been thinking that for quite a while now and it's good to get it out.  I'll still be active on all my favorite sites, just maybe not as timely.  And of course all my garden buddies are near and dear to my garden!  And look at the bright side, I've learned a TON this year.  I've got a ton more to learn and experience, but it does me proud when experienced gardeners compliment me on my knowledge and are surprised to find I don't have a full season under my belt, hehe.

Lastly, it's all about the gardens!  Enjoy!

Monday, September 29, 2008

September 29, 2008

Today, after an annoying day at work, I got to do two of my favorite things, play with my kids and play in the garden.  The kids got pushed on the swings and time with dad at a tea party my eldest delivered an invitation for.  For my part I brought the last two plums from the well-harvested tree we dined under.  They had fun, though they aren't fans of the sun going down so early.  Boy are they in for a rude awakening come December!

The garden part of my evening, I started by grabing the bloodmeal and 5-10-10 organic fertilizer mix I made up for the corn and sprinkled it in a plus fashion between my four lettuce seedlings and around my cauliflower.  I also hit the area where my peas aren't sprouting.  Who knows if they're down there, but darn it, one or two plants per square will not make for many meals come winter.  Grrr.  After I fertilized, I watered it in.  Oh, and as a silly side note, I figured out why I've been having really poor water pressure from my hoses.  Someone, likely 2 or 4 years old, unscrewed the adjuster peg in the back.  Tightening it up fixed my pressure issues right away. /sigh.  Kids. hehe

I also checked the temp on my compost pile.  Alas, I think it may be just about done. Although it's tall and deep and I only have a meat thermometer, I couldn't get it to read over 100 degrees anywhere.  Normally the day after I fluff and add it's over 130.  Ah well, I won't be adding too much after the leaves and the grass clippings from the final lawn mowing.  Then it will sit for the winter, hopefully under corregated fiberglass roofing to stay relatively dry.

Other than that, I watered in the blueberries again, and gave the existing blueberries some more water.  I must say a year after I planted those bushes, they still drain like a dream!  Gotta love Mel's Mix with extra peat moss.  The new bushes don't drain so well!

To make EG happy and prove he's not missing anything, I haven't harvested my russett bin.  Here is a pic of it all wrapped up to keep water away to dry out the soil.

I wasn't so worried about covering all the leaves, mostly the top of the bin.  However, if I stake it up, I could probably use that cheap thin plastic drop cloth to cover the cantaloupe to warm it up if it gets too cold to ripen.  You can see how close the cantaloupe is to the potato bin, it's at the bottom right of the picture.

Speaking of cantaloupe, I finally got the courage to pick off some of the redundant female buds.  Looks like I got good pollination, but I didn't really want 6 cantaloupe per plant.  Especially when it was all one plant.  Now I have the three best growing on the most productive plant, and as many as may be growing on the other two.  Odd that the most productive plant is to the north.  /shrug.

Here is a close-up of a baby cantaloupe.  After I took this I found one farther along, but I settled with this pic.  Hehe, I'm reminded of a thread where EG shared a similar pic and took flack for it.  Good times!

Finally, after reading on the PTF journal tonight, I found out something VERY disturbing. Territorial Seed Company may have signed a pledge to keep GMO free, but that doesn't mean they don't sell Monsanto seed. Apparently with the acqusition of Seminis seed company in 2005, they acquired ownership of countless popular vegetables, two of which I am currently growing in my garden... Red Sails lettuce and Early Girl tomatoes. I am so mad and disappointed I could spit. One company should not have that sort of monopoly through acquistion. That's what anti-trust laws were made to protect against. People get on Microsoft for anti-trust, but they created products that dominated the market, not through acquisition. Big difference folks. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Well, on that note I'm hitting the sack.  Long week ahead of me.  Here's to a little garden time for everyone to smooth out the rough edges of the week!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

September 28, 2008

Ah, what a glorious day here in the Pacific Northwest!  The sun was shining, there were only wispy clouds in the sky, who'd have known it was fall and that we'd missed most of summer?  Unlike yesterday, I had the entire day to myself for work in the garden.  And boy did I make the most of it!

Thankfully my folks came over to help, because I wasn't looking forward to liberating a corner of my yard and planting my two new blueberry bushes all by myself.  After a half hour of planning, we finally settled on where to put them.

Notice the close proximity to the existing blueberry bushes on the other side of the yard.  I think the bees will have no trouble making the rounds, do you?

Notice that the blueberry bush is still in the transplant bin, that's because I had to mix up some planting soil for them.  Since blueberries are acidic, I wanted to make the soil about as acidic as an orange.  Not easy to do, even though we've got a pretty acidic soil here in the PNW.  So to accomplish that, I took the potato bin soil (Mel's mix minus the peat moss) that I'd amended with a healthy dose of coffee grounds last week and added peat moss and a sprinkle of fertilizer for acid loving plants. 

An hour or so later and presto!

Of course the bush on the right couldn't go there without a bit of work first.  I had a rose bush right next to it.  And since these bushes will eventually grow together, that wouldn't do.  So we moved it.  I sure hope it survives.  It didn't look good a few hours after transplanting.  But here is a shot of all three plants we tinkered with today.

I also hope that the downspout is far enough away at 3 feet to not flood the area with water in the fall and winter months.  If I see it's not doing well, I'll buy a rain barrel and install it there with the overflow over the fence into the front yard.  Apparently you can't kill the tree on the other side of the fence (I have forgotten its name).  Otherwise rain barrels are likely a project for next year.

Finally, if you noticed the scalloped concrete blocks in the various pictures above, well we "borrowed" them from my brother's house and my folks house and my house to piece together a border for the blueberries to match the rose garden.  I think it turned out decent enough for piecemeal.

Now all I have to do is buy some beauty bark and spread it over the area.  I think this time I'll put down landscape fabric between the bushes before I cover it with bark to keep weeds from growing up.  Why beauty bark you ask?  Well it's highly acidic which helps treat the soil as it leaches down.  At least that's what I hoped for when I did it to the existing blueberry bed.  Now it's just a symetry thing, hehe.

After that project was done, I cleaned up the yard.  I hosed down the tarp to put it back over the kids outdoor toys when it rains. It had been used to hold the dirt when I broke open the potato pinata, hehe.  Multitaskers.  Then I also dismantled the yukon gold potato bin for storage in the shed for next year.  I saved the douglas fir boards but recycled the pine 2x2s because they just weren't holding up.

After that project I cut the plastic for the hoop covers.  I sure hope I cut them right so I can cover all three beds now.  Anyway, now that the plastic is cut, I can install all three hoop covers in less than an hour if it looks like it's needed.  While I was in the garden I sprayed Spinosad over all the plants that something's munching.  I sure hope my cauliflower survives. I'm not hopeful.  I scrounged a clear tarp to cover the potato bin to let it dry out.  Then I fertilized the cantaloupe bed with bloodmeal for a nitrogen boost.  I've got a half-dozen or more cantaloupe forming.  I'd be happy if one or two make it before the frost.  Maybe I should have cut off all but one bud per plant, but I just don't have the heart to choose which one makes it.  hehe

Lastly, I was energized but exhausted.  Still I bundled up myself and my eldest and we ventured out into the back 40 for what's likely our final blackberry harvest.  This time I armed myself with a machette and went jungle exploring to find hidden blackberry treasures.  It worked like a charm.  I cleared out a fair amount of old inch-thick dead blackberry canes and picked an over-full gallon ziplock bag of berries in the process.  It was slow going because everything low was relegated to my 4 year old.  He was really good about staying away from the big sharp knife though.  I was proud of him.  We had some great father and son time.  What a perfect end to a productive weekend.  I finally finished up with my arm and back giving out on me just in time to pick up the yard and head inside just as it got dark. 

So I didn't get my garden mucked out and trellis taken down, but I think I've got a bit before the hoop covers are needed.  Let's hope so.  I also didn't weed the garlic bed, though it doesn't need it bad and I can weed when I plant garlic.  Speaking of which, my dad thinks I need to research whether garlic will work with acidic soil in a blueberry bed.  Something I should do soon. Maybe after I'm done here.  Lastly I didn't buy the clear corregated fiberglass to cover my compost bins, but I didn't have the truck.  Again that's something I don't HAVE to do but want to do. 

All in all, not a bad weeked, all things considering.  What's more, I think it recharged me enough to tackle the office again.  Whew!

Hope you all were as productive as I and enjoyed your gardens this weekend!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

September 27, 2008

Well, today was fun.  I didn't get as much done as I'd have liked.  Roofing the shed took up most of the day, but I did get the hoop cover brackets installed before my eldest skinned his knee and wanted a smoothie to make him feel better.  Smart kid.

Of course those were 3/4 inch brackets and 1 inch pipe.  See I bought the brackets last year but the pipe this year.  In the mean time, petroleum products skyrocketed and the 3/4 inch was $1 cheaper than the 1/2 inch, so that's what I got.  So what if my hoop covers aren't interchangable. 

While I was installing the bracket on the small bed, I saw this cucumber leaf.  It's amazing how covered it is with whatever the wilt or blight.

Pretty cool.  And I found no less than 6 baby cukes growing.  Not sure I'd make up a whole new batch of pickes for one jar, but we'll see what my brother has growing.  You never know.

Of course, to install the hoop covers, I'd need to take down the trellis.  Next year I may cut it into three trellises, one for each bed so I could take them down individually.  I think I can easily remove the tomato SWC since it's got "blight" and I read about wrapping individual tomatoes in newspapers.  Not sure how you'd tell if they were ripe covered in newsprint?  Worth a try since I don't want to hang my blighted plants upside down in my garage. /shrug  Still a lot to learn.

As far as my blueberry bushes, about all I got done about planting them was to move them to the rose garden from my veggie garden.  They're within 10 feet of their final resting spots.  Tomorrow.

Lastly, I thought I'd share my potatoes.  You may recall that a week ago my potato plants were just starting to die back...

Well today, I looked and presto!

Wow this is happening fast.  I definitely have to cover them to let the dirt dry out to toughen the skins over the next two weeks.

Gonna be a full day tomorrow. On top of my full day, I want to help my aunt spruce up her flower garden.  She's got a bush for me to replace the big hole in my front yard.  Perfect, hehe!

Enjoy your garden.

Friday, September 26, 2008

September 26, 2008

Well, it's the end of a very very stressful week in the financial markets.  For the sake of not trying to steal DoubleD's words, I'll be brief.  But it's important for folks to know that we are in the midst of the deepest financial crisis in the history of the United States.  Some would say we are nowhere near as bad as the Great Depression, but if we did not have the FDIC, there would be the run on the banks that caused the run on the stock market which collapsed the economy.   Instead, we've had the federal government buying companies (AIG), brokering sales (Bear Sterns, WAMU) and incurring $5+ Trillion of debt with the take-over and guaranty of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  These are historic times, just not in a good way.  It is likely that the turnaround will not occur until mid 2010, possibly later in Seattle due to the loss of 40,000 jobs and vacating of close to 2 million square feet of office space when WAMU is melded into JP Morgan. 

All the more reason to save your money, pinch your pennies, and above all, grow as much of your own food as you can.  That said, tonight I harvested 6 pounds of green beans from my garden.  Likely the last hurrah for the year.

So I methodically clipped and cut these six pounds of beans while I caught up on some TiVo.  An hour later and presto!

Boy is that a ton of green beans.  Some nice frantic work to blanch and ice-bath, dry and spread out on pans for freezing.  Another relaxing tv show later and tada!

Four pounds of green beans ready to be cooked up for dinner.  Of course, I haven't tried the ones I froze before.  I sure hope we like them, cause I've got roughtly 6 pounds of frozen green beans to feed my family this winter and spring.  Boy do I hope we like them.  Because prices of fresh produce are going through the roof.  Did I mention that I de-stressed major tonight.  Bonus!

While I was out there I snapped a few pics of my garden to share.  Not much of it's good news.

The tomato plants are looking very sickly.  I'm not sure if I'm not watering it enough (problem with SWC's is they don't water themselves in the rain), or maybe it's supposed to happen.  Not sure, but I'm hoping the remaining tomatoes ripen.

Similarly, my cucumber plants are dying from the bottom up.  The good news is that I'm still finding cukes growing in this weather.  Boggles the mind doesn't it?

The corn is still growing too.  It wasn't there when I harvested before so I'm hopeful that it's going to turn out ok.  If not, it's only a handful of ears to compost.

I'll end the tour with pest problems.  One is an old nemisis and the other is new.

Yep, that's a formerly healthy spinach leaf infested with leaf miners.  It's in a totally different bed from my old spinach planting and it's 8 months later.  So I'm guessing it's in the dirt.  Grrr.  I guess another thing on my list is to spray Spinosad natural biological warfare.  Parasites for bugs.  How cool is that?

What you can't see is formerly perfectly healthy cauliflower leaves.  About two weeks ago I found a few nibbles.  I didn't think much of it, because Steve Solomon's book said the healthier the seedling the more resistant it is to disease and infestation.  I figured it's my healthiest cauliflower seedling so I'd be fine.  Now I'm not sure it will survive.  Grrr.  Spinosad for these too I guess.

So, tomorrow starts a very busy but mostly enjoyable weekend.  The weather's going to be great, in the mid 60s to low 70s and dry.  It's going to be extra busy because on top of the huge list of things to do, I've been tasked to help my father-in-law to roof his new shed.  I'm hoping it'll only take a few hours if he's all ready when I get there.  As it is I'm going to be fighting light doing all of the work myself in the yard.  The folks won't be able to help this weekend.  Now I'll know a bit how EG feels. At least it will be very non-stressful, or stressful in a different / fun way.

Enjoy your garden, and grow tons!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

September 25, 2008

Well, the weather outside is freightful, but this weekend I'll be setting up hoop covers, so here's to hoping the plants survive.

My brother stopped by and dropped off the finished pickles.  Look at these babies!

It's cool that he wrote the date canned and the date ready for the ones still soaking in the dill goodness.  I'm not worried though. We've got five quarts of ready-to-eats.  That should keep my wife happy for a while.  Notice the "eat-me-first" one up front?  Well that one leaked a bit and has dried salt streaks down the side.  It should be fine, but we'll eat that one first anyway.  We also are going to rinse the ones that are ready-to-eat because even with new brine it is still cloudy.  I'm sure it's ok, they just may be slimy.  People don't like slimy so we'll rince them and put them back after opening.  Live and learn.  I'm not going to do the pre-marinade again.  The short method is fine for me.

The weekend is going to be touch and go on Saturday, but 70 on Sunday.  I'm hoping to get a ton accomplished.  I don't expect I'll have many nice weekends left before the rains hit for real.  So here's my ambitous to-do list:

- Purchase and install corregated plastic roofs for the compost bins.  Buy peat moss and A-clamps (for the hoop covers).

- Pick the green beans, blanch them and freeze them.  I seriously doubt the pants will produce again so I'll rip them out and compost them after picking.

- Install hoop covers.  It'll be odd with the trellis in place, but I'm worried about taking it down with the tomatoes and cukes using it.  Hmm?

- Compost the corn stalks and fluff the compost. Clear the bed.  Consider covering the bed with plastic to keep the nutrients in.

- Plant the blueberry bushes using the peat moss.  Helps retain moisture around the roots and is a bit acidic.  Also use my acid loving fertilizer.

- Cover the potatoes so they stop getting water.  Time to let them dry out.  Even if they're not ready, I can't guaranty a day to harvest and dry.

- Weed the existing blueberry bed for garlic planting.  Probably not plant garlic yet because I don't have the cloves for it.  I'll be planting my brother's garlic.  He's got tons and that's a good way to keep the harvest coming year after year.  Yep, we're saving seed, hehe.

Fun fun fun!

Enjoy your garden...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September 24, 2008

Well, another icky day at the office.  Sorry to hear that DoubleD and I are in similar positions, though on different sides of the same coin.  Both of us use our gardens as stress relievers.  Alton Brown would be proud of our gardens as multi-taskers, hehe.

Unfortunately for my stress level, it's pouring down rain so the garden didn't get visited today after work.  Funny how summer ends and Mother Nature flips a switch around here and presto, fall wet weather.  /shrug

According to Weather Underground, the forecast for this weekend is partly cloudy with highs in the mid 60s.  Perfect weather for all I've got to do out there.  I'll wait til tomorrow for the to-do list, but it's safe to say that I turned down going to the Mariner's game to play in the dirt.  Of course I think they've lost 14 straight and are at the bottom of their division.  Not good. 

So, why am I not exhausted and stressed right now?  Well that's because an two hours ago I started about 15 pounds of cukes chilling in ice water.  I've got them soaking in my cooler. 


I also drained my pot of marinade and packed a very full bag of pickles to take over to my brother's to can.  I'll pick up jars and lids and head on over.  Should be fun!

Once there, we set up the canning station, boiling the brine and started sterilizing the jars.

Of course it wasn't all fun and games...

So all it took was to add all the ingredients together...

Add fresh garlic from my brother's garden (I'm going to be planting this very soon in the blueberry beds)...

And presto!

All in all, we made up those two pints from my brother's garden, and 6 quarts of new harvest, well harvest from yesterday and three weeks ago that I had stored in the fridge.  Then I got 5 quarts from the pickles that I started a month ago!  Plus, my brother is going to can another two quarts of whole cukes to be pickled over the next two months.  What fun we had!  Great stress reliever, but it's midnight now and this harvest keeper is going to bed, hehe.

Enjoy your garden!

Monday, September 22, 2008

September 22, 2008

Boy last night was beautiful weather, slightly overcast and 60 when I got home from a particularly stressful day at work.  As much as playing with the kids was fun, it wasn't reducing the bloodflow to my head, so I decided to head out to the garden.  Let the stress reducer do it's job, since that's the original reason I built the garden in the first place.  Ah, forethought!

Well, while I was out there I remembered a post that got to me from Granny.  She was bemoaning thinning carrots and correctly called it hers and my issue.  When I planted last time I got fed up with placing one tiny seed in each of the 16 holes of one SF, so I kind of sprinkled a bunch over the square and called it good.  I don't recommend it.  What I found last night was something like this...

So I went back inside and grabbed my seed packets and decided I was going to fill in the spaces.  Then it hit me, I had tons of seedlings right her.  So I started gently thinning the heard.  But instead of tossing them in the compost pile, I replanted them in the blank spots!  Hehe, I have no idea if that will work, but it's worth a shot.  What have I got to lose but a little time, though I know that's prescious at this time of the year.  The low for last night was in the low 40s. Our furnace kicked in for the first time! Make sure you changed out your filters...  I think hoop covers are in order for the weekend and the trellis has to just come down after I've harvested everything I can. /sigh

Anyway, here's a new square of totally transplanted carrots...

And here is a good shot of my thinned carrots.  Oh, and if you are shaking you head now about me thinking I can transplant carrots, I also planted 2 squares with seed.  My family is loving carrots right now!

Lastly, in the dim of sunset, I watered and saw some really good looking cucumbers on the vine.  The weather DoubleD and I have been commenting about over the last few weeks has really given both of us a bumper crop.  I think she's right that this was the last hurrah, though I do have a few still growing.  Anyway, I pulled a whopping 8 pounds off those 6 plants, not including two slicers that I didn't harvest because I can't get through the one in the fridge hehe.

A quick call to my brother and presto, a pickling date for Wednesday!  I've still got about this many in the fridge waiting to be pickled.  Oh yeah, and I think I'll can up the ones marinading in the garage at the same time. It's getting a bit nasty out there and I'm tired of skimming every few hours, hehe.

Enjoy your garden, it really calmed me down last night!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

September 21, 2008

What a day, what a day.  The weather cooperated nicely for the perfect outdoor working temperature with no rain.  I just wish I could have been out in it all day, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

My folks came over today and three of us cleared an area here...

to put the blueberry bushes.  Unfortunately earlier this year I took out a bush/tree from right under that pool that needed to be removed.  It turns out the stump was right where one of the bushes needed to go.  I figure I have JUST enough space to put two bushes there without crowding the gate or encroaching too much into the rose garden.  I will need to do something soon about that downspout though.  It will dump way too much water right onto one of my bushes if I don't redirect it.  I may need to get a rain barrel soon and place it there.  It's not where I wanted them, but it's a decent spot for one.  Then I could put the overflow valve over the fence where it wouldn't hurt much.  I hear that where Sandy lives the city sells them... I wish Mountlake Terrace did that.  I may have to make one.  I'm not that handy, but it may be my only option.

Anyway, this is the stump I needed to take out.

It doesn't look like much but all those little twig-like roots were all over the place under that sucker.  Made it challenging at best to get it out.  It took several hours of back breaking work to do so, but in the end, the monster stump was vanquished!  Of course the glove's just for size comparison.

Immediately after removing that stump I jumped over to help my mother pick blackberries.  My dad, mom and I got about 1 gallon of blackberries before we had to call it quits to get ready for dinner over at my house for my inlaws.  We had baked-potato soup using my yukon golds and green onions from the garden.  Oh, and the salad was store bought lettuce (grrr) and home grown tomatoes and cucumbers.  All in all the meal was a big success.  Of course while stiring the rue I thought my arm was going to sease up, hehe.  I'm utterly exhausted.  I think I'm going to call it quits here and go watch the Seahawks game that I TiVo'd.  Go Hawks!

Enjoy your garden!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

September 20, 2008

Well, it's this time of year that Seattle weather forecasters lose all respect they've earned throughout the year.  Today was partly cloudy with scattered showers.  What that meant for us was a light rain or drizzle the entire day and night.  So my grand plans were rained out, well partially.

I did get a chance to harvest plums.  My mother, father and aunt came out to help, though I was the one up in the tree most of the time.  I started out climbing the tree.  The branches spread out about waist high so it's an easy climb.  I cleared out the middle that way.  Then we used the ladder to get the rest of them.  At one point I was hanging out over the neighbor's fence, pulling down a heavily laden branch, using it to steady myself while I harvested the juicy plums. 

The rain was coming down hard by then and I was soaked. Every time you'd pull a plum water would shower down on you.  We were so "done" by the end that I didn't think to take pictures of the harvest. But we got 8 plastic shopping bags of plums, about what we got last year.  I didn't weigh them, but I'm fairly certain we got over 50 pounds. Maybe closer to 75. 

I gave a bag to my neighbors and kept about a dozen big juicy ones for my eldest to eat and the rest went off with my mother for juicing and freezing.  Some will be made into plum buckles and some will be halved and frozen for smoothies, but most of them were juiced and frozen for making jelly.  To celebrate I had PB&J sandwiches with plum jelly from last year.

We didn't get the blackberries harvested because everyone was soaked.  I really hoping that tomorrow is decent weather because rain or shine, I'm harvesting.  Next year's blackberry jelly is at stake, so those berries are coming down!  I'm not sure if I'll go out and hack a third of it down tomorrow.  It depends on the time and weather.  If you don't recall, my plan is to cut a third of the very mature wild himalayan bramble.  What I've read is that blackberry canes grow and spread out one year, fruit the second and are dead after that.  So I figure if I take out one third of the bramble each year, after a few years I'll be removing dead canes and harvesting only a third, but it will be low and productive.  Much better than climing a ladder and still not getting the poundage in the middle of a ten foot tall bramble.  Anyway, I seriously doubt it will be tomorrow that I get out there.  The late harvest this season has really thrown a wrench in that plan. 

I also moved the bags of potato dirt and coffee grounds behind the shed to store it for the winter.  I decided that the left over on the tarp will be used to augment the dirt under the sod when I plant my blueberry bushes compliments of SandyGoGreen from Freedomgardens.org.

Lastly, though I didn't harvest the green beans, my mother harvested 6 pounds of tomatoes!

Enjoy your garden!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

September 18, 2008

I want to thank everyone who commented on my last post. I was frustrated at being so overwhelmed in my free time when I've been like that for quite a while at work.  I'm so far behind I could work weekends til the end of the year and not catch up, but I won't do that to my family.

Anyway, I wasn't really trying to one-up anyone, just share my frustration.  And thank you DoubleD, I know your work is head and shoulders more hectic, stressful and draining than mine. So when you kicked me in the tail about not being lazy in the evening, it got to me.  Instead of playing with the kids or reading them book after book and making dinner, I got home tonight and had my wife dress the kids for getting dirty outside while I changed.  Then we went outside as the sun was going down (6:30ish) and I sent my wife out to get as many bags of Starbucks grounds for your garden as she could.  While she was on her errand, the kids and I fluffed the compost, using the decomposing kitchen compost, several bags of molding old coffee grounds and shredded paper.  I kept the kids busy garthering up the fallen plums and pears and helping me with the hose to wet down the layers.  After that my wife got back with 10 big bags of grounds.  With the fresh stuff I dumped most of them on top of my dirt pile.  I figured whatever the potatoes took out of the soil (not much since they were only in the bottom six inches), the grounds would put back. 

It was cute, I had my 4 year old hold the well-used vermiculite bag open while I shovelled dirt into it.  He was great and I was so proud of him.  But kids only have so long of an attention span and so after my wife got settled back inside I had her come out and finish up loading 8 bags of Mel's mix to be used for something later.  We didn't finish the job, but we got enough of the dirt off the tarp that we could drag it over the hole where the potato bin was.  The grass was brown so I watered it a bit after sunset and sent the kids inside to eat and get ready for bed.

Then, I was feeling so gung ho about my to-do list that I bundled up and grabbed my steel rake for trying to get the grass and weeds out of the area where the wasps are so I can find the hole where they come out to kill them once and for all.  Unfortunately I'm a wimp and didn't get hardly any of the weeds out before I ran off while being attacked.  I'm a wimp because I was so bundled up that they couldn't get me if they tried.  /sigh

So, I didn't take many pics tonight because it was late and there was no light.  Besides, if you want to see my compost method, check out one of the many posts where I did take pictures.  It's not rocket science, just think lasagna, hehe.

So, two chores down, many more to go.  Tomorrow I hope to get more done, so I can justify the day Saturday for the volunteer work.  And yes, I will have Sunday, but with my grandmother-in-law in town, I'm sure we'll be busy with her so she can see her only great grandchildren.

Lastly, I did take pictures of my dying potatoes.  Guess hoop covers over them won't do any good.  I watered them one last time tonight but that's it.  The clock's starting for three weeks to harvest.

And since I was in the neighborhood, I snapped a pic of my cantaloupe just for Judy.  Seems only the far right plant is producing female flowers, so I hand pollinated several again to make sure it takes.  Not sure I want 5 or so cantaloupe growing off one plant.  I may fertilize again this weekend, probably in the water that I fill the reservoir with.  Give them an organic boost to help them set fruit and mature faster.

Maybe tomorrow I'll enlist my mother and brother to help harvest some plums and maybe even some blackberries.  If I don't do those soon, it'll be too late!  Same goes for harvesting my tomatoes and stuff.  Maybe I can get my brother to swap me some lettuce for tomatoes.  hehe.

Enjoy your garden!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

September 16, 2008

Wow, late night at the preschool.  Busy days and busy nights.  Been like that for a while.  I don't have much in the way of happenings to post today, but I can share with you a dilema and maybe even a sneek peak at my weekend to-do list.  I know, it's only Tuesday, but with last weekend being taken up by the inlaws and the Fair, I didn't get anything done at home.

So here's the problem.  My to-do list is getting massive.  I know that's not a problem unless you don't have time to do it.  You see, every year my company participates in an industry-wide volunteer effort to clean up a school or playground, etc.  It is normally a ton of hard work and I typically do yard work, which is fun.  Last year I burned 6,000 calories in 5 hours. I loved it.  I was looking forward to this year as I spent time at this place as a Boy Scout.  It can use the help if I remember it right from 20 years ago.  The event is Saturday. 

Now you're beginning to see the dilema.  But to really drive it home, you need to see my to-do list...

- Harvest the plum tree. I expect I've got 30 pounds of plums and will need to climb the tree and a ladder for hours to accomplish it.  I don't want the plums to turn to prunes or go over-ripe.  Plum jelly is riding on it.

- Harvest blackberries.  We haven't been back after the wasp incident, so I bet the berries are very ready.  It's a huge job even if I don't hack back a third this weekend.  Besides, I've decided I want to pick my neighbor's side for him this year because he's in his mid 80s and just went to the hospital in an ambulance this weekend.  He's ok, but I'd love to surprise him.  He eats berries out of his freezer all year long.

- Speaking of wasps, I still need to do something about them.  I need to get the weeds out of there to see where their nest is to kill it.  Kinda tough to do.  I need a dusk where I can dress for the occasion and rip and run.

- The potato dirt is still sitting on the tarp where I left it.  I need to mix in some coffee grounds and bag it up for use later. I really need to get the tarp off the ground to save the grass.  That'll take an hour or more to bag it all and clean the tarp off so it can be used to cover the kids outdoor toys again.  Double duty. hehe

- My compost is very neglected.  It will take about 45 minutes again to fluff and add.  Plus I really should get a cover built for the bins so the fall/winter rains don't leach the nutrients out.  Besides, my kitchen compost is full and I'm resorting to throwing it away. EEK!

- My blueberry bushes need to be planted.  I need to remove some sod, and a pesky stump before that happens.  Then I need to dig two holes and prep them for my acid loving bushes.  Peat moss and acidic fertilizer should do the trick.  That will take the better part of a morning, even if I don't get the materials to create the border.

- Harvesting my beans, tomatoes, cukes (making pickes if I have time), and cleaning up the corn bed.  See about maybe replenishing the nitrogen in it over winter, maybe with a cover crop since corn's a major hog.  Not sure.  Thoughts on 1 year old compost with corn that was fertilized twice during the season?  It would be good not to have to quite yet.  Not sure, Mel would say no, just add compost next year when I plant.

There, that about does it. The rest of my fall to-do list isn't critical yet.  Now you can really see that I'm not sure I have the time, let alone the energy to give my all from 7 to 1pm Saturday and still get all this stuff done.  It's a bad weekend for it, but folks at work are counting on me.

Grrr.  I feel like those toys when I was a kid. They were foot tall action figures made out of rubber with gel filling inside.  They stretched to double it's length and then slowly went back again.  That's kinda how my time feels right now.  Normally I can handle it, but now I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Maybe as the week progresses it all will become clear!

Enjoy your garden and let me know if you're feeling the time pinch now also...

Monday, September 15, 2008

September 15, 2008

Yesterday was busy from sun up, well beyond sundown, so I'll recap yesterday and then do a bit of a garden tour.

Sunday was supposed to be a full day at the Puyallup Fair with the whole family.  Unfortunately we didn't finish up at my father-in-law's on Saturday, so I started out early to get it done fast.  Thankfully we didn't do as much as we had planned, so by noon we were on the road.  It took us 4 hours to drive a half hour to Puyallup due to the incredible traffic. We would be stopped for 10 minutes without moving. 

When we finally arrived and found the family, the kids went off to play and I tried to find the gardening/farming section. I also wanted to see the chickens to compare them to SandyGoGreen's. Unfortunately, there were none.  The food wasn't even that good.  And the journey home was even worse, sitting in the parking lot for a half hour without moving.  Maybe the Snohomish County Fall Farm Festival will be better.  Not sure.

So anyway, back to my garden.  You've seen the the box-o-corn that I gave away. Well, I didn't have an opportunity to give away a handful of ears, because they were not developed yet.  Their silks were still white as snow. 

I have tried shaking the stalks around it to get some pollen to fall, and blew on the leaves to get some off of them, but I didn't see anything.  I may be too late for these last planted, slowest growing ears.  We shall see.  It would be good to see if they actually grow, if I can time the harvest right.  These ears may very well be the deciding factor as to whether or not I grow corn next year, or buy it from Eastern Washington at harvest time.  It does take up way too much space, even planted as close as I plant it.  It will also determine if cross pollination was the cause of the poor taste.  Either or both are possible.  Time will tell.

I also took the first pictures of my new blueberry bushes.  I described them to you last post, but here they are in a temporary spot waiting for me to dig up a spot for them.

Look good don't they?  And where do you ask, am I going to plant them?  Well, thanks to my Aunt, here is the perfect spot for them.

I figured it out generally that with a tight fit, one plant can go right on the outside edge of the kiddie pool, and the other in front of the downspout.  With luck it won't crowd the kids window, which will eventually be the office again when they move upstairs.  Unfortunately the rose will have to go, but it's damaged and has seen better days.  I may be able to salvage it, not sure, but it will need to move in a few years when those blueberry bushes grow.  By the way, about 10 feet to the left of this picture are the two existing blue berry bushes.  Perfect spot for bees to travel between the four plants.  I'm so happy that I'll have more blueberries!  They freeze up so well once we get tired of fresh ones.

Oh yeah, and speaking of bees going from plant to plant, here is one of the main reasons I had bees to pollinate my blueberries.  Look how HUGE this lavender's gotten!

Can you believe this is ONE plant!?!  My aunt says it is and I believe her.  So we'll hack it back this fall and let it grow again next year.  Of course the garlic is going right next to it between the lavender and blueberries while I've got room for it.  Someone I was talking to questioned the soil acidity for the blueberries vs. the garlic, but it's worth a try.  Besides, I localized pretty well the acidity for the blueberries.  It shouldn't transfer to the garlic too bad.  I plan on giving plenty of room since the blueberry plants have very shallow roots.

Continuing over on this side of the yard, Judy asked about my canteloupe that she gave me the seeds for.  Here is a good pic of the little guys hanging on.

If I thought I had enough season left to get a ton of production out of these puppies (they're growing well enough that I could if I hadn't planted so late), there'd be a trellis here and I'd have trained them to climb it.  Look at those tendrils reaching for anything.  You can't see the the flowers, but they're there. And even a tiny mellon or two that hopefully were hand pollinated sufficiently.  Only time will tell. And if this weather holds. It's been in the mid 70s which is perfect weather for these Minnesota Midgets!

And right next to them is my last potato bin.  The Butte's have the best shot for the 60 pound average production promised by Greg over at Irish Eyes.

Note that the middle is not holding up well.  I've watered but I think they're dying on their own accord.  They may not need the optional plastic hoop cover to extend the season for further fattening to 100 pounds.  Bake potatoes are nice, but my wife always says the huge ones are too big for her anyway.  I can always have two if necssary, hehe.

Lastly on that side of the yard, my aunt tasted the plums and said they're ready.  Too bad last weekend was too busy.  Maybe this weekend we can harvest plums and blackberries.

Ah, in a couple years, I can see my kids climbing this tree to pick plums for fun.  To be young again!

Enjoy your garden!

P.S.  That nifty number 1 on the Top 100 Gardening sites, well as much as I'd like it to be true, I can verify I'm still getting between 100 and 300 hits a day (thanks to my regulars I bore daily), and Judy claims similar numbers at her blog and her Ft2Garden.com site, so how we started getting 35,000 hits a day is beyond both of us.  We'll take the publicity it generates, but I expect they'll figure out the glitch soon and we'll drop back to the 2,000 or so hits a day we share. /shrug

Saturday, September 13, 2008

September 13, 2008

Oh boy, I was driving home from a FULL day's work and realized that I didn't think I posted yesterday.  All I had a chance to do last night was to harvest ALL my corn.  I didn't get 200 ears of corn, I got 85, well 88 if you count the three ears we ate.  The rest of the 85 were not worth eating, so I gave them to SandyGoGreen to feed to her chickens and goats! 

This morning however, started BRIGHT and early.  Yes at the crack of dawn, well before, I got up and headed out to my in-laws.  We first loaded up an entire pickup full of scrap wood to take to a friend's burn pile.  Not very environmentally conscious but not horrible either.  However, while we were covering and strapping our load, one of their neighbor's came over and asked us what we were going to do with it.   Seems he knew of a place where they ground the wood up and made toilet paper out of them.  Turns out the guy owns the company.  In fact, they recycle everything possible there, using it to make anything and everything.  Very good find.  Not only did we not polute the environment, we recycled scrap wood into something useful.

Before we left, my father-in-law sprayed a wasp nest inside a broken hot tub that we were to demolish and take to the dump after the shed.  After my aunt's episode last weekend I didn't want anything to do with another wasp nest. 

When we got back our task was to demolish an old shed and take it to the dump.  Unfortunately we didn't get very far.  While we were dismantling the roof in pieces, my father-in-law broke free a hidden wasp nest hanging from the rafters.  A swarm got him only 3 times, surprisingly.  Thankfully my father-in-law is a tough guy and it didn't slow him down much more than his disabilitating injuries.  After about an hour of resting we didn't see any slowdown of the dozen or so wasps hanging around.  So what did he do?  He went back out and continued taking it apart.  He's stuborn too, or didn't you get that already, hehe.  Over the next several hours we got it down and I only got stung once.  Of course we were wearing our heavy coats with hoods on a very warm day.  I think I must have sweated out 10 pounds!  I know I burned 2,300 calories per my heart-rate monitor. 

Unfortuantely, time slipped away from us and the time I was supposed to be visiting SandyGoGreen's homestead.  We also didn't get the hot-tub destroyed or even get what we had demolished to the dump.  By the time my family got there to get me with the corn, it was 5:45.  We didn't even get to Sandy's place until after 6:00. 

There place is amazing.  Their Freedomgardens.org pics don't do their homestead justice.  They've got nearly a dozen raised beds, a huge pasture and an orchard with a mixture of mature and young fruit trees.  It is very cool.  And of course, they've got a greenhouse that the site does do justice to.  I really hope my brother decides to build it.  I want to help. It's VERY cool.

And the kids REALLY liked the goats...

I felt bad really, they were trying to fix dinner and we just kept talking and seeing the stead.  It was so cool I could have stayed all day.  We even talked about getting the local freedomgardeners together for a seedling swap, a seed swap or even a pot luck, though not in fall since we'd all just bring salads, hehe.

And joy, oh joy, the two blueberry bushes she gave me look great, and they're both highbush!  I had no idea where to put them, but I knew these two new varieties would give me 4 different types, and one was Sandy's favorite.  On the way home, my aunt figured out a PERFECT spot to put them   I had thought about in the rose garden, but my aunt figured out that we could put them where we took out a tree/bush between the rose garden and the blueberry bed.  We could liberate some yard and create a bee triangle.  What's more, the bushes are just about the same size as the ones I planted last year.  I can't believe my luck.  THANK YOU SANDY!!!

Well, tomorrow I wake up bright and early again to take the junk to the dump and then head back to dice up the hot tub and take it to the dump.  Then, hopefully early still in the day, my family will pick me up and we'll head down to Pierce County to the Puyallup Fair.  I can't wait to see the chickens.  I thought Sandy's were great and would like to see others.  That and the sweet corn slow roasted and buttered.  Yum!

Enjoy your garden!