Monday, July 26, 2010

Murder and Mayhem

Patience was lost and measures were taken.  The gopher problem started with an echinacea and then a penstemon.  We were irritated, but not enough to do anything about it.  Then there was the loss of a cantaloupe, which prompted the retrieval of the gopher trap.  The flower gopher was caught first; we couldn't find the melon gopher's run.  Then he ate a watermelon.  The next day, he was caught.  Now there's one in the squash.
The deer, meanwhile, stroll through sampling the wares.  They are particularly fond of lettuce and chard at the moment.  They may be nibbling the beans, or someone smaller may emerge from the wheat for a few bites.  These losses are tolerable, but I fear the day when an almost ripe tomato has a large bite taken from it.  So we resorted to peanut butter smeared on aluminum foil attached to the electric fence.  Cruel, I know, but I figure we give them 330 acres on which they can do what they want, so I should be able to defend my garden space without guilt.  Hard to say whether it worked or not; one was just gone, one licked clean, and others in various stages of in between.
The war with the potato bugs seems mild in comparison--a quick death by squishing or a long death by drowning.
The winter squash started blooming and some larger tomatoes are turning.  The basil is looking quite good if I do say so myself.  Market went well, except for the car accident where someone mistook their break for their accelerator; luckily no one was hurt, although three cars were involved.
The big news of the week was that garlic harvest started in earnest.  Teri was a big help as she and Shawn and I waited until the hottest part of the hottest day of the year to get cracking.  We started with Georgian Crystal (568 heads), then moved on to Premium Northern White (419 heads), followed by Romanian (420 heads).  Then I had to do some other things, but they kept at it and finished up the Thermadrone.  I didn't get a count on that, but, boy, did its heads look amazing.
Warning: this may creep you out.  Occassionally we ponder how many times we touch other people's food.  With the garlic, if we start with the harvest, it's taken from the ground (1).  Then it's grabbed and most of the dirt is shaken/rubbed off the roots (2).  Then it's put in the wheelbarrow (3).  Then it's put into groups of ten and hung up (4).  Then it's left alone for a while to cure, at which point its top and roots are cut off (5).  The extra papers are rubbed until they fall off and any extra dirt is also removed.  The head is put in a bag of eat now, sell, or seed.  If it's sell, it's put in and out of the bag/bin as many times as need be until sold (?).  If it's seed, it's broken apart into the individual cloves (6) and planted (7), only to go through the whole process next year--so the number could go up exponentially if you count across the generations.
The internet wasn't working so well Sunday night, so now it's Monday night.  The carrots and cilantro came up today!
The truly exciting news is that tomorrow we leave for vacation.  We will not be at the market next week, but will be back the following.  The garden will be in Teri's excellent care and she has plans for much garlic harvesting.

The marvel of the Marvel Stripe.

 One large cantaloupe (that survived the gopher).

 A ladybug shows its carnivorousness.

 Teri gets the bulk of the dirt off the garlic.

 One wheelbarrow full of Premium Northern White.

 The garlic shed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Beginning to Seem Like Our Garden

This week we seem to have turned the corner on the weeds.  There have been places within the garden I've dreaded looking at, and this week I got most of them under control.  There are by no means no weeds in our garden (everyone loves a double negative), but now there are definitely more intentional plants of reasonable size.
I picked many peas and shucked and ate them (they're tasting better).  That's the problem with peas; it just takes so much effort to get to them and they are so brief in their season.  I had dreams of freezing peas this year and having them in salads all year.  I'll likely have the same dream next year, but the reality is (when the peas are in front of me) I can't imagine ever having more than I could eat by the handful before they went bad.  The plants should have had some support but never got it and so they sprawl on the ground.  I think it's not a terribly good year for them, but it's hard to tell when you can't really see them.  Plus, once it actually got warm, they were surrounded by a thicket of weeds, which blocked the sprinkler from reaching them.
We made our return to the market this week with basil, cilantro, garlic, scapes, zucchini, and dried peppers.  People were apparently eager to buy, as I was out of the herbs, scapes, and zucs by 10:30.  The garlic and dried peppers held out til noon, but only 3 small heads of garlic were left.  Figuring out how much to bring is always a challenge and we did poorly.  No one's bought any cilantro from us so far this season, and yesterday folks couldn't get enough.  Teri says it's because it's a warm weather food and so now people are thinking about it.
That inspired me to plant more cilantro, as well as some radishes and carrots.  We dug out the hose timer to see if we can keep the carrots wet enough to germinate.  Shawn is dubious and I am hopeful.
Teri and her sister visited the garden and reported an unreasonable number of potato bug larvae.  I'd been hiding my eyes, but I think I'll head back down there to do some pulling.  They say I will definitely want a soapy water bucket; too many to squish on the ground.  Sigh.

Sungolds are starting to turn!  Now is the long-term argument with myself on when to eat the first one.  I don't think I've ever eaten one too soon, but I'm always afraid I'll get it before it's really ripe and be disappointed.

We have achieved knee-highness.

These potatoes are looking pretty good.  Most of the bugs are on the batch perpendicular and behind these.

The beans are starting to climb.  We ended up with about 50 plants.  I probably planted at least 150 beans.

Pollinator lured in by the penstemon we planted for them.  Hopefully they visit the vegetables while they're here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Little Heat Does Wonders

Finally feels like summer out there and the plants are responding.  I do believe that in the majority of the garden the intended plants are bigger than the weeds.  It is true, of course, that we've managed to remove many of the biggest weeds.  But anyway, it's starting to look more like our garden should look and perhaps after this week I won't cringe quite as much every time I go down there.
The excitement of the week is that Shawn harvested the first garlic!  It's Thai Fire and it looks pretty good.  Wildfire is also ready and it's started to come out as well.
The peas are finally producing.  I'm not crazy about this variety, which we got from PGG.  Hard to know whether to blame the seed or the season, but I'm going with the seed.  Neither the flavor nor the size is particularly good.
Both the peppers and the tomatoes have had a good week.  This week I need to try to tie the tomatoes up again.
I can't remember if I reported that when I opened the tunnel, everything looked good (no flea beetles), except that spinach was COVERED with aphids.  I've been assiduously applying soap.  Last night I went to harvest some spinach--still plenty of aphids--when I saw that the leaves also had many lady bug larvae (also known as aphis lions).  I decided to go ahead and harvest and try to place all the larvae on the remaining leaves.  It seems to have worked, as when I washed the spinach this morning I found only larvae exoskeletons (and more aphids than I had imagined possible).  It's interesting to me that the aphids really don't seem to have done much damage to the plants.  Anyway, this morning I froze up the spinach, which involved several washings, then a quick blanch, and suck sealing (which is what we call vacuum sealing in our household). I tried to dry the blanched spinach in the lettuce spinner, but it really didn't work very well and so the suck sealing was problematic.  Anyway, problems were resolved and my giant colander of spinach became four cups of frozen spinach.  Apparently more of that in my future.
Some of the Colorado potato beetles got past us, so now their larvae are crawling around.  As noted earlier, these gross me out.  At least I've only found five or so at a time.

  The current all star serrano plant.
A garlic plant ready to harvest.  The bottom three leaves have dried.  Each leaf represents a paper around the head of the garlic.  You want to harvest while the majority of the papers are green; they will stay on.  The ones that are dead show you that the head is ready.

The somewhat endless process of washing spinach (this is about 1/3 of what I processed).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Knee High by the Fourth of July--Or Not

We've been weeding like mad, and actually feel like we've made some progress.  It's been a couple rows each night after work, and so far so good.  The corn's pretty much done and about half the squash.  Our two best friends are the stirrup hoe and the wheel hoe.
Also lots of work on the irrigation.  The squash all have water now, and they are glad for it!  I also got hose laid to the corn.  Tomorrow I should get some new tubing and then there will be water to them.  Grandpa (from Iowa) always said it would be ok if the corn was knee high, and I guess I can say we're close.
Checked out the irrigation system in the orchard, and by golly it's in pretty good shape!  There is a game trail that comes down through there, and where a hose crosses it the hose was toast.  But, easily fixed and back in business.  Everything got a good watering.  I need to remember to bring some ground staples up from the garden to try to secure the hose in that spot so it doesn't get destroyed again.
We went out of town for a couple days, so didn't manage to get the overview photos, but took some others earlier in the week.  Had a great, non-gardening time but am ready to get back to it.

Zucchini!  Even ate one.  This is a female flower.

Here's the male flower.

The peas are coming along.  They'd probably be happy to be better watered.

Have you ever not managed to harvest your radishes in time and then they bloom?  Well, I recently learned that the seed pods are delicious!  Try them out next time you're as irresponsible a gardener as I am.

Potato blossoms are pretty.

A baby Blushing Beauty pepper.  Keep growing!