Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Turban Gourds and Miniature Pumpkins

The turban gourds and mini pumpkins in the pea planter are doing well.  I hope there is enough time for them to mature before the first frost. It seems odd to be thinking of the first frost when a few days ago it was over 100 degrees, but in our area the first frost date is only Oct. 15, 7 weeks away.

I thought this was turban gourd some sort of deformed pumpkin at first!  The vine is so long it grew into the pumpkin area, and climbed up a sunflower.  The turban gourds are my first attempt at drying seeds myself, so I am thrilled to see I did it correctly!

Turban Gourd

Some of the mini pumpkins are producing.   Yet again, I failed to make note of which area were planted with which variety, but I am fairly certain that these are Baby Boo, a white variety.   So far there have been few female blossoms.  They are climbing the sunflowers and are winding their way up into the lemon cucumbers. 

Baby Boo Pumpkin
While all this wonderful growth is happening, I am supposed to be planning, and even sowing, a winter garden!  I don't know where I will put it; everything is so healthy and just starting to produce, so I can't rip it out to start over! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Change of Heart Regarding Blackberries...

I reconsidered my blackberry situation.  I was out a few days ago cutting back the old canes that had berries this year, and realized just how large the brambles have gotten.  Some of the new growth actually stretched out a good 10'!  Since this was the first year they had been allowed to grow, having been cut to ground level when we moved in, I can see they would get out of hand much too easily.

Blackberries Back in May - how innocent they looked then!
While I do love fresh wild blackberries, I decided I didn't want to deal with the prickly hassle of controlling their growth.  I can either buy them already picked, or drive to brambles higher than a house on almost any country road nearby and pick my own.

Last of the Berries

I removed a lot of them, leaving the canes with berries ripening.  There is still a lot of work to do, trying to remove the roots will be a nearly impossible task.  Apparently they love to be cut back, mowed down, dug up, or rototilled.  In rototilling each small piece of root or stem will grow.  Even burning them won't help, the underground rhizomes and roots are stimulated to sprout!  Just the partial cutting I did will send the message of "regrow...regrow" to the plant! 

Mid Removal - August 25 (prior to my fall)

Some narrow raised beds will work against that wall of the shed.  Definitely a much better use of space.  Maybe the strawberries will work there.   I have some narrow sheets of plywood I can lay down first, to at least deter the new growth.  That might be all I can do...deter. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Accident in the Garden

I have a short story to tell you about my grandmother, and another about my accident in the garden.  My grandmother's story goes first, as it relates to my son's reaction to my accident.

My grandmother was a feisty woman who lived alone.  One day she fell and was unable to get up on her own.  I am not sure if she was able to call for help herself, or if she was wearing one of those "panic" buttons around her neck that called help for her.  At any rate, the paramedics arrived, and seeing her lying on the floor, climbed through her bedroom window to render aid.

"Can you get up?"  was the first thing she was asked.  Now, remember this is a feisty elderly lady, not one who missed a chance to say what she thought.

"If I could get up, would I be down here, lying on the floor?"  was her logical response!

Now, I relate to that.  Whenever I get hurt in a minor way, such as burning myself cooking, or getting a cut, my family knows not to ask "Are you alright?"  If they do, the answer will be "No.  If I were alright I wouldn't have said 'ouch.'"  Then we all remember Grandma!

Which leads me to last night.  I fell while gardening.  Falling feels so stupid. It happens slowly, and you have time to think, "I am falling," but you can't stop it from happening.  My son was outside, and came over to help me.  Asking me, as I held out my hand for him to help me up, "Are you OK?" he smiled, remembering the family "rule," and realizing how silly it sounded to ask as I lay there on the ground with a skinned leg and broken toe.  Not hearing what he said, I only saw the smile, started crying and sent him back to the house, and struggled to my feet alone.  Of course,  he later explained and I understood the smile. 

My leg is scraped up, my arm is sore, and my big toe is broken.  I have had little toes break, but this is worse in that it is harder to get around without moving the big toe at least a little.  It has a color to rival a sunset's! 

So, I will be doing minimum garden chores for a while.  Minimum meaning water and harvest I suppose, or supervising my son as he does them.  I have some photos taken earlier yesterday that will tide me over for a few posts.  One on blackberries, the other on gourds and pumpkins. 

Now, what photo can I offer you (not my toe!) to brighten the day?  I know!  Boo is photogenic, and always cheers me up!

You can tell by the smile on his face, and the tilt of his head, he just knows he is handsome!

Oh, before my fall I picked a pumpkin!  #2 out of the 3 that I will get.  Goodie, more cookies! 

Cinderella Pumpkin - August 23 (small but solid)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, and More Tomatoes!

Since last post the tomatoes have started to ripen in mass.  I already gave an Ace and a Japanese Trifele to   neighbor.  I would be swimming in them if all I planted had survived!  Remember I lost a Costoluto Genovese, Momotaro, and Stupice.  I lost the first Legend too. 

This morning's harvest included the first Yellow Brandywine, two Aces, two Japanese Trifele and a handful of Sungolds I ate right after this photo was taken!  They have the strongest tomato taste so far.  Mr. Stripey and Legend are still ripening.  There are two fruits on Legend, starting to color. 
Tomatoes - August 23
The Yellow Brandywine is large, and has the typical, common, heirloom lumps and weirdness!  It tasted about like expected, like a fresh tomato, nothing special.  I sliced it onto an Abby's thin crust cheese pizza! 

Yellow Brandywine - August 23

It's too bad the Japanese Trifele didn't impress me.  It is the most product tomato I have ever grown, bar none.  Not only is its taste underwhelming, it has a large core that I have to cut out.  Not only that, but it isn't even deep purple, or anywhere near black! 

Japanese Trifele - August 12
How much they have grown in the past three months!

Yellow Brandywine - May 6 and August 10

Japanese Trifele - May 6 and August 16

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Update From the Garden

The weather is considerably cooler.  Only 90 today, yet it feels so much cooler than that after the past few weeks!  The vegetables are enjoying the break too; the heat was cooking, literally cooking some of the Japanese Trifele that were exposed to the sun all day. 

Speaking of tomatoes:  I harvested the first three Japanese Trifele today. They weren't really purple, but a dark red color.  They tasted okay, not anything to write home about.  Not a strong tomato taste, which disappointed me.  They don't smell tomato-y either.   Unfortunately, this is the plant with the most fruit. 

Japanese Trifele Tomatoes - August 21
The first Yellow Brandywine is nearly ripe.  I have to watch it carefully, as I forget that it isn't supposed to turn red.

Yellow Brandywine - August 21
 Ace continues to ripen more, large tomatoes.

Ace - August 21
Not quite sure what we will do with all these tomatoes!  My kids say they will eat them, but so far, haven't taken so much as a bite of them.  Not even one teeny, tiny Sungold cherry tomato.  I will research methods of preserving and drying without a dehydrator.  I used to have one of the Ronco ones, but I got rid of it to make room when we moved.  Bad decision!  I can always share with tomato-less neighbors. 

Today was a great harvest day.  Lemon cucumbers, tomatoes, and blackberries.

Harvest - August 21 (the interesting shadow on the right side is portulaca)

I picked several eggplant last night.  No, we haven't eaten them yet.  The eggplant is still growing, blooming, and setting lots of fruit.  I still think it is the prettiest plant in the garden.

Orient Charm Eggplant - August 20

Orient Charm Eggplant - August 21

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Overwatering, Ripe Tomatoes, and Other Garden Stuff

I have been over watering the watermelon.  I learned that the hard way when one of mine split on the vine.  Turns out they like to get a bit dry between watering, otherwise the fruit gets all that extra water, can't handle the pressure and bursts open!  Kind of neat...  I am just glad it was one of the small ones.   I am watering them every OTHER day now.  I should watch it with the cantaloupe too. 

Watermelon Split from Over Watering
The first ripe red tomato, Ace!  I was so eager to taste it, I forgot to get a photo before I cut into it!

Ace Tomato - August 18
I got a nice bunch of blackberries the other day.  I have nearly 3 bag of them frozen, more than enough for a pie!  There are two plants.  One I am removing after harvest, it is in the wrong place.  The other one I am leaving, even though it means ignoring the advice of the experts!  My house.  My yard.   My berry bush.  It isn't near the house, or any neighbor's house, and I plan to keep it under control.  I see what they can do if left to their own devices, but I am not going to let it take over the entire back yard!  Or, at least I don't intend to.  It if gets away from me I might have to rent some goats!  That would be fun...

Wild Blackberries
 There are only 4 apples remaining.  Codling moths got them. Or, the larva did.  I had to destroy the infected fruit.  That's the law, even  for home garden trees, in this agricultural valley.  I didn't realize it was also required to spray.  I plan on doing that whenever it is suggested.  Probably starting when the tree is dormant this winter.  I wonder how "organic" farmers here get around that?   At first I thought the marks were the hail damage spots.  Codling moth larva are different from what my mother's apples got.  Those were the kind of larva that were born in the apple and ate their way out.  If an apple had a hole, it meant the worm was not inside anymore!   It was the perfect apples that held the nasty surprises!  My apples have the kind of larva that crawls into the apple!  The waste they push out has its own name, frass.  You can see it coming out the bottom of the apple below.  That apple was destroyed! 

Braeburn Apple Damage - August

On a nicer note: a colorful sight we often see on summer weekends.

Hot Air Balloon - August 12
And, something to take my mind off that "frass," one perfect portulaca blossom...

Portulaca - August 14 (which happened to be my birthday!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Too Hot to do Much Out There!

The weather has been too hot for me to get out there and do much more than the minimum, which is watering.  102, 103, 104 degrees the past week, and it continues this week.  I go out in the morning to check on things, pick a few blackberries, lemon cucumbers.  Then stay indoors (no AC, but fans) until at least 8:00pm, when I water.  I might go check the cucumber in the pot, and give it water midday.  It wilts easily.

The tomatoes are starting to color.  Ace and Japanese Trifele.  The cherry, Sungold, has a handful ripe daily, which I eat while I water.

Japanese Trifele -August 14

Ace - August 14

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lemon Cucumbers and Tomatoes, and the Big Wind

The lemon cucumbers have really taken off.  Both the three plants for the FFA sale I have in a large pot, and the one plant from the Garden Faire in the gound are doing very well.  The potted plants have been producing for several weeks, and I pick an average of four or five cucumbers a day.  Good thing they are small!  The plant in the ground took longer to get going, but is now full of flowers, small fruit, and is climbing into the Yellow Brandywine tomato and the eggplant.  I love lemon cucumbers!  After peeling (I find the skin a bit prickly) I eat several with lunch.  As far as the Summer Dance, regular cucumbers...I tore them out.  Nothing growing in the buckets and boxes at the fence grew well enough to keep. 

Lemon Cucumbers (3 plants from Crater High School's Future Farmers of America plant sale) - August 6
Lemon Cucumber (from the Garden Faire) - August 6

Average Daily Harvest - August 8
All the tomatoes, bar one, have rallied and are doing well.  The one failure is the Legend.  The plant looks a bit healthier since I fertilized it, but I am only letting it ripen two tomatoes.
Mr. Stripey came back nicely after fertilization.  Not much fruit, but his leaves are no longer discolored.
The Ace fruit keeps growing larger and larger, with no sign it will ever ripen!

Ace - August 10

The cherry tomato, Sungold, has dozens of fruit, several ripening daily, even though the plant is still leggy.

Sungold - August 8

Winner for growth and heath is the Yellow Brandywine.  The Japanese Trifele is the leader in fruit production.  The Yellow Brandywine did lose a large stem the other day due to a high wind.  I had to tie up a lot of the other large, heavy stems.  It is a huge, gorgeous green plant with a fair number of tomatoes.  But, the Japanese Trifele is producing like no tomato plant I have ever grown, including cherries!  One is starting to show color.  They are beautiful, pear shaped and as large as the average pear.  The neighbors will definitely have to share in this plant's harvest!

Yellow Brandywine - August 6
Japanese Trifele - August 10
Japanese Trifele - August 6
 The wind gusted for a few hours the other evening.  I was out in the garden with my son when it hit.  He had to hold up the Yellow Brandywine stems while I ran to get the garden ties.  A few of the stems (they seem more like "branches) did break off.  One broke off the Japanese Trifele too.  While we were busy with the tomatoes, there was a loud "CRACK" and a branch broke off the biggest cedar tree.  It hung on a lower branch, and with each gust of wind swung back and forth, threatening to completely fall.  It is still hanging there.  We need to get a ladder and pull it down. If we can reach.  My son is eager to try!  Hopefully we can get it down without it falling onto either the fence or the cantaloupes!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So Much is Growing and I Haven't Shared...

There is so much growth going on, and more harvests happening, and time just got away from me. I have a backlog of photos to share. Today will feature Cantaloupe, Watermelon, and Pumpkins. 

CANTALOUPE:  I don't think I mentioned that I found some baby cantaloupes!  They weren't all that tiny that I should have missed them either.  These are Charentais.

Cantaloupe August 6

Cantaloupe August 6

WATERMELON:  The watermelon are the cutest little things!  These are Sugar Baby.  You can see another even littler one forming in the upper right of the photo. 

Sugar Baby Watermelon August 6

PUMPKINS:  Well, most of the plants had to be pulled out due to those nasty squash bugs and their damage.  There were three left, but last night one was completely wilted so I pulled it out. No bugs, or damage, just limp.  So, I am down to two plants, with a few small pumpkins.  There was a female blossom yesterday, but no male for pollination.  I picked the one ripe pumpkin, cooked it, and make pumpkin cookies (recipe to follow)!  I am used to pumpkins that are mostly hollow, filled with nasty slippery string stuff and seeds.  Cinderella is full.  After removing the seeds you are still left with the same basic amount of flesh as the other kinds.  Once cooked (just chopped up and simmered on the stove) I was pleased to see that I barely had to mash it at all.  No stringy mess, just drained and stirred a bit and it was ready to use!

Cinderella Pumpkin

Cinderella Pumpkin Interior

Pumpkin Cookies
Pumpkin Cookie Recipe:  

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Sift together.

1/2 cup shortening (I only use Crisco brand)
1/2 cup margarine (softened cube)
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream the shortening, margarine, and sugar together.  Mix the egg, pumpkin, and vanilla, then add to shortening mixture.  Cream together.  Add to dry ingredients.

Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet (use a spray or grease between each batch).  I use a pretty big spoon, probably like 2 TBS. worth of batter.
375 degrees for about 8 minutes.  Check.  They won't look very brown on top, but the bottoms will be browned and the tops set.  Remove from sheet and cool on wire racks.  Let the cookie sheet cool before the next batch.  This is important, or the cookies will be too brown on the bottom.  When cool, frost. 


3 TBS margarine
4 TBS milk
1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix in small pan and bring to boil.  Stir and boil 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.
When cool, stir in the following until smooth.

3 cups powdered sugar (it might take a bit less or a bit more to make the frosting thick enough to spread and not run)
3/4 tsp. vanilla

If you like (I do!), sprinkle still soft frosting with walnut pieces.  This recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies. 

My daughter and I just had some of these for breakfast!  They aren't much to look at, but, boy, are they delicious!