Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Specificity is a Good Thing

But first, a picture of all of the past few day's snow peas, just before they got stirred into tonight's stir fry. Yum. I still don't wish I'd planted too many more, but maybe enough to put some in the freezer would have been smart. The kids really love these.

This year, I was going to go all Cynthia Sandberg and plant tomatoes like she does at Love Apple Farm. On Sunday, I stopped by my favorite meat counter and chatted up the butcher about fish heads. Of course that led us right to tomatoes, how much water citrus needs, and homeschooling! Wordsworth was right, it is all in a grain of sand. He said he'd get them for me by Monday, so I held off on planting the tomatoes, two of which had shot up to about 12" high and were thinking seriously of blossoming.

Monday, I stopped by again. "I forgot!" he said, and called his supplier, "The truck is gone? Well, the truck is gone. She's standing at my counter with a package of tofu." That last was with real disdain. He assured me he'd get them for me by Tuesday. I had hoped to put those tomatoes, lovingly nurtered from seeds, in the ground because a storm front, possibly the last one before a long, dry season, was coming through. Instead, I just schlepped the tomatoes out in their upside-down yogurt containers, figuring that I'd give them a taste of what was coming. Also, I had people coming to talk about raised bed gardening, and didn't want it to look all empty. Besides, there is always plenty to do.

With a rainstorm coming, I planned to prep and seed the corn bed, and get the cut flower bed ready for Ellie to plant. Got it half done!

Today, after a serious homeschool morning and a brief garden tour -- it was pouring rain by the end of it -- finally it was time to pick up the fish heads.

I trotted brightly to the counter -- "Got 'em?"

He said, "Let's party!" and I thought, "Do we know how to live? Fish heads!"

And then I got to go all the way back into the storage cooler, to see . . . a two foot long styrofoam box, filled with Kraken heads. Seriously, fish heads the size of mine.

David said, "This one is a Ling Cod, these are salmon, this one's a yellowtail, and I think, yes, this one is a flounder."

"I plan to put in about ten tomatoes!"

So we agreed that I would take only enough for ten tomatoes, and I watched as he fired up the bandsaw and cut that gorgeous Ling Cod head into pieces for my tomatoes. Ridiculous, I thought, too bad I don't like fish broth, because that was a lot of good eating going to waste. I need to spread the word among local gardeners that he's got tomato food in his freezer. And, that next time, he and I need to be much more specific about what we mean by "fish heads." Or that I need to find a free source of fish, because $8.00 is more than I want to pay for fish bits to stick in the ground, really.

Here's the set up: saved, washed and smashed eggshells from our chickens; a bit of organic fertilizer; a bottle of aspirin from old pregnancies; a Principe Borghese plum tomato in its yogurt container (turned upside down with the bottom cut off so I can just pop the top off of the bottom and slip it right into the hole); and a bag of former fish head, now in parts.

I dug a pretty deep hole, although as usual, I could have gone a bit deeper. The important thing to note in this picture is the depth of the wet soil. This is fluffy, amended garden soil. The rain gauge showed 1/2" at this point, and this is all that was wet:

Only about 1/2" deep. I'm definitely going to have to stay on top of watering this summer plus use heavy mulch if I want to eat anything.

Finally, bottom leaves clipped off, the tomato nestles in there. As I think back, I put them in exactly the wrong places. The line of tomatoes nearest the edge is the paste Principe Borghese, with the lovely Sungold cherries more in the center of the bed. Since I want Ellie to be able to graze through the garden, I should have put the Sungolds right by the edge. I don't think I can face digging them up and moving them, although if it's lovely part of tomorrow I may just do that. My arms can reach, but she's only 9 -- it's more difficult for her, and nearly impossible for her little sister. I'd rather not tempt them into standing in the beds!


Susan said...

This story makes a certain song go through my head. Those fish heads sound too large to be roly poly. But the tomatoes will be great. I've got to grow some tomatoes. Clem has a hard time resisting trying anything she has picked herself.

Kristin said...

I really enjoyed your conversations with the butcher. Your adventures are fun to read about, both in your yard and at the store. This is quite an elaborate effort to compost. Why don't you use your chicken poop in water and make compost tea--so much easier. I'll be curious to see how much more nitrogen the fish heads have in relation to the compost tea that I make. The last time I used it on my tomato plants, I swear they grew a foot in two days. The growth was amazing, but they didn't bloom enough, so my fertilizer was lacking in that area.

patricia said...

Can't you put a request for fish heads out on your garden sharing blog? You know, some folks are looking for oranges for marmalade, some have an overabundance of plums.

And someone might just have a few fish heads lying around.

Me? I just have disdainful tofu.

Stefaneener said...

The chicken manure tea sounds like a fine, if disgusting, idea. And Tricia, I'd probably go to a market in Chinatown next time. Denise said fish heads there are quite inexpensive.

Now I have to decide if I'm hardcore enough to go out and plant more tomatoes in the rain, just to make sure they get good water. But the fish heads are frozen now. Brrrr.