Sunday, January 31, 2010

How I do when I do what I do

Various garden bloggers are posting beautiful images of their high-tech garden plans made with sophisticated software. Ribbit and I seem to fall on the other end of the spectrum. To be honest, I stink at record-keeping (hence the blog) and I also stink at planting things where I say I will. It's as though the heady scent of topsoil goes straight to my head and whoosh -- I'm high as a kite, sticking transplants and seeds into garden beds willy-nilly, trusting in whatever earth deities run the vegetable world to make it all work out okay. They don't always watch, so I have "Tom Thumb" lettuce marching right through my napkin-glued carrots, but it usually works out okay.

The thing is, though, I love plans. I love planning, I love imagining me remembering to succession-plant, I think crop rotation is a fine, fine thing, and I like paper. How does that work out? Well, on the days when I don't have a whole class and a half's worth of papers to grade (what's your thesis statement for "The Overcoat"?), and I don't feel like doing battle with the Bad, Bad Weeds, I go downstairs and get my secret stash of optimism:

Doesn't look like much, huh? Well, lookie here:

That's, roughly speaking, my yard. Sorry it's difficult to see. All the beds are laid out and the major fruit trees depicted. They're just outlines. To fill them in, I go to the tracing paper and drafting tape:

This is the current planting. In general, I try to put dates down but I'm not completely on top of that. The little stakes in the garden have plant dates, transplant dates, and pull dates (ideally) written on them. Sharpie fades; pencil doesn't. Go figure.

Then I make another tracing paper copy for the next season. This is for the spring.

Laid over the current planting, I can see what is in the beds to be followed. Heavy feeders follow light, and vice versa. Tomatoes and cole crops seem to be the key players -- I want to be sure they don't get planted right where they were.

Theoretically, this will work. At our house, computers sometimes die or fail, but if I don't forget where the tube is, this sort of system should last and last. I like peeling the layers off, traveling in time as I see the progression of crops. If planting follows the plan, everything should work out just fine. It does, for me at least, lead to thinking of single-crop beds. We'll see. My desires for different vegetables seems to be waning, while I want more of single things (there is, for example, no such thing as "too much" butternut squash).

Plus, there's the magic of an eraser. The way my eldest is eating pickles lately, I may remove a potato bed and put in more pickling cucumbers. Easier done on paper than outside!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Harvest Monday?

The only harvest I got yesterday was 5" of lovely, truly spectacular, honey-colored hair.

The middle children brought head lice home from school and generously shared it with two more of us. We've been vacuuming, washing, drying, combing, and picking ever since.

So. Much. Fun.

Forgive me if I spare you pictures.

At any rate, last night we made the decision to mow Tor's head right down. He got a great baseball cap that says, "Ready to Rock" over a Jolly Roger made of electric guitars, and pranced off today as happy as a clam.

I'm still feeling weepy; I loved his hair, but I'm ready to move on.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I ran in the rain, but only a little bit of rain. Since the pattern has been: squall, clear, light rain light rain, heavy rain, light rain light rain light rain, squall, I figured that a spate of light meant time to lace up the tennies, since I'd finally gotten over the cold. The cold I got during a lovely three day knitting workshop with Janine of Feral Knitter. I got a cold, and many ideas for a sweater, and had lots of fun (and tea). I also discovered that no one making two ply jumperweight Shetland has what I'd call great oranges. Are you listening, yarn companies? yeah, I thought not.

Anyhow, it did feel good to run even though my hurt leg is still very much a part of daily life. It may never feel just right, but it isn't hurting any more if I run than if I didn't, and getting out and going even if the weather isn't perfect makes me feel kind of studly. Not hard-core, because I'm still puttering along at 10 minutes a mile, but medium-core at least.

Despite the rain, life goes on. One of the errands I ran yesterday was mailing a package out to the in-laws. They have cold heads; I'm a knitter, ergo, hat time! The ones for my mother in law are placeholders, one for her and one for my sister in law, so I have time to knit one to the requested pattern. I had these handspun ones done just from fun travel knitting.

Speaking of travel knitting, I plan to carry the gray sweater with me today to a friend's house for a few hours, but will probably leave it languishing in the bag because a baby sweater from stash is calling me. Babies come like inevitable January rainstorms, and I'd like to be done by the time the baby is. Actually, there are two babies on the way, so I need to identify more stash to romp through. And ignore any ideas about colorwork sweaters.

Have I written enough? If the package isn't at your house, and you expect to get that package soon, you can stop reading Right Now. I'm talking to you.

Okay. Pictures now.

Handspun "Felicity" hats. Slouchy, so soft, not my handspun but an absolute dream to work with. I should spin like this.

Regular flip brim watch cap style hat, out of EcoDuo and so soft and light I'd knit one up right now for me if I'd bought another hank, same color. Which I won't because I said anyone with as much yarn as I have should probably just knit some but the yarn is a dream. I'm afraid the brim blocked out floppy -- perhaps the baby alpaca was too much? but it's warm and soft, soft, soft.

So that's it for finished things these days. Except for running. Never finished, which is sort of nice, in a way.

We got weather

This is one day's fall this week.

I'm not keeping accurate records because emptying the gauge when I race outside between squalls hasn't been high on my list. I did set up another 50 gallon barrel to fill, though. Might as well retain this free water. My sandy soil means that we have no puddles anywhere, unless you count the 1/4" one that formed in the middle of the compacted path for an hour or two.

It's not just gray skies and rain, though. No, we got a Real Storm, complete with lightning and thunder and -- hail! (And weeds.)

Just in case I'm not being enough of a geek Californian, a close-up!

One actual downside of the wind + water equation is that I'll need to shore up the shelling peas when the storm cycle passes. I hope no permanent damage is done. Not, for instance, like my oldest child picking all of the immature peas because she thought they were snow peas, no, nothing like that.

And the ants have finally Had Enough and marched into the house. Time for vigorous vacuuming and wiping with vinegar and strewing bay leaves, I suppose. Or I could just wait for the weather to turn.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Harvest Monday Lunch Bowl

Denise, whose garden surely deserves a post or two, gave me a big double handful of tall bamboo poles today. If those peas don't climb, it'll be only my fault now. Do I need to hang vertical strings, or can I put horizontal ones and call it a day?

Today's harvest was of the "handful" variety:

A handful of broccoli side shoots -- pathetically as big as the main head, two red carrots, a few chard leaves, a beet for greens, some mixed lettuces and greens. All got cut up in a bowl with most of an avocado left over from this morning's lunch-making marathon, and yummed down. I had almost forgotten how good fresh lettuce tastes. The dratted birds are still yomping them -- I'll be lucky to get a full head. I don't necessarily want to toss the Reemay on again, but I loathe bird netting. I wish I had a nice, cotton fishnet type thing to put over the beds. Just keep the little peckers out.

The chickens continue to lay like champs. I wonder if they forgot to molt. If I didn't have so much work to do, I'd go out and weed and probably make something wonderful for dinner. Instead, I'm going to pick something easy and fast from the list, unless I pull Speed Grading out of my head somehow. Which also means I have to stop reading blogs. . .

Saturday, January 9, 2010

January overview

I wish I could capture the whole garden effectively -- but I think I'd have to float over it to get a birds-eye view.

At any rate, I think of the backyard garden as a east-west split, with beds marching north, and then the original garden to the extreme east. That's how I'll deal with it in overviews, at least.

First shot -- east side, south looking north. The front two beds are lettuces and other greens, with a few napkin-spaced carrots overplanted with lettuces. That wasn't intentional. I'd given up on the carrots, or more likely, forgotten that they were there, and then they showed up. Late for the party, but all dressed up. What's a girl to do?

The front bed has been covered with Reemay (you can see it gathered up past it) and so has been very very moist. It's also getting lots of shade. At any rate, this fantastic orange fungus has grown on it. Every day it gets prettier.

The second bed has my pathetic Lacinato kale "crop." The birds have decimated it. Next year I must plant them earlier, and inside, and feed them well. They're going to have to be big boys and girls to make it through the winter, I'm afraid.

The shallots look wonderful. I hope they weren't all planted in clumps, as I see some of them. I know for a fact how many pounds I planted, so it will be easy to tell what the yield is.

And, continuing the "alliums on parade" theme, the garlic -- not as abundant as I'd hoped. I think it needs something.

Last, but not leeks -- I slay myself -- the keeper onions. These are an Italian variety on the left, and "Talon" on the right. We'll see how they go. I have a few more Talon to seed this week in the open spots.

On the left, to the east, are the hardest working girls in the garden. It wasn't sunny today, but apparently warm enough to fly. The left-hand hive was humming, literally. Bees flying in and out very quickly. The right had some activity, but not as much. There were more dead bees in front of that one. It will be interesting to get in there and see what's what on a really sunny day.

Other side!
Front is carrots and kale, then sweet peas, then asian greens, then a mix of all sorts.
On the right of that is what I call the "old garden." It's peas in the left and back bed, broccoli and shallots in the right side. I'm trying to rotate crops sanely. Those peas need strings. Hopefully tomorrow!

And the beds that were to be the kids' beds. Sometimes they announce that they're still in charge of this plot or that, and sometimes they plant things. The front right bed has an entire store-bought garlic bulb split and planted. It's doing pretty well!

In the third bed from the front is that vast planting of True Siberian kale from saved seed. It's going well, but is being visited by that scourge of the summer, powdery mildew. Instead of treating it, I'm feeding affected leaves to the chickens. They seem to be fans.

On the other end of that bed, I think this is some green mache. I've never grown it before and it's very very slow.

The Asian greens bed is doing well, but I'm still fighting weeds. I cleared out the eastern end of it but the tat soi is still awash in oxalis. Bleah.

At the far end of the last bed, here's some Green Beauty snow peas from Michelle. I thought the birds had gotten them, but they look like they'll do fine.

In the very back, the shelling peas are coming along. Here's how big the Alaskas are getting, podwise.

And here's the length of a typical Canoe pod. They're going to be fun.

A surprise in the rasperry bed, over by the chickens.

And this is making me actually pay attention. This tree, which we trimmed, still has a couple of vast branches way high up. They're high, but they are still over the back couple of beds. They're thick enough that they're making a rain shadow over the right part of the onions and some other stuff. I was amazed. I'd been counting on the rain to do all the work -- I'm going to have to monitor those beds and do some supplemental watering, I suppose. And yes, that ivy needs chopping back. The work never ends here at "yard in progress, inc."

Monday, January 4, 2010

First of the year Harvest Monday

Kale, kale, the gang's all here. Seriously, it's the most reliable producer in the garden, although other things are coming into their season also.

Red ursa kale. It's tasty, but the tooth-edged leaves are slightly hard to chop. It's fun when they stain goat cheese in a leftover dish, though. Purple cheese and kale. . .

Yesterday I did a Big Weeding outside. I'm trying to discourage the oxalis by pulling most of the root, even though I'm not usually getting the bulbs from which they spring. A few seasons of this, though, and I bet they will be exhausted. It's a nice excuse to soak up some weak sunshine and closely inspect the plants, at least in the beds under scrutiny.

From yesterday, then, another few ounces of red kale for the lentil soup, along with a few carrots. Some are from the "Galactic Mix" from Territorial, including Atomic Red, Lunar White, and something else. I think I got two red, a white, and an unknown ball-shaped orange one. Then one Nantes half long. The white was mild, the red were different -- one was sort of spicy, and one was bland. I didn't get to eat the ball-shaped one, so who knows what it tasted like? Two lemons found from a nephew's toss-fest over the holidays, and the last few peppers. I pulled the plants and got two Anchos and a jalapeno. The little white stems were processed honey mushrooms from my back yard, but Denise commanded me not to eat them because she and Kevin hadn't completely identified them. Alas, they went into the compost. Not much there, but they might have made the soup taste better. A handful of "Alaska" peas, that when shelled, went into the soup. Caterina and I tried them raw. I'm looking forward to having enough for a pea risotto.

I also sowed three more rows of a lettuce mix -- the "Italian Saladini blend" from Territorial, and spent some thought on how to fill in the blank spots left by onions! I'm starting to think about sowing some seeds indoors for the spring too -- amazing how fast things turn.

I hope you all are enjoying your gardens either out in them or in the anticipation of the spring.