Monday, June 28, 2010

Of books, covers, and judging

I get, on a visceral level, that lovely produce isn't always the best, if by best one means "most flavorful," or "not sprayed with poison." I've eaten enough fruit that bugs tasted first, or knobby-looking carrots, or greens with -- gasp -- aphids on them to not get all caught up in the beauty contest that is modern food sometimes.

But apparently, I'm just as judgy as the next person. I confess, really I do, and I won't fall into that trap again too soon, I hope. This fall, alliums ruled the garden roost. Garlic, keeper onions, leeks (which still escape my gardeny success, drat them), and of course shallots.

"Of course," because nothing makes a fresh tomato soup like a shallot. Nor a cream sauce, nor many other delicate and lovely tasty things. And because I'm practicing to be a food snob. At any rate, I tried three different kinds: Gray shallots, Dutch yellow, and Santé, all from Territorial.

The Dutch yellow and the Gray got pulled early this month. The Dutch are sort of long, like bulby scallions, and not at all what I remember planting. I must have done something wrong. The Gray shallots proved that black aphids are gourmands, because 90% of them were gobbled up into slime by the bugs.

The Santé were off in a side bed, completely ignored. Then right after dinner tonight I wandered outside for some reason, and got sidetracked. The light in summer keeps me outside much longer than usual. I can't get enough! I was poking around and noticed some Evil Bermuda Grass in the shallot bed. I'd ignored the bed, because the shallots looked awful. Not awful as in "ready to harvest," but puny and unprepossessing, like anemic grass.

Imagine my surprise when, as I was pulling a weed, up came a classically-shaped shallot bulb:

Maybe not the biggest, although some were adequately sized, but definitely the nicest shaped ones in the garden. Go figure. They're out there so the roots can dry a bit, then I'll sift through them and clip them for storage. Maybe these are the shallots I'll replant next fall.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

260 yards

This came out to somewhere in that neighborhood.

I figured that I needed to spin through my fiber stash as well as knit through my yarn stash, and in order to do that I'd have to loosen up a little. Instead of working for perfection, I'd concentrate on speedy and soft.

This old batt, held back for when I was "good enough," seemed like a fine bunch to let go of some self-imposed perfectionism with. I think it's bamboo/silk/alpaca. The black hairs showed up much more in the spin than they did in the batt.

Over the fold, medium whorl on my Lendrum, and a few spinning nights at the library. I tried to spin loosely and ply tight.

Not perfection, no, but done, and already planned for a sweater yoke -- swatched and everything. On size 10 needles, it knits up at about 5 stitches to the inch. And it's very soft. I don't want to spin everything like this, but it was a good exercise.


Since I spend so much of my gardening time planning where plants should go, sometimes serendipity gets forgotten.

That's real serendipity, not the "Oh no, how can I fit another one in here?" or just plain forgetting the plan kind of changes.

I was utterly committed to getting a blog post up today, especially after reading some great posts all around the garden crew last night. I may not have much time, but I do love reading your posts! But when I went outside with the camera, the reality of doing a real catch up post daunted me. Suffice it to say that the summer crops are coming on, although we're some time away from ripe tomatoes, I'm experimenting with cover crops -- who knew?, and I may still have underplanted pickling cucumbers, because every recipe I see says "Take ten pounds of pickling cucumbers," and I'm getting one about every three days. Any ideas?

But what did strike me, besides an overwhelming urge NOT to overwhelm anyone with my whole garden, was how many plants I had nothing to do with are popping or popped up.

So, I give you my volunteers. (This does not include the small tomato plants that keep popping up in the old tomato bed, in between the cucumbers, because I am ruthlessly ripping them out whenever I see them. Some restraint must be exercised, I believe. Nor does it include the true, and truly tenacious volunteers, my weeds. I'm doing as well as I can with them, but under control they aren't.)

Those would be the tat soi babies. Everywhere a seed dropped, up they popped. In walkways (some being stomped on), in beds, beside bean plants, everywhere. So if you were wondering? Tat soi is apparently a year-round plant in the Bay Area. Good thing, too -- it's a nice green. Perhaps I'll actually sow some after I eat these up.

This baby is something big. A pumpkin? A Marina di Chioggia? Something huge. I'm going to let it go a bit and see what happens, although that's not my general inclination with big volunteers. I'm just so impressed with the size. Each seed leaf has to be 3" long.

For some reason, I don't have my pictures of the tomato and rasperry right by the chicken coop, nor the oregano taking over part of the front yard, nor the volunteer tomato out front with biggish green tomatoes on it -- that plant is easily 6' tall now.

So I'm enjoying the ease with which these plants are popping up, and in the true spirit of volunteers, I'm not babying them at all. We'll just see how things go. Maybe I can figure out how to get more of that spirit into my planned plantings too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I'm so behind in blogging I can hardly function. And it's not just updating my blog -- I love to do it, and I love to hear from people, but because I'm also behind in reading other people's blogs, I have to contend with the guilt factor.

Instead of catching up on blogs and leaving lots of insightful comments, I'm avoiding reading the blogs I most enjoy, because reading them and not commenting feels so incredibly rude, I keep planning to catch up later. . . and then summer hit, and well, "later" might be Christmas.

It's all good stuff -- lots and lots of work, many children, activities like today's berry picking, and gardening, of course. We had a small but intense heat wave that had me quite worried for a couple of days. I was draining bath tubs and siphoning rainwater to coax along baby plants and recent transplants, but fortunately the weather seems to have remembered its place, and we're back to milder days.

So, a summer overview first:

The sweet peas are down (you can see the "hay rick" load of them in the wheelbarrow), which made the garden seem more horizontal for a bit. I miss them, but some other flowers are starting. I don't think I planted quite enough though.

The pole and bush beans in the back left hand side of the garden made it through the heat snap, planted around transplanted sunflowers for poles. Here they are without their row cover on:

Because if the row cover blows off, say, a bird gets them:

Cherokee Purple and Sungold tomatoes are rocking along. The volunteer out front is probably a CP, and it's set fist-sized fruit. These haven't, but they're doing fine.

In the back, the herbs and summer squashes are rollicking. They liked the heat.

Maybe this will be the year I remember to fry some blossoms?

A semi-jury rigged support for the butternut squash. They seem to think it's an okay idea. I'll tie more ladder rungs on to it as the season goes on.

Also happy about the warmer weather are the cucumbers. This bed is nearly all Ohio pickling cukes, but along the left are three Mexican Sour Gherkins, just overtaking their teepee supports.

The tomatillos (visible behind the cucumbers above) are going to produce a bumper crop, I think. And they're so pretty. Tucked in there on one side are two Mini White Cucumbers, which I keep gently pushing back into their support cages out of the tomatillos.

Paste tomatoes got in late, but I assume that since I want to harvest them all at once and not use them fresh, and the tomatoes will cheerfully bear into November, it's okay.

Ellie has been tending her garden carefully. Yesterday saw the construction of irrigation channels. I have got to get these little beds either made bigger or put on a drip system like everywhere else.

Cat's bed has one of the garden's two strawberry plants.

And with that, we're off to a strawberry ranch. Jam tomorrow!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Not such a fungi

I'm definitely going to have to put more effort into fighting fungal diseases next year. The Anna apple has a scab of some kind, and I'm still cleaning dropped fruit from under the apricot. Since I have powdery mildew every year, there's certainly conditions that are favorable for fungal invasions.

We apparently had a different kind of invasion in one crop. Does this not provide irrefutable evidence of alien invasion?

I think this kind of alien is especially susceptible to olive oil and saute pans.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Please take action

My kids love strawberries. They want them every time we go to the farmer's market, and all season long they gobble them up. Plain, with whipped cream, in smoothies, on shortcake, in all ways they love the little berries.

I was too late ordering berry plants this year, so they are only getting a handful from old plants in the garden. Each one is watched carefully, and when the berry is ripe, one lucky kid gets it.

I only buy organic strawberries, as the fields conventional berries grow in are fumigated with methyl bromide -- strawberries are frustrating to grow organically. But methyl bromide makes the people who apply it sick, and it's ozone-depleting.

(I know, some people will say that growers are required to provide safety gear for their workers, and follow best practices about application of toxic substances, etc. That's true. It's also expensive, and when money and ethics collide, sometimes the health of a worker isn't the number one consideration. Until I personally believe that every grower treats their workers the same way they would treat their own minor children, I buy organic. It's a small price to pay from my privileged place for better health for someone planting and picking my strawberries.)

Now, the State of California is about to approve a different fumigant for berry fields -- methyl iodide. It doesn't deplete the ozone, but is spectacularly toxic and carcinogenic. If public outcry isn't big enough, this thing is going to be approved on June 29. I have my doubts about the strength of online petitions, but if you'd like to be counted as standing against this approval, you can go here and sign the petition. I don't know how else to contact the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, but if you do, go ahead. Feel free to pass this on to everyone you know who might have contacts or abilities to make a difference.

The children of strawberry field workers deserve nothing less.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tough Love

Some time back I posted something dithery about my espaliered apples out front. I knew I should do something, but anything seemed like too much effort. However, the master gardeners were out at the farmer's market today, so I went home and snipped some examples from my trees to show them.
"Fireblight," they said, as one.

"Oh, rats," I thought. I'd done this last year and didn't think it would come back. But it has, apparently, and I knew what I had to do, although I'm wondering how many more years I can "treat" the trees in this way.


After Mr. Clipper and Ms. Bowl of Bleachy Water and I got to them:

It has to be done, I know it. I think these apples may be doing the every other year thing, as the Anna apple is out back. Fortunately, that tree is disease-free and loaded with fruit. Even if I clipped every single one of the few ones off of these three, we'll have some apples this year.

In other news out front, the volunteer tomato has leapt past its supports, is starting to menace the lime tree, and waaaay inside, there's this little one hiding:

So it's not a cherry, I'm pretty confident. Still have no other idea what it might be. Perhaps some judicious pruning of suckers would have been wise. Oh well, volunteers get to manage their ownselves.

I thought all of the broccoli was done. After I picked this one and ate it for breakfast, it was. Unless there are side shoots.

The nice master gardeners said that this was just too much water from the last storm, not some horrid potato disease. We shall see about that, I guess.

There Will Be Salsa, unless the tomatillos fall right over or something.

The Talon onions got lifted today. I wish they hadn't gotten a storm last Thursday, but I had time today and they looked pretty finished. I can't believe it's the first of June. This year, I promise, I really do, to start my fall crops sooner.

And look! Isn't the Katy apricot wonderful? Last year there were only about a dozen fruit on it, so this is much more.

But wait. . . remember that storm last Thursday? It seems the tree thought it was a great idea to pump gallons of water up through the trunk to the branches to the twigs to the stems, and to the ripening apricots.

They split, and once split, they rotted.

Bleah. I'm trying to remove those so they don't make anything nasty happen, but it's a toughie. Fortunately, some of the ones up high didn't get affected somehow, and are as large as small peaches. I hope they taste good -- I've never had an apricot from my tree(s) before

So that's how it goes, I guess. Some good, some bad, some my fault, or at least partially my fault, and some not. Thank goodness for the turning of the year to bring new opportunities and challenges, but does it have to go so fast?