Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Almost past August

I know it's almost the end of summer because the kids in our neighborhood are back in school -- and I cannot convey how happy that makes me. Suffice it to say that I enjoy the quieter time with my own little schoolchildren at home.

The garden is suffering, though. The weather is warmer, I'm still having trouble with the water-retention in the soil (amend, amend, amend), and I'm still not where I'd like to be in terms of succession. We've had trouble with the timer for the lights over the seedlings, so many of them didn't make it.

I think I may be ready to get back in gear, except that I'm working much more than I had been, plus we're aiming for more rigor in our studies and work, so "free" time in the garden has been hard to come by. I am just coasting, waiting for either a free couple of days or just overwhelming inspiration to hit. Then I'll borrow a truck and go get some horse poop!

All is not bad. The final winter crops are giving up just as the summer ones are really hitting their stride (remember I live in a sort of "off" coastal climate. We don't get hot until September). Last night, everything in dinner except the onions and pasta came in from the back about 5 minutes before cooking:

And in a baking frenzy last week with my nephew and Caterina, one of the five breads we turned out was a lemon-glazed soaked lemon poppy seed bread with just-harvested poppy seeds:

And the first ripe Meyer lemon of the season:

Getting good pictures with the little camera is still making me completely insane, but neither a new lens nor a new camera are in the works very soon. We have other priorities right now.

Ellie set out the other day to inspect "her" hive. Caterina suited up as the tour photographer, and I had intended to stay completely out of it. Turns out, though, that unless you're used to it or very very strong, cracking and lifting hive sections is difficult:

So despite the heat -- it was over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, can you imagine? -- I suited up and yanked boxes for her and talked her through it. She made it through nearly everything, before getting hot and discouraged. The bees were cranky, as I'd noticed last time. This time, though, there was an explanation:

At the bottom of a number of frames, we saw broken-open queen cups, some with larvae (sorry! sorry!) some just filled with royal jelly. They're either replacing or raising up a new queen. Doesn't look to me as though they're likely to swarm since there's lots of room, just as though the queen is failing miserably due to the patchy brood we saw. Oh well - what a year for queen troubles it has been.

One thing I have been doing successfully is making a list of next summer's must-dos. Mine looks like this so far:

More dry beans
More bell peppers
More dry corn
More Tristar strawberries
Fewer summer squash
Pumpkins - 2 plants
Pull volunteer tomatoes
Pull volunteer sunflowers
More carefully-planted cut flowers
More straw mulch
More slicing cucumbers
No lemon cucumbers
Stake tomatoes the "old" way
Reinforce where the hoses join the spigots; they're breaking
Keep pathways clearer
More broccoli in late spring

And I'm sure there's others. That's just what I can remember.

What summer resolutions are you making for next year?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I can now get to the old news

Someone at our house turned six. . . it doesn't seem quite fair that only one person has a summer birthday, so that all of that delicious fruit is available to party with. I guess the rest of us could celebrate halves or quarters.

I might have asked this one if she could, pretty please, stay five. I even might have offered up her three siblings' advancing ages in trade, promising to not fret about them getting older.

I was rebuffed.

Instead, we made fruit faces. This one is Mikey with a raspberry tongue hanging out of his mouth.

While the youngest was doing her best to stop staying young, the eldest was in Minnesota, helping her team win the National title for the Youth Club Championship Ultimate Frisbee, mixed division.

If you don't know about Ultimate, there's a fact sheet here that might convert you. Sarafina sounds a little like Lloyd Dobbler in "Say Anything" talking about "Kick-boxing, sport of the future" when she dreams of a time when Ultimate is an Olympic sport. Watching video of just the winning point doesn't capture the intensity of a whole game, let alone a championship tournament. I only wish I'd been able to go to Minnesota to help out.

And in the garden, one type of the beans brought from Italy had dried and are ready for threshing. The crew bagged them and we'll stomp on them this week, I think.

Tor is pretty well-trained. When in the garden, check for big zucchini. He's a good zucch picker.

The pole beans were big enough to try as shell beans, but I've only seen this kind of thing on favas before. On the left is them fresh out of the pods and boiled; on the right is them with the thick skin slipped off. The very young ones were sweet, kind of like edamame, and the larger ones were more starchy, like favas. Both good. Now I'm wondering what I'll do with the dried ones. Anyone who uses favas for soup have any information? Drying them was my intention.

And thanks to my friend Susan, whom I do not see enough, we have bee suits for all:

I'm getting to the place that I can't lift heavy supers or deeps down easily, not since hurting my shoulder moving that chicken coop. Eric, however, can. He insisted that we get pictures of him helping. I think we look like a family of marauding polar bears.

Even though baby bear had enough pretty early -- the hive was, not exactly agressive, but definitely unhappy-sounding -- the biggest hive was compacted down to two deep boxes and I think three supers, one fresh for filling. This is done by removing the frames that don't have brood in them -- drone brood got fed to the chickens -- and repacking them so that each box has four frames of food and six frames of brood. There were a dozen good brood frames and I'm pleased with the hive's health.

I shouldn't have to mess with the brood nest again this season, except to make certain that they have adequate stores at the very end. I'll keep back some frames of pollen and honey in the freezer just in case they need supplementing.

And while you can't see her, we saw the queen. Ellie managed to get her covered up by Eric's finger, I think. Bad camera, too. It's very frustrating. Edited to add: No, she's right there. Fingertip, bees, space, queen. She has a little white dot on her back. Drrrr.
Anyhow, she still looks pretty good, her tiny dot of paint is still visible, although to my credit, I noticed her by her movements first. That's when you know you're making progress. I also remembered to take out my contacts so I could see eggs close up over the tops of my glasses. That's when you know you're aging.

Yesterday was ridiculous -- two trips to dental professionals so that they could hurt Ellie (who has inherited the same bowlegged-cowboy roots to teeth from her dad as her older sister); two trips to grocery stores in between to get ingredients and soft foods; two batches of jam made with Denise and our friend Erika while the children rolled around the house; two dinners of turkey pot pie assembled and one baked; two online classes to set up and oversee. I was actually a bit tired and I didn't get any of the housecleaning except sweeping and dishes done that I'd hoped to do. Nor buy books for Oldest Child's upcoming semester. Argh. Well, today is another day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Well, I had some things to say, but

Busy days here. So much so in fact that I can't even get this post finished. Maybe tomorrow. . .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Late to the party

Often, something I'm currently interested in or trying is just about to crest. Beekeeping? Check. Urban farming? Check. If someone famous starts homeschooling, you'll know who to blame.

But I'm apparently way behind the curve here, because despite my incredible Kale Love, this morning was the first time I made kale chips. Those leaves in the top picture have been tediously (oh, so tediously) cleaned of aphids and rubbed -- by hand -- with olive oil, then sprinkled with a bit of salt.

Popped into the oven at 300F, in about 12-15 minutes, they looked like this:

And tasted of -- well, I can't describe it. If you like seaweed as a snack, you'd probably like that. I had tea and kale for breakfast, and tea and kale for a lot of lunch. I'm not going to make it frequently, because it's labor-intensive, but if I'm baking anyhow, tossing in a panful wouldn't be too difficult. They're tastier without the ribs, but not as pretty.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Short History of the Apple

From The Book of Men, poems by Dorianne Laux:

The crunch is the thing, a certain joy in crashing through
living tissue, a memory of Neanderthal days.
-- EDWARD BUNYARD The Anatomy of Dessert

Teeth at the skin. Anticipation.
Then flesh. Grain on the tongue.
Eve's knees ground in the dirt
of paradise. Newton watching
gravity happen. The history
of appleas in each starry core,
every papery chamber's bright
bitter seed. Woody stem
an infant tree. William Tell
and his lucky arrow. Orchards
of the Fertile Crescent. Bushels.
Fire Blight. Scab and powdery mildew.
Cedar apple rust. The apple endures.
Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors.
The first pip raised in Kazakhstan.
Snow White with poison on her lips.
The buried blades of Halloween.
Budding and grafting. John Chapman
in his tin pot hat. Oh Westward
Expansion. Apple pie. American
as. Hard cider. Winter banana.
Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet
by hives of Britain's honeybees:
white man's flies. O eat. O eat.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Big and blooming

A week away in midsummer is always a fraught decision for a gardener. Even though I thought clear instructions were left, and even though I believe my family members to be capable of paying attention, the truth is no one cares about the garden like the gardener. Everyone works hard at their own stuff, but not everyone wants to work hard in the garden if I'm not here to encourage that.

Well, that's not completely true. I came home from a truly restorative week of camping to find that one bunch of girls was just knocking themselves out in the yard:

So I'll ignore the picked too soon winter squash, the overgrown zucchini, which all found happy homes anyway, and the not-quite-done chores and remember that the bees worked every single day while I was away. Head down in sunflowers:

Rolling about wantonly in the poppies -- apparently since they're Papaver somniferum I can't legally grow them. Let's blame the bees:

And yes, that is my smallish, peasant-shaped hand behind the Anna apple there. It was crunchy and not overgrown even at that ridiculous size, believe it or not. I forgot to weigh it but it had to be at least half a pound. The rats had been knocking apples down and just biting bits of them, but we gathered up what was salvageable and one of the girls had applesauce for lunch at the park.

All the volunteer tomatoes appear to be cherries of some relation to the Sungolds I grow. I'm ripping them out at will, but still leaving some to ripen. With the cool, cool summers here, that may be the only way to get any ripe tomatoes. I don't hold the bees responsible for this pollination, since tomatoes are generally self-pollinated, but it's all flower to fruit here in summer.

One junior gardener enchants with her devotion to beauty. When I'm overly product-minded, it's proper to remember not bread alone, not at all.

(I did, actually, talk to her after the video too!)