Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Book Review: Astrological Gardening, The Ancient Wisdom of Successful Planting & Harvesting by the Stars by Louise Riotte

Although I have been using the moonsigns to help guide me through my gardening efforts for over ten years, I am by no means an expert on the subject. In fact, pretty much everything I know comes from the big Historical Weather Chart Calendars that we are given each year around Christmas at the feed store. I have never in my life seen another calendar that provides so much information.

Besides telling you which zodiac sign each day of the year is in, you can also check the distance to plant trees, learn how to fight a fire, count your calories, figure out the quanity of seed used per acre for several dozen crops, and ascertain the amount of silage in silos. And that's just some of what is on the back page. If January 1st rolls around and I don't have my new calendar in hand, I pretty much start to panic.

I probably would be an expert by now if I'd had the guts to do something more than a one-time rapid flip-through of the copy of Astrological Gardening: The Ancient Wisdom of Successful Planting & Harvesting by the Stars that has been sitting on my bookshelf for at least a couple of years. But I was already so paranoid about doing things on the wrong day just from what I'd read on my calendar. This was an entire book wanting to tell me when I could (and couldn't) do what. I mean, there are even specific days when you are supposed to water the garden!

But when I started mentioning some of the 'good' moonsign days to start seeds and transplant in my blog posts, several readers became curious and asked me about how this whole minding the moonsign business works. So I gathered up my courage and took down the book. Oh my goodness, it's absolutely crammed with information.

Considering you can buy a copy for about the cost of a couple of packets of seeds, I definitely recommend this book to any gardener interested in improving their gardens (and who isn't?). But before I go any further, I would just like to state two things: 1) Read it at your own mental risk, and 2) If you do read it and become hooked on astrological gardening, you cannot come back and hit me up later for therapy charges because you went berserk trying to do absolutely everything in the garden at precisely the right time.

Now that we have that taken care of, let's get back to the book. Rather than go into everything it covers, I think the best thing to do is simply offer a few excerpts to give you an idea of what the idea behind this book is, and if it seems like it might be something you are interested in learning more about.

I'll start with the note from the author on the back cover that is taken from the introduction:
"It is not my intention to argue the merits of 'moon planting' or 'planting by the signs' but rather to set forth as clearly as I can the accumulated wisdom of the centuries regarding astrological gardening. Something that has endured so long must surely have had a reason for coming into being in the first place.

"Astrology is the study and use of the forces of nature as an aid in obtaining the highest possible degree of success. I believe that if you use the advice in this book, you will have a more productive garden, grow more nutritious vegetables and fruits--and your gardening activities will also provide you with a lot of good, clean fun!"

Here is another excerpt from the introduction:
"Meanwhile, another biologist, Dr. Lily Kolisko, was conducting experiments of a different sort at the Biological Institute in Stuttgart, Germany. Over a period of ten years, Dr. Kolisko planted many varieties of plants during different moon phases, keeping extensive records not only of the growth of these plants, but also of the taste when the leaves and fruit were picked. (Yes, even the taste can be improved if vegetables and fruits are harvested at the right time. And the nutritive value can also be improved.) [My note: I found these last two points absolutely fascinating.]

"Kolisko found that during the moon's first and second quarters, that is, when it is in its increasing phase, plants yielding above the ground grew especially fast. For example, leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, celery, and spinach, as well as tomatoes, beans, and cereals all showed superior growth and were better tasting than when sown during the moon's waning phase.

"Astrology is not really concerned with explaining why the moon has such an important effect on living organisms, only with stating that scientific evidence and subjective experience have proven over and over again that the positions of the planetary bodies, especially the sun and moon, coincide with the natural cycles of all living things. Accepting this statement, the next step is to try to ascertain specifically just what these effects are, so that we can use them to our own advantage, and live in greater harmony with the natural rhythms.

"To do that we have little choice except to fall back on astrological tradition--some of which sounds like pure fantasy, but much of which makes a great deal of good sense. In this book I will try to sort some of this out.

"Here I want to stress an important factor in successful lunar gardening--something only you can provide--that of common sense. Obviously, if your area is having a blizzard when the moon's position indicates the planting of flowers, it is not a good time to plant. The correct lunar position cannot compensate for weather conditions. Weather, temperature, season, and your own personal schedule must also affect your gardening activities."

From Chapter 1: Planting By The Moon's Phase
"I realize that most of you do not have the time or desire to study astrology, so I'm going to keep it simple. It isn't necessary to understand why moon planting works; all that gardeners are interested in is the fact that it does work.

"So here's the nitty gritty:

"During the increasing light (from new moon to full moon), plant annuals that produce their yield above the ground. An annual is a plant that completes its entire life cycle within one growing season, and has to be seeded anew each year. Most vegetables are annuals. During the decreasing light (from full moon to new foon), plant biennials, perennials, and bulb and root plants.

"A simple, though less accurate, rule is to plant crops that produce above ground during the increase of the moon, and to plant crops that produce below ground during the decrease of the moon. You can further refine your planting and increase your accuracy by paying attention to which quarter the moon is in." And she then goes on to explain what it is best to do in each quarter."

That last bit was on page 14. The book is over 200 pages long, so you can see that she goes into much greater detail about this whole idea. The book contains an amazing variety of information. Here are just some of the chapter titles: Planting By The Signs, Pest And Disease Control, Understanding Water, Vegetables Can Keep You Fit, Organic Gardening Is A MUST, The Herbal Connection, Teach Your Children, and The Value Of Cell Salts.

Still wondering if it's all a bunch of manure? The author (who also wrote the extremely popular books Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting For Successful Gardening and Roses Love Garlic: Companion Planting And Other Secrets Of Flowers, as well as nine others) offers several quotes from scientists regarding astrological gardening and astrology, including this one from the Nobel-prize winning physicist Dr. Robert Millikan, who endorsed the principles involved when answering a question as to the validity of astrology: "I do know that if man is not affected in some way by the planets, sun and moon, he is the ONLY THING ON EARTH THAT ISN'T." (Caps are the author's.)

I, for one, know that I am now ready to venture further into the astrological garden. At the very least, I want to learn when I should harvest everything for optimum flavor and nutritional value. I know I will no doubt feel a bit overwhelmed at first, but I promise I won't go berserk. You'll have to excuse me now, though, as it is a fertile day in the first quarter, and I really must go plant some beans.

© Copyright

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How To Make It Rain on Your Garden

Purple kohlrabi in the kitchen garden

1. First do several loads of laundry, preferably made up of lots and lots of delicate and/or tiny things (socks are always good) that take forever to hang up and take down from the laundry line. Stuff that you would prefer not to ever get rained on is the best.

2. Hang this laundry on the line, even if the line is now in the shade for the rest of the day because it took you so long to actually get around to doing the laundry. Once it starts to get dark, laundry will no doubt still be damp, so leave it on the line overnight because there is only the slightest possible chance of rain in the forecast (that you heard two days ago) and really, what is the chance of a bird flying by and using your favorite white go-to-town shirt as a target?

3. The next morning, while your now-even-wetter-because-of-the-heavy-morning-mist laundry is happily drying in the breeze, make up a big jar of sun tea and set it out in the garden.

Deer Tongue lettuce in the onion plot

4. When you know that the laundry on the line is definitely dry at last, do not go out and take it down. Instead, continue doing the several loads of sheets and blankets you are in the middle of washing because you want to hang them out in the bright sun so they will be wonderfully fresh smelling and bleached and disinfected (the sun is a wonderful natural disinfectant) before you store them away for the winter. By this time it should be clouding up quite nicely.

5. As you are carrying the first load of sheets and blankets out to the line and you feel a couple of raindrops land on your arms, do not make a mad dash to pull the dozens of dry little things off the line. It will be too late. They are already getting wet. Congratulations, you have made it rain.

6. But is it not raining enough? Does it look like it might just sprinkle on your perfectly dry clothes and stop? Then stand out in the rain and hang the wet sheets and blankets on the line. At this point a big gust of wind will blow in, the wet sheets will flap in your face, and it should begin to really pour. Keep hanging.

Spanish Black Radish seed pods, Golden Globe turnip seed pods in the background

7. Once everything is on the line and getting wetter than if you had put it out there without it even going through the spin cycle on the washer, grab the laundry basket and walk slowly (do not hurry) back into the house. Open the windows to let in the breeze, and stare in amazement at the miracle of Mother Nature & The Law of Wet Laundry. (Do not actually allow yourself think about all your wet laundry, though.)

Results are not guaranteed, but by following this step-by-step guide, my garden has just received a half inch of rain in 40 minutes, and it is still coming down.

If the barn gate is shut, and there is an entire flock of soggy sheep huddled around it, hoping it will magically open so they can escape from the downpour, DO NOT run the several hundred feet down to the barn to make their wish come true.

It is too late. They are already soaked, and you will only end up even wetter than you already are. They are sheep. They will not melt. And they could probably use a good shower anyway. This tip should also work when other barnyard animals are involved. Probably not a good idea to try it on the cat, though.


Monday, May 29, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/29/06

Realization Of The Day:
Something has been munching on the Straight 'N' Narrow beans. Bummer.

Been getting a fair amount accomplished in the garden despite the oppressive heat and humidity (summer is here!):

--That storm back on the 24th was mostly for show--and what a show. When they say 'cloud to ground lightning,' they aren't kidding. And it was literally in the backyard. But for all that flash (ha ha, weather humor) we only got a half inch of rain. No rain since then, so I've been watering every day as temps have been in the upper 80s and low 90s in the shade.

--Weeding, weeding, weeding.

--Did a major clean-up in the greenhouse, including folding up and putting away the huge pile of sheets and blankets used to cover plants over the winter and tidying up various containers, etc. Gosh did that feel good. Moved several of the potted herbs and flowers back outside for the summer. Also made a few decisions about the future use of the greenhouse, including:

--Deciding to turn that beautiful patch of volunteer arugula into a permanent arugula bed. I will simply let it all go to seed and re-seed itself. I may be able to get several crops a year. Once this batch goes to seed, though, I will probably not water the plot until late summer, as arugula does not like to grow in hot weather.

--Deciding to bite the bullet and make a permanent herb bed across from the arugula. Although some of my herbs (like the lemon balm and Greek oregano and sage) are thriving in pots, others (like the rosemary and thyme) are not. It's a risk, especially with the rosemary, but what's the worst that will happen? The stuff dies next winter. I'm excited.

--Put cages around many of the tomato plants.

--Trimmed off 'useless' leaves on most of the tomato plants so energy will be focused on producing fruit.

Realization #2:
Using a pocketknife to trim tomato leaves is so much easier and neater than trying to snip them off with your fingers! I won't admit how many years it took me to figure that out, especially since I am rarely without a knife in my pocket.

Minding The Moonsigns:
Tomorrow and Wwednesday are fertile days in the first quarter. These are the best days to plant nearly all seeds except those in the tomato/pepper/squash families. I'll be planting a few varieties of bush beans to replace the ones I planted last month that never sprouted, plus extras in case the midnight muncher returns to polish off the rest of the row. If your weather is still cool, consider planting more lettuce, arugula, or other salad greens.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Gardening On The Cheap: Cheapstakes - Using Bamboo Stakes to Support Vegetable Plants

A bundle of natural bamboo stakes

Last week Christy asked how I stake my tomatoes and peppers after seeing this photo of pepper plants in one of my raised beds. "I was intrigued by the poles!" she said.

I'm in love with 'the poles,' which are actually bamboo stakes. Once you have these handy items, well, on hand, you will probably wonder how you ever got along in the garden without them.

I use them for all kinds of things around the farm. I find myself constantly grabbing for them. But one of the main things I do with them is stake up my pepper plants. Many pepper plants don't need to be staked, but I've found that certain varieties—such as my favorite Aconcagua Sweet Red Peppers—grow fairly tall, and when the plants are heavy with bounty they tend to fall over, especially during big storms.

One little bamboo stake holds up a plant just fine. I usually tie the plant to the stake in one or two places with some baling twine recycled from the hay bales, but if you place the stake right, sometimes that isn't even necessary (this lazy gardener says).

I don't usually get around to putting in the stakes until the plants are much bigger than in the above mentioned photo, but this year something has been running through my raised beds at night and literally breaking the tops off the pepper plants. Once I put the stakes in place, the problem stopped.

Okay, so now you know you can no longer survive without your own supply of bamboo stakes, but you vaguely remember seeing them at the garden center for a whopping two or three dollars a piece just for the little puny ones. Ridiculous! I agree. That's why I buy everything I can in bulk, including my bamboo.

A.M. Leonard has been 'serving the horticultural industry since 1885,' and they have very reasonable prices on top quality bamboo stakes in various diameters, and up to 12 feet high. You just have to buy several hundred at a time. No, that's not too many; you can share them with a gardening pal or two or three.

Anyway, here are a few examples of the different natural bamboo stakes they offer (prices don't include shipping). 2011 Update: Five years later, I'm still using many of my original bamboo stakes for all sorts of things in the garden. These are the current prices, which have gone up but are still a good deal, even with the high shipping costs:

—$39.99 for a bundle of 500 (!) 7/16" x 36" stakes (less than 8 cents each).
—$55.99 for a bundle of 250 1/2" x 60" bamboo stakes (less than 23 cents each + $43.99 shipping = less than 40 cents each).
—$63.99 for a bundle of 250 1/2" by 72" stakes (less than 26 cents each + $46.99 shipping = less than 45 cents each).

In the A.M. Leonard online catalog, it says that natural bamboo stakes are three times stronger than wood. It also says that they generally only have a lifespan of one growing season, which is probably why they're so inexpensive, but I've been using some of my stakes for about 10 years, and they are still holding up (ha, more gardening humor).

If I think about it, I store them out of the weather when I'm not using them, but some have lived through all kinds of rain and snow and ice storms and are fine.

As for my tomato plants, they need more support than just bamboo stakes; they need to be caged. I'll hopefully be writing about my cheap tomato cages here soon.


What's Growin' On: 5/28/06

Thinned Out Bull's Blood & Detroit Beet Seedlings

Realization Of The Day:
I should have waited to thin out the beets and purple kohlrabi until we'd eaten the giant cooler full of gourmet lettuce I harvested the other day (to beat the bitter heat). I mean, I'd waited this long already, I doubt a few more days would have hurt. Because you can't just toss this gorgeous stuff to the chickens.

Thinned Out Purple Kohlrabi Seedlings

Realization #2:
And I shouldn't have thinned them both out on the same day, either.

Realization #3:
Sometimes these realizations come just a little bit too late.

Realization #4:
It's always nice to have company in the garden so you can discuss all these realizations.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

What's Growin' On 5/27/06: Turtles Attack!

These Did Not Touch My Lips

Realization Of The Day:
I need to be in the garden well before 8:00am if I want to beat the turtles to my berries.

Yep, when Cary, Bear, and I traipsed out there this morning, little stainless steel strainer in my hand, this is what we found not 10 feet from the strawberry bed, head stretched out, soaking up the sun, digesting MY breakfast.

And this was not your average duck-in-the-shell-and-close-it-up-tight-as-soon-as-it-sees-you scaredy turtle. Not at all. This turtle was proud to have stolen my strawberries. It was not afraid of a farmgirl and her entourage.

In fact, it tried as hard as it could to swim out of my hand during our entire trip to its new home--which is located far, far away from the berry patch.

Oh, but the excitement didn't end there. No, no, no. Once I'd procured what was left of the ripe strawberries (leaving, as usual, the half eaten ones as bait), I set down my little strainer and went to work.

(The entourage waited in the shade.) And while I was whacking at some tall weeds with my hoe, look what popped out.

Now I'm pretty sure this little critter has never had berry breath. But just to be on the safe side (after I'd beaten down the urge to keep it as a pet), I decided to relocate it--to a nice spot by the spring where there is lots of shade and fresh, cool water. What I should have probably done, though, is packed it up, taken it to Hollywood, and sold it as a Stunt Turtle, because this was one very patient little sport who was perfectly willing to pose for several silly pictures. And I do mean little. (Yes, I even brought it in the house so I could measure it.) It was just 1-1/2 inches long.

Like I said, I'm pretty sure the berries were safe.

What a morning. You never know what you're going to find in the garden. Oh, and the strawberries (once I finally got around to eating them) were absolutely delicious. I kinda wish I'd kept the turtle, though.

© Copyright, the hard shelled foodie farm blog where I find these prehistoric creatures fascinating—as long as they're not near the berry bed.

Friday, May 26, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/26/06

Greek Oregano & Lemon Balm In The Greenhouse

Realization Of The Day:
I think it's time to spread out the potted herbs and give them some breathing room. Gosh they look good. Much better than last year. Well, except for the ones that died. Mostly those weren't my fault, though. Really need to dry some of this oregano and lemon balm. Also want to make some lemon balm sun tea. Click here to read my earlier post about lemon balm.

--92F in the shade and very humid today. I harvested the entire 4'x8' bed of lettuce this morning.
--Just came in from putting some Thai Pink Egg tomato seedlings in the ground. Put some other seedlings (like the tomatillos) in the compost pile. Sometimes it feels good just to give up and ditch stuff. Kinda like spring cleaning. Now that I've cooled down a bit, I'll head back out to the garden and plant some yellow plum tomato seedlings.
--Brain is fried. Can't for the life of me think of what else I was going to write.

8:00pm Update:
Cary and Bear and Patchy Cat and I (yes, there is definitely such a thing as too much 'help' in the garden) did get some yellow plum tomato seedlings in the ground (grown from seeds I saved from last year's best tomatoes). Then Cary and I came inside and I made my usual enormous salad, and once the sun was down behind the ridgetop, Cary and I went back outside and checked on the sheep (who have been grazing all day in the farmyard which surrounds the house and garden).

I then decided we should go inspect our work in the garden, as it is always nice to end the day by looking at something you accomplished besides creating an incredible amount of sweat. We came around the side of the cat cabin and discovered that our handiwork was already being inspected--by a very brazen deer! Ever the faithful blogger, I immediately reached for my camera bag, then realized this was the first time today I'd gone outside without it slung around my neck. Then I gave the warning call to the dogs. To their credit, they did respond immediately, but, well, let's just say the deer got away. I can't remember the last time I saw a deer that close to the garden. And this one was literally peering over the (very short and leapable) fence. Too bad they don't eat turtles.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Searching for the Best Arugula Pesto Recipe, Making Arugula Pesto Cream Cheese Spread, and Discovering Arugula Pesto Pizza

Arugula Pesto Takes Over the Kitchen!

Low fat arugula pesto recipe made with homegrown arugula and canned garbanzo beans

Update: Wondering what else to do with arugula? You might also enjoy my easy Arugula Cottage Cheese Dip/Spread/Sauce Recipe or this Roasted Leek and Potato Soup with Arugula.

If you thought it took me a long time to get around to writing this post on how to make arugula pesto, you should be glad I started researching arugula pesto recipes after I'd already come up with mine. Otherwise I would most likely either still be sitting at the computer, dazed and Google-eyed, or in the kitchen trying yet another variation. Talk about overwhelming.

So what did I discover from 30,000+ Google search hits for 'arugula pesto?' That there are practically as many recipes for arugula pesto as there are cooks in the kitchen—and that the only thing they appear to have in common is that they all include arugula, which is also known as rocket.

I started working my way through the list and found arugula pesto recipes that called for the following ingredients: walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, roasted red peppers, toasted pepitas, chopped olives, aged gouda, parmesan, raw garlic, pan roasted garlic (where the garlic is cooked in a pan on the stove for 10 minutes—I've never heard of this but it sounds intriguing), chives, parsley, ricotta, olive oil, honey, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, miso, Splenda, lemon juice, and one small potato boiled, peeled, and chopped. My goodness.

Recipe below. . .

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/24/06

Garlic At Rest (Sounds Like The Name Of A Painting)

Realization Of The Day:
I guess I waited too long to weed out the garlic bed. The weeds were easy to pull, and I used a gentle hand, but they were tall, and apparently the garlic was used to leaning against them because the day after I weeded the bed it all laid down. It has now been several days, and as you can see, the garlic shows no signs of standing back up. Never had this happen before.

5/25/06 Realization Update:
I've been thinking about this (because I've never know garlic to "lean" against other plants for support), and I've come up with a more logical explanation--the damage was done underground. The weeds were so big and healthy (growing in all that nice sheep manure) that their root systems were intertwined with those of the garlic. Even though I did it gently, when I pulled up the weeds, the shallow and delicate garlic roots were disturbed, and the plants were literally knocked down. That makes more sense. It's still a bummer, but it was a good lesson. (And so far the garlic hasn't died--just keeled over.)

Minding The Moonsigns:
Still frantically transplanting seedlings into the garden? Tomorrow and Friday, May 25th and 26th, are fertile days in the fourth quarter. Absolutely great days to plant according to some people, not so great according to others--but not the worst by far. At this point (at least in my climate, which goes from spring to summer overnight), the most important thing is simply to get those plants into the ground--no matter when you have to do it.

--Temperatures predicted in the upper 80s and low 90s with high humidity for the next five days. Time to harvest all the lettuce and stick it in a cooler with ice! (This happens every year.) It'll last a few days, and it's better than having it all turn inedibly bitter. That is just sad. All in all, I've had a really good run with the lettuce this year and am very happy. And to tell you the truth, I'm starting to get just the tiniest bit tired of enormous salads every night. But that is what seasonal eating is all about--you gorge yourself on each ripe thing until you've had so much you don't even want to think about eating it again until next year. Works for me!

Note: I know I have several recent questions to answer (about my raised beds, tomato cages, etc.), but a loud thunderstorm is heading right this way, and the power is already flicking on and off. Think I may have to shut things down on the computer for the night. Need to go tuck in the sheep before they get soaked. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/23/06

Realization Of The Day:
I actually do have cucumber plants in the garden! I was thrilled to discover these tiny volunteer lemon cucumber plants, even if they're growing outside the raised bed. Not surprising to find them, though, as that 4'x8' bed was a veritable lemon cucumber jungle last year. I mean, it obliterated all the other plants, then it struck out toward the other beds, covering the 4-foot wide walkways in every direction. Good thing I love lemon cucumbers, although it did get to a point when I was hesitant to venture into that part of the garden alone.

Realization #2:
Always consider absolutely everything (no matter how seemingly innocent or innocuous or just plain cute) to be a potential and dangerous threat to the garden.

I was still crouched down from taking the first photo when this adorable little darling (I'm telling you, never underestimate something simply because it's cute) trotted over and in one quick move, plunked herself right onto my fabulous new discovery. Then she casually stretched out her leg to cover the few plants that weren't being squished by her tiny woolly body--and proceeded to start nibbling on the one remaining visible seedling.

But the worst part of it all? It's impossible to get mad at that face.

Beyond The Garden Gate:
Wondering how I went from Urban California Chick to Manure Mucking Missouri Farmgirl? Click here to find out.

Monday, May 22, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/22/06

Realization Of The Day:
It's a jungle in there. I liked it much better in April. (Click here.) It was so much more, um, accessible. And appetizing. I think this goes back to the tidiness thing. Or maybe I'm just afraid to go into the greenhouse now. Should get some nice seeds out of this mess, though.

From Garden To Table:
--Record breaking high temps last Friday. I'm eating all that gorgeous lettuce as fast as I can!
--More 'fake' scallions nabbed from the onions (and tossed into salads of course).

--About a dozen of the zucchini seeds have sprouted--either the black or golden. Yep, I forgot to mark or write down which was which. The way I'm looking at these obvious screw ups is like this: it took me an entire lifetime to become this disorganized. Perfection isn't going to happen in just two months of keeping this garden blog. At least I only planted two kinds--and remember what they both are! That's certainly progress.
--Dragon Langerie beans have sprouted and don't look familiar at all. Definitely think Pinetree sent me the wrong seeds (the fact that they were white instead of brown was the first tip off). Wonder what I planted? Hope not pole beans.
--Rest of an old packet of Dragon Langerie beans I put next to the suspicious looking ones did not sprout. Usually I have good luck with beans that are two or three years old. Not this year.
--Orange chard and Nero di Toscana cabbage in that same plot have sprouted and are looking good, despite the fact that I think something has been digging around in there. Most likely one of the cats, but you never know. Maybe the turtles are adding veggies to their all-strawberry diet.

Coming Up:
--"Arugula Pesto Takes Over The Kitchen" (Yes, for real this time. I'm about 2/3 done with the article.)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/21/06

Breakfast! (Wait. *checks clock*) Make That Late, Late Brunch!
(Wow. What happened to the morning?)

Realization Of The Day:
Well, the turtles didn't get them all (but they certainly ate more than their fair share).

--A loud thunderstorm crashed through about 5am but didn't let loose with much rain. Still drippy outside. Glad I watered most of the garden yesterday, as this rain will do something more than simply evaporate right off the plants.
--The Orange Banana tomato plants had a very nice growth spurt and are looking mighty happy (as am I).
--The spring garlic had a huge growth spurt. They grew about 6 inches in a day. I was shocked to see that some of the leaves are about 12 inches high already. I think my plan just might work.

From Garden To Table:
--Yes, I did indeed devour all of these strawberries myself, sprinkled with just a touch of powdered sugar to get the juices flowing and sweeten up the few tarties. And while the purist in me found this simple preparation to be a most delightful very late breakfast, if someone had handed me a bowl of freshly whipped cream (one of my very favorite foods) or a glass of champagne as an accompaniment, I definitely would have accepted them.

Harvest For The Henhouse:
--Strawberry stems and a few imperfect berries. They adore fruit.
--Sweet hop clover (they turned their beaks up at it).
--Spicy, spicy, spicy mature arugula leaves (they loved them).

Coming Up In A Day Or Two:
--"I Can't Live Without. . . Grass Clippings!" What started as a tiny backyard lawn-sized article has grown into a golf course. Hope it's not all just due to manure. Ha ha, garden humor.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/20/06

Realization Of The Day:
The mint is on the loose! This is really not such a bad thing, though I did think it would stay contained in my cleverly-recycled-hunk-of-tree-stump planter. I know, I know. Ha ha ha ha, you are thinking. What an idiot. This is MINT for crying out loud. But you must remember, I am the same girl who, just last month, actually thought I'd somehow killed this very same mint over the winter. Okay, you can stop laughing now.

Anyway, the good news is that this runaway mint is apparently very happy in a spot where nothing else except extremely brave weeds will grow, as it can be accessed and attacked by cats, dogs, and even sheep. It'll be a small miracle if it survives, but I hope it does. I'm looking forward to having the only sheep around with minty fresh breath.

Friday, May 19, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/19/06

Orange Bell Peppers Planted 5/17/06 & Kellogg's Breakfast Tomatoes Planted Weeks Ago (& obviously expending the majority of their energy producing the world's largest tomato root systems, because you can see that not much it going on above ground.)

Realization Of The Day:
My garden is becoming slightly tidier because of this blog, as I often find myself doing a bit of extra weeding and clean up before taking photos.

Not unnecessary, only-'cause-it's-a-photo-shoot stuff, though. Little things that should probably be done that I would usually blow off. But it's always so nice when the garden looks less like a weed-infested jungle—even if that famous grower for Chez Panisse (whose name escapes me—anyone know it?) lets the weeds literally do whatever they want in his plots, claiming the more natural the better.

I read an article written by a woman who went to visit him, and she was blown away when he harvested enough food for three meals (which he then cooked for her) when she couldn't even see anything edible in his garden. Well, you can't get a better client than Alice Waters, so he must know what he's doing. Whenever I start to think the garden is a big mess, I remind myself about this guy and feel much, much better. But I still I'd rather have it all neat and tidy.

Realization #2:
I didn't get a single thing planted yesterday. Too many distractions around the farm. Now I have to decide (here's where you wish you didn't know about minding the moonsigns) between the lesser of two 'evils:' an infertile day in the 3rd quarter, or a fertile day in the 4th quarter. And then of course there are schedules and the weather conditions to contend with.

Sometimes it just boils down to getting whatever you can done whenever you can get it done! Though I accidentally planted four rows of beans (from three different packets of seeds) on the wrong day a few weeks back, and only one row came up. So was it the beans or was it the moon? We're up against tremendous odds in the garden.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/18/06

Rootbound & Seriously Unhappy Golden Roma Tomato Seedlings

Realization Of The Day:
It takes an awful lot to make me give up on a plant. Yep, I went ahead and put these in the ground yesterday. (Their looks improved dramatically once I buried them up to their necks in the dirt.)

Realization #2:
I have absolutely no idea what Golden Roma tomatoes look like or where these seeds even came from. All of the other tomato plant markers (you know, the ones I've been saving from my own harvests for years and don't need a note to tell me so) say where the seeds originated--except these. Will have to look into this.

Coming Up (but I'm not making any promises):
I Can't Live Without. . . Grass Clippings!
(I know, I know. . . and arugula pesto. Soon, I hope. I've been waylaid by a lamb.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/17/06

Farm Boss Patchy Cat Takes A Break From Turtle Patrol
(At least I'm going to assume that's why he's next to the strawberry bed. Hey, I'm just happy he's not sleeping in the bed like the dog does.)

NOTE: I realize this photo is only partly here. I have no idea why. Just uploaded it two more times and the same thing happened. Taking this as a sign that I should be outdoors. Will try fixing it later. (Or maybe Patchy Cat--who gets around so much sometimes I swear there are three of him--simply refuses to be caught off duty.)

5-21-06 Update: This photo miraculously fixed itself today. But I'm going to leave the above note there, since I still think Patchy Cat had something to do with it (and just figured that by this time everyone had already seen the half published photo).

Realization Of The Day:
Every time I go to take a picture of a plant, a strong breeze blows in out of nowhere.

Things have been rather hectic around here, and I haven't been spending enough time with the garden or the garden blog. I've promised to write about several things and haven't yet (I know, I need to work on not promising things). But I think I just replied to all of the previously unanswered questions/comments, including the one about planting San Marzano tomatoes back on this post. So (since I tend to rattle on), there are now all kinds of interesting tidbits in several of the most recent comments sections.

And now to the garden. I'm heading out to put some very pathetic looking tomato, pepper, cucumber, and other miscellaneous seedlings into the ground. That should make them (and me) very happy. And I'll work on getting those promised posts up--which should make you very happy. Thanks for your patience. I hope your gardens are all growing well.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/15/06

Realization Of The Day:
I definitely need a Critter Cam. That way I would be able to find out just who is digging up my potato plants. And leaving foot/paw/hoof prints across my newly planted beds. And breaking the tops off my tomato and pepper plants (presumably while running through those beds). And of course, I would be able to identify exactly which turtle thieves are nabbing my precious strawberries.

From Garden To Table:
--Dug up one lovely volunteer potato today while weeding out a bed. Obviously it is not enough to make a meal, or even a side dish. The only thing to do? Slice it paper thin, heat up the big cast iron skillet, and pan-fry the slices in homemade lard of course!
--Lettuce, lettuce, lettuce! It's always a race each year to see whether I can eat it all before it becomes bitter from the heat and begins to bolt. I usually end up picking the entire rest of the crop just before a predicted heat wave hits and storing it in coolers in the pantry. I'll do anything for a garden lettuce salad.

--I have one raised bed that has a row of purple kohlrabi that I direct seeded back in March growing down one side of it (and it still needs to be thinned). The rest of the bed filled up with some annoying and extremely healthy weeds that were about a foot high. Today while I was pulling them out, I wondered why on earth I hadn't planted anything in that bed except the kohlrabi. Then I yanked out a spinach leaf with a fistful of weeds. Oh right. I did. I planted mache (corn salad) which did a complete No Show, plus two different kinds of spinach, despite the fact that I have terrible luck growing spinach. I think I ended up with maybe 10 plants. Which I need to pick tonight or for breakfast because they will no doubt go into shock as soon as the sun hits them now that I have unburied them. Hmmmm. A spinach, scallion, and sharp cheddar cheese omelet would probably be delicious.

--Pepper and tomato seedlings that were lucky enough to be put in the ground sure aren't growing very fast. I gave some of the same plants to a friend in St. Louis and they are about twice the size of mine. How embarrassing. And his soil pretty much sucks (except for the sacks of llama pellets and compost I gave him that he mixed into it.) I'm wondering if it's because of the fluctuating temperatures. I'm absolutely loving these unseasonably cool days in the low 60s, but it's been getting pretty cold at night, and a few weeks ago we were up in the 90s. Also I'm telling myself the plants are just busy creating extremely big and healthy root systems. Hey, whatever rationalization works. Oh my gosh. I just checked my earlier records, and they've been in the ground a month already. This is ridiculous. And even more embarrassing. I should practically be harvesting tomatoes by now.

Minding The Moonsigns:
Wednesday and Thursday May 17th and 18th are both fertile days in the 3rd quarter. These are excellent days for transplanting--seedlings into the ground, sprouted seeds into individual plugs, potted plants into larger living quarters. One of these days I promise I really will go into more detail about this whole moonsign business. I even plucked a book off my shelf today that is entirely devoted to gardening astrologically. And now I know why I never read it. Geez. I thought I was paranoid to do things on the wrong days with the limited knowledge I posess about this stuff. Wait till you read about this book. If you dare.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/14/06

Realization Of The Day:
Wild multiflora roses are blooming all over the farm (because, unlike most farmers, I do not try to eradicate them, as they are the only roses that will grow here--and without any effort at all on my part). Their abundant flowers, tinged with the palest of pinks, let off a beautiful fragrance that permeates the air far beyond the enormous plants. One of the best parts of spring is being outdoors and suddenly catching that very first intoxicating whiff. It is always such a welcome surprise.

Click here for two ways to love multiflora roses.

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope to have a chance to catch up on comments and questions tomorrow. Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Garden Journal 5/13/06: Bolting Arugula and Some Arugula Growing Tips

Arugula in the homemade greenhouse getting ready to flower

Realization Of The Day:
No matter what your excuse—and since I live on a farm I always have a really good one—arugula waits for no one. You get harvestable greens in less than a month, but once they mature, these babies love to bolt.

That didn't stop me from making another batch of arugula pesto today and finalizing the recipe. If you're in a desperate, verge-of-bolting, really-wanted-to-make-this-pesto situation—which I totally understand—just let me know, and I'll be happy to email you the recipe. Update: the arugula pesto recipe is up!

It was a surprising 36°F this morning!

Got (or want) arugula? There are some growing tips in the comments below, and you might find this post helpful, too: Lettuce and Arugula in the Garden, with Step-by-Step Photos Showing How To Grow Arugula from Seed in Less than a Month.

Friday, May 12, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/12/06

(Horrifying) Realization Of The Day:
The very first bite of the very first ripe strawberry of the season was not taken by me. Damn turtles!

Okay, so here's the deal with my strawberries. I actually have two strawberry beds right now. The photo above shows the older bed--it's on the right side of the photo. Yes, that's it--where that super tall, lush, if-this-were-in-my-fields-I'd-be-farmer-of-the-year orchard grass is flourishing, and you can't for the life of you see a single strawberry plant. Pathetic, I know. On the left are the strawberry plants that jumped out of bed and are attempting to grow in the hard, unfertilized, black plastic and wood chip covered pathway. There was no way I was going to pull them up. I take my strawberries wherever I can get them. This is where the first ripe berry of the season was found.

This is the strawberry bed I planted last year with 24 locally grown "Super Strawberry" plants I bought at the spring Garden Club Plant Sale for $3.00. I had high hopes for them, but I obviously did something wrong (I believe it had to do with neglect and weeds) because as you can see, there is probably more volunteer dill growing in it than there are strawberry plants. (Do note my happy spring garlic sprouting up along the left edge of the bed. I stuck those cloves everywhere.) At least I like dill. Though, as I mentioned the other day, I don't have a single cucumber plant in the ground yet. But that happens every year so I am used to it.

Okay, back to the berries. You may have read that I have a problem with voracious, strawberry-loving turtles coming from (what I am sure is) miles around to feast on my prized, luscious red bounty. Actually, it's usually luscious, half-red bounty, and that is part of the problem--the turtles don't care if the berries aren't quite ripe. It wouldn't be so bad if they just stole a berry or two, but no, they take a bite out of one, move on to the next and take a bite out of it, and the next, and just keep going until they are so stuffed they cannot move. Then they nap, digest, and wake up hungrier than ever.

Turtles are sly creatures, and I rarely catch them in the act. But I have on occasion, and that is how I know they are the culprits. (Although last year I came upon a red-mouthed, full grown possum plopped down in the middle of my strawberry bed during broad daylight. My mind still refuses to completely believe that experience.) Anyway, I think the turtles have gone one step further toward total occupation of my strawberry territory. Because, you see, last year I didn't do a single thing differently in that strawberry bed than I had done in previous years. There was absolutely no reason for that orchard grass to show up and take over like it did.

The other evening Joe and I were out in the garden and as we walked by the grassy strawberry bed, he made some comment, and I said "I bet there's a turtle hiding in that grass right now." I mean, my dog can lay in there unseen. And then it hit me. "I bet the turtles planted that grass so they'd have a place to hide!" Joe laughed and gave me that "Okay, honey, whatever you say" look. But really, think about it. Birds build entire complicated nests by carrying around bits of grass and twigs in their beaks. How hard would it have been for a turtle to pull out a hunk of orchard grass last summer, carry it in his mouth over to my strawberry bed, and shake the seeds around? Voila! Come spring--instant, shaded hiding place right next to the berry buffet.

I know. You are probably rolling your eyes and wondering if there is something strange in our water. Or that maybe I've been getting too much fresh air and sunshine, as I have obviously lost it. But that is the curse of the dedicated foodie gardener. We'll do anything to hold onto our harvest, and we'll make extraordinary excuses to explain things--even if it means losing our minds in the process. Or perhaps it's just me.

I did manage to nab and devour two fully ripened strawberries out in the garden this morning. They were absolutely divine, and I plan to enjoy many more--whatever it takes. (Oh my. I just caught myself about to let out an evil-sounding laugh.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/11/06

Realization Of The Day:
I started tomatillo seeds back on March 8th. And haven't done anything except water them since. Crap.

From Garden To Table:
I did it again last night. There was just no way I was going to get to sleep without one, so I harvested another late night lettuce salad in the pouring rain. No thunder this time at least.

--Another inch of rain yesterday.
--Caught a few strawberries blushing.
--Spied some flower buds on the raspberry canes.
--A couple of the basil seeds I sowed on May 4th have sprouted.
--Lots of little Fordhook Giant Chard seedlings poking up between the two varieties of beans planted on May 1st. (Only one row of beans has sprouted so far.)
--Still unrelocated spiderwort in mini greenhouse raised bed has busted through top wire cover and is threatening to burst into bloom.
--Entire arugula patch in greenhouse is about five seconds from bolting.

Need To. . .
--Make more arugula pesto (and fast), post recipe, plus write about everything I've been doing with this scrumptious stuff.
--Replace tomato plants and pepper plant that have had tops broken (?) off. Little tomato plant even had a cage on it.
--Start summer squash seeds today (directly in the ground--where? where?):
-Early Prolific Straightneck (AAS Winner from 1938)
-Black Zucchini (Pinetree says "Yields aren't as large as with the hybrids, but still provide plenty of squash for the average family. Flavor is unsurpassed. This variety was originally listed by the Jerome B. Rice Seed Company in 1932.)
-Golden Zucchini (oh I really hope I get some of this to grow--they look gorgeous and Baker Creek says the slender, bright golden-yellow fruits "are as delicious as they are attractive."
Will be trying my planting in sawdust experiment--and anything else I can come up with to beat the squash bugs to my bounty.
--Weed the other half of the garlic bed. Weeds are taller than the garlic. Gosh they love manure.
--Thin out entire purple kohlrabi plants--just nabbing the leaves for salads is not giving the the crowded little seedlings any more room to grow.
--Decide whether I should murder these tomatillo seedlings and start over direct seeding, or snip off the flowers and hope they don't think they're some obscure, 6-inch high dwarf variety and refuse to grow any taller.
--Remember to check previous Need To lists because I still need to do almost everything on some of them. (Oh, wait. I originally said this was "A Partial, Ongoing, Never-Ever-Going-To-Be-Completed List." Maybe I should just ignore the old ones then? I think this particular part of my online garden journal definitely needs some re-thinking--or years from now I am going to look back and see the thousands of things I never got around to doing in the garden. Oh, wait. I decided back on April 10th that didn't matter. So maybe I should skip the lists altogether.)
--Check the e-weather because the sun has just vanished, the wind is blowing like mad, and it looks like it's going to start raining again.
--Get off the computer and out into the garden!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/10/06

Volunteer Swiss Chard Seedlings In The Greenhouse

Perfect timing as the chard I have been enjoying for weeks (click here) is already heading for the sky (and making more seeds for the next crop!) Click here to see this same little space back in March.

Realization Of The Day:
The garden in my head is much, much bigger than the one outside my back door. I have no idea where I am going to put [insert about 14 different things here].

Yet another inch of rain last night. Wow.

Heading off the farm for a very long day out into The Real World. But I am determined not to impulse splurge purchase any more flowering plants when I should be buying food. The last four I bought look terrible. I'm sure I'll manage to find something for the garden (or the gardener), though.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/9/06

My Spring Green Garlic Plan Has Sprouted

Realization Of The Day:
I can take 'Water newly planted beans & greens bed' off my To Do List for today.

It's been pouring for the past two hours. Over half an inch of rain and lots of thunder. Just yesterday we were talking about how (so far) this has been the oddest May either of us can remember. The rain is wonderful, and the plants and I absolutely love all these mild and cloudy days, but it feels kind of weird. Like something scary is in store for June. Or maybe I'm just being paranoid.

Beyond The Garden Gate
The grass is nice and thick in the fields thanks to all the rain, but those April days in the 90sF sent the cool season grasses right to seed. They should be several feet high and are instead about one. We'll hope for the best and cut whatever hay we can next month. In the meantime, the sheep are having a (ha ha) field day out there. So much yummy stuff to munch on, they are practically turning in circles. They're soggy (it is truly amazing how much water a thick woolly coat can soak up) but very happy.

The wild gooseberries are, as always, doing extremely well. I trounced through all kinds of big, healthy bushes while looking high and low for the missing, alien abducted sheep yesterday. (Sometimes there is simply no other explanation. Once the entire flock was taken for the night.) Too bad I cannot seem to aquire a taste for gooseberries--or even find a decent sounding recipe that calls for them.

On the other hand, wild blackberry blossoms are everywhere--and my all-time favorite pie is blackberry. But I know better than to get my hopes up yet. Although it was raining so hard earlier it was almost frightening (okay, okay, so I have a small, inexplicable fear of thunderstorms), unless we keep getting regular rainfalls during the next two months, all those beautiful blackberries-to-be will turn out to be nothing more than tiny, seedy, pathetic little specimens--if there is even any fruit at all. We only get a decent crop every few years, but when it's good, it's very, very good. Well worth wrestling the thorny brambles during what are always the hottest, most humid days of the year. Oh blackberry pie, my love, I'm dreaming of you already.

Rain has stopped. Storm over. Time to pull on my rubber boots and get out in the garden. Will be back to reply to your questions and comments later today.

Update: Oops. Got carried away with sheep stuff and ranting about NAIS in the comments section of this post. If you aren't familiar with the pending government program NAIS (National Animal Identification System), I urge you to check it out. If you eat, it affects you. And if you garden, you may even lose your source of organic manure! (See, this is serious.) Will hopefully be back to garden talk and comments tomorrow night.

Monday, May 08, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/8/06

Straight 'N' Narrow Beans Planted On May 1st Are Sprouting

Realization Of The Day:
That whole calming realization/epiphany I had back on April 10th about no longer letting the garden overwhelm me, etc. etc. etc.? So not working right now.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/7/06

Potato Bed On 4/16/06

Potato Bed On 4-25-06

Potato Bed on 5/7/06

Realization Of The Day:
The potato plants really, really love all this rain we've had. I think they are getting bigger by the hour.

I planted this bed on March 19th with some little Yukon Gold and Norkotah Russet potatoes leftover from last year's harvest. Yes, I know you're not supposed to do that--you're supposed to buy certified or "foundation" seed potatoes each year--but for the past few years I haven't. No problems so far, though I do make sure to rotate my beds so that potatoes are never planted in the same bed that had potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, squash, or melons in it the year before. Crop rotation is a great way to reduce soil borne diseases and even pest problems. Rotating your tomato plants is essential. Once certain tomato diseases find their way into your garden, you can never get rid of them--and that means no more homegrown tomatoes. Ever. I know someone who had this happen to her. She has never been the same since. Rotate, rotate, rotate!

Did You Know. . .
One of the best places to "store" your potatoes is right where you grew them? Click here for dirt-covered proof.

Culinary Newsbites:
Don't forget the Asparagus Aspirations roundups every week through May at Seriously Good. And if you've posted one of your own asparagus recipes, be sure to leave the permalink with Kevin and join in the delicious fun.

The Eat Local Challenge is also going on this month. For more information, check out the neat new group blog, Need help finding locally produced bounty beyond your garden gate? You'll find tons of helpful info at Local Harvest.

I Can't Live Without. . .

My Cheapie Wet Weather Gardening Gloves!

What is the opposite of being rained out of the garden?
Gardening out in the rain of course.

'Fess up. How many pairs of decent gloves have you ruined because you were just going to do one little thing out in the wet or muddy garden?

These handy dandies are rubber/latex/whatever on the palms, but the top half is made from some kind of breathable stretchy fabric so your hands don't get all slimy and sweaty within seconds of putting them on. They're not completely waterproof, but by the time your fingers start to feel a little soggy, the rest of you is no doubt ready to call it quits anyway.I'm sure there are fancier, more expensive versions available (aren't there always?), but these have held up fine for a couple of years and were under four dollars.

Mini Greenhouse Bed Awaiting Planting

As you can see, guilt (and the fact that I have these gloves) won out over the rain (it was one of those "more than a drizzle, but not quite a downpour" days that can make you feel like a real wimp if you don't get out in it), and I managed to clean out this entire weed filled bed yesterday. (Forgot to take a "before" photo.) After I relocate that wandering Spiderwort (I have no idea how it got there but after three years, it's time for it to go) and spend a few minutes mixing in some kelp powder, calcium sulfate (natural rock powders can work wonders in the garden), a little compost, and probably a few llama pellets into the soil with my trusty hoe, it'll be ready to be seeded with all kinds of interesting greens:

Red Russian Kale (a pre-1885 heirloom that is so beautiful and tasty in salads I've never gotten around to cooking it), more Swiss Chard (amazingly heat tolerant, chard is the secret main ingredient in the summer salads I can't live without), Canton Bok Pak Choy, Chinese Pak Choy, and maybe a little Michihli Cabbage if there's room (doubtful). All seeds are from (I know, I sound like a broken record, but just in case somebody's wondering) Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

And I am actually planning even further ahead. Despite the fact that this is the shorter of the two mini greenhouse beds, I am hoping that the chard won't grow so tall that it bursts through the top--then I will be able to make this my winter salad bed. When temperatures begin to drop, I will simply cover the frame with greenhouse plastic (secured with inexpensive metal clamps) and vent it during sunny days. Because that is the other fantastic secret about Swiss Chard: it is also incredibly cold tolerant. The photo of the thriving, happy plant above was taken two days ago. It survived temperatures below zeroF last winter covered with nothing more than old sheets and a quilt. I have tomatoes planted around it now, but see no reason at all to pluck what is essentially a free bonus harvest out of the ground.

Oh, the joys of tricking the seasons and gardening all year round!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/6/06

Berries & Blooms

Realization Of The Day:
It's time to start thinking about Turtle Deterrent Tactics. Since my older strawberry bed has turned into a sad, grass-clogged mess, I won't be getting much of a harvest this year. So I am extra determined to win the Battle Over MY Berries!

NOTE: As you may have noticed, I usually post something here each day, but not at a set time (life on the farm). If you don't feel like checking in only to find that nothing new has sprouted, I invite you to subscribe to In My Kitchen You will then receive a daily email that includes all recent posts. You can read the emailed posts (they even include any links I've put in to the text), or you can click on links in the email that will bring you here (where you will be able to leave/read comments). To sign up, simply enter your email address in the box at the top right of this page.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/5/06

Volunteer Dill In The Newer Strawberry Bed

Realization Of The Day:
I can't remember the last time I had dill and cucumbers in the garden at the same time.

--Got the Dragon Langerie beans planted yesterday, along with some Oriole Orange Chard and Nero Di Toscana Cabbage as companions in the same bed. Only one tiny problem. I grabbed an older packet of beans because I used up the entire 2006 packet and still had space to plant--and they are an entirely different color! Ought to be interesting to see what comes up.

--Managed to tuck 10 "fill in" asparagus roots into the asparagus bed. Didn't do the greatest planting job, but figure it's better than nothing. Still yearning for a 1/4 acre asparagus plot.

--The lilacs that were coming never showed up due to death by a late frost. Bummer. Happens quite often here, though. I did catch a few tiny blooms on the bush down by the barn (where there used to be a house once), then I totally forgot about them. Hard to believe since lilacs are one of my favorite flowers. Oh wait. It's spring on the farm. Easy to believe I forgot about something!

--Garden and fields are loving all this rain we've had. I am loving having the wet weather creek meandering through the farm. Three cheers for rubber boots! I have no idea how I spent the first 26 years of my life without them. They are so liberating. Splish splash, splish splash! Yes, I played around in the water today (under the guise of clearing out some leaves and debris that were stuck in the middle of the stream)--and I had a wonderful time doing it.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/4/06

Just Picked

Realization Of The Day:
No matter what heartwrenching things life throws at you, you still gotta eat. And there's no reason not to eat well. Life goes on. The garden grows on. And I am here.

From Garden To Table:
Salad stuff! The photo above contains 7 different things I harvested last evening for our dinner salads: 'fake' scallions, arugula, two kinds of beet 'greens' (they're red), baby purple kohlrabi leaves (gorgeous), Petite Rouge lettuce, and yes, believe it or not, those are actually a few leaves of incredibly delicious spinach I managed to grow. I think I got six plants out of about 100 seeds (two different varieties--New Zealand & Bloomsdale) planted. Better than nothing, but really more of a tease than anything else.

Last night we had one of our favorite easy dinners--what we call a 'picnic,' (though we never eat it outdoors). A loaf of freshly baked crusty bread, sprinkled with coarse salt and still warm from the oven, slices of homegrown, grass-fed roast beef leftover from the night before, assorted cheeses, the sweetest organic carrot and celery sticks (courtesy of Earthbound Farm), and of course a couple of fabulous salads. Red wine for me, homebrewed beer for Joe. Spread it all out on platters and help yourself to whatever you like. Eating with your fingers is encouraged. Joe makes adorable little sandwiches with mustard. I prefer my bread torn apart and slathered with nothing but organic butter. This is always an enjoyable, leisurely meal.

Soon it will be prime picnic season, and the garden will provide us with plates piled high with various kinds and colors of heirloom tomatoes, sweet red and orange peppers, lemon cucumbers splashed with balsamic vinegar, my favorite Dragon Langerie beans, and more bounty I am doubtless forgetting. But that is for later. For now there are salads.

Think you are surrounded by picky eaters who would never allow such exotic plants on their plate? You just may be surprised. Last night I asked Joe if he wanted a salad or just sliced veggies with his picnic, and he immediately said just the veggies would be fine. Then he caught himself (and a look at the colander of freshly picked greens) and said "Am I crazy? I'll have a salad!" This is from someone who ate nothing but Iceburg lettuce just a few short years ago.

Mostly rained out yesterday. We've had about 6 inches of rain in a week, including another huge thunderstorm last night. Yesterday afternoon we arrived home from running errands just as storm hit. It was the kind of downpour that blasted us with 3/4" of rain in the first 5 minutes--and had us frantically placing 11 buckets and bowls around our leaky kitchen. Humidity this morning is 80% in the house. Everything inside and out feels soggy. The wet weather creek just started running by the house, which is always nice. Something so soothing about the sound of running water (when it isn't flowing through the kitchen ceiling of course).

I did manage to do a little gardening yesterday inbetween the raindrops. Transplanted 6 Italian Flat Leaf parsley seedlings into individual plugs, moved the recently impulse purchased (but totally rationalized) campanulas into beautiful old white ceramic pots, and started some Large Leaf Basil seeds. This was an experiment: instead of scattering them in a little tray and then picking out the sprouted seedlins and transferring them into individual plugs, I filled 66 plugs with composty soil and dropped just one tiny seed in each plug. I covered them with the lightest sprinkling of compost and watered well. This should save me some time and effort. We shall see. I did this a few months ago with some lettuce, but I put several seeds in each plug and they all germinated. I ended up just sticking the lumps of seedlings into the garden rather than trying to separate them, and it ended up working out okay. Once they grew a bit I just thinned them out. Not a picture perfect job, but whatever it takes to make it to the plate is my motto!

And I think that is all for today. I need to slip back into my rubber boots, check on my manure factory empire, and then see if it's too wet out there to plant some more beans, clean out another raised bed to make room for chard and other greens, and put the 'fill-in' asparagus roots I ordered that have been soaking in kelp water for two days now. I mentioned last night to Joe that I hoped the asparagus roots would be okay after soaking so long, and he brought up a good point: "It's just as wet in the garden!"