Sunday, July 25, 2010

More sweltering

"They" say that there is a cold front coming through. Temperatures are going to plummet into the 90s. Brrrr. Pull out your parka's people, cuz it is gonna feel like winter compared with the last week. At this point, I am all for anything that isn't triple digits.

In honor of the coming cold snap, I planted some fall crops in the garden. I was drenched in sweat by the time I finished (before 9AM). Beets, chard, kale and carrots this time. I'll wait before heading down the lettuce, spinach, mache path. Still a few more of my favorite varieties to plant. Italian Silver Rib and Scarlet Charlotte Chard. The silver rib overwinters amazingly well and is mild and sweet, and the Scarlet Charlotte is just so beautiful. In the cold, the red ribs turn into a palette of luminescent red, magenta and tomato colors.

My green grape tomatoes have started to come in. The are most definitely an interesting tomato. They are very sweet, really like eating grapes. Odd. Nice for a change, but it wouldn't be the only thing I would grow. But then again, you know I don't roll that way, right? If I don't have half a dozen types, it ain't worth doin'.

My experimentation has really bitten me in the butt on (at least) one item. I ordered this variety of tomatillo for the large fruits. I don't know if it is that our soil is too good or that I have been watering them, but the production is TERRIBLE. I had a teeny flush early in the year and since then almost nothing. Last year I stuffed our freezer full of tomatillo sauce and we use it for cooking chicken or pork in the crock pot. I thought these would be great, as the EVERONA dairy isn't so far from here. This year I have had enough only for a couple small batches of salsa. This just goes to show you that you can never put all your eggs in one basket. I started a tried and true variety "Verde" but never got around to putting them in. In all fairness, the ones that have popped up willy nilly around the compost heap aren't really producing either, so maybe just a bad year. I'll have to try multiple varieties next year.

I am really wondering what is happening in the beehive right now. It is too stinkin' hot to put on the bee suit and check it out, though I know I have to. The bees have been all over the corn tassels. Which makes me think they are hungry. I need to find out now if I should start feeding the little buggers. Which I will if we don't get some rain and blooms here soon.

Also, today I think the SB and I are making ginger beer. I'll make him take photos.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


What ever happened to the carefree days of summer? This is not a rhetorical question. I remember getting bored in the summer. Granted, that was 30 years ago, but still. I would like a little of that back please.

With the weather, we have been running around watering and trying to keep the garden alive. No real rain in weeks. None in the forecast. And temps predicted to be around 100 this weekend. It stinks. Big time.

We are getting lots of tomatoes, the Principe Borghese - the drying tomatoes.... We are doing a couple batches a week. And using the extra space in the dryer for summer squash. I am glad to make use of the dryer I bought at a yard sale ($3), but it does heat the house up.

I have started the fall cole crops and some onions. Some of it may be too late, but you can't win them all. I need to do some direct seeding in the garden this weekend. Beets, carrots, kale, chard, etc. Seems absurd with the heat, but there you go.

Watch these guys. Making headway on the sustainability/coolness front here in C'ville. Don't get too excited, but the SB actually brought up the idea of having a goat on The Urban Farm. And actually, since goats are herd animals, a couple of goats. So I am thinking about Nigerian Dwarfs. They can be milked you know. Quart of milk a day, anyone? This is definitely on the longer range plan. First we need a tool shed. We need to finish the duck house roof. We need more garden architecture. And to fix the porch. When that is done we can start thinking about a goat house/milking area/fencing.

A picture of the garden in summer
And of the bean trellis by the duck house
And the snake that visited the duck house a couple weeks ago
Just f yer i, this is not a feed bag. It is one of those bags you buy stuff by the pound in... just so you don't think we have a python in the area or something.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


The ducks are famous. Here they are, photographed by a real photographer. That isn't me behind them though. That is one of our neighbors.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Home Improvement

The SB and I embarked on a couple of projects this afternoon. He was re-pointing some bricks on the basement exterior wall and I got to pull staples and scrape the paint off the old screen door. It made me nostalgic for the days when we were renovating the house and I was either freezing cold or broiling hot and had the dust of paint/sheet rock/dirt of ages rubbed into my skin.

This time, I got off pretty easy. The paint chips were flying, but I didn't get any in my eyes (thanks to the safety glasses) nor in my underwear. The brassier was a different story, but manageable given all the other near misses.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Winging it

So we (i.e. the SB) decided that it actually is too hot to work in the yard. Even at 8:30 in the evening. The benefits of 100 degree heat. I knew there had to be some. So I caught up on a little blog reading and decided to do another post. Two in the same week. You can thank me later, cuz I know this stuff is R.I.V.E.T.I.N.G.

As you may know, I love to grow some potatoes. As you also may know, seed potatoes are absurdly expensive. So for the past few years, I have been saving my own. Yay me. Last year, in addition to the spuds I had saved for seed, a bunch of our La Ratte spuds sprouted in storage. For the record, they don't really store for crap in less than ideal circumstances. So we had LOTS for planting. So many, that I had leftovers even after giving away a bunch to SHG (for her excellent housemate) and Tay of Tuesday fame. Rilly, I mean a LOT. The long and the short of it was that we didn't get a chance to plant them all. The leftovers have more or less been sitting around in the way since, oh, maybe April. I was going to throw them out, but the SB insisted we try to plant them. So we hastily dug a "bed" where one of the future garden beds will be, added a little compost and fertilizer and some very dehydrated, very unrecognizable potatoes. Today (though we did the digging yesterday. When it was just about as hot.) In case you aren't a gardener, this is totally non standard practice. Potatoes are planted on St. Patrick's Day. Or as close to there as possible. We are not very close to St. Patrick's Day. But if we get anything at all, perhaps we will be that much ahead since we had to dig that bit anyway. We shall see. The moral of the story is don't hoard your potatoes. Eat them early while they are still firm and delicious.

We are eating tons of them. Cold boiled potatoes with smoked salmon. Tonight maybe with some tuna/white bean salad and green beans and boiled duck eggs. A sort of modified salad nicoise.

Edited to add:
OK, dinner was delicious.

On the unorthodox subject, I also played fast and loose with the bees. I checked on them a couple weekends ago and they had totally filled their honey super (woot!) and so I decided to put another on. Of course, because I was in a rush, I didn't put new starters in 4 of the frames. I left the edges where I had cut out the comb over a year ago, which had been totally cleaned, and then alternated the starter and non starter frames in hopes that the bees would do some mind reading and fill in the frames instead of building comb willy nilly all over the place. I'll keep you posted on that. I am pretty much the laziest beekeeper ever. Whatever happens, I can deal, even if it means just yanking it all out and melting it down. I suspect what is going to happen is that with this dry hot weather, honey production is going to come to a screeching halt so there likely won't be any issue at all. I do need to pop out there and check though and see what is going on. To be honest, I don't really like this hive. I think that my last hive spoiled me with their docile personality. These are a little more, well, impatient. Not so much what you need as a beginning keeper.

I have become a fan of the asparagus bean. These babies take a while to get rolling (75 days as opposed to 50-60), and you definitely need something for them to grow up, but I am right now getting about a half a pound of beans a day. No sign of slowing down, despite the heat. We trellised them up a bamboo grid we put against the duck yard in hopes of providing shade for the ducks during the hottest part of the day. It doesn't provide as much shade as I was hoping for, but it is definitely giving it a go. It being right outside the door, the ducks have paid a little attention to the beans, but luckily after they got established, so no harm done with a few lost leaves. We lost much more to the munching rabbit than the nibbling ducks.

Monday, July 5, 2010


We are in the midst of a(nother) sweltering week. We had a delightful 3 day respite a few days ago where I actually had a chance to wear a long sleeved shirt (woot!) one evening. Now it is predicted to be in the upper nineties for another 5 days or so. Which would be fine, except that there is no rain predicted to go along with the heat, so it means we will be racing around watering things to try to keep them going until someone does something about the weather. Just sayin'. The SB is taking matters into his own hands and is making a watering grid for the garden. At some point, we will have a grid for each of our beds and we will be able to just turn the water on, grab a beer and not have to mess with hoses, etc. That will be very close to heaven.

Have I mentioned that my fall garden was SO. MUCH. BETTER. than my summer one? I did get the first teeny tomato. Hal a freakin luja. Only one cuke so far, and there is NO excuse for that. No zucchini....WTF? Lots of yard long beans. A bunny has been eating the beans in the Three Sisters quadrant of the garden. Cute, but so bad. I pulled the rest of the teeny beets and made borscht. I just yanked the mustard as it wasn't going anywhere good. Dug some more potatoes, but only what we need over the next week or so. Yes, you can pat me on the head for not doing them all. Cuz then where would I put them? That was the problem last year. Don't say you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

In exciting farm news.... we had a black snake in the duck house Saturday. Hopefully the removal of the snake from the duck house was scary enough for the snake to deter him from trying that again. It sure didn't do much for the SB. I feel lucky that I noticed him in there cuz if I hadn't, I might have locked everyone in together by accident. It would have been a looooong night.

I thought one of the ducks was getting broody. She was hanging out on a nest and making nesting motions (pulling straw up around her, etc.) But as soon as it got hot she abandoned the task and went swimming. Youth. Maybe next year she will have more of an attention span. It would be nice to have a duck to raise ducklings. Kind of a pain to DIY that project.

Remarkably, it is time to start the fall crops. Hard to think about in this heat, but time none the less. I think I am going to wait for this weekend to put the stuff directly in the ground (carrots, beets, etc) and hopefully this week sometime get the inside stuff started, broccoli, fennel, brussels sprouts, leeks, etc. With luck the dry spell will break and we can get started on this fall thing.

Things I miss about winter.
1. turning on the oven.
2. wearing long sleeves
3. not getting sun stroke
4. no bugs
5. sleeping under blankets
6. you get the idea.

The benefit of summer
1. Tomatoes
2. Peaches
3. cold beer on the porch after hot work
4. The Market
5. A whole host of other things I will remember when it gets cold.