Category Archives: Gardening

Time

Where does the time go?

I’d like to think it takes itself off for a nice vacation, doing whatever it wants to do instead of being constrained by responsibility.

Whatever it does, it has the habit of leaving us – arbitrary timekeepers that we are – wondering how it could be almost x time since we last did y. Like almost three weeks since the last blog entry.

Truth be told, I hadn’t been feeling all that well since that sinus infection back in May. Feeling nauseated almost constantly is not conducive to doing a lot of the things you normally would do. Pain? Meh, you could work through that in some fashion. But nausea? Nope. I was also having hot flashes like crazy. Terribly annoying.

Which is a roundabout way of saying the gardens suffered tremendously: overrun with weeds, beaten down by both the heat and the rain. We got some tomatoes out, but none of the big guys, and we got some beans and peppers out, but not in the quantity we have had in years past.

Colorful tomatoes: sweet million, sungold, indigo drops.

The people who ate these tell me they tasted fantastic.

The rest: determinate and not, paste, slicing,and heirloom, gave us nothing. My sister has been helping me out while I figure out what the hell was wrong with me, and I had her go ahead and pull out all the first round tomatoes. I have some in the garden that were started after the big batch of transplants, and I have some more started in the barn – two more sets, actually, with one set ready to get hardened off and then transplanted.

We did get some good blueberry action this year.

I used them in my shakes, and everyone else just ate them like normal people do.

So how did I get back to myself? I realized I had stopped taking the gabapentin (neurontin) back in May during the sinus thing, along with some of my other meds, because the combination of the antibiotics and meds that already have some side effects (like nausea, and other gastro issues) was making everything worse. I added those back into my routine, and presto! The gabapentin was prescribed for the nerve issues from my left neck down through my hand (hey, fuck you, cancer!) but amazingly, it also takes care of hot flashes. Who knew? Not me, or I would have twigged on that sooner than the past couple of weeks. Derp.

With the meds situation back in order, I’m now able to once again do things I need to do, like turn this:

Into this:

And finally, into this:

That’s a good late afternoon’s work there.It has to be done later in the day, because it’s been hot like the sun here  for weeks now. In the afternoons, we get storms rolling through – even if they don’t touch us directly, we usually get some cloud cover, and sometimes even a cooler breeze, which is nice.

Tomorrow, it will be on to the next row that needs to be weeded – the one to the left of this final picture. I’ll also be starting new soil block flats for the broccoli, cauliflower, brussels (ew) and maybe a couple of other late-season items, so they can go in to the rows and get grown before the season ends. It’s a nice goal to have, anyway.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Excitement in River City

Some years ago, when the state and city were blowing up (well, technically, down) the pilings from the original Fuller Warren bridge here in town, I was standing on the roof of a building near the river, capturing it. Those pics are around here somewhere. It was the first (and only) implosion of any structure I’ve ever seen live, and it was pretty cool.

Yesterday, two giant cooling towers from a now-shuttered coal-fired plant were imploded. My brother played hooky a bit from his work to go up and try to see it. Alas, the general public was kept well away from the event, only getting to see the tops of the towers over some buildings and trees. The media and the company’s own cameras, though, got the full show. As always, it’s amazing how quickly something can be brought down, neatly, with proper placement of explosives and detonation timing. Clicking the arrow on the picture in this article will show the video of the towers coming down.

Today, I’ve finished mowing the beeyard and whacked around and under the hives. The new bees have also been fed. I was soaked when I came back in because it is simply hideous out there. It’s the time of the year that I wonder just how in the world the settlers to this place got anything done and made it through to the next season. Were they made of tougher stuff? Maybe. Did some of them give up and go back or move elsewhere? Almost positively, they did. I can’t say I would blame anyone who did on days like today. But there’s still work to be done here at the ranch, and I see out my southern facing window the clouds starting to build. Even if it’s just ten minutes at a time, it’s better to work on something versus nothing.

Until next time, peeps: be well. And if it’s broiling where you are, take care of yourselves and any people or animals for which you are responsible.

 

How to spend a holiday

Here’s the first day of my “holiday weekend”. For those of you outside the US, today is Memorial Day here. Some years ago, it would signal the official beginning of summer for us here, and we’d have a giant party and feed  a bunch of people. The kids (and some of the adults) would go swimming and everyone else would just be visiting with one another. That hasn’t happened in years now because we had a falling out with one group of relatives, and of course I’ve been sick on and off for over two years.

But here’s my day.

0730 Up, take care of the dogs, check their food and water, check the weather

0800 Breakfast and work

0915 Out to gather grass clippings from the beeyard and septic mound to add to my new compost pile

0945 Break for hydration and “work” work

1015 Out to sow the second round of green bean seed

1040 Break for hydration and work

1045 Weeding

1310 Break for lunch and work

1520 Wake up from falling asleep in my chair

1540 Feed bees and do inspections

1800 Bring in empty bottles and pulled hive bodies, put away tractor, detach wagon, close up shed, make shake with skyr added, meds

1815 Sit down at desk for feeding and work, empty camera memory card to computer

1825 Actually start feeding after playing with the dogs

1838 ACTUALLY start feeding after taking pictures and video of the dogs

1840 Realize just how much my back hurts now that I’m sitting down

1930 Back outside to bag weeds I turned up earlier today, before Alberto pays us a visit

2100 Back inside, treats for the dogs, refill their food and water

2110 Back to the beeyard to close the hive where I left the top propped open a bit, so there’s no chance of getting rain in there

2120 Make a shake, mix my meds, and taking care of business

2221 Power goes out, right when I’m making a response to a ticket, and Alberto hasn’t even arrived yet. Read on my amazon fire to wait it out

2249 Power comes back. Start the tedious task of booting up my system and then getting all my apps started once more, my screen layout in place, and get back to work

At some point doze off in my chair again

2340 Wake up, get some formula and some kefir, set up for another feed, do some more work

Doze off here and there

0130 Have an itching episode on the left side of my neck. Desperately try to scratch an itch that can’t be scratched; down a slug of benadryl before I wind up drawing blood.

0200 Bed

In other news, Alberto may be paying us a visit. Not in person, but from some of his hangers-on, the outer bands and what moisture he draws up from south of his center.

What a mess

We’re going to get some of it tomorrow, and possibly Monday, as well.

This is why I needed to take care of things I took care of today. Wandering around not doing anything in particular is a recipe for disaster here: you have to focus on what needs to be done (a TON of stuff) and how to prioritize it (take care of the bees before anything). And that’s how it went. It was a VERY productive day at the ranch. Tiring, but worth it.

I have a mound of horse poop (courtesy of a neighbor) in the southeastern area of the property that is heating and composting itself, but I wanted something nearer to the front (north) area gardens, so I started a compost pile there as well. It started off with kitchen scraps, paper, some leaves, downed branches I broke down. But now, it also has the grass clipping I mentioned up above, to get a better mix of green/brown material. This is how it looked after that work yesterday.

How the weeded row where the shelling peas and lettuces were, after getting through another weeding session – I literally worked until dark today, which was almost 9 PM.

How it looked in the dark after I had to stop because it was getting too hard to see,  so I had to head in.

Another long, busy day in the books. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

 

First tomatoes

Tomatoes. The star of the garden. They can be rather diva-like – the heirloom varieties especially. For four years straight, for instance, I tried to grow Cherokee Purples. I think we got half a dozen fruits off them. While they were tasty, they were too much of a pain, so I set them aside.

This year, I tried to limit the number of varieties. Ha! Just kidding! No, really, I did, picking the ones I thought would be best for eating, canning, making sauces, and so on, a mix of determinate and indeterminate varieties, and a mix of things that would mature from early to late season.

This year’s varieties: paisano, skyway,valley girl, early girl, mortgage lifter, 4th of July, sungold, indigo cherry drop, gladiator, oh happy day, big beef, sweet million, park’s whopper, season starter, legacy, corleone, dixie red.

I transplanted the majority of these in April, and they are doing very well.

I even found the first fruit out there.

And some art, courtesy of Mother Nature.

With the appearance of the first fruit, it is now a race between me and the pests: who will overcome the odds against them and be crowed master gardener? I’m afraid we will have to wait and see how the season progresses.

Still working on editing some videos. it would be nice to be able to devote some serious time to learning the software – I picked up Vegas Pro (thanks to Stacy for that recommendation, via her kids) and we’ll see if that’s a tad more friendly to people who just don’t have the time to get really into the guts of Premiere.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Posturing

Today: a respite from the rain. It wound up being hot and humid and miserable anyway, because it’s just that time of year for us.

While watching another storm blow up the other day, though, and waiting to see if I could capture some lightning on my camera (alas, no), I met this guy, looking fabulous.

Just one of the may critters that hang out at the ranch now, thanks to years of patient (and not so patient, sometimes) rehabilitation of the property.

The break in the rains allowed me to get a lot of mowing done – a good thing, as some areas were getting pretty hairy. One last section to go: in the beeyard, right up to the hive stands. I got most of yard mowed late, without having to climb into the beesuit to do it, luckily. The last bit will probably take all of ten minutes to complete, but since the vibrations from the tractor will disturb them, better to suit up and be safe.

Tomorrow is also supposed to be clear for much of the day. That will allow me to get more cuke seed in and – as ever – do more weeding. I really need to find a way to mulch or weedblock for things like carrots and lettuce to cut down even further on the overall amount of weeding that has to be done. I’m sure it will come to me when I least expect it.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Weed, man

Wait, that’s “weedS, man”.

So there’s this weed called chamberbitter. It’s also known as mimosa weed, and if you’ve ever had to deal with a mimosa tree spinning off its seeds and creating clones of itself everywhere, invading the land, you’ll know why.

This particular weed is extremely hard to control, and has a multitude of seeds under each leaf. This weed, like many in the gardens here, arrived courtesy of manure: cows eat them as they’re grazing, poop the seeds out, and then that manure gets hauled off somewhere. And they are legion.

A long row to hoe

All that stuff down the middle is mimosa weed. Its seeds germinate when the soil temp hits 70F, and for us that came pretty quickly this season. Since I was sick for most of the first part of the month, they gained a foothold here where the shelling peas were down the lines marked with the posts.

That rain also means the soil is wet and heavy. Between that and the weed’s solid rooting, it’s a tedious and sweaty task to get them out.

This is the result of two 25-minute sessions.

Unlike purslane, this weed can’t be sold to hipsters

It’s humid and hot here, and some things, like ridding this bed of mimosa weed, seem to take forever. I was going to put the cukes here now that I pulled the spent shelling peas, but I realized there was simply too much work to be done through this row before I could put anything else in it. The first of the cuke seed – 30 seeds each of two varieties – went into another row before the rains came. I still have four more varieties to get sown, and if I can get work stuff done at the NOC in a reasonable time, I might be able to get them in tomorrow before the rains come again.

Apropos of nothing, there’s this show on TLC called “Our Wild Life” about a woman and her family in North Carolina who apparently adopt animals. Not just pets, but farm animals like sheep and llamas, birds, lemurs, baby kangaroos, miniature donkeys, tiny pigs, and so on. There are a lot of animals wandering around inside the house, and my first thought when seeing that was about just how much poop is scattered about the place. For some reason, they’re showing some extended clip of their bible study with all the animals wandering around, and that’s the end of the line for me. Not terribly interested in that

That aside, until next time, peeps: be well.

Early season

The early season harvests are all about green stuff, with a splash of yellow: lettuce, kale, asparagus, chard, peas, zucchini, squash…..and green beans.

Like squashes, green beans are amazingly prolific. Unlike squashes, they’re much easier to store. We generally just wash and dry them, then throw them as is into the freezer. I have a commercial style freezer, so it doesn’t take long for small things like beans to freeze decently, and practically takes no time at all for even smaller things like peas.

This means when the green beans start coming in, we don’t have to gorge ourselves – well, fam and friends don’t. We can preserve the harvest in this case via simple freezing. We could pressure can them, but we have a simpler route in this case, saving space in the cold room, but more importantly, saving time.

I had predicted early last week that we’d start getting the initial beans to sample this past weekend. I was right about that.

This variety is called Provider. it’s fast, extremely productive, sturdy, and produces beans on two nodes. It also has some of the prettiest flowers.

Now that this planting is beginning to produce beans, I’ll be setting out another round. Succession planting will allow us to continuously have fresh beans from now until the end of the year, as well as allow us to put a ton of them in the freezer (and possibly sell the excess). After the first two full picks, I’ll pull the plants and throw them on the compost pile, as generally at that point the bugs have figured out the plants are there. By that time, the new round of beans I’ve sown in another area will be producing.  At that time, I may put in another round – it depends on how much we can sell and can/want to freeze.

So, I am steeling myself for the harvest. As you can see behind this mature bean, there are tons of young ones getting into gear.

That’s good eating.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Prepare yourself

Squash is coming.

I’m not kidding.

A few years ago, when chronic pneumonia was not a mainstay in my life, and before a swallow test showed why, I grew squash of both the green (zucchini) and yellow (yellow) kind. The problem with squashes, as anyone with a garden knows, is that they are sneaky little bastards. You’ll go through a picking session, ooh and aah and marvel over how one seed – one seed! – can produce such abundance.

Squash and zucchini April 29, 2015

This can lull you into a state of mind where you are not as alert as you could be.

As you should be.

Because – again, as anyone who gardens and plants squashes know – you will miss some.

“Wait, Captain, what do you mean ‘miss them’? How could you possibly miss any?”

Sneaky little bastards is how: they play Jedi mind tricks and your gaze slides right over them in search of the next fruit to pick. This is not just for squash, mind you: the same thing happens with okra, among other things. But squashes are in a category unto themselves and are by far the tops at this game.

So, you overlook some. Some, you think, might need another day or two to get to the proper length, but then you get busy, perhaps with the bees, and before  you know it, it’s been four days, and you have to steel yourself to go back out to the plants, wondering if any have attained sentience and are awaiting your arrival to ambush you. What you find is a collection of squash that varies in size from “decent, normal eating” to “small child”.

Zucchini and squash May 22, 2015

It may be difficult to put this into context, given that there is no true frame of reference for the upper part of this scale. Allow me to assist.

Giant zucchini, small child, May 2015

The harvest size is so large, it can in fact comfortably seat two small children, and probably three.

Giant squash and two small children gnawing on raw okra pods, May 2015

Why do I sound the alarm bell? The zucchini plants – two of which made it out of four seeds sown – are putting out the beginning of their flowers. The yellow squash, however, always earlier, and very prolific, are coming on. Fast.

Squash, May 2018

This was yesterday. Tomorrow, they will all be another inch longer, at least. It isn’t quite visible from this angle, but this plant has SIX in bloom squash forming. There are five yellow squash plants. While I know everyone thinks math is a waste of time in school, in gardening and farming there is very real math, and you should know it.

Especially if you grow squash.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Me against the lima beans

I am not a fan of lima beans. Never have been. Never will be – especially now, for reasons I’ll get into in a post down the road somewhere kind of soon.

Despite some attempts by people to disguise lima beans by calling them butter beans, the fact remains that they are still lima beans, and thus unworthy of appreciation by me as an eater.

However.

There are these weirdo people in my family who like them. A lot. Particularly in my mother’s Brunswick stew – which has, among its numerous ingredients, some of my pulled pork in it!

But back to these beans. I’m a big fan of other beans: navy beans, black beans, pinto beans, black eyed peas, kidney beans, garbanzos. Beans! Lot of beans!

Not limas. There’s just something about the way they smell and taste that makes me want to barf. It ranks slightly below liver as a never-ever-ever food for me. Just because I won’t eat them, though, does not mean I won’t grow them for others. Or try to, anyhow.

Because limas are a lot like corn for me, for some reason, except instead of being overrun by armyworms, the limas just don’t do…..anything.

The first year I grew limas at the ranch, I picked a pole bean variety. Easy, right? Same as black-eyed peas. Throw them in the ground, get the trellis up, and basically forget them until they’re ready to go. That variety produced a lot of greenery, but not a lot of flowers, and just a handful of pods. The next couple of years, I tried bush varieties. These flowered like mad, but never produced anything. I never got around to them the past couple of years because I was sick almost constantly, but this year I found two more bush varieties and decided to give them a go. Again.

They’ve germinated. Again. We’ll just have to wait and see if they give us – or, rather, the people who eat these yucky beans – a bountiful harvest. In the frame on the left, both rows are limas. In the frame on the right, sugar snap peas and green beans – neither of which I view as anything other than delicious.

Until next time, peeps: be well.