Garden Chores

I got out to the garden today (too rainy to paint, although I did bust out the pressure washer to clean the porch deck) and took care of some business. First check out this bounty I picked, including tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots and onions:

Basket o' Tastiness

The popcorn is growing well, with tendrils melon plants creeping up the stalks:

Happy Corn Plants

And speaking of melons, I just may be successful this year. I don’t want to speak before I actually pick and eat a ripe melon, but we are close. I saved seeds from a chanterais we got from our farm share last summer. They started off well, they blossomed and a couple of fruits started growing. Now, a couple of them are close to ripe, good sized, and healthy. Seeking carefully under the corn plants, I found ten of them in various stages of growth. There are still more blossoms but those late bloomers will likely not make it at this point. If we eat one or two tasty melons I will be a happy camper gardener.

Check Out That Melon, if You Know What I'm Saying

And I did finally pull the garlic. I could have yanked it all sooner, but today was the day I got around to it. I harvested 19 remaining bulbs. I already used one of them to make some pesto–OK, a lot of pesto–and I will need to save maybe five of them to plant this fall for next year, but that leaves 13. Not bad, considering how much I already used.

More Than Ready for Harvest

Drying in the Sun

So it was a good day for fresh food. We ate pesto pasta for dinner with tomatoes, cucumbers on the side. I need to dig up potatoes next. They are ready to make it to the table now as well. Right now I plan to have another slice of zucchini blueberry bread. It is still warm.

One, Two, Three

Fizzy, Round and Just Plain Odd

Fizzy, Round and Just Plain Odd

I picked some more tomatoes today.  You can see the one on the right is a bit mis-shapen.  It looks like three tomatoes in one.  On the vine it seemed even more so.  I wasn’t sure if I was picking one big old fruit or three, or somehow two.  But, like all things, it was connected.  I have not sliced into it since the photo shoot (laboriously shot with sharp detail and vivid color  in my kitchen studio, as you can see) but I look forward to learning how sweet it is. The variety is called Cosmonaut Volkov.  I’m pretty sure it was developed in Russia, but that’s really just a guess.

The object in the middle is also a tomato.  That one is a different variety.  It is called Crimson Sprinter.  Supposedly it will ripen in about 60 days after transplanting.  It was around 70 days from gently easing the tender plants into the ground until I was blessed with this perfect, red, juicy, sweet and delicious globe of loveliness.  Not bad.  I ate my first of these two days ago.  Bring me more.

The third object is just my glass of seltzer.  It comes pre-flavored with lime.  Isn’t that convenient?  No need to cut an actual lime to flavor the fizziness.  The seltzer is nestled comfortably around ice.  I had considered creating a gin and tonic but, really, I was just too lazy to cut the lime, not to mention pour two liquids into the glass.  My wife cut her finger on a 10-inch chef’s knife yesterday afternoon and, although she is healing up nicely, I have to wash all the dishes for a few days.  With all that labor, I don’t have time to be slicing limes.  Or tomatoes for that matter.  Slicing will have to wait until tomorrow.  Once I polish off this beverage, I’ve got some work ahead of me washing out the glass.

Pile O’ Bounty

Pile of Quality Food, Grown Right Here

Pile of Quality Food, Grown Right Here

Had a good harvest day yesterday.  We picked our first tomatoes yesterday–three Crimson Sprinters.  The Cosmonaut Volkovs should be ready later this week.  Before we know it we will have more tomatoes than we can handle.  If only I could get them to be ripe earlier.

We also ate corn last night for dinner.  We got it from the farm in Richmond, Conant’s Riverside Farm, where we used to get it a lot, until we moved to Hinesburg.  This is our first time eating corn from there this summer, since my daughter and I were passing by there yesterday afternoon.  That corn is quality stuff.  One of these days I will try again to grow sweet corn.  Popcorn is growing well in our garden but it won’t be ready for a while.

We need to keep on it or things will get overripe.  Another warm and sunny day today–we won’t have to worry about what’s for dinner, just how to prepare it.  With the leftover corn from last night, and all the tomatoes on the way, a corn tomato chowder may be on deck for tonight.  Plus maybe coffee ice cream.  Who would say not to that?

Garden Woes

Ready for Planting

Ready for Planting

We started our garden at the house in which we now live in 2007.  That garden was limited.  We dug up some lawn and gathered some compost and got going.  We planted tomatoes and carrots and lettuce, pumpkins and strawberries.  Last year we expanded, adding more compost and digging more beds.  This is year three.  That first summer we had no problems at all.  Everything grew like gangbusters.  Now the troubles have started.

One mistake was getting compost from a new source last year.  It was filled with weeds and contained the larvae of cucumber beetles.  Cucumber beetles eat the roots of young plants and then, after they hatch, eat the leaves of the same plants.  I have had to replant zucchini and yellow squash and cucumbers, and the melons are pretty much bumming.  I have done nothing yet to get rid of them this spring so our problems persist.  I thought turning the soil late in the fall would help.  I turned it all again early in the spring.  No dice with that simple plan.

I planted peas for the first time this year.  They started off well but now the rabbit that hangs out in the woods has discovered the plants.  It keeps whittling them down to nubbins.  The pea plants are no taller than they were six weeks ago.  Then our cuddly friend discovered the carrots and the lettuce.  The little pecker is nibbling down our salads.  And a squirrel is eating our strawberries.  These critters are killing me.

I planted popcorn today.  Last year I had to plant corn three times.  The first time the turkeys ate the sprouts just as they emerged.  Then the crows did the same after I put up a scarecrow (can you say misnomer?).  Finally I hung a string across the bed with old CD’s hanging from it.  Those spinning reflectors kept the birds away.  I hope that this trick will keep them away again.  The popcorn was one of our best crops last year.

At this point the onions, at least the ten out of 26 that survived (no idea what was up with that) are healthy.  The leeks (except for the handful some crazy bird yanked out but left on the soil) are shooting up, and the pumpkins are spreading.  The tomatoes and peppers (planted a few days ago) are still alive but my optimism is wavering.  We will have some food out of this endeavor but not as much as we might.

I’m not all that upset, really.  I am disappointed, of course, but not upset.  This gardening adventure is about persistence over the long term.  I planted red zebra tomatoes the first summer.  They grew well but were not the sweetest.  I may plant them again as sauce tomatoes, or I might consider trying to grow them over a few years to breed sweeter fruit, but I learned that another variety might be better.  I also have not had much luck with melons.  They need warm weather and lots of it.  The beetles snacking on them don’t exactly help.  So melons will require much more trial and error (hopefully with diminishing error).

I have had luck with seeds I saved for peppers and pumpkins.  I will try more of that this year.  I like the idea of keeping the cycle going–planting seeds from plants that grew the previous year, then doing that again.  It is amazing that it works at all.  Plant a few seeds and they grow into plants that provide food?  That is plain old miraculous, really.

So I do what I can to keep things growing.  I weed and water and hang old computer discs.  I need to get on the cucumber beetles.  They haven’t hatched yet, but I know they won’t wait for an invitation to sit down to dinner on my cucumbers.  Their social graces, it seems, are less than refined.

Dentist Notes

I had a basic cleaning at my dentist yesterday.  That is a common thing for many people, myself included.  Yesterday’s visit had several things of note, however.  I had to reschedule my original appointment from early May to a different day so I wasn’t even in the same room.  The usual pattern wasn’t happening.

I planned ahead this time.  I don’t usually have to wait all that long at my dentist’s office but occasionally it happens.  To keep myself free of things I might forget I usually plan to read whatever magazines happen to be there.  I can typically find your standard news magazines–Newsweek, Time and the like–and there is always something different to check out, but this time I brought some to share.  I am an Orion reader and it is simply one of the best magazines I have ever read.  It is interesting and engaging and just plain interesting.  I remembered to bring the last couple of issues to leave behind for others to read.  I also brought the latest issue of Mother Jones.

So I was ahead before I headed to the chair with the headrest.  I was ushered to a room that is not my usual room, the room where they usually perform the big jobs–fillings and drilling and shots to numb things up.  I was afraid they had made some kind of mistake.  But phew, it was just because of the appointment rescheduling and associated space issues.  Then the hygienist who usually gets things started was not there.  I’ll have to wait a while six months to find out how her children finished up the school year.  Too long, I tell you, too long.

My dentist did the whole dang thing for me.  He checked and cleaned and wrapped things up and off I went.  He didn’t offer a rinse and spit, although it wasn’t necessary, and he didn’t floss my teeth.  I kind of look forward to the flossing.  It is a unique experience, having someone else floss one’s teeth.  He did, at least, remember to give me a toothbrush.

It isn’t always easy, but my dentist and I usually have some curious conversations.  Here is a partial list of what we discussed:

  • The costs and benefits of solar panels
  • The depth of our home wells
  • When to get seeds started outside in the garden
  • How often people really do floss versus how often they say they floss
  • Taking evening classes at the local high school to learn something new and interesting, such as cooking
  • How much electricity we use at home, in kilowatt hours
  • How to build a rain barrel
  • Varieties of cherry tomatoes
  • The gender ratio of the members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Voting rights
  • Our shared love of blueberries

I had to confess to my dentist that I had come there directly from my son’s end of year school celebration.  They served cupcakes.  It seemed incongruous to be getting my teeth cleaned right after eating cupcakes.  He was concerned less with my eating sugary snacks before an appointment than with my neglect to bring any of those treats to his office to share.  Lesson learned:  Next time, bring cupcakes to the dentist.

I made another appointment before I left.  I recently gave my dentist a D on Angie’s List for availability.  Unless you have an appointment set up well in advance, forget it.  I can’t even set up an appointment for six months out.  I have to schedule it eight months out.  I had done that last time, so I’ll be back in November (six months from my original appointment).  I scheduled another one for May.   What day works best for you?  That was hard to answer.  I’m not sure what day will work best for me a year from now.  So I picked a week day for mid-morning.  Hopefully I can schedule around that.

I have extra clean teeth today.  As long as I stay on top of it I should make it to November.  Then I will get to find out how the new blueberry bushes fared, and if my dentist ended up taking that cooking class.  Plus, I will finally get to find out how the hygienist’s kids are doing, one grade later.  In the meantime I need to get through summer.  I’ll have to make sure I watch it with the creemees.

Tomatoes Up

I planted tomatoes in foam cells a few days before we went away for a few days.  I was hoping they would be popping out of the dirt when we returned.  They were not.  They were still buried.  Pokey seeds.  I was worried they might be duds.  The next day was eight degrees plus.  They started to rise then.  I guess they like it hot.

No peppers have risen yet.  I planted those at the same time as the tomatoes.  Pokier seeds.  The leeks and onions are doing fine, curling all over.  I had to give them another haircut tonight.  That smelled pretty dang good.  In two or three weeks I will plant all this stuff in the ground.  I am looking to plant other things earlier–peas, lettuce, carrots maybe.  Pumpkins.  We’ll have to see about the weather.

I planted an oak tree from an acorn with the children last June.  It was a father’s day gift.  I never planted it and then winter came.  I thought i would plant it this spring.  When we returned from our trip it was dried out.  I thought watering it would help it bounce back.  It isn’t dead but it is still pretty limp.  I guess you shouldn’t treat your trees like dirt.

The tomatoes are pretty wiry at this point.  I’ll need to bury them deep so they grow well.  I decided not to repot them this year to see what happens.  I thought maybe I wouldn’t lose as many that way.  Last year I repotted once, the year before twice.  I’m all about efficiency.  I still need to prepare the garden.  It is in pretty good shape but the lawn keeps encroaching.  Too bad we can’t eat that.  Tomatoes are tastier.

Things are greening up all over the place.  I am again amazed at how winter turns to spring and then all of a sudden it is summer.  I can’t imagine ever getting tired of that.  I say “wow” a lot this time of year.  I watched a vulture swoop low over the field tonight.  My son and I said “wow” together.  It was in the eighties again today.  That is a wow in itself.  We watched snow fall last month.

So things are growing.  Hopefully I can translate that into some food and some beauty in our garden.  I can almost taste the tomatoes and lettuce and onion sandwiches on homemade honey oat bread with Cabot extra shart cheddar cheese.  Oh crap, I just drooled on myself.  Keep growing tomatoes.