Friday, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Solstice musings
I happened to wake on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning) just at the height of the lunar eclipse, so I padded out onto the front porch to look at the shadowed moon. It was going to have to be one of those "mind's eye" experiences ... I had no tripod setup. I wondered about how such a celestial event would have been read in an earlier time on this night ... the night of least light. "Now you're taking the MOON away too?" But maybe they would have slept through it as I almost did, and not have given it a thought.

This envelope of darkness where we live right now made its turning point last night at 6:38. We are turning toward summer now, slowly ... imperceptibly from snowballs to tomatoes. The light is indoors now, not out. Fireplaces, tree lights, candles in the windows create the man-made glow to hold the darkness at bay.

But sometimes it is good to let the darkness shine. Had I been able to stand the cold, I would have enjoyed a few more moments in the dark night sky with its curious orange orb. If I could have had musical accompianment on my chilly porch on Tuesday night, I would have played this

University of Utah Chorus "Sure On This Shining Night" Morten Lauridsen composer

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Rewards

Early in the season I noticed that several bloggers were keeping a running total of their harvests and the monetary value associated with it. I decided to do the same but never quite mastered the gadget that would put it on the side panel of my blog. So I kept a journal record and entered it into a spreadsheet in late summer. I still have some broccoli out there and some parsnips, but I will credit them to next year's harvest. Today I ran the final totals.

Out of a 3o'x24' plot (with two 8x4 foot garlic beds outside) I yielded 382 pounds of produce at a conservative value of $647. I say conservative, because those luscious heirloom tomatoes I counted at a mere $1.26 per pound. (they sell at the farmer's market here for $4.99 a pound). I had put much hope early in the season in some French melons that fell to the cucumber beetles. And yet, as I look at the variety on this list I am impressed with the variety of crops I managed to plant even if the showings were small in categories like zucchini that in past seasons seemed to fly out of the garden.

But in my heart of hearts I know that this is only one way of counting rewards that come to me by tending this small plot. How do I put a price on coming eye to eye with a hummingbird while harvesting pole beans? How do you weigh the satisfaction of the smell of the first carrot you pull from the earth ... the first sliced warm tomato ... the spring dug parsnip chowder in April ... the bright green flavor of your first plate of asparagus? It's like the Visa ad, I guess ... priceless.








$ 0.66

$ 0.80




$ 6.00

$ 7.50




$ 1.67

$ 47.70




$ 12.00

$ 15.00


$ 1.50

Brussels Sprouts



$ 1.25

$ 2.37

Butternut Squash



$ 1.01

$ 1.73




$ 0.54

$ 0.81




$ 0.75

$ 15.61



$ 0.97

$ 0.51




$ 6.16

$ 133.98

Garlic Scapes



$ 6.00

$ 21.38

Green Beans



$ 1.07

$ 25.45




$ 1.51

$ 10.85



$ 0.55

$ 0.24




$ 1.26

$ 1.63




$ 0.31

$ 0.78




$ 3.04

$ 16.34

Salad Box



$ 9.85

$ 14.10



$ 1.08

$ 0.80

Snap Peas



$ 3.52

$ 7.92




$ 1.26

$ 296.42

Tomatoes Cherry



$ 1.93

$ 25.57




$ 1.26

$ 5.87




$ 647.49



Thursday, November 25, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

waning light

After what felt like a weeks of rain , there were two soft days this weekend. The artichokes and rosemary are tucked away in their wall-o-waters, the dahlias have been dried and put away, and the garlic is sprouting nicely under its layer of grass clippings.

The light this time of year creates a strange mood. The angle from the south has the sun nearly always in your eyes and that same angle creates crisp landscapes on the bare trees when the sun is at your back.

Large parts of the garden live in shade most of the day. The broccoli I planted in early September SHOULD have been planted on an East-West line because the only crowning is happening on the lucky plant at the south end of the row. [Note to self for next year]

I look up from my work and read the shadows on the landscape thinking it must be five. It is barely quarter to three. I take a moment and sit one last time on the deck looking east out at the field. The sun warms my right shoulder ... a new feeling sitting in this place feeling the earth's orbit in strange bodily warmth.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall musings

All common sense tells me to tear the remaining tomatoes out of the garden. But the absence of a first frost has left me delusional. The vigorous Italian Sweet that I laid on its side in anticipation of Hurricane Earl has enjoyed its warmth near the ground and is sending up vertical shoots all along its horizontal axis and is fruiting. When do I think these tomatoes will ripen? Why is it so hard to let go?Meanwhile, garlic bed prep is done and and one bed is planted out. I plant in a 6x8 inch grid and a four by eight foot bed takes about 96 plants. I can see from my seed garlic supply that I am going to have to limit the planting of some varieties. I have all but given up on softnecks. The only one I plant now is the mysterious Place Monge. Because I harvested early this year, I have MUCH better quality of bulb, and I expect they will store longer than my hardnecks have in the past.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Selecting Seed Garlic

As garlic planting time approaches, just a word about selecting seed garlic. The rule is that size of clove matters: the bigger the clove, the bigger the head you get next summer. But the key word here is CLOVE. Sometimes with hardneck garlics the bigger CLOVES are on the smaller heads. Porcelains, for example, will sometimes put out as many as 6 cloves per head. But the largest CLOVES are on the smaller heads with only 4 cloves.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Keeping up with the tomatoes: 174 Pounds and counting

One hundred and seventy-four pounds of tomatoes is a lot of tomatoes. BUT is is not TOO MANY tomatoes. ... not yet anyway. So what's a girl to do? I have sauced, and, of course, I have sliced. I have made tomato juice for the winter. I have dehydrated, and I have slow roasted. I have even quartered and frozen them.

But the other day I thought, I want tomato juice now!!! So I got out the old juicer and filled jars with fresh tomato juice ... oh so good !!! I have it with breakfast and instead of iced tea at lunch. And there is the lure of the evening cocktail made with fresh tomato juice.
the pre-hurricane harvest

The Salad Box

Last Spring I was inspired by Thomas's entry about building a Salad Box. I have never been very good at growing greens. It is windy out here and I seem not to keep them watered as I should. Then for my birthday in June I got a Gardener's Supply Salad Grow Bag. It is the same principle as the Garden Box, AND the wicking mats in the water trays insure a steady supply of water for the greens.Well I am VERY pleased with the results. I love micro greens but always find myself throwing away much of the bags I buy from local vendors. This harvest seems to come in at just the right pace. I planted my second bag today.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Here's to feeling 4 years old again

I was up before the sun yesterday morning picking and grading entries for the Ag Fair.By 7:15 the entries had assembled themselves on the stairs for the annual class picture.The Class of 2010

All entries had to be inside the hall by 8:15 and people were rushing up a the last minute with their flowers and their baked goods. As someone said yesterday, "On Fair day everyone is 4 years old again !"

Fair Week !!!

The ribbons were hung by the chimney with care
Because it was the week of the Fair

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Night Blooming Cereus

Two summers ago a friend gave me a leaf from her Night Blooming Cereus. That summer her plant had, in one night, produced 23 blooms. It was like walking into paradise that night.

Well I am not great with house plants, but this little offspring gave me two blooms this summer. The first one I MISSED !!!! Never looked in its direction the night it bloomed. But last week I was given a second chance. What a miracle these blooms are. These photos were taken in the space of one hour last Wednesday night.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Quest for "the biggest tomato"

Here is an existential question: If a 2 pound tomato ripens in your garden 2 weeks before the Ag Fair does it make a sound? Is it still the biggest tomato? Today I pulled this beauty, a Big Zac grown from seed, out of the garden. It weighed in at a whopping 2 pounds 5.1 ounces.

There is no way it will save until the Fair and is as I write this being cooked down to sauce. It isn't just about GROWING the biggest tomato, it is also about timing it right.

Green Beans and Sungolds

It seems everyone has a new favorite cherry tomato this summer ... the Sungold. They are like garden candy. A few weeks ago I ran across this great pasta sauce recipe for cherry tomatoes. I wish I could remember where I found it so I could offer the link .
Note: Just found the link at The Wednesday Chef many thanks to Luisa.
Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

Preheat oven to 450 F (I have also done this on the gas grill on hot days placing the Pyrex in the middle of the grill with no flame)

Slice cherry tomatoes in half and place cut side up in an 8 x 8 oven proof dish. Mix 1/3 cup bread crumbs, 3 cloves diced garlic and ¼ cup parmesean cheese and sprinkle over cut tomatoes. Bake in the 450 oven for 20 minutes. Cook pasta (thin spaghetti, bow tie or penne are good) Reserve a half cup of pasta water before draining. There is probably enough sauce here for a half pound of pasta.
Remove cooked tomatoes from the oven. Add fresh torn basil and toss. Then toss the pasta in the mixture, add the pasta water (optional) drizzle good EVO over the mix and toss again. Sprinkle with more cheese and serve.

The other crop I have in abundance are green beans. I ran across this recipe in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for a green bean dip and made it for the first time last night. The only thing I added were a few cloves of garlic.

Frijole-Mole (from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle)

"sloshing in the saliva of August"

The writer's almanac hit the bull's eye again with this one.

Cherry Tomatoes

by Anne Higgins

Suddenly it is August again, so hot,
breathless heat.
I sit on the ground
in the garden of Carmel,
picking ripe cherry tomatoes
and eating them.
They are so ripe that the skin is split,
so warm and sweet
from the attentions of the sun,
the juice bursts in my mouth,
an ecstatic taste,
and I feel that I am in the mouth of summer,
sloshing in the saliva of August.
Hummingbirds halo me there,
in the great green silence,
and my own bursting heart
splits me with life.

"Cherry Tomatoes" by Anne Higgins, from At the Year's Elbow. © Mellen Poetry Press, 2000.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

BER, BW, and other disappointments

I find it hard to write about failure. In a season blessed with abundant sunshine, I have lost three crops, two of which I thought held great promise.

First there is the loss of the entire French melon crop. I had about 15 in various parts of the garden, and they fell prey to bacterial wilt spread by the dreaded cucumber beetle. These beetles also laid waste to my summer squash and, of course, my cucumbers. I DID manage to get something of a harvest from the cucumbers, but three days ago I pulled them up as well.

Also disappointing is the Blossom End Rot I am getting on my Italian Sweet tomatoes. I amended the soil with plenty of calcium early on ... but, alas, they are all black and rotten on the bottom. I was able to salvage some slices from the top of the fruit today, and I can attest that Italian Sweets are still my favorite tasting tomato. If only I could harvest a whole one.

On the bright side, not all of my tomatoes are Italian Sweets. The Better Boys will soon be tumbling in followed by the Big Zacs, the Brandywine, and the Boxcar Willies. And the green beans are prolific.

Well THIS looks like a perfectly ripened tomato .... BUT ....

underneath is the dreaded BER

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Writer's Almanac comes through again

I am not a fan of growing potatoes, but Hunter swears they taste better from the garden. So he has a bin a the back of the garden this year. They take up bed space when I could be growing melons or tomatoes.

Well today's poem is for those of you who love the potato

In Praise of the Potato

by David Williams

Potato, sojourner north, first sprung
from the flanks of volcanoes, plainspoken kin

to bright chili and deadly nightshade,
sleek eggplant and hairy tobacco,

we could live on you alone if we had to,
and scorched-earth marauders never bothered you much.

I love you because your body's a stem,
your eyes sprout, and you're not in the Bible,

and if we did not eat your strength,
you'd drive it up, into a flower.

"In Praise of the Potato" by David Williams, from Traveling Mercies. © Alice James Books, 1993. Reprinted with permission.

And in case youy missed it last year

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An artichoke in June !

The garlic harvest

Here is a little rendition of a recently harvested Place Monge.

Garden Panoramic

click to enlarge

I am going away for a few weeks, and will not return until mid-July. Lots can happen in the meantime. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Cucumber Beetles

These little beetles have done a number on my cukes, melons and squashes. I responded too late with Pyola. I think I have them under control, but I am afraid I have lost several plants. But the tomatoes continue to thrive.

Monday, June 21, 2010


And now it is solstice, that bittersweet reckoning of the gardener. I just came in from tying up my tomatoes. Everything out there is reaching for the sky. Up, up, up they go drawing nourishment from below and above. One of my runner beans actually made it to the top of the trellis today. Now what?

Well you can look for a hint in the garlic bed. Some of my soft necks are starting to bend over and I watch them closely for readiness for harvest. 4-6 dead leaves and it is time.

I am on my porch facing east taking in the solstice sunset from the obverse angle ... watching the shadows lengthen across the hayfield. I am aware that this time of planting and preparation is now at its zenith. Often when I am in the yard in say late April I will say to myself ... this is what the sun will be like in late August. In August there is a bountiful harvest ... even harvest fatigue ... but not so in the light of April. In that very same light, that very same exposure to the sun's angle and duration the garden is only barren possibilities. I comfort myself in those April moments that the days are still getting longer and the best is yet to come.

But today begins the undoing. It is a bittersweet moment.

Turning up the heat

Well I think I have solved the case of the unwanted visitor in my compost pile. I simply gave it a good turn, added some activator, watered it well, and the next thing I knew it was too uncomfortable for the visitor to forage. If I can keep it humming at 130 degrees + all summer, I should achieve two goals ... good compost and no visitors.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Water and watch

click to enlarge

Right now is an odd time ... odd in a nice way. The frenzy of preparation is over. The asparagus has been put to bed. And the peas are a good week away from production. Each day the garden is getting taller, and all I have to do is water and watch.

The over wintered artichokes are putting up fruit. Meanwhile, I have made beds outside the garden for the ones I started from seed. And I have transplanted one into a 15 inch pot with plans to overwinter in the basement.My other experiment involves growing a pair of French melon plants in a container far removed from the garden in the hope that their pollination will be uncontaminated and that I can use the seeds for next year. Now if I can just remember to water it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Need advice

I need some advice about how to coax a critter out of my compost. Three years ago I bought a really sturdy black compost bin for my kitchen scraps complete with critter guard. For two years it was a fortress. Then one spring I returned to find a hole eaten into it and a completely rotated, aerated compost pile. The critter did not return until the following December, about the time I stop using the bin, so I decided on a live and let live attitude for this winter rental.

Well, this spring he/she has not abandoned the bin upon my return, but is still in residence. Not in residence exactly, but a nocturnal visitor let's say. I have read ideas about how to discourage visits ... keep the pile wet ... plant mint near the bin ... I even tried sprinkling a quart of cayenne juice on top of the scraps before covering.

Obviously I cannot plant mint overnight, but I did stuff some in the hole as a temporary solution.I am afraid that the critter of which I speak rhymes with cat, and I do not want to encourage visits from same. Anyone have any solutions, short of the obvious poisonous ones?