Category Archives: Growing and gardening

Et voila

She’s planted.  I had to turn the whole thing by hand once more, to decompress any areas smushed by my walking around on it during tilling, then raked it all out.  It’s so pretty!  I’m very proud.  I took the picture before mulching it, because I think it’s not as presentable after mulching.  I really like the “earthy palette” of brown smoothed dirt with the tender green of seedlings.  Mulch just makes the whole thing look like an unusually well groomed haystack.

Lettuce starts were totally psychological.  “Oh look, its as though something’s already growing.”  Tomato starts were necessary.  Mine are too late and spindly to finish this summer and will end up in the greenhouse.  Putting something in    that’s already above ground makes it feel like a real garden.

It feels so late in the year, but when I got my potatoes in the ground the day before the market gardener on the next road who’s lived here for 40 years, well, I can’t be that far wrong.

Mulching.  So satisfying in one way, tucking in the vulnerable dirt to conserve its moisture and making little nests around the tiny sunflower seedlings that will become wrist-sized  stalks.  On the other hand, it’s an awful lot of hay to move, and it’s not esthetically pleasing.

Popular wisdom says not to use only straw and never hay for mulching, because it’s full of seeds.  Mogi says that if feed hay has gone to seed, then it has no nutritional value, so it’s always mowed and baled before it goes to seed.  I’m looking at:  buy straw, or use the giant, growing pile of dry, yellowing reject hay that Mucky has eaten what he wanted of and left to dry on the ground.  It’s practically in unlimited supply, all this quality mulch.  There are some seeds in it.  I can see them.  What I’m more worried about is introducing moulds or mildews, but there’s one way to find out.  Time will tell.

In other news I had a rather dazzlingly productive day, from 6am to 7pm.  I would’ve kept going- I’ve proved it only gets too dark to see in the garden at 10pm – but for the UFC fight.  I was on way too much of a tear to bother with any before pictures, but I’m systematically working my way through the  todo list in the order of how much they drive me crazy, rather than how important they are.  Thus I’m transporting rubble, dismantling poorly designed fences and reframing gates that have bad feng shui before getting the squashes into their patch.

I just couldn’t do it any other way.  Every glance at that absurd garden gate tilting over at a completely charmless 20 degree angle the way it’s probably stood for ten years fills me with a bilious, primal drive to change it, and tearing the whole thing down gives me an inner smile of peace that is far more satisfying than the squash plot.  The pumpkins have to wait,  that’s all there is to it.

Go Mantis go

After first till
After second

I rototilled the garden today, with a tiny Mantis tiller that was barely up to the job.  Over and over, I let it churn well into the dirt, then yarded it and some dirt back towards me, then let it go dig a little deeper, repeat.  Working back and forth along the leading edge, and constantly picking the rocks it drug up.  This was the only way for its modest tine reach to really turn over at least a foot of earth.  It meant doing lateral row motions thousands of times, with the consequence that I now feel exactly like I’ve done thousands of lateral rows, but I’m happy with the dirt.  If the thing weren’t rented by the day, I’d definitely have taken two days to do it.  Six hours straight running of the machine, and my back feels every minute, but the results are nice.

All the manure that wouldn’t dissolve out of its pellet shape in the first till was softened by the rain we’ve had since, and as I churned the sedimentary clay with some of the sand that lay beneath, and the manure mixed in thoroughly, the soil looked much darker and more promising.  I’m quite happy now with the results.  The soil is a year and many yards of compost and manure and mulch from beauteous black soil, but at least it looks like it will support life now.  I continue to be joyously appreciative of the total absence of weeds in the former pond, and smug about my choice to turn pond to garden (we’ll see how long that lasts).  It was rocky to till, but absolutely rootless.  Hopefully the last till ever and the rest is up to straw and the worms.  I know many worms died today.

It was a perfect day for it, a sunny window in an everlasting week of deluge.  I got a nice sunburn, in fact, which reflects that I worked my way consistently across the garden facing west the whole time.

Pond-tackling day!

Organic matter? Who, me?

It didn’t take terribly long to tear out the old pond liner.  Although it’s brittle and full of slits, I consider it very valuable still for suppressing weeds and grass in other places.  It’s heavy stuff, still, en masse, and  moving the sediment and displacing the small pocket of remaining water and swamp was dirty and tiring.Could it be that easy?  Of course not.  Naturally, there’s an older liner beneath the black, 5ml poly, only peeking out in places, and mostly entirely buried under no less than 6” of thick clay.

I'm getting better at taking before pictures

That’s the bad news.  There’s much more clay than I thought.  Also sand, and not too well mixed together.  It seems once water flowed through this pond, and left considerable sediment over the poly layer, which had original sandy soil beneath it.  Now there are distinct layers, and I’ve been hours slowly tugging and working out the plastic from between the two, so that it can be tilled. Continue reading Pond-tackling day!

The five pallet compost

First things first.  We need a compost.

Before
After

The flu released me this morning.  After three days of staggering anytime I needed to move, and fearing fainting at any moment, I’m surprised to feel practically full strength immediately.  I cleaned up a number of little nests of junk that were making my eyes hurt today.  That was quite esthetically satisfying.

One of the major nests was lamentably in the ideal location for a compost bin (thanks for finding it, Mogi).  By the horse manure pile, where stink and flies already make their home, out of sight of our dwellings, and in Mucky’s turf, where the bear fears to tread.

It all went shockingly smooth and faster than I expected.  When does that happen?  Lumber (and random fencing, barbed wire, garbage, tarps, etc) out, pallets in, and … we’re done.  Practically built itself.  There’s only about a half-dozen nails in this.

Pallets rule.  I have weird affection for pallets, because I appreciate the (very, very, I know) simple elegance of their design and their underrated versatility and workhorse endurance.   Continue reading The five pallet compost

Pumpkin seeds

Washing pumpkin seeds before the last pumpkin pies of the year from my modest garden.  These were very nice sweet pie pumpkins with rich golden orange flesh, and I look forward to growing next year from the saved seeds.  Just thinking of how many pumpkins the seeds from one pumpkin could produce, and then how many pumpkins the following year…it’s as boggling as counting stars!

Fat cat; raw cat food recipe

The queen in her cozy glory

Kevin is bobbing her head to smell the air as I stir up a batch of bloody meat, liver, and kelp for her.  What is that alluring aroma?

I was concerned about Kevin having enough meat on her bones to stay well as it gets colder.  She had a little sneeze for a week that made me feel terrible.  Seeing as our environment is only partly temperature-controlled, and she’s so skinny, I went on a campaign to  fatten her up, and it’s working!

The chicken hearts were a big hit.  Sometime after those, she noticeably put on some weight, and now she looks more proportional for her petite size.  Continue reading Fat cat; raw cat food recipe

It’s zucchini season!

Every year, there’s that time in August when everyone you know asks if you can use any more zucchini, and then lays one on you the size of two footballs.  We did not plant any zukes this year, leaving command of the garden to various squash, which preserve better.

CIMG9903I forgot to take a picture until after using 2/3 of the largest one (seen cut), and a preceding zucchini equalling that size, which has already been turned into muffins.  Muffins are my preferred method of making zucchini edible.  You can’t hide something that size in a salad.  Production is well into the hundreds of muffins made so far, many of which enjoy freezer cryostasis atm.  While plundering local egg resources, I’ve also been using up lots of old rye flour and cocoa in the same swoop – how I accumulated so much cocoa powder is a mystery.

This is the best zucchini muffin recipe I’ve found.  Note- high zucchini to egg ratio, and you can get more zucchini in there than it calls for, too.  Easy combining – I prefer “throw it all in a bowl” instructions to mincing around with delicate arcane techniques like “sifting” and “folding”.  Folding is for bath towels!  And very flexible.  Have added sunflower seeds, pine nuts, cocoa, coconut, oil vs butter, fake eggs, dates, milk, apples, and almonds as they came to hand, and the muffins still work.

A succulence of tomatoes

CIMG9905This is my favorite way to eat tomatoes, en masse!  Wedged, drenched (or is that, “dredged”?) in fresh ground black pepper and swept with sea salt.  Meow!  Definitely can’t stop at just one.  Like spoonfuls of creamed honey direct from the bucket when I was little, I can go through tomatoes like this until I feel ill.

Today my big mission, considering my current limitations, was staking the late tomatoes- the second round of starts that are just showing their first fruits.  I gave the early tomates some love too- doses of organic fertilizer all around.
Most of my tomatoes are in pots but the one with free roots in the garden is eNORMous, with over a dozen thick stems loaded with giant fruit.

I wasn’t fast enough with the camera, but I watched a happy jay pull a peanut out of a tomato pot I hadn’t reached yet. I hope he was surprised as I was.  There were no peanuts in there when I planted!  Mayhap the jay was plundering a squirrel stash.