War!

Jul. 11th, 2016 09:06 pm
clarentine: (cavalier)
Hornworms to the left of me, hornworms to the right--the carnage was everywhere. Tomato plants raised denuded stumps to the sky, crying out for help. Frass littered the scene.

I surveyed the terrain and struck! One hornworm. Two. Three, four, in quick succession. Then, employing an old scout's trick, I crouched and moved in closer.

The enemy thus revealed was appalling. Well-hidden, they had only to wait silently, they thought, for their natural predators to retreat once more, convinced that all was as it should be.

Woe betide those overconfident in their camouflage! I inched nearer, poised just so, and then snapped off a series of fast assaults. Eight-ten-twelve rapidly added to my coup. Fourteen. Sixteen. Eighteen!

At the end of that morning, under the pitiless bowl of cloudless July sky, I tallied my feat: four and twenty they numbered, brilliant in their sleek, striped skins, their lacquered horns raised uselessly against an unexpected foe. Dripping in gore, I escorted my prisoners to their ultimate fate.

And the chickens loved every one.

clarentine: (cavalier)
Whew! Now, that was a day. I've been to a client's house to measure out the front yard for a base map - thank you, T., for your help. Bought and ate bagels. Drafted up that base map and did some preliminary work on the new circular driveway loop.

Out in the greenhouse, we got the new strawberries watered and set up ten flats of greens: Tyee spinach and Lacinato (both standard and variegated) and Red Russian kale. Screwed down some of the support frame that came unmoored in last week's tornado-y winds. Cleaned the chickens' waterer out and refilled it and their feeder. Dug up a mess of weeds from the onion and garlic bed and fed them to the chickens (who know to watch from that corner of their run when I go into the garden).

Back at the house, we refilled the kindling boxes for the woodstove and refilled the water jugs that live in the greenhouse, and finally I mixed up the latest batch of dog bikkies.

I think that's enough for one day. Don't you? :-)
clarentine: (cavalier)
It's August, and the weather gods are not above reminding us of that fact: we are still deep in late summer's sticky heart. Nevertheless, as we sink closer to autumnal equinox, the occasional chill snap in the air and the angle of the sun remind us - in case we needed the warning - to pack up the fruits of the season and get ready. It won't always be warm breezes and plenty. If we are smart, we will be ants, not grasshoppers.

Right now, though, it's August, and I could do with a breeze. :-)

This weekend, we had one of those cold front weather blessings cross our path, and I seized the opportunity to get the fall greens planted. That meant, of course, that the beds had to be cleared of summer's crop of weeds. By noon on Sunday, however, I had two forty-foot rows planted in Premier kale, collards, and purple mustard greens. I'm trying out a new ground cover, too, for after the corn, a Crotalaria called 'Sunn Hemp' (which isn't a Cannabis at all). Lovely seeds, glossy like sun on an oil slick and about the same range of colors.

The tomatoes are all but done. Once again, German Johnson was my star performer, giving me gorgeous, deep pink fruits the size of softballs right up to the point where the vines gasped their last. I was somewhat more pleased with the Virginia-adapted version of Brandywine I tried out this year than I have been with Brandywines in the past; they did their best to keep up with the Johnsons. The fruits have a bad habit of cracking at the stem end, however, and rotting there. If it had been a wet year, we wouldn't have gotten a single one of these. Illini Star, my other main crop tomato, had a really rough time this year for some reason. More often than not, its fruits would just about ripen, then rot on the vine. Could have been the bugs, I guess. We were heavily infested with brown marmorated stinkbugs this spring.

Of my two paste varieties, the Black Plums gave their many, many small tomatoes as expected and fought whatever blight it is that afflicts them regularly every year all the way to the end--a good producer. Illini Gold always catches blights, too, but it gave me less fruit than last year.

Only the cherry Pink Princess is still producing...hand over fist. The fruit tends to crack after a rain, but it's been dry on the farm this season (not so in the mountains and on the plain around us, but right here, we're dry). Kay takes every opportunity she gets to come down to the garden with me and graze on the cherry tomatoes. Silly dog. :-)

Otherwise, the first planting of corn is gone, its stalks uprooted, and the second is tasseling. The tomatillos continue to give me an enormous crop. The cucumbers failed even more quickly than I'd expected, with only the Asian and Persian cukes persisting any real length of time. The winter squash are beginning to ripen (the summer squash all croaked but for a single plant). The sunflowers I transplanted all did just fine. The pole beans and butterbeans are just ripening for picking; I expect to be down there this evening, filling my basket.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll get a little rain today. Maybe.
clarentine: (cavalier)
It's official - summer has arrived. The fireflies are once again decorating the night with semaphore declarations of love. The heat has been here a good week, and the deer flies are already driving us crazy, but until the fireflies return, it isn't summer.
clarentine: (cavalier)
The garden's doing just fine, growing quickly now that the heat's arrived...wait, I didn't say what I'd planted, did I? Okay, for the record, this year we have:

Last fall's Rocambole garlics and the potato onions which are sharing a bed because they're both all-season crops. I decided to see if the voles, which have yet to bother the garlic, could be kept away from the onions by planting garlic in rings around them, and thus far the experiment has proven successful. I also put my spring-planted shallots in the gaps between plants. They're also doing well.

(Pam Dawling recommends digging garlic three weeks after the scapes show up, which is a lot earlier than I've done it in the past. I noticed scapes today, so that means the weekend of June 14, the garlic should come up. I'm curious to see the difference if they're pulled this early. I think the onions will have a while yet. Fortunately, I don't have to disturb them.)

Purple Peacock broccoli. It's a hybrid with one of the kales, I think, something with purplish, frilly leaves (like Red Russian kale, actually). Looks nice when I pull off the insect cover to weed that bed. This one's not to be harvested until some time in the fall. I think I planted it way, way too early. This is the first time I've planted broccoli, though, so it's all a learning experience.

The spring-planted Premier kale has long since bolted, but the leaves are still nice and tender. I cooked up a mess of the greens last weekend, and will pick and cook more this coming week, before I pull all the plants. The late corn should be in there afterward, but I think it's going to see buckwheat first for some green manure.

Speaking of corn...again this year I've tried Augusta early sweet corn. Last year, in a different bed, I got poor germination. This year, I got none. Too wet and cold? Probably. So, this weekend, I've planted the first batch of midseason corn (new variety Tuxana, as a replacement for the Silver Queen I'd been planting) where I'd planted Augusta. We'll see how it comes along. It certainly doesn't have the same excuse of cold and wet!

And, at the end of this bed, the tomatillos and peppers are doing fine. They all got off to a slow start - tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos - in the seed flats. Part of that was damping off fungus, I think, but the rest...I just don't know. Not warm enough?

In the next bed is even later-planted Premier kale, doing just fine (if besieged by weeds). The cilantro and tatsoi both bolted quick when the spring warmed up; I'm waiting to collect seed for both before turning them under.

The tomatoes I planted two weeks ago are really starting to hit their stride. This year we have Pink Princess cherries, paste tomatoes Illini Gold and Black Plum, and slicers Illini Star, German Johnson, and a Virginia variety of Brandywine. I need to get the first row of Florida weave trellising up, but it's been wicked hot today. Maybe tomorrow evening.

The cucumber trellis is up and I planted out the cucumbers yesterday: Garden Oasis (a beit alpha type) and Chelsea Pride (an English-style cuke), both old seed and showing poor germination after a couple of years, and new cukes Suyo Long (an Asian) and Empereur Alexandre. I really like the beit alphas for their tender skin and juicy, sweet, never-bitter flavor, but they just don't germinate well. We'll see how the new cuke varieties handle our heat and humidity.

I'm planning on seeding out some Senposai for summer greens - it was indeed durable last year - but that hasn't happened yet. Too many weeds to clear and not enough good-weather hours in which to do so. When I finally got down to it yesterday morning, I cleared half the bed before the heat and the sun sent me indoors.

I still need to plant out beans, both my favorite green snap Grady Bailly and the limas I grow for a customer at work, but that hasn't happened yet, either.

Yesterday I also planted out my summer and winter squash: old reliables Butternut and Seminole winter squashes, and summer squashes Costata di Romanesco, Dark Green, Black Beauty, and Greyzini. Both Dark Green and Black Beauty are new varieties; one of the two is a trap crop for squash bugs, a practice recommended by Pam Dawling. I could cover the plants, but that's a pain and they'd still need to be uncovered for pollination. If the trap crop idea works out, I will be pleased. I planted a lot, deliberately; I promised the woman who coordinates the local food pantry that they'd get my extras, so this is my attempt at planting an extra row (I should also have cukes, Senposai, chard, peppers, and tomatillos, and maybe tomatoes).

(I had two more of the volunteer winter squashes turn up where they'd been grown last year. My two varieties had cross-pollinated two years before; they gave me something we were calling Butternoles last year, a nice, tasty, bell-shaped squash. I'm hoping the two volunteers are both Butternoles and have put them in the row with the deliberately sown ones. I want to save seed from them this year.)

Last year, I modified my rotation plan and planted Lemon Queen sunflowers in the middle of the winter squash bed. I thought the birds had cleaned up all the seeds, since when I pulled the plants down there was nothing left on the discs. Ha! The bed that has corn and summer squash this year bore a beautiful crop of self-sown sunflowers first. I transplanted as many of those as I could to the far side of the new winter squash bed.

Still to plant out, though I have them in pots, ready to go (or nearly): Swiss chard, both Scarlet Charlotte and Gator (which is supposed to be perennial but froze over the awful winter); tithonia, the Mexican sunflower, which turned out to be a favorite of the Monarchs headed south last fall and which are great markers for the ends of rows; Sweet Genovese basil; and borage. I sowed marigold seed, but none of it came up. Fortunately, I do have some self-sown stuff coming up where I grew them last year. Those need to be transplanted.

And that, in a long nutshell, is my garden this year.

Brrrrrr

Feb. 15th, 2015 08:31 am
clarentine: (cavalier)
Well, I now have empirical proof that you can, indeed, freeze your hair. :-) No damage done, though it was very weird to wonder what was poking my scalp as I turned my head and realize it was my hair. Fortunately, the wood stove was already fired up for the morning, so I stood there in my coat for a couple of minutes until it thawed.

There's a most hellacious wind howling through the trees right now. The thermometer says something like 10 degrees, taking into account that it's up alongside the house and thus reading slightly higher than it would without that shelter. The weatherbeings have been warning that, with the wind chill, the outside temps are down into negative territory. I am always grateful we invested in the wood stove, but never more on a morning like this. The stupid heat pump that came with the house would never have kept up.

So, we're tucked up inside the house, dogs, cats, and people. The chickens are huddled in their coop, having come out only long enough to eat the scraps and scratch I put out for them when I was out freezing my hair. We filled the wood boxes yesterday morning before the weather blew in and it began to snow - sideways - so we are in no danger even if the power should go out (which it has not, despite the wind, and thank you very much Rappahannock Electric Cooperative). The weather report has this misery continuing until some time Monday, when the next front comes through and supposedly brings us snow before dropping the bottom out again. Argh.

I wanted to come to Virginia because I genuinely like having a full four seasons. I don't mind the cold, so much, if I can get out of it into real warmth, like we have in this house. Right now, however, I think I have had enough cold for one year.

Brrrrrrr.
clarentine: (cavalier)
On a farm, even a small farm like mine, there's always something needing to be done. This weekend, we wrapped up preparations for the first frost, forecast for Monday morning. This meant checking windows in the chicken house, picking the last little bits of the summer garden, and laying in a bag of wood for this year's inauguration of fire season. We finished filling the woodshed last weekend, with the help of a neighbor and his wood splitter.

As if that wasn't enough, we also set the footers for the final three pairs of posts for the greenhouse. I was warmed at first with the digging and hauling at the start of Saturday afternoon's project time. By its end a couple of hours later, my hands were chilled and I was ready to head indoors.

With all of the produce gathered late on Saturday, I needed to find something to do with a bumper crop of tomatillos. I ended up making a small batch of tomatillo salsa and canning it - fabulously tangy stuff! The tomatillos were one of my test crops this year. They've earned their spot next year. I have one last batch of tomatillos to can up, and am looking forward to sharing their goodness this winter.

And now...it's greens season. I'll find out in the next couple of days which greens (seeded earlier this autumn) will be freeze-hardy.
clarentine: (cavalier)
Summer garden report; I'm on the verge of fall planting, so might as well report while it's relatively fresh in my mind.

Starting at the lower end of the garden:

Corn, Silver Queen and Augusta. It was a good year for Silver Queen. Even the ones I had to rescue from the self-sown cosmos roared back, despite the dry year (and no, I don't water the corn), and produced plenty of nice ears. We put up 14 cups of cut corn. Augusta did not fare so well - thin germination to begin with, and it tasselled earlier than the Silver Queen I'd planted to pollinate it, so we got few ears and none I'd call well filled out. If I grow this again, it needs to be started two weeks before Silver Queen (which I will absolutely be growing again). Note: there are honeybees in the area, all on their own. We know this because, while the Silver Queen was full of pollen, the entire bed was positively vibrating with honeybees. I find this interesting because corn is an ancient, wind-pollinated crop; it didn't need those bees at all.

Summer squash. None of the summer squash did well. We had a strong showing of squash bugs rather early, plus a lot of heat and dry weather, and that did it for the squash plants before most of them produced much. The grey zucchini I'd specially sought after produced some of the weirdest fruits I've ever seen, curved and corrugated - not what I'd wanted. Only one of the dark green zucchinis fruited at all, and it succumbed quickly to disease. It's a good thing I still have zucchini in the freezer from last year.

Tomatoes, cherry. We grew three varieties this year, two seed-saved here and one I ordered from Fedco. (http://www.fedcoseeds.com) The Rose cherries I've been saving for three years produced, but succumbed early to disease. The Kumquat cherries (also seed-saved, though I only selected these last year) were an odd pinky-orange color, strongly productive, strong grower. The fruit cracks quickly after rain (though not as quickly as one of its parents, Sungold). Not sure about this one. The Pink Princess from Fedco was an exceptional grower and producer of gorgeous dark-pink fruit, and I think this variety will be taking over from Rose; Pink Princess showed none of the disease issues that knocked Rose down, despite a planting location with less air circulation (upwind of the early corn).

Tomatoes, main crop. We grew five varieties, two plums and three slicers. German Johnson still gets top marks for productivity and flavor; this tomato remains the backbone of the tomatoes that go in my freezer to make up sauce. Cherokee Purple will never be high on the production list, but the fruits are flavorful and the plants keep going despite disease issues and dry weather. (Most definitely not a tomato for a wet year, as we discovered last year.) The new slicer was Illini Star, which was (and still is) solidly productive of smallish, perfectly round red tomatoes that are a gorgeous dark pink inside, lovely to see on the plate. The two plums, Illini Gold and Black Plum, were quite productive this year; I've already put up 11 half-pints of tomato paste using just these two tomatoes. Black Plum was the only tomato I had that produced in last year's washout season, and only then because the fruit came on early and tends to be small. If any of these plants gets substituted out next year, it'll probably be Cherokee Purple.

Peppers, hot. We grew poblanos and jalapeños. Both have been very productive. The poblanos seem to want drier weather, though; they keep rotting on the plant before coloring up at all. It's definitely not sunscald, as the plants are heavily leafed and somewhat shaded by a massive tithonia plant. By contrast, the jalapeños have already gone red on the plants, which are growing right next to the poblanos. We also had volunteer Cayenettas show up in the herb bed (which had been the pepper bed last year). I'll probably dry whatever hot pepper fruits don't get used, sold, or given away and make up more deer bombs with the resulting powder. It was wonderfully effective this past winter at keeping the deer and rabbits away from the overwintering kale.

Peppers, sweet. Ashe County pimentos and my favorite Corno di Toro were the varieties we chose, and I'm pleased with both plants, though I could have done with more pimento fruit, as they came in very early and it would have been nice to have fresh sweet peppers in salads over the summer. The Corno di Toros are already coloring beautifully; have to go pick some to take in to work for gloating over.

Beans. I planted one wax bean and two of the Grady Bailly pole bean plants; as anticipated, I cannot keep up with Grady Bailly, and the wax bean is already done. Both took a battering in the early-and-heavy Japanese beetle attack, but Grady Bailly keeps its flowers up under the leaves. The butterbeans (limas) I put in by customer request also got pretty badly chewed up by the beetles. I think we might be starting to finally get some production on them.

Herbs. I put in Genovese basil, some Italian flat leaf parsley, and the pitiful remnants of the cilantro I started in pots; the cilantro bolted and disappeared. The basil has all but filled the area, duking it out with the volunteer Cayenettas and an enormous mound of volunteer marigolds. I'll be trying again with the cilantro over the fall. I know it overwinters pretty well, and will self-sow if it has a long enough season. I don't like cilantro, but a lot of other people do, so I won't mind if it shows up next year.

The tomatillos are in the herb bed, too. This is a new crop for me. All three varieties - a green, a yellow, and a purple - are interesting, and I'll probably plant all three again next year. I'll take some to work with me and see if I can drum up interest. Fortunately, they're not heavy producers, or I'd really be at sea. Points for the purple variety: I came upon a praying mantis laying eggs on one of the stems yesterday.

Winter squash. We planted Seminole and Waltham butternut again this year. The effects of much less rain are pretty stark where the Seminole plants are concerned; hardly any fruit, unlike last year, where we had boxes of it that went to the chickens because we couldn't use it all up. The butternut is a reliable producer. Interestingly, some of the fruits which rotted in the beds last year sprouted in amongst the corn this year; they hybridized into something very odd. If they taste good, I guess I'll save the seed and see what they do next year!

Greens. The summer greens were Senposai, Scarlet Charlotte swiss chard, and a perennial chard called Gator. Senposai got off to a roaring start, but then had a bad period where the cabbage loopers ate holes through all of the leaves. It's a very strong grower, though, and it's come back nicely. I'm having to pull the last plants out to make space for the fall planting of kale and other greens. I'll probably grow it again next year, as the chickens like it (and so do the dogs), but must remember to either cover the rows when the cabbage butterflies show up or spray with Bt. The chard both grew well, though I like the texture of Gator better than Charlotte. Charlotte's awfully pretty, though; it'd make a nice planting in a perennial border, I think. Neither had real problems with cabbage loopers or Japanese beetles, and are both growing very strongly now. It's nice to have plants that don't require coddling.

Onions and garlic. I had some small sets leftover from last year's late planting of yellow keeper onions; those grew to massive proportions once in the ground this year. I also bought some sets from the co-op, and we've been eating off both since earlier this summer. The garlic planting was in the top bed this year, and it did a lot better there than in the bottom bed where it had languished last year (to be fair, the bottom bed was the wettest last year, so that probably didn't help). Last winter's test planting of potato onions did okay after I repelled the voles, so I have starts to put in the ground next month with the garlic.

Other things grown and not accounted for elsewhere: Lemon Queen sunflowers, which took a while to settle in, flowered nicely, and then died back earlier than I'd expected. The plants also have a tendency to get heavy early on and end up sprawled across the planting bed, never making the tall central stalk I'd expected. The local goldfinches were quite pleased I'd planted feeders for them. *g* Cleome is flowering nicely at the other end of the bed from the sunflowers; it'll get invited back next year (will probably self-sow, anyway). The tithonia got huge points for being the one plant which attracted Monarch butterflies - well, that's appropriate, given they're Mexican native wildflowers and they grew so large they towered over my head.
clarentine: (cavalier)
…to the water hose, that is. One of the (many) things we brought back from my parents' farm last week was a large quantity of soaker hoses. Four lengths of hose are now repaired and deployed in our garden in the beds holding tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and tomatillos. It was so wonderful to turn on the water this morning and then go about the rest of my mid-day, not having to stand over the beds and drag 100 feet of hose behind me. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
clarentine: (cavalier)
If I don't put this down here, I'm going to forget it, and then I'll be mad at myself next spring, so:

2014 garden log

March 15: Sowed tomatoes and peppers in pots, two seeds per pot, four pots total each variety - Corno di Toro and Ashe County Pimento sweet peppers; jalapeño and Tiburon poblano hot peppers; Kumquat cherry tomato (selected from last season's self-sowers); Pink Princess gene pool cherry tomato; Rose cherry tomato (selected from last season's Rose tomatoes); German Johnson and Cherokee Purple, and Illini Star main crop tomatoes; and Black Plum and Illini Gold paste tomatoes. Sowed Premier kale and Georgia Southern and Champion collards in winter-killed garden beds.

April 20: Transplanted Lemon Queen sunflowers to larger pots. German Johnson tomatoes have poor germination and growth. Rose tomatoes have decent (but below average) germination, slow growth. Others at least average.

April 27: Sowed Senposai, Scarlet Charlotte swiss chard in garden bed. Sowed first patch of Silver Queen and Augusta sweet corn.

May 4: Sowed Seminole and Waltham Butternut winter squash and Tender Grey, Costata Romanesca, and Green Gourmet summer squash; Gator perpetual chard; echinacea from seed gathered in my mother's garden; Genovese basil; borage, cleome, nicotiana, and Spanish Brocade marigold in pots. Senposai is beginning to show. No sign of Scarlet Charlotte.

May 11: Planted out the sunflowers and some of the tithonia. Sweet corn germination is really awful - probably too dry.

May 13: Planted out more tithonia, the tomatoes, and the peppers. Scarlet Charlotte is starting to be noticeable. Started harvesting the Premier kale which survived the winter.

May 18: Set up fence for climbers; planted Grady Bailly "greasy" pole bean, limas King of the Garden and Violet's Multicolored, and cucumbers H-19 Little Leaf (pickling), Garden Oasis (beit alpha), and Chelsea Prize (English). Transplanted extra tomatoes and peppers in larger pots for giving away. Some of the spring-sown Premier kale has already bolted, argh.

May 24: Some of the cucumbers and beans are starting to break the ground, yay!

May 25: Planted out summer squash, winter squash, perpetual chard, and one of the flowers grown from seed (didn't mark them as to species, and now I can't remember which pot is which; mark them better next year Cleome!). Sowed in pots tomatillos Dr. Wyche's Yellow, Everona Large Green, and Purple, and cilantro, all to eventually go out into the garden. Cilantro should have been sown in the herb bed(s), but that part still needs to be cleared of lingering winter greens. Spotted first of the cabbage looper butterflies around the kale.

May 26 (plan): Clear the rest of the winter greens and plant out parsley, basil, more cilantro. Thin Senposai. Weed around Scarlet Charlotte. Plant second round of Silver Queen and Augusta corn. Put up poles for Florida weave tomato trellis.

(No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy - in this case, the heat.)

May 29: The slower cukes appear to be emerging. The new perpetual chard appears to be doing very well, as are all the planted-out squash seedlings. Tomato growth has increased exponentially, so am going to assume they're settled in well; time to get the first layer of trellis weave up, before they flop over. No further damage to the potato onions, so perhaps clearing straw away from them and using shovel to cut any vole tunnels is working?

Grrrrr

May. 22nd, 2014 08:30 am
clarentine: (cavalier)
Another effing earthquake last night just as I was going to bed - this one was a 3.2, centered in the next county down from us. It was validating to hear the meteorologist on this morning's news remind people, when asked if this was an earthquake or "just" an aftershock, that technically they're all earthquakes. If we can feel it, it's not "just" anything, damn it.

Ahem.

In other news, the pole beans and cuke seeds are in the ground, the tomatoes and peppers are all doing well, the potato onions seem to be next on the voles' taste parade, and the pollen count is kicking my ass this spring.

Oh, and I appear to have written all but the epilogue on the WIP, codenamed Lynch. :-) Go me!
clarentine: (cavalier)
For the record, last night was the first night this year we've been able to have the windows all open. It was, therefore, also the first night we've had the full range of sounds available to us from the rural land around our house.

At about 1:45 AM this morning, that meant we were treated to the serenade of a whippoorwill who's obviously fighting his Circadian clock. I woke up and spent some groggy time trying to figure out whose electronic device had that very odd alarm and what it would be going off for at that hour. ;-)
clarentine: (cavalier)
It feels like this whole winter has been a huge blur of cold, wet, snow, and more wet. Can't get into the garden to plant early spring stuff because it's too cold and wet. Severe cold (three nights of temperatures at 4 degrees F!) killed off almost all the kale and collards I had planted with the expectation of harvesting for the chickens over the winter and early this spring. Snow collapsed the low tunnels I'd erected over my winter greens-for-people beds not once, but twice, tearing holes in the cover. The wet killed off a lot of the winter lettuce and all of the beets. We have burned through so much wood keeping the house warm; it's a good thing we had extra stockpiled.

I rescued the low tunnels by laying plastic netting - the kind I use over the sweet potatoes to keep the deer off - over the hoops, then putting the second layer of frost blanket over top of the netting. Thus far, that's worked; where the frost blanket tore more, or tore in different places, the second layer seems to have stayed intact, and the netting kept further snows' weight from tearing more holes between the hoops.

I'm harvesting greens from the tunnels now and have replanted the tatsoi, which has already bolted, and the beets, and have reseeded the chicken kale and collards in the exposed beds. It's been so cold in the past couple of weeks, though, that I'm seeing no growth at all from the seeds.

Supposedly next week (well, beginning today, really, with yet another rain event) the weather's expected to give us temperatures more like what we should be seeing at this time of year - lows in the 40s, highs in the mid 60s. Maybe next weekend - barring more damned rain! - I might finally get to till the beds to remove the mole tunnels riddling them, and then I can get a late start on spring-plated things. Maybe.
clarentine: (cavalier)
Accomplishments for 2013:

-- A harvest which, despite the wettest year on record, is still filling boxes. Who knew winter squash liked so much wet? Who knew about peppers' love of moisture?

-- Marmalade, which was actually not the most difficult preserve I've put up thus far in my rather short career.

-- Three-quarters of a new novel. It's still fighting me every inch of the way, but we're getting there. Which is convenient, because I really want to get back to the first in the series and do some revision. You know, so it's presentable for company?

-- Conquering my fear of markers in color-rendering a drawing. In fact, if it wasn't for the contest I'm entering this drawing in, I might never have even tried. (I made three copies of this drawing so, if I screwed up two of them learning to color-render, I'd still be able to enter the contest with the black and white third. Thus far, I'm actually very pleased with the first attempt.)

Challenges yet to be conquered:

-- Learning to balance my time better. Just because I can do three things at once, two of them in my head, doesn't mean I'm more efficient that way or that the things I'm simultaneously working on are better for the split attention. I need to focus on just one thing at a time. Which means....

-- Not feeling guilty when I can't actually think about the current novel. The constant low-level current of thought about whatever scene I'm working on, circling endlessly without progress, robs me of the ability to focus deeply on my active project, which is usually active for a reason. So, yes, I need to just let it go every once in a while and not fret over the absence of those characters in my mental space.

-- Finishing what I start. Not ever going to conquer this one, but it's worth looking at every once in a while. Plus, notice how it feeds directly into the one above? Just one damned thing after another. ☺
clarentine: (cavalier)
A mini cat emergency – two people distractedly trying to anoint four* animals with flea-killing elixir while one of the dogs is determined to make a getaway, resulting in a cat getting tagged with flea stuff intended for the beagle – turned into a rather different evening than I had expected, once I realized the mistake. (Mistake; cue shocked realization that this stuff can be toxic to cats, grab for cat, cat ducks out of kitchen and ends up under bed, is dragged out and finally washed off with a soapy washcloth.) Heigh ho, off to the emergency (e.g., expensive) vet’s, where they informed me that we had a lovely young lady who would be just fine, as we’d acted fast enough and she’d gotten a dose far below the danger threshold.

I promptly asked them whose cat they were talking about. Surely they had hold of someone else’s animal, because they couldn’t be referring to the cat who’s named Luna and referred to, often, as Lunatic.

The tech brought her out, purring and calm in his arms. Yep, our cat. But she was friendly and interested in perfect strangers! And you know what? She’s still behaving like that.

I may have to take her back there in the future. You know, the next time she decides to be a screeching hellion. Well, when my wallet can afford the fee for whatever magic they applied, anyway. >:-)

*Four animals - three dogs, one cat - only because the fifth, the old ginger tom, has an open wound near the spot where you apply this stuff, and we didn't want to risk it. That cat's been through enough already this year.

**Anyone who's taken one cat out of a household of multiple cats and then brought the traveled cat back, only to find the others think it's been turned into an alien, will understand the title of this entry.
clarentine: (cavalier)
First fire of the autumn - chilly outside, nice and toasty inside beside the woodstove. Not exactly in my chair, because the dog beat me to it. >:-\ And, tomorrow, when we wake up to a world gone frosty, I'll still be grateful for the warmth.

Woodstove
clarentine: (cavalier)
Contrast this:

squash, sweet corn, cosmos

with this:

robust growth

That's two weeks' worth of growth on the winter squash vines and the cosmos. In those two weeks, we've received ten-plus inches of rain, and solidly warm (and occasionally hot) temperatures, and sun when it wasn't raining. Not too much wind, either; the corn is mostly vertical still.

I went out and took some new snaps of the garden and the current crop of wildflowers; check out my Flickr page for those - http://www.flickr.com/photos/8556491@N07/. Some great new cosmos shots!
clarentine: (cavalier)
The past two weeks around my house have been a magnified version of the spring and summer over all: Rain. Rain. Rain. Thunder, then rain some more. Weed! Weed! Rain. Rain. Thunder. Weed!

Last night I came in from the garden at 9PM covered in wet, spattered dirt flecks and sweat. I'd had onions that needed to be harvested and then hung up in bunches to dry and a million opportunistic weeds to yank and turn into mulch (roots up, you buggers!) This was the fourth night of six that I've come in like that, with a break of two days because it was just too hot one evening and monsooning on another.

This morning, and all of last night so far as I can recall, having woken to lightning and rain at some point, it's monsooning again. We are officially having the wettest summer on record here in central Virginia (not that I needed the official record to tell me that). Here it is nearly the middle of July, with all the vegetables in our massive garden bursting at the seams in their rush to produce, and I have watered with the hose a grand total of one day: right after the sweet potato slips went into the ground. That's it.

I know that weather doesn't equal climate...but wettest summer ever on record. I wonder if the climate change deniers are enjoying their summer?

June Haiku

Jun. 13th, 2013 09:08 am
clarentine: (cavalier)
Fireflies
gleaming in the gloaming sky--
Nature’s fireworks season commences.
clarentine: (cavalier)
Or, why it's important to have good neighbors (or at least good relations with your neighbors). I was contemplating what I was going to do about the frost predicted in this area for Monday night and was not feeling optimistic--I put forty tomato plants and a batch of peppers out in the garden last weekend, and none of those plants will handle frost. I reasoned that I could cover them with straw if I had enough left over from the mulching project, but I knew I didn't.

My phone rings; it's my son. He's at the horse farm up the road, where he works part time, and the owner has asked him to dispose of a batch of spoiled hay. Did I maybe want it? I did.

So, I acquired a pickup load of spoiled (and therefore weed-seed-less, or as near as could be) timothy hay, and all my tomatoes and peppers are now sporting hay wind screens, ready to be pulled over the leaves tomorrow evening in case the weather report holds and that unseasonable frost threatens.

(We are about three weeks past what is generally accepted to be the last frost date in this area. I usually delay planting frost-sensitive things like tomatoes until the beginning of May, just to be certain, but clearly this year is determined to be different.)

Needless to say, I did not plant out the remaining batch of tomatoes and peppers or sow the plants that come up directly in the rows, not with a pair of cold nights like we have coming. Next week will be soon enough.

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