Monday, July 26, 2010

Last Week of July

Stingy skies. All weekend there were banks of dark clouds prowling around. It was alternately frustrating, heart-wrenching, and funny. We had a couple of periods of light drizzle both days, but nothing when compared to those fat juicy clouds! However, the ditch was muddy--all stirred up and full from gathering the runoff along the way from here to Santa Fe. G opened up the gate Sunday morning and we gave the yard and garden a thorough soaking. When I can stop pouting about the heavy rains we haven't gotten, I realize that the cloud cover and unseasonably cool temperatures have been a terrific boon in and of themselves. Average high for Saturday and Sunday: 92. Actual highs: 79 and 75!

The first plum-sized Stupice (stu-peach-ka) from down at the bottom of the plant, hidden next to the stem. It was delicious! We shared it right off the vine. Yum! The leaves on this plant certainly are unusual looking. >In other tomato news... last year's tomatoes in the raised bed (think a pair of Godzillas dwarfing tall buildings)... last year's sprawling giants left seed behind. By Saturday's count, there were easily half a dozen. We PROMISED each other we wouldn't let them dominate this prime salad greens spot, so we bought a bag of dirt, scrounged pots, and Satuday afternoon I either transplanted or weeded out the lot of them. The cold spell we had over the weekend turned out to be the perfect opportunity for this ill-advised exploit. We're pretty sure they are all going to make it. Was this a dumb thing to do? Maybe. I dimly remember last season thinking that the tomatoes had gotten WAY ahead of me. And that however many plants we had, they were too many for my half-hearted canning/ freezing/ cooking/ distributing efforts. (Garden greed is a terrible thing.) I can blame heredity: I have a lot of Scottish blood. Hard to throw anything away. I hereby vow publicly to do better with whatever they proffer. I can also blame curiosity. I believe we had three different varieties in the bed. Wonder what the seeds will be?! Yellow pears. Mexican mini's. And something else. (Hmm. Should look that up.) >A medium cherry variety. The full-sized ones were in the garden proper, at the back. We didn't have good luck harvesting from them, though I don't remember why. This season G is trying potatoes in that spot. They started blossoming 10 days ago. [Need to photograph them. They are very pretty!]

G collected a full cup of blackberries, with twice that many on the way. ((It's been so dry, and she used the ditch so much less I thought maybe we wouldn't have any berries to speak of. Happy surprise.))

Basil plants looking very handsome. (5 at the back of the garden proper) They started to blossom about 3 weeks ago. With pesto in mind G & I have both been very diligent tipping them the last 2 weeks. Should be able to make some soon.

Skink in the worm composting trench--eek! Gloria told me she had found it. But I hadn't been back there in awhile. I'm embarrassed to say that I am a little squeamish about pulling back the wood covering and peeling back the old cardboard. I had a bin of moldy watermelon in my hands... not stinky, but peppered with the tiny, fuzzy engines of decay. Yeesh. So of course I shrieked when something huge and wiggly blasted from up out of the trench, pausing for a split second to glare at me over its shoulder before vanishing into the compost proper. I will have to ask Gloria again... Clearly I didn't appreciate her story the first time (several weeks ago)?

Worm bin inside on the counter. Been there three weeks now. We're feeling very protective of it. Not sure what we'll do. We have talked about buying a commercial bin. The problem would be the size, and finding a place for it. Yesterday afternoon, I gingerly opened the cover: pulled back the top layer of newspaper, laid in some chunks of moldy watermelon, a filter full of coffee grounds and the crushed shells from 3 breakfast eggs. As I ground the shells between my fingers, I realized, with the shock that I think is typically reserved for children, that these bits of crunchy hard stuff had been fabricated by the soft insides of a bird. Imagine their bodies creating this substance.

Crepe Myrtle Redux. Dug an ample hole, mixed in compost, with a generous well this time and planted the pale pink crepe myrtle. Am hoping we won't have a repeat of last September's killing cold...

Monarch that crawled into a patch of chives to die. I was deadheading the plant and didn't even notice until my hands were nearly on it! [Take a photo]

Two batches of tri-colored bush beans coming along. I pestered G until she planted another group of seeds yesterday, tucking them in behind the klatch of eggplants. She also reluctantly planted the three little melon seedlings she bought from Alameda in June. We are pretty sure that our rapacious squash bugs are still legion. And still waiting--piercing mouth parts sharp, compound eyes, sniffing antennae peeled. Sigh.

Last word from the weekend: bush tits, the requisite wave of them, flowed in and out of the yard all afternoon Sunday. Were they scoping out the apples? Interested in the stand of sunflowers? I am proud that I know what to call them, but that's about where my stash of lore for them ends. [?!] While I was catching my breath from cleaning the kitchen, watched a female western finch take a dust bath in the sand under the middle apple tree. Very cute. Can't remember ever seeing anyone do that before. Maybe the word has gotten out that the cat has retired? And finally, a ring-necked dove has decided to nest in the elm, above the front edge of the shade area. Have seen her making repeated trips with sticks dangling out of her mouth. Honestly, every time she or he land, they sound like they are about to crash. Not graceful. Also aodd--when either of them leave the nest, about three flaps out they call out--a rasping strange bit of a shriek. Can't imagine what they are saying. "Honey, I'm making another trip. It's your turn to guard the door?!"

Half a dozen nice-sized beets ready to pluck and roast. Maybe tonight.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Non-rain report

Out of the last seven days, we had just a bit of rain Sunday evening. That's it! With our wide vistas, we have spotted "locally heavy" showers here and there. But north valley is parched. I do not have a rain gauge, so my guess is that we had half an inch. The official report from the airport weather station is .1" for Sunday and .1" for Monday nights. *In a word, they didn't get nuthin' either.* Hope springs eternal: maybe tonight! Oh, and we had a string of record high temperatures the end of last week and into the weekend. Over 100-degrees. Pshew.

Today's projected high seems significantly milder by comparison. Mid-90s. And low 90s for the rest of the week?! Great news.

In garden news--very jealous AND proud of Teresa Johansen. She has squash of all descriptions coming out her ears, the first of her green beans, sprawling, draping sweet potato vines, two-inch eggplants and the first blush from some strapping tomato plants. Oh, and her garlic did very nicely. And they have made 3 batches of pesto from her over-achieving basil plants.

**Garlic and chemical burns! Teresa burned her fingers peeling garlic!? Linda said she looked it up & substantiated this. (Research it ... )

We spotted 2 pale purple blossoms on one of our eggplants and a couple of small white blooms on one of the pepper plants over the weekend. !! Our basil plants are not nearly the size of hers... believe they are a bit younger and have had less water. Still looking quite handsome. We have green beans sprouting everywhere. And have continued to hack down sunflowers we had so many. The grapes are coming along nicely. And we have continued to thin the young apples as we can reach them... G has four beefy potato plants and a bunch of sweet potatoes in the ground and thriving. And our tomatoes are coming along. We have them planted in several different places, so that's intriguing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Settling the dust

So far the July monsoons have been a bust. For the record, however, we did get enough drop Thursday night to settle the dust & make a pretty dappled pattern in the dirt. A trace. A couple hundredths?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Questions, questions, questions

Hot. They have brought out the angry orange icons again.

When did it rain last?
Monday afternoon, June 28th. ~.7" So it has only been two weeks since the last one. Somehow it feels much longer.

What is known about ladybugs?
They are actually beetles. Have 6 legs.

Where did garlic come from & what do we know about it?
I was hoping the 1940s Ntl Geographic piece on Traveling Vegetables would include garlic, but it doesn't.

I began the day Monday stomping about two dozen. They had all congregated in the dog's water dish... {George's funny story about his former housemates in Portland. Doing research. Gathering them, feeding them cornmeal for a day, then boiling, and finally sauteing them in butter sauce. He laughs about the whole thing. "It took some getting used to, but I got into it. He shrugs. They just tasted like butter sauce."}

Woodhouse toads?!
Over the weekend I bumped into Gloria's big, fat toad. She startled me (that seems to happen every time). She had recently seen once of those silly YouTube videos that featured someone petting a toad. Rubbing its head gently. It seemed to like it. (?!) It didn't try to escape. Didn't seem alarmed. In fact, it looked a little like it was purring. [This could be sheer, unmitigated ignorance & anthropomorphism... I wonder what the froggie field biologists have to say about it?]

Can you raise crepe myrtles from seed?
The one we put in last summer got killed by the hard frost at the end of September. We are trying again--a lovely pale pink one this time.