Monday, June 23, 2014

Three's a crowd...

The corn in my Three Sisters Bed is about hip high now (but of course, I'm only 5'1" so to some others it might only be knee high - - who measures this stuff anyway?), and technically, it's time to put in the pole beans. 

I'm actually afraid to.  The Caserta Squash that I planted is SO BIG that there isn't much room for the beans, and I'm afraid they won't get any sun.  So I'm waffling. 

Does it really have to be THREE SISTERS?  Isn't three a crowd?  It definitely is in the case of this bed. 

 Here's a look at the garden bed.  It's not really that big... and when I think about adding MORE to it, I just feel like it's a recipe for disaster. 

Here's an aerial view: (Ok, it's a view from me holding my iphone over the bed and taking a picture)

There IS a little space in there, and the sun IS getting to it, BUT that Caserta Squash has tiny little thorns, and I'm thinking that reaching in there to pick beans might not be a very pleasant experience. 

Not sure what I'm going to do yet.  I am sure, though, that if I do it again next year, I'm going to move a 2nd bed over and make it double the space.  I'll have to file that away in my notes for next year!!!

What's that little vine in the bottom corner?  Well, remember when the dogs dug up this bed?  You can remind yourself here.  Thanks to them, I really had no idea what was growing.  I had squash, pumpkin and melon planted in the corners of the beds, all marked and everything until those two had a go at it.  So when the plant came up, I really wasn't sure. 

It's a melon.  I wasn't sure until I found this little goodie this morning.  I was so excited, I let out a little squeal!

It's about the size of a tennis ball right now, but it's definitely a melon.  Up until today, I thought it might be a rogue cucumber, with it's cute little yellow flowers.  I've never grown melons before, but they love hot weather, and I definitely have plenty of that, so I'm eager to see how it goes.  If it goes well, I'll have to plant a whole bunch of them next year.  Anything that is successful is a do-over in my book!!! 
I'll keep you posted on the TWO Sisters Garden...  well, three if you count the melon.  Maybe she's not a sister though, maybe she's just a cousin, or a close friend. 
Have a great day!
Green Thumb Out

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The one to beat!!!! 2014 edition.

It seems like every year there's just one tomato that is SO much bigger than the others that it sets the standard.  It's crazy. 
This is last year's winner: 
A Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter Tomato
weighing in at: 14 1/2 ounces
This year, my Mortgage Lifters haven't been coming close to that...  but today I picked a contender that's going to be hard to beat!  Here's the new "one to beat" in those same Pipsqueak hands (although, admittedly, the little hands are a bit bigger now):
Why the close up?  Her hair was a mess, and she had dirt on her face from playing outside... ha ha.  So I decided to focus on the hands. 
This guy weighs in at a hefty 17 1/2 ounces.  For you non-math people, that's ONE POUND ONE AND A HALF OUNCES.  Woo hoo, right!? 
This is a Mr. Stripey Heirloom Tomato. The stripes are faint, but they are there.  I have been watching this one for a long, long time.  I even put a net around it so the birds wouldn't get to it before I did.    It's a beauty for sure.  I'm almost going to feel bad eating it. 
Okay, not really.
In addition to this beauty, I pulled a bunch of other stuff from the garden today... 
On Thursday, I picked this: 
 Overall, I'd say it was a very successful week in the garden.  The Garden Diva and I are going to make some dilly beans and some bread and butter pickles tomorrow after church.  Hopefully that goes well and much yummyness will follow.  I will keep you posted.
Hope your garden is giving you lots of surprises this week!  Tell me about it, I'd love to hear!
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A beautiful gift from the garden

It's not every day that the garden gives us an unexpected gift.  This year it did.  We have this one rogue tomato plant that's growing in the area where The Guy planted his peppers last year.  We didn't plant it, it just graced us with it's presence. 

Today we figured out just what kind of tomato we've got there.  It's a Yellow Heirloom.  The first tomato on the rogue ripened today, and this is it!!!

Everything the garden gives is a gift, but this one is just a little better. 

I hope you get a special gift today too.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Drying herbs: Basil, Oregano, Rosemary and Chives

Last weekend, the herb pot and I had to come to an understanding.  It was out of control!!!
When I think of that little, organized planting I did in that giant pot last summer, I can hardly believe that it's the same pot, and the same herbs. 

Here's a look at last summer:

  Aw, isn't it cute?
This year, it looks more like THIS:
Like I said: OUT OF CONTROL.  I absolutely love it.  There are two types of Oregano in there: Mexican and Italian, Chives and Rosemary.  It's fragrant and crazy and wonderful.  It was also seriously in need of a hair cut.  The Oregano was beginning to bolt, as were the Chives, so my scissors and I had a date with destiny!!!   
I was really surprised at how much came out of the trimming.  That's a serious basket of herbs, right there!!!  Once I was done, I decided to try my hand at drying them.  I have a dehydrator and a coffee grinder that never sees the light of day. 
So, I loaded up the dehydrator:
... and the house smelled so good!!!  I have to say, that I'm glad The Guy chose that Saturday to work, because he would not have loved the smell of herbs like I did.  I can just imagine the wrinkled up nose as he walked in, and the question, "What is THAT SMELL?"  Ha ha...

By the time he got home, the herbs looked more like this: 

This was definitely not a load-it-and-leave-it dehydrator project.  These babies dried out very quickly, and I spent a lot of time rotating the trays from bottom to top, and shifting things around.  Amazingly enough, they didn't all dry at the same rate.  I think my dehydrator has some cool spots, because I had to turn the trays as well.  I definitely want to get a better one someday, but for now, it works. 
After about four hours, everything was good and dry, and I started the grinding and bagging process. 
Here's my little coffee grinder.  I have had it for a million years, from a very brief time where I felt the need to grind my own beans.  I must have been a snob.  Whew!  Thank goodness that is over. 
I gave up coffee completely in March, and so this REALLY needed a new use.  I think I've found it's new calling. 
I stripped the leaves from the stems, and tossed them into the grinder.  A few pulses and I had Oregano that was nicely crushed and oh so fragrant.  It blows the top off of any store bought dried herbs!!! 
That giant basket of herbs turned into these four little baggies of wonderfully dried herbs, that will keep nicely through the year.  They will be great in a pinch (ooh, is that a cooking pun?), or whenever I don't want to put the fresh stuff in...  (like it's raining, or I can't find my flip flops). 

All in all, I think it was a really successful experiment, and something that I think I will do again.  If I have to trim up the pot so that it's not bolting anyway, I might as well do something really productive with the cuttings.  I could keep some of the fresh herbs in my fridge, but that just seems silly, since I have the really, really fresh herbs just outside the door. 
You should try it.  If I can do it, anyone can.  Seriously. 
Have a great weekend!
Green Thumb Out.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's beginning to feel a lot like SUMMER!!!

After a hideously hot couple of weeks, I'm so glad to be able to report that the temps are going to stay in the 80's for the next week.  It's much more like June in Southern California, and less like hell.  Yeah,  I said it, hell. 

The garden likes it too.  This is my little haul today. 

So, what we have here is:
1 7oz Mortgage Lifter Tomato (we'll come back to that because I want to talk about it some more)
4 oz Green Beans
2 oz combined Sungold and Super Sweet 100 tomatoes
3 oz blackberries and strawberries
1 2.5 oz pickling cuke
1 Jalapeno
1 10 oz Caserta Squash

All in all, not a shabby day in my little garden!  Of course, in another month, I'll be picking triple that and thinking - "What was I excited about, back in June?!  HA!"  But still...  I just love being able to pick stuff...

So let's talk about this baby, shall we?  Last year, my first Mortgage Lifter was 14 oz.  It was a monster.  Here's the link if you want to see it - it took The Pipsqueak both hands to hold it!  This one is not too shabby though.  (I just realized that's the second time I've said "shabby" in this post - now that's 3...)  Interestingly enough, our first Mortgage Lifter of the season last year came on June 13th. 

Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter is my favorite variety of tomato.  It's a sturdy heirloom, which is certainly a plus.  It's also just delicious.  It's really fleshy, and doesn't have a lot of seeds.  It's got a really sweet flavor, and because they are so big, they are perfect for slicing and putting on sandwiches and salads. 

If you're wondering where it got it's name, just scroll down on that pic of The Pipsqueak holding the tomato.  The history is there too.  It's a good story, and I'm a sucker for a good story.

So here's the weigh in today - - I like to document the biggies, and whenever I pick something that's the biggest of the season, I post it.  Of course, these being the first, are the biggest so far, but it's a good starting point!!! 

Here we go:

Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter
June 11, 2014 - 7 ounces
Caserta Squash (from the 3 sisters garden bed)
June 11, 2014 - 10 ounces
That's it for now!  Hopefully more pickin' tomorrow!  Yippee!  I love Summerrrrrrrr!!!!

Green Thumb Out

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Garden Clean Up

I had been neglecting the garden for a few weeks.  Sure, I'd been pulling weeds here and there, I'd been watering and feeding, and of course, picking, but if you garden at all, you know that there is much more work to be done that just THAT!!!

My garden is comprised of five raised beds, and many, many containers.  In between those beds and containers, the grass and weeds run amuck if I do not stay on top of it.  On Saturday morning, I got up early, ready to take advantage of that cool morning air, and the overcast skies that usually burn off by about 9 a.m. here.  So at 6:45, I was outside getting started. 

 It took me three hours to get it looking like this!!!  Three hours on just the pots OUTSIDE THE GARDEN!!!  It does look clean though, doesn't it?  Some of the areas between the pots were completely crowded in grass, like a lawn was growing where I didn't want it!  Grass is either the plant you want and struggle to grow, or the plant that you don't want and struggle to rid yourself of, wouldn't you agree?  The other day, one of the blogs I follow asked:  "What's the worst weed in your garden?"  I was not surprised that more than half of the answers were "GRASS". 

If I still lived in Pennsylvania, I think I might have answered, "Poison Ivy", but I am happy to say that I no longer live there... 

Anyway - what were we talking about?  Oh yes, the clean up.  The torture. 

By the end of the day the garden was in pretty good shape.  I didn't get all of the grass out from between the garden beds, because I leave that to The Guy and his weed whacker, and he didn't have time to get out there.  It looks pretty good though.  It's clean and there aren't a lot of weeds anymore.  
Here's a new picture.  I love the panoramic feature on my iphone...  I love being able to see a large area in a picture. 

Here are some close ups:

Three Sisters

Peppers, and an out of control cuke climbing up the sunflowers

They look lonely on the one side, but they aren't.  I recently put in another set on the other side. 
They just haven't come up yet.

Beans, beans, beans.  The smaller bean plants in the front are the ones I transplanted from the onion bed, once I figured out that I had a companion planting problem.  You can read about that adventure right here.
They are getting bigger, and they aren't so yellow anymore.  There are also some okra plants on the one side.  They are still small but are doing fine.  There are even tiny, baby okra pods coming up.

I didn't get a pic of the tomato bed, because as you can see from the panoramic, they are in the shade in the early morning. 

Hope you enjoyed the tour!!!!
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Watering troubles

On Sunday, I turned on the faucet to water the garden.  The Pipsqueak was playing in the pool, and I thought it was a perfect time.  I could do double duty: keep an eye on her, and get a garden chore done. 

Then she asked for a towel.   They were inside, on the dryer.  No problem.  She's a good swimmer, and our pool is only 3 feet deep, anyway.  So I popped inside to get her a towel, and all of the sudden I heard this noise. 

POW!!!!!!  (and the sound of water running....  gushing, really)

My first thought was "Oh my gosh, she popped a hole in the pool!" 

So, I go running outside to see what she's done, and she's fine.  The pool is fine.  BUT - - there was a giant rooster tail of water spraying skyward...  from the middle of my hose.

Dammit.  I turned the water on and then left it.  Dammit. 

Burst hose. 

Of course, I thought this was the perfect time to tell The Guy that I wanted one of those cool crinkly hoses that don't weigh anything and that you can stuff in your pocket when you're done watering.  BECAUSE WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO STUFF A HOSE IN YOUR POCKET!!!???!!! 

Well, The Guy, of course.   He dutifully reminded me that we have several hoses I can choose from, that do not require a purchase or even a pocket. 


Of course, he got sidetracked by the mice that we have living in our water heater closet yesterday after work, so this morning, I got a shower while I was watering the garden.  Doing double duty...  I guess I should be glad I'm able to use my time so wisely!!!

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