As promised, a pic of the front gardens cucumbers, who are far outstripping their colleagues in the rear gardens. This is what happens when you get a raging case of pneumonia that knocks your schedule completely out of sync and keeps you from doing the rather mundane tasks like trellising work to keep pace with certain plants.
This is actually three rows of sown seed: the two middle rows are a couple of different varieties of cucumbers. The right row is green beans (variety: Provider, which is more reliable and productive than anything we’ve tried). This picture was taken a week or so ago, and does not adequately reflect the way the cukes are planning hostile takeovers of the frame to the left or the asparagus in the background at this time. It’s something I’m going to try to address this weekend, and hopefully the pneumo, which has been with me for more than a week now instead of the more usual five days, will let me out of its grip.*
*Yes, I know, it’s strange to call pneumonia “the usual” in any way, but this is yet another of the ongoing gifts from cancers I should never have had. Fuck you, cancer.
It only took about four months to grow the various participants.
It was delicious, according to the person who got to eat that small bounty. The tomatoes are the earliest I’ve ever been able to get at the ranch: sungolds and a variety called 4th of July (meant for northern growers with short summers so they can have their tomatoes by yes, the 4th of July). Here – at least for this year – they have shown themselves to be the absolute earliest of the early varieties I put in, and the sooner the tomatoes start coming, the better, as far as I’m concerned. The lettuce is a straight cos (romaine) variety that I had tossed into a row with potatoes, and the carrots had been hanging around with the kale. Strange neighbors. But tasty vegetables.
It’s sort of like calm before the storm, except better because after this little bit of cool weather at the ranch, we will hopefully be turning to spring for good. Not that cooler weather isn’t welcome – minus the freezing bits – but that little voice in my head is already yammering about splitting hives and transplanting from the flats, which are growing very nicely under the lights in the barn.
On another note, this ad keeps popping up during my surfing, and if you don’t look directly at it, and just catch it out of the corner of your eye, it really does look like a dick pic. Try it, you’ll see what I mean. Seriously, advertising people, did you not think this through at all? It has bonus negative points for having Doctor “There’s nothing I won’t endorse for money!” Oz on it.
This morning in the humidity, I pulled three bags of weeds out of the rear garden. The strangle weed – a vine that grows, well, like a weed – is absolutely everywhere, and it’s important to get it down before it seeds out and then dries. That’s the problem I’m having right now, because last year, some of it went too far along, seeded, dried, and gave me the masses of it now. The weeds in the raised rows themselves are the usual assortment of that vine, plus garden spurge, with its little puffballs of seeds, mimosa weed, with its chamber of seeds on each leaf, nut sedge, and other grasses. It seems each year I get behind although I tell myself I won’t, and each year I wind up with overrun rows toward the end of the season. It isn’t that I mind weeding per se: it’s a great, mindless sort of job to do while thinking over plot points and scenes for whatever I’m writing. I do mind that I can’t quite seem to stay on top of it better. That has to change, and it will be on my mind as I continue my quest to make this month the one where every bed is weeded in a timely enough fashion that by the time I reach the end, the ones done earliest will not once again be completely overrun.
There are some tomatoes still out there, buried under the weeds. We did not have a good tomato (or cuke) season this year, but some of the indeterminate tomatoes are alive and flowering. I’ve no idea which varieties they are, given all that have died or were pulled out. It will be a nice little surprise for us, assuming any of their fruits make it to maturity.
And from here? Well, I make plans for next spring, and make it a mission to keep on top of things better than this year.
One of the things about the ranch that remains constant is that there is always something to do, either inside or out. This past week, the goal was weeding the back garden area and chopping up the vetch (which, hilariously enough, the autocorrect on my phone wants to correct to “kvetch”) that has regrown, so it can be used both to mulch the transplants when the time comes and so it can compost in place to return itself to the soil for later years. Today: achievement unlocked! The two rows in the foreground need some topping off with fresh soil and manure, and that will be done well before the transplants are ready to go out.
Next target: the front gardens. In addition to the weeding chores, keeping the bees fed and happy during these winter days is also very important, as is keeping a good water supply for them. I do this with a birdbath near the beeyard, with some sticks in it to allow the bees to drink without drowning themselves. Even with this in place, we still have to fish them out of the pool from time to time, but once they dry off, they’re off again back to their hives. I found this one girl hanging out at the edge of the birdbath basin, drinking up.
Just another day at the ranch on a beautiful day that felt more like spring than winter.
It’s another gorgeous day at the ranch. Perfect for pounding in t-posts to begin the redo of the rear garden fence.
That’s seven today, which is indeed a good start, especially on this side of the garden where the fence was looking a bit ragged and beginning to lean terribly. The spasms I’m subject to started yammering at me toward the end, so I called it quits at that bunch for the time being so as not to set off anything really terrible that would sideline me for the rest of the day. A little later, I’ll test the waters again and see if I can get one or two more in the ground and the fence drawn to them from the existing poles.
Something else done today: a haircut for my hippie cover crops, which are enjoying the rather pleasant weather we’re having for “winter” here – they survived the couple of random freezes we’ve had as well, and some of the beans in the mix even began to flower.
But I’m really not growing these for any harvest, so I got out the hand trimmers and started chopping off the tops of the crops in two rows as a test – mostly to see if they will grow back or if they will die back, at which point I can pull the irrigation lines out and use the stirrup hoe to chop everything down for mulch through the winter. I am finding the odd weed here and there, but pulling three or four that were likely left behind at the last mega weeding session is better than having to pull weeds everywhere out of a row.
It seems like they are odd bedfellows, weeding and meditating. They aren’t really, and it’s just the sort of mindless chore that lends itself well to allowing your mind to drift, to let it seek out whatever might be puzzling you. In my case, a couple of plot points and if the sequence of events that I believe to be the right ones to go from chapter one to the end in the book I am not working enough on is correct – or at least workable.
Beyond that, it’s a good chance to see deep down and closely what’s happening in the garden. This season, now, we are heading into the couple of months where we will have a winter and the cover crops will kill off, while the leeks and carrots will soldier through and be ready to complete their growth by the time the soil and air warm enough to begin planting peas. It’s also easy to let yourself get ahead, to spring, making mental notes about what will be planted where, and when. But today, my friends…today the primary thought on my mind while pulling weeds was dingleberries.
People with pets (or certain livestock) know what dingleberries are: those are the pieces of poo stuck to the fur around the animal’s butt, which has to either be plucked off by hand or the area shaved. Why then, you ask, if I was pulling weeds, did I think of dingleberries?
The weeds seemed to have segregated themselves: plain old grass there, purslane hither, pigweed yon, and garden spurge and gripeweed – both of which I personally think should be renamed to “what the hell is this pain in the ass, invasive crap that can seemingly grow anywhere, even when other weeds cannot”, but that’s probably too long and would not translate into Latin well – everywhere. One row in particular, where the cukes had been, but where nothing had taken their place when they had exhausted themselves, was overrun with purslane, pigweed, spurge, and gripeweed. Despite that row not having been intentionally watered, the weeds were growing rather vigorously. I suspect these are weeds the Republicans would approve on, given their bootstrappy nature of overcoming poor situations and making their presence known. The simplest way to get them out was to trowel under them and lift with one hand – to make sure the root system would be plucked out as well – while pulling a bunch off them with the other hand. There is a great deal of cow poop in the soil mixture of the rows. It’s great stuff. But just like the plants I intentionally grew, the weeds love it too. And they show their love by rooting right into poop clumps, so when the weeds are extracted, roots and all, clinging to the roots: dingleberries. Like this:
Since we need to keep as much of the poop in the rows as possible, weeding then becomes a multistep process: trowel under them, pull them, then knock off as many of the dingleberries as possible. Toss the weeds into the bucket and move on. Repeat until the bucket is full and needs to be emptied in the bag. When the bag is full, tie it closed and smile, because you are keeping yard waste pickup crews employed. Prepare a new bag. Repeat the entire process.
In the end, what you have is a good day’s work, and progress on getting more rows prepped to hold cover crop seed – hopefully completing the rest of the rear garden by tomorrow, as we are expecting rain on Saturday if the forecast holds. The first row in this picture is the cover crop coming in.
The middle row in this picture is not weeds, as it happens. Those are the late planted tomatoes and peppers. Unfortunately, it appears I either lost that page of my notes or forgot to write down exactly what kind of one pepper was transplanted. They are robust, sturdy, thriving plants, heavy with fruit. I don’t have any earthly idea what type they may be (not bells, that much I know), but they’re beautiful.
We went to the market today, my mom, my sister, my nephew, and I, walking amongst the vendors set up under the Fuller Warren bridge, the shade from which, combined with the stiff breeze from the river, making it much cooler than it was in the direct sun. Wandering up and down the lanes, we – or, rather, they – sampled wares from some of the vendors, pored over photos and paintings, and marveled at (and petted!) the large numbers of dogs people had brought to mingle with the crowd. The aromas from the food stalls, closest to the river, wafted over everything, a tumbling mixture of pizza and fish and sausage and various meats on a stick. Music floated in from different corners of the market, growing louder or softer depending on which direction you moved next. As we walked about, picking up some veggies and cheese here, some milk and meat there, what was I thinking?
Not the work that awaited me on my return, not the horrendous events in Connecticut yesterday, not my uncle’s sudden death, not bills or health or cleaning out the fridge or any of the million other mundane tasks that consume our lives at some point.
And it was one of the better outings I’ve ever had.