Tag Archives: garden

Getting corny

It rained today. Usually, in Florida during the summer, this is not exactly newsworthy. After all, for all the years, off and on, that I’ve lived in Florida, summers typically have the same forecast: partly cloudy, highs in the mid-90s, afternoon thunderstorms.

Then I moved out of the city and into this very strange, Bermuda Triangle-like plot of country only to find that if the forecast calls for anything under 50%, it can generally be ignored, because the rain will blow itself apart before it gets to us, or slide off to the north or south, leaving not a drop here. The other extreme, of course, is the tropical storms that come and hang out for a week, dumping two feet or more of water around the property. Most of the time, it’s the former rather than the latter.

Still, it rained today, this afternoon, which meant I hauled myself outside very quickly this morning and managed to get straw put down around the garlic – one variety of which is turning into a tremendous disappointment – as well as move almost 1300 pounds of dirt and poo. Keep in mind that here on the ranch, almost nothing is mechanized. That’s right: hauling this sort of stuff around is done by human power, not machine power. By the time I think a tractor is worth the investment, it won’t be necessary because all the work for which it was intended to be used will be done. While I’m sweating out the latest activity, I sometimes wonder if this is what it was like for the earliest settlers, although I have the benefit of being able to escape into more comfortable quarters for a break or before the rains come (after battening things down against the storm).

The good thing about the rain is that it makes the irrigation line running less of an issue. That’s good news for the silver queen corn, which currently occupies three frames of an incomplete six frame row. Even though I made good progress today on the remaining frames in that row, I can’t run the lines until they’re complete, and that means hand watering. Unless it rains.

As with most of the rest of the planting, this was delayed by family issues. The vendor had stamped an 85% germination rate on the pack, so I overplanted the rows, planning for a less than optimal germination. As it stands, it looks to me more like 95%. I consider that a good thing, and I am ever hopeful that we may actually harvest corn this year instead of losing it to deer romping through it (not an issue now with the fencing) or to bizarre weather that flattens it to the point of nonrecovery or alternately drowns it/droughts it.

I also put in another variety as a test: Vision F1.

This planting went in earlier than the silver queen, and is a sugary yellow variety, slightly shorter on harvest time than silver queen. Corn really has turned out to be my personal windmill here on the ranch, a la Don Quixote, and it would be nice to see some through from seed to harvest.

My dental saga continues apace. I’ve had four teeth pulled recently, and it looks like another one is going to have to go: cracked down the middle of where the temporary build was done, awaiting a crown – ironically enough, the prep date was supposed to be this Friday – and the actual tooth part is loose in the socket. No sense capping something that is going to fall out or snap on its own, so it’s time to call the dentist to see if he can work me in for ten minutes to give me a thumbs up on the pull of that one, and I’m thinking we might as well pull the opposing tooth, also slated to be crowned. The oral surgeon will love me as much as the dentist by the time all is said and done. Radiation and chemo are hellish things. Eventually, I will probably end up with all my teeth pulled, which would mean dentures – and that means I have to really get going with the torture device meant to help stretch the scar tissue created by the treatments and assist with the trismus. The only problem with this is when I have one or more teeth that need attention: I need to use the device in order to help with dental treatment and try to hold on to my teeth, but it is quite difficult to use it when I have teeth that require attention. Yet another lingering gift from the big C.

The world needs ditch diggers, too

If there were none, things like this would never get done.

Trench May 3 2010

The wild blackberries all over the property seem to be just fine with the clay, popping up wherever the birds happen to poop out the seeds from the berries they’ve eaten. This trench, and another one just like it, though, are for a batch of new canes we ordered: a thornless variety that we want to actively cultivate instead of passively collecting the wild berries wherever they happen to come up. After digging out the trench, I mixed up some soil and cow poop (composted, of course) and refilled the trench. The canes that had survived their long, drawn out visit in the garage, pending me getting around to them in the todo list. After discarding the ones not quite strong enough for the wait, I still wound up with a good number of canes.

Blackberries May 3 2010

With any luck, these will begin bearing next year.

And that knocks yet another item off my todo list.

Visualizing whirled peas

I pulled the peas today – both the sugar snaps and the snow peas.

Peas in the compost

It’s difficult to pull up plants that you’ve fed and watered and looked after and babied for months, but you do have to know when it is time (or past time) to take them out and send them on their way to completing the next cycle of what they provide beyond the food they give: compost. They had, as we say in the tech world, reached end of life.

We harvested and shelled quite a lot of peas from these plants, and those are all safely resting in the freezer, awaiting their turn in the pot on some future date.

Technically, by the calendar, it is still spring. Today, though, was what would be a typical summer day for us: hot, humid, and simply taking the step off the threshold and onto the porch was enough to draw the breath from your body involuntarily. Still, there is always work to do around the ranch. Today, that meant pulling the peas above and then beginning the second layer of framing on the frames where those peas had been. We have moved to double frames not only in the rear (now main) garden, but also in the very front garden, which at one time was in the rear of the property. After pulling the peas, and taking a break, I went back for round two, taking down the trellises and hauling lumber from the barn area, the sweat simply rolling down my entire body, from the top of my head to the sheen that covered my legs.

After one such trip in the middle of the afternoon, I thought for a few panicked moments that I was going to pass out or puke – or both – while toting an armful of lumber. This would not have been good, naturally, since the tiny bit of shade from the tree under which I was walking was beginning to shift as the sun sank off to the southwest, and I envisioned frying there in the sun, with no one else at home to wonder where I was after awhile. Luckily, I made it back to the house, managed to get some water, and had a seat, allowing the heat to fade.

After getting the roast I’d pulled out seared and into the oven for a braise, I headed back out into the heat to do the framing. The beauty of braising, like any other slow cooking, is that you can set it off, go do all the myriad other things that need to be done, and in the end, have a fantastic, and, in this case, hearty meal waiting to restore you.

Dinner May 1 2010

The nine frames topped off, it was time to move into the herb garden.  My goal was to complete this area today, but I found a visitor in the black plastic I had left out in the rain yesterday: a snake a few feet long, curled up in one of the rolls, who slithered back and forth through the pools of water on the plastic, preventing me from getting a good grip on him. I took one of the shovels and boosted him outside the fence, but unfortunately, he refused to take the hint, turning back at me and slithering right back through the fence, shaking his tail as if he had rattles and trying to show me poisonous fangs, dripping with venom that did not exist. While I knew he wasn’t poisonous, I also knew that if he latched on to my legs, or on to one of the dogs, it was going to be painful. He squirmed too much for me to get him on the shovel and carry him all the way across the property to a safer place for him to reside, so there was only one thing to do.

Snake May 1 2010

With the snake dispatched and thrown into the wilder underbrush area for nature’s cleanup crew to deal with, I moved some mulch and laid some plastic around the perimeter of the herb garden before calling it a day. According to the scale, I lost just under two pounds today, and I’m certain all the sweat I dripped all over the property accounted for that.

And now, I return to my todo list, which never seems to shrink, and plan my assault on filling the frames I topped today so cucumbers can be started where the peas once were. This is in addition to filling the last three 8 x 4 frames in the rear garden to finish off the sixth row so the next row can be started.

“Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.” – Samuel Johnson

Planning for the harvest

“Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

We don’t have any chickens around here (yet), and wouldn’t be hatching any babies anyway, since we’re only interested in fresh eggs, so I suppose it would be better as “Don’t count your vegetables before they’re grown” for me.

Despite the rather horrible output of the garden in the sand that is the lot – the most prolific things were the guajillo pepper, putting out a bucket of peppers, the thyme and catnip, that survived floods then baking heat, and wonder of wonder, the onions, which thrived and even crowded one another – hope springs eternal. With that and some frames to create some raised beds where you can mix a good soil instead of trying to do anything with a sandlot, you can actually grow some things.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been trying to get outside to get some soil mixed for a frame to hold my garlic. Tomorrow – or today, as the case may be – will be the day, assuming that I manage to get any sleep at all this morning.

Heading into winter is also the time to be looking at seed catalogs, for spring planting. The way winter is going around here, it will be a little springlike for quite some time, but even if it isn’t, I have a plan. You’ll have to wait a day or so for details on that. In the interim, I’d like to blame, I mean thank, Steven for causing me to go to Seeds from Italy. Thanks to him, I now have all sorts of seeds ordered, some of which I plan to foist off on Stacy, as I can’t use five grams of carrot seed in this lifetime. I think. Unless I get a wild hair and decide to try and sell some of it. Those items will be in addition to all the things I’d like to get growing next season after this season’s stuff is harvested.