10 August 2012

I'm sick of these phone calls.

NRC:  Mr. D----- please.

Me:  There is no Mr. D----- here.  You have been calling us for a year and we’ve been telling you that for a year.

NRC:  I’ll make a note.
Me:  You’ve been telling me that for a year, and yet you keep calling.  You’re in violation of the Do Not Call Registry.  I’ve already filed a complaint against you.

NRC:  Political calls are exempt from the Do Not Call Registry
Me:  Well, I can tell you that you’re barking up the wrong tree.  We’re wildly, violently liberal.

Kyla, my SIL (overhearing my conversation):  Tell them you have a garden.
Me:  And I have a garden!

NRC:  I’ll remove this number from our lists. 

08 August 2012

So a deer walks into a buffet....

I was going to post a picture about making peach jam today.  Normally, I don't support processing fruits and veg unless you grow them or can pick them yourself cheap, but the husband is very fond of peach jam, and I've been able to recently buy them cheap enough that it makes more sense to make my own jam than buy it at the store.  Last year I made about 8 half-pints of it, and it only lasted until February, which makes for a long, jam-less toast winter and spring. 

This year, in two sessions, I've made 5 full pints and 5 half pints.  I'm hoping this will last us.  But while stirring the jam, I realized that I left the gate open last night. I had to dump out my compost bowl anyway, so I went out there.  Everything looked in order, until I saw this....

This was the lettuce and arugula. 

To the left is our delicious Rapunzel.  Last night, we used these big and tasty leaves to wrap around Asian-spiced beef and veggies.  It was wonderful.  To the right, apparently, is a deer dance pattern. 

I really thought that raspberries would be too prickly to eat.  Apparently they are not.  This is actually good information, since I was considering planting a raspberry patch outside of the fence.  Two plants were stripped clean.

I was experimenting with container planting for green beans, since I ran out of planting space.  Now I knew that deer were particularly fond of green beans, so this doesn't surprise me.  What does surprise me is that they stopped halfway through, and even missed the 7 inch long green bean. 

Now, the good news....

All 5 first-year raspberry canes survived.  And I am not too bummed about the two plants that were stripped.  If they are not wasting their energy on making leaves this summer, they will use it to grow stronger roots for next year.

Not a single tomato plant was touched.  This is a good thing because we have well over 100 tomatoes in four varieties on the vines.  Above is a violet jasper, only a few weeks from picking. 

Our pumpkins are safe! We have 20+ plants, and they are all intact.  This is our first pumpkin....it's about 5 inches long and is resting on a bed of straw.

Sweet peas are still mostly there....we are actually sick of peas.  In fact, when I see deer in the yard, I actually pick some peas and toss them to the deer. 

You're a lousy watchdog.  But I love you anyway. 

28 July 2012

This is really embarrassing

Off of the top of my head, I can think of a couple really embarrassing moments.

When I was still in the USAF, I entered a bike race as part of the base's sports day.  I had done pretty well the year before, placing second in the women's division only behind the woman who had also placed first in all of the foot races.  I think the only reason she beat me was because I was on a mountain bike and she was on a racing bike.  The next year, she had transferred to another base, so I was confident that I would get first place.  I didn't take into account the huge influx of new people to the base that also loved to bike, but that wasn't the real problem.  The big problem was that I had left my bike out on my patio through the whole Texas winter and summer.  As we left the finish line, my bike developed this very loud, very noticeable squeak, and people actually rode by, yelling "Squeaky bike!  Squeaky bike!" at me.  

This one is really bad.  Still in the USAF, same base.  I was sick with a head cold, I had eaten my lunch in this conference room at my office that also had a TV.  I had fallen asleep in my chair for a few minutes watching People's Court or something, and when I woke up, there was a guy from the Comm Squadron working on the telephone lines in a closet about 10 feet away from me.  I was worried that I had snored (a very likely possibility) while I was sleeping, so still half asleep, I said to him, "I hope I wasn't loud."  He gave me this weird look and went back to what he was doing.  As I grabbed my lunch trash and walked out, I realized that what I had actually said was "I hope I wasn't lousy." 

Another time, when Austin and I were in Seattle,  I walked three miles from the Space Needle to watch a Mariners game at Safeco field.  With a giant rip in the ass of my khaki pants.

But nothing, nothing compares to the embarrassment of this, one of my senior pictures:

I am still not sure why I decided to pose with my semi-feral, gaseous, fleabitten tomcat.  Let's not even discuss the Hard Rock Cafe pin, fake barn setting, or the Paddington Bear hat, artfully laid next to the cat.  At least I didn't pick this one for submission to the yearbook.

18 July 2012

What to do when a bunny is trapped in your boat (not a euphemism).

This morning, I was trying to watch my daily dose of Jerry Springer, when our dog Blue, who I had let out a few minutes earlier, started to whine.  I found him under the deck, pawing frantically at this old plastic boat underneath.  I pulled it out, and he freaked out, sticking his whole head this little drain hole.  Frantic scrabbling sounds were coming from inside.  I considered walking away, visions of skunks spraying going through my mind.  Against my better judgment, I bent down and looked through a small hole in the nose of the boat. 

A bunny!  Bunny, why are you in my boat?

This is the drain hole...I think.  It's threaded but is missing the plug that would go in it.  Since this is the only way the bunny could have gotten in, this is how it's getting out.  The only problem is that it's blocked by large chunks of styrofoam (or staraphone, like how one of my classmates spells it). 

Styrofoam (staraphone) comes out with the help of an old kitchen knife. 

The boat is tilted up with its nose (I'm sure there is a more boat-y term for the nose)
 up on the picnic table.   

The camera is sent in to explore the top.  No bunny. 

Mimi's keeping an eye on him from the top of the boat. 

"Is the bunny still there?"

Still there.  The bunny is then persuaded, gently, to go around the styrofoam (staraphone) with the use of a thin bamboo pole that Mimi retrieves from the garden.  We can hear him scrabble all the way to the bottom. 

Camera goes in again.  No bunny.  Put on an extra glove, gingerly reach in and remove styrofoam (staraphone). 

Hello bunny! 

Hey!!!! Want to see me pull a rabbit out of my boat?

Mimi was impressed. 

It was delicious. 

 Just kidding.  These are the steaks we cooked on Austin's new grill last night.

This is Austin's new grill.  He got it for his birthday. 

Back to the bunny...he was petted, photographed some more, and then released into a tangle of bushes on the other side of the house.  All is well in the kingdom.

16 July 2012

The Mid-Season Farm Report, Part 2: Top Ten Lessons Learned

I’m going to school year-round (2 classes every 10 weeks), which I why I have finals in mid-July when I should be outside suntanning and drinking copious amounts of lemon shandies.  I just finished writing one of my finals, an 8 page report on the environmental effects of China’s One-Child Policy.  Now, I’m in the mood for writing something, anything that does not have to do with coal burning, sulfur oxides, and Mao Zedong. 
I had promised a Part 2:  Lessons learned earlier this week, so here it is.  Some of these might be duh items to you, but I’m only in my 2nd year of bigger-scale planting, so I’m still learning as I go.

1. Don’t weed too early.  I weeded most of my garden beds in April and May during warm days, and when I was done, they were, at the time, completely weed free.  I mean, I really dug down, up to my elbows, removing old fossilized roots and rusty nails until the plots were clear.  A month later, weeds had sprung up like crazy.  The beds I weeded in June have mostly stayed weed-free.  Apparently weeds are also just waking up in spring, and if you weed too early, you’ll just be tilling the soil for all of the weed seeds that are still napping.
2.  Everybody needs a winter coat, and so does your garden.  Once your garden is done in the fall, cover it up.  Use mulch, leaves, or weed fabric.  We don’t have a bagging mower up here, and we also don’t have deciduous trees, so what I should use is weed fabric.  Last year, I didn’t, and weeds grew all through the fall, hibernated in the winter, and grew happily through the cold, wet spring.   Investing some cash and a few hours to get weed fabric and cover it up would have saved me about 80 hours of weeding this spring. 

3.  Seeds need more than just water, soil, and sun.  Most of them also need heat.  Some seeds won’t even germinate until the soil is more than 70’F, so for me, that negates any reason to plant certain seeds outside any earlier than June.  Also, it means that your house needs to be warm enough for the seeds to sprout. 

4.  Those nice organic fiber seed pots are cute and all, but they can also grow mold.  I accidentally left my seeds outside during a rainstorm while I was at work, and a day or so after I brought them in, they all started to sprout this whitish feathery mold/mildew stuff.  Those were my first seed starts this year….about 40 pots that had to be dumped out.  So be careful that you don’t overwater them. 
5.  Make sure you are planting in the best spot.  Plants need sun.  Here, we have very very limited sunlight, since we grow in an area completely surrounded by very tall pine trees.  Any spot might only get a couple of hours of sunlight a day.  Some of my plots are split by the sunlight….meaning half of them are about 50% bigger than the others because they get more sun.   This may work for me in the end, because some will mature faster than others, spreading out the harvest. 

6.  All soil is not created equal.  I live on a mountain.  Our soil is basically half clay, half annoying rocks.  Clay is not great for some plants, especially tomatoes and raspberries, since they either die from the excess water retention or get root rot.  While turning my garden over this year, I realized that some of the plots were very heavy clay, and some are a lovely mixture of soil and mulch.  Every single one of my tomato plants were moved from their original locations, and they are all thriving in a looser soil with better drainage.  Potatoes, however, will grow pretty much anywhere. 
7.  Hide your fertilizer.  I use an organic fish fertilizer.  While I am not entirely sure how it is created, judging by the smell, I would guess it is made from fish poop and dead fish, all ground up with the top 5 other disgusting things that you could think of.  It is highly concentrated, and while the label says it is deodorized with wintergreen oil, you’d never know it.  Apparently this potion is very tempting to dogs, or at least my dog, because he was sufficiently motivated enough to grab the bottle out of the bin I keep my supplies in, twist the top off with his teeth, dump it on the ground, and lick whatever he could.  And I sat by, obliviously reading a book, not once questioning the weird plasticky-biting sounds that Blue was making from the garden.  My daughter raised the alarm, and I was able to retrieve the bottle before too much had spilled. Only a few tablespoons escaped, which was enough to smell up the whole yard.  I power rinsed away what I could, and over the next few days, a large dead brown spot appeared on the grass, and the dog tore up the paving stones we had laid in the walkway of the garden last year to try to get whatever molecules of the fertilizer that he could get at. 

8.  Have backups.  If you want to plant watermelons, plant your seeds. (Start indoors, and early).  Then a week or so later, plant some more.  Repeat.  Some plants don’t do well when transplanted.  Some plants like to die during hailstorms.  Some plants like to freeze. 

9.  Sometimes covering your plants doesn’t stop them from freezing.  I lost 8 beautiful tomato plants during a freeze in May.  I covered some up with blankets, and some with upside down pots, and none survived.  It was in the 20’s that night, and it was just too much for them. 

10.  Seed tapes don’t work for shit.  Mimi and I spent hours…..maybe 20 hours making seed tapes in the spring.  The only ones that worked at all were the spinach.  Their purpose is supposed to save you time during planting season, and also to help you space your plants, but some seeds just aren’t able to push through the layers of paper to sprout.  Save yourself the tree-kicking and just direct sow without them. 

11.  You know how the seeds say “35 days to harvest,” or “70 days to harvest”?  I’m finding out that you have to add anywhere from 25-50% to those numbers.  After all, have you ever been able to grow a tomato from seed to harvest in 90 days?  Again, start indoors, start early.  Or just buy young plants from a nursery.