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. 

14 July 2012

The Mid-Season Farm Report, Part 1

For the past week or so, we've been treated with sunny days with temperatures reaching up to the mid-90's.  While this has the negative effect of making sweat roll down my neck while standing perfectly still, and my feet to sweat so much that I slip right out of my sandals, it has also given the plants the boost they really needed. 

The potato plants have started flowering!  These are russet potatoes, and we'll start digging up the new potatoes at the end of the month.  Potatoes like cooler soil, and ours will probably stop growing pretty soon.

The heat has also caused our onions to bolt a little earlier than I expected.  These are actually last summer's onions that kept growing through the winter.  The stalks are over three feet tall.  I'll be pulling these up over the next few days (no guarantees....it's finals week for me).  We will save and dry the flower heads for seeds to plant at the end of August for spring onions next year.

We're growing three varieties of pumpkins this year.  These are the fairytale pumpkins and are really easy to identify because of their white veining.  Pretty leaves, but they make even prettier pumpkins...slightly flat, deep lobes, and the neatest color, a kind of light brown-orange-gray. 

This is also a pumpkin plant...this variety is called "Spooky."  It's the classis Halloween pumpkin....medium sized, bright orange, and round.  Perfect for Jack O Lanterns.   I am also growing a knobbly variety called "Knucklehead."

Raspberries!  These take a lot of patience to grow because you won't get a decent crop at all for the first year or two.  This year I planted 2 second year Summits, 4 bare root Killarneys, and one bare root yellow raspberry plant.   Have you ever seen a bare root cane?  It's just that...a twig with a small tangle of roots at the bottom.  I planted 5 Killarneys, and one day Mimi ran up to me with a familiar looking twig, snapped in half in her hand:  "Look Mom!  I picked a stick!"  Back to the store for another.  The funny thing is that the bare root plants are doing better than my second year ones.  Three of the 5 bare root canes already have raspberries. 

These are baby sugar bush watermelons.  Cute, small, sweet, dark greenish black rinds, And this is my 4th AND FINAL attempt at growing them this season.  Let me list my failures.

1.  First ones were late to germinate, and then the natural fiber containers molded after I forgot them outside during heavy spring rains.

2.  Second ones germinated beautifully indoors, and then died within a week or transplanting.

3.  Third ones were sowed directly into the ground during a heat wave in May, and only started to sprout after I gave up and cultivated the plot and planted carrots over them.  The 2 seedlings that did grow were transplanted into Grandma Glenda's garden. 

This 4th set of seeds were sowed direct in mid-June.  Fingers crossed on these, as it takes about 80 days to reach maturity in perfect conditions.  Watermelon like sun, which we are lacking up here.  Any given spot only gets at max about 4-6 hours of sunlight a day, so I have found that plants take about 50% longer than the seed packet says to reach full maturity.   I'm hoping to get a few by the time October is here.

Salad greens:  We've already harvested the first round of spinach earlier this month...it was getting hot and it had started to bolt.  We're growing more spinach, mesclun, arugula, two types of leaf lettuce, and in the photo above, rapunzel. Mimi's new favorite....when I pull a couple leaves out, she practically yanks them out of my hand. 

Sage, sage, and more sage.  Last year I only grew 1 sage plant, and was able to dry enough to last us about 6 months, and we use sage in everything....braised chicken, stuffing, anything with pork.  This year, I grew 30 plants from seed, and I kept the best 18 for transplanting....one ended up in my mother in law's garden. 

Peas, sweet peas, and snow peas.  These are the sweet peas.  We're growing about 25 feet worth of them, all trellised.  We love stir fries with peas, but we're having a hard time harvesting them since we're eating them right off the vines. 

Four kinds of tomatoes:  Big Boy, Cherry, Roma, and these, Violet Jasper.  They look like tiny watermelons. 

Last picture for now.....and something I did not plant.  We have a dozen or so serviceberry trees on our property, and this one is right by one of our raspberry patches.  Serviceberries don't have much taste, and ours aren't very sweet, but Grandma Glenda says they make a good jam. 

That's all for now.  Part 2 (Mid-Season Lessons Learned) to come soon. 

03 July 2012

Now Open for Business

A coworker of mine mentioned that his mom was trying to get rid of his little sister's old playhouse.  I had given his sister some pumpkin seedlings a week ago, and she wanted to get rid of the playhouse so she could put in a garden, so we got this for only $20, AND they delivered it to our house up in the sticks. One side is a puppet show theatre, one side has sandboxes, and the other side is a restaurant.

Mimi opened her restaurant yesterday, "American Mimi."  

Blue was her first customer, ordering a double cheeseburger, no cheese, no onions. 

And got a plastic onion.  

American Mimi
Happily serving wrong orders since 2012.