Tag Archives: organic gardening

Late summer garden

I’m still having issues with the phone line/DSL and I’ve been on vacation, so more random garden notes for now…

late summer-cicada shells

There were many early successes and now some dramatic hits – the early tomatoes came down with late blight and the late came down with the early – at least I think that’s what happened.

Squash vine borer took out the zucchini just when I figured out what was happening (there weren’t any obvious early telltale signs)…

late summer-vine borer

and to some degree at an okay time – we were getting tired of it and my most hated garden pest – squash bugs – hatched.

late summer-squash bugs

Despite squishing their eggs every morning, I still missed a bunch.

(And the dog will miss eating portions of the missed monster zukes daily.)

Now we’re worried about the butternut squash, but we’ve already got a few near maturity, so if they get hit, it won’t be a total loss.

The cucumber beetles (both spotted and three-lined now) continue to be a massive plague and introduced their bacterial diseases again which the plants have mostly powered through – I squished these daily as well and used sticky traps, but neither made much difference…

The dried beans will only amount to a meal or two – totally not worth the effort, but I could have been a bit more attentive to them and thinned them out a bit better for better air circulation – but – their close-togetherness keep them happy during the heat so either way it was certain doom for them this year.

On a happy note, we’ve been back to salads with some nice lettuces again and the bush and pole beans are doing fine.

late summer-lettuce

And despite the tomato plants taking the huge blighty hit, we canned and froze at least 100 pounds and probably ate the same… Most are still hanging in there after aggressive pruning and organic fungicide, but we’ll have to be far more proactive next year – I was too cocky about not getting hit with blight before. We’ve thankfully got enough beds to rotate everything well, but the southern ones are getting the least amount of sun starting in mid-July, so they aren’t a great place for them.

The yard didn’t get the attention I said it would have this year – we’ve got a couple large (maybe expensive) projects that I feel should be done before I spend time doing other things that might have to be undone, so hopefully we’ll figure that out soon, but in the meantime, the deer have been parading their babies through the yard.

late summer-deer

And the dog continues to be an asshole to them and other beasts, but we’re still trying hard – many dollars of behaviorists and prescription drugs later… (he’s kinda making me feel like I’m the one in need of prescriptions) and the issue of fencing for him is one of the yard holdups – he’s a jumper, the town has height limits, the back yard is pretty big, and the front the perfect size but probably wouldn’t work after all… and so it goes.

I’d hoped to start a few plants indoors for a fall crop, but we’ve yet to set up the grow station – it will happen for spring though – but I’ll be trying for some more root veg and greens – perhaps attempt keeping kale and whatnot through the first frosts – it’s been to hot to put in anything yet and I’ve still got to clean up a few beds first.

And nature has helped a bit too – we’ve got the resident praying mantis or two back, perhaps some assassin bugs (one baby snuck in on some veg), and birds that I’m also keeping my eye on – good now, but once we get blueberries I’ll likely be raging at them with a broom…

late summer-assasin bug

I let some volunteer watermelons do their thing as well as some more butternuts – we’ll see how well the mostly ignored, unwatered volunteers do vs. the painstakingly tended intentionally planted ones (squash that is, I didn’t plant watermelon this year).

late summer-watermelons

And there have been a few interesting surprises as well.

The swallowtail butterflys (I’m pretty sure this is black swallowtail) are snugging up to the garden again – this oddball preferred nothing natural to make her home:

And the damp weather brought out the mushrooms.

I know very little on the mycology front and only trust myself to pick morels in the wild, but I’m becoming slightly more interested – enough to try making spore prints next time I find some – and these in the bean patch are likely boletes of some sort, but I can’t quite determine which one…

late summer-shrooms

But the best has been a stinkhorn that popped up in the tomatoes – unfortunately we left the day after so I didn’t get to watch, or rather smell, its life cycle.

late summer-stinkhorn

The hot and humid weather finally broke a couple of days ago, but is likely headed back soon, so I’ll be busy in the meantime…

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Dripping into August

July was far too humid – I felt like I was (and still am) pushing through the air after sweat bath mornings in the garden.

If I had to commute to work every day, I’m not sure the garden would survive, or at least organically. So far, squishing bugs and eggs and more bugs for a couple hours a day has been more effective than traps and lures and early barriers.

It’s exhausting, and the tomatoes are in full, delicious, swing but I’m worrying over those plants now (might be in early days of disease or nutrition issue or too much rain after not enough, and while focused on the tomatoes, I ignored the borlotti beans that sadly began to rot/sprout and I lost at least a third of the crop). And cleaning up tomato goo from inexplicable places days after each canning session.

august-lilies

I transplanted several formerly deer-destroyed day lilies to the confines of the garden late last year and have been rewarded with continuous blooms so far – and different colors on each. Another 3 or 4 plants (with quickly munched blossoms) showed up in the yard this year so I’ll have to eek out a bit more space or plan another fenced area at some point. I refuse to do as my neighbors and spray deer deterrent nearly daily…

august-wildflowers

N and the dog (who continues to be a challenge and I’ve got to pick and squish his nasty bugs (ticks) daily too) go on canine-exhausting adventures every morning and have been bringing back foraged goodies, both delicious and lovely.

Several quarts of berries (which I recently learned are wineberry and yes, an Asian invasive like many of the “wild” things around here) that didn’t make it into homemade frozen yogurt, ended up in our new chest freezer along with much of our recent excess produce – we’ve suddenly become very ungenerous with the neighbors on that front, but I am stupidly, grinningly pleased that we’ll be eating our own veg well into the winter.

august turtle

(One of my favorite vintage tea towels and rare cheap local flea market find from last year.)

And on the fiber front, very little is going on – I’m knitting a few rows here and there and stitching up some paper pieced quilt shapes from time to time. And I’m still organizing my supplies and collections, deciding what to keep and what to sell, though my workroom is still too hot and to be avoided on most days, and I’m so unenthusiastic to start up the huge batch of online auction listings I’d hoped to have up and running by now – I miss the old days of selling shit online – perhaps I’ll try the even older days and do a flea market table instead…

 

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More reused old sock-ish things…

I try not to generate much trash – I’m not aiming to fit a year’s worth in a mason jar – but I get itchy if there’s more than one small bag per week. Having a dog who generously marked in the house the first month challenged the trash quota, the paper towel quota, and my patience for all three. (I mostly use rags instead of paper towels, but I just can’t get past putting bodily fluids in the washing machine.) Add in my current desire to purge, and I was feeling trashy about having too much going into the landfill. (I think it’s a landfill…? I haven’t learned where it goes here yet.)

So I cut out the butt sides of blown out underwear to use as wood staining rags, unraveled that pair of socks, and put to very good use a few pairs of old tights, so what remained was just a fist-sized wad of flaccid waistbands and trimmings.

The tights were a mix of cotton, cotton blend, and synthetic.

july-tights ties

I cut them into loops thick and thin, used the thick for hair scrunchies, and the thin were snipped again to become plant ties.

july-tights ties bag

They’re working well with the plants (but they aren’t necessarily biodegradable though one pair was mostly cotton, so they’re not perfect) and I’m hoping they’ll hold up well enough to be re-used – the mostly cotton ones are stretching out a bit but can easily be re-tied.

tights-tomatoes

(I’m still cursing the former owners who used plastic zip ties on their tomato plants that were still left for us to tear out the following April – another example of their assholerly/cluelessness/dumbshitness that we had to clean up – and I’m still finding the occasional bits of plastic in the dirt two years later.)

tights-squash

And I need to do another sweep of the tights and stockings drawer to see if any can become squash slings now…

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Randomly at the start of another July…

I’ve got 19 posts started – all waiting for images, things to be found and photographed, projects to get underway or completed, or thoughts to round out or solidify.

Ongoing, but sometimes intermittent, wrist pain has substantially curtailed my knitting, and brain fog has kept me from working on a couple of sweaters that are both at the point of needing close attention to the pattern and/or modifications and deviations… But I’ll knock out a few rows on the thick socks, and regular socks, and wash cloths from time to time.

july-socks

It’s looking less and less likely that I’ll participate in the Tour de Fleece this year – the last few were failures anyway and the room I keep my wheel is hot as balls. But I started a little bit of spinning a month ago – one or two of you might recognize the significance of the colors – but now I’m not sure I’ll finish more than a bobbin or two – it was a flash-in-the-pan idea for bringing in a little cash, but I’m not feeling it on various levels anymore, and again humidity and wool don’t mix.

july-spin

The last month was pie/cake/italian ricotta tart season for both of us and that was a happy diversion.

july-tart

(Sadly, these weren’t our own blueberries – we’ll need another couple of years for a pie’s worth.)

july-pie

And with that came a new tablet with an okay enough camera for Instagram participation, so join me there – it may or may not relate to things here, and will likely have an excess of garden pics…

Of which will also be here – the garden is getting the lion’s share of my otherwise making something time for better or worse – some of it squishing bastard cucumber beetles, some of it trying to keep up with picking the bounty – most of it good times.

july-beets

(Unfortunately the spring carrots didn’t take well, so our beets will have to be paired up with another farm’s carrots for some tasty fresh juice.)

july-peas

I threw in some peas for shits and giggles expecting them to get scorched too soon, but now I wish I’d planted more…

july-garlic

N’s garlic crop has been good overall – he tried 5 or 6 different varieties with mixed results.

july-garlic in basement

The basement utility room now smells lovely, or like a giant head of garlic (and we’ll consume all of it well before next year’s appears).

july-beans

I love good old trustworthy basic (Provider) green beans. My worst gardens have always produced enough of them to land at least some extra in the freezer – but we won’t be pickling and canning anymore ever again – I absolutely abhor a mushy bean.

july-bean rash

I also hate that picking them always gives me a rash and I’m at times too lazy to go back in the house for a long-sleeved shirt before doing so…

july-catbird

There are a few more friendly catbirds keeping me company in the garden this year – let’s hope that they’re taking care of some of the peskier bugs and not just warming up for a potential fruit harvest.

And I’m slowly assessing and cleaning and repairing my old sewing machines – turns out one was a different model than I’d thought which doesn’t mean much except that I can’t use it for parts after all but the condition is good after all too, I’m attempting to turn another into a hand crank, and one or two others might leave the herd.

I’ve got a bit of a garment sewing fever building, so let’s see if anything comes of it…

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Creeping madness garden tour

I am filled with disgust for my country these days – we’ve often been on tenuous terms, but the politicians (especially the oddly coiffed asshole), some law enforcers, and a few everyday folks are creating this entirely horrific trifecta of ignorance and madness and triggerhappiness…

I think about making things as a response, or a way to process, some of the news, but by the time I put needle to cloth, another something terrible happens and I retreat to less loaded projects.

The garden is back to serving as a place where I can zone out while pulling weeds and waging a calmer, natural war.

I just called in 1,500 ladybug troops to neutralize the aphids.

garden-ladybugs

Releasing them was ticklish.

And reminded me of this book:

garden-creeping madness

Or rather, the cover – it’s a narcotics education book I inexplicably had as a kid.

(I’ve also been mildly interested in dunking my feet into a tank of flesh-eating fish to clean up the dead skin – but while a few creepy crawly nibbles don’t bother me, a dozen or so might. But never, ever centipedes and millipedes – I must admit, I’ll occasionally jump and scream at little at those – especially when they charge.)

And yes, the vast majority of the ladybugs flew away, but a handful stuck around – no noticeable reduction of the aphids, yet…

garden-gooseberry

The gooseberry bush is fruiting away and I tried one at the first blush rather than waiting for it to fully redly ripen – it was pleasantly tart and tasted nostalgic.

We’re eating so much lettuce and greens that our blood and guts seem laden with chlorophyll – I’m expecting a bud or tiny leaf might appear from a popped pimple.

But I was overjoyed to indulge in one of my fleeting favorites recently – garlic scape pesto – followed by a few pickled scapes sprinkled on salads and sandwiches.

garden-beanpole

N disassembled parts of one of my old (large) wooden sculptures from college to create an industrial-strength pole bean teepee. I’d clung on to the still semi-unfinished piece for more than 20 years – seems ridiculous now – and the rest will become warmth and marshmallow fuel in our fire bowl.

garden-lots-o-zukes

And I don’t want to jinx it, but this year, the ladies have finally taken over in the zucchini patch – last year it was mostly dudes – tasty, short-lived dudes.

garden-baby toms

I don’t think we’ll get a lusty red ripe tomato by the 4th of July this year, but hopefully it will come shortly thereafter. And the heirlooms are way ahead in the race – the sauce tomatoes might end up flirting with the frosts again.

garden-seats

And N pulled a slightly rotting outdoor settee sort of thing out of the trash, and with a few new pieces of wood and a fresh coat of paint, we can now sit and watch everything grow.

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Closing time…

I won’t add to the legion of voices bitching about this time of year when the light is left behind and we’re slammed into darkness all too soon. I’m not adjusting quickly enough, though I never do, and I’m cranky and mad about falling asleep over my knitting most nights. I’m working more at the moment now too, so the loss feels even greater, but at least my home office has viewing windows to the wild antics in the yard.

closing-buck

The weather has been hinky too as evidenced by the laundry basket which contains woolen base layers and snot smeared gloves as well as sweaty t-shirts and cotton socks (I don’t go to a gym).

And I’m shaking my fist at the rain gods who still haven’t smiled upon us much this year.

Thankfully we packed some tomatoes when we went on vacation because those were the last tasty vine-ripened fresh bits of the garden that we enjoyed.

closing-redtoms

There was a light frost while we were away that took out the green beans, and a heavy one the night we returned, so we were forced to pick everything immediately or cover it and hope for the best.

closing-tomatoes

We opted for the acquisition nearly 20 pounds of green tomatoes which were then promptly pickled and canned. Unfortunately, the additional delicious small batch of crispy refrigerator pickles we also made are already long-consumed… I’m not as much of a fan of the squishier canned ones, but I’ll still take them shoveled onto a cheesy sandwich. The lettuces and greens turned bitter and were cooked in a massive heap with lots of garlic and oil and gamely choked down. I’m nursing the last of the borlotti beans hoping a few will mature in time, and a few carrots decided to finally (quite belatedly) show themselves, but I have little hope for them.

Now the non-work daylight is spent pulling out the dead garden plants, moving the deer-chomped yard plants to safer digs, raking and raking and raking leaves and shredding them a bit to spread and dig and dig and dig into the garden… We’ve probably got another two weeks of this nonsense that felt good at first but now seems like it’s eating up too much of the precious daylight…

But the birds are passing through or setting up their winter digs and I’m happy to hear the white-throated sparrows calling out their Sam Peabodys all over the place and the screech owls are more often purring at early dusk instead of too early dawn.

And I’m hoping that the buck who’s been showing up in the yard is the same young “Bucky” that we’ve seen from the previous year – may he make it through hunting season…

 

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Ghosts in the garden, sheep at the fair

Last week saw a day over 100 degrees Fahrenheit here… And it hadn’t rained in nearly a month.

The lawn, which is mostly weeds, was mostly dead, the rain barrels were empty, the well getting low, and my seedling hopes for some fall crops were scorched and disintegrated…

Except for a bit of greens and radishes we managed to save with a pack of very cheap, unused sheer big Swedish store curtains that worked as excellent covers. I love it when having something too late to return and not yet dropped off at the thrift store pays off well – a nice satisfaction and justification for my mild hording habit…

NJwool-ghosts

They still catch my eye at dusk – something phantasmagorical hugging the ground as the bats begin to fly about, but hopefully we’ll still be eating our own fresh things until the frost or just a bit after. The tomatoes are soldiering on despite some still lingering pests and diseases, and it’s finally the time for some of the ugliest but tastiest heirlooms.

NJwool-caterpillars

And our tiny and woefully inadequate parsley plants attracted some munchers I don’t mind. I’m pretty sure they’re Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars, which are quite common around here, but slightly odd since I saw a kaleidoscope of Tiger Swallowtails in the yard this summer instead. I was tempted to mess with mother nature and bring them in to save them from hungry birds and watch them transform, but I don’t know what they do at this time of year – turn quickly, or sleep it out over the winter? I’d hate for someone to hatch in the basement in January and die, so I left them be and they ate every last bit of our parsley and took off (or got chomped). I’d hoped that they would do their pupating thing close by so I could watch and also make sure we don’t mow or turn them under, but they didn’t leave a forwarding address…

So with all of this scorching weather, the last thing on my mind was that it is officially wool festival season around these parts – I had no idea on that 100+ day that in less than a week, I’d be trying not to buy much of anything soft and lovely and watching wooly things on parade… but luckily I saw (and paid attention to) one of those low roadside signs (typically advertising cheap king mattress sets, or sadly fighting against a proposed pipeline) for the Garden State Sheep Breeders festival just in time.

NJwool-jacob

The day was overcast and becoming cool  –  the same seasonally-appropriate weather as the festival in years past. I bought just a tiny bit of roving, though there were more than a few tiny things I’d have liked to buy, especially since I most enjoy meeting the beast (or at least seeing a picture) whom I’ll be spinning or knitting. I get more than a bit turned off at the overtly religious [sheep] breeders though – I don’t want to give someone money who might then use it to support someone or something I don’t. But I guess I prefer being an informed consumer rather than an ignorant one, so jesus fish and bible quotes on your sheep signs are an effective deterrent – I get that whole shepherd reference, but it’s so damn tiresome…

I spent more time watching the sheepdog demonstrations this year, and missed out on the lamb barbecue sandwich because I ran out of cash – always feel a little funny eating those around their living comrades and kin though…

NJwool-herding

These last few days have bright and cool, following a few inches of delicious rain – nothing like the inferno last week. I am once again awakened before dawn by the neighs and purrs of screech owls from the finally opened windows.

But I don’t want to jinx it – the air conditioners will stay in place for at least another month…

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