Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Garden Blogger's Death Day :: June 2010

Ding, Ding, Ding… bring out your dead!

Welcome back to Garden Blogger's Death Day! We're here to list our losses for June, 2010! This is the day for gardeners who overwater, underwater, maim, prune or otherwise neglect their plants to a state of dismal droopage or untimely death. This is the day for gardeners like me with black thumbs who kill more than they cultivate, for cadmium-green-thumbed gardeners who have a lapse in judgment and commit accidental planticide, and for any poor soul whose plants fall victim to that fickle mother who controls us all - Mother Nature.

June is the month where I realize it's time to give up the goat, throw in the towel and let the garden fat lady sing. I allow my garden to fall victim to the elements - the heat, the humidity, the heat, the weeds, the heat and the bugs. I can't go out in the garden during daylight hours and still remain conscious and coherent. My boys refuse to go outside too, so I have to visit the garden after they go to bed. They're still young enough that "before they get up" doesn't exist, so there's no visiting the garden early in the morning.

As any mother can tell you, that list of things you promise yourself you'll do after you get the kids in bed is really long. You have all these great aspirations of all the things you'll get accomplished once you have the house to yourself. You envision yourself waltzing around your house folding clothes, organizing closets, scrubbing floors and writing novels. The problem is that sometimes you become a victim of that Life-Sucking Vortex of Doom that lives inside your couch. You get the kids in bed, sit down on the couch for one minute, put your feet up and the next thing you know you burst back into consciousness, look at the pitch dark windows, realize it's 10 pm and you haven't moved an inch.

So after a few nights (weeks) of this, my garden has become an overgrown soupy mess of death that I have all but given up on. I'm not proud to admit this, but it's time I came out of the gardening closet and let you all see what my garden has become.

The beans are rusty, dried up and withered. The tomatoes are still producing - sort of. The tomatoes are tiny and covered in stink bugs, which I have yet to figure out a way of killing short of EG's method using the "thumb of death," which isn't really my style. The squash never produced anything but dead squash. The eggplants are turning a strange color. The cabbage is dead. The cucumber is dead and withered.

The grass and weeds are knee high. There is thick angry Florida grass coming up through the landscaping cloth (aka cheesecloth) in my raised beds. I'm embarrased to share these photos. I much prefer to stay in the gardening closet and give off the vibe that I've got it all together.

Okay, okay - yes, everything has bit the dust…

…except my leeks! I don't know what it is about leeks and my garden. They're like peanut butter and jelly - they just go together perfectly. So my leeks are looking fantastic. It's what I cling to until the Fall planting season, which for us is known as the heart of hurricane season.

So how about all of you? What fell victim to your gardening wrath this month? Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your blog showing what you killed or maimed this month. We're here for you. Let's not judge, but support each other like a good pair of pantyhose or a well-staked garden trellis.


On a different note, are any of you bloggers having blogger issues? My scheduled posts aren't working anymore. I usually write a post the night before and schedule it to appear in the morning. They aren't appearing now. Like this post should have shown up this morning since I wrote it last night and it didn't. Hmph. Also, I approve comments right from my email, but lately when I log in to blogger it'll tell me I have 10 comments awaiting approval. When I click on the link, it comes up empty. Very strange... Anyone else?

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's my 2nd blogaversary!!

Yesterday was my big day and I didn't even blog about it! I don't often blog on weekends and I was too caught up in my farmer's market rant to give myself two big cheers for my second blogaversary. I figure I'm often a day late and a dollar short in the garden, so being a day late for my blogaversary just makes sense.

Hard to believe I've kept this blog up for two years. Even harder to think that in those two years I've gone from a 468 square foot vegetable garden to 2 raised beds (and a 3rd one that I haven't blogged about yet, but it's not really the same - I'll explain later). I started with 2-year-old and 4-year-old boys and ended up with a 4 year old and a 6 year old. I had an old slow Lab and a spritely German Shepherd. I ended up with an insane puppy and a mature Shepherd with some distinguished grey hairs on his muzzle. And let's not forget that I started this blog chicken-free and now have three mature egg-laying thoroughly amusing hens.

It's been a great two years. I definitely learned more than I expected, but wish I had learned a lot more. Who knew that gardening (in the insane temperatures of Florida) had such a big learning curve? Not me! But I do now.

Thanks so much to all my readers for taking time out of your day to read my blog. Thanks to my long-time readers, my new readers, my dedicated readers, my occasional readers, my accidental readers and my secret readers on the sly who only come out of the woodwork when I post "Who ARE you people?" entries on the blog! Thanks to you all for your comments, advice and plain ole' words of encouragement. It's what keeps me going on the days when I want to bulldoze it all and learn to macramé instead.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another Farmer's Market Rant

I've gone an entire month since ranting about a local Famer's Market and here I am on my soapbox again. I've been a bit AWOL from the blog this past week because my mom has been in town and we've spent our evenings playing iPhone Scrabble with each other and the blog got shoved to the backburner. Of course, I'm still trying to sort out my bandwidth issues, but that's another story.

So yesterday morning I thought it would be nice to take my mom and the boys to our local - and most popular - Farmer's Market. I wrote a blog entry about this market in July of last year, but since then I've learned a lot more about buying local so my expectations have changed dramatically.

I now expect the produce I buy at the Farmer's Market to be local and thanks to some wonderful comments to my blog entry about this last month, I see most of you do too! This Farmer's Market is in a very ritzy little town and it's such a popular market - you never hear a bad thing about it. It is definitely the biggest and best market around.

Am I missing something here? On first glance it appears great. My mom and I and the boys had a fab time wandering through the stalls, but I grabbed some photos on my phone to show you what I found a bit bizarre.

Look at these prepackaged baby carrots. Aren't these the same ones I can get at the grocery store? I'd rather buy them in the refrigerated section of the grocery store than here sitting out in 95+ degree heat.

I went looking for legitimate carrots and found these.

California carrots. That's a helluva trip from California to Florida. So much for buying local.

Then I found some Pink Lady apples and some Georgia peaches. Clearly they aren't from Florida.

I bought a small box of new potatoes from the busiest vendor in the market (the same place the bagged baby carrots were located). I asked her where the potatoes were grown? I used to be naïve enough to think that a produce vendor was associated with the farm that grew the produce. Now I know better. She said "Um…I think Florida. Maybe not? Their growing season is pretty much over for potatoes, so probably another Southern state."


Well I do like blueberries in my morning oatmeal. I saw these and thought they might taste good.

But they're from New Jersey. Clearly they haven't met the carrots who'll win the "traveled the farthest" award at the vegetable reunion. So I didn't buy them - or even consider them. And the prepackaged plastic box didn't help either. The blueberries I buy at my local grocery store say "Grown in Florida, USA" on the box, so I'll stick with those.

It was hot and we'd just downed some kettle corn and croissants so I treated us all to freshly-squeezed lemonade from another hugely popular vendor who always has a very long line of thirsty patrons. It was delicious, although it was mostly ice. But styrofoam cups? Really? Here we are being green and bringing our own reusable bags and trying to buy local and organic from a Farmer's Market. But we end up with prepackaged food from other states and a styrofoam cup.

Regardless, it was a great morning out with my mom and it is a beautiful Farmer's Market, but when you delve a little deeper, things aren't quite as they seem.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Apparently I have bandwidth issues

Just a quickie post to acknowledge the fact that most of my blog pictures are missing and have been replaced with a lovely "Bandwidth exceeded" graphic from Photobucket. I'm trying to work on how to be able to view my pics again, but so far I haven't quite figured it out.

So just wanted you to know I'm working on it.

Update: Turns out my bandwidth will reset on the 27th of the month (if I'm reading it correctly) so maybe things will return to normal tomorrow. How I have exceeded 10 GB of bandwidth in one month is beyond me. Crossing fingers.

Thanks for your patience!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Edible Stuff that didn't die.

With all the chicken drama and weather woes, I find I sometimes forget to talk about the good things that happen in my garden. So here's a good thing. Real live edible vegetables. There was a couple of eggplant in this harvest too, but you'll have to imagine them since they were jammed in my back pockets while I photographed the kid with the basket. Luckily I remembered about them before sitting down.

Ta-da. Some more green beans, some tomatoes, a cucumber, and two hidden eggplants.

And this tasty little morsel. One long skinny parsnip.

And my leopard beans. Like them? I'm not sure what exactly it means when your green beans go all weird and spotty, but we put them straight into the compost after photographing them. Now all of my green beans are curled, small and weird-looking, so I'm guessing I won't get any more beans from my beanstalks. It was definitely good while it lasted.

So there you have it.

My big, fat June harvest photos! A good thing from the garden.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day is always very special to me. I'm lucky enough to have a great husband who is a wonderful father to our boys. I know how important it is never to take that for granted, especially in the world we live in today. I'm also lucky enough to have spent just a hair over 30 years with my amazing dad, who did everything from coach year after year of my softball team when I was a kid, to look after my newborn son so that I could return to work for a few months (even though dad was in his 70s). He also gave me a great sense of humor, my love of the outdoors and an empty spot in my heart when he passed away.

Did you know that this year is the 100th Anniversary of Father's Day? It was started by a woman who was raised by her father after her mother died and realized on Mother's Day one year that fathers deserved a day to be recognized as well. You can click on that link if you'd like to read the story of how it all got started.

I wanted to share a little poem I found when I was creating the booklet for my dad's memorial service. I put it on the inside of the booklet and I think it's a perfect tribute to dads who are no longer with us.

He is Gone
Author: David Harkins

You can shed tears that he is gone
Or you can smile because he has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Happy Father's Day everyone! To all the dads who read my blog and the wonderful dads of blog readers! Give them an extra big hug today and let them know how much you appreciate them being in your life.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wildlife Weekend :: White Ibis 1. Lizard 0.

We always have plenty of white ibises around here. They wander around in the ditches poking around for frogs and such. This one ended up with an adult lizard - or brown anole, to be specific.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Spontaneous Combustion

Here we are in the thick of July, and in my garden July means death. Now I realize that the calendar says June, but it must be July because it's hotter than hot, so clearly there has been some sort of atmospheric time and space mix-up. It can't only be June and be this hot. Because if it's June and it's this hot, what on earth will July and August be like?

Here's our thermometer at about 6:30 yesterday evening in the shade on our patio.

I'm afraid that this month's Garden Blogger's Death Day will be chock full of burned and badly scorched corpses. Because, honestly, it's too hot for me to even go outside and take care of the garden. It's so hot that we have heat warnings, which we never get here in Florida, because Floridians can handle the heat. But apparently even we can't handle this.

Take June 14th. Here was the temperature. Focus on the heat index - that's what it feels like outside once they factor in the humidity.

Then June 15th just before dinnertime. Again - the heat index. It's our version of wind chill.

We went out that night around 7:30 pm and came in before 8 pm because we were all so hot we were seeing stars and feeling sick. The heat index hadn't dropped below 100 degrees yet. The air is thick, soupy and stagnant from morning until night. There is no relief when the sun goes down.

The dogs don't want to go outside.

The boys really don't want to go outside, which is making for long summer days off school.

The chickens are panting non-stop. And I'm a little worried about them, but I'm sure if I keep their water topped up and bring them one cold treat a day, they'll get through this.

But their panting is quite pathetic to watch. Did you know they pant like dogs when they get hot?

You can hear their breathing, hot and heavy and loud.

You can see their little chicken tongues beating up and down.

It's really just too much for them. When they sit on their nest in their cozy little nest box, it's like an Native American sweat box and suddenly less appealing to them. Clementine is clearly not impressed.

Yes, that is Clementine laying an egg! She's back in the game!

So the last thing I'm able to do in this heat is keep up with the garden. I'm honestly afraid to have any metal garden tools that close to the tinder. One spark with a wreckless swipe of a hoe and it'd be curtains for the raised beds. And let's not forget we're under water restrictions, so we're really not *supposed* to water anything more than twice a week. I need to find something that can grow in hotter than hot, dry, baking sun, crispy soil, weather. And don't say okra - I tried it. It worked, but I don't like it. And don't say jalapenos, because I don't do spicey. Right now I'm leaning toward starting a cactus garden until Fall when I can try growing green things again.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Mysterious Case of the Fairy Egg

The girls have been a little off their laying schedule since Clementine danced with the broody devil and lost her groove. We always got about an egg a day from them, but since Clementine's momentary insanity, we've had a really funky laying schedule. We'd go three consecutive days without an egg - then maybe one egg - then an eggless day - then an egg - then no eggs for a couple of days. Things are just out of whack in Cluckingham Palace.

I find it odd that the other two chickens have been so affected by Clementine's behavior. Maybe her sitting on their nest non-stop threw them off. Maybe she was giving off strange chicken vibes. Who knows? I just know that they aren't quite back in the swing of things yet and until I get three eggs a day again I won't consider this episode over.

But as you've all probably noticed, chickens are much more complicated than most people anticipate. They're full of personality and quirks and are always throwing something new your way. Take the recent incident of the fairy egg.

I was working in the garden the other day when I heard one of the girls singing an egg song. I knew someone had laid an egg so I walked out to the coop to get the egg and bring it into the house. When I opened the door to the nest box I found this cute little egg you see in the right side of my hand:

Here it is placed next to a regular egg so you can see the size difference.

That is a fairy egg, a witch egg, or even a 'wind' egg if you prefer. According to the My Pet Chicken website, in a mature hen, a fairy egg is unlikely, but can occur if a bit of reproductive tissue breaks away, stimulating the egg producing glands to treat it like a yolk and wrap it in albumen, membranes and a shell as it travels through the egg tube.  You can tell this has occurred if, instead of a yolk, the egg contains a small particle of grayish tissue. In the old days, no yolkers were called "cock" eggs. Since they contained no yolk and therefore can't hatch, our forebears believed they were laid by roosters.

I can only assume that Clementine laid the egg because she's the one who's out of whack, but she normally doesn't sing an egg song when she lays an egg - that's more Maggie and Sookie's thing. I haven't cracked it open yet to see if it contains a yolk because it's just so cute. It's in the fridge in the egg boxes with the other eggs. I thought about poking holes in it, draining it and making a little ornament out of it for the Christmas tree. But for right now I just enjoy seeing the cute little thing every time I open the fridge.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The World's Messiest Orange Tree Hole

You may remember that Farmer B and the boys got me an orange tree for Mother's Day. This is directly related to my first blog post ever (almost 2 years ago) where I showcased a mostly dead orange tree in our back yard. This tree eventually died (no surprise) so this weekend we decided it was time to pull out the dead orange tree and put my new one in its place.

I spent an eternity digging out the dead tree and making the hole big enough to accommodate our new tree. Here in this part of Central Florida when you dig down about 12 inches you hit water and then you've got a mucky sandy mess at the bottom of your hole. That makes it fun to keep digging, of course. But I was dedicated, so I kept scooping out slop until I had a perfect new hole for my tree.

You can see the dead tree I pulled out off there to the right. I figured we'd take a little break from the heat to get a drink and then put the new tree in the hole.

But then Saffie disappeared. I was worried.

Until I found her.

Ohhhh did I find her.

Lucky for me she decided to make the hole deeper. She's such a help.

Yeah. I know. Whatever you're thinking - I've already thought it.

Yes. The shaking helped.

Think she knows she did wrong?

The full body shot is delightful. She still hasn't grown into her muddy legs.

There's really nothing left to say, is there?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wildlife Weekend :: Gorgeous in Green

This little green dragonfly stayed with me for about an hour while I was working in the yard. I figured he really wanted his photo taken so I went inside the house, got the camera and he was waiting for me in the same spot when I went back outside. Whenever I photograph dragonflies I'm always amazed by how beautiful they are close-up - something you never realize while they're just buzzing around the back yard. It's one those 'stop and smell the roses' moments for me.

Amazing little creatures, aren't they? You can click on any of the photos to view them larger if you'd like.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Broody Hen is Busted. . . right?

If you read my post on May 27 you know that my Buff Orpington, Clementine, received the call from the mother ship and entered the mysterious realm of the broody hen. And you may recall that I was concerned because broody hens can actually die on the nest if they don't eat or drink for long enough while sitting on unfertile eggs that will obviously never hatch. And we live in really hot and humid Florida weather, which means they can get dehydrated really quickly.

Clementine's comb and wattles had turned a very light pink and had shrunk dramatically. She rarely left the nest and I hardly saw her eat or drink. We tried putting her in our moveable hoop run, but she just settled down on the grass in one spot and stayed put. I knew it was time to make her a Broody Buster Box.

This required purchasing a cage, so I scoured Craigslist and spent entirely too much on a used blue wire cage. I read that the cage should have a wire bottom and be slightly elevated so air blows under the hen's undercarriage and she loses the urge to sit and get all warm and cozy on a nest. I cut some hardwire cloth to fit the bottom and wrapped it around the side bars so there were no sharp edges. Then I put the cage on two old 2x4s that I found in the yard and shoved her in.

In case you're not aware, chucking a broody chicken in a cage means she will throw her half of your best friends necklace out the window. She was less than thrilled with me when I put her in there and locked the door. She may have growled a bit.

To make sure she had food and water available I grabbed a couple of empty Stonyfield Kids yogurt containers and attached them to the cage with some safety pins. Nothing but high tech and high class here, but it worked!

I put her in the cage in the morning when I let the others out into the run. They stared at her with an "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh what did you do?" look. When it was time to lock the girls up at night, I took her out of the cage and put her straight on the roost. I'd find her the next morning back in her place on the nest.

Wash, rinse, repeat for three days.

This morning instead of finding her on the nest I found her at the door waiting to come out into the run. When I opened the door, she bolted out with the other two and hovered around me waiting for a treat. She didn't even fluff up and hiss at Saffie!

YES! She was no longer broody! She was a regular ole' loveable chicken again!!

Three days in solitary and she was ready to join general population. The jailbird was free! Hallelujah!

She knocked Maggie out of the way for a bite of cottage cheese today. She didn't try to attack the dogs when they sniffed her through the fence. I knew I had broken this broody and made a few phone calls to friends and family to boast about my success.

Then tonight I went out to lock up the girls and dammit if Clementine wasn't back on that nest again. She's a persistent little bugger. I suppose her parole is being revoked tomorrow and she'll be back in the hole for another couple of days. I guess I'll see where she is in the morning.

That's what I get for feeling cocky.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Great Florida Potato Harvest

I've been eyeing up my potato plants recently and wondering if it's time to pull them out and see if there are any potatoes buried below. I'll admit that I had no clue what you're supposed to do with potato plants when they appear ready. I wasn't sure if they are the kind of plants that you keep in the ground to grow more once you harvest from it (like a tomato) or the kind of plant that you pull out to eat (like a radish or a carrot). Annie's Granny told me that a couple of weeks after a potato plant blooms, you can start poking around for potatoes. Or, she said, you can wait until the plant matures and dies off and get all the potatoes then. Well my plants had definitely matured because they were yellowed and drooping. So the decision was made for me.

I got the boys and told them we were going to plunge our hands into the soil and see what we came up with. That little boy of mine was instantly disgusted and left, but that big boy of mine was game and liked the idea of getting his hands really dirty.

We started digging and surprisingly enough we found potatoes. Last time we planted potatoes (in our regular garden - before we switched to a SFG) none of them grew. Well actually one of them grew, but I mistook it for a weed and pulled it up. So you can imagine how surprised we were when we kept finding potatoes on the ends of our plants this time around! It was like reaching into a grab bag with your eyes closed… you'd poke around until you found something and grab hold and pull it out and viola! - a tatery gift!

I had two squares of the SFG dedicated to potatoes and was really hoping to get at least a pound or two of potatoes. But every time we dug our hands into the ground, we came up with more and more potatoes. It was strangely exciting and surprising! That's the thing about growing potatoes. You see these plants growing above the surface and you have no idea what's going on below the soil. It could be feast or famine - there's no telling. Of course, I expect famine and am overjoyed when something actually grows as it's supposed to.

At the end of the day we ended up with 10 1/2 pounds of potatoes. Not bad for only two squares in my raised bed! I'm sure if I'd have known what I was doing, I could have reaped a better harvest by pulling out some potatoes every few days after the plant bloomed, but as we all know it's guesswork for me and I can't complain about 10 1/2 pounds of unskilled taters.

Now I just have to find out how to store them so they last longer because we surely can't find a way to cook that many potatoes in a week! We're low on root cellars here in Florida and really low on cool, dark places, so for now they're just sitting in a big bowl on my countertop with a cloth napkin thrown on top.

I'm especially happy that I pulled these potatoes the day AFTER I purchased a 5-lb bag of potatoes at the grocery store. I'm also in search of some tater-friendly recipes where I can enjoy the true potatoey-essence of this harvest and not just mash them up and pour gravy on them. Any suggestions?
Blog Widget by LinkWithin