Thursday, July 28, 2011

From the most humble beginnings...

Before....looking east to west across the garden.  This picture was taken in April.

And taken just a few days ago at the end of July.  This was taken from the N.E. corner

The work has begun to pay off, and I'm so grateful I have this resource available to me and my family.  Its work but when I look at the cost of food these days and all the nonsense going on about the global economy I appreciate it even more.

Especially when you get great things like

Of course I remembered to take a picture AFTER we already ate the other cucumber and ate 2 other tomatoes that would have been part of this picture.  Its been a nice slow build on production so far.  Soon though its going to be canning time with lots of Romas and peppers to make salsa and tomato sauce.

A just a little preview of what's to come

I can't wait!

Thanks for looking

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Green Zebra tomatoes

I felt like I should do a little update on these guys.  

This was the first one I found in my garden.  I get such a kick out of their coloration even when they are little.  I've never had them before but everything I've read about them has been very encouraging.  I had room for these or Mr Stripey and given what I've heard about Mr Stripey I'm glad I went with the Green Zebras.  I've never had a green tomato before so it wasn't much of a choice.

Here's the same tomato a few weeks later.

Here's an even better example of how they look.  

They have that mottling and unique color from itty bitty and they just keep getting bigger and bigger and more of them.  They have been quite prolific too.  Good balance between leaf growth and number of tomatoes.  They were the last ones to blossom when compared to my Early Girls, Romas, Better Boys, and Lemon Boys but they've more than made up for their slow start.  

I always go and check on these on my daily pumpkin watering trips to see how they are doing.  I'm dying to taste them, and I hope they taste as good as they look so I can justify planting them again next year.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ever feel like you were born at the wrong time?

I'm totally serious.  In this modern age we have of internet accessible everything, constant updates swarming you like an angry cluster of yellow jackets.  The ability to have at your fingertips literally any morsel of information and at least 3 interest groups and a message board to converse and share about the mutual interest of whatever you were looking up. 


Sometimes I just feel like I just don't belong.  Like I was born too late.  I like some of the outdated things that are just novelty that some nostalgic folks try to preserve and hold onto.  Things like horse racing, the sport of Kings.  I can watch them run all day.  No I don't gamble, I've never bet on a horse race I just love watching them run.  There was a time when races were called on the radio.  And not just the Triple Crown either.  I enjoy listening to baseball games on the radio.  I like the creaking of an old wood floor underneath my feet worn down but silk smooth from so many feet traveling over it.  I like wool, peppermint candies (especially York peppermint), midgies (I linked it for the uninformed and for those who may have forgotten) and a Hershey bar with almonds.

I like muzzleloaders, especially the old flint locks.  I really want an old Kentucky Long rifle replica with a flint lock to hunt during Michigan's muzzleloader season.  Yes it can be a long time between click and boom, sometimes it may even misfire, but there is something special about hunting with one.

The fair is coming up here and I know one day they'll have the draft horse pull.  I can watch those big horses pull all day as I love watching them work.  If I had the money, and space I'd love to have a team of Belgians or Percherons to work with.  Heck since we're talking about dreams, I think it would be great to own a horse logging business.  Where instead of tractors, and big loaders, I hook up the chains and my big draft horses would pull the logs out just like they did way back in the day.

I love the work of a good dog.  When instinct and drive are given the opportunity to really showcase what they can do, it is really something to behold.  When you could walk down the road with your dog, unleash them and start putting up pheasants.  Or walk out to the river and limit out on ducks with the dog nailing his marks and tracking the cripple that made up a double.  On a good day limit out before lunch and you know what you were going to have for Sunday dinner.

Speaking of that, how about when Sunday dinner was a special event when you went to Grandma and Grandpa's house, played with your cousins and fell asleep on the way back home.

When a wood splitter was a 9lbs maul and a need to heat the house.

When red and black plaid coats were in the Sears catalog not on some "remember when" website.

I don't feel like an old soul, and I'll be the first to admit I often times don't act like one.  Maybe we just hear about the good times as that's what told to us.  Regardless I think I'd fit in just fine.

Weekly harvest weigh in #5

Sorry I missed everybody last week.  We went camping for 6 days and it was a MUCH needed vacation. we go 

Well I finally have a harvest to speak of.  Well sort of.

3 Jalapenoes, 2 yellow squash, 3 baseball bat sized zucchini and a lone cherry tomato.  Nothing super crazy but we're coming along here.  I deliberately let the zucchini get big.  Why?  So I can make zucchini snacks!  I got a dehydrator off Craigslist for 10 bucks.  Its never been used. The woman I bought it from said her boyfriend bought it, they split up and he left it there.  She was cleaning up and wanted it out since she said she'd never use it.  So I got a TOTALLY great deal.  I'm pretty pumped as the reviews the recipe got were great so I'm excited to give it a go.  

My first 2 Early Girl tomatoes.

I've got a bunch of pickling cucumbers ready to go any day now I just need to get the supplies to make pickles.  They are going bonkers out there.

And I've got watermelons!!!  I didn't think I was going to get any but I've easily got over a dozen in various sizes.  The biggest ones I have are the size of a softball.  I'm so pumped!  I didn't think I was going to get any watermelons this year, but with the heat that we've been under, the watermelons are happy as anything out there.

I've also got one pumpkin the size of a football!  Its big, dark green and growing good.  Its close to the plant as it didn't vine out much but that's ok.  The funny part is not only is it NOT a giant pumpkin its also in the northern most part of the pumpkin row!  I can't figure it out.  It must have been pollinated early and its just quietly doing its thing.

My big pumpkin has got vines all over the place and lots of blossoms.  The biggest pumpkin its got is the size of a baseball.  Time will tell if they really develop into anything special.  I've been watching them; noting how fast they grow.  So far so good.  I've already removed 1 of the would be giants because it would have grown right into some peppers and end up crushing them.  Of course it was growing quickly but I didn't want to sacrifice the peppers for the big pumpkin.

With the big pumpkin experiment, I don't know if there will be a 2012 giant pumpkin in my patch or not.  Its quite invasive like I'd expect a pumpkin to be and the leaves are absolutely huge Id expected too.  The problem is, it sucks up water like its going out of style.  Its unreal!!!  I give it 4-6 gallons a day from the watering can depending on how hot the day is.  If I don't water it, the leaves all get droopy and it looks like its pouting.  Talk about high maintenance and honestly its not something else I need to deal with.  At first it was fun, but its becoming a daily chore, and something I'm not sure I want to keep doing.  Maybe the pay out will be worth it, but right now I'm not 100% sold on doing this again next year.  Maybe Ill just focus on growing more carving type pumpkins for the kids.  I don't know the jury is still out.

I've got a bunch of Roma tomatoes that I'm waiting to turn.  I'm going to have a number of jars of sauce.

My Green Zebras are doing well and getting bigger.  I love the pattern on them they really look wild.  I hope the flavor is as good as they appear.  They say they have a "zippy flavor" so we'll see what that means.  My Lemon boys are coming along well too.

And on another happy note my pole beans are blooming.  A few of them have reached up to the top and are trying to find new places to intertwine themselves.  I was antsy about them with this being the first year I've had them, but I think I might keep them around for next year.  I'll definitively start them a few weeks earlier and inoculate them with nitrifying bacteria to help give the plants everything they need.  I might, and I say might do some bush beans too.  Everybody I know has had issue with woodchucks, and other assorted critters eating the blossoms off, so you never get a crop so we'll see.  Im not one for canned beans.  Id rather have fresh stuff that was imported to this area than anything out of a can.  Well....maybe if I did it.

I'm off to make zucchini candy and Ill be sure to post my results.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thought Id take the camera along to water and weed

And took these shots to share

First stop was to check on my yellow squash and there it is

and another one growing right along near it.  They are doing very well.  Half of this row is yellow squash the other half is zucchini.  The zucchini are trying to catch up.  They lost all their blossoms with the last thunderstorms we had come through so even though the plants themselves look good, no zucchini yet.

Saw my red skin potatoes were starting to bloom.

WATERMELON BLOSSOMS!!!!  These little buggers appear and disappear so fast I have a hard time remembering which plant flowered.  I'm really excited about getting watermelons.  I don't care for the watermelons you buy in the store, I think they lack flavor and sweetness.  To me its like biting into a damp sponge.  No thank you.  Maybe I'm a watermelon snob I don't know but I do know what I don't like.  My wife and daughter eat the store bought melon without complaint and think they taste fine but I just don't care for them.  So I'm hoping to get a few this year and show them what a REAL watermelon tastes like.

Oh Pickles!  Well maybe I should be more specific...they are picking cucumbers that are going to be made into pickles.  If half of the blossoms I have produce cucumbers, then I'm going to be in a pickle with what to do with all them.  They are really doing well for me.

Giant pumpkin picture.    
Its got 2 blooms on it and hopefully producing pumpkins anytime now  The growth on this thing is amazing.  I swear I could check on it after breakfast and by dinner time its grown that much more.  Its really impressive.

Sweet pepper.  Bunch of these are coming in, and more to follow. 

I put this picture up of my Green Zebra tomato plant.  I thought it was wild that you can already see the "zebra" pattern.  I've never had one but when I saw the flavor description as "zippy" I figured why not.  Plus the price was right.

And one of my day lilies.  
I thought this would be a good note to end on.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weekly harvest weigh in #3

Well we're 
close to having something to weigh in with this week.  Ah the joys of being a Zone 5 gardener.....

The list of just not quite there yet is growing.  I've got a handful of yellow crooked neck squash that need a few more days, same with my first crop of jalapenos.  I was told the smaller they are the hotter they are so I'm going to give them a few extra days.  We've had a few warm nights here too so I figure they might be pretty warm on the palate so I figure a few extra days won't hurt anything.

My cucumbers are blooming like nothing else.  TONS of small yellow flowers on my straight eights and my pickling cukes as they creep along the garden.  They look really good and Ill have a TON of cucumbers here soon.  My pickling ones were the first to bloom and they've already got little cukes developing.  I'm really excited about making pickles.  I love a good crisp kosher dill pickle so yes I'm very excited about the volume of pickles I've got coming in.

My watermelons are blooming and are very happy.  I planted Sugar Babies and for a while there I didn't think anything was really going to come of them.  Here in Michigan its always hit or miss on whether or not we get a  watermelon crop or not.  Well they sprang to life these last couple weeks and this week I've got blooms.  So hopefully we'll get a few watermelons.  Everything I've read about the Sugar Baby watermelons are very positive so I just hope they come through for me.  I knew planting them they might not develop but to me it was worth a try.  I have high hopes they'll come through but if not I won't be surprised.  

Now if only my cucumbers would talk to my pole beans.  Talk about disappointment.  I set up five teepees with Kentucky Pole Beans and figured Id have plenty of beans.  Well we all know what happens when we assume.....I've got a few that are climbing but nothing really to speak off and its frustrating.  The one thing I was really looking forward to was fresh green beans.  My wife and I both love them.  The best performing ones might be 3' off the ground.  And that one or two vines too.  Planted them a few days after Memorial Day weekend too.  I figured Id be already picking them.  Nope.  Right now I'm less than thrilled with them.  I planted them so Id actually get beans since the woodchucks tend to eat the blossoms off bush beans so they never produce beans, and I thought it would be nice to spread my crop out over the season and not just get a glut of beans and then be done.  Next year I'm going to do both types bush and pole to cover all my bases.

On a better note I do have a bunch of tomatoes developing.  I found one growing on my Lemon boys, and a found one so far on my Green Zebra and more on my Early Girls, and Better Boys.  The Romas are doing well also.  I haven't looked that hard either on my non-traditional tomatoes but both are blooming well and should produce.

My cherry tomato that's up by the house in a pot is just going bonkers.  Its loaded in blossoms and when they all set fruit we're going to have A LOT of cherry tomatoes.  If the Lemon Boy experiment goes well I'll plant a yellow cherry variety up here along with the Super sweet 100 that I've already got going to give us a little variety.

So other than my pole beans everything looks really good.  The pole beans are the most insulting too because the teepees are just bare rods and you can't hep but realize something should be growing there.

I don't know if I'll make the next weigh in or not, we're going camping next week so I might miss a week.  If that's the case I'll post it just might not be linked.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Great Pumpkin Quest

So I figured since I've been nurturing this bad boy carefully, I thought I'd post some pictures of it.  The pictures I took of the blossoms on the Jack-O-Lanterns didn't come out well so I didn't post them as I mentioned earlier.  So when I went out to feed/water the giant one, I figured Id take the camera to post some pictures of its progress.

This is my lone Atlantic Dill Giant Pumpkin.  I was inspired to grow giant pumpkins for my daughter.  I know she'll get a kick out of  a huge pumpkin in the garden this fall.  Since I've only got one, its easy to keep up with.  I started 2 of them this year, but one just failed to thrive so I culled it, and replaced it with a Jack-O-Lantern type of pumpkin start that was an extra.  I started with a 10 carving pumpkins and planted the best ones, and held back the remaining few just in case.  I'm glad I did so I had something to replace the failed giant pumpkin.  I wasn't sure if I was going to cull it at first since the initial leaves didn't look right, but when it wasn't keeping pace with this one, I knew it was time replace it.  I couldn't dedicate the space to something that might not do well.

I've done a lot of reading on the tips and techniques to grow a really big pumpkin.  The best tip I got was to have a little bit of luck.  I was like "Really?!"  Its kind of funny to see that, but these are also by folks who are growing pumpkins that weigh in over 1,000lbs!!!!!  That's crazy!  If I can get it over 300lbs I'd consider it a major success but if I had a 1,000lbs pumpkin you could knock me over with a feather.

Anyway after reading what the "experts" suggest for tips on getting a big one, I felt I was doing most things right already.  I started them in peat pots early, feed them with a water soluble fertilizer 3x a week, and water them daily.  Now its just a matter of time.  Its loaded with blossoms, I'm just waiting till they open.

I'm planning keeping a journal (on here of course) of each pumpkin that sets on the vine so I can monitor their growth (which all the experts do apparently) for a week.  They chart the rate of growth and the pumpkin with the fastest rate of growth is the one they keep.  All the others are removed so the plant focuses all its energy into that one pumpkin.

A little size perspective.  I was so impressed with the size of the leaf I thought Id share it.  The vine that's coming out is already gained a few inches overnight.  It grows and grows and grows.  Its headed into the watermelons, which will make things interesting.  

These are my gardening shoes.  After getting grief over them I thought Id immortalize them here.  I hate to replace them because they still function even they need duct tape to function and besides I need a pair of shoes I can get dirty and work in.  When I replace them it will be with another pair of Walmart special seven dollar sneakers that Ill only wear outside to work in.  But right now they're doing just fine.

Alright off to go feed again!