It’s the little things that get me excited

This photo is a story-

first, there’s a 35 pound watermelon. Yes, that’s 35 ACTUAL pounds of melon. I don’t know how I am going to chill a melon that large. I am probably gonna have to get some sort of washtub or something and 40 pounds of ice.

In this photo is my 50 pound bird dog and my finger, because I was so ridiculously excited that I shot this photo with my phone, something I almost never do, so I was kind of a clumsy dork about it.

Thanks, Neil, for the seeds. I have five more of these melons, too, btw. I think we’re going to have to throw a watermelon and homemade ice cream party this weekend.

Country living… it ain’t too fast, but it’s not too bad, either.

Something I learned today

Something I learned today-
I stay cooler when I work in the garden if I wear a cowboy hat, shorts and an oversized white dress shirt (unbuttoned as much as decency will allow in front and completely unbuttoned at the wrists). I discovered that working while dressed this way I am cooler than I am with NO shirt on, and I have the added bonus of not getting sunburned.

You will notice that if you do a Google Image Search for “Campesino” (which is the Spanish word for “farmer” or “farm laborer”) you will notice that all of the guys are dressed like this.

File this under “Something I should have noticed ten years ago.”

I worked out in the sun today for about three solid hours. No, wait, it was four. The first hour I wasn’t wearing a shirt, and I thought, “I can’t do this all day. I need to find some sunscreen.” Since I am painting the house this summer, I have run through every drop of sunscreen in the house.

So, I thought, “Well, I could try dressing like a I see those guys from Latin America dress when they work in the sun all day.”

Let me tell you, it’s the way to go. That shirt gets pretty soaked through in the first 30 minutes, and the rest of the time, it cooled my skin nicely. I actually came in for some water at one point and thought, “Damn, it’s freezing in here,” and went right back outside.

So, what was I doing out there? (If you’re not a garden geek, stop reading NOW.)

It’s been too hot lately for the snow peas, so I pulled those up out of the ground and set the vines and pods aside to dry so that we can save the seeds for next year. They were sure good while they lasted, by the way.

I then used the large, heavy hoe to scrape off all of the grass that had grown up in the pea patch. I dumped that in a bare spot under one of our oak trees, in the hope that it will root there and cover the bare spot.

After getting the 6′ x 10′ pea patch down to raw dirt and pulling up all of the stakes, I tilled the soil to break it up some, then laid a few bricks down to make a walkway around the tilled spot. The missus will probably plant something in the gap tomorrow. Lima beans? Maybe?

I brought in (ANOTHER) ten pounds of cucumbers. We have to make pickles post-haste. This is fucking silly. There are three shelves of cucumbers in the fridge. Athenians, SPEAK NOW for free cukes. We’re giving them away.

I also brought in another half gallon of string beans and a half dozen ripe tomatoes. There is a tidal wave of tomatoes coming. We need to dust off the canning pot and jars. We’re going to be putting up enough tomatoes for salsa and spaghetti well into 2007.

My cabbages have been getting murdered by some kind of small gray worm. I sprayed them down good today with capsicum wax. I will hit them again in a couple of days and see if I can’t kill the little fuckers.

The only other pest I have been wrestling with has been japanese beetles. I have traps out, but they got full and suddenly the beetles were defoliating my grape vines and my green bean vines. A visiting friend did the nasty job of dumping the beetle trap into a steel pot and mashing the beetles into a paste. We mixed it with water and sprayed it onto all of the grapevines and bean plants. (That is one NASTY smell.)

The word is that covering your plants in beetle guts discourages beetles from hanging around there and eating your plants. It makes perfect sense to me. If I was eating in a cafe and looked over in the corner, and there sat a pile of human body parts, I think I might go ahead and ask for my check and never go back there.

We’ll see if it works.

I also wetted down the collard greens with the hot pepper wax. I think that the same thing that is eating the cabbages is getting after those. I am not so worried about collards this time of year, though. They are better in the fall, anyway. I just want to see if I can preserve their root systems so that once it gets too cold for whatever pest has been eating holes in the leaves I will have healthy, good-sized plants.

It’s too hot these days to spent two hours cooking a pot of greens anyway.

We could sure use a good soaking rain, too. Don’t get me started on the rain.

Garden Porn, Installment 1 for June 1st, 2006

Let’s begins with a few contrasts…

here is a mild-mannered tomato that sprouted from last year’s tomato seeds that were in the dirt. This photo was taken about two weeks ago, roughly. It’s happy and healthy, but not… y’know, scary…

Now here is that same tomato plant today, trying to eat the Missus:

notice that the white pvc stake is no long visible.

Now, you may know the story of Squashzilla. Squashzilla was a volunteer from the compost pile. We knew it was some kind of gourd, but we weren’t sure which. Well, here is Squashzilla two weeks ago. Think of this photo as “Squashzilla biding its time…”

Here it is, minding its own business and leaving the tomatoes next door alone:

That was two weeks ago.

We have since determined that Squashzilla is actually a pumpkin plant. We have renamed it Pumpking Kong. Here it is, making its move:
(this was taken today)

the tomatoes were hurriedly writing notes to their loved ones in the dirt, because it was clear, unless something drastic happened, they were about to be crushed by Pumpking Kong.

here is the missus doing battle with Pumpking Kong and heroically saving the tomatoes:

Additionally, we have six foot tall green bean plants:

Here’s Mrs. Dog next to the green beans:

here is the collards patch:

The cucumber plants are flowering:

sweet potatoes are shooting out runners:

and “How,” you Southern Folk may ask, are the tomatoes doing?”

Oh, not bad.

Check out the Romas:

their neighbors are ticking right along too:

Last, for this installment anyway, here’s our fig tree:

The dirt we got from our friend Nicki is some magic stuff. We have not used any fertilizer or pesticides anywhere in the garden. So far it’s just been good dirt and water.

Come play in the dirt with us if you want. You’re invited.

The double triple life

Yesterday I worked a full day, went home and did as much work for the fruit trees and the garden as the rain would allow, and then went to Music Hates You practice, where I played drums so hard that I put the bass drum beater through the bass drum head. Bass drum heads are made of mylar- a petroleum-based plastic (aren’t most plastics petroleum based?) film similar to kevlar, the stuff they make bullet proof vests out of. It’s unusual to break one. What’s really remarkable is that this is the third or fourth time it’s happened in my twenty years of drumming.

Then I went to Casa eponymous, where he and I tried to figure out how to take over the world(‘s media).

Sleep? I jammed a couple hours of it in there somewhere.

I’m not a workaholic. I can quit any time I want.

Bored with everything but the garden

Sorry, everyone, but I am really channeling all of my energy into growing stuff. The President seems to have found himself a bobsled team to Hell without any help from me, so I am out in the yard getting sunburned.

Yesterday I spent an inordinate about of time cleaning and reassembling the carburetor on my Husqvarna weed-wacker thing. I got it second-hand last year, ran it for a couple of days, then threw it into the garage for the winter. I know I should have put some fuel stabilizer in it, but I didn’t because I thought I would use it again, for sure. I didn’t, and when I disassembled it yesterday, I discovered that I should have checked for an air filter before I ran it last summer, since the previous owner apparently didn’t think having an air filter on his weed wacker was a priority.

I drained the bad gas out, disassembled the carb and doused the thing in carb cleaner, only getting some in my eye twice. (Good thing the watering hose was nearby.)

After an hour of tinkering, I got the thing to fire, albeit reluctantly. Once it was running, it sputtered, I tinkered with the choke and the throttle until I found a happy medium and I managed to cut the grass away from the grape arbor, the blueberries and the baby basil.

That’s how I am spending my time.

As luck would have it, I ran into the previous owner when I was out last night, and told him about my struggle with the tool he sold me, and he told me “Well, it’s bound to be crabby, it’s 18 years old.”

Shit, if I had known it was almost old enough to buy its own beer, I might have given up on it!

I never got carb cleaner in my eye whilst blogging, but I also never felt a need to punch Jeff Goldstein whilst shoveling manure. Which is not to say that a truckload of shit didn’t make me think of the guy…. but it passed.

Poop hauling

Spring is upon us, and Mrs. Dog and I have found a goldmine of good dirt for the garden. Some friends have taken over an old stable and way back in the back there was a large hill that was covered with brambles and thistle. After looking around and trying to figure out where the old stable muckings had been dumped, they realized that the large hill was the old dumping spot. SO, you take horse poop, wood shavings (what they cover the floors of stables with), old hay, pile it up and let it rot for ten years… you got some good, black dirt.

We hauled two truckloads of it away yesterday. We were able to fill up all of the raised beds (which were behind the house last year, and are in front this year. They are going to be spice and flower beds.) We already have turnips, collards, cabbage, cucumbers and snow peas sprouting in the main garden. We didn’t quite get all of the second load unloaded yesterday, so I am going to try to side-dress everything that is already sprouting today with the rest of that amazing black dirt.

I am hoping that next weekend we can get two more loads and spread it as mulch in the main garden. Lots of earthworms in that dirt, which means that we’ll get some aeration in the soil and all of the nutrients one gets from good dirt. Best of all, of course, is that it was free.

I don’t remember if I posted this in the middle of last summer or not, but here’s one day’s haul from last year BEFORE the kick ass dirt got introduced into the equation:

Making salsa 1

Making salsa 2

That yella pepper there? It’ll hurt ya. yessir. I grew a couple hundred of those habaƱeros, last year. A normal human being can only eat about fifty of those in a whole year, so I made hot sauce. I am going to make more this year, I hope.

Anyone who wants a bottle of garlic/habaƱero/sweet potato hot sauce, let me know in the comments, and email me your surface address. I will hopefully have a couple dozen bottles of that to give to friends in a few months.