Monday, August 30, 2010

Damn You Angry Winds

So what happens to the tallest tomato plants on the block (the tallest Fran has ever seen remember) when a low pressure front storms through the neighborhood propelled by 30-40mph gusts?  Well they just flop right over. Or they pull their cages out of the ground and flop over. Or they have a fit and throw their half ripened fruit all over the garden. Or they just kind of bend and wither slowly...a half flop, half snap.

Both Saturday and Sunday (Sunday particularly it seemed) featured late afternoon bouts of heavy winds as a tease of rainless clouds amassed above our house and then passed us by for two days in a row. So on top of no precipitation, which we're sorely lacking, we got a tomato bending kick in the teeth as a courtesy. This morning on my usual rounds through the garden, the water and weed patrol, I surveyed the havoc. I righted three plants, resetting their cages back in the beds and then tried to prop up the now weeping vines. This afternoon I returned home with a renewed conviction to make things right. I purchased 4 large garden stakes from Ace and created a perimeter of twine to hang the vines on and stop them from flopping over on themselves. Hopefully this will help the plants at least finish the season with the fruit they've produced thus far. I also pruned the hell out of the lower branches of several of our plants, hoping to increase air flow and assist in the ripening of the remaining fruit. We'll see what happens in the coming days. Hopefully they don't kick the bucket before the fruit finishes. If I had light left to keep pruning I would have taken pictures but as it stands I pruned until I couldn't see sucker from main stem (a dangerous proposition) so no pics today. Its not a pretty sight anyway.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Mornings

I can wake up at 6:00 on the weekends with a precision and enthusiasm that makes my weekday self interminably jealous. Weekday Jason is Lazarus waiting patiently for the call back to life. Weekend Jason is Lazarus up and doing the hokey pokey. Today was no exception to this rule. After quickly shepherding Presta out of the bedroom so Kate could continue to snooze (Bean can get up at 6:00 every day and indeed thinks all days should start promptly at 5:45am with running around and rolling on the floor) I wander out to the living room to sit down on the couch. Last night we ate chicken burritos with fresh corn from the garden. The night before it was jerk chicken with cucumber and zucchini salad, fresh cherry tomatoes providing the garnish. I can see more tiny red orbs on the tomato plants from my spot on the couch: the promise of more garnish yet to come. The zucchini leaves are starting to show their age. The corn stalks are beginning to brown at the base. I should be able to get our third cutting of broccoli florets off the stalks this morning, but that may likely be the end of their performance. On the other hand, in the cool season beds I expect to see even more lettuce, chard and spinach shoots than the day before: before too long these tiny sprouts will be all that remains of our lush summer garden.

The thermometer reads 63 degrees outside: a warm morning but the patchwork of clouds implies a cooler day. I make coffee from the remnants of a few different bags, which I generally reserve for such occasions when I’m out of anything better and coffee stew will suffice. I flip back through issues of Grit, focusing on the articles towards the back that I only glossed over my first time through:  an article about home brewing beer, a story about direct sale dairy production, nature profiles of bullfrogs and snipe. If I look just out the window I can see the tops of corn stalks, our towering tomato plants and sprawling raspberry brambles. I can blur my vision slightly to erase the chain link fence and backyard neighbor from my view. I can close my eyes and distract my head from the sounds of traffic, sirens, the constant hum of motors in the background. Its as if I’m almost in another place; sipping my delicious coffee concoction, enjoying the cool morning breeze through the screened window, content with my work for the week long enough to enjoy a Saturday morning on the couch before the full advent of day draws me back outside in search of more to do.

Gotta love Saturday’s.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Garden Update

With my recent bout of blog-negligence I’ve not posted any pictures of our garden in a while. So today after I went out to check on things (make sure its still there and all) and water everything in preparation for the 95 degree bake-off to come later in the day, I took some pictures of the health and productivity of the garden. Below are a couple of the highlights.
Our little pumpkin patch.
 The pumpkins are doing well now that I've turned off the sprinklers in that part of the yard and been more resolute in my pinching off of blooms and new vines. We've got 5 very promising, large pumpkins ripening and several more that should make it to the small to medium size category. If the temp stays warm and the days dry, these should do well in the remaining months before Halloween.
 Pumpkins have proved a bit challenging to grow. Initially I was concerned they were not getting enough sun, and they may not have been who knows. Feeding them was also somewhat dicey as well as they require fertilizer at strategic points in their development, same thing with watering. My biggest problem has been keeping them dry with some of the rain, watering and cooler days we've had recently. We've lost two already to rot. These guys, now resting on small plywood boards, are comfortably off the ground enough to keep dry and grow nice and big.
 King Corn as Michael Pollan described it. Corn is another new one for me that I'm not sure if I'm doing quite right. If I had it to do over I'd have fed it more at the beginning and watered it a tad less towards the end. We've got ears but our stalks are starting to look a bit starved and the fruit isn't quite large enough just yet. I pulled off one ear the other day to reveal wonderfully plump kernels, but they probably would have benefited from more time on the stalk. I've also got some succumbing to borers or some other bugs. We use an organic safe pesticide but its just not cutting it on this one.  In the foreground you'll see our broccoli, freshly topped off yesterday afternoon. We're having some friends over this afternoon for a BBQ and one of the main dishes will be freshly steamed, garden broccoli:  yum!
 According to various web sources the world's tallest tomato plant was grown in England to a height of 65 ft by a fertilizer company (go figure). So mine aren't tall enough to be the world's tallest, but according to Fran behind us they're the tallest tomato plants she's ever seen. I'm kind of proud of that fact, though now we're left with a giant jungle canopy of intertwined tomato plants. Our heirloom cherries, brandywine and yellow plants are doing well enough though they're not ripening with the rapidity I'd hoped for. Some of you might be thinking, "Well you fertilized too much and got all leaf and no fruit." Well to any doubters I'd have you know we've actually got 6ft tall plants loaded with fruit as well as blossoms yet to bear fruit. We've had a sporadic summer and inconsistent temperatures so I blame my lack of ripening on that. I also think that next year I will space the plants farther apart from each other and probably not use my raised beds any more. I also will need to either buy more and bigger cages or go rogue and build my own trellising system.
Another view of the mass with my random carrots and cool season beds ready to go. The wire mesh over the bed is used to keep neighborhood cats out of my planters...nasty little things cats.

Now that's what I'm talking about. Kate likes to think that we've actually produced a lot of cherries...but they've just not made it into the house. There may be more truth to that than she knows!  I can't help it, quality control is a job I take very seriously.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The other night after a late dinner I walked outside to check on the garden and noticed that the light had faded from the horizon; the sun long since set behind the row of homes and trees behind us. Summer is winding down. It is clear from the shortening days, the cooler evenings, and the crispness in the air in the morning that we’re on the downward slope into fall. The neighborhood schools start tomorrow (odd to start on a Friday I thought), and they will be the last of the local metro districts to start. I generally enjoy this time of year the most as fall is my favorite season, but with so much summer seemingly left to soak in it was starting to stop and realize the depth into August that we’ve traveled thus far.

So once again the flurry of busy summer activity will recede and calm as the slow, pleasant days of fall take over and signal an end to the busy summer months. At that point my blog "minions," I’ll be back and writing again more regularly…I promise.

With that I’ll offer a quick recap of some of the more recent events and going’s on with us.

Our garden is still thriving and doing amazingly well. We’ve now got broccoli, one ripe ear of corn, several growing pumpkins, thriving squash and cucumber, tomatoes ripening and cool season veggies on the way. Thus far it has been a productive and enjoyable gardening season. We’re actively in search of bargain canning equipment to begin preserving some of the fruits of this season’s labors. As brave as Kate has been in trying daring new zucchini recipes, this week I resorted to taking it in to work and foisting it onto my team and co-workers: next year fewer zucchini plants.

This month I’ve begun prepping and preparing for my solo ride across Colorado the first week of September. I did a solo camping effort where I rode up from Denver with a full complement of gear, crossed Squaw Pass and descended down towards Idaho Springs where I camped for the evening and then climbed back up the US 40 route back to Denver; about 92 miles of riding round trip with a significant amount of climbing (under load) the first day. Two weeks ago Kate and I did a ride around the entire metro area; myself loaded with a slightly lighter pannier and front bag load and Kate with her regular commuting set up. My intent was to ride on the flats a long distance in incredibly hot weather with a bit of weight for added enjoyment. We accomplished both tasks making a giant circle around Denver totaling 112 miles. Also in preparation for the trip, I ordered a new Tubus Logo rear rack for my bike. Capable of carting around 80lbs on the rear rack alone I’m now a bit closer to being ready for my journey.

We’ve done several odds and ends projects around the house, mainly cleaning, weeding, mowing, and weeding again. We got some solar lights on clearance at Home Depot last week and added a bit of flair to the backyard. And we resealed our countertops: thrilling stuff. When not blowing our minds with adventures such as weeding and sealing, Kate and I have made a couple little trips about town to see different things. Last weekend we went down to the Chatfield Botanic Gardens to walk around the old homestead and check out the large Community Supported Agriculture garden down on the grounds. We enjoyed a completely sunny day but without the oppressive heat of previous weekends. Last night we went and saw one of my favorite bands from my high school punk rock days: Screeching Weasel. It was Kate’s first punk rock show and while she joked that both the music and I were now ‘Vintage’ we had a good time and the band put on a decent gig for a bunch of lightly aged punk rockers. (The lightly aged crowd did pretty well too.)

So as I try to squeeze every bit of the day out of the sunlight that remains I’m finding it leaving more and more day with less and less sun. So it is back to the indoors and the comfort of the keyboard. It is exciting having so much to do from day to day, but it does feel good to have some time to sit back and reflect as well. And while the keyboard doesn’t seem all that dusty to me, I suppose it has been a while. But I suppose that’s all in the past now: I’ll talk to you again soon.

Below are some pictures from our trip to the Chatfield gardens.