Independence Days Week XIII

So.  We got some relief from the heat, and saved on our water bill, because it rained nearly every afternoon the last few days of last week and the first few days of this one.  But now we’re back to the heat, and daily watering.  The tomato plants that are under the shade cloth are doing remarkably better than the ones that are out next to the house, but all are still producing.  I’m going to grow German Queens next year just because they’re so tasty — and they’re a fuscia pink color when they’re ripe!  I had no idea, I bought the start on a whim because it was a heritage variety.

Plant something:  more bush beans, the pole beans are getting killed in the heat but from experience I know the bush beans will produce like gangbusters all summer long (well what’s left of it anyway).  So far I’ve gotten three lousy green beans.  Three.  From a dozen pole bean plants.  And they were micro sized and puny.

Harvest something:  2 3/4 pounds Armenian cucumbers.  6 1/2 lbs tomatoes.  1/2 lb green chiles.  3/4 lb pumkinnis.  Herbs.

Preserve something:  7 pints dill pickles, 6 pints bread and butter pickles.  The tomatoes with blossom end rot got cut up and the good parts put on the dehydrator.

Manage stores:  found that the purple jasmine rice is just starting to turn, so I put it into a smaller container and put it into the freezer to preserve what’s left rather than waste it.  Making sure I date all new preserves and stock with the date it was put up (month and year anyway).

Eat the food:  Pickles, pickles and more pickles.  Tomatoes.  A Russian cucumber salad my uncle used to make with vinegar, dill, and sour cream. Garlic in nearly everything.  Purslane from the back yard, I munch on the leaves while watering.  Locally grown range fed beef.  Mr. Tin Foil says it’s gamey, I think it actually has a flavor like the desert we live in.  Subtle, sagey.  Lots lower fat marbling, that’s for sure, but it is every bit as tender as the stuff you get at the high end parts of the meat counter. Eggs, swiss chard.

Build community food systems:  I now have several people who have come to me for advice on gardening in the desert (!).  Like I’m any kind of expert or something…RIIIIGHT.  Well, I guess having some experience, especially with being successful in this heat, is better than no experience.  Especially if failures would convince someone they just couldn’t do it.  My failures just make me more determined to succeed…it’s like taking apart a machine I guess — I want to figure out why I failed and work out a solution.  I know it can be done, the Native Americans did it for centuries. You would be shocked though, at the utter LACK of information in gardening books for the desert regarding these very successful planting methods.  So, I keep researching and finding tidbits little by little.  And then I tweak my garden so that I incorporate those methods as well as I can.

Reduce waste:  well, not so much.  We have reduced our waste mainly by not buying stuff.  Eat what’s ripe, there’s only compost or chicken feed left over.  Can your own food, there’s only the lids of the jars to throw away (anybody know a way to reuse them other than just for dry storage jars??).  Eat local beef, there’s only the paper wrapping.

This year the garden just seems like it’s in waiting mode — waiting for what I’m not sure.  I planted ancho chiles in April that literally have not grown but maybe a half inch since I planted them.  They look perfectly healthy, but they’re not growing or blossoming.  Fertilizer hasn’t helped.   Sharon Asyk, the goddess of the doomer cult, says she brings in pepper plants to overwinter them and gets an early start next year with the overwintered ones.  I may have to do that with these little midgets.

What is up with MSM?

One of the biggest stories on BBC world service yesterday was the arrest of FORTY PEOPLE in New Jersey after a 10 year investigation.  What were they arrested for?  Well, among other things, KIDNEY TRAFFICKING, reaching all over the place — here, Israel, un named third world countries — along with money laundering, racketeering, and corruption including the taking of bribes by public officials.  I think they said two NJ city mayors were arrested, several NJ state representatives, RABBIS, and more.

How the hell do you get away with kidney trafficking for 10 years???  And why in the hell is there NOTHING on any of the news feeds that are based here in the States????

I remember seeing a CSI many years ago that dealt with someone who was killed (?) for their kidney.  I thought that really pushed the bounds of reality and that it HAD to be an urban legend.   Turns out it was pretty close to true.  Who knew???

Second story:  Please go read today’s Automatic Earth for the full story (you can link to it from the sidebar) and scroll down to the story on Obama’s healthcare plan.  WTF???  If we get a government option doctors will no longer be able to make decisions on healthcare because the govt will???

Umm….negatory, ghost rider.  Even with Medicare, there are limits on what the plan will pay, and what they will pay for, but the doctors – and I might add, the patients – are still making the decisions.  There are ‘customary and approved’ treatments, that JAMA et al say work and doctors work from those.  Some are redundant and ridiculous, and add to the overall cost of treatment, but that’s govt at work for you.

I’m getting so sick of the BS fear mongering by PEOPLE WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER, paid for by BIG INSURANCE and BIG PHARMA, spouting the party line.  The fact is, HEALTH CARE and ILLNESS CARE are NOT  synonymous.  And we can’t realistically afford illness care any more in this country any way, thanks to giving the money to the banks instead of creating it to invest in our citizens.  Who makes the decisions now about what gets covered and the rates now?  THE INSURANCE COMPANIES.  Now, let’s look at two bad options here.   Do you want the govt, as inept as it can sometimes be, but without any profit making motive, guide your health care….or do you want a company (even non profits) who is only interested in their bottom line, and in making money of your misery and suffering, to make your decisons??  I know who I vote for.

And to pretend that we can’t have socialized medicine because the GOVT will be making our healthcare decisions for us is just pissing me off in the worst way.  Because it’s so wrong.

Off the soapbox now.  Rant over.  Putting on my happy face to go to work.

Independence Days Week XII

We are more than halfway through July already!  What happened to this month?  It seems to me I went from the fourth to today in a blur of motion.  Yesterday Mr. Tin Foil went to mingle with the Frogs in Montreal; he’s teaching a class that is down to one student (the other cancelled at the very last minute) but it pays the same for one or many.  I say Frogs because there is a historical antipathy to French Canadians on my part, I lived in the Upper Peninsula growing up and we got lots of very snooty, very rude French Canadians in our neck of the woods every summer.  I’m sure they’re wonderful people, I have just never met any of them.  🙂

Plant something:  sweet corn; the Cocopah just didn’t germinate well at all.  Bush beans in the dead nasturtium spot.  Pole beans with the corn that did come up.

Harvest something:  armenian cucumbers, the first two pickling cucumbers, bianchi eggplants, japanese eggplant, tomatoes. About 2 lbs yukon gold potatoes.  The blue potatoes rotted in the ground.  What a terrible smell!   3 more pounds of green chiles roasted and frozen.

Preserve something:  5 lbs cucumbers fermenting for dill pickles, 4 lbs (6 pints) of bread and butter pickles, 3 gallons of sweet corn blanched and frozen (the local grocery had corn on sale at 5 ears for a dollar).

Eat the food:  cucumber and tomato salad, baba ganoush, red potatoes.  Swiss chard omelette with morel jack cheese Mr. Tin Foil brought back from Madison when he was there teaching.  Yum.

Javelina tore down a section of fence and got into the garden.  Devastation!  They ate about half my cantaloupe, my only really big trombocino squash, the little zucchini, and some of the cucumbers.  They dug up some of my sweet potato slips and killed them.  I want night vision goggles and a silencer I’m telling you!

The new cooler FINALLY arrived.  Mr. Tin Foil was out of town so it had to wait until he got back for installation.  Now THERE’S a recipe for marital bliss…an overtired grumpy wife, a sunny humid day with a heat advisory, and a spouse who isn’t into reading the manual because he doesn’t want to do it anyway (well, honestly neither of us did but it had to be done).  Several hours, two drops out of a six foot window, multiple arguments, oops holes in the window sill, and some new fittings later, it worked great.  Naturally it’s humid in here now, but it works fantastically well, cools the whole house.  Then, yesterday when I was watering, I accidentally turned off the main valve to the hose bib instead of the diverter valve to the hose…oops.  Two hours later I was roasting and realized what I had done.  The cooler was completely dry!  I turned the water back on and it still seems to be working fine, so I don’t think I burned up the motor (thankfully).

I ordered the carding cloth for my drum carder, so I can finally get some serious carding of all the wool I have in storage done.  The hand carders really hurt my arthritic elbows so this will be a godsend.  Even with buying new cloth it is still about $200 cheaper than the cheapest drum carder I could find so it’s a good deal, plus if the wool never gets carded it’ll never get spun so that makes it an even more important deal.

I think I am going to take the pay hit and move to days if I am able to.  I am realizing that one of the main differences between ‘gardener’ and ‘farmer’ is that gardening is a great hobby.  Farming is a job.  I definitely fall into the job category; I like doing it but it’s really getting tiring at this part of the year.  Not getting home at 2 am, and up at 8 to water will be much better.  Yes, there are serious down sides — the money is a big one, but so is not seeing the people I really enjoy on night shift, and being there during the admin hours is also another big downside.  I have some things up my sleeve to make up for the pay cut.  But the biggest upside is that I will be on regular day hours, and sleeping in on my days off will basically mean sleeping until 8am.  I’m not saving any hours, I’m just resetting my internal clock for the hours that the rest of my life runs on.  You know, the farmer life.

Why you should always heed the distance guidelines for seed saving.

zupumkinniThis is a zupumkinni.  This is what happens when you have pumpkins growing six feet from the zucchini and they cross pollinate.  I’m letting it grow to see how big it gets and how it tastes.  Approximately half of my zucchini plants have fruit like this.  No wonder I had such terrible germination problems this year!  I did end up planting 4 more regular zucchini plants and will NOT be saving seed this year.

what the hellWhen I came home from work Sunday night this is what greeted me on the front deck.  Mr. TF doesn’t know anything about it, says there were no storms that day.  Well, that’s one HELL of a big bird roosting on it if there was no wind!  If you look closely you can see that the metal center rod/piece is bent at a 90 degree angle.  Do we have poltergeists?  We have had the back door slamming shut — hard — with no one going in or out recently, and now this.  I wish I knew.

Anyway, enough of the mystical mumbo jumbo.  I’ll save the excorcism ritual for another time, I suppose.

Independence Days Week XI

Planted:  russet potatoes (they were organic ones sprouting in my cupboard so I figured why not?).  Cocopah sweet corn in a newly empty 4 x 4 bed that had the carrots and some garlic in it.  So far I’m not getting very good germination; if more doesn’t sprout in a couple of days I’m going to plant the rest of my hybrid sweet corn there.  I transplanted 2 chocolate pepper plants, two purple pepper plants, and two red pepper plants.  I planted all of my friend’s roma plants and the two whatever hybrids I got at the nursery.  I also planted more zucchini, pictures to follow regarding why.

Harvested:  7 lbs armenian cukes, 2 lbs red potatoes, nearly 3 lbs tomatoes, 3 japanese eggplant, and enough green chiles to roast and freeze 6 baggies worth.

Prepped/storage/reduce waste:  ordered a swamp cooler because I really don’t think our A/C unit will get us through another summer; when it was installed the retards from the MH manufacturing company used too small pipe and it’s putting a great strain on the compressor.  My friend who owns an A/C installing and maintenance business said it’s going to need to be replaced and soon, because it can’t be fixed, and the improper line size has greatly accelerated the aging of the unit.  Since I hate the senseless use of the electricity I figure we’ll just downgrade to an energy star rated window cooler and be done with it.

Six bags of roasted green chiles frozen.

Still feeding the compost bins, and I have to get my lazy butt into the chicken yard to pick up the stuff they won’t eat, like the lettuce stems and throw them into the composter.

Eat the food:  bolting lettuce to the chickens, fried eggplant with yogurt dill sauce and purple jasmine rice (gotta eat it soon, it smells like it’s beginning to turn), fried red potatoes.

Build community food systems:  nope, no time to even get to the farm stand this past week.

Still collecting rocks for our patio walls, and the raised beds I’ll be building next to the house, and for the spirals and keyhole gardens I want to put in along the fence and in the front yard.  Still trying to decide where to put the pomegranate and fig trees!

What to do, what to do….?

A coworker wants to trade me shifts — she will work the noon to midnight shifts and I will work a regular day shift. Bonus: real daytime hours. Negative (and it’s a big one): $4 per hour paycut.

Tentatively I have decided to stay where I am…even though I would much rather be on a day schedule. Of course that may change in an hour or a day.

If I quit buying things that we will need for lower energy availability, if I quit buying things to make our house a nicer place to be, I could make double or even triple payments on our one remaining credit card. Or I could make double payments on my student loans. But, then our house wouldn’t be getting any upgrades or even basic maintenance.

What to do, what to do…?

Quick garden update.

Well, it’s been a very strange year so far. I have lost two tomato plants to some sort of I don’t know what. They looked good and now they’re dying. They’re not even in the same bed; one had blossoms and dropped them when the leaves started to look pale and curl, the other actually had tomatoes growing on it and is now looking pale.

I bought some plants from the local nursery, and also bought some from my friend. So now I wanted to replace two dying/dead plants, and I have I think 7 now to find places for!

I also bought a chocolate pepper plant, a couple purple pepper plants, and a couple red pepper plants. I won’t be saving any pepper seeds this year because of this. The reason for these is that my marconi reds are still only about 4 inches tall and aren’t doing much at all; the starts I bought were mislabeled and turned out to be anaheim chiles. This isn’t necessarily bad as we eat a LOT of chiles but I was hoping for another bumper crop of peppers to chop and freeze. Hence the new plants.

I also bought a fig tree. It will stay in a pot until we figure out where to put it, but I’m excited to finally be making ‘major’ garden purchases: the perennials. So far we have grapes, rasberries, pomegranates, and now the fig tree. I think we’ll probably have to get a second one to make sure they pollinate though.

I spent the evening at my friend’s house shelling peas with her. It made what would have been a tedious task much more enjoyable for both of us. Yum, summer sunny sweetness captured in a little green globe!

Windy, the calf that nearly died back in April is doing spectacularly well, and is turning black like her mom.

I learned how to milk a goat this evening also. Not quite so easy as it looks, and different than I remember with cows (but that’s been MANY years ago). I think if I were to get a goat it would definitely be a time consuming procedure to milk until I got good at it. But then so was knitting, and spinning, and sewing, and playing guitar…and so on.

Independence Days Week X

Posting early; I work tomorrow and have a very full day planned for Tuesday.

Plant something:  Cocopah sweet corn amongst my hybrid sweet corn to fill out the spaces where it didn’t sprout.  It’s too hot and humid to do it at the moment, but I plan to prep the bed I just pulled the carrots out of and plant the corn for a Three Sisters bed in its place.  Mr Tin Foil wants to plant sweet pie pumpkins for the squash part of it; I need to decide whether I’m planting dent corn for meal or the rest of the Cocopah sweet corn.  The beans will be plain ole pole beans; I have scarlet runners planted in various locations around the deck and the fence and in our heat I’m not holding out a lot of hope for beans this year.  We DO however eat mounds and mounds of green beans and in fact I didn’t even attempt to preserve any last year — we ate them as fast as they came ripe.  I have both pole and bush planted in the front yard but like I said, we eat a LOT of green beans if we can get them fresh off the vine so these will definitely get eaten.

Harvest something:  all the carrots.  I planted nantes half long and they are pretty fabulous — I’ll have to blanche the last of them and freeze them before they get soft.  They were only about 3 to 4 inches long, but most were an inch or more in diameter, and sweet as can be with no fibrous texture like you can sometimes get in hot weather. I harvested my onion flowers and have been shaking out the seeds as they get dry.  I don’t think I’m going to need onion starts for like the next two years!!!  Three plants allowed to go to seed made like 500 seeds.  The first eggplant of the year; the japanese eggplants were the first to flower and fruit, but they just aren’t very big so far this year.  Not sure why.  I’m frying them up for dinner with a yogurt dill sauce, and a cucumber/tomato salad.

Eat the food:  carrots, onions,  garlic, the first Armenian cucumber of the year, cherry tomatoes, the first Celebrity tomato.  Eggs, and quite a lot of the above mentioned harvests went into a nearly completely local potato salad.  Organic Yukon Gold potatoes, local eggs, home made mayonnaise, local garlic, cuke, carrot, onion.  I told Mr. Tin Foil I’m out, I’m not making the potato salad any more.  His puts mine to shame.

I am SO impressed with these Armenian cukes!  The flavor is really great, and they are not all watery like regular cukes.  I think they are probably the ideal pickling cucumber and next year I probably will only sow them rather than a mix of them and pickling cukes (which are still not producing although they were planted on the same day).

Preserve something:  nectarine butter from nectarines that were rather over ripe.  I did it outside on the campstove.  I LOVE that thing!  I only got 6 jars from 5 pounds of nectarines, but it also didn’t take all day which was very nice.

I ground a lamb roast I bought on sale into one pound packages and froze them.

Manage stores:  Somehow even with cleaning the freezer out we still had meat from 2004 in there.  That went bye bye.  I just don’t want to take a chance on something like that.

Community:  nah.  Just eating with friends, sharing produce with neighbors and my children.  I feel like a pusher — “really, take some more peaches!  and jelly! It’s good, I swear!”  Well, I did talk to my future DIL about maybe getting two pigs to pasture on her mom’s property and I’ll foot the feed and slaughter bills in exchange for the land, and they can have one of the pigs at slaughter time.  She’ll let me know.

My Johnny jump ups never sprouted; I think it may be too hot for them.  Well, there’s always next year.

The nasturtiums are taking over the front beds, and I think it’s time to feed the chickens some of the nice plump leaves.  I can also put some in my salad, I just don’t seem to remember them when it’s time for a salad.  But, since my lettuce is bolting and turning bitter due to the heat, it may be time for some nasturtium salads.

And now, for a gratuitous picture from Sarah Kucera:

from Sarah's excellent photo montage of the inside of Detroit's defunct train station

"The age of the car was cute...but can we grow some food now?" - photo credit Sarah Kucera

I think that’s a sentiment we can all get behind.