vom_marlowe: (Default)
Look, I'm getting desperate over here.  I now have NINE tromboncinos lurking on my damn kitchen table, and this is after I gave away several.  The vines have spread so far that they've climbed over my bean bed, through a tomato patch, and out the other side.  One vine has a runner that is, my hand to god, a good twenty feet long.  It has nearly reached the fence line and appears to be headed for the neighbor's house.

Each of these long trailing vine-fiends has baby squash on them.  I saw one of the rabbits go in the patch, but I haven't seen it come out.  Maybe the squash ate them.  Maybe the rabbits hollowed one out to build a home.  I fear the dog will approach too closely and be nabbled up, and he's a good eighty pounds.  These suckers have to be feeding off something.

Some of the squash in my kitchen are four pounds EACH.  Others are "only" two and a half pounds.  People, I have nearly forty pounds of squash here.  Half of which I picked yesterday. 

I have so far made:
Grilled squash
Squash lasagne (with squash "noodles")
Boiled squash
Squash muffins, squash pies
Squash bread
Side-squash
Squash salads
Squash kebabs
Squash sliced, breaded, baked, and made into zuke sticks with dipping sauce

I instituted a one squash per person per day rule, but it isn't helping.  The squashy fiends have far-outstripped our current nomming efforts, and I've started trying to feed them to the dog, who is doing his best to help out, but he's getting on in his years, and he told me he can only manage half a squash if I add some butter to it and give him time to gnaw them because his teeth aren't what they used to be.   

What am I going to do?  I looked out this morning, and even from my porch, I could see two more light green squash lighted up like mini-lanterns, ready to be picked.  Tomorrow, they'll probably weigh another pound. 

Help. Help.

Pls send recipes knthnxbai

vom_marlowe: (Default)
As I think I mentioned, I planted an embarrassment of fruit trees this spring.  Eight apple trees (in little clumps of 2-4 each), two cherries, two peaches, and a fig. 

Today, I harvested the first fruit of my labor.  Now, I bought small whip yearlings of semi-dwarf stock, so there was no reason to believe I'd have any fruit whatsoever for at least three or four years.  Even worse, I put the trees in a bit late because we had such strange weather (snow for a good six weeks past usual frost) and even more worse, the trees came from a completely different (and much milder) zone in northern Cali. 

But despite it all, my young trees took off, and a couple of them bloomed.

I was delighted to discover, late in the spring, two young apples.  One was reabsorbed or eaten by the squirrel mafia, but one small apple remained.  The summer trundled on, wet and lovely and beautifully mild for us, and the apple grew and grew.  Finally, it appeared fully apple-sized.  The fruit I bought from our local farmers market was smaller than the fruit I had on my tall leafy twig.  Weird.  I let it be, and let it be, and then today I discovered it had blushed as rosy as Nanny Ogg's cheeks. 

Very carefully, I held the apple, weighing it, thanking the tree, smiling with the glow of a summer-warm girl in the comfort of her own owned land, and I twisted up and off she came.  My own very first apple.  Sweet Bough.

Early apples are notoriously untasty, but I am a canny researcher.  I had purchased a wide variety of heirloom apples famed for their flavor, including a couple early apples.  My baby orchard boasts both Red Gravenstein (a sport of regular Gravenstein that supposedly enjoys the heat more) and Sweet Bough, widely considered by Coxe and other early-American growers (including in the South) to be one of the few early apples worth growing for flavor. 

I am startled to report that.....I agree.

We placed our Sweet Bough upon the cutting board, sliced her up, and tasted her.  Within about twenty seconds, the entire apple was gone.  My taste report is as follows:
Surprisingly crisp.  Not cool-weather Honeycrisp crisp (what is?), but a good deal crisper than the current crop of Galas available locally.  It was juicy without being wet--that is, nicely wet when bitten, but it did not pour juice down its side. The flesh was not at all mealy (awesome!) but instead nicely firm.  The taste was what really set it apart--sprightly.  Bright flavors, sweet, tangy, but nothing like the bitter or sharp cousins you get off many organic trees (where you wonder if things just went oddly awry). 

It wasn't a dark round flavor, like the Arkansas Black, but instead very light, pale summery honey gold.  Absolutely delightful. 

My mom is quite picky about her apples, and she said, surprised, 'It doesn't need hummous or anything!'  We both agreed that it was a very surprising apple to eat in August of all times, when normally you just would not get good fruit anywhere.  (It is basically the tail end of the storage apples so they're mealy or the too-early underripe types from far-away). 

Two thumbs up: Would nom again!

sweet bough apple on cutting board
vom_marlowe: (not best day ever)
I've been thin on the ground lately because I've been putting in a ton of overtime. 

It's also spring, my favorite time of the year.  I used to love autumn, and I still do, but spring is also glorious.  This year, I celebrated by ordering four cubic yards of compost for the garden.  What?  It's a whole two cubic yards less than last time!  I swear!

Gardening has been quite a challenge this year.  As other avid gardeners know, the zones and frost dates have changed in much of the states.  However, this year, things were quite off in the opposite direction, and I had snow and hard frost in May (yes, really).

Despite those challenges, thus far this year, I have planted:
Fruit trees!
I'm super excited about these fellas.  All were from Trees of Antiquity.  They get a huge thumbs up from me.  My mom helped me plant them, as she has taken certified arborist classes.  We planted:
Red Gravenstein (apples)
Sweet Bough
Arkansas Black
Kidd's Orange Red
Grimes Golden
Duchess of Oldenburg
Victoria Limbertwig
White Pearmain

Stella and Napoleon/Royal Anne (cherries)

Baby Crawford and Polly White (peaches)

Violette De Bourdeux/Negronne (cold hardy fig)

Roses

These were primarily planted for creating beneficial microclimates for our bird/animals and for enjoying.
Mary Rose (Austin, rich pink)
Wise Portia (dark pink, eaten by bunnies last year)
Tess (Austin, red/dark pink)
Queen of Sweden (Austin, light pink)
Peace (pink/yellow)
Pink Peace (pink with hint of yellow)
Chicago Peace (pinkier with bit of yellow)
I'd hoped to order Princess Alexandra of Kent, another rich pink Austin, but everyone but Austin US was out, and I just can't force myself to order from them, given the hugely mixed reviews they've gotten and the ridiculously increased prices (when you're more expensive than Heirloom by 30% that is a LOT). 

Perennials and Annuals
I'm putting in all sorts of perennials this year.  Last year, I experimented with several different online companies, as my local nurseries have somewhat vague stock.  I ordered from Burpee, Park's, Bluestone, Annie's, and a couple others.  Here are reviews of these folks.

Annie's Annuals and Perennials
I was surprised to discover that Annie's, which I had heard such wonderful things about, had the highest death rate of all (worse than Park's, which is kind of impressive, really).  They were also far and away the most expensive.  While their selection is unparralleled and their descriptions fun and funky, I also think they suffer from, well, excessive optimism and not in a good way.  It's fine to mention that some annuals will reseed given the right conditions, but in my case, despite solid care and following recommendations for location and yes, proper hardening off, the annuals just plain weren't suitable for my zone.  As in, the full sun hit them and in two weeks, they were dead.  Not a little wilty, not a little scruffy, dead

In my own garden, I often grow tomatoes more or less wild, as a self-renewing patch that requires only watering to get started.  Once I'm in a gardening locale, I can plant in my favorite tomatoes and be assured that, if I want, I can have that same (or similar) tomatoes show up in that spot the next year. 

It would be ridiculous of me to sell tomato seeds with the notation: "These little fellas self-seed regularly!  Plant two in a good spot and you'll be assured of plenty of volunteers come next spring!  Both tasty and delicious, this plant is easy to grow.  Recommended for anyone who has a 'black thumb'.' 

I can hazard some guesses as to why my tomatoes will reseed themselves like bizarre volunteers for a food army.  It could be that I use long slow good fertilizers in my soil (Fox Farm brand, for the curious).  It could be that I have chosen appropriate tomatoes for my zone.  It could be that I have what some more woo gardeners call a plant affinity (that is, there's a special spiritual connection here). 

But I can assure you all that perfectly respectable master gardeners in other locales (even nearby) do not have to regretfully rip out tomato volunteers that show up in random places in their yards.  They just don't.  A few might, but most don't.  Tomatoes are considered one of the jewels in the gardening crown, and nearly everyone I've ever known will say that these beasts must be started indoors. 

I do not doubt that Annie herself has more reseeding annuals than she needs.  I'm sure that her guesses as to zone appropriateness are well-intentioned and probably true for certain parts of a given zone (such as particular Cali micro-climate zones).  But her plants do not do well here, and except for a few particular plants I have no hope of getting anywhere else (larger dianthus, a plant that is practically unkillable and some native monarch-specific milkweeds) I will regretfully not purchase there again.  I certainly will not use her planting locale/zone guides in regards to me.

Burpee

This is one of my favorite gardening companies, but they have their faults.  They produce excellent varieties, but their seeds have become more and more expensive over the years.  Prohibitively so.  I now only purchase seeds from them every other year, using the last year or two's seeds in larger quantities to make up for lower germination rates.  We're talking six or seven bucks per packet for some of their new varietals.  Ouch.  But for consistent seed quality in really hot summer appropriate hybrids, they cannot be beat.  I've never had their seeds fully fail on me.

Park's
They are going bankrupt--for good reason.  Avoid like the plague.  Please.  There were weird bugs in my cardboard and they sent the wrong plants.  I got a refund....eventually.   But not soon enough to plant what I'd wanted. 

Bluestone Perennials
This little company underwent a major change a year or two ago.  Instead of selling small plants they've switched to larger 4" coconut pots.  I was dubious, because I hate coconut pots.  I'd tried those pots years ago and they never ever broke down. 

However, I had a coupon.  So I tried a small selection of their plants.  Unlike Annie's, these plants trouped slowly and doggedly through heat, massive drought, clay soil, and a lot of slugs with no problem. 

These Bluestone plants sailed through our unexpectedly brutal winter with zero difficulties.  Even the ones I forgot to plant (hey, they were stuck in a kind of muddy patch, OK?  I got....distracted.  As you do.) did just fine.  I mean, lolwhut super plants.  I have a mum in such a tough spot that's so lush it should be wearing a cape and a sparkly superhero cape. 

Unfortunately, Bluestone plants are NOT cheap.  Their shipping is about standard for well-packed online plant companies.  But the good news is that in spring, if you have bought from them during the season at regular prices, you get to leap on their 50% off sale.  That's when I stock up on plants I need in larger quantities or try things I'm unsure about. 

A few weeks ago, I bought nine perennial sunflowers, a bunch of quince, some daylilies, and some dianthus, poppies, anemone, and hosta.  Bluestone thoughtfully chose NOT to ship over Memorial Day weekend.  Yes, it meant my plants were delayed a bit, but it also meant my plants arrived ALIVE.  Big thumbs up from me. 

They also have the best search engine for plants.  You enter your criteria (location, soil type, zone, color, height, etc) and voila.  They tell you what will work.  Brilliant.  Free.  Fabulous.  Great for planning dream gardens!

I will post comments about bulb companies later, if there is interest.

vom_marlowe: (Default)
It is with great sadness that I must report that many of my new rose bushes have perished, brought down not by slugs or blackspot, but by the winter feeding habits of the Tomato Rabbit.  So called because she lives in a den next to the bed that houses the strawberries and one giant yellow pear tomato.  Now, I am very fond of the Tomato Rabbit.  I left the yellow pear in situ so that she could have a home for the winter.  I quit weeding over there.  I quit mulching.  I even felt guilty watering, since she would hop out, bedraggled and pouty and damp, when I turned on the sprinkler. 

There's lots of delicious rabbit-friendly food in my yard.  She could have all the grasses, the spare tomatoes, the nasturtium greens, the peppery flowers, the lilac bush in toto, but noooooooooo.  She had to eat all my rose bushes to the ground. 

Not content with a stem here or there, she mowed those suckers to the bare earth.  No leaves, no stems, just sad dead twigs about an inch long on most of them, and on two slightly less wretched specimens, the twigs are about four inches.  Only Radio Times has a decent branch left, but even that is just ten inches and so many other twiggy bits are exposed to the elements, I fear for its recovery.

I think they're all toast, except the already established Jayne Austin and Lady of the Myst, both of which are bethorned from stem to stern, thank goodness.

See, I read that sometimes the roses will come back, despite that kind of abuse.  However.....we managed to get a cold snap down to six, with a bunch of ice on top of it.  I think it's best to assume that losses will be heavy.  There's so many cuts and so little plant left and only part of a season to develop roots...

I have built large fences around each remaining rose, twig or not.  And now I know how poor Wise Portia perished (twice) this past summer.  She must have tasted good. 

The Pook, while an admirable hound in many ways, does not chase rabbits.  Well, he doesn't chase our rabbits.  See, the Pook classifies things as 'family' and 'not family'.  Family rabbits are not for chasing and must be protected against maurauding cats (we had lots of these in Waldo).  Non-family rabbits can be chased.  Same with mice, squirrels, ground squirrels, etc.  The Pook has an intense level of pack drive, a moderate territorial drive (you can see this because his reaction to postal visits increases dramatically when family is home), and minor amounts of prey drive.  I still remember watching the rabbits at the Waldo house graze on the grass while the Pook lounged sleepily in their midst, soaking sun into his old bones and keeping an eye out for cats.

In any case. 

What this all means is that I have to select roses again.  Which is always fun, but also dashed expensive.  

So, my fellow rosarians and rose fanciers and flower fiends, what say you?

The area I'm primarily filling in is the long edge of my privacy fence.  I'm basically creating a heavy border with lots of small climates for various critters and many perennial flowers. 

In the past, I selected many delightful naughty roses, and called it my slut garden (with deep affection).  Wife of Bath with her jolly laugh and pink petals is coming back for sure.  I'll probably get another Radio Times as well.  Beautiful pink blooms, rich scent, decent growth, lasts in a vase. 

I'd put in several peach roses, but wasn't overly impressed with most of them--they were either mostly yellow or white.  My favorite peach remained Lady of the Mist (really gorgeous shift from pink to apricot to almost lavender) and her scent is fantastic. 

The red I tried (Tower of London) died early, so I won't be bringing it back either.  I already have on Abraham Darby (in the front), so I figure one of him is plenty (he's already making a bid to climb the house, OK?) and the front also has a bunch of Zephyr-whatsits bourbons and an

I'm considering deep pinks, medium pinks, and rich apricots, plus one red.  I've decided I just don't enjoy white or cream roses.  I like bursts of color with my scent.  Also, I like the Austins with their rich scent, especially the myrh tones, but I'm happy to entertain other varieties.  Repeat bloom, good vase time, etc.  I have a Peace in front that I really love, so I may get another of those.  So beautiful, such great cut flowers, even if it does look spindly, I don't care. 

Naughty overtones in the name a big plus!
vom_marlowe: (Default)
I have eleven roses sitting in a large plastic tupperware in my kitchen. 

....I may have over-ordered during that sale, yo.
vom_marlowe: (Default)
So we're having the painters come to do the trim on the places we can't reach.  That means that they must be able to, you know, actually reach the trim.

The people who owned the house before us were utterly clueless.  Examples include but are not limited to: spilling a bucket of paint on the floor and leaving it there to dry, jerry-rigging their own electrical system in a way that made the electrician scream and leap backwards, hammering a plank of wood on the floor (no, I don't know why), putting bright fish wallpaper boarders on poop brown paint, and planting a black walnut, of all things, six inches from the house's foundation. 

Uh, yeah.

So. 

They also allowed a Dr Huey rose bush to grow to a height of at least eight feet tall and about four, no six, feet wide.  That sucker is HUGE.  It's also scraping against the house, which is a major house no-no. 

I love roses, don't get me wrong.  But I love my house's siding more.  I consulted a friend about pruning it, and she said I probably couldn't kill it if I tried, and that Dr Huey was notorious for being, well, not just hardy but indifferent to rain, sleet, hail, sun, and the occasional act of god. 

So last night I went out, wearing rose bush gloves (they're more like gauntlets, to be honest) and a chambray shirt to cover my arms, and did my best to prune it. 

I am now limping, scratched, covered in bandaids, sore, and grumpy.  There's an enormous pile of rose wood that refused to fit into the yard waste bags without poking me in the face, so it's just going to have to be taken away in bundles. 

The damn rose: caught my hair, poked through heavy leather gloves to gouge the back of my hand, ow ow ow, bruised my thigh, scratched my scalp, pricked my wrist (through leather AND canvas, the fiend), and generally caused havoc.  The clothes I was wearing are a dead loss.

Did I mention that it was 104 out?  And that was when it was cooling off.

I staggered back inside to lick my wounds and take a cold bath.  Except it's been so hot that we no longer have cold water.  It's luke warm, even on pure cold. 

But the painters can get to the house.  Which is something.  I guess.

*wanders off to apply more disinfectant to yet another thorn wound*

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