Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20, 2012-  Summer is officially here.  And here comes the heat.  Every day around 90 and just a slim chance of afternoon showers.
The squash looking a little droopy in the midday sun.

Last year it was hotter earlier though.  I remember all of the blackberries turned brown before they could turn black.  This year we're getting in a few blackberries that the birds leave us.  The squash are starting to slow down.  I only pulled in about a dozen this afternoon.  I think they are pretty picky about what the conditions are when they set their blossoms.

 aptly named bee balm

 The pit- from the outside looking in.

The tomatoes are just hitting their stride though.  I brought in a pile of cherry tomatoes and 3 real tomatoes.  The beans are growing well, and there are little cukes growing on a couple of our plants.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 17th 2012-  The week in review:
Squash continues to be the headliner in the garden.  We're harvesting from our 20 or so plants every 2 days and the picture above shows what we brought in one afternoon.  10 of those plants were supposed to be zucchini but from the looks of it I got straight necks instead of the big green monsters.  We've given them to our folks, we made a squash casserole for the freezer one night, this afternoon we made little squash pizzas and I made some squash soup for the freezer.  I feel like bubba talking about all of the shrimp he ate.
Squash pizzas?  1/4 inch slices of squash with pizza sauce(not homemade yet), cheese, and some turkey peppperoni.
Max clearly enjoying himself beside the freshly picked produce.

The squash pizzas made a great lunch because we knew we'd be grilling out and eating heavy tonight for fathers day.  The squash soup is in the freezer so I'll know how that turned out in half a year.  I sauteed some onions in a big stew pot, added some coarsely chopped squash and cooked for a bit.  I thought I'd get crazy and add some sweet potatoes that I aimlessly boiled earlier in the week.  I added a little salt and pepper, some cinnamon, and a cup or two of milk.  I mashed it up instead of pureeing just because I'm lazy and don't want to clean the blender.

You can also see beside my self-gratifying cat that Lauren harvested some cherry and grape tomatoes.  It seems really unusual to be eating tomatoes in the middle of June.  We had a couple of big ones earlier this week- last night on burgers and Friday night we just sliced up a couple and ate them on the side.  These little guys went with us over to make their place in about the best destination possible for a vegetable- a Deb salad.

We took turns posing beside the enormous tomato plants out in the garden and then we gave the ones on the left side of the garden a solo shot.  Lauren is out there after a bodypump class and she sent this picture to some friends saying that the tomatoes were overgrowing our house.  I'm sporting the most essential garden implement- malt liquor.

The tomatoes were getting out of control and I really didn't want to deal with them.  A couple of plants were falling over, the plants were blocking the paths, and some of the stems bent over above where I tied them and it looked like they were going to be pinched off.  I went to Lowe's and bought a couple 10-packs of conduit for staking up the plants.  That set me back 40 bucks but the stakes are pretty reusable.  I used sticks my first few years as tomato stakes.  The conduit is strong, cheap, and is good year after year as long as you don't mind those metallic poles sticking up everywhere in the spring.

Anyway, I started in the pit and tied up the plants that could be contained on their original stakes.  The overachievers earned an extra-long pole, usually between 2 plants.  I pulled the sagging stems over to the new poles and steered them up with some string.  The pit wasn't too bad, I maybe had to use 4 long poles as reinforcements.  Then I moved to the right side of the garden where I only have a dozen or so plants.  I had to grab a stick from the wood pile to drive in a couple of the original stakes that had developed a saggy lean. I put a few new posts near some of the plants on the left side of the garden but I didn't get to the worst offenders and that job is glaring at me for early next week.

It will all be worth it in a little while though because there are countless green tomatoes out there right now.

Blooms- The cardoon opened up this week.  Suzanne at the Schiele said that people piled hay around the stems and used them like celery.  I just think its a cool looking plant.  The bees dig down through the purple fluff of the flowers looking for nectar.  Some other stuff blooming- Oregano, the celery( I don't remember planting celery but we have one plant right at the entrance to the garden), leeks still blooming, parsley at the end of blooming, borage just started, rue is finishing, some leftover radishes and kale are trying to bloom again, sage, basil.

Bugs- I picked my first squash bug this week.  That's the only one I've seen, but I'm on the lookout now.

Birds-  So lauren texted me earlier this week when I was still at home and said she saw a brand new bird and she needed to know where the bird book was.  She texted me back in a couple of minutes and said she saw a great crested flycatcher light on the rosebush outside and then fly down and eat a bug.  I was a little skeptical because she saw a brand new red-headed bird last year that turned out to be a house finch.  Everything she said matched what I could read about the bird and a mecklenburg audubon guy posted a sighting of one at Forestview when he came to see the scissor-tailed flycatcher last week.  She said she saw him while she was eating breakfast so I made sure to hang out with her for breakfast for the rest of the week, but no bird.  I took my computer outside and played the songs of the great crested flycatcher from the porch.  I earned supergeek status, but still no bird.  My luck changed this morning.  Lauren and I were sitting outside enjoying this incredible weather( high: 82) and I saw a couple of birds land in the top of the maple at the back side of the garden.  I ran inside and grabbed my binoculars and sure enough, Lauren made the right call on that bird.  There were a pair of them in the top of the tree and they sang away as they flew to the neighbors yard.

I guess I need to do a better job of knowing who's at the top of the leaderboards in Dancing With The Stars and who's being devious in The Bachelorette, because Lauren's done a great job of being interested in what drives me.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Early June Update- 6/7/12

The weather continues to smile on the garden.  We're getting pretty decent rain, hot afternoons for growing, and occasional cool breezes that help with working out there.  There are red jars of beets pickling in the back of the fridge.  A big tupperware thing of peas in the fridge waiting for me to figure out what to do with them.  Onions and garlic are drying on the porch and being used in the kitchen.

I picked 3 squash sunday and sauteed them up with some onions.  I went back out tuesday and found 5 more.  I put 1 in with some pasta and there are still 4 sitting on my counter with another round of picking planned for this afternoon.  Time to get creative with some recipes or else get generous with the family.
A bee on a leek flower
The lillies adding a nice dose of color to the yard.

Between the ligustrum, gardenia, and the nandinas, the yard is smelling pretty good.  The bees seem to have plenty to keep them busy.
The eggplants have their first blooms, and Holden is watching the beans growing around the edge of the pit.  Because the peas were still doing well, the beans and cukes got in the ground a little late.  The beans have made the top of the fence, but there aren't any blossoms on the them or the cukes yet.  I'm still struggling with the okra too.  Some of the plants are up, but I've put out seeds in a few spots 3 times now.

And the Scissor-tailed flycatcher is back at Forestview.  I posted the sighting on the Mecklenburg Audobon Society listserv and the fellows with their telephotos have already been over here taking some nice shots: