Sunday, July 31, 2011

Harvest Begins

Gathered enough green beans today (and a tiny purple one that I couldn't resist) to actually have enough to eat as a side dish today.  There are still 30 or more tiny, tiny ones that will hopefully be ready to eat next weekend when I return home.
The harvest actually started in June with the first of the garlic.  This place is from last week - the last of the small garlics to be cured and the first little beans to be picked.
I just love the colors and textures of the hard necked garlics.  It was a cool, wet Spring, and many of the garlics did not bulb up as much as I expected.  Still, my house smells either delightful - or stinky - right now, depending how much one loves the stinky rose.
Herbs that were chopped fine and added to my home grown eggs this morning: a sage leaf, a touch of oregano, and some tender new growth from my rosemary. 
I worried about taking my eye off the zukes for 5 seconds to go on business travel.  While I did not find any that were baseball bat sized, I did find one that was as long and as thick around as my fore arm!  Won't have time to do anything with it, and there are 5 young ones on the vine right now, so I think I will slice it length-wise and let the chickies devour it tomorrow.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Critters in the Garden Day

Over a dozen sunflowers are blooming in various places in the garden - and the bees are intimately familiar with all of them.  Often times 2, 3 or more bees will be collecting pollen and nectar.  Note the pollen-filled legs of these buzzing ladies. (Click on the photo for a larger version)

Besides the buzzing of bustling, busy bees, there is also the humming of dragon flies as they patrol the skies for mosquitoes and other flying, biting things.  This one rests on the tip of my dead cherry tree.  See - laziness on my part (in clearing the dead tree) provides a place to relax for this mighty hunter!

Speaking of hunters, not only gatherers frequent the sunflowers.  Several of these spiders also frequent the sunflower disks. Their legs are a semi-translucent white color that picks up the yellow hue of the sunflowers - making them appear to be just a light yellow dot on the disk - nothing threatening looking at all.  I haven't seen what it eats, yet, but a number of little gnat-like creatures also seek sustenance from the sunflower, so I suspect those are what this arachnid hunts.
Another hunter, but not of the insect or arachnid family - a local lizard that frequents the garden.  Here it is chomping on an ant.  We are fairly used to one another, so if I move slowly, I can often get withing 3 feet of this one before it scampers off.  I try and back away before invading it's personal space, however, and I think this contributes to its tolerance of me.
Well, this critter is not allowed in the garden to place.  He continues the canine tradition of the "race track" around the garden/chicken run, and so runs his laps while I am puttering around inside the fence. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Random Photo Day

Some early morning photos from this morning.  Nothing fancy or revolutionary - just a nice  little walk around the garden before the blazing sun warms everything up.  The rule of thumb is, 60*F by 6 am, 70*F by 7 am, 80*F by 8 am, and 90*F by noon.  Remember, you can click on the photo for a larger version.
Just a few years ago this apple tree was a mere stick, barely bigger in diameter than my thumb.  It now sports a trunk bigger around than my wrist.  Fickle Desert Spring froze all the buds this year, so no apples.  Still, it is nice and green - and I harvest the suckers (some call them water sprouts) for the ducks and chickens to dine on.
 This is a purple bush bean called Velour.  The flowers and stems are purple, and some of the leaves have purple flecks in them.  The tiny beans (the one in the photo is about an inch long) turn purple as they mature, and turn deep green when blanched or cooked.  The plants are not as vigorous as say, Kentucky Wonder; however, they are cute, and the purple beans are easy to find among the green foliage.
 Early morning view of sweet corn in the foreground, the root stock of a peach tree (redish leaves), all overlooking sunlit weeds in the distance.  Fill flash was a little too heavy, giving it a very contrasty, almost artificial look compared to what I saw - but it still picked up the glow of the weeds, and that was one of my main objectives.
 Detail of a garlic scape.  I let about 50 of these form bubils.  Not sure that they will make new garlic plants, and even if they do, it could take 5 years before they are big enough to harvest.  Chickens really do eat anything, however, so I have been giving some to them.  Garlic is supposed to act as a natural de-wormer.  I don't think they have worms, but I'm feeding them the bubils just in case.  Besides, they love chasing down the little balls of garlic when I throw them in their pen.
 Nodding garlic scapes with their hundreds of tiny bubils.  The early morning golden light really brings out the pink colors in them.  During the flat light of the day, they look more brown.
 My girl on patrol.  Her web is in bed one and is strung between Sweet Marjoram, Rosemary, and Lemon Balm (although I like it's official name better: Melissa Officinalis.).  I know she is a girl because most male spiders have hooks on their front legs to hold the female with during mating.  She has been hanging out for a few weeks, now.  Eat and be merry, Garden Friend!
More weeds and morning sunshine.  This time the weeds are inside the garden.  I left them there because I want them to spread their 900,000,000,000 seeds all over my garden.  Actually, I left them up because the ducks rest on the other side of the fence in the shade of these weeds in the late afternoon.  Makes a decent wind break for them.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Sunflower Kind of Day

My little plot of 15 sunflowers planted early in the season is now beginning to bloom.  The short sunflower in the foreground was the first one to bloom and is facing East.  I'm not sure why the Mammoth in the background is not.  Maybe it didn't hear that sunflowers are all supposed to face East when they bloom?  My sunflowers never get very tall.  In the several years I have grown them, even Mammoth is lucky to top 5 feet tall.  Still, they are bright and cheerful, and if I can keep them from getting munched down to the ground when they are little, they will provide me with months of bloom.

Yes, that is real desert sunshine from behind the first sunflower to bloom this year.  While the disk is only about 4 inches across, the long petals make the flower head seem much larger.
Difficult to tell from the photos, but this is a Mammoth, and while it won't get to Mammoth proportions here in the desert, the center is a good six inches across.  If I can keep the critters off of it, it could provide a nice snack for the chickens in the middle of winter.
Blooming in bed number two - a dainty dwarf sunflower.  As it is supposed to, this one is happily facing East.
A promise of sunflower delights to come - a 4 inch flower head wrapped in layers of frilly green.  By the time I am back from business travel, the main sowing of sunflowers should be in full bloom.  Big, bold, bright - and edible to boot!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lazy Day Tour of the Summer Garden

Well, after a week of bronchitis, strep throat, doctor's visits, chest x-rays, antibiotics and asthma inhalers, I am feeling mostly alive again.  Of course, the chipmunks and birds took advantage of my inattention to the garden and have mowed down the last of the late sunflower seedlings.  At least one chipmunk made an attempt at young squash plants, too, but was foiled by the floating row cover.  Still, it left its calling card.
Chipmunk Poop on Floating Row Cover
The first sunflower is in full bloom now, obediently facing the sunrise, no longer tracking the sun in its daily arc over the sky.  Only 2 foot tall with a 6 inch bloom, I believe this is on of the dwarf sunflowers called Sunspot.
The first set of corn is doing well, enjoying their heavily amended and composted bed.  They are heavy feeders, and at the end of last year, I put two wheel-barrels full of semi-composted chickie-poo and pine shavings in that bed to decompose and mellow over the winter.  This seems to have worked well as the corn is flourishing and putting out suckers.  I will trim the weaker suckers and feed them to the chickens; however, the more vigorous suckers may also fruit.  We'll see.  It's one giant experiment.  

The second planting of corn did not have the autumn prep that the first set did, so I have tried to compensate by adding finished compost and growing bush beans with them.  They are growing an inch a week, so I think they are happy.

The garlic harvest is just about complete.  Yesterday I cleaned 7.4 pounds of good garlic and 3.2 pounds of garlic that has one issue or another that will necessitate its consumption within the next two months.  Stored cool, dark, and with ventilation, the better garlic should keep 6 months.  Frozen, it will last a year.  I'm going to make some garlic and olive oil paste and freeze it.  Although it may lose some of its potency that way, it will also be edible for about forever.

Garlic that has been allowed to go to "seed."  The "flowers" are really tiny garlic bulbs.
First of the bush beans are starting to produce.  It will be a few days, still, before they are big enough to harvest.  I planted purple podded beans as my main crop this year, just because I like the color purple.  And because I wanted to add as much color to the desert as I could.  Especially since the critters ate up all the flowers that I planted.
Hopefully I am back to work on Monday, and able to hack down weeds sooner than that.  The beds in the garden are mostly weed-free; however, the paths and edges have the desert denezines creeping in: cheat grass, tumbleweed and some type of eucalyptus plant.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Late Start In the Garden

Due to the last killing frost and last snow being at the beginning of June, it took a while for the garden to get into full swing this year.  This means that getting a corn, pumpkin or winter squash crop will be a gamble this year.  But heck, growing a garden of any sort here in the high desert is a gamble.

Either a Zuke or a Yellow Squash - of course, I am not organized enough to label them.  Good thing I like surprises.

Veggies currently in the ground:
  • Black Beauty Zucchini
  • Yellow Crook Neck Squash
  • Yellow Straight Neck Squash
  • Acorn (Winter) Squash
  • A small, short season (90 day) pumpkin that I can't recall the name of
  • 3 sad Alaskan Fancy determinate tomato plants
  • 40 stalks of Golden Bantam Cross (F1) Corn
  • Sweet Dumpling (Winter) Squash
  • Lemon Cukes
  • Market More 76 Cukes
  • 6 sad little Okra plants that don't like our cold nights (still in the 50*F at night)
  • A few garlic that really should be pulled by now
  • Blue bush green beans (turn green when cooked - or when the temps top 100) - French Velour and True Blue
  • Yellow "Pencil Pod" wax bush beans
  • Dow Gawk "Yard Long" pole beans
  • Kentucky Wonder pole beans
  • Blackeye Peas - both purple hull and California No. 5
  • Last of the snap pea vines (to be fed to the chickens and ducks this weekend)

Bush beans are beginning to bloom, so probably two weeks before we start eating them.  I'm not sure how blue the blue beans will be - the flowers are decidedly purple.   Planting more bush beans every week as they ripen their crop over a short time period (as opposed to pole beans that will bear until frost kills them).  Also, beans will fix nitrogen into my sand.  Since they are cheap seeds to buy, I am using beans like a cover crop.

Speaking of cover crops, I found some old clover seed, and it is making a fair stand under the apple trees.

As for veggies, the rest of them will probably start being ready for harvest whenever I'm on  my next business trip. It's just the way of the world.  A new sprinkler and battery-operated timer setup should at least help insure that the plants will live.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Duckies Enjoying Their Kiddie Pool

It isn't deep enough for them to actually swim, but they enjoy it none the less. My Granddaughter saw cute little baby duckies at the feed store, but of course, couldn't keep them at her apartment in town.  But since Grandma already has chickens, how much more work can duckies be?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer Garlic

Summer, to me, doesn't really start until the harvesting of the garlic. I think our heat contributes to their early maturity, and while most people may be harvesting their garlic in July and August, mine are usually ready by the end of June. Being sporadic with the watering may also encourage them to ripen earlier. I planted about 150 good sized cloves and about 200 smaller cloves. There was, of course, chipmunk depredations, a little bit of winter-kill, and some were so small that I have chosen to let them mature bulbils on scapes instead of trying to force them to grow big bulbs. One could certainly tell the difference in the quality of the ground (I don't think I would call it "soil" still yet). The sand amended with chickie-poo/chickie-bedding created compost had overall healthier and bigger bulbs - even from cloves that were not top sized.
1/3 garlic harvest curing.
Average size, about 2 1/2" diameter.

Garlic Scapes producing
bulbils for tiny new garlic plants.
Close-up of a scape and
its bulbils.

Summer is also when all the critters come out to hunt.  Taken too close with my phone camera, so it is somewhat out of focus, but this dragon fly spent some time chasing gnats and then alighted on an old sunflower stalk from last year.