Speedy the squirrel is trouble

 

There are squirrels who lives in my neighbor’s tree. EG named one of them Speedy when the squirrels were little. I actually can’t tell Speedy apart from his bros. Speedy’s grown now and has a mate he argues with. We’ll call her Mrs. Speedy I guess.

I don’t know much about growing corn but I planted some at EG’s request. He chose a type you can dry and pop which has kernels that look like multicolored jewels. Some people use them for decoration but I don’t, because they’re food. They grew very well and I went from having no expectations to being somewhat excited about them.

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But the Speedies were all over it.

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It’s not like our dogs, Pixie and Dean, were laying down on the job of chasing them, it’s just that they can’t be there all the time. I picked most of it today, mature and immature, and feel like a jerk. Metal Pig said, “You can’t use the corn anyway, why not just let them eat it?” But I can use the mature kernels to grow more next year. If you’re curious about the maturation progress of corn, here it is, left to right – kernels start developing at the bottom.

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I think corn silk is beautiful. This silk looks like a ginger ponytail – really, I have a ginger pony with a tail that looks like that:

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Oh, and I think I’m getting better at canning tomatoes. This morning the Pixie woke me at 4:40 to go out, which is common, but I had gone to bed so early I just stayed up and processed tomatoes. There was also a cricket who had been chirping at an astounding volume for hours. When tired and quiet, at 5-ish, the cricket walked boldly across the kitchen floor. I took him outside. He’ll probably be back tonight.

These are jars of cooked and raw tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes with coriander seeds and a jalapeno and sauce processed in a pressure canner.

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I don’t think zucchini “bread” is a way to get people to eat vegetables. Yeah, that’s a real thing I’ve heard. Come on, it’s it’s cake.  So I made 3 cake loaves with a zucchini about 2′ long, which is bigger than I normally let them get before picking them.  I quarter them and remove the pithy core of seeds. This is important because the seeds can taste bitter.

This is 1/3 of the recipe, just a basic zucchini “bread” recipe I veganized. Spellcheck says “veganized” isn’t a word – I say it is.

Dry ingredients:

3 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp salt

Wet ingredients:

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup fat (this time I used Earth Balance because it’s for my son’s lunch box, and I can’t use nuts, so I was afraid to use coconut oil)

1/2 cup applesauce

2 tsp vanilla

zest  and juice of 1 lemon

Substitute for 2 eggs (I used Ener-G; other options include bananas, more applesauce, flax and other stuff or just chicken eggs if you eat them. Duck eggs if you know people who keep ducks.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare two loaf pans with whatever your non-stick method is.

  1. Mix dry ingredients with a fork or whisk
  2. Mix the fat and sugar until sort of creamy, then add the rest of the wet stuff.
  3. Mix by hand the wet and dry ingredients
  4. Pour into pans

Mine took a solid hour to bake. This recipe has not been tested much, and the moisture in zucchini and applesauce varies, so precision isn’t reasonable. Whatever, my kid loves it.

 

 

Golden load*

Technically, it’s still summer for a few more days. I hate letting it go and try to hoard the sunlight as the days get shorter. I stopped wearing my Tilley hat and let my normally dark hair get as sun-bleached as possible, hoping for a surfer look. My birthday is in the fall, which makes it even harder because I’m reminded of getting older, a fact I deny all summer long. But once I let it go and talk myself into looking forward to more harvests I appreciate fall. It’s like summer, with shorter days and fruit instead of flowers. Like summer got older and wiser, but stayed somewhat pretty and fertile.

Dried beans start piling up. I like the way they feel; it’s some kind of tactile stimulation.

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They don’t require any prep or refrigeration, just stay in jars until whenever we want to cook them.

I cooked down and canned tomatoes in a pressure canner, separated by color. Some are orange and yellow, which get a little darker when cooked, and some are red and purple, which just turn into a basic red sauce. In the past I’ve just frozen them all but I think I like canning them now. I also canned some raw and they look so watery after processing I’m not sure I did it right. There’s a food blogger I’m a fan of who would probably never make the amateur error of allowing her reflection on the shiny jars (her site is Cooking without limits). But maybe I could insert Easter eggs that way, like by having someone take pics in the nude.

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Zucchini cake is popular right now. I made one with yellow squash that was bright yellow and moist, a huge hit with my friends who came over on Labor Day. On EG’s birthday last October I made zucchini and chocolate cakes, and the kids chose zucchini over chocolate, which surprised me. I don’t eat chocolate because it triggers migraines so I usually make some non-chocolate option I can enjoy for dessert. That probably explains my muffin top, which I will not be posting a picture of.

Here’s Pixie licking every last crumb off the picnic table:

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It’s a terrible pic but it reveals her true self so well. I accept her for who she is.

*The phrase “Golden load” is from this poem by William Blake, “To Autumn”

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

“The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

I’m in the hypothetical black!

I was wondering when the hypothetical return on my gardening investment would start to show. As of today it’s $11.00 ish. How do you like me now, Richard Branson?

Is it annoying when there are pages and pages of essays about this one time this blogger had this one thing and it reminded her of this one time when something was fun and then there are ten captioned photos of food before you get to the recipe/photo/instructable you googled? I think so, but still do it.

 

 

Here’s a pretty salad my friends and I enjoyed last weekend. Paul Robeson, Pantano Romanesco, Pink Brandywine, something yellow and Kellogg’s Breakfast. The recipe is that you pick some tomatoes, slice them and I might have sprinkled salt on them:

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I really need to invest in a better iPhone or an actual camera. Maybe some photography classes.

Some of those are from seeds I saved from plants grown from seeds I saved the previous year. That’s why they’re called heirlooms. I’ve talked to people who save seeds by letting whole fruits get moldy and disgusting, but I’m not sure why. I don’t mean I’m not sure why I talked to them, I mean I’m not sure why people waste an entire tomato to save its seeds. I slice the best examples of the variety and there are seeds on the cutting board. I make sure the cutting board is clean and free of salt or other seeds so I don’t get the varieties mixed up. Then I put the seeds in a jar of water (my water is filtered but that probably doesn’t matter), label the jar and forget about them for a few days. Later I wash and drain the seeds, then let them dry on a paper towel. When they’re dry I seal them in envelopes and plant them again when it’s seed starting time. I have had them stay viable for two, maybe three years. Look at this Kellogg’s Breakfast; not many seeds but enough to grow a lot more plants:

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You could read this before you save seeds. I just did, after doing it like I described above for over five years. There’s a risk of the plants developing late blight or something. If I’m honest, my plants don’t look perfect this time of year, but they are still producing leaves and healthy fruit. I have the same experience whether I order or save the seeds, with the exception that the saved seeds tend to have a higher germination rate. That slice of tomato has like $2.50 worth of seeds in it.

Well done, Brad Gates

This is a Lucid Gem tomato, an heirloom variety developed by Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms. I had never grown these before this year and never eaten one until today. I gave it a five star review at Baker Creek’s site for flavor, looks and productivity. I also noted it resisted what looked like a blight creeping up on its neighbor (referenced in post Oh we got trouble from last month).

Here’s a Solar Flare, also new to me, very tasty, and impressive to PTA ladies who come to my parties 😉

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And a Paul Robeson that happens to be shaped like a tuchus:

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You’re welcome.

And just because the internet loves cats, here are some adorable barn kittens my niece is holding (sorry for the picture quality):

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I love cats. We had a cat named JB for years and lost her to kidney disease about 5 years ago. We still talk about her. But if I ever get another cat (which will never happen according Metal Pig, who is allergic), s/he’s gonna stay indoors. I was wondering what had happened to the Bird Show, which is what I call it when a variety of birds congregate around my garden at dusk. There are noticeably fewer. Then I think I figured it out. My neighbor got a new cat this year, and I saw him drag the body of a young rabbit into his yard. I was traumatized and called him a bad kitty, like that helps. He just looked at me, back at the rabbit, and then at me again, like, “What?” I can’t blame him. Doesn’t matter that he’s well-fed, he’s just hard wired to hunt. And, like his predecessor Oscar, he’s probably an adorable bird-killer. I’ve seen Oscar take down a sparrow in mid-air. If you wonder what those mysterious pets and feral cats do all day, it probably involves sleeping and killing. That’s why people like them in their barns, but they don’t just chase mice. My friends with outdoor cats are wonderful, caring people, maybe they just don’t know how much impact the kitties have on our wildlife. I didn’t until I looked it up. JB’s favorite place to be was in the garden with me; I guess she just didn’t hunt when I was looking. Or maybe not all cats are so motivated, I don’t know.

Those were good times! And these are better times.

That’s something I’ve been known to say at the conclusion of a reminiscing session. A few nights before Metal Pig and I got married, we were out with our friends and wedding party, and one of our friends started jotting down notes on a cocktail napkin. She wrote what she would end up reading at the reception from that napkin, closing with that quote. Here are some examples of good times and better times:

  Good times: finding a redneck bar in Santa Fe and dancing to Lynard Skynard covers

  Better times: taking 8-year-old EG to his first rock show, outdoors in the summer; it was Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and we played football in the field near the stage

Good times: being 20-something, almost skinny, and looking good (or thinking I looked good) in plaid flannel, playing Soundgarden CDs

Better times: doing a load of plaids in my HE washing machine, including the same old flannel shirt that still fits, telling Amazon Echo to play the station Soundgarden

  Good times: planting a few unusual heirloom tomatoes to see if they’d grow, baby and cat following me around in the garden

  Better times: specializing in growing weird (and not so weird) heirloom vegetables, tripling the size of my now fenced garden, although I miss the old kitty.

My 13-year-old dog Pixie, who is brilliant and flexible, sliding sideways under the garden fence to swipe green beans:

What is ripe this week, clockwise from big yellow tomato: Great White (it’s actually lemon yellow), Pink Brandywine, Golden King of Siberia, Old Italian, Speckled Roman (actually a striped tomato with a cute little blossom-end tail, or nipple, depending on how your mind works)

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Last month I excised what looked like a blight on a Lucid Gem and the Brandywine the monster above grew from. I also gave them a little liquid fert made without animals and they rallied. I had low expectations but there’s new growth, blossoms and fruit.

Cat-facing is an issue for a little of the fruit, which I attribute to our drought/flood/drought pattern this summer when the plants set fruit.

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I will eat those anyway, they just have less edible fruit because of the woody scar. Most tomatoes right now don’t have the issue. These will be, ironically, what you might call meaty:

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Think my pear tree is doomed

This really makes me sad. I got this little Bartlett pear tree about 10 years ago and it’s produced a lot of fruit. Last year it got fire blight and I excised a lot of the tree hoping to keep it from spreading. But suddenly this week, when it’s been raining almost as much as it’s been not raining, the blight returned with a vengeance.

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This is bad. I might call a tree surgeon. I have medicine for this type of infection, but by the time I bought it the tree had set fruit. Label says not to use it once there’s fruit. I really let this tree down by procrastinating the treatment.

There’s a noticeable reduction of wildlife in my yard. At dawn and dusk we’re used to seeing something we call the Bird Show, where a community including (but not limited to) Robins, sparrows, finches, juncos and chickadees would be active in the yard and garden. I can still hear the chickadees and I know Robins and the others are around, but I’m pretty sure the action has died down this year. It’s not for lack of bugs or seeds, I think. And I’ve only seen one snake this year, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t around. They hide. Hawks and corvids (jays and crows) will eat them – you don’t want to be a snake in your next life. It’s tough.

Anyway, here’s a bean called Fort Portal Jade, which look like little beads of sea glass when mature and dried:

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I don’t think my crappy iPhone 6 camera captured their bluish-green tones. They grow and mature fast, having put these out in July. I imagine they’d be great for zones with short growing seasons. I did eat the green beans fresh for awhile in June, and they were good, but it’s worth letting them mature for these pretty seeds. I haven’t had enough dried beans to cook yet so I don’t know how they’ll taste. The only downside to growing these is that they’re a bush type, so it limits how much you can grow in a small space. Not that they aren’t productive, they are, but you really multiply your harvest with pole beans that have a small footprint and >6 feet of vertical growth. Some of mine are climbing the corn, others trellises, poles and the garden fence:

Oh we got trouble.

It is uncharacteristically cool and cloudy today. Summer in Colorado is dry and about 30 degrees F hotter, usually. The weather makes me gloomy (I am too old to be emo). I almost said I was depressed, but checked myself. I rethink using that word now since depression is a topic little EG has had questions about lately.

He was really affected by the deaths of singers Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. We’ve been fans of Cornell for years and EG liked Linkin Park. He was sad the day he heard on the radio of Bennington’s suicide and wanted to talk about it. I wish I could have protected him from that news. He couldn’t wrap his brain around someone feeling that way and I can’t either, because it’s not the state of my head. I wanted him to understand depression is an illness, not a contagious one, and if you see someone with signs of it to help them…it ended up being a good talk and he was usual cheerful self again. He processed it over a few days and discussions. But as a parent I don’t know if I did a great job addressing it. Such a heavy subject for a little kid.

That didn’t have anything to do with my garden. Let me tell you about the trouble, which is relatively minor and possibly managed.

  1. Squash bugs. Saw these little guys in June when the squash were wee little planties. I thought they were screwed (the plants, that is). I sprayed them every day with soapy water for about a week and they powered through it. IMG_1343IMG_0435

2.  Is this some kind of blight? Most plants look healthy but this concerns me. I see some spotting on the Solar Flair with the weird heart-shaped tomato and a little on its neighbor, the Brandywine. My Brandywines have always gotten some kind of issue toward the end of the season, but are usually so big by then it doesn’t seem to spread far. But it gives me a creepy feeling. Still, I can’t seem to cull a plant unless it’s a case of sacrificing the needs of the few for the needs of the many. I don’t even kill ants.

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On a happier note, the shotis puri Metal Pig made last night is good. It looks like the real deal to me, but it doesn’t remind him of the breads he ate in Georgia. He needs to lower his standards. Traditionally, as he described to us, it’s made in a kiln-like oven called a tone, which we will not be building or buying. The dough is slapped to the sides of the oven and scraped off when ready. This was made on a pizza stone in a typical residential range.

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