Sunday: Olivier Giroud’s hair won the World Cup and it rained in Colorado

Those unrelated situations were the biggest news of the weekend. It was a great match. I almost didn’t care who won, but was leaning slightly to the underdogs of Croatia. They were so cohesive and tough.

I know kids are all gonna want Mbappe jerseys now, but Giroud’s hair did its part too.

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Look at the French, with all their vowels and hair

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In other news, there was a 30-degree F temperature drop to 70-something. Some rain finally soaked my area, although based on the smoke that remained visible after it cleared up I guess it didn’t fall on the parts of the Southwest that are on fire.

I had to pull up a tomato plant that looked like it was going to succumb to a blight. A strong plant could have overcome that I guess but this one was small and already compromised by her hail injuries. I feel bad for the plant and, while I’m at it, the fungus or whatever was killing it. I had to remove it to save the others. Pulling it up seemed like a violent act. I didn’t even let my 9-year-old son see me do it, because he’s sensitive like me.

There’s no way for me to know if or how plants feel. It’s not a stretch to relate to another mammal of a different species or a bird, but it’s a little more of a challenge to try to get inside the head of a fish or reptile. Understanding beings from the plant kingdom – the other kingdom – requires some real outside-the-box thinking. I know they don’t have a nervous system like mammals do, but they are living. I love them, raise them and eat them, which is a relationship many people have with some mammals and birds. I only eat plants, because I have to eat something. I feel like I owe them respect and stewardship, and I’m not sure how benevolent it really is for me to raise them up to die in the winter. Well, some don’t die, and virtually all of them live on via their seeds.

 

Having written all that, I still find this article about plant abuse hilarious.

 

 

I’m getting too old for this shirt

 

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Everyone in my office was given a Deathplow shirt as a tribute to the longtime employee who invented “Deathplow” as a fictional heavy metal band. He gets credit for it, not I. He grew up on an actual farm, not a “farm” like mine. When he left the company after 10 years, we all wore these shirts on his last day.

This is really a stupid obsession. Digging two-foot post holes into hard, cracked clay with my analog tools and cussing the whole time didn’t help me pack on the muscles that atrophied when I skipped workouts. These little buggies kept eating stuff I direct sowed, reminding me that my “thou shalt not kill” policy is sometimes unrealistic. And day after day, with 3-digit (Fahrenheit) temps and sometimes 1-digit humidity percentage, it keeps not raining. Except that one time in late May we got a hailstorm that injured my established plants. It was like they were getting punched, over and over, although I covered as many as I could.

It’s not an unusual summer here, it’s just the first time in 10 years I’ve tried to crack into new dirt and plant a fence.

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I couldn’t give up and leave a pathetic pile of dirt in the backyard which I’d have to explain to kids who come over to play. Besides, the OG (original garden) doesn’t have much more going on than cover crops and salad greens.

The good news about the blazing sun is it’s now powering our house because we just got solar panels.

Somehow, those direct sowed seeds and most of the transplants I nursed from seeds are growing and producing.

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Holy shirt.

I planted a cover “crop” of buckwheat (soba) for the first time. I always plant legumes, because I love them and they are good soil conditioners, but that alone isn’t going to help turn this worthless slab of dirt into somewhat fertile soil. And the buckwheat addition won’t either. I’ve mixed in topsoil, vermiculite and compost about six inches under the plants that are thriving. I’ve had to water them with a hose. I can’t imagine how original growers in what is now the American West survived. I mean, I know millions of them didn’t, but many did, and I’m here today struggling even with better tools.

 

Out Standing in my Field

I’m digging up and terracing 200 square feet of lawn to create a second garden. I think the biggest expense will be a fence around it, which may not need to be as substantial as the one around the bigger garden. It will be > 200 SF of turf on a slope I won’t have to mow anymore. This area faces east – southeast and will have a little morning shade from pine trees on the eastern perimeter of the yard. Most of the day it will get unfiltered sun like the original garden – I’ll just start calling that one the Original Garden, or OG, if you will.

First, EG and I measured the rise and run and calculated that the slope is only 1 degree. Here’s his TinkerCad model of this simple plan. The stones that = 1×2 feet are his suggested footpath down the middle, but I changed that to a 2′ wide path horizontally instead of steps down/up the center. That removes 80 SF of planting space but I need that to reach into the  planting beds without stepping on them.

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This will allow two 4 x 10 beds with a short retaining wall on the downslope sides of the top bed and the path. There will need to be a perimeter on the outside as well, so I can access the beds from all sides, so I might as well remove the turf there too. I don’t know what to use for those paths; maybe pea gravel. Removing turf, Minecraft-style with a pickaxe, is burning a few extra calories.

How much can I grow here? This is a rough draft of a goal:

-8 tomato plants, potentially 80-100# of tomatoes or $280-$350 worth (Market value $4-5/pound in my area, but I’m conservatively valuing mine at $3.50 because I’m not a market grower)

-2 pepper plants, which I am never optimistic about, at best providing 10# of peppers or $25 worth

-4 rows of legumes grown vertically, providing about 2 cups per day fresh green beans  in June, July and August (and a few pounds of dried beans in the fall

-Steady supply of mustard, kale and some other greens that grow throughout the summer; maybe $30 worth. I love lettuce but the ship for planting that here has sailed. It’s May and I haven’t gotten this bed ready for planting. Lettuce I already planted in the established beds in March.

-A cucumber vine or 2, maybe 3, hopefully giving us 10# of fruit in June and July. My experience with these makes yield hard to predict. I feel like I have little control over the success and much has to do with the weather.

Speaking of weather, this is what the sky is like today, and I wish I were collecting the rain for when it’s dry later:

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That is a sculpture made of trash (plastic or Styrofoam cups) we saw on a recent trip to Boston, where it’s cold and rains all the time. Apparently. It was at a place called the MFA, which turns out to be an acronym for Museum of Fine Arts. I thought the MF stood for something else. I am fortunate enough to have been so saturated with the experience of fine art museums in my childhood that I hate them. Still, this sculpture made an impression on me. I hope it makes an impression on other parents who run lemonade stands and could use compostable cups. They do jack up the price of your lemonade though.

Here is the new Garden ROI spreadsheet for 2018: Garden expenses 2018

 

 

CloningTomatoes

I know you can clone tomatoes. Their stems have tiny threads covering them that look like tiny hairs or downy feathers on a baby bird. If you clip off a branch or sucker and stick it in water, soil or any medium that isn’t toxic to it, those little things become roots within days.

Previously I’ve done it during growing season because a branch had broken accidentally, or had to be pruned, and that seems to be too late to expect the cloned plant to catch up. This year I rooted some cuttings from seedlings I pruned and, a week later, the little seedlings look promising.

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Spring makes me nervous

Like a crazy person, I pruned some seedlings already. Unlike the other crap I do just to see what would happen, this has a low risk of concussion or dental bills. I do have shoulder impingement but I think it’s from something else, not pinching tomato leaves. Also I was sober (and TBH I typically am despite my declarations of “HMPaWT!” when doing something to see what would happen). It does make me nervous because I feel like I’m injuring my planties.

I planted nightshades in early February but some took weeks to germinate. I got nervous by March and put a heating pad under a metal baking sheet, and the little pods stuffed with seeds on that. It helped; I got a few more sprouts that way.

Last fall I was an idiot and labeled some of the promising seeds I collected as “P.R.” This could mean either Paul Robeson or Pantano Romanesco. You can’t really go wrong with either but I wish I were less of a dumbass.

Right now, what I have with true leaves are:

P.R. (whatever they are): 14 plants, ranging from 2-10 inches tall. I’ll give away a few to friends.

Lucid Gem: 6 little planties; planted later but look promising. I will be reluctant to share these.

Kellogg’s Breakfast: 5 healthy-looking 4-6 inch seedlings.

Golden Jubilee: Just sprouts, 2 with tiny true leaves

Striped (aka Speckled) Romans: 3 little ones with leaves, 2 sprouts…I’m going to need more of these. Hope the other seed sprout soon.

Anything else is a potential plant; either a little sprout or still a seed: 4 striped cherry tomatoes of some kind (heirloom like all my plants, but I bought the seeds and don’t know much about them); 12 peppers, a few Red Brandywines, one true Pantano Romanesco and more of the above mentioned tomatoes.

I’m not sure how I feel about pruning. The biggest of the P.R.s I just pinched off the little stem between leaves 4 and 5, and felt bad about it so I put the amputated parts in water. I know it’s easy to get tomatoes to root that way. I wonder how much of that cloning I can get away with. Like can I double my count of productive plants by cloning branches when they’re a little older?

I mixed quinoa and lettuce seeds with potting soil and water, thinking it less fiddly then planting individual seeds. Something is growing; I think lettuce. If I could really grow quinoa I’d save us like a whopping $7/week. Because the dogs and I have a diet based on quinoa.

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I should have more done by now. I should be digging up more space to plant. But it’s almost time for whatever that other stuff I was going to do today, after which it will probably be time to crack open a Prosecco.

Stuff to do so I’m not tempted to start seeds too early

I’m a busy parent. There are kids to play with, horses to ride and this Prosecco isn’t going to drink itself. It’s all I can do to fit in a 2-hour workout.

That’s not really me. I would never wear that. Also I don’t really have that much time on my hands. I don’t even have a string of horses. Just access to a string of horses. And I bought several bottles of Prosecco but it was for our holiday party. There were two left over and I made jelly with one and used half the other in risotto (see this blog for risotto recipes and pics). Don’t remember what happened to the other half.

Making jelly is fun. I wouldn’t normally waste a good bottle of wine on a batch of jelly, but it was Christmas and I sent some to family members. I added lemongrass and basil to the Prosecco jelly and rosemary to some I made with Moscato (EG colored it green). That’s not really relevant to this gardening blog, is it. I didn’t grow the wine, it was just left over from a party. But I did make jelly from the raspberries that grow in my front yard, and that got good reviews. I also happened to score a cheap case of blackberries in the fall and made insanely good preserves out of those, which was almost too pretty to eat.

My friend Mean Charlene (ironic nickname) grows a variety of hot peppers, which she shared with me. I combined them with heirloom tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper for a decent salsa.

I would grow peppers, but as long as Mean Charlene does every year, I can just trade with her. I did have two plants outside this year, one I planted and another that was a surplus seedling a coworker gave me. Right before the first frost, I made a last minute decision to dig those up and bring them in. They blossomed in November and have little peppers on them.

And here’s a blurry pic of the owl in my neighborhood, who has little to do with gardening but I was just so excited I got this close and s/he let me take pics, I’m posting one.

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Lemme back up

Candid thoughts about the daily life of a nine year old. Absolutely worth reading!

Everything You Need To Know About Me

Okay, the scene is set on christmas afternoon, and I am playing my new ocarina.

“What’s an ocarina?”, You might ask, well it’s a 6,300 year old wind instrument. That’s literally it’s entire summary. That’s it. Here, I’ll show you a picture of mine.

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Isn’t it pretty? it sounds pretty nice, too. Don’t think so? I’ll prove it :

Sorry, the audio is a little crappy because I recorded it on my kindle fire 7 with no equipment. But enough about my ocarina, let’s skip 15 days to now, I just finished seeing Paddington 2 in theaters, and it totally deserved it’s five-star rating, as for what’s to come, we’ll need a fortuneteller, or a gypsy or something like that. Or maybe the hero of time would be nice.

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