Monday, August 31, 2009

Big, Big Zuke

Every year one or two zucchini get away from me. Either I miss the perfect harvest window or they are hidden from view or I can't think of which neighbor to offer another zucchini. But somehow they avoid getting picked. Once they achieve a girth not normally seen in the grocery store, I can't resist, I just have to let 'em go to see how big they'll get. It's not like I can't spare few squashes in the name of science.

I must have few of the kooky giant pumpkin growing genes, but I don't set out to grow gigantic veg, it just happens. I think the current world record is 1689 pounds. My zucchini are not that big.

So here's a Romanesco zucchini and a yellow squash that achieved greatness. The sprinkler head is added to give scale.

I like to name them after those big trucks with the giant wheels that drive over piles of cars. So these 2 are called Grrrrravedigger and Widowmaker.

Stella and Kaitlyn Stella and Kaitlyn demonstrate that kids do indeed love over sized vegetables.

And this is the view as I look up from my patio on a gorgeous September day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Feel Fall

Today will be spent doing a little clean up and rearranging on the farm. Fall is beginning to make it's presence known. Not everyday, just now and then little signs appear. A few leaves are starting to fall, the days are getting noticeably shorter. There's an intangible sense of the changing seasons in the air. Although the days are still plenty warm, it does feel as if fall is waiting in the wings.

The greens I planted a few weeks ago are doing fine and some of the summer plants will be removed to give them some more room and more sun. Plants to remove include sunflowers, which are fading, a redundant zucchini, and some underperforming peppers, and of course many weeds.

In sad news, my farm cat, Mel has been missing since Friday. I've put up fliers around the neighborhood and spoken to all my neighbors, posted a description and photo on craigslist, and walked all over the neighborhood calling kittykittykitty. We even visited the Humane Society to see if she had been turned in, even though I think it's too early for that. So keep your fingers crossed that she will wander back home.Several people have told me stories of their own cats that came home in good health after a week or 2 or even a month, so I remain hopeful. Here's what she looks like, let me know if you see her.
And here is a shot of Mel performing vital work on the Backyard Farm.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Delights From The Garden

I really need to get better at taking pictures of vegetables. But here are a few shots of treats from the garden. Lots of things at peak these days.

Beans in abundance. The packet of seeds claimed purple, green and yellow beans, but there don't seem to be too many yellows. No matter, I have yellow bush beans in another location, an undisclosed location. Now, who's the Bean Queen?

These are my beloved Pimiento de Padron peppers. Some of these were not harvested early enough and may end up blowing somebodies head off. But the small ones are tender and delicious. Saute in a little olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt, and pop like candy. I planted 2 plants, one is thriving and doing all the heavy lifting of supplying us with peppers. The other one is struggling to produce a few measly peppers. It has labored in the shadow of a zucchini plant and been besieged by chickens TWICE, so I forgive the poor production.

We aren't getting tons of tomatoes, as I lamented in a previous post, but what we are getting is just what you'd imagine; plump, succulent, juicy and oh so flavorful. I have enjoyed them many ways, but my favorite remains crusty bread, a generous slathering of mayonnaise, slabs of ripe tomatoes, coarse salt, black pepper. This is best enjoyed over the sink.

My Dad once described some particularly gorgeous tomatoes as pornographic, and I have to say that when the lewd fruits are plump, juicy, meaty, ripened to perfection and warm from the vine, well, it's tough to find a better word.

And here are the Manzano peppers. They are about as big as a golf ball so far. Both plants are carrying about 10-12 peppers and I think there will be more to come. These peppers will ripen to yellow. The smaller Rocoto pepper plants are coming along fine, but I still don't expect to get any peppers this season.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Roller Coaster Temps

Following the rope-a-dope weather we have had lately, the plants seem to be recovering. At the end of July we had a hot spell, with temperatures over a hundred degrees for several days in a row. Portlanders were wilting and whining, and the plants faired a little better. But the intense heat stunned them.

The beans have blossoms again, after a short period of no beans and no flowers. We're back to normal with temperatures in the high 70s and cool nights. Perfect Oregon summer.

Tomatoes continue to ripen, even though there aren't very many, as I have mention previously. And cucumbers are back in full production. Strangely the zucchinis, which we are usually up to our necks in by now, have not grown much and have not produced many squashes. The plants have not sprawled across other plants the way they usually do, engulfing all in their path. Having a zucchini shortage is downright WEIRD. Like Bizarro World.

But it's great time for planting seeds. The seeds for greens, lettuces, beets, etc. that I planted last Thursday have begun to sprout, with almost no duds. Warmer weather makes all the difference. Sprouting seeds at this time of year deludes me into thinking I have some control over nature. Powerful and terrifying.

The seeds lurk under the thin covering of soil for what seems like only minutes before they spring up, enthusiastically.

In the cold, wet, dark days of spring, trying to get a head start by sprouting seeds indoors is much harder work. I find myself peering at the cells of the seed starting try, imagining that I see the tiny crooked necked sprouts struggling to pierce the surface of the soil and strain towards the dim light coming in the window for maybe 6 hours a day.

I'm happy to have the first batch of plants started for fall and winter grazing.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Bounty and Fall / Winter Planning and Planting

Lots and lots of cucumbers lately, including the adorable Mexican Sour Gherkins. They look like tiny watermelons and have a snappy crunch and a little citrus tang. The vines are delicate, with lots of those curly climbing springs.

And many many beans, green, yellow, and purple. I have put the word out and neighbors have come to my aid to bail me out.

But even though I am kind of drowning in vegetables recently, I started some seeds for fall and winter harvesting. I usually wait to late to do this, but I hope it is early enough for these plants to get a good head start before the weather turns cool. Considering our recent string of hundred degree plus days, it is taxing my imagination to invision the weather cooling. But we know it will. It always does.

Kale, Cabbage, Lettuces, Beets, Rapini, Gai Lan, Onions, Chard

I planted all of the above in a seed starting tray and after only 3 or 4 days some of the sprouts are emerging. I'll direct seed some more carrots, peas, onions, and lots of lettuce. Whatever we can't keep up with will be enjoyed by the hens.

Now it's time to start planning ways to protect these plants so they can stretch out into the fall and winter. I expect some of them will make it to next spring.

I've tried cold frames and hoop houses with varying degrees of success. The hoop house creates a look perfectly complimented by a car up on blocks, an above ground pool and a trampoline. This was my husbands least favorite solution. Someday I'd like to have a real greenhouse.