Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Growth on the Way

After letting the dirt settle from the De-Corn-ification, I felt ready to plant this weekend. I decided that I would need to let my seedlings eat or grow, so I pulled out the two remaining cauliflower/broccoli plants and put in a row of mystery Arugula/Beet plants. I'm hoping they take and don't get devoured as my little basil did.

I also put some basil in dirt and am hoping to grow it as well. Part of this weekend's efforts included a massive tomato harvest. Yesterday, from the harvest, I made divine tomato, basil, garlic pasta sauce. I was so proud when Marc told me it was the first time he's every really liked pasta. So proud!

But I did have to purchase the basil and now, again, I've got a load of basil. With my last two efforts in pesto making being somewhat unsuccessful, I'm thinking of other options for the basil. I still have tomatoes and i'm wondering if I can make some yummy bruchetta.

Also planted this weekend - thanks mom for the seeds! - carrots. My mom has never had luck with carrots so gave me this pack of seeds. She said to take care that the ground stays damp. I probably should have put a layer of mulch over the little seeds, but I was afraid of impeding their potential growth.

Next to the scattering of carrots, I planted a row of sunflowers. I'm not a big sunflower seed eater, however I did read a little article in Sunset Magazine about this: www.greatsunflower.org
I just realized I might not be using the correct type of sunflowers... I'm going to have to go out and find others. We'll see. I have time.

Time does seem to be on my side. However, nature does seem to be moving in. I haven't yet seen another Horn Worm and the Green Looper Caterpillar count is way down - bordering on 0. However, I do find these orange/black bugs that seem to be hanging out near white spots in the leaves. I've been fighting some mite infestations, I will need to do another organic spray-down this weekend. And there seems to be a growing population of spiders - which isn't the worst thing, I just wish they'd eat more of the mites. The ecosystem is evoloving. Along with it, I've had to evolve a doggie guard, as I think Zoe has developed a taste for my fresh from the vine fruit.

All in all, I'm happy with it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Growing Big Things

Sunday I pulled out the two rows of corn. Friday I had harvested 2 ears and boiled them up, only to find that they were as hard as plastic. I searched on the web for the story behind why my corn would be like rock and learned that it was due to my harvesting too late.

Saturday I went out and collected all the corn I could. I hucked it and gave the strings & husks to the worms. After boiling it up, I found that about half of it was edible. Sad. The corn stalks had grown so tall and were such a point of pride. Too bad they didn't do so well in the production department. They suffered from mites at the end. Black mites which coated the ears like a mold.

Sunday the stalks were chopped down. I cut them up and put them in the pile of unwanted plant remains that is growing in the side yard need the gate in the fence. I felt sad and betrayed. All that love. All that water. Had I failed them or them me?

My attempts at growing seedlings has stalled. Some started and died in the hot sun, despite my watering. Others have found to be tasty nibbles for some unseen, and so far unstoppable, leave nibbler. Of the 20 onion seeds planted, I have 4 small shoots. I can't tell the arugula from the beets, as they both have red stalks for some reason.

The little plants looks too delicate to forcefully relocated into the soil. Then where can I plan them to allow them to thrive? I think they should go where the broccoli/cauliflower runts were. There they can get sun. The space left vacant by the corn has partial shade due to the 6 ft tall tomato plants blocking out the sun.

We'll see where they land.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Race Relations

I just saw this article:

A prominent black scholar was arrested, in his home, as a suspect for burglary. Some white woman called in and reported a break-in at the man's address, the police came and arrested the man. Stunning.

Now, this could be a Saturday Night Live skit - but have the break-in be at the white house and poor O'bama getting arrested. Would be quite a statement. Not sure if its funny, as it hits too close to home. The DC Police can make a statement like, "It was an unfortunate and regrettable incident".

Underneath - the head of our Supreme Court states, "The only way to end race discrimination is to stop discriminating." That's working out real well, don't you find? This man has no recourse. He's taken in, booked and harassed - impacting his standing in the community. Impacting his life, as he might have had work he needed to do or time to spend with his family, but instead, the state has taken his time & well being based on race. Imagine this a million times over.

When I was a child, my friend Cheran's mother was a judge. She went to South Africa when there was still apartheid where she got arrested by the police. I think it was due to being a black woman with a camera. When asked what she did, the police didn't believe she was a judge in America. Their bias was so thick, telling them the truth - that a black man owns a mansion in Cambridge or that Amercians might find that blacks are the intellectual equals of whites - doesn't penetrate their thick skulls.

I don't want to be judged by a court who is lead by a man who doesn't understand the impact of being black, latino/a, asian or female in this society. His insulated, posh, caucasian background prevents him from understanding the lumpy impact of the law's uneven application. I am excited to have Sotomeyer on the Supreme Court and to see the influence of her Wise Latina self.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Feeling sick

What shall I name this little guy? I found him happily eating my mound of tomato plants. He evoked a little yelp and near sprint to the garden door. When I noticed him, he was high up and only a few inches from my face. I think he (or she, who knows) could have happily hopped over to my nose, were it foliage instead of flesh and continued to chow down.

Now I'm not sure what to do with him. Nor what to name him. I took a close-up of his head & claws. He has

Each of his little paws has ten or twelve little spiky-grippy things that help him cling to my tomato.

I enlarged the photo and was fascinated by his features. The polka dot pattern; the little hairs; the faux eyes; the under the mouth claws to help guide in the leaves; his upper lip that appears to end in teeth.

I feel queazy. And the worst part is that I know he isn't the only one. There must be more where this guy came from.

I've got goose bumps on my arms and I swear I can feel one of them crawling on my neck, under my hair.

Here he's posing on a CD to give you a sense of size. Can you see the claw-hook that sticks out as a dog's tail would, but in this case it is more like a thorn defense found on so many plants.

At first I got him into a paper cup. My first instinct was to run. Then I realized I had to remove this critter from my garden before it ate every leaf & stem. I wrested him into a cup with a chop-stick and sacrificed th tomato branch in the process - he wasn't going to let go! Next - bring the cup that was not coated in green caterpillar blood up to Marc to show him. I left him the cup. Really, I don't know what to do with it!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

War of the Roses

Nature has reclaimed my vegetable plot. The pristine, bug free Eden is giving way to the creepy crawlies of the fallen land. Last week, itt started with a large black spider. I let it hop away, as I peeked around for any green loopers. After I harvested the collard greens & lettuce, the earwig count and caterpillar counts dropped dramatically.

On the same day I found the spider, I found a yet to be identified black and orange beetle. The next day one of my plants - unsure if it is a broccoli or cauliflower - was showing some mites. I washed them off. The next day I found the plant with a mite blanket and realized I had to take action.

Friday I visited the local nursery. The visit had three purposes, to get some organic soapy insecticide, get me some live insecticide in the form of lady bugs and finally, to get some sort of trellis to restrict the growth of my tomatoes. The woman at Pompei Nursery helped me out, going above & beyond to answer my newbie questions. She patiently listened to me discribe the tomato situation and suggested that the plants were probably spending a lot of their energy producing those vines. The arms of the tomato plants were twisting their way through the corn, over-hanging the bell peppers and oppressing my broccoli.

I came home and did a big tomato trim, after having been emboldened by the lady at the nursery. I trimeed down all arms without actual baby tomatoes. I dramatically scaled back the massive mound. Then, using an article my mother clipped for me, I found that my tomatoes are indeterminate - so I should have these for a long time. Marc came out and assisted me with the installation of the trellis bits. We created two wall-like breaks onto which the tomatoes can climb find support. They seemed happy today after we got it all settled.

Back to the bugs - I used the insecticide soap, which smelled so good, I had a hard time knowing when to stop the application. However, the bugs were still there this morning. Saturday AM I had released one of the two containers of ladybugs, yet I put some on the plant with the mites but they didn't seem interested. I did'n'g get the impression that they were ready to much down.

Then this morning, I discover three of those big (say .5 inches by .33 inches) orange & black bugs. Writing about them makes my skin crawl. The ceiling fan gently blows my hair on my neck and I keep thinking that it is the bugs and each sentance I type gets interrupted by a swipe of the hand to my shoulder. Ick.

Marc came out to visit me as I tended the plants and immediated spotted a bug that we later idetified as a stink bug. It pushed me over the edge. We did research on the web and found that many bugs are made scarce by spraying down plants with a mixture of molasses and water. So I grabbed our yet to be used spray pump, filled it up with the mixture and coated my garden and self with the mixture. I'm hoping to check tomorrow that it worked. Either way, I'll be releasing the 2nd round of the ladybugs in the morning. The thought of keeping them for another day in the refridge breaks my heart. Those creatures should be free and out in the world, doing good.

I'm hoping I can find a way to manage the bugs, the blissful plant-it-and-it-will-grow halcyon days at the start of my garden seem to be fading. I am also having problems in the worm farm. I believe I added too much food without providing worm bedding. When putting in the bits from today's cooking, I found that there weren't as may worms as I would have liked. In addition, I found two nearly 1 inch long grubs. Not good. I may need to harvest the compost and get new worms supplies. I'm hoping that I the little guys were just hiding, not missing all together.

Sad day in the garden.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Living with a Killer

About 5:15 this morning Tiger wakes us with her special meow. The one that says, "I'm tracking my wounded prey for my amusement." The morning light doesn't illuminate the shadows enough for us to identify the silent victim, so we try to go back to sleep while hoping that whatever it is will not join us in bed.

Fifteen minutes later I climb out of bed to find that she's taken on one of the large moths - it would cover 1/2 my palm were I not to chicken to hold it - and is chasing it around the master bath. I dodge the moth while brushing my teeth, secretly cheering when it finds refuge behind the shutters of a window that, initially, seemed too high for Tiger to get to. I pray for the bug's escape, while being utterly unable to assist it, as well as for a quick death, if that is the critter's fate. She takes a break to come over to me, in hopes that I might giver he a little affection or turn the tap so she can drink from the faucet. Cheeky, as the Brits would say.

An hour later the bug is silent, yet Tiger is hopping up and somehow clininging to the bottom of the blinds, suspending herself - I don't know how, cand she get her claws into the drywall? I haven't checked on the bug.

When I moved in with Tiger, Marc mentioned that she would do this sort of thing. I didn't believe him. I've lived with cats and, yes, there is the occasional mouse and bird, but moths? lizards? He had to be joking. No - here on the edge of the delta, there seems to be more wildlife. She regularly brings in 3 inch lizards. Two nights ago she had one in the hall between the garage & kitchen. I saw her, then realized what she had and squealed. That set off the dogs - Austin running to my rescue by biting the lizard. 10 minutes later I mustered up the courage to check on the critter - one eye had popped out, yet hung by something.

The lizards I will save. Last week we chased off the Tiger & the dogs - the barkers get excited when I squeal - and we used an empty coffee tin to trap a gecko. Catch & release. I just can't muster the courage to help the bugs. Yesterday morning I went to pick up, what I thought was a blade or grass or thin leaf from the floor of the master bath, assuming it was something that Tsui had picked out of her, now mohawked, coat. Silly me. Marc laughed as I yelped and flung the detached tail across the room. The feel of the limp, rough, no mistaking what it ickiness was almost too much for me.

The bits are the worst - Tiger has a love for decapitation. I've cleaned up multiple headless bodies left about the house. She loses interest when they cease moving, it seems. I think she figures that the game is done and she's ready for some kitty treats.

I'll check for the bug remains tonight, after I've mustered up the courage - or, I'll ask Marc, if I haven't stealed my stomach.