Friday, September 25, 2009

An afternoon in the gardens.

Rambling post ahead. This year has been a surprisingly gratifying one in our gardens.

Surprising in the vegetable gardens because due to our late move, I couldn't plant much and much of what I did plant was planted late. Our corn won't mature on time (not that that stops my kids from snacking on it).

Does anyone have a recipe or use for immature corn? You know, besides goat feed?

Our peppers and tomatoes have been producing like mad (though the tomatoes are taking a long time to ripen) which is so very satisfying.

At our other place, only thirty minutes east of here, I could never get tomatoes or peppers to fruit, even with a longer season, so obviously I'm *thrilled* at the production possibilities here.

Just look at this pepper plant. It's a type called 'Holy Mole' and it's like a tree. Right next to it are my little shrub like (and high producing also) habaneros.

We found another minor case of smut.

Fascinating stuff.

A reality check on how many rodents we have out here even with all of our barn cats.

And the cycle of life. The necessity of life forms that assist in decomposition.

Speaking of assisting in decomposition ...

Well, that last one was a fresh kill.

The surprise in our flower garden has been the joy we've gotten from it and the enthusiastic plans we're making for the next year. We expected it to be interesting and fun, but we've kind of gotten addicted to our flowers. Blame it on the zinnias and sunflowers.

Though the sunflowers are beginning to die.

I'm still finding living ones in the oddest places.

My poor catnip plant keeps sending up shoots in a vain attempt at survival.

Vain because of this addict.

Even a wire cage won't keep her out.

Our zinnias are out of control, producing such abundant, gorgeous flowers that my daughter has decided to become a flower seller like Eliza Doolittle. To keep her from wandering the streets saying "Buy a flower off a poor miss?", we've started to talk about other ways she could sell flowers next year. So while we'll probably have several rows of zinnias interspersed in our vegetable garden next year, this year she's content with wandering our smaller zinnia patch with scissors and a basket singing "All I want is a room somewhere".

And we've been getting the butterflies we wanted to get.

Does anyone know what these plants are? I'm hoping the one in the second picture is calendula. All were given to me unmarked.

Then there's the nematocidal marigolds.

If you plant these, be aware - they're a bush. A big, spreading bush. They're lovely, really, but the plant is huge.

We started harvesting our flax today.

My girl's in a poncho because she was cold. In 80 degree heat.

Then she got tired.

Our neighboring farm is chopping their fields of feed corn this week, so my husband took the kids out into the fields to explore before the sky high corn is gone.

It was a good lesson in the difference between sweet corn and feed corn. No comparison. The feed corn is hard, slightly bitter stuff.

And that was our afternoon in our gardens.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A lot of bull and a little bit chicken.

Yesterday was a busy day. Garage sales and Farmer's Market in the morning,

more work on the chicken coop in the afternoon,

(the girls drew in their nature journals while I worked) and going to look at a bull for our cows in the evening.

Long, full day. Those are the best.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mexican truffles.

I planted Japanese Popping Corn this year. I planted it late (due to the move and the fact that I didn't want it to cross-pollinate with the neighboring farm's field corn) and hoped it would fruit before our first freeze (it's a short season variety). It's between seven and eight feet tall right now. Our usual 'first freeze' is around September 15. We haven't had one yet, but I'm keeping an eye on the weather.

The fascinating thing about this corn for Hannah is the colors of the silk. Tawny brown.

Deep magenta.


Purple on some, a light pink on others.

And some bi-colored silks, purple and white.

I'm pretty fascinated by them, myself.

Then Hannah noticed something strange - a white glob on an ear. We pulled it off, shucked the ear and looked at it.

Gross. A severely deformed ear of corn.

We started a serious scientific investigation. We noted how many ears were infected (only three), which stalks they were on (all stalks damaged when a neighbor's steer got into my corn patch), and whether normal looking ears were also infected (they weren't).

We were feeling very proud of ourselves when my husband came over to look at it. One glance and he said "Oh, that's smut." Well then.

It's a fungus that "replaces the normal kernels of the cobs with large distorted tumors analogous to mushrooms". While we think of it as a horrid, nasty thing, in other cultures these cobs are considered a delicacy that "when cooked, have a flavor described as mushroom-like, sweet, savory, woody, and earthy". Yummy? Some cooks have called it 'Mexican truffles' in an effort to introduce it into high-end American restaurants. Hasn't succeeded thus far.

The Aztec purposely innoculated their corn by cutting the stalk to allow easier entry for the spores, which explains why the only stalks with the fungus were the ones that had been damaged by the steers. (The fungus was more valuable than corn for some tribes and even used by some Native Americans to induce labor.)

I didn't have the guts - or the desire - to cook it up, so we just tossed it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oh dear.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

That just ain't right. (But neither of them know, so don't tell.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

My sunflower experiment.

We have sunflowers everywhere this year, it seems.

Around our driveway we have volunteers that I believe came from a bucket of Black Oil Sunflower Seeds I had that spilled. They're maturing quickly.

There are also the poly-headed in our butterfly garden that are producing plants with thick, leafy stalks and *so* many flowers. (Naturally.) What's strange (to me) about the polyheaded is their color. You'll have beautiful flowers with yellow and red petals and right next to them are these flowers ...

They're from the same variety, but the color differences in them are striking.

Then there are the sunflowers out near the food garden. I meant to make a sunflower 'house' for the kids to play in, but it didn't quite work out. For one thing, I haven't kept their floor weeded. For another thing, I didn't plant them thickly enough to give the kids a sense of being 'inside'. Oh, and my buck goat chewed a few extra doors in the walls.

I planted quite a few different types of sunflowers as the walls of the house, but I think next year the majority of the walls will be my polyheaded as their stems are covered in leaves, which will make the walls much thicker. Out of the varieties I planted in the house, the two most noticeable are the Evening Sun ...

and the Russian Mammoths.

Look at the size of those suckers!

Size isn't everything, you know. They may have the biggest head, but it's so heavy that it can't keep it up, and they're not the tallest. That prize goes to a variety called I-forgot-because-the-package-blew-away-during-planting. They're over ten feet tall.

Moving away from head size and length, these flowers have been boons for our pollinators.

Those bees look small in this picture, but that's a Russian Mammoth they're on. They're an inch long if they're a centimeter. Big, fat bees that can barely move.

And then there was this...

and all of our planting was worth it. Amen.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Today's Flowers

These are Today's Flowers.

If you're here for the Today's Flowers post, scroll down through my blog to see all of the flowers I subject my readers to every day.

Tomorrow is a post on our sunflowers. Tuesday is the corn. So exiciting, this blog.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Contented sigh.

While we were sorting through our pepper and tomato plants today, harvesting what needed to be harvested, Hannah said "We're living the life, aren't we, Mother?"

Indeed we are. But it was amazing to hear it from her.

Later, when we were in the kitchen sorting out the bounty, she said "We're rich in vegetables."

Again, indeed we are. What a statement for a little one to make.

And a big thank you goes out to my pest control. You guys rock.