Sunday, August 31, 2008

Spaghetti Squash & Burgundy Okra

Fingers are crossed that this spaghetti squash will make it to maturity! I've had a horrible time with the squash bugs this year - so far they've killed 2 lemon squash and 2 crooknecks - all were big and beautiful and at peak production. I don't know if the little varmints have as devastating an impact on winter types as they do summer types. I saved the seed for these from one I purchased at the grocery - so I was pretty pleased that they grew to start with. I sure hope we get to eat a few. This one is about the size of my 2 fists right now.

The burgundy okra has been a repeat topic on this blog - but it still has me in awe!
This plant is around 7 ft. tall now. That is pretty impressive! If it continues growing until frost, I'll have to get a ladder to pick the okra!

Amaranth and Cantaloupe

Among other new things I tried growing this year were amaranth and cantaloupe. The ropes of the 'Love-lies-bleeding' amaranth are an artful addition to the garden. I notice no scent, but understand the seed can be cooked and eaten like a grain. The leaves are riddled with insect holes, but the plants still seem to be doing well. I had another variety, 'Golden Biscuit', that didn't survive til I could transplant it. I tried starting some with the wintersown method, which worked fine, but it was too long til I could transplant them. This one I started right in the garden from sown seed.

And see the baby cantaloupe hidden beneath the leaves?

I got these out later than I thought I should, but have high hopes at any rate. It's about 6 weeks til frost - will it reach maturity??? I think this one surely will, but it is far larger than any others I've found, so it may be the only one!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Birds & Beads

Our youngest daughter is at college orientation this evening, and I find myself looking around at her things, excited for her, yet feeling a little sad. She is blooming in so many ways...she had her first real job this summer, working for a greeting card company part-time....she and her boyfriend became engaged this summer and have promised to wait to marry until she has completed her undergrad degree.... and, she has become a jewelry artist, self-taught so far. She has both purchased and created a variety of beads, and while she has finished some pieces of jewelry, she wasn't satisfied and took them all back apart. I think some completed pieces are on the horizon, and no doubt her perfectionist tendencies will pay off with some beautiful work.
She is drawn to birds as a theme for much of her art...and it shows in her jewelry making too. Her bead box has flat bird beads and 3-D birds, alongside a few specially designed birds and various purchased beads and findings. This one calls to me with its outstretched wings and coiled tail feathers.....I'm looking forward to see how she uses this little guy.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Using the harvest

I'm trying to use as much of my garden produce as possible, and give away what can't be used or preserved easily. A new favorite recipe is for roasting veggies in the oven. Here we have a pan of tiny (yellow if you ask me, but the name is 'white') cherry tomatoes freshly washed, cut in half, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with salt, pepper, chunks of fresh garlic and bits of fresh lemon basil leaves.

I also used some of my pretty, ripe sweet peppers for roasting with all the same
preparation and bake times, except to save a few minutes I sprinkled these with garlic powder instead of chopping up more fresh garlic.

Look how great these small ears of colored corn turned out! I need to provide a better growing environment next year to get some bigger, more complete ears. However I'm still happy with what my 10 plants produced. There is also an ear that had kernels that were a deep red plus a creamy yellow - very striking. I'm not quite ready for fall to arrive, but it is kind of neat knowing I'll have some nice colored, dried, corn for decorating when the time comes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Whispering sweet nothings

Looks as though the morning glory is sharing some juicy secret with the sunflower, doesn't it? The brilliant golden yellow and purple-tinged blue are striking together.

This view from across the garden shows not only the jungle that has sprung up with all the heat and rain,
but the mass of morning glories that cover the cellar alongside the bobbing heads of the sunflowers.

Here a tomatillo has burst from its husk...many of these have burst out before the husk ever lightens in color or turns papery.
Is there something wrong, or is it because of the nature of this variety? Either way, the fruits are small and waxy coated. The flavor is best described by my step-daughter who says tomato crossed with green apple comes to mind.

I love the okra!
Especially the deep magenta stalk and branches of the Burgundy Okra. They are huge plants so I need to create a new bed just for them next year. I have this one and 2 green varieties, but we just aren't getting enough production to suit us, so hopefully next year I can have between 8-12 of them.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Crooknecks and Edamame

I was late getting my crooknecks growing...not that I didn't try. The first plantings were munched down - I think by a rabbit. The 2nd seedlings curled up and died after only a few days. So I decided to try them in a different bed, and now we are finally getting somewhere. It worked out OK anyway...we've had a few of the lemon summer squash over the last couple of both those plants have died...I'm not sure why. But in a day or 2 there should be crooknecks galore! In this photo you can see at least 5 and I'm pretty sure that plant actually has around 10 on it. And the other one has just as many. So I should get my summer squash fix after all!

And can you see all the beans? I'm going to be rolling in Edamame it seems! Last year I only sowed a few...think I ended up with only 6-8 plants and they were only 1/2 the size of the ones I grew this year.
But it was just a test to see how well they might grow, and to see if we really even liked the edamame. Well, can you tell I loved it? This year I planted lots more - something like 50-60 plants are growing - and they are all huge compared to last year's plants. I used inoculant on them this time (didn't even know I should last year) and planted them in succession plantings. That way I can harvest them in waves instead of all at once. There are 6 different varieties, so it will be interesting to see what differences there might be.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Velveteen Bean

I don't know what I expected my wisteria to produce in the way of seed, but this wasn't it.
As if the fact it finally bloomed wasn't surprise enough, now I find this. It is covered in the softest velvety green I've ever seen. About 3-4 inches in length, it seems as though there is likely only one seed or "bean" in the fat end, but then maybe it is a cluster of many seeds. This is the only one I've noticed so far, but I hope there are more. I have no plans to try to start more wisteria - I just like the way they look!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Heating Dilemna

The 90+ temps we've survived this last week should be enough without stewing over how best to heat our home this coming winter. But, that is what has hit the top of our priority list, considering we spent almost double last winter over the year before. Propane has been our only heat source since 1999, except for a small electric radiant heater (looks like a radiator) we have used on the coldest days to warm the bathroom before a shower.

I've been researching and have found lots of interesting information - maybe too much. It's confusing trying to understand it all, and enlightening to find things I wasn't aware of. Like a masonry furnace.
They can be gorgeous, use a renewable resource - wood - and do it very efficiently and cleanly. They resemble a fireplace but work differently in that you burn a very hot fire to burn up the wood quickly and then you are done for the day. The heat is absorbed into the masonry (brick, stone, etc.) and radiates warmth for the next several hours.

Far less expensive is an outdoor wood heater that pipes heat directly into your home through a tube. Cheap, unsophisticated, not pretty - but worth consideration when you don't have a lot of money to throw at this problem. There are other types of outdoor furnaces - mostly boilers that run heated water through pipes - lots more expensive, and far more work to install. Worth it? Wish I knew.

And solar - seems that our house is all wrong for that choice. Our covered porch blocks all the southern sun exposure and gorgeous mature trees in our yard shade the house in winter too! And after suggesting to hubby that they should probably be replaced with shrubs and shorter landscaping and getting a resounding "no way!" I guess that idea will need to be tabled for a while.

We want to avoid high propane bills this winter, and in the future. We want comfortable warmth, for a reasonable trade-off of time and money. We want to be earth-friendly. We want it to be easy to determine which way to turn - and that certainly doesn't seem to be in the cards! Suggestions welcome - especially if based on your own experience!
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