Hi there, folks… sorry for the absence. I guess I’ve had blogger’s block lately… that is to say… on the rare occasion that I find time to post, I can’t think of anything interesting to write. I have made this worse by getting lazy about my camera. I missed a couple of good photo ops lately because I didn’t have my camera. One was our first official rooster fight. A few days ago, I had the chickpeas out for some time in the grass when suddenly, JB and Soup squared off. They turned to face each other, lowered their heads to the ground, necks outstretched, neck feathers flared like umbrellas. They eyed each other from this position, bobbing and weaving a bit, faces maybe three inches apart. I’ve seen one of them do this to the other, but usually it’s been ignored. This time, both were at it and a true fight errupted. Suddenly, they leaped in the air, and feet and feathers flailed as they tried to get good hits in. Back down to the ground, necks outstretched, eyes staring, they each looked for another opportunity. They kept up this leaping, clawing, and dancing for quite a while. Nothing really came of it because they don’t have sharp spurs yet (they’re maybe 3/4 inch long and blunt right now), and since I didn’t have my camera (it would have made spectacular pictures) I mostly ignored it.
The girls were very bored by it and walked right by like nothing was happening. Luke was highly concerned at first, standing on the sidelines, bawking and pacing nervously. But then, he realized that while roosters number 1 and 2 were going at it, had all the girls to himself. He soon was strutting around with the girls, crowing, courting, etc. He had his moment in the sun. After serval minutes of this, something changed about the fight. They weren’t jumping anymore. I walked toward them to look, and JB and Soup came tumbling around the corner of a garden box in a heap. They had decided that the clawing wasn’t working, so they would instead bite each other’s wattles and combs. Each boy had his beak locked down on a dangly piece of the other’s head and they were pulling and tumbling. Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped. They each let go and shook it off. They stood there for a moment to catch their breaths. Both boys were panting heavily, wings held away from their bodies in odd positions, and blood streaming down their faces. I’m telling you combs and wattles bleed like crazy. JB was the clear winner. He had far less blood and looked mostly unruffled. The way Soup was holding one of his wings, though, made me think had broken it. But no… after a couple of minutes, he was standing normally and picking blackberries for the girls like nothing happened. So, all’s well that ends well. Boys will be boys.
Back to the garden…
I FINALLY have ripe tomatoes! It is official, I picked my first two tomatoes of the season today, September 11, 2009. What a strange year for the garden this has been. Actually, it’s not fair for me to say that these are my first tomatoes. Starting last weekend, I have been able to pick a few (like 2- 4 at a time) Blondkopfchen cherry tomatoes every two- three days. But I’m not really couting those because you pop them in your mouth while you’re standing at the plant and pow! They’re gone. I have about 20 trillion green ones on the plant so once I pick enough of them to do something, then they’ll count.
So the Black from Tulas are the winners for first-ripe useful tomatoes. We had them today in a Persian salad with our lunch (diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions with fresh mint, lemon juice, and salt… easy as pie and nothing in the world tastes better, I swear. Try it. You won’t be sorry.). This is a new tomato to me. As usual, I was seduced by the description – “this is possibly both the ugliest and tastiest tomato you’ll ever eat!” So the website says… and so I had to have them. Black tomatoes are becoming quite famous these days for their great, intense flavors. As a group, black tomatoes are from Russia, and lemme tell ya… the Russians know how to grow great fruits and veggies. Parade cucumber, my favorite of the year? Russian heirloom. Black Krim, my favorite tomato of all time? Russian heirloom. The incredible, beautiful watermelons that are actually GROWING for me this year? Russian heirlooms.
But, I digress. How, Lisa, you might ask, do these funny-looking Black from Tula tomatoes taste? And I say unto you: wonderfully! I would definintely say this tomato is a keeper. It is officially the sweetest large tomato I’ve ever eaten, by far. It is also firm and meaty with great texture and without tons of space for goo and seeds. It is amazing to me how sweet it is. I will say that I, personally, prefer a bit more acid in my tomatoes… which is why I’ll still rate Black Krim higher than this tomato… but it is only personal preference. I would think many people would put this one right at the top of their lists. Moving on…
DID I MENTION THE WATERMELONS???????????
That’s right, I did it! I grew watermelons!!! YAAAAAAAYYY MEEEE!!!!! This is something I’ve never accompished before and I am beside myself with excitement, in case you couldn’t tell. Now, if I could only figure out when to pick them… I’ve been doing research online and from what I can tell, it’s tricky business. Clues to ripeness:
- the melon MIGHT sound hollow when you tap it. If it does sound hollow, it’s definitely ripe. If it doesn’t sound hollow, it still might be ripe. Great, thanks.
- the stripes MIGHT become less distinct toward the top of the melon. Or not.
- the spot on the underside of the melon, where it sits on the ground, “will” turn from white to off-white or yellow. Mine started yellow. Hmmm.
- the tendril immediately opposite the stem of the melon will start to die. This means that the plant has stopped feeding the melon and it’s not going to get any riper. It needs to be partly dead, but not all the way dead, which is when the melon is too ripe. Or, the tendril might not die and the melon could still be ripe. So helpful.
And that’s all, folks. I will post when I pick one and let you know how it goes. The variety is Cream of Sasketchewan, which was an heirloom brought from Russian to Canada over 100 years ago. It does well in cooler climates, and is apparently just what the doctor ordered for the Pacific Northwest. The flavor is supposed to be wonderful – sweet and highly aromatic. I will let you know.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more exciting…
I have other melons, too! I am just more than slightly ashamed to tell you, however, that I am not positive of the varieties that are growing. You see, way late in the season, I recklessly tossed some melon seeds into the ground in various boxes between my tiny, stunted pepper, cabbage, and tomato plants. I thought… hell, if these plants aren’t going to grow, maybe melons will? I really had no hope, as I’ve totally failed at growing melons up to now. So, I kinda thought… eh, labeling them sounds like too much work and they probably won’t produce anyway. And now here we are. Maybe I should be this reckless more often… So, I will tell you that I *think* the one in the picture above is a Collective Farm Woman melon. From what I recall of planting the seeds, and from looking at pictures of the fruit online, that’s my best guess. I have four good-sized ones set on the plants and a couple more smaller ones as well. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO exciting!!!
And my best guess on this one is an Emerald Gem melon. There is only one fruit on this vine so far, but I still thrilled :)
The theme for September at this point, is definitely abundance. The eternally-miniature pepper plants have picked up and grown large and are setting tons of peppers. I have medium-heat NuMex Joe Parkers (good for chile rellenos), along with jalapenos and sweet peppers all set and growing, some ready for picking. The habaneros are still a bit behind, so I don’t know if they’ll have enough time to produce before frost. We’ll see. My tomatoes are all looking fantastic… I have tons and tons of Costoluto Genoveses and San Marzanos on the verge of ripeness and in varying stages of growth, along with a few Cherokee Purples, Black from Tulas, Pompeii Romas, and Blondkopfchen. Any day now, I’ll be rolling in tomatoes. I’m still getting cucumbers. Too many cucumbers. My strawberries are in the middle of a new flush. They’re done with runners for now and are setting HUGE, glossy red fruit that’s even sweeter than the small ones from Spring and early Summer. Golden and Red raspberries are full of fruit that should ripen this month, too. Everything seems to be happy this September… even the roses!
Sharifa Asma is quickly becoming another of my favorites… it is hardy and prolific, even as a baby, and the blooms are not only stunningly beautiful, but the frangrance about knocks me over. This is a rose that has everything going for it.
I know that the bug pictures probably aren’t everyone’s favorites, but sometimes I get some cool ones and I have to share. Plus, I love that the fact that they’re in my garden means that it is a healthy, thriving ecosystem. I got this incredible picture of a spider that was spinning a yellow jacket into its web to eat it. The wasp was still alive and struggling inside its tomb. It was amazing. Crazy cool. Oh, and by the way… last year, one of those nastly little buggers stung me on my calf, so I read up on them. The are called German Yellowjackets and they are non-native and invasive and rather dangerous. They are angered easily and don’t die when they sting you so they can sting over and over again. Also, the venom in their stings can cause muscle death and lingering, excruciating pain. My one sting cause me distracting pain for about three days. And a dull ache for three more weeks. And to this day, I have days where my calf aches badly for hours at a time. It’s been almost a year since the sting. I asked the doctor about it during a visit for something else, and she said it’s most likely from the sting. Pain for a year. GO SPIDER GO!!!
And minutes later, I turned around, and what did I see? Another friend who is helping to rid me of the wasps!
This little lady is pregnant, as you can see by her bluging tummy, and she was taking much pleasure out of eating that mean old yellow jacket! I love mantises and we have quite a healthy population here in our yard… this is the second year in a row that I’ve found dozens of them all over the place, eating up buggies for me. They are my friends. Then they attached their egg cases to my fence, trellises, trees, plants, etc and I take care to make sure they’re safe all winter until the teeny babies emerge again in the early summer. So cool.
In general, things are going swimmingly with the chickens. Yesterday and also two days before that, we had nine-egg days. They were the first times all of my pullets laid on the same day. They seem to be happy and healthy. I still have the worming worries in the back of my head and I’m on the lookout for symptoms, but nothing so far. The video is of Blanche’s favorite current behavior… she puffs up into a huge ball and clucks at people… she will do this while walking slowly toward you. In the video, she had flown up onto the ramp next to me and was staring me down while doing. I don’t know what it means, but she does it all the time. I think she’s trying to scare us.
And lastly, I show you my latest invention – the ghetto fabulous oyster shell dispenser. Previously, I had been giving them oyster shell (they eat it as a calcium supplement for stong eggshells and it should always be available to them) in a little cup like you see to the left of the cardboard hopper in the pic. However, in recent weeks, someone (I suspect a rooster, but who knows) had been dumping out all the oyster shell as soon as I put it in there. I couldn’t keep it full. So, today I devised a new plan. I’m rolling in the cardboard boxes these days from all the wedding gifts that have come in the mail. So, with some scissors, some packing tape, and a little magic, I fashioned this little dispenser… it has an openin gin the top to add more oyster shell, and a cardboard ramp inside that funnels it toward the back and out into the open part so they can eat it. We’ll see how it works.
Don’t you wish you had one?