Monday, July 31, 2017

Harvest Monday Virgin

So here I am, in all my newness being new, doing my first Harvest Monday ever. Daw.

I actually posted today already, but then I stumbled on this "Gather ye Veg and posty about it" thing everyone was doing and, naturally, I wanted to play. 

Here's today's spread:

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Herbs, Ajvarski Peppers, Corbaci Peppers, Georgescu Chocolate Pepper, PASS pepper, Rainbow Chard, Casper Eggplant, Mitoyo Eggplant.
(I'm unsure if the harvest has to come from just Monday, or if it can be from the whole week. So just in case the blog cops are on patrol, I decided to post only what was harvested today.)

Here's the breakdown:

Left to Right to Bottom: "Argenteus" Thyme, "

Read more at Gardening Know How: Golden Sage Care: How To Grow A Golden Sage Plant
Icterina" Sage, Common Variegated Thyme, "Aureus" Rosemary

While I find herbs lovely, I don't cook with them much. I don't 'cook' much in general, actually. Though when your kitchen is the size of mine, cooking anything more than a fried egg is an adventure in creative contortionism. Because this is literally my kitchen.

Regardless, these herbs help make my attempts at grown-up dinner time a more pinterest-y perfect affair, instead of just hungry hot yoga. While I originally bought them for ornamental and aromatic purposes, they've definitely pulled their weight in the pan.


Booty-burned Ajvarskis
I really, really, really, really DON'T like green peppers. I'm a bad American. Unfortunately, due to a weird gap in my pepper bed, the Ajvarskis are prone sunscald. I've also got issues with blossom end rot, on top of that. So the constant battle is whether or not to leave them on the plant until ripe, then cut off the yuck bits, or cut them green and let the plant put it's energy into better fruit. Today, it was cut.

"He went that way!"

This is my first ripe harvest of peppers all season. I've strugled through a few salvaged green ones like those Ajvarskis, but these Corbaci will be the first I'm actually looking foward to eating. And while I'm a HUGE raw sweet pepper fan, these have very thin walls and lots of seeds and are supposed to be better grilled or fried. So, after an obligatory raw nibble, I'll commit the rest to the pan and see where it leads.

My first ripe Georgescu of the season... a feast for kings. A king. One very tiny king. While I'm excited to try this pepper, I was sorta hoping I'd have a bit more to, you know, try. Luckily, there's a ton still ripening that are of a more substantial size on other plants. The plant this one came from is also quite short. We'll have to see if it's just slow to mature, or if it turns out to be rogue. Here's to hoping for a wee Georgie.

He's sad I picked him.
Like the Ajvarski peppers, I've had to eat a lot of green PASS peppers (hover for the full mother of dragons name). These plants are on the end of the pepper pit, and also have a habit of thrusting their fruits ass-up toward the sun. Yet, while these peppers ripen to yellow, they seem to be veeery slow in doing so. One of the first plants to set fruit, they've been taking their sweet time thereafter.

This will be the first Mitoyo eggplant I've harvested. For the record, they apparently get a lot bigger than this. I picked it small because it was growing close to the ground, and I didn't want any of the other garden denizens to eat it before I could. I'm also still deciding it I even like eggplant, so I figured I'd ere on the side of caution and ensure it was 'young and tender' for my first go.

I picked the first Casper of the season last week and accidentally cooked it to mush. So I'm not really ready pass judgement on its flavor value just yet. Decent mush, though. I mixed it into a last minute butternut curry thing and had no complaints. Which may have been because I didn't taste it. Regardless, I'll have another go with these three hooligans, and I'll be a little more diligent with the cooking this time.

a weed in beets' clothing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm cool with chard. But after devouring my way solo through a 3x5 beet bed earlier this month, I'm really regretting growing as much Rainbow chard as I did. On the bright side, the bugs love it too. And, segue from that, so does the compost. While three nearly flawless leaves rest before you, it took about ten rejects to get there. Luckily, this chard is both prolific and scrappy - this won't be the worst haircut it's bounced back from.

That's it for this week!

Since my garden functions mostly as a veggie hacking/breeding ground (not a kitchen garden) my harvests are usually failures or side effects of growing out rogues and regetables. Hopefully, that will make for some fun (if meager and infrequent) Harvest Mondays in the future.

If all this harvest nonesense has got you confused, head over to Dave's blog at Our Happy Acres - there you can see his own harvest, as well as links to everyone else participating this week. Happy ogling!

Mystery Squash, aka. Myself

Don't you just love when you leave a special present for your future self, a secret little something tucked away somewhere that you're positive you'll remember what it is, and what it's for, when the time comes...

This morning I found this in the bottom of a storage tub.

No idea.

Clearly, it's a squash seed, but as to what species (or what variety) I haven't the foggiest. I don't even understand why I would put this super special little turd in a ziplock baggie (of all horrible seed storing places) and then leave it completely unlabeled and abandoned for, probably, years.

So, in the spirit of science - LET'S GROW IT.
Or try, anyway

...but where to put it?

As anyone who's planted squash knows: a single seed can conquer the known universe. Bush squash have some manners, sometimes, but vine squash -- no fucks given. They don't care about your garden plans, your tidy little maps. They do what they want. They're like cats: the world is for them, and they'll have any part of it they choose. Including, all of it.

Case in point: meet my North Georgia Candy Roaster squash vine. One seed. Terrible location. Infrequent watering. Singular purpose: provide pollen for bush buttercup. That's it. That's all he had to do. Didn't even have to make fruit, just pump out some man dust.

If my math is correct, current length is hella stretchy.

AND WOULDYA LOOK WHERE THAT GOT US. Kid's literally climbing up the walls. Apparently, he didn't like his time-out corner of no sun and old construction crap. So he decided to go on the slow motion prison break.

The anti-gravity field appears to be holding.

Clearly, my hypothesis that low light and limited watering would keep his vines small was, how do I say... a really, really stupid theory. Science! Forgetting how far the roots stretch, he's clearly been getting drunk off his neighbors' moonshine and using his own cross-fit tendrils to climb anywhere he damn well pleases.

All your bump are belong to squash.

Regarding Mystery squash -- I unfortunately don't have another crappy fence/wall gap to sacrifice. What I do have, however, is...

...a bucket.

As you may have noticed in the blurry backgrounds of most my photos, I have blue things. Everywhere. Some are storage tubs and kiddie pools converted into raised beds, but the majority are Lowes 5 gallon buckets. I have a lot of them. Like, dozens. Why?

Because half my garden (and the best sun spots) are an old concrete parking pad; aka, the "stove." While this area gets nearly full sun it also gets full death (a subject I'll expand on more in a later post.) This makes it the best place for most vegetables and the worst place for tubs, pots, and raised beds. A bit of a pickle, really.

But, for the low low price of around $3.50, I can buy a bucket, drill holes in the bottom, fill it with dirt, plant something, and then proceed to drag that sucker anywhere I want it, depending on how oven-y the weather plans to be that week.

While the price point per gallon is cheaper with the tubs and kiddie pools, they are also nigh impossible for me to move once I fill them. A fact I realized when my melon leaves turned into potato chips during two different, week long, 110+ degree heat waves in June. I had minor success pulling, shoving, and grunting the 20 gallon tomato tubs to the cooler side of the stove. Which is kind of like saying I turned the stew from rapid boil down to simmer. But moving the kiddie pools? 30 galloners? Nope, they screwed.

But I digress. As for Mystery squash.

The deed is done.

Hopefully the root limiting confines of his new blue jailhouse will curb any world conquering vine tendencies, at least a little bit. It will also allow me to drag/waddle the future plant anywhere there's free space at the time.

And... in case you were wondering why the label "Myself" = I initially wrote this post on my phone, and my mind often gets ahead of my fingers when typing. Consequently, I often skip or rearrange letters in my attempt to type the words before I forget them.

Turns out, each time I wrote Mystery, I was actually typing Msytery. Auto-correct narcissistically decided this meant Myself. So, reading it again later, I enjoyed a lovely tale of finding myself in a baggie, sticking myself in a bucket, and dragging myself all around the yard.

Ergo: Myself, the mystery squash.

I'm certain this will not cause any confusion in the future, none what so ever.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

When a Book is a Book; and Corn, Corn.

I remember reading a book review one summer while I was home from college. I had decided to attempt, in 2.5 months, to read my way through the entire chronology of the English language's most influential works of Fantasy. Which happened. And it was pretty much all that happened that summer, considering most of those books are the size of cereal boxes.

I read a lot of words. Which is ironic, because:

Of all the words in all the books I read, the line I remember most didn't come from a published novel, but from that short, scathing book review. It was a very old review, reviewing an even older book. I can't even remember which one... Well at the End of the World? The Faerie Queene?

What I do remember is the highlight of the review:

 "Words, words! It's a veritable word factory!"

And I think I sat there for a minute, reading it again and again. Because

yeah, dude

it's a book.

In all likelihood, he was just trying to imply that the book was pedantic. Even so, that phrase always stuck with me. Words, words... how dare you novel, how dare you have so many words.

If you haven't already noticed, I'm the type of person who writes a lot. When I edit, somehow more words get added then cut, getting exponentially greater with every change. It's everything I can do to keep a single blog post from taking over the universe. In my mind, there will never be enough time to share all the things we could possible share with each other in all the ways we could possibly share them. And that annoys me.

But often what annoys other people -- are people like me. The word long-winded comes to mind. And anytime I go to compose something, whether an email, a blog post, or the next chapter, it's these people that haunt me. My fear of them used to be nearly debilitating.

They're judging me, I think, get to the point. They're bored. I'm boring them. They don't care. Your metaphors are stupid. Shut up.

But these days, when those feelings rise up, I just remind myself: 

Chill --
remember when dude got pissed because a book was a book?

Because, inevitably, somewhere somebody is going to get upset about something.

Yes, I'm wordy. This blog is bloggy. And wordy. With lots of words. And bad language. Bad language, too, even. 

However, all jokes aside (and in retrospective pity for one angry 1900's dude) I will try to give other things a chance to be themselves, without words. Or be pictures of themselves, at least.

So without further a word:

"Oh look, organic!" - said every bug ever

Ever play SimSafari?

AKA: the three faces I make most while gardening
I have fond childhood memories of hunching toward the 2'x2' beige box they once called a computer and diligently ensuring I had enough Thompson gazelle to feed all my hungry lions. And enough grass to feed the hungry gazelles. And enough lions to show-off to the safari-hungry tourists in order to earn one of those 'big five' awards.

But then I had too much grass. And it took over and killed all the trees. And all the elephants died. And the tourists went home.

Or something like that.

So, while people can claim video and computer games are bad for the youth, I gotta say -- shit got real in SimSafari. And boy did it help prepare me for organic gardening.

The dark truth is that, as much as you hate aphids, loopers, and spider mites, unless you have at least some of them, you'll never have any of the beneficial insects like ladybugs, syrphid flies, and lacewings. Why? Because of the most important lesson in SimSafari: everybody's gotta eat.

And right now, everybody be eatin' my shit.

But before anyone asks me why I insist on growing organic and don't simply spray a little whatever on those plants, let me introduce you to my organic gardening pest policy:
You can't burn the house down then wonder why no one comes to dinner.
If SimSafari taught me anything, it was this. Because when the lions are overpopulating and eating all the gazelle, and now the grass is taking over because there aren't gazelles to eat it, which threatens the trees, which threatens the elephants... then what?

You don't drop a nuke on the safari, that's what.

You adjust the balance. Not obliterate it.

Gardening organic means accepting the annoying fact that balance is everything, yet things will never be perfectly balanced. There will be highs and lows, ebbs and flows. That's how nature works. That's how life works. That's how roller coasters work. What makes us think gardens work any different?

Frankly though... this whole organic mantra would be a lot easier to accept if it played out as romantically as it sounds: some good bugs, some bad bugs; a few bitten fruit, a few holey leaves; ultimately, a happy, healthy, imperfect but symbiotic vegetable plot. VoilĂ .

Yeah... not so much here at the Shandy Dandy.

At the moment, it's a vegetation massacre. But I'll tolerate my audience of 8 trillion spider mites and all the 'too-quick-to-stomp' grasshoppers, by consoling myself in the knowledge that I have over a dozen ever-growing mantis guardians that magically established themselves in strategic places around my garden.

This one here is Bean Bob.

(bottom: Blurry Bob) (top: Bob's yesterday pants)

Maybe not the hero my pole beans need, but the hero they deserve. Anyway, more on bugs later - right now I've got another post for you: Corn Tassels!

Don't all crowd in at once.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Gardening Manifesto, or something

Before I dig deep into the current state of my garden (har har) I want to make clear what my passions, intentions and motivations are regarding vegetable growing. I also want to define a word I am going to be using a lot...

Regetable. Yes, regetable.

Regetables = your staple, backyard vegetables. Regular Vegetables: standard, safe, reliable, normal. Sold on most seed racks, grown by most everybody. Blue Lake bush beans, Early Girl tomato, Straight Eight cucumber, etc.

Now, there's nothing wrong with regetables. They're regular for a reason: they tend to produce well, are tasty and reliable, and are usually resistant to some of the things that want to kill or eat them (besides us).

But as for the second reason I call them regetables... Regret. Though you wouldn't pronounce it this way, it's exactly how I say it in my head: regretables.

Why regret?

Because each time I grow one (unless I have an ulterior motive of crossing it with something else) I always end up feeling... kinda depressed. Why? Because watching the plant grow may have been fun, and eating it may have been tasty, but ultimately I'm left with exactly what I started with: a regetable. Or, at best, seeds from a regetable slightly more adapted to my personal garden.

What's wrong with that? Nothing! Nothing at all.

It's more about personal motivations -- I need change, evolution, growth. I need to put bricks in a wall, walk an overgrown path, create something that wasn't there before. While saving seeds from a regetable is not a passive process, it's nevertheless not enough for me, personally.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoy the simple act of gardening and eating what I grow. But when it's 106° and I'm double digging a new bed and fighting an invasion of spider mites and trying to pay my water bill, I start to wonder if it's all worth it... why am I doing this to myself? And simply saying: Yay! Good job Day. You grew the thing and then you ate it. Now, do it again...


Just isn't enough. On the other hand...

...using the amazing genetics of regetables to try to create new, fun, resilient, and tasty variations? Now you've got my attention. What can be crossed? What new rogue can be found if we plant the funny look seeds, instead of the uniform ones? What shiny new edibles can be born through luck, cleverness, and determination in a single urban backyard?

I'm enraptured with the weirdos, the late bloomers, the sports. My gut reaction is to rouge out the regulars and keep the rogues. After all: the mutations that evolved to become our food crops today needed stewardship once too -- otherwise we'd still be enjoying grilled teosinte at the family BBQ. Yum.

Of course, I don't intentionally want to grow crappy, non-productive, bad tasting vegetables. I'm not a masochist. But I am willing to let the rouges be rogues. To let them develop beyond the stage normally culled by gardeners. Let them show me what they're got. And, if they're got something, I'm willing to save seeds and plant the next generation: let the genes fall where they may.

I'm also passionate about crossing regetables, both with each other, and with rare and uncommon varieties from around the world.

For Example:

Love the cool Andean corns? But... alas! You're the King of the North. And those daylight sensitive bastards won't set cobs before winter. Boo. To address this, I've crossed Painted Mountain with K'uyu Chuspi. With a few generations, maybe we'll have an Andean style corn that doesn't take from April until the apocalypse just to tassel.

Left: Painted Mountain, Right: K'uyu Chuspi. (Photos from

Or maybe you love winter squash. And guess what? It loves you too!... and it loves your squash bed, the neighboring bed, your yard, your fence, your tree, your neighbor's tree, and your dog, if he sits still too long. But besides growing exclusively bush buttercup and gold nugget,what other maxima options are there?

In response, I've let Bush Buttercup promiscuously pollinate with Candy Roaster and Turk's Turban (Gold Nugget and Gete Okosomin adding to the mix in a few weeks when they start flowering). In a month or so I'll have F1 seeds from the Buttercup mothers. Sure... the F1 offspring won't be true bush, and the fruit might taste a little off, and potentially the squash could look like penises... but hey! Those short-internode genes are in there somewhere. With selection and a few generations, and we could have cute, compact Turbans for the kids (with vines that won't eat the kids) and a banana squash that doesn't require its own zipcode.

Or, maybe we'll just end up with weiner squash. The price of science.

Left to Right: Bush Buttercup, North Georgia Candy Roaster, Mini Red Turban. (Photos from

In conclusion, I look forward to awesome gardening experiences this season, and in seasons to come: cool successes, cool failures, and tons of vegetable hacking adventures. And I can't wait to share them with you.

So if reading any of the above got you excited, stick around: You're my people.

If not... well, that's OK too.
I'll make a pirate out of you yet.

Let's hack some veg.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Seed List

Right, so. I did have every intention of chronicling this epic voyage from day one, but clearly... that didn't happen.

I considered doing a super long these last months in review post, but... honestly, that sounds horrible. And a lot like homework. And since I didn't freeze my ass off in Wisconsin for four winters (and graduate magna cum whatever in two majors) just to go right back to writing crap I don't wanna write...then yeahhh, pass.

So alas, you'll have to go without a succinct summary of the previous months' vegetable observations and scientific findings.

...scientific findings, please. I'm dicking around in the dirt playing with seeds.

Speaking of seeds:
haul, 2017 #fightme

All my 2017 seeds are from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (apart from a few random gifts/seed rack finds.) Having no stockpiled seeds from previous years (and having an immense desire to grow pretty much everything) I knew I needed to buy a lot and grow a lot in order discover what I wanted to buy and grow a lot of in the future. There's a legit justification of my buying habits somewhere in that sentence, I swear.

So while I will not be ordering exclusively from Baker Creek in years to come, they are a great OP/nonGMO seed company with a diverse catalogue where I could place a single, embarrassingly large order (merry xmas self annnnd you're broke) and then get planting. Also, I found the product reviews at Baker Creek to be extremely helpful; I intend to return the favor by reviewing the ones I grow this season.

So here's my OFFICIAL FULL AND DAMN LONG LIST of 2017 SEEDS. Not all will be grown out this year (whatever a 'year' means in so-cal) but most will. Herbs & flowers not listed.

* = unplanted/not growing yet
~ = not from Baker Creek

2017 SEED STOCK (Vegetables)

  • Calima
  • Fort Portal Jade
  • Good Mother Stallard
  • Magpie
  • Mayflower
  • Meraviglia Di Venezia
  • Purple Teepee
  • Red Swan
  • *Nonna Agnes's Blue
 BEET (+ Chard)
  • Bull's Blood
  • Cylindra
  • *Flat of Egypt
  • Golden
  • *Mammoth Red Mangel
  • *Sugar
  • Rainbow Chard
  • *Brunswick (free gift)
  • *Chantenay Red Core
  • *Cosmic Purple (free gift)
  • *Oxheart
  • *Purple Dragon
  • *Pusa Asita Black
  •  *St. Valery
  • *Glass Gem
  • K'uyu Chuspi
  • Painted Mountain
  • White Nighting
  • Dar
  • Miniature White
  • *Suyo Long
  • Casper
  • Mitoyo
  • *Aquadulce
  • *Broad Windsor
  • *Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto
  • *Ianto's
  • *~Robin Hood (Renee's Garden Seeds) 
  • *~Red Russian (Ferry~Morse)
  • *Scarlet
  • *Tronchuda
  • Charentais
  • Escondido Gold
  • Crane
  • Golden Jenny
  • Petit Gris de Rennes
  • Rich Sweetness 132
  • "Snow" - (weird white-ish store melon seeds)
  • Zatta
  • *Ailsa Craig
  • *Bianca di Giugno
  • *Violet De Galmi
  • *Cascadia
  • *Golden Sweet
  • *Sugar Magnolia Tendril
  • *Sugar Snap
  • Ajvarski
  • Corbaci
  • Criolla De Cocina
  • Georgescu Chocolate
  • Paradiscum Alaku Sarga Szentes (P.A.S.S. to save a life) 
  • "Stripey" (striped store pepper, why not)
  • Bush Buttercup
  • Candy Roaster - North Georgia
  • Gete-Okosomin
  • ~Gold Nugget (Botanical Interests)
  • Mini Red Turban
  • *Alexandria
  • *Attila
  • *White Soul
  • Mammoth Grey Striped
  • Red Sun
  • Barry's Crazy Cherry
  • Black Vernissage (free gift)
  • Blush
  • Mary Robinson's German Bicolor
  • Paul Robeson
  • Riesentraube
  • ~Sungold (Renee's Garden Seeds)
  • ~Congo (Ferry~Morris)
  • Sugar Baby Bush

Wow, I haven't had to sing the alphabet song that much in a long time. You're welcome, future self. (Note to future self: Future selves love lists. Trust me.)