Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tomatoestomatoestomatoes


I have over 40 tomatoes sitting on the kitchen counter, some riper than others. The Purple Calabash are finally starting to get ripe, but it's hard to tell if they are or not. These are three that looked like they were close. I'm torn between leaving them on the vine as long as possible and taking off the riper ones so the other will get ripe.



We've been having tomato sandwiches for a few weeks now, but we just can't keep up with the flood. So this morning I cut up about a dozen of the ripest ones for sauce. It's been simmering for a few hours now. I'm going to freeze it in quart bags for later. It'll be nice to have some of our own homegrown pasta sauce this Fall.


This is one of the Brandy Boys. A few of them have turned out this way. I'm not sure why. I wonder if it's because this is the Big Boy/Brandywine hybrid, or the weather was cold when the fruit was just forming.


The Fall Gold raspberries are really starting to ripen now. I'm looking forward to next year when I have another red raspberry plant in there instead of the Black Munger. I've frozen a lot of them this summer, but with another plant I might get enough that I can do some baking with them. Seems like there are never quite enough at one time to do that with.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cool Nights


It's hot and sunny outside right now, but it's been cool enough these past few nights to sleep under all the covers, instead of just the sheet and a cotton blanket. Next thing you know I'll be wearing long pajamas and we'll need to close the french doors.

The tomatoes are going nuts, there are more beans than we can eat, and the raspberries are wonderful. I freeze about half of what I pick each morning so I can use them in fruit smoothies or other things later in the year. I bought some frozen chunks of mango, so I've been making mango-banana-raspberry-buttermilk smoothies for breakfast sometimes. Mmmm! Last night we made tomato sauce from the tomatoes that were getting a bit too old to eat. We've been having tomato sandwiches all week.


As you can see, we have a lot of tomatoes sitting around in various stages of ripeness. The big pinky-red ones are Brandy Boy. The light tan areas on the shoulders of a few of them is sunburn. The smaller orangey ones are Gregori's Altai, supposedly an earlier variety. The cool Spring we had this year really messed my tomato timing up. I picked the first Purple Calabash today, but I don't think it's quite ripe. They really are a purplish-red color. It'll be interesting to see if they taste as good as the reviews claim. I'll probably make more sauce and blanch a lot of beans tonight for freezing. We tried canning tomatoes last year but four of our seven jars didn't seal, so this is plan B.

The hard part of this time of year is the weeds. The morning glory is going nuts all over everything. Today hubby and I did a cosmetic clear-away. I hope to get a more detailed weeding job done next weekend. The cedar mulch over the "cottage garden" area has slowed the weeds down, but it certainly hasn't stopped them. The area outside our kitchen window looks more like a jungle than a tended garden. The Knautia had just fallen over and covered all the plants around it, so today I cut it back. I'm thinking seriously of trying the "Chelsea Chop" next May, to see if that slows the mid and late summer perennials down a bit. The Knautia got too tall and leggy for its space.

Only one more week to go before we hit the road for the coast. I'm really looking forward to it. Just hope we can find someone to water the veggie garden while we're gone.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fall Around the Corner


The days are getting shorter. Thank goodness, because that means the evenings are cooling off sooner. Although August usually has more hot days, I think July is worse because there's soooo much sun, it stays hot longer into the evenings.

On the other hand, August is hard enough to get through. It got up to 103F yesterday. And of course I was out there doing fieldwork, walking around in the blistering sun. Ugh. Then last night we had a storm system blow through. Didn't get much rain, but it brought the temperature today down to 86F. Just as well my haircut appointment was today. If it had been yesterday, I would've had her just shave it all off! As it is, today I just asked her to cut off about 2 inches and re-do the layers.

It was a hot weekend. We went to the Farmers Market on Saturday. The local iris society was there selling iris rhizomes. I found a new tall one, yellow with orange highlights. It should look great with all the dark purple ones.

Saturday night was the monthly contra-dance. Hubby's band played, joined by a fiddle and guitar duo we know from Pocatello. They all did a great job. There seemed to be lots of new faces dancing this time, mostly younger folks, which is good. It was really hot and sticky in that hall by the break. I tried to dance as many as I could until halfway through. After that I think I only did every other dance, it was so hot. I think a lot of people left then. During the first half hubby debuted his ukulele playing for the waltz. They did a song. With just guitar, voice and bass, hubby felt they needed more rhythm, so he used the uke. I thought it sounded good!

Afterwards we all went out for beer and nachos. We sat outside at a local pub. Good thing because I think we were pretty noisy. I gather I was lucky to not get any mosquito bites that evening, even though I already have FIVE on my left foot from camping last weekend. Those were driving me crazy until today, especially at night. Why do mosquito bites seem to itch more at night? I've been putting CalaGel on them every morning, and that has really helped.

I've noticed the sun is burning my vegetables. The Marconi peppers are worst off. I finally put some netting on them for a sunshade. The raspberries are getting it too, but only the berries at the top of the canes. So most of them are ok. The tomatoes are mostly shaded by their leaves, but I have picked one or two that look like they've been bleached by the sun. We have, as predicted, far too many. So I think we'll be having lots of spaghetti and salad with tomatoes this month.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Poodle Voyageur

This is my toy poodle, Tachy, who continually surprises me with how not like a small dog he can be sometimes. He loves canoeing. He doesn't bark at people in other boats, or the wildlife, he'll just quietly watch with apparent great interest. When he gets tired he'll take a break and nap under my seat. People who pass us on the water often exclaim at our canine "adventurer", and the kids think it's great we have a dog in the canoe with us.


This past weekend we went canoeing in the Meanders, part of the Payette River that winds gracefully down to Payette Lake. I hope to put some of my photos up on flickr this week. If you're curious, you can search Google for the satellite picture of the Payette River meanders just north of McCall, ID.

We camped on Saturday night at the Northwest Passage campground, part of Ponderosa State Park near McCall, about 5,000 feet above sea level. Evidently this used to be a much more basic campground, but it has recently re-opened with picnic tables, sand tent pads enclosed with wood barriers, a potable water supply and pit toilets. We managed to find a campsite next to the river, even if it was about 10 feet above water level. This meant we had to manhandle our 17 foot canoe down a steep sandy bank to the river. We had to disembark about 100 yards further up, at a flatter beach, since we couldn't manage to get the canoe back up that steep bank. It's made to be portaged by one person, but that doesn't mean it's super-light! So poor hubby was the one who got to carry it around.

We spent a wonderfully relaxing weekend paddling for miles up and down the Meanders, spotting wildlife and taking lots of photos. That's one of the best things about digital cameras. You're no longer afraid to take a lot of pics, which increases the odds that some of them will be pretty darn good. We saw at least three ospreys and their nest along the river. We also saw a bald eagle, who showed great interest in a mother Merganser and her seven nearly-grown chicks, as well as a pine marten, a young four-point stag grazing in one of the oxbow ponds, and lots of chipmunks. Tachy does bark at chipmunks, I must admit. You could swear they were taunting him on purpose.

One of my favorite parts about camping is sleeping in the tent. I love chilly nights in my warm sleeping bag. The worst part is driving back down in the late afternoon, when the valley heat is at its hottest, after a few days in the cool mountains. Ah well - in just over 2 weeks we'll be on the coast, walking the beach at Port Orford.

I came home to find tons more raspberries were ripe, and my tomatoes are finally starting to turn red! The tomato glut is just around the corner!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Weeds!


Here's the latest mini bouquet from the garden. The nicotiana really lasts as a cut flower. I love it. The others have been blooming, with small breaks, all summer. The purple scabious has just been heroic! Hasn't been out of flowers since May!

More gladiolus are opening. I have a lime green one, which is cool. There's also two more reds in different shades, and a peach/cream one. I'll probably take one of them with me to the dojo tonight. Whichever I think looks best by this evening.

I have to make an appointment to get the dog groomed. I've been saving money by doing it myself, and I'm getting better at it, but there are some things I just can't bring myself to do. Like pull the hair out of his ears and clear the anal gland (ugh). Plus I'm not that great at clipping his feet and the private areas. The groomer at Zamzows is pretty good, so I'm going to get him in there next week. She'll probably scold me a bit, but hey, he isn't really that bad. I do it every two weeks, so he doesn't have very many mats on his legs - that's the other hard thing to keep up with. Keep the fur on the legs from getting matted. Especially in Idaho the lands of Aggressive Weeds!

It's really amazing to see photos of other areas of the country where people garden. All those lovely gardens near the east coast, or even the midwest and the northwest. Beautiful flowers, good soil, lovely climate for growing things.

Then you look at the Intermountain West. Anywhere you get near desert, you get super-aggressive weeds. Any area that's regularly watered is very quickly covered in perennial weeds that are nearly impossible to get rid of. A bulldozer and sterile top soil might do it for a while, but the birds and wind would soon bring in new colonizers and they'd romp away again.

I just can't keep up. I try, but there is no real victory. We're going to spray the gravel paths again pretty soon, but it's just a temporary fix. We did it last year and this year they're all back again just as strong. Thing is, hubby and I really aren't into using all the poisons that so many people here use. We have lots of birds come through, as well as butterflies, dragonflies, native bees, and other small wildlife. I'd rather have them. We've had a good crop of baby quail this year. They're just about the cutest birds ever. We have one hummingbird who's been getting pretty brave with the flowers in my pots on the deck. More than once I've seen him just four feet away through the kitchen window, sipping at the geraniums and fuschia. Once I was out looking at the gladiolus, standing just four or five feet away from them, and he flew up, glanced at me, then took a few sips, as if to say I'm not scared of you - see! :-).

Well, we're looking forward to getting out in the canoe this weekend. It'll be great to be up in the cooler mountain air for a bit.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Lammas


The picture is my veg garden on July 24. Quite a difference from the picture I posted back in May. The next picture shows my gladiolus. I'm thrilled with the bi-color one. It just opened this morning. I'm eagerly anticipating seeing the others open. Who knows what fun colors I ended up with.

Happy Lughnasadh/Lammas day. I was going to mark the beginning of harvest by steaming the first green beans for dinner. But I had a late work interview, so I didn't get to eat a hot meal. I had a tuna fish sandwich before I left for the interview.

It's been one of those weeks. I was working at the local Air Force base this week doing interviews. That's a 160 mile round trip. On Tuesday as I was walking back to my car from one of the on-base restaurants I tripped over a section of sidewalk that sticks up about 2 inches from the rest. I *know* that sidewalk. I've stumbled over that uneven bit before. This time I hit a toe against it and fell down, hard, onto both knees and one hand. Wore a hole in my good work trousers and really bruised up both knees. It really hurt, but at least the scrapes didn't bleed. I felt shaky and somewhat nauseated for the rest of the day. That was lunchtime, so I still had to get through the afternoon before I went home.

Seems dumb now that I felt sick, but there ya' go. I'd been planning to go to Aikido that evening, but my knees were all puffy and sore. No way I could kneel or fall on them. So I stayed home. Today they started turning purple and green. Very pretty showing under shorts (not).

At least the work week is over now. I can sleep in and do some gardening tomorrow. I'm worried about my tomatoes. The leaves on two or three plants have gone all curly. I've been reading up on it, and I think it's our clay soil. Evidently curly leaves can be from too much or not enough watering. It could also be the leaf curl virus, but the plants don't show the other symptoms, so I don't think it's that. It's most likely too much water. The plants are close enough together that the soil doesn't dry out underneath them very quickly. So I'm cutting back on water to see if that helps. I also bought some Dr. Earth vegetable feed. You mix it with water. It's really more of a soil builder than a fertilizer, which is good.

This is all good lessons for next year. I thought I'd left plenty of space between my tomato plants, but now I see I haven't. So, one more thing to improve on next time. In this picture you can see the green nicotiana in bloom, the beans and peppers, and the tomatoes surrounded by marigolds.

The raspberries are doing great. I've been getting handfuls and double handfuls nearly every day, and there are lots more coming along. Even the Autumn Gold is starting to produce. The only bad thing about my raspberry patch is the black raspberry. I do not recommend those. It requires special pruning because the berries only come on year-old wood. Took me a while to figure that out. I finally pruned it correctly last fall and this year I actually got flowers. But for whatever reason, the berries are really puny and dry. And not many of them! Hardly worth the effort of pruning and watering the dumb thing all season. Plus it sends out an explosion of long, super-thorny new shoots everywhere that I keep having to prune off. I'm digging it out at the end of the season so I can plant another red one instead. I don't have enough space to leave something that isn't producing.

We're hoping to get out to Payette Lake with the canoe one of these weekends coming up. We haven't done that for a while. It'll be nice to get away, even if it's just a day trip.