Sunday, August 30, 2009

2009 Veg Garden Notes

Well, the last weekend of August is upon us. We had a huge thunderstorm last night, with about five minutes of "nickel-sized hail", as the weather warning system calls it. I went out before the storm closed in and picked everything that looked ready. You never really know here if storms will actually drop any moisture, or if they'll just blow over. But heavy rain doesn't do raspberries any good, so it was worth getting those.

This morning I went out to check on things. I took some pictures of the squash and rhubarb to show the holes made by the hail. But I was happy to see the tomatoes were in better shape than I expected. Some of the riper exposed fruit had obvious hailstone marks, but otherwise no real damage. So I picked those. I think one thing I'll be doing today is making tomato sauce from the over-ripe tomatoes we haven't been able to eat. I've been giving some away, but without dance class I don't have as many vic- uh, friends ;) to give them to.

Of the 7 tomato varieties I planted, I have been most surprised by the early season one, Legend. I wasn't happy with Early Girl at all last year, but Legend has been great. A lot of good-sized fruit, good taste, and sturdy plants that don't go crazy with long leggy growth. I'll be growing Legend again.

Costoluto Genovese is one of the sprawlers. Lots of fruit and very pretty. Good taste too. But if I grow it again, it's going in one of the taller bigger wire frames. The small one I used is completely overwhelmed.

I am much happier with the purple-fruited Paul Robeson than I was with the purple one I grew last year, Cherokee Purple. The fruit is bigger, tastes better, and the plant is sturdy and upright. It was the next one to fruit after Legend.

I tried the Landis Valley strain of red Brandywine this year, from Tomato Growers. The plants are similar in size to Paul R. The fruit is very good tasting, but it hasn't really produced as much as I hoped. So I'm not sure about this one. I might try another strain of Brandywine, or another kind, maybe Rose, next year. Both this one and Paul R. need the bigger wire frame.

Virginia Sweets, the yellow-and-red-streaked fruit, is amazing! I love everything about it. The fruit is beautiful, tastes wonderful, and some of them are HUGE! I have one right now that's at least 2-3 lbs, with another on the way. This plant definitely needs the larger wire frame. It truly is a later-ripening variety, but it's worth the wait.

Of the two grape tomatoes I've grown, I definitely prefer Sprite to Juliette. The fruits are smaller and I like the taste better. I'm pretty sure they're not the kind you buy in the store (which I love), but they're closer. I may try Sprite again next year, with another small one. One advantage of Sprite is the smaller sized plant. Only a few feet tall, and although it sprawls it's on a smaller scale so it hasn't been a problem.

The other small-fruit type was Ceylon. It's an unusual shape for a small fruit, and the catalogue said it tasted great, so I fell for it. It does taste good, and it's prolific. But I'm not happy with the large blossom-end ring and the deep stem. I don't like eating the hard white area around the stem, so I'm not as likely to just pop a whole Ceylon tomato in my mouth, like I am with Sprite. The plants aren't tall, but they sprawl a lot. Not really structured for a wire frame either, so I'm not sure I'll grow it again.

I tried a different variety of soybean (for eating while green) this year, and they were much nicer. More prolific and more beans over a longer season. So those are a keeper.

The peppers I'm not as happy with. The Marconi Italian type I grew last year were great! Took them a long time to ripen but it was worth it. I didn't grow an Italian type this year, but that's ok.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer On the Way Out

We've really started noticing the days getting shorter in the past week. Sunset is a whole half hour sooner now, and dawn is getting closer and closer to 7:00am, rather than 6:00. For us this means the evenings are getting cooler. Being at a relatively high latitude, we get a lot more sun during the height of summer, and the heat builds up well into the evenings. We had a lot of rain last week from a very a-typical Pacific storm that blew through. It was wonderful to have a few cool, cloudy days, and we loved the rain. In fact, temps in general are lower overall now. Only got up to the mid-high 80's today. Pretty nice for a mid-August day here!

The red raspberries are going strong, and the Autumn Gold ones are starting to come in. I've been picking nearly two pints a day. So we have lots of frozen raspberries, and still plenty of fresh ones to use. I made up a pie this weekend. Bought a graham cracker crust, put in a layer of fresh raspberries, whipped together Neufchatel (low fat) cream cheese and vanilla low fat yogurt to put on top of that, and put more fresh berries on it. We had Brenda and Jasmine over for dinner. It was a little tangy for Jasmine, but the rest of us loved it. I'll have to try it again.

I put up a photo of the garden now, to compare with the picture from June. The tomato plants are nearly as tall as I am, and we're getting some really nice tomatoes. The Paul Robeson ones taste amazing! The early one, Legend, is putting out reliable, good-sized fruit with a great flavor. And the little Ceylon tomatoes are great! My grape tomatoes, Sprite, are only slightly smaller than the Juliette grape tomatoes I tried a few years ago. They taste good, and the plants are a manageable size, so that's an improvement. I haven't had much from the Virginia Sweets. There's plenty of fruit set on the plants, but none of it has ripened yet. I should trim off the tops to help it along.

It's been a busy summer. I haven't been nearly as conscientious about watering my flower beds this year, so I may lose a few things to dryness. Only myself to blame. :( I've just turned on the sprinklers this evening, so hopefully a few of those sad droopy perennials will perk up.

This past Monday hubby and I went out to test drive a few new car models he's had his eye on. We'd been tossing around the idea of doing the Cash for Clunkers thing with his old '97 Chevy Tahoe, so we thought we'd go have a look.

We went to the local Kia dealer and drove the new Rio, and the Soul. The Rio was small, inside and out. And it felt very much like a basic economy car. Looking ahead 10 years, it was hard to see ourselves being very comfortable in it. But I was very surprised when hubby started getting serious about the Soul. It was black, which neither of us like, and the dealer didn't have any other colors left. But it was fun to drive, has great gas mileage compared to the Tahoe, and had the features we wanted without being so feature-loaded it was more expensive. It looks small from the outside, but sitting in it you don't feel crowded at all. It's really quite spacious for such a little thing. Then the dealer looked up our Tahoe model to see how much we'd get - and it was the full $4,500! I think that tipped the balance. We talked price, decided to do it, and signed the papers.

We'd gone out to do test drives not expecting to actually buy something, so we weren't prepared with all of the Tahoe's paperwork. Thus followed two days of running around, searching the house for records, and scrambling to get the Tahoe working well enough to drive to the dealer. The alternator was dead, so it wouldn't start. We ended up calling AAA to have it towed to the street outside the Kia lot. The AAA driver started it with the jump-box, took that off, and hubby drove off hoping to make it the 100 yards to the car lot. It stalled after only 50. So they attached the jump-box to the battery and left it on while he drove onto the lot and back to the Clunker parking area. And that was it.

The Tahoe was a good car. It was great on long drives, comfortable and roomy. And we really appreciated the power and four-wheel drive that time we had to drive to the Oregon coast in winter, over the Cascades in heavy falling snow. But it had over 190,000 miles on it, and sooner or later something else would have gone out and had to be replaced.

So now we have this little black Soul sitting in the car port. It looks odd there. So small in that space where we're used to seeing the hulking Tahoe. It makes my Charger look big. We're having a bit of post-purchase anxiety about making car payments after so long without any at all - both our cars are long paid for. But I think it will be ok.