Monday, October 18, 2010

Black Swallowtail

I never got the chance to look up how long it takes for a Swallowtail butterfly to metamorph once it pupated....  so i was surprised the other morning to see that time was up!

Such beautiful wings and contrast of color.

Outside with the jar....

Ready to fly!

Its kinda hard to make out, but the second fence panel from the end toward the driveway- that oval blur is the butterfly. It was about 10 feet away from me.  The wind picked up and off the little critter went.

Over the fence and toward that tall yellow tree ...

It made for a nice morning. :0)

Herbs, ornamentals, peppers and other things...


The Basil really did well.  Nice plants reaching almost 3' tall.  I had picked a bunch of it this summer and made some yummy pesto with macadamia nuts and olive oil.  I also pulled some more plants this past weekend when it looked like we were going to have a frost- the one that didn't happen.  I washed, dried the big stems and then plucked the leaves for the dehydrator.  They are taking forever to dry.  I don't know why, maybe it was sheer volume and the low setting. The heat has to be on the lowest setting, just gently warm.  But its still taking a long time,  and the humidity up here had been rather low for those days.  I'll have to keep trying.

I think i might try a variety with much larger leaves though. It might make harvesting it easier.  Its a thought i hope to remember later.

The Rosemary is still doing great out there, its more hardy than the basil so it will look nice for a while longer.  I'm still going to harvest and dry as much as i can.  I might try and bring in a few of them for the winter. I have never successfully kept a rosemary plant alive long term in the house, but its worth a try with my own seedlings.

I get to make some hand-bashed herb mixtures and sauces now that i got my big stone mortar and pestle.  I have been ogling these things for years.  I have a medium sized ceramic one, but its not the heavy duty granite thing i just got.  Its a lot like the one i first saw Jamie Oliver using how long ago?  They were almost impossible to find then, but i kept looking. Then i found them about 5 years ago, but to ship a 26 pound mortar and pestle was craziness...  until i went looking again about a year ago and found
They sent me THIS  Mine is the 8".  They only charged me $8.98 to ship it, Priority. I ordered it Sunday evening and i have it today.  It really is very nice.  Such a great company!

Ok, ok.... back to the garden stuff! lol

Shiso (Perilla/Shisho)-   It took its time growing but it did start to take off as the summer went on. It has a really brilliant mahogany-red and the scent of the leaves is somewhere between basil and fresh tangerine rind.  Its very interesting.  I might pull it and try and see if it makes a good house plant since i haven't done anything with the leaves yet other than pluck a few to sniff.

The peppers this year just didn't impress.  I think the ZsaZsa  were so tempremental, by the time i got the seeds to germinate the plants were way behind. It has one singular fruit on one of the plants, but it is small and i don't think its going to grow much more before frost.
Same thing with the New Ace- i did get maybe 3 reasonably sized peppers from it.  Not nearly grocery store sized, but tasty enough.  The "Fooled You" Jalapeno were interesting...  they were not hot at all...  which is what they were described as.  But i guess the joke was on me cause a green pepper without heat is.....guess what?  A sweet green pepper.  I guess i was expecting the pepper to retain the musky, smoky flavor of hot peppers but without the heat.  But it didn't happen that way,  without heat a pepper loses those traits, at least in this case.  So it was a disappointment in a way, but not because there was something wrong with the seeds or the plants,  it just wasn't what i had hoped it would be.
I won't bother with it again, i'll grow the jalapenos that keep their heat. Since i live in a cooler place they may not be as ripping hot as the ones grown in the South anyway.

Ornamental stuff-
I guess i could say the Ornamental Eggplant, the Birdhouse Gourds and the Job's Tears should fit here.

The Ornamental Eggplant really delivered the "Pumpkin on a Stick" that i was hoping for.  A bunch of brilliant orange, tiny, pumpkin-like fruits are all over the stems.  I need to pick some for a little fall display on the dinner table. I need to pick them for a picture anyway.

The Birdhouse Gourd was both a success and a pain in the row.  It tried to take over the back half of the garden earlier in the summer. Even after being chopped, clipped, and dragged into submission it still got designs.  Every time i looked at it i have the Pinky & The Brain cartoon theme song stuck in my head.
But, though i have not plucked them yet, it looks like i have some really nice gourds to dry out.  One is huge and the rest are more manageable. I won't grow these again in  a garden so small as mine, but i might get to use the space in my parents' garden next year. They haven't been using it much in the last few years.

The Job's Tears are doing really nice things. There are a lot of seeds still on the 2 plants and i have picked a small handful.  The only trouble i have had is knowing when to harvest the seeds.  The ones i tried were a bit too young. When they dried their coats got a wrinkly texture and turned a shiny white instead of the expected shades of slate and graphite gray.  I was worried that the seeds would mature so fast on me that i'd miss picking them and they'd drop to the ground and be ruined for beads.  Or that frost destroys their looks too.
I tried picking some more a few days ago, some of the seeds were getting very dark brown and a clean straw-colored shade. Those seem to be drying naturally and are showing the expected lustrous greyscale colors.  I'm quite happy with them actually. I can't wait to mix them with other beads of natural materials like shells, earth tone stone beads, coconut,  fresh water pearls....  They've re-inspired my interest in doing hand made jewelery.  I even dug out my bead stash and made a few things in anticipation :0)   I think its the neatest thing to be able to go out into the garden and harvest my own beads.

Fresh picked:

Comparison of dried and fresh.  Drying takes about a week for color to develop.

The darker the fresh seed the more blue-grey the bead ends up.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Carrots and Onions (and Shallot) 2010

Wow, the carrots really did well.  I got lots of them. I don't remember if i did weigh them. I can't imagine that i didn't- but i don't remember doing it.
They were sweet and crispy, the roots were thick and a bit on the short side- but i think the varieties i had weren't supposed to be the ultra long and thin type- so they may have been as perfect as they could be- which was great. I only had 4 or 5 that were bifurcated, cracked or shaped oddly, the rest were straight, smooth and not 'hairy'.  The color of both types was hard to differentiate, the skin on both was a vibrant garnet red. The cores were small, one type more tinged with green than the other, but otherwise the inside color was the usual carrot shade of orange.  They pulled up easily- a few broke from their stems but the soil had stayed so nice and loose they were easily pulled out.

I love how light my soil stayed in the planting rows. Even now, this late in the year after all the watering and recent rain, if i step into a bare spot in any planting row, my foot will sink at least an inch or two. I'm used to soil with a higher clay content so this is recognisably different than the garden soil i traipsed through as a kid.

Now the onions-  I decided at the beginning of the year that if i got one or two onions the size of a regulation baseball, i'd be happy enough.  I got my wish and then some,  i got at least a half dozen that were of good size and plenty of sizes close.  I got plenty of little tinkers too- and i like the range in sizes actually.  The little golf ball ones are great for the morning omelet.

I got plenty of white onions, and the red onions did catch up in size-  they seem to grow at a noticeably different pace than the white ones. I probably could have waited to harvest the red ones until the tops were more dried than they are, but we were getting so much rain for a while there i was afraid they'd just rot in the ground. So i pulled them.  They will get diced and frozen for convenient use through the winter soon anyway, they don't need to store well whole after all.   I never did get to the root cellar yet. Hubby has been working on the basement now and then but there was a lot going on down there and he isn't finished yet.   So not having a root cellar for storage this fall isn't a problem since i don't have a big need for it yet anyway.

Oh, and the Shallot...s....  Well, i don't know what was up with those things, the variety was named "Mirage" and i'm thinking that they were that very thing! lol.  I planted a number of seedlings, but it looks like i only pulled one or two up. The seedlings may have gotten slugged,  and the other thing that i think contributed was the volunteer pumpkin plant that hubby asked me to keep.  It was self-seeded in the center of one of my walking rows and it vined in the direction of my shallots. I think it shaded them too much despite my trying to keep those leaves down to a minimum and the vines out of the planting row.  So whatever it was, it probably wasn't all the fault of the variety of shallot.  I have them green-lighted for next year.

Corn and beans, 2010

Corn started out quite well once harvesting time came.  It was a small patch so i wasn't expecting a high yield or anything.  I don't eat corn (too starchy though i used to love it), so it was mainly grown for the rest of my family to have.
As a reminder to myself i planted:
Golden Bantam
Stowell's Evergreen

I had planted them in blocks in the order listed, the Stowell's in the back.  The Golden Bantam and the Incredible did quite well. The Incredible seemed more insect resistant tnan the Golden Bantam. I did try throwing around some Seven Dust early on to keep the darned earwigs out of the husks and i used BT sporadically in attempt to quell the earworms.  This seemed to help a bit- still got some nasties but not too terrible in the end.
The only real disappointment was the Stowell's Evergreen.  I think it germinates slower, matures slower and that put it at a disadvantage. I got some very large  ears on the stalks- but out of these 10"+ ears, only maybe 20 kernels were filled out.  I understand this is a pollination issue.  I'm not sure if it was because the soil in the back 4' of garden was cooler than the 8' in front of it that the rest of the corn went into (it was all under row cover at the time of planting IIRR- i'll have to go back and look)... i don't know if it was the lack of water---  the silks on the whole plot of all three types dried out as if they were ripe and ready well before they were- which made harvesting tricky.
The stalks of them all are browned out now so i know whatever was left on them is past now.  I knocked the stalks down the other day so they might break down better over the winter and early spring.

I had planted some of the purple podded string beans between the corn stalks for kicks, but i think the dry weather with the lack of direct sun didn't do the beans any favors.  I'm guessing that beans may be best grown with corn when the corn is planted in thin rows, not blocks.  The beans mostly ended up with woody pods even when they were small enough that they should have been tender.  I got about a 1/4 pound of the purple beans before the next batch came in almost inedible.

The Provider bush beans, however, were stellar. They are definitely on the list for next summer.  I lost count of how much i picked, but it was every other day about a pound for more than 3 weeks.  They got ahead of me eventually,  i probably could have gotten a few more whole pounds out of the planting if i hadn't lost track.
I'll possibly double the space for them next year so i can keep freezing them, get some canned and still share them out.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall Rreport-

Well i have a lot of catching up to do. I have been taking pictures as things go on so hopefully i'll manage to bust out a few entries about separate things in the next few days.

We were warned that we might have our first frost last Monday- but it didn't happen and as of now, there is no frost in sight according to the weather forecasts.  Normally for my area, the first frost comes before now (before October begins i think).  Its not making too much of a difference though, because the days are rather cool (high 50's to mid 60's) so there isn't a whole lot of growth or extended ripening going on.

We're getting rain today- its funny that we have gotten more rain in the last few weeks than we got all summer.  But that is just the way it goes.

Did i mention that i sort of let my summer squash go by too early.  It got away from me and i let the veggies get that gourdiness to them. There wasn't enough water going on i think.
So i didn't get to make as many squash chips like i had hoped i could.

Goodness, i'm so far behind i don't know where to start.  Maybe if i just start a few entries by subject, finish them off separately as i go and them publish them all when i'm done.
Sounds like a plan!