July 25, 2010

Rabbit 2

We caught another rabbit. I think that is all of them, but Ilana swears there is a third out there waiting to attack our garden... Second verse same as the first. The rabbit ran under the shed when we walked after it. We placed our traps on both ends of the shed and at some point the bunny came out and was captured. We then fed the rabbit as many apples and carrots as it could eat and then drove to Peacock Beach where it was released, pet for twenty minutes, and then we went swimming with pangs of guilt that we did not adopt it as our pet.


My word, we have a lot of carrots right now. Also broccoli and apples. If anyone local (Maine or NH) would like some, just let us know!

July 24, 2010

July Garden

Our summer garden, facing west.Summer garden, view facing northeast.
The weather this year has been nearly ideal for gardening. We've had a nice mix of sun and rain and an early summer which set us up nearly 2 weeks ahead of schedule. We also installed a drip irrigation system and it really made a difference during the oppressive heat of the last few weeks. There are a few lessons we've learned this year which will hopefully help us with next year's garden:
1. Use floating row covers on all transplants. Gives 'em a fighting chance against the hungry hordes.
2. Seed squash directly. I tried starting them in biodegradable pots made of composted manure thinking that it would allow me to transplant them without disrupting the root system. All my curcurbids went into shock and slowly atrophied for the first month out there in the wild, then got eaten by nearly everything.
3. Plant more peas and fava beans. We had lots this year, but only a handful was ever ripe at any given time.
4. Plant peas/beans and squash together. The legumes will act as a green fertilizer and by the time the squash vines really start to take off, the peas are already dying back.
5. Weed the raspberry patch. Even if you think your raspberries are the most wild and voracious variety, there are weeds out there that will out compete even them. Just our luck every single one of them in the state happen to have landed in our raspberry patch.
6. Birds eat Sluggo. I don't think it's toxic to the birds, since the active ingredient is a minute amount of iron phosphate, but they will trash your plants in the process. More on that below.
7. Pinch back the side shoots on young tomato plants to promote more fruit development and control the overall size of the plant. This was a tip from local organic farmer Michele Roy. It's too late this year, our tomatoes are already an enormous snarl, but we'll have to give it a try next year. So far, our tomatoes are blight free (knocking on wood). The new location and the red mulch are working well, I think.
This year I wanted to grow some more unusual varieties and sought out some highlighted by Slow Food's Ark of Taste. The slender peppers developing above are Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Italian Frying peppers. I'm really psyched to try them.
Another Ark of Taste varietal we're trying for the first time is the Fish pepper. The variegated foliage is like nothing I've ever seen in a pepper. It's an African-American heirloom from the 19th century. The searingly hot fruits of this plant are best described as the gobstopper of the pepper world. Apparently they start off a creamy white with green stripes, then develop an orange hue with brown stripes, and then eventually blush a deep red. I can't wait to see it person!
Revolution, not an Ark of Taste varietal, but I've included the picture here because the sight of sweet peppers growing makes me so excited.Thai hot peppers. We have 3 of these little cuties just bursting with blossoms at the moment.Our zucchinis took a beating this spring. First they were shocked when I transplanted them and refused to grow for about a month. Then they got a huge infestation of striped cucumber beetles and squash bugs. I squelched their uprising with some safer soap, but then the slugs moved in and nibbled them down to stalks. I scatted Sluggo around the squash mounds, but the carnage just got worse. The next morning I found the remaining leaves tattered, the stalks beaten down and the Sluggo completely gone. It took a few days to figure out what was happening. Our local crows really like Sluggo pellets and a whole gang of them were pecking holes through the leaves and mashing the stems in their haste to get all the Sluggo first. I witnessed this feeding frenzy first hand and had to chase them off with a broom like a crazy person. I ended up putting a little floating row cover over the battered remnants of my poor plants and miraculously they came back. Our first zucchini is on the way, 3 weeks late, but still coming along.A Benning's Green Tint Patty Pan squash ripening on the vine.Delicata squash, also a bit late to the growing season after the cucumber beetle/slug/crow fiasco, is now growing strong.Another new addition to our 2010 garden is Romanesco, pictured above. We used to find this amazing fractal vegetable in the farmers markets in Santa Monica and it tasted so much better than any other cauliflower we'd ever experienced. Since we've moved back to Maine, I haven't come across any in the local markets but I gather someone only recently developed a variety that might grow up here, given a little luck and a long growing season. We thought we'd give it a try and see what we could get. The inflorescences have just started to peek out from the center of some plants. They are only about 2 inches wide, but when full grown should be about 7-8 inches across. An heirloom pole bean flower. These guys produce slender red beans with a taste and texture that reminds me a lot of haricots verts. They are just starting to come on line and are lovely.Japanese Black Trifele, a Russian heirloom, and one of the best tasting tomatoes out there. There, I said it!Here's a new Ark of Taste tomato we're trying this year -- Valencia. Fruits are orange and sweet and sound delish. This varietal was developed in Maine!Our artichoke that survived the winter is setting bud. We've named this plant alcachofa in honor of Joaquin.Some lettuce varieties still manage to stay tender throughout the midsummer heat. I wish I knew what variety this one is, but I don't because it came from a greens mix. It's been the only leaf lettuce that hasn't bolted on us.
Edible organic French Marigolds at the start of each row help to deter some insect pests and make a lovely addition to our salads.

July 21, 2010

July Potpourri

Ben, Alex and Ilana's Dad came to visit us last week. Ben and Alex were on the East Coast for a wedding in Jersey, and made the trek up to Maine and New Hampshire for a few days afterward. Alden made sure everyone got high fives. We spent the afternoon at a local organic farm and chased chickens and ducks, then raided the garden for basil, and finally had a lovely lobster dinner, since Alex had never eaten it before.
In other news, we are riding the potty train, (as they say at Daycare), and although this train doesn't stop as frequently as we'd all like, we're making good progress. If stripped and plunked down in front of his potty, Alden will pee dutifully, especially if there are Goldfish to be had. Otherwise, he's somewhat oblivious of his bodily functions. We've been trying to help him become more aware by letting him run around naked as much as possible. Outside naked time is limited because the summer sun cooks his tender little behind in a matter of minutes. Surprisingly, Alden doesn't like to pee in the grass or bushes when we do indulge him in outside naked time. He goes right for the kiddy pool. We all enjoy a good naked tractor ride now and then.

July 20, 2010

July 17, 2010

Bunny Adventure

We caught a bunny in our havaheart trap this morning. This bunny belongs to a group of three that appeared in our backyard a few weeks ago. They appear relatively at ease with humans and will only really run from you if chased. Although they have not figured out a way into our vegetable garden, they have been menacing it for a while, so we've been pursuing them when we catch them munching on fallen apples under our tree or frolicking in the freshly cut grass. Unlike the groundhogs, our hearts aren't really dead set on wiping out every sign of their existence, so we've been a little less proactive about catching them. Plus they're a whole lot cuter. Since they were probably pets at one point or another, they seem to be much smarter about avoiding cages than the groundhogs ever were. However, this morning Kerstin and Alden chased one of them under the shed in the backyard where there's an old groundhog burrow. Knowing that this burrow only has two exits, Kerstin set a trap at the mouth of each one and the rabbit had no choice but to enter one. Once ensnared, the rabbit became quite tame and even friendly, accepting the gifts of food that Alden so thoughtfully presented.

Well, almost all the gifts of food, he wasn't interested in the apples today. It's so funny to watch Alden try to get the rabbit to show an interest in his apple -- he does the same thing that we do when we try to get him to eat vegetables. It's the whole maybe-he'll-consider-tasting-it-if-I-approach-from-this-angle tactic. Never works.Alden really wanted to touch the bunny's eye, and we had to keep on him to touch only the fur on the back and ears.After some discussion about what to do with the bunny, we determined it was best to turn it loose in Peacock beach, since no one in the neighborhood has inquired about missing bunnies and they've been living in our backyard for weeks. So the whole family went along this time. Kerstin released the rabbit, who was not interested in exploring his new home and instead froze completely on the grass while we pet him. Clearly some child in our neighborhood is missing Mr Bun-Bun. He was very tolerant of small children.Alden lost interest in the bunny after a riding mower started up. He's such a boy.Kerstin was pretty conflicted about the whole thing. He has a special fondness for bunnies. The bunny eventually loped off and hid under our car after being groped for about 10 minutes. Since the little fella didn't seem to be going anywhere, we decided to do a little swimming in the nearby pond. If the bunny was still around when we were ready to go, we reasoned, we'd take him home and adopt him. If not, he'd officially become a member of the colony of rodents we've relegated to the park.Alden decided the water was fun after some initial trepidation and took us all in much farther than we'd anticipated. He even got over his sand on feet phobia.When it was time to leave, the rabbit was nowhere to be seen. I guess he made himself at home in the park. Now we just need to capture the other two so he'll have some companions out there on wild banks of Pleasant Pond.