Monthly Archives: June 2012

Not There. Here, Now

So, where am I not right now? On a scheduled flight to Chicago. One flight got cancelled today by Southwest Airlines, and it was mine. No other flights today than one that gets in at 9:45 p.m., and no flights available tomorrow that don’t land smack-dab in the middle of the funeral (or after, which is pointless). So thanks a pant-load, Southwest. My heart is broken. But one cousin (my cousins are AWESOME, btw) said, “Uncle Don knows you tried” and another said, “You must have to stay home for some reason or this would not have happened.” So, maybe it’s okay.

I think I’m going to do some art today. I’ve been wanting to do a series of rough pen & ink drawings of farm stuff, like chickens, trees, outbuildings, all from our farm. Way less intensive than the work I normally do, which is pointillism (one of my pieces, below).

Monet’s Lilies

Maybe the Universe is telling me to get out of my own head and make something this weekend. I just found out someone I care about has cancer. I’m going to send good energy her way, do something creative, and maybe can some more tomatoes. Maybe vacuum. Play with the kitten. Talk to the family by phone. Hug my husband when he gets home. Nesting and creativity seem to be the order of the day.

I made breakfast this morning (3 small pullet eggs, scrambled; flour tortilla; 2 Roma tomatoes) and realized that two of the three things on my plate were made on this farm, with help from me and my husband. That made me feel good.

And then I cried for my own selfish reasons, because I can’t see my family this weekend.

Suck it up, you big baby. Uncle Don would say the same thing.

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Heat and Funerals

This super-informative piece on Mother Earth News says (page 3), “…remember that it’s unwise to do hard outdoor work when both the temperature and the humidity are high. When the two numbers added together equal more than 160, stay indoors during the middle of the day.”

I would edit that to add, “If you live in south central Texas, however, it is technically ALWAYS the middle of the day. Plan on building robots to do your gardening, because those two numbers will equal greater than 160 for the next four months.”

I just got in from an hour’s-worth of harvesting tomatoes, feeding and watering the chickens and geese, and watering the gardens. After standing in front of the window A/C, I’m at least not dripping sweat from every pore; only my hair is still soaked. The cats lasted about 10 minutes out there, and the dog looks at me like I’m slow in the head whenever I open the door to let her out.

The plants are all suffering. This year’s averages are already 10 degrees above normal and everything is browning. I water in the mornings and we’ll be constructing some shade dealies next week (when the chef’s on vacation…YAY!) to help at least the tomatoes. We’ll also be filling the indoor greenhouse with starts to go in next month. The only thing really thriving outside right now is a super-tall volunteer sunflower in the potager. (Not my garden; it’s too freaking hot and I’m too cooked to go out with a camera right now. Thanks, random blogger, Cheryl.)

While the husband’s home, we have a ton of outdoor chores to attend to for our party July 7th*. It’s going to be a blast! However, pool needs fixing up, gardens need cleaning, pit needs digging, lighting needs putting up, grass needs mowing, food and supplies need getting boughted. (Okay, that last one got away from me.)

Here’s an actual photo from our garden from Tuesday, June 26, 2012, or as I like to call it, “Family Shit Day.” Go ahead, click on the photo. It’s a black widow and her boyfriend, right under one of the tomato plants. I pulled back a big clump of stems to get at some ripe tomatoes underneath and THERE IT WAS. Oh, I ain’t proud to say I Sevin’d the shit out of her, but, I SEVIN’D THE SHIT OUT OF HER. Then that wasn’t enough, so I scootched her and her boyfriend out and smashed them under my rubber boot toe into the dirt until they were a whole mess of splat and legs.

Also on the “getting boughted” list for the party: Outdoor and indoor foggers, tiki torches, personal bodyguards, spider mace**.

*Send me an email if you’re local and come on out! (You’ll be required to answer a series of questions allowing me to judge whether or not you are a dangerous ax murderer, Obama supporter, or Romney supporter.)

**Is there such a thing? Because if there isn’t, I’m going to invent it and be a gajillionaire.

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Friday a.m: Off to Chicago to attend a service for my uncle, and see my large family for the first time in a while. Way too long a while for some of them. Funeral Saturday. I’m looking forward to a lot of laughing and hugs and some cathartic tears. I know Uncle Don would be pissed if we didn’t laugh as much as we can at this thing.
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My Uncle

My mom’s little brother.

This isn’t about farming or gardening. It’s not about being angry or smart-assed. It’s about saying good-bye to one of my heroes, my Uncle Donny. He passed last night unexpectedly, after a few hard years of health trouble.

I remember you from when I was a little girl in Florida. You came down to our house to clear trees, because you were a “Tree Surgeon.” I thought that meant you were a) a real doctor, and b) why would a real doctor be cutting down trees instead of healing them? You were like a spider monkey, climbing the trees with your spiked shoes and big ropes, brandishing a chain saw like you were a pine tree pirate. You had the first tattoo I ever saw. I thought you were the coolest person ever.

I remember visiting your little white farmhouse in Illinois. We Downer kids thought you were rich because you had a two-story house. We were also pretty sure you were from another country because your Chicago accent was so strong.  I remember you had an earthworm farm in the basement, and it was exciting and scary as hell to go down there and smell those worms and creep along in the near-dark.

I remember you taking me to your neighbor’s house who had horses, because you knew I was obsessed and you wanted me to learn to ride, and shut up about it already. I didn’t want to walk home through the woods by myself, and I remember you telling me to “Toughen up and just do it,” and so I did.

I remember you and my other uncles getting shit-faced drunk at Uncle Chuck’s, and throwing bean bags and then punches. Then all of you laughing like idiots until all us cousins fell asleep when it got dark.

I remember you and the other Uncles and Grandma yelling at each other and then hugging. All cousins (and kids) were convinced you all were crazy.

I remember you and Uncle Chuck teaching me to throw elbows in a fight, “Because you got a big mouth and girl fists. You’d get your ass beat.” (And I never told you how many times that trick came in handy.)

I remember when my parents got divorced and you drove down to Florida with Uncle Chuck to bring me, Mom, and my brothers up to Chicago to live. You came in a U-Haul truck, and bitched and bitched about the heat and all the stuff we had. Then you drove us to our new home and helped us get settled in our new lives.

I remember opening day White Sox games and how OFFENDED you always were that I am a Cubbies fan. I remember you taking us to the press box at the old Blackhawks Stadium, and how regular seats at a Blackhawks game always sucked because they weren’t above center ice…

I remember what seemed like 40 Gabouer kid weddings, and you and Aunt Geri being dressed to the nines…

I remember you yelling, “Stell-Adele!” every time you saw my mom, and would hurry up to give us all hugs.

I remember the first time I saw your lake house in Indiana and how cool I thought you and Aunt Geri were, and that you’d finally “made it.”

I remember you asking me to ghost-write your autobiography, and how honored I was that you would ask me, knowing that I love to write. I remember how embarrassed you were over some of the stories, thinking I’d be offended, and then realizing that that’s pretty freaking hard to do with me.

I remember you and Uncle Chuck coming to our little lake house in Polo a few years ago, and how you two were like little kids about wanting cookies after dinner, and leaving me money on the toilet tank because never in the history of ever had two people filled up a septic tank so fast. I remember you being so proud of the fact that you used the ladies room at our local gas station, because, “AY! When you gotta go, you gotta go!”

I remember (three years ago) you taking me and my brother out on your boat at Lake Shafer, and me sitting all the way up front and you banging the waves so I’d fly around and scream and laugh until tears were streaming from my eyes.  And when I screamed, “AGAIN! AGAIN!” like a two year-old, you obliged.

I remember your “Come to Jesus” meetings on the deck at Lake Shafer, when all they really were was a venue for telling more stories.

I remember talking to you for the first time in years when you were diagnosed with cancer, and we never really stopped the calls every month or two. I remember you taking time in the recent years to reach out to me through phone calls, whether to congratulate me on my engagement and wedding, or to yell at me for saying “fuck” so much on Facebook.

I remember you never stopped talking. From the early morning till you went to sleep, you always had a story. We could tell you over and over again that we’d heard it before, but that didn’t stop you. You’d plow right through, undaunted by our groans or rolling eyes.

Uncle Don, I’d give anything to hear one more of your stupid stories.

PRODUCT REVIEWS

Screen door on a submarine.

ORTHO BUG B GON MAX (Manufacturer, Scotts. Active ingredient, Bifenthrin [pyrethrin]): I sprayed this bullshit chemical cocktail over my entire yard. It’s supposed to work to kill grasshoppers a) on contact and b) later. How well does this work?

NOT AT ALL.

Eat a gigantic bag of dicks, Scotts. Yes, you were a cheap, well-marketed seeming solution to my problem. You are also made of balls. Big, hairy, useless balls. I spent an entire morning spreading your poisonous merde over grasshoppers and crickets and lawn and it turns out? YOU’RE MADE OF USELESSNESS AND DESPAIR. Thanks again, chemistry schmucks and marketing (“Bug B Gon”? Really?) lie-sacks of turd.

Price: $14.99 each x 2 (because I’m stupid) = $30.00

Rating: I hope you get genital warts

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Ashtray on a motorcycle.

SEVIN BUG KILLER (Manufacturer, Bayer. Active ingredient, Carbaryl): Know what’s good about this product? Only its no-nonsense name. Know what it does to grasshoppers? Makes them genetically susceptible to the ability to LAUGH IN MY FACE. Nice work, Bayer. It’s not bad enough that I broke my No-Bayer-Products rule because you fuckers kill bees, but I also paid you money to buy a poison that DOES NOT WORK? Well played, assholes. You win this round.

Also, nice white crud left all over everything. That’s swell.

Price: $25.00 (1 gallon)

Rating: I hope mutant spiders lay eggs in your face

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Tits on a bull.

FRONTLINE (Manufacturer, Merial. Active Ingredient, Fipronil (pyrethrin): Here’s how well your vaunted products work on my cats and dog: EXACTLY ZERO TIMES INFINITY. I spent almost $100 to get the dog and cats flea-free, unable to dose them with anything ELSE THAT WORKS for one month, because it would probably kill them. So we get to bomb the house (then wipe down every surface and vacuum every freaking nook and cranny), spread diatamaceous earth all over the carpet, repeatedly vacuum, use peppermint oil in the flea baths, spray the cats and dog with flea spray, and get flea bites ourselves, FOR ONE FUCKING MONTH. I hate you so much. If hate were people, I’d be China.

Your useless, over-priced poison products only served to make one cat foam at the mouth, and the rest be re-infested within three days. Your claims that it lasts a month make me want to drive to your homes and leave flaming bags of poo on your lying liar porches.

Price: $100 for cats and dog (six treatments in all)

Rating: Just die. You exhaust me.

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Thanks, Y’all

Okay, I’m all caught up on chores, and really need to post this because I’ve been kind of a jerk for not acknowledging…I got Blog Awards from several very sweet people, and I’ve yet to say Thank You! Or follow any of the other rules…So I’m going to do that now.

First off, Green Box Garden, Stone House Road, and Sara the Gardener, thank you for the Versatile Blogger Award!

The rules for this one are as follows:

  •  Thank the person who gave you this award.
  •  Include a link to their blog.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

The Bead Den nominated me for Kreativ Blogger. Thank you!!

The rules are as follows:

    • You must thank the person who has given you the award.
    • Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
    • Link the person who has nominated you for the award.
    • Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
    • Nominate 7 other Kreativ Bloggers.
    • Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
    • Leave a comment on each of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated.

Thank you to Harvest Liberty, who gave me a Sunshine Award. (p.s.: Your site’s not working for me. Don’t know why!)

Those rules are:

  •  Thank the blogger who nominated you
  • Answer the 10 questions on your favourite things below
  • Nominate 10 blogs to receive the Sunshine Award & let them know they have been nominated
  1. Favourite animal:
  2. Favourite number:
  3. Favourite non-alcoholic drink:
  4. FB or Twitter:
  5. My passion:
  6. Getting or giving:
  7. Favourite pattern:
  8. Favourite flower:
  9. Favourite day of the week:
  10. Favourite country:

And to Small Space, Big Harvest, thank you as well. I don’t know what you nominated me for, though, because your site’s not working for me, which makes me sad.

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I’m going to condense everything, and kind of mix and match, because SHEESH, that’s a lot of questions and linking and stuff!

The blogs. I’m going to turn y’all on to some blogs that you might not know about, but should (instead of following the rules).

Jenny the Bloggess: Hands down, the funniest blogger on the planet.
Mimi Smartypants: Super funny, super smart, super Chicago.
David Thorne: This guy is so funny it physically hurts to read him.
Serenity Acres Now: My friends Trase and George, and their kick-ass farm outside Detroit.
Green Bench Ramblings: Terrific photography, and little snippets of gardening life.
Sara the Gardener: There’s something so compelling about reading of her garden antics while it’s winter for her (New Zealand) and high summer for me.
Henge and Hollow Farm: (Another) Sara. Go be nice to her. She just lost a doeling.
Green Box Garden: Hawaiian gardening (I used to live there, yo!), yes please!
Stone House Road: She’s way more organized than me. I read her to get my ass in gear.
The Bead Den: Super-cool crafts (and some weird ones). Different levels of difficulty. I can’t do half the stuff she does.
Soulsby Farm: They’re just cool over there.

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Seven things about me:

  1. I’ve had over 35 addresses in my life (Born in Charlotte NC, moved to Puerto Rico, then Orlando, then Chicago, Hilo, Honolulu, Kansas City MO, now Texas)
  2. I can write with my toes.
  3. I was on Romper Room as a kid. It was supposed to be for two weeks, but Miss Nancy kicked me off after one for back-talking. Miss Nancy was a bitch.
  4. I graduated from high school as a junior when I was 16.
  5. I’m extremely uncoordinated. I had over 60 stitches in my head by the time I was 6 (different incidents), and broke both wrists in 2010 (two separate incidents).
  6. I love American classic cars, and will own one again someday (owned previously, 1967 Chevy II and a 1953 Buick Roadmaster).
  7. I was once married to a rock musician. I don’t recommend it.

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That was exhausting. I’m going to look into this whole Blogger Award thing on Monday, and do some nominating myself! Thanks again, everybody! It made me feel special, and that rocks.

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Grasshopper Ninja

Please work. Please work.

I am sorry to say it, but it’s true. I just went all ninja assassin on the grasshoppers and it felt awesome. I hate giving these jackholes money (Scott’s/Ortho), but I just sprayed the shit out of our lawn with Bug B Gone Max. We got two bottles. I’m going to reward myself for mopping the kitchen floor with a good spraying out by the pool. SUCK POISON, BITCHES! I did NOT spray it near our gardens. I’m going to go in and chase the grasshoppers out with flailing arms and a rake, and hope they get blasted in the poison part of the lawn. I’m also going to walk around my lawn smashing grasshopper corpses with my boots. Because that will make me happy.

In other news, here’s a picture of the latest harvest. The tomatoes are starting to wind down, so it’s time to start more seedlings in the (inside) greenhouse. We’re going to experiment with growing in our little outdoor greenhouse, because the heirloom varieties really struggle in the Texas sun. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Arkansas Traveler and Stupice heirlooms, however. They’ve been thriving out there (the little toms in the picture are Arkansas Traveler) and both are super-sweet and delicious. I will grow them again in a heartbeat. The pears in the picture got blown off our pear tree during the high winds the other day, and as they were our ONLY pears, I’m a little sad.

PS: If you’ve not seen this blog, please go over and show this little Scottish girl some love. (Start at the beginning and read all the entries…It’s only a few pages long.) She does school food reviews, and yesterday, her town council tried to shut her down. The Internet went MONKEY SHIT and the council reversed its decision. HER BLOG IS COVERED IN WIN.

PSS: This bit with Jack McBrayer and Triumph almost made me pee myself laughing. True story.

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Monsatan’s Lap Dog

Remember this post (Monsatan Lovers)  I wrote in response to this dude, who had responded to this post (Sustainability vs. Monsatan) in a most Monsanto shillrific manner? (Yes, it’s a word. I just made it up.)

I was just over at fellow blogger SoulsbyFarm’s site reading this excellent piece, The Truth About Genetically Modified Organisms – GMO’s, when I noticed one of the commentors seemed familiar. I clicked on his (publicly available) link, and yep, it’s the same [genetic mutant?] Monsanto lap dog who propagandized all over my blog with no basis in fact. Which he also did at Soulsby’s blog. The fine folks at Soulsby are much nicer than I.

I take back all the relatively nice things I said about you, Michael. You’re a wanker.

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Completely Random Aside…

I sometimes post things on craigslist, things that were left here at the farm from the previous owner, mostly. I have mixed results. Here is my latest: Golf Cart Body Parts. Anybody need golf cart body parts? (Seriously, anybody?)

Wherein I Whine…

So last night I’m all braggin’ on how I’m a badass because [from Facebook]: “I’ve discovered that I’ve got actually THREE scorpion stings in the same area (think *BAP*BAP*BAP*), because they’ve turned kind of hard, itchy, and (maybe) necrotic. So I’m not only a badass, I might be dying. Good-bye, non-scorpion-bitten friends.” and how I’m like TRIPLE THE BADASS because I got three stings instead of just one.

I’m a great big baby.  I had a grasshopper-related meltdown on my way to the big garden today, that had it been witnessed, would have resulted in my immediate hospitalization.

Only slightly worse than the farm…Also, these are locusts. Like I give a shit.

The grasshoppers have been bad here, but never, ever this bad. They.are.everywhere. They drown in the pool and clog the filter. They’re losing their fear of people. The dog brings them in and eats their legs off, leaving me to step on squirming grasshopper torsos. I go outside to get the old Siamese out of the grass (he likes to sleep in the sun), and he’s covered in grasshoppers. One was on my shirt, sitting right on my boobs last night when I came inside and I had a baby spaz attack to the point where Allan grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away from myself. I think he thought I was being attacked by a cobra.

THEY FREAK ME OUT.

*Scene: Me walking along in the grass this morning around 7:00 a.m., surrounded by a veritable cloud of grasshoppers, more than I’ve ever seen or been around, EVER. Kind of like the picture, but WORSE, because it was happening to ME.

*Me* Getting more and more freaked out as I walk along, I start to wave my picking bag around in front of me, and start to yell, “Fuck OFF! I fucking HATE YOU! Just DIE!” And then one got down my boot (certainly not the first time) and I finally lost my shit. I started crying and yelling, “I fucking HATE IT HERE, ALLAN!* This is the biggest ball-sack of terrible EVER!” and jumped around on one foot shaking out my boot and snot running down my grown-up woman-baby face.

But I pulled up my grown-up lady shorts and went into the back garden anyway, and picked about a ton of tomatoes, the tears subsiding a little as I picked and sweated. Then I fed and watered the geese and chickens, and at least there are no grasshoppers there. They eat the SHIT out of those things.

And I’ll have to suck it up here in a little bit and go out and do my evening watering, and put the ladies up for the night, and deal with those assholes again. Because that’s what needs to be done.

It has come to this: I no longer hate poison.

NOTE TO HUSBAND: BUY 600 GALLONS OF THIS STUFF OR SIMILAR, OR I’M MOVING TO SASKATCHEWAN.

*He was at work while I was yelling at him here.

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Floodin’ Down in Texas

When Texas says a big ol’ storm is coming, it ain’t playin’.

Aftermath:

Extreme foreground: Ancient, blind Siamese (Louie)

Dang, that’s the fig tree…

So guess what I get to do today? Use the chainsaw!* Break up all those limbs into firebox-sized pieces, pretend I’m Jesse James Dupree from Jackyl…

*Oh wait, I only said that to scare the husband. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO USE THE CHAINSAW! Even I know that. I’m extremely uncoordinated, easily distracted**, and prone to flights of physical and mental fancy. Not what the safety direction writers had in mind when they were handing out wisdom on the use of death-dealing tools.

**Actual Facebook excerpts regarding my canning experiences yesterday:

“I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson here. No more canning for Donna. Because part of canning should never be the words, ‘OHJESUSGODMOTHERFUCKSHIT’ while running for ice, then burn salve.”

“‘Tomato concassé is fun to do!’ said no one, ever.”

PS: It only rained and blew so hard because I planted a wee baby olive tree in the potager. Thanks, Texas. Jackass.

PPS: In other news, my scorpion sting is extremely inflamed and itchy. I think I’m paying for my “I’m a badass” statement from yesterday by (perhaps) developing life-threatening shoulder tuberculosis. Pictures later!

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Fancy

So, faced with the awful prospect of any amount of our prodigious harvest going to waste (see Exhibit A), we sold some via Craigslist customers, canned and/or froze part of the first-of-June harvest, and gave the rest away to family and friends in Houston. We won’t be back to Houston for a little while, so now WHAT TO DO WITH HARVEST 2?

I’m going for the über fancy tomato concassé (which really just means peeled, seeded, and chopped). We go ahead and call it tomato concassé however, because the husband is a super snooty (about his food anyway) French chef, and that’s how we roll in the country.

Then, I’m making this recipe for salsa, and performing my first solo canning event! I’m excited and nervous, because who wants six quart jars of shit salsa? NOBODY. I do get to use the Cuisinart that my family drove down all the way from Missouri, so that’s cool.

Exhibit A: There are only two of us!

STOP IT ALREADY

 

Also today, I will attempt to freeze the summer squash, except for crap’s sake, not with this recipe! THAT’S HOW MUCH I HATE COMIC SANS. Phew, this lady makes me slightly less stabby.

To wrap this up, I’ll share that I’m feeling especially virtuous because I’ve already weeded the potager, planted an olive tree, built a shade shelter for the Purple Cherokee tomatoes, and have done two loads of laundry. I’m like a farm Marine. Without the overseas combat experience.

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Texas Summer

Texas on fire: True story.

While it’s not as bad yet as it was last year, this summer has started with a vengeance, with very little rainfall and temps nearing 100 already. Yesterday’s first-of-the-season climb to near 100 had me hiding in the living room where the A/C works the best, and Googling things like, “Is it tacky to leave your new husband to move to Canada, but only for the summer?” Google had a lot of baffling responses, not the least of which involved Mounties and Bullwinkle.

So it looks like I’ll tough it out, because I’m not unlike a rock star who also has super powers (imminent). Because last night I got my first (AND ONLY UNTIL FOREVER) scorpion sting, and IT DIDN’T EVEN HURT THAT BAD. I don’t want another one to prove my point, mostly because I’m not a psychopath, but seriously? Manageable. Threw an ice cube on it, husband applied vinegar, got back into bed and went to sleep.  After cussing a lot and making sure that motherfucker was smashed to shit. Because come on, FUCKING RUDE. In my bed. Near my face. Oh yeah, the husband got stung too, but it was on his ankle so not nearly as terrifying as my near-face experience.

In other news, the grasshoppers have taken over the asylum. When one walks outside, one is surrounded by a cloud of flying grasshoppers, whose main job is (apparently) to try to get down my shirt, inside my boots, and onto my eyeball. I walk out to the gardens flapping my arms and making noises that I can’t properly articulate in print. I think they’re the noises that cause psychiatrists to prescribe lithium, stat.

My new summer missions: Kill all the things*, and save all the plants. Because the plants are really suffering already. I have an extremely frugal rig involving old sheets and bamboo poles, in order to shade some of my more delicate heirloom tomatoes. Because losing those would make me sad. Also getting researched for my database are extremely drought-tolerant varieties of everything else, because it’s Texas, y’all! I’ve got another planting season coming up here in a couple of weeks.

*As for killing all the things, here are some genius suggestions for killing adult grasshoppers (we’re dumb and didn’t take care of this shit in the spring, when they’re WAY easier to kill):

I hate you. In your faces. With a hammer.

  1. Plant flowers. Really, ask.com? REALLY? That’s almost as helpful as the time I looked for “recipes for leftover turkey” and you suggested “Sandwiches.”
  2. Weed control. Seriously. Double Ew Tee Eff. I live surrounded by working cattle fields, some of which contain weeds that could block out the sun. Should I call my ranching neighbors and request they organically spray several thousand acres for grasshopper control, because dinosaur-looking asshole grasshoppers are scaring me and eating my cabbages? That sounds reasonable.
  3. Get chickens! We live on four acres. Maybe 100 chickens per acre should do the trick. Think the husband will notice?
  4. Wait for cold weather. I swear to God, the Internet is just begging for me to come to its house and kick it in the scrote.

In reality, we’re going to have to broadcast EcoBan Semaspore bait and maybe Nosema locustae bait, and play the waiting game.

In other farmhouse news, FRONTLINE SUCKS. You heard me. Useless. It vaguely works on the cats, but the puppy is miserable. I bombed the house, vacuumed everything within an inch of its life, washed everything that is washable, gave her a bath, applied Frontline, and waited for the magic to happen. The fleas laughed at all of us, reattached themselves to my baby puppy’s body, and have never been happier. So now we get to wait for the month to pass before we apply Advantage, which is even MORE expensive. Congratulations, fleas. You win this round.

In awesome news, we’re having a pig bury/pool party on July 7th! The chef/husband is digging a hole, then filling it with lava rocks and a burlap/chicken wire-wrapped 50 lb. pig. We’re expecting around 40 people, debauching the pool and braving the heat. If you’re a vegetarian, I recommend a 20-mile safety buffer. It’s going to be epic. We’ll have misters on the front porch, a party tent on the pool deck, a keg of Lone Star, and rock music as loud as we can stand it.

PS: We’re going to cover all the vegetables and do a yard-wide application of Ortho Home Defense spray a few days before the party. Suck poison, you dinosaur freaks.

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EEeeee(p)!!

Lovelace, FTW!

Remember the awful things I said about my chickens in this post? Well, I take some of it back, because look what I found today in our overgrown chicken yard!

Thanks, sister!

Now if dummy-head would just discover the awesome nesting boxes that are in the much cooler, safer chicken coop, this would be much easier. Does a single hen roost in more than one spot? I have ten eggs here; have to test them to see if the eight I took are any good. Then perhaps wander around the yard tomorrow and see if there are any more surprises…

So excited! Ten eggs! That means she a) can lay in the heat and b) wasn’t just being obstinate! Heh…

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Organic Gardening: The Lessons

I’m learning something new every day out in the gardens. Some big lessons, some smaller. All vital to having an even better garden next year.

For example:

  • Insect control: Cabbage loopers DECIMATED our cabbages; they were skeletonized within two days. We Neem-oiled the crap out of everything, but it was too late. There are still viable cabbages in the middles, but I doubt they’ll reach their full potential. NEXT PLANTING: Covers.

    (Borrowed from the IntraWebz.) Ours is even worse. It’s too sad to photograph.

  • Insect control: Flea beetles ate the SHIT out of our Rapini. NEXT PLANTING: No Rapini. Because not only is it susceptible to flea beetles, it doesn’t do well in the heat, it bolts, and is very low-producing.
  • Heat control: Plan for the heat earlier. It’s Texas, Donna the Dummy. Even “heat tolerant” varieties are melting in the sun. And it’s not even really hot for the region yet. NEXT PLANTING: Shade covers, more frequent watering, mulch.
  • Mulch: Put the mulch around the plants, Donna. It’s not doing any good in the bags, except as a perfect home for scorpions.
  • Tomatoes: Learn early on which are determinate (bush type) and which are indeterminate (sprawling monsters). That way, you’ll know which are coming out early and can be replaced (determinate) and which will continue to produce throughout the season (indeterminate), and plan your garden accordingly.  So your garden doesn’t look like ass because of big gaping holes you didn’t plan for.
  • Succession plant: Put beans in planned areas week after week, so you have continuous production. Same with tomatoes: Have seedlings going all the time in the greenhouse so you can replace what needs to come out.
  • Automate: Because standing out there watering in the 6:00 p.m. highs of 96 degrees (soon to be 106) is balls.
  • Packet/product labeling: Remember that labeling is not necessarily accurate for your conditions. We planned 3×6′ beds for our watermelon. The first plant that came up is now easily 15′ around. It is taking over the entire garden and will have to be pruned back (much to the horror of the husband, who is convinced it’s from another planet and wants to see how big it will actually get). Labeling also doesn’t necessarily know that we live in Texas, so “full sun” means plants probably won’t thrive here, which is actually the SURFACE of the sun.
  • Compost: Learn now to make compost tea and get it made, because that Jobe’s organic fertilizer just ain’t makin’ it. I have yellowing leaves (nitrogen deficiency), and a general malaise on some of the plants that just won’t do.

Nice tomato shot…Again, not ours. *sigh*

Some things you just can’t plan for. Like volunteers and what I call “wanderers”.  We have several of both in our gardens. The volunteers just kind of pop up in totally unexpected areas (a tomato in the cucumber patch, a sunflower in the cucumber patch, a bean plant in the tomatoes).  Wanderers happened from our torrential April rains shifting seeds from bed to bed. I refuse to pull either “mistake” up. If they have the temerity to live where they weren’t planned, then good for them, the little rebels.

I CAN, however, plan my garden better next year. We just kind of free-balled the plants this year, with only an eye on height (tall stuff in the backs of the rows). In the winter, my plans on paper were very elaborate and precise. By the time our seedlings were up, all that changed, only I didn’t account for it on paper. See, seedlings don’t all come up, and the ones that do don’t necessarily make it through the hardening-off stage. Plus we went and impulse-bought different seeds (for direct sowing) than what was accounted for, and changes didn’t get incorporated into the on-paper plans.

Which reminds me, NOTE TO SELF: Paper plans are pretty, but impossible to maintain. Find software for garden planning.

I DID make a database last night of our plants, so I can record what’s working and what’s not, planting and picking dates, and which tomatoes are which. Because if we want serious production (and we do), we can’t keep winging it out there.

To-Do List This Week:

  • Find easy compost tea recipe, make and apply
  • Get down mulch (at least on tomatoes)
  • Buy row cover supplies for shade
  • Finish database
  • Start plan for summer planting
  • Weed (always)
  • Take out non-performers
  • New beans, cukes, corn, cilantro
  • Set out basil, yellow peppers
  • Plant olive tree in potager

Who said this was easy on a larger scale? I guess people who have never done it before…

p.s.: SUPER HELPFUL tomato list.

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Gardening: Crack and You

A friend on Facebook recently mentioned something about getting into gardening. I told him I’d do a Top Five list of what to know from a beginner’s perspective, but as I was just out weeding the watermelon patch (literally…friggin’ weeds took that thing over with a quickness), I realized my first foray into “Gardening Experience” should be about what gardening means to me, and what to expect.  I’m also going to do a post (hopefully) today on what I’ve learned recently about Seminis/Monsanto and their devil merger. Next week, a list of Top Ten Gardening Must-Haves.

The cocaine megastore.

Okay, baby gardener. First and foremost, you’re about to become an addict. Know that going in and everything will go smoother. Don’t fight the crack. Embrace the crack. It’s going to win anyway. It’s a crack habit with tendrils. It’s a gateway drug. It will have you learning words like “monocot” and “cabbage looper” and “vermiculite.” It will make you have Farmtek and Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds catalogs in your bathroom. It will make you curse the fact that you either a) don’t have a big enough yard to dig up, or b) you just dug up way too much yard and what the hell were you thinking? (Hint: You were thinking, “I can’t get enough of this crack!”) Also know that this gardening thing makes you vaguely insane.

If you start with just a tomato seedling, you are done.  You were thinking, “Man, some fresh tomatoes would be awesome this summer. Joe the Slow down the street grows them. How hard can this be?” You will pick up the adorable seedling with its sultry photo tag and realize you need dirt. But what kind of dirt? Topsoil or fill? You’ve heard of compost, but should you make it yourself or buy a bag at the store? This tomato seedling needs a pot; that little one looks pretty (it’s such a small plant, right?). You’re definitely going need a little shovel, because you’re not sure you want to get your hands all dirty. Speaking of which, you’re going to need gloves. Oh, and some fertilizer! But what kind? You’ve been hearing so much about organic, but should you go that route? You decide yes, because all the cool kids are doing it. But wait! Is my little seedling organic? Uh oh, better swap that out. Well, crap, now you’ve got this big bag of organic soil, another bag of organic compost, another bag of organic fertilizer, and it just seems RIDICULOUS to only have one seedling. Which is why you’re going to go back to the tomato seedling area and pick up three more plants, two different varieties. Now you’re going to have to return that pot, because you remember how big your neighbor’s tomatoes got, and realize you need to plan on digging out a section of your lawn. So, that means a big shovel! Pointed nose, right? And hell, a wheelbarrow to carry off all that stuff. Man, that’s some sweaty work. Better get a sun hat and while you’re in that aisle, some rubber clogs so you don’t junk up your tennies.  Okay, now you’re going to need more dirt, to replace what you’ll lose from so much grass going away. Well, shit. Now I need a book on tomatoes because this is getting a little complicated. HOLY CRAP, the book section. You’re going to buy at least two, so make sure one is all-encompassing, because now you’re remembering that you love potatoes, beans, cilantro, and FLOWERS…AW SHIT, FLOWERS. And sweet lord, what if you’re too late to get your babies into the ground and experience the tomato bounty?! That seems akin to setting the world to wobbling off its axis! So you get to the checkout aisle as fast as you can, because you need to get on those books asap. And check online to see when the planting season is in your region. Oh shit, what’s a region? Will your tomato plants live forever, or do they die (because somewhere you’ve heard of perennials and annuals, and know that there’s some kind of difference). MY GOD, I’D BETTER LEARN THE DIFFERENCE!

You haven’t even made it to the checkout lane yet, cracky. Ha!

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