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A county fair.

While Steve, Isaac, and Josie lounged around at home, the other four kids and I went to check out the Adams County Fair.  We got to see the Bee Trio in action, educating folks on beekeeping.  Paul, Guy, and Bernie just might have reached SuperHero status.

Paul was seen zipping around the fairgrounds in his hot rod, picking up chicks.

We didn’t pony up for the overpriced rides & snacks but we did enjoy everything else.  (I especially loved seeing all of the entries for gardening!)

In garden news, we finally got a decent rain — just a smidge over 1/2″ last night and today.  Things already look greener out there.

The Stewart’s Zeebest okra is starting to produce.  (Grandma Kaye, quit yer droolin’!  I’ll get some put in the freezer for ya.)

I noticed one of the blackberry starts we planted this spring had started tip-rooting so I convinced it to do so in a more convenient spot.

I’m up to my eyeballs in onions right now and will be spending an entire day in tears, getting them chopped and put into the freezer.  The peppers are putting out pretty regularly now but I’ve decided that, as many peppers as we eat, I’ll need to up the number of plants next year to 300-ish.  (I only have 168 planted this year.)  The poor tomatoes are still struggling to play catch up after their rough start so we’re not getting much of a regular harvest from them.  I’ve begun saving seeds from all tomatoes we bring in just in case nothing comes of the bagged blossoms.  If the heat didn’t get them, the bugs did, so I rebagged most everything the last couple of days, hoping some will set in the relatively cooler weather.

I’m still working my way through the potatoes, whooping the weeds as I go.  The beans are looking good and just beginning to flower.  The cukes are putting out nicely now and I’ll soon have to make pickles to keep up with the harvest.  I have to pick them very, very carefully — I got stung twice day before yesterday out there.  The entire cucumber row literally buzzes!  The corn, winter squash, and melons are all growing well.  The squash bugs have found the summer squash patch so their end is nigh.  I’ve harvested all of the cilantro seeds, the brown mustard seeds, and am working my way through the dill seeds.  We’re overrun with tomatillos and would be overrun with ground cherries as well if Josie wasn’t such a ground cherry maniac.  She can — and does — gulp down several dozen of those suckers a day.  And remember the unknown seedlings along the front walk?  Confirmed as cantaloupe!

Rebar: The Duct Tape of the Gardening World

I love rebar.  It’s handy for building trellises, staking plants and bottom fencing, marking and stringing rows, bordering beds, and using as hose guides.  Instead of trashing whatever plants the hose runs over, stab a piece of rebar into the ground and use it for your hose corners.  When you’re ready to move a few rows down, simply pull the rebar and move it with you.  Easy peasy.

And looky-looky at the colorful carrots we harvested yesterday.  They were small but I needed them out of my way.  The kids quickly ate them into oblivion.

I don’t believe in watering.

Then again…

In Oklahoma, we had summer droughts every year.  (Not at all to the extent they’re having them this year.)  We were also on a well.  That meant that I could water once to get plants established as I set them out but that was it.  Any more watering than that and the well went dry.  Here, we’re on rural water so we can, in theory, water as often and as long as we’d like.  But who wants to pay those bills?  And, besides, we usually get plenty of rain, according to the historical records.

However, things have been pretty dry for the past few weeks.  So much so that even the grass is beginning to get brown and crunchy.  Normally, this mini-drought wouldn’t be a problem for much of the garden as they’d be nicely established, vigorous plants with huge root systems.  But not this year.  We were so getting everything in, many things are just too small to fend for themselves through this, especially with the temps around 100* for several days in a row now.

So I water.  But our water pressure is so low that the sprinkler will only water a 15′ x 15′ area at a time.  With a garden as large as ours, it takes a long, long time.  After a couple days of watering, I’m still working my way through the corn & winter squash.  Cooler temps, down in the lower 90s are on the way for next week, along with a chance of storms, so I’m hoping we’ll catch a break before I have to water the entire garden.  The corn & winter squash, being so young, was starting to get crispy so I pushed them to the top of the priority list.  If rain doesn’t materialize next week, I’ll have to water the tomatoes and summer squash as well.

Repeat after me:  Next year will be better.  Next year will be easier.  Next year…

Gardeners vs. Farmers vs. Shut Up, You Stupid Freak

Once in a while, someone refers to me as a farmer.  “Oh, so you’re a farmer, huh?”  Or:  “Yeah, Steve & Diane have a little farm.”  No.  And, for whatever reason, it always (slightly) annoys me.

To me, a farmer is someone who works the land on a large scale.  It’s a career.  It’s not someone who has some land but has a full-time career elsewhere AND doesn’t do much but maybe grow an occasional zucchini or keeps a pet chicken or horse penned on the property.  It’s not someone like me who has a backyard garden.  It can be someone who has another career and a backyard garden — but then also grows acres and acres of… whatever, be it plant or animal.

To me, a gardener is someone who works whatever piece of land intimately.  They get to know every speck of soil, every worm, each plant’s individual personality, etc.  To me, that’s the difference between a farmer and a gardener.  It’s like the difference between a big chain store and a small mom & pop one.

Of course, then you have market gardeners.  They lie somewhere in between the two.  Now that I think of it:  Farmer = WalMart, Market Gardner = Mom & Pop store, Gardener = Lemonade Stand.

Anyway, there’s my completely insignificant (and incredibly nutshelled from what has been rolling around in my mind) rant for today.  There’s a wide spectrum and there’s positive & negative throughout.  I’m just tired of people sticking the farmer label on my forehead.  I don’t want to work that hard.  Phhbbt.

Onward & upward!

I harvested more onions yesterday — another three trays full, mostly indeterminates.  I’m happy with most but am pretty disappointed in the reds (Mars and… ?  I can’t remember right now.)

I’ve marked a couple of zucchetta rampicante/tromboncino for seed saving.

And I’ve been working on the weeding.  The corn patch has a couple of patches where the weeds were threatening to get ahead of me so I’m tackling that today.  After I get that done, I’ll get back to reclaiming the potatoes.  Oh!  And I’ve begun to harvest a few of the pulled sprouts’ tubers.  Very cool stuff.

Egads.

These 15 hornworms were just from the front yard tomatoes.  Ouch.

I recently found out that you are supposed to be able to find hornworms with a black light.  (Thanks, Dawn!)  So Steve bought me a little black light flashlight.  Hah.  That did not work whatsoever.  Then Steve borrowed a big black light from his dad and had himself a little hunt last night.  Bingo!  Bigger is better afterall.

Presenting: TomatoHenge!

Voila!

The I-beam still needs to be trimmed to the same height and all of the metal parts still need painted but it is functionally done!

At the end of each row is a piece of I-beam, ripped in half lengthwise, with “mini” I-beam made from pieces of flat iron acting as braces.

On the backside (the flat portion) of each I-beam, 12″ pieces of rebar are welded at 12″ intervals.  We only had enough to make five on each so that puts the top support height at 6″ for this year.  There’s enough height left on the I-beam so that we can put another level  on each should we choose to do so later.

2.4 mm braided nylon cord looped and hooked onto each side of the rebar on each level.  It’s slightly stretchy but not too much so, so it acts as a soft suspension support for the plants as they grow up and through.  (One end of the cord is looped on the hooks and the other end is left unlooped, to be tied & untied each season.)

Both the beam and brace on each end is cemented 3′ into the ground.  Even the brace anchor is vertical, then the brace itself is welded on at a 45* (-ish) angle

A piece of bent steel is welded onto each end of the rebar to offer a smooth, non-abrading place for the nylon cord to attach.  At the end of the season, this cord will be removed and stored for winter, then re-used the following spring.

As the plants grow, I will tie an occasional branch to the nylon cord with strips of old T-shirts.  It’s quick & easy to do and helps to keep each plant within its given space, as well as distributing the weight between the different levels.

This year, as you all know, we’ve been horribly late with everything.  The tomatoes have had a rough life, forced to live in cups for weeks and weeks after they should have been in the ground.  Then they were left to sprawl in what was very soggy weather.  To top it off, we had horrific winds that broke several branches & beat the snot out of the leaves — then the attack of the hornworms.  Oy.

These poor things are much smaller than they should be.  Over the past couple of days, I went through and cut off most of the remaining damaged parts and that makes the poor things look even more spindly — but it also clears the way for more airflow so they can hopefully focus on doing some growing & fruiting instead of having to fight off all of the bad things.

Since they had to live as sprawlers for so long, they’ve grown twisted & crooked, all sorts of ways.  I started by tying up to the first level of cords, then waited a day for them to straighten back up towards the sun a bit.  Then I tied to the second level and am giving them a day to straighten up…   And so on.  I’ll be out tying to the third level this afternoon and, from there on out, they’ll grow straighter.  Next year, we’ll be able to get them in the ground on time (thanks to this all being in place already) and they’ll get to grow straight from the start.

I’ve become one of those people, haven’t I?

Jerry, my feline garden helper, was thrilled that I let him play with the T-shirt strips I’m using to tie tomatoes.

So appreciative, in fact, that he brought me a gift.  He went off and caught me a mouse.  And then set it between my feet.  Still alive.  Um, thanks, Jerry.  Once Jerry realized that I was not going to share the gifted meal with him, he snatched the mouse back up and went off in a huff.  I have offended him and he’s not talked to me since.

And that’s when I realized that I’ve become One of Those People.  The ones who photograph and post pics of their cats.  Ack!  I’m not even a cat person.  To rehabilitate myself, I quickly photographed the two nearest vegetables!

Cabbage, already harvested, is putting out secondary heads.

Burning Spear tomato — very, very good!

 

Glimpses of Tomato Henge

I still have some more tying up of tomatoes to do before I’m ready to take pics of TomatoHenge but thought I’d post a couple of (bad cell phone pic) teasers.

It seems someone has been working on a tomato stash.  Someone who doesn’t care to wait for them to be ripe.  Gee, I wonder who that coule be?

Stringing in progress…

With a rather unhelpful helper.

Now, for a public proclamation:  I hereby promise to finish weeding the potatoes and onions over the next week.  If I don’t post pics of the neat & tidy onion & potato beds by next Friday, I’ll…  I’ll…  I don’t know what.  But somebody hold me to it.  (You can see a weedy onion row in the top, right of the stringing pic.  The top middle-left is lettuces I’m letting go to seed, not weeds, even though it looks horrible.)

Sticks everywhere.

Hornworms are eating the tomato plants and… I don’t know what is eating the pepper plants.  The hornworms, I can handle.  The I don’t know whats, not so much.

After giving away & using over half of the short-day onions, I finally got around to chopping, bagging, and freezing the remaining ones.  Just in time to start harvesting the intermediate-day onions.  There’s definitely no shortage of onions this year.

Confession:  I simply could not wait any longer to pick peppers.  I was trying to be all self-controlled & mature about it but I was overcome with the gimmeeNOWs last night as we fixed fajitas for dinner.  I picked a gallon of various sweets & chiles and fried them up with a gallon of onions.  YUM!!

Other notes:

We picked the first OSU Blue this afternoon.  It wasn’t quite yet ripe but it had split so we were forced to pick & sample it.  It won’t win any taste prizes but it’s not bad.

A huge windstorm blew through yesterday and did a bit of damage.  Nothing major to any of our favorites but a few broken branches on tomatoes here and there.

TomatoHenge is done except for the stringing.  If we get that done tonight, I can get some pics up tomorrow.

 

Just a couple of onion links.

As promised a few days ago in the comments, I found a couple of good links from Dixondale Farms that explain bolting.

What causes onions to bolt?

Bolting in Onions & Leeks

Now I need to see if I can get my butt in gear and get some weeds pulled.  Stupid weeds.

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