Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Home from the Beach

So- I didn't blog from the beach, we achieved a comatose state pretty quickly and I just didn't feel like reaching back out to the rest of the world.

Beach week for me means doing exactly what I want when I want, from a short list of activities.

Top ten list for beach R&R:  Walking on the beach, swimming in the ocean, body surfing, riding bikes around the island, kayaking, reading, napping, playing scrabble, watching the ocean roll in and eating whatever I want including; salty snacks, ice cream, chocolate and fresh fish.

Bodacious Crab Cakes

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Baby Snapping Turtle

David spotted this little guy trying to cross our road and picked him up to bring home and show me.  You can see he's a snapper even this small. He's got clay on his back, must have very recently emerged from his egg.  We took him down to the pond where we imagine he'll be happy. He's a blur leaving D's hand and heading for the water.

We'll be a blur later today heading to the beach for a week.  There we'll be running down to the water ourselves. Might post from there- might not, we'll see what happens.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rain Glorious Rain

Bean Blossom

It rained all night last night, starting in the evening and just kept on. When I went to bed it lulled me into slumber and each time I woke or stirred in the night I smiled to hear it was still coming down, slow and gentle but steady.
I went out still in my jammies this morning first thing to check the rain gauge, nine tenths of an inch- a life saver, the most we've seen in a month. Hoping for a bit more before its all over.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blessed Rain

We woke today to rain! I lay in the bed with a smile on my face, just listening to the wonderful sound of it. We are 8 inches behind and so any precip is desperately needed and appreciated.

It was dry during the day but it's been raining again this evening and looks like we are in for several days in a row. Perhaps the drought is breaking. Amen.

You probably have these spectacular writing spiders in your gardens too, they seem to get enormous at this time of year. If we've got one, we've got 30. There are other colorful arachnids about these days too but they are harder to get a photo of. Walking in the woods right now requires a good broad spider stick waved in front of me to keep my hair and face from filling with webs!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More About Beans!

I can't recommend highly enough the idea of multiple plantings of beans. I planted my first beans in May and then did a second planting of haricots verts and Garden of Eden in early July. The first planting is about finished now, the second one is still going strong and should give beans right up until frost.

In this bowl are haricots verts, Garden of Eden and yard long beans. The yard longs are really a pea, a few go a long way, they are delicious quickly blanched and then thrown into a stir-fry. My favorite combo of late; Japanese eggplant, red bell pepper, shitake mushrooms and the yard longs with some onion, garlic and a little sauce made of sambal, hoisin, and soy. Serve over soba noodles or rice, you can add, chicken, pork or tofu for protein. Quick and yummy.
Also the Swiss chard has been phenomenal as usual, this was planted in March and we have cut about 50 bunches off of it and it's still looking remarkably good. I planted more for the fall that is still small but should go easily until December with a little protection. The variety is Bright Lights- a wonderful rainbow of colors.
In the foreground are the first planting of haricots verts, I'm leaving the few beans left to make seed, behind them are the second planting from early July, still green and producing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tiny TICKS!!

Walking to work today I stepped in a nest of seed ticks. They were the tiniest ticks I have ever seen, almost microscopic. But I could feel them crawling up my leg and with a piece of packing tape at the Nursery I managed to trap most of them. I had to work fast to keep them out of my shorts. Once they stopped crawling I thought it was over- but they were in my sock and shoe. After work I took a shower and really scrubbed my feet. I still found at least 10 embedded in my left foot, had to use the lighted magnifying glass to even see them and then remove them with tweezers. Yuck!

I'm ready for the cooler weather to send those nasty rascals to sleep for the winter. My only consolation is imagining that because they are new babies, they haven't fed on anything else yet so hopefully I can't get any diseases from them?

On a lighter note, the nasturtiums love the cooler weather and are putting on a show.

We had this beautiful mix of the first fall greens last night, lightly sauteed with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
The late season cucumbers are getting crazy, no good to eat but fun to look at.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Winter Squash

It's been a really good year for winter squash- I planted them early- late May and they started growing really well in June. We picked the first acorn squash in early August and have this nice basket full of butternuts, delicata's and acorn. We also have a couple of small hubbards.
The butternut plants in particular are still going strong and running roughshod over the basil here, still putting on little squash. I don't know if they'll be mature by first frost but they've still got about 5 weeks to go so maybe they'll make it.
Any of you ever eat immature winter squash? If so leave me a comment- how was it?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Waterfall and Butterfly

I think I'm obsessing about water lately, or the lack thereof. I'm such a watery gal that I start to feel a little parched in my soul when I don't have enough around.
I don't think I really did justice to our little camping trip last month so I'm sharing here a photo of Apple Orchard Falls, off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Southern Virginia. We had hiked there last year and decided to visit again this time, it was a steep climb up but worth it to view this nice cascade and giant boulders strewn down the hillside around it.

This Comma butterfly was kind enough to land on my book as I sat there writing and stayed long enough to let me take its picture, you can see the white mark on its wing that gives it its name. I love the fact that it looks just like a dried leaf or piece of bark. Inside this butterfly is bright orange with red and brown spots, spectacular and surprising!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dry Creek

I wandered down to Morgan today, curious to see what was left of it. The pond was very low- edges muddy and mucky for several feet. The understory felt thin, part from lack of rain, part from browsing deer is my guess.

When I got down to the big creek it looked like a rough cobblestone road. Only scattered pools remain, a few tiny fish still scraping out an existence, having managed to allude the herons that hunt daily in these remaining wet spots.
This is where we normally do the stream watch, no stream left to watch.
The microstegium- stilt grass- is really taking over the stream banks. We've tried to spray but it's just too much and keeps washing down stream from above, feels hopeless. I fear its choking out all the native plants.

I was rewarded with this one cardinal flower blooming in the stream bed just up from my swimming hole. I always ponder getting in my deep spot and cleaning it out when the water gets low like this but I never get around to it. I'm making do with the sound of the wind in the trees, which resembles flowing water or surf slipping over a beach, until the real sound of water returns.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Walking Through Bamboo

Walking home from the nursery I walk through a huge bamboo grove, today I was thinking how fitting, after I've spent the day messing with Chinese plants, that I then have to pass through this Asian forest before re-entering the American forest.

The ground is scattered with the long and narrow leaves of the bamboo, they are creamy white and contrast sharply with the brownish red pine needles and leaves beneath them. The tall green canes create an optical effect as I walk through the grove, strobing past me, clacking in the breeze, it's a perfect place to let the hard work and events of the day fall away.

The creeks are completely dry now, only some damp spots in the low areas, all the stones and boulders exposed, no song of flowing water. I hope rain comes soon to return them to their lively state, nothing soothes me more than the sound of burbling water.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fall Planting and Compost

I've got all these little shrubs and trees that I got from the Forest in the spring and they have been sitting in our nursery waiting to be planted all summer. Its time to find a home for them so we spent the morning doing just that. Roaming the yard together discussing which plant should go where. Fall is a great time for this, it's the best time to plant shrubs and trees in the south and at the end of the season we have a better sense of how the garden is shaping up and where there are holes.

And speaking of holes, that's what these little plants are going to need, and I knew I needed to turn and sift some compost to make them happy in their new homes.

We've got a pretty basic composting rig. We use big hoops of wire to make cages to pile the compost into as its generated from the kitchen and the garden. When its time to turn it or get some out, it's easy enough to lift the cage off and fork into the pile.

Here you can see the sifter I made with rabbit wire and 2x4's fits right over the wheelbarrow and is pretty easy to push the compost through. The cage at right is the new pile, behind the wheelbarrow is the old one I'm working from. All the dry edges and gnarly vines and things I've thrown recently on the old pile like bean and squash make the bottom of the new pile.

Things that need another round: Peach, mango and avocado pits, mussel shells and corn cobs, sticks etc, get sifted out and pitched into the new pile.

The finished product, black gold full of rich humus, nutrients and worms. This will make those new plants nestle down into their spots and get cozy for the winter. Now I just have to dig those holes...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Walk to Work

I walked to work through the woods to the nursery today for the first time since June. I expected my trail to be overgrown but it wasn't. I had to kick a few fallen branches out of the way, the biggest issue were the spiders, a stick was a necessity, waved before me as I walked.

The creeks were completely dry, silent, no sound of trickling water. I missed it. Not so strange at this time of year, but I hope we'll get enough rain this autumn to get them flowing again soon. The woods felt very much of the season, leaves yellowing, the undergrowth thinning out.

The humidity returned today, the dry air gone now until another cold front blows our way.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Peppers on Parade

So I realize that I am on the verge of bragging about our peppers but I gotta say that this is one of the very best years we've ever had, I think between the five bell pepper plants and the two pimentos we've harvested about 30 so far. And there are at least 30 more out there.

I've been giving them to friends and piling them into everything we eat, dipped in baba ghanouj, roasted with beets, chopped into salads, sliced into stir fries, roasted and cut up into pimento cheese or marinated in olive oil. I've frozen them diced and roasted. They are such rich colors, the poblanos smell smokey and the others are crisp and sweet.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Goldflame Honeysuckle

Ever since we built this entryway to our garden a couple of years ago, I've been looking for the right vine to grow on it. I didn't want something that would completely take over and cover up the lovely design, like a jasmine for instance.

I finally settled on this Goldflame Honeysuckle, Lonicera x heckrottii that I found at Niche Gardens up the road from us. It's non-invasive and though it's not truly a climber, with help, the vines will eventually make it to the top. In bud it is pinky purple.
And once the flowers open, they are quite showy, almost like a fuscia which cannot be grown around here- it's too hot.

I planted one on each side of the arbor, I can' wait to see the vines cover the top, these gorgeous flowers hanging down. Unfortunately, they are not fragrant like their Japanese cousin.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Turkey Craw

It's the first of September and the weather has really gotten with the program for fall. Yesterday was 69 and rainy, today upper 70's dry and breezy. We usually don't get this sort of break from the heat and humidity until mid-month- but I'm happy to have the windows open again and hear the sounds of the night, was wishing for a blanket on the bed in the wee hours this morning.
These are the next in my bean-a-thon for the week. Green beans next to ready to harvest and shell ones on the vine. (Sweet potatoes in the background all lush and green.) This is the Turkey Craw, someone gave David the seeds some years back, legend stating that they had been found in the craw of a turkey. They need the whole season to make and are another Jack in the beanstalk sort of bean that will get to the top of the trellis and then make a big ole' mess of vine up on top like some crazy hairdo before they start to flower and make their beans.
We are just now harvesting them, aren't they perty? They cook up much like a pinto but a little firmer and smaller.