Saturday, October 19, 2013

Another Solar update, 18-October.

Old Sol starts making some serious jumps and as a result, the days get shorter. Two months to the Solstice when he starts his journey back to the North.

19-October, The Final Gardenista for 2013

The first mild frost rolled through sometime around the 5th of October. As with all light ones, only certain things were killed, and in funny places. You sort of have to visualize the cold air like thin streams winding their way through the garden, taking a plant here and there. Sometimes only a half a plant gets blackened, others times it's laid waste. Our huge Basil plants were completely destroyed while the Cosmos were largely untouched. The last of the Eggplant fruit was long gone, but the plants themselves carried on. Tomatoes were a mixed bag with parts of most plants frosted but no fruit turned to mush. We picked the last of the them and put them in a dark room between layers of newspaper knowing that at least some will ripen.

Needless to say, what remains is a far cry from what we had in July and August.

We still had a half-dozen hummingbirds when we left for the beach on the 30th of September so I put 4 fresh feeders out on the day we departed. On return they were most empty, and I saw one bird on the morning of the 13th but that was it. He finally moved on or succumbed to the cold.

The Maximilian Sunflowers were all gone by the beginning of this month and so we cut them down this week.

The Morning Glories out back were killed by the 25° temperature a few days ago, but those near the house continue, blooming daily. September and October really seem to be their peak months. Another learning for the year.

All that remains now is a scrappy little garden, planted entirely by our resident squirrel whom we trapped and transplanted last month. A few Sunflowers popping up around the garbage can. A fitting end to a good season.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday, September 25th

The last two weeks have been all about rain. This time it didn't come in one giant downpour like it did on July 26th, instead it rained just about every day for a week. And an inch at a time giving us about 4.5". Which in turn made the place one giant mud pit. The big horses out back were standing on islands and we were forced to move the little guys into one of the bigger inside pens. I pumped  the lake out of one of the turnouts, only to have another inch of rain overnight reset that work to zero. The big guys spent a couple of days living in the west turnout until yet another storm made that impossible. We moved them to the riding arena until finally just bringing them into the barn.
As you can see, it was pretty bad. Not Colorado style flood bad, but enough to degrade our quality of life. As of today, we're dried out once again.

 We're down to 3-5 Hummingbirds which is surprising given that it's been 40-42° overnight. I guess they hang on by a thread and then warm up when it hits the 80's in the daytime. We haven't used the air conditioning at all for the past 10 days, it's been that nice.

The garden is pretty much done. We still pull a handful of cherry tomatoes out every other day and there are a few white eggplants coming on. Another surprise as I've not bothered to do any pollination for a long time. September is the month when it all ends apparently, now we just wait for the first hard frost to blacken the Basil bushes and to freeze the last of the Cosmos and Zinnias. And hopefully the hordes of Mosquitoes that came with the rain and have stayed to make it impossible to sit out back. Not that the sun is cooperating, it's shady and cool out there now, due to Sol's incessant march to the south. 1 hour and 24 minutes of less light daily and 35° less to the west. We've just passed the Equinox, on to the Solstice.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday September 9th

It's been a couple of weeks since I last gave an update and things have changed in the interim. Our tomato plants are pretty much tapped out - we did get some cherries and a couple of big ones this week but it's clear that their time is almost up. Interestingly, an "at will" plant, no doubt due to some fruit I rototilled in last winter, has a couple of tomatoes on it. We'll see if they make it. This past Saturday was the first time this summer that we purchased tomatoes at the grower's market for our weekly needs.

Eggplants are completely done and a bit of a disappointment. Next year, less plants and more specificity in cultivars with the purple globe style being the best for our climate.

Hummingbirds are down to 8-10 individuals now and I'm only refreshing the feeders weekly. I suspect that a few more cold mornings (it's regularly been 55-58° for the past week) will be enough motivation to send all but the hardiest stragglers on to Central America. They're still busy in the morning and throughout the day, but they hole up earlier in the evening now, about 7 instead of 9, no doubt to conserve energy through to cool night. We've had a half dozen or so Common Nighthawks overhead each night this week and I swear I saw and heard a Cactus Wren but I'm going to have to wait on binocular  visual confirmation before adding it to the yard list.

The main highlight this week are our Morning Glories that continue to put on a beautiful show each morning. And at no cost to us this year, given that they just appeared at the start of the Monsoons. It's simply wonderful to walk out back in the morning and stop to admire them slowly covering one of the arena fences.

Lastly, the sun is making its way quickly towards the south right now, taking giants leaps weekly. Similar to my Analemma project from last year, this time around I am merely tracking its position 1 hour before sunset. I began on June 21st, the Summer Solstice and will continue until the winter's equivalent on the 21st of December. It was interesting to see that it really doesn't jump much between June and August, until the middle to end of the latter. Between small degrees of change, and heavy rain clouds in the west throughout July, I didn't get any photos. But now you can really see the change.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday August 19th

We spent 15 minutes discussing the nuances of eggplant production with a young farmer at the Downtown Grower's Market on Saturday. We came away a tad more educated than we had been but the real finding seems to be that there is no easy answer as to when they're ready to be picked. Most of the internet lore is just that, and this guy said he picks them when he knows it's time for them to be picked. And that there is a lot of variation between cultivars. The most illuminating tidbit was this - plant a few kinds and experiment with their size and time in the ground and eventually you'll gain the skill to know what you need to know.

This week's bounty photo was taken on our outside tables, on the patio we call "The Bistro." My car was in the shop so my traditional white background picture couldn't be done. I know all of you thought that those past photos were taken on some fancy photo paper background in my studio with perfect lighting but in reality the white you were seeing was the hood of a 2007 BMW parked in our carport. This week's shot is nice, taken just as the sun was dipping and I think it conveys the wonderful light we get as summer winds down. Even though the high 90's we're seeing this week put pay to the idea of fall.

I discovered that I've been remiss lately in posting a week to week garden photo that shows the changes. Well, here are 4, taken almost exactly a month apart. You can see how things grow and in our case, get a bit out of control. Things rise, they flower and then they fade. It's so much fun to be a part of that cycle.

May 20
June 17

July 16

August 19

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday August 15th

Last year we discovered a recipe for Cheddar Tomato Pie and tried it out with our homegrown tomatoes. The original recipe was simple - tomatoes, cheese and a concoction of mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar and a little sugar. We didn't really like the consistency so we added a few eggs and made it more like a quiche and in doing so, achieved culinary perfection. Making heavy use of our late crop - baking and freezing a half-dozen pies as the growing season ran down - we enjoyed them throughout the winter, even taking them with us on our trips to Mexico.

This year we've started earlier with a nod to the tradition of "putting vegetables up for the winter." This week we baked 5 and only ate 1, a testament to our willpower because trust me, nothing smells better than Cheddar Tomato Pie coming out of the oven.

It's simple to make -

1 frozen pie crust
Enough tomatoes (2 or three big ones)
1 cup mayonnaise whisked with 1 tsp of sugar and 1 tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar
Enough grated sharp cheddar cheese (when I say enough, you put it in until the pie crust is full)
1 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano or a mix of both
4 eggs whisked

Start with a layer of cheese, then a layer of tomatoes
Add a bit of the eggs
Add a bit of the mayonnaise mixture
Repeat with the cheese/tomatoes/eggs/mayo until everything is gone. We add the Parmesan in the last layer. Top with a handful of cheddar

Bake at  390°F for about one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Tent the crust at 20 minutes to prevent excess browning.

We've double-bag frozen them and kept them up to 8 months.

Trust me, it's worth the small amount of work.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday August 12 - Addendum

It occurred to me after posting the regular blog that I'd forgotten to include one of the weekly harvest shots. I really love these pictures - so much color and zest and implicit knowledge that the fruits of our labors will truly be enjoyed.

Plus it's fun to stage food photos on the hood of my car - click to enlarge.