Pandemic Gardening

A border garden, with trellis.
You don’t have to garden in the middle of your yard.

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything on my blog, but now that I hear that people are stockpiling not only masks and toilet paper but garden seeds, I thought it might be useful to share some info with newbie gardeners.

My grandparents grew a Victory Garden during WWII, and during the Depression before that. For them it was not a big deal. My grandfather was a farm boy and continued his tradition on a smaller scale after he moved to the city and took a factory job. And as I’ve stated elsewhere on this blog, most of suburbia used to be farmland, so why not take it back?

So now we have Pandemic Gardens, and the epidemic has providentially hit us right at planting time. So if you are a beginning gardener, here are some tips.

Start small.

The urge to buy a packet of seed from every vegetable you have ever eaten is entirely understandable. However, starting a garden from scratch is work. Sod will not turn itself into a garden all by itself, and chances are, if this is your first gardening attempt, that your body is not attuned to that level of physical labor (gym rats may feel free to ignore this comment.) But even if you are a finely-honed physical specimen, a garden requires daily attention that needs to be squeezed into your existing schedule, and the bigger the garden, the more maintenance it will require. Consider talking to friends and neighbors about specializing and swapping produce. You grow tomatoes, he grows collards, she grows green beans. Properly cared for, gardens can be hugely productive.

Don’t over-plant.

There’s a style of gardening called Raised Bed Intensive, which crams plants together and produces huge yields. However, it requires serious applications of compost, which, as a beginner, you don’t have, plus soil amendments like blood meal, greensand, and rock phosphate. Also, in my experience, the giant yields are a year or two down the pike, so when planting this year, respect the guidelines on the seed packets. You might even plant things a bit further apart to reduce competition. For example, we have a friend who plants a dozen tomato plants each year, two feet apart, in a row. They each get about 2 feet tall. We plant two tomato plants each year: a paste tomato and a slicer. They get planted at opposite ends of a 20 foot long bed, outgrow their tomato cages and produce more than twice as much as all his plants combined.

Plant in beds, not rows

You have to leave walking space between the rows. This means 1, that most of your garden is paths, and 2, that you are walking on the roots, compacting the soil and making life difficult for your little green babies. Make your beds twice as wide as your reach (4 feet works for most people) and leave a couple of feet between beds for access. By all means, plant in rows within the beds for optimal spacing and a tidier appearance. (Neighbors, oy!)

Grow the easy stuff.

Some plants are just pickier than others, requiring more consistent watering, and some need special handling.

Easy

Lettuce, mesclun, spinach, tomatoes, cabbage, squash, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, collards, kale, broccoli, hot peppers, garlic

More demanding

Onions, celery, cauliflower, bell peppers, melons, carrots

Grow up!

This is not a judgement on your character. This is a suggestion that you build a trellis and train your vining crops to climb it. A row of pole beans will outyield a row of bush beans any day of the week.

This set of beds is tucked in between the fence and the end of the driveway.
Yes, a fence counts as a trellis.

Buy sets, rather than seeds for the warm-weather crops.

If you’re starting tomato seeds now, you’re about two months late. The baby tomato plants will magically show up at your local hardware emporium or garden center at just the right time to be planted. 

Warm weather crops include tomatoes, squash, cukes, sweet potatoes, and peppers.

90% of gardening is maintenance.

Check daily for soil moisture and water as needed. You can stick your fingers in the dirt or buy a moisture meter.

Look for bugs and little green caterpillars munching on your plants. The quick and dirty way to deal with them is a spray of water hard enough to knock them off the plants. Consider buying diatomaceous earth or using wood ash if you have access to it. (Not the ash from charcoal briquets, which frequently contain petroleum-based accelerants.) Sprinkle some around the base of the plant and on the leaves. You can also make a home made repellent spray: 1 TB cooking oil, 1/2 tsp liquid soap, 1 quart water, a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed, and 1TB ground cayenne or other hot pepper. Shake well and let stand overnight. Strain out the solids. You don’t need to buy a sprayer. Just hold on to the spray bottle next time you run out of Febreeze or Windex. Wash it out well and use that to spray. (And it’s a good idea to wear some eye protection and maybe a long-sleeved shirt when spraying hot pepper juice. Just saying.) Japanese Beetles are a special case. If you find one, run to the hardware store and buy a pheromone trap.

You’ll also need to deal with weeds, and the best way to do that is early and often. This does not mean rise at dawn. This means pay attention and zap them when they’re small and have little, tiny, tender roots. Big weeds will fight back. And there’s another technique that nearly eliminates weeds:

This garden makes use of a corner of the yard, out of the way of the rampaging dog, and utilizes the shed as a trellis support for green beans.
Mulch is your friend. Also note the trellis attached to the shed eave.

Mulch

A neighbor once said to me, “Mulch! That’s so expensive!” Meanwhile her husband was piling a dozen bags of grass clippings on the curb for the trash truck. If you live in suburbia, you have a lawn. If you have a lawn, you have a weekly supply of grass clippings. Keep a layer about 3 inches thick around the bases of your plants and the weeds don’t stand a chance. You will probably need to replenish every week or two. They shrink as they dry and very quickly decompose into topsoil. Any leftovers can go into the compost heap. If grass clippings are not an option, sheets of newspaper will work. Just make sure you use only the black and white pages. Colored inks are toxic to plants.

There are more hints and tips on my blog. Feel free to explore.

Any questions? Ask them below.

Cut ‘N Come Again Coles

I’ve known for years that broccoli will produce little broccolets after the central bunch is harvested, but imagine my surprise when I harvested a cabbage and found little buds growing out of the stalk. What the heck? I let them grow, just to see what would happen.

Several baseball-sized cabbage heads grew from the buds.

IMG_2308 (1)

They were loose, not the tightly-packed heads from the first harvest, but just fine for making soup or casseroles. Not bad, really.

Then I checked my other coles. The Brussels sprouts have put up new stalks from the buds at the base of the stalks I harvested.

One of the broccoli plants had developed six new stems,  and I protected them with floating row cover that winter. Each of them grew a full-sized head the following spring.

Who knew? This is another way to extend your harvest. Just keep in mind that the succeeding harvests will be smaller than the first harvest. (Well, except for Mr. Superbroccoli, who may have been a fluke.) With the soil-shading bulk of the first harvest out of the way, you can plant something else between the stumps of the first crop and continue to harvest while the new planting grows to the point where they need the space.

Snow Day Soup

IMG_1320 (2)It’s snowing, so it’s Soup Day. Here’s what I’m making. How about you?

Brazilian Black Bean Soup (Feijoada)

1 lb black beans, washed and picked over

2 qts water

8 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves

1 orange, cut in chunks

1 bottle spicy V8 (or regular V8)

salt to taste

Additional water as needed.

Bring water and beans to a boil. Simmer on medium high for 20 minutes. Let stand overnight.

Combine all ingredients except salt in crockpot. Cook on high until beans are tender. Remove bay leaves and blend. (Yes, grind up the whole orange, peel and all.) Add salt. Serve, topped with sour cream.

Notes:

If you’re in a hurry and using canned beans, simmer until the orange peel is tender. The smaller you cut it, the sooner that will happen.

Spicy V8 is spicy. If you prefer something milder, use regular V8 and add hot sauce to taste. Don’t have any V8 lying around the pantry? Tomato juice, puree, or paste, canned tomatoes or tomatoes with chilis will do.

Pork is traditional in this dish, but optional. Either way, it’s amazingly tasty and sustaining, especially when paired with some nice, hot cornbread.

Summer Soup

summer soup

The woodstove heats the house on this chilly late fall day.. I rummaged in the freezer and found yellow squash, green beans, Roma tomatoes, a pint of blanching water from some vegetable or other. I put them in a big pot on the counter to thaw. Later, I added beef boullion powder, noodles, and a blob of pesto and put the pot on top of the woodstove.

An hour later, it was boiling hot and so delicious. Other than the noodles, boullion, and the olive oil in the pesto, it all came from our garden.

Suburban Garden Planning 103

Collards and broccoli, just set out.

Collards and broccoli, just set out.

So, remember how I said not to order anything yet? Hope you were paying attention, because this time we’re going to talk about an important piece of the gardening puzzle: seeds or sets?

Should you start your plants from seed, or wait until, say, April or May and buy them from your local hardware palace or farmer’s market? Well, having been through this far too many times, let me give you some guidelines.

How available is it?

Planning on growing Early Girl tomatoes? You can buy sturdy little starts almost anywhere. How about Pimentos, as opposed to Red Bell Peppers, or Armenian Lemon Cucumbers, as opposed to Straight Eights? Good luck finding sets, unless you have access to a v trendy farmer’s market. If you have your heart set on some obscure vegetable, you’ll probably want to get the seeds. Otherwise, it’s a whole lot easier to pick up the plant at a garden center.

How much window space do you have?

You’ll need a good south-facing exposure, possibly supplemented with grow lights. Indoor-grown veggie plants tend to turn out rather spindly. (Unless you click the first link at the bottom of the page.)

How much patience do you have?

Starting from seed takes consistency and attention. They need moist soil, but wet soil will grow mold that will kill the baby plant. About a week before you plant them in your garden, they will need to be hardened off: spending time outside during the days, (the first two in the shade) and brought inside each evening, then graduating to nights outside, perhaps under a plastic sheet for the first few nights, with the plastic removed each morning lest you come home after work to wilted plants. They’re babies. You have to baby them.

If you buy sets, they’ve already been hardened off and can go directly into the garden.

Is starting from seed necessary or desirable?

Some plants have a longer growing season than your location may provide. Tomatoes and peppers, for example, are tropical in origin. Direct-seeding them after the soil has warmed to 70 degrees will give you maybe two ripe tomatoes by first frost. Other plants dislike being moved around: root crops, beans, and corn are notorious for this, so direct seed them.

Succession planting means that as one plant is harvested, another goes in its place. So the fence or trellis that held peas in the Spring gets winter squash set in when the peas give up in Summer’s heat. You’ll want to drop nice, sturdy squash sets in, rather than planting squash seeds, in order to get a crop in before frost. Plant broccoli or cabbage, which can take Summer’s heat, in the place of the Spring lettuce and spinach after those cool-weather crops have been harvested. Likewise, plant lettuce, spinach, or peas in the Fall, in spots vacated by the heat-lovers.

Will you succession plant?

This means grow replacing plants as they are harvested. For example, planting winter squash by the trellis that held the Spring peas after said peas have succumbed to Summer’s heat. You can either buy the squash sets or plant seeds 3-4 weeks ahead, growing little plants close together in flats or pots to save space, and then putting them into the larger garden space to mature. You can also start cool weather crops like lettuce and spinach in August in flats in a shaded spot to have them handy to drop in when your cukes and summer squash give up the ghost at Summer’s end.

And a couple of hints:

Seeds don’t care what time of day you plant. Just keep the soil moist. I like to sprinkle a handful of grass clippings over each newly-planted row or bed. Not enough to prevent emergence, just a sunscreen to shade the soil and keep it from drying out.

Sets will go through transplant shock. To minimize that, plant in the evening or on a cloudy day. Fill the planting hole with water, then set in the plant and fill in the hole. Mulch immediately and heavily around the stem, letting the leaves show through to catch the sunlight.

I hope this is helpful. For other posts on starting plants, you can click here and here.

Collards and broccoli, a month later.

Collards and broccoli, a month later.

Suburban Garden Planning 102

After. This article is about the before part.

After. This article is about the before part.

So there you are with your hot cup of tea (or coffee, hot chocolate, cold beer, whatever) and the newly arrived seed catalogs, or your computer browser is pulled up to one. Look at all those plants! They’re beautiful! Every variety, and I mean every variety, is BETTER THAN EVERY OTHER VARIETY!! My hat is off to the people who write these things. I don’t know how they do it.

So how do you decide what to grow?

What to Grow

Look in your fridge, freezer, and cupboards. What’s there? Lettuce? OK, put that on your list. Tomatoes? Ok, grow them too. Arugula, Sea Kale, Salsify? Um, maybe not. But you get my drift. Rule One: plant stuff that you will want to eat. As you progress, you may want to add a new plant or two, but don’t waste a lot of time, effort, and space on stuff that will make your kids look at you funny and end up in the compost heap.

Which Variety?

Look carefully at the descriptions in the catalog. “Vigorous” is code for “Will try to take over your entire back yard.” “Determinate” tomato plants will set all their fruit in a short time, good if you plan on canning. “Indeterminate” plants keep bearing and bearing, and bearing until the weather cools. More useful if you just want a tomato or two a day for salads and sandwiches. (Okay, you’ll get a lot more than that.) Likewise, “Everbearing” strawberries will set fruit in small batches from late May until the weather cools, while “June bearers” will give you buckets o’berries over a few short weeks and then just sit there. Do you plan on making jam or freezing them? Go with June bearers. Prefer a daily bowl of fresh berries to top your morning cornflakes? Everbearers are your ticket.

Think about your yard, your preferences, and your available space. Maybe you have an unmowable space on a steep hillside. Prep a little (3′ x 3′) spot with a hill of compost or well-rotted manure on the north edge of it and plant, say, pumpkins or winter squash, yes, those “vigorous” vines. Watch that annoying landscape feature get entirely covered with big green leaves and harvest your crop when the vines start to die back.

Why am I not suggesting that you cover that big slope with vigorous cucumber or melon vines? Because then you’ll have to climb that hill every day looking for the ripe ones. Much easier to go with the stuff that all ripens at more or less the same time. Got a teeny little space? Go with bush squash, cukes, or zucchini.

How much bang are you getting for your buck?

In other words, we grow shallots, because they are delicious and expensive and we don’t grow equally delicious onions because they are cheap. Same thing with potatoes. I’ll throw a few sprouting potatoes into the compost heap in the spring and harvest them when the vines die back, but generally won’t plant them in the garden, since they are fairly inexpensive. If I’m going to invest garden space in potatoes, I’ll plant the pricey ones like Yukon Gold, or weird ones like purple potatoes so I can freak out my kids with the resulting potato salad.

How Green is Your Thumb?

Some plants are easier to grow than others, even though they may be closely related. For example, iceberg lettuce, that salad bar staple, demands close attention and lots of water. The fancy-schmancy spring mix is actually a lot easier to grow. (And also passes the pricey vs cheap test.) Broccoli is pretty easy, but its cousin cauliflower demands attention and lots of water. Beets are easy, but carrots want deep, rich, loose soil and can be very disappointing for beginners. Cucumbers and squash are pretty easy to grow, whereas their cousins, the melons, are picky, picky, picky. Hot peppers are easy to grow, sweet peppers more demanding.

I devoted a 5 gallon bucket to a red bell pepper plant this year and got three red peppers, plus about 5 green ones that didn’t have time to ripen before frost. Yes, they were delicious, but not any more so than the ones from the grocery store. I planted a Dragon Cayenne in another bucket and everybody’s getting Hot Pepper Jelly for Christmas this year.

Are You Building a Fence or Trellis?

If so, consider pole beans or peas. If not, plant bush beans/peas. Most squash, cucumbers, and the smaller melon vines will also grow up a trellis. Watermelons and big squash like Hubbards and Banana Squash, not so much. They’re just too heavy for the vines to support in mid-air.

So go ahead, work on that list, but before you send off your order, check back here for Suburban Garden Planning 103, next week.

Suburban Garden Planning 101

It's raining compost.

It’s raining compost.

Fall really is the time to start your garden. It’s just raining compost as the leaves fall from the trees. The days are cool and much more pleasant to work in than the muggy days of late Spring and early summer. Your soil needs to feed itself, and if you are starting a new garden, it needs time to make the adjustment from sod to garden soil.

Everybody knows what a vegetable garden looks like, right? It’s a square or rectangle in the middle of the backyard. That’s why a lot of people don’t grow gardens. They have kids who want to play in the backyard. Dogs who want to chase frisbees and squirrels.

So I’m going to suggest that you think outside of the box, or square, or rectangle. You have no problem with planting ornamentals in narrow beds next to the house. Why not put your veggies there?

Here are some thoughts on how to do it:

Exposure

Veggies like sun, as a rule, six to eight hours a day. Look to the south side of your house for optimal exposure. Some crops, like lettuce, spinach, and peas, prefer cool weather. If you have a place in your garden with early morning or late afternoon shade, plant them there. On the one hand, they will grow a bit slower, but on the other, the shade will help extend the season for a longer

Land use

What path does your dog follow as he patrols the yard? Don’t plant there. Where’s home plate for your kids’ kickball games? Where’s the outfield? Put the garden behind home plate or along the baselines. (But set back, please.) Do you have a deck or patio? Consider planting a border of salad greens, herbs, and a tomato plant or bush cucumber along the edge. Leave a path or two to access the yard. (And put the paths where everybody walks anyway. It’s easier to teach plants where to grow than teach people or animals to change their habits.)

Or the end of the driveway.

DSC01065Maximize your growing space

In another article on this blog, I wrote about trellises. You can grow an amazing quantity of pole beans or cucumbers in a bed a foot wide if you give the vines support so that they grow up instead of sprawling all over the lawn. Trellises can be quite cheap and easy to make. We’ve made them from 2’x2’s, eyebolts, and string hung from the eaves; PVC pipe with fence wire held on with zip ties; old 2”x4”s and string; and 4”x4” posts sunk into concrete with wire fencing stapled to it. This last one will eventually have the wire removed and turn into the support for the south wall of our future greenhouse. You can put sticks or metal fenceposts in the ground, run wires between them, and zigzag string between the wires. Your imagination’s the limit.

2"x2s, eyebolts, and string.

2″x2s, eyebolts, and string.

Notice the DIY cold frame of plastic and the porch railing. Yeah, and the recycling bucket.

Notice the DIY cold frame of plastic and the porch railing. Yeah, and the recycling bucket.

Containers

Five gallon buckets with 5 or 6 holes drilled 2 inches from the bottom can each hold a tomato, eggplant, potato, or pepper plant. If you don’t like the look of a line of pails on your deck or patio, you can build a big box around them. (I’ll post pictures when we get ours done next year.)

Fencing

This is up to you and your needs. Are your kids old enough to walk around things, or are they still in the “Damn the torpedoes” phase of child development? Does your dog dig? Rabbits? Squirrels? We’ve found the cheapest is 2′ chicken wire mounted on rebar with zip ties.

Getting Started

I’ve said this before, and I know I’ll keep saying it, but start small. If you overburden yourself with taking on more garden than your experience warrants, you’ll feel stressed and end up getting turned off by the process. If you have no gardening experience at all, keep your garden smaller than ten square feet. That’s a strip one foot wide and ten feet long, two feet by five, or three and a bit by three. If you can restrain yourself, you’ll have a garden that’s easy to manage and will leave you hungry for more.

If you go nuts and plow up a huge plot, (been there, done that) you’ll likely find that it’s more work than you bargained for. You’re simply not used to it and it becomes one more damn thing you have to do. Like any other activity, it takes time to work it into your schedule and make the few minutes of routine maintenance a day a habit. (Remember that exercise bike?)

You can always make it bigger next year. If you’re a normal suburban person with a job, a commute, a family and, well, a life, you probably won’t want to add more than ten square feet per year.

The Easy Way

Figure out where you want to plant. Build the fence, if you need one. Get your soil tested at Co-op Extension or buy a soil test kit at your local hardware palace. Sprinkle whatever minerals your soil needs over the top of your future garden. Cover it with a couple layers of newspaper. Wet the paper down with the hose to keep it from blowing away. Run the lawnmower, bagger attached, over your lawn, fallen leaves and all. Dump the chopped leaves and grass clippings on the future garden, the deeper the better.

If you have a wood stove or fireplace, spread the ashes over the leaves as you clean it out over the winter. The alkalinity from the ashes will neutralize the acidity of the leaves and help them break down faster.

If you do it the hard way, raking all those leaves and throwing them onto the garden whole, you’ll end up with an impenetrable layer of wet, slimy leaves. Chopping them up with the mower lets them decompose faster. Whole leaves can take two years to turn into humus. Chopped leaves, mixed with grass clippings or other nitrogen-rich material and neutralized with wood ash can rot in less than half the time.

If you don’t have wood ash, sprinkle dolomite limestone over the top. If you find you are gathering leaves with no grass clippings mixed in, you can add nitrogen by means of a weak ammonia solution: one tablespoon per gallon, poured on with a watering can. Add another layer of leaves on top to prevent the ammonia from evaporating. If you opt out of fencing, get some straw and put a thin layer on top, spread like a lattice to keep the winter winds from blowing the leaves back onto your yard.

That’s all for now. Put your feet up, make yourself a nice hot cup of tea, and check out those seed catalogs.

Just don’t get carried away.

Unexpectedly Happy Ending

maggots

Ralph discovered these things in our compost heap. Yikes! There were millions of them, it seemed, busily munching on a head of cabbage that had split and gone bad. We’d dealt with an earwig infestation earlier in the season. Was this a harbinger of future earwigs?

Ralph put a few in a jar and took it to the Master Gardeners at our local college. They scratched their heads and told him they’d get back to us. We got on the Net and decided that the most likely culprit was Black Soldier Flies.

A few days later a Master Gardener showed up and confirmed the diagnosis. Black Soldier Flies are beneficial. They lay their eggs in decaying material. If the heap is too moist to support earthworms, the BSF larvae take over. They eat things (like cabbage leaves) too solid for earthworms to feed on, and poop out earthworm chow. The adults are pretty unusual, too. Most flies eat by barfing stomach acid, then lapping up the resulting slime. (This is why they are disease vectors.) BSFs eliminate this problem by not having mouth parts.

You read that right. Adult BSFs have only one thing on their minds: making more BSFs. They do all their eating  as maggots, and boy, do they eat! A few days after this photo was taken, Ralph emptied a vacuum cleaner bag  full of dust and dog hair into the heap. The maggots (having run out of cabbage, I suppose) rose up through the heap and started eating the dog hair.

But here’s the really neat part. The Master Gardener looked at our garden and said, “I’ve been gardening for 30 years, and this is the nicest garden I’ve ever seen.”

Gawrsh.

newgarden

A Good Week in Suburbutopia

It’s been an embarrassingly ridiculously long time since I posted last. Evidently, living in a rented room writing about your husband’s gardening adventures is not quite the same as actually living with and sharing said adventures. It took a while (over two and a half years) for me to be able to quit my day job and move the 500 miles between said job and said husband.

That said, This Week in Suburbutopia:

solar

Saturday: The guys from Solar City woke us up. “I know we’re not scheduled to come until Monday, but can we stop by and install your solar panels today?”

Hell, yes!

They were nice, very friendly and helpful, and it’s a good thing that they came a couple of days early. We’d showered the night before and pulled one of those “I thought you emptied the graywater barrel.” “What? No, I thought you emptied the graywater barrel.” The nice electrician from Solar City went down to the basement and came up quickly with the news that there was water all over the basement floor.

Many happy hours later, we had a dry only slightly damp basement and solar panels on the roof. The crew even drank some of my sun tea, although they said, “Sun tea?” in That Sort of Voice and I had to explain that it was regular black tea, not some kind of weird herbal thing, just that the hot water came directly from the sun rather than being run through a photovoltaic system and a stove burner. They may be the bringers of the Post-Oil Future, but they’re still construction workers.

Sunday: We actually rested. Between staying up late Friday for my son’s birthday party (That’s a quarter of a century, Zeke!) and the unexpected early wakeup from Solar City, we were bushed. Oh, and crawling around the basement with the wet vac apparently takes a toll.

Monday: Harvested the first cabbage, sliced it up and layered it with salt in a crock for sauerkraut. Zuke Oops: Was making zucchini bread and asked Ralph to grate the zucchini while I mixed up the batter. Our kitchen counter is L-shaped, so my back was to him. He left the grated squash over where he worked and I blithely put the batter in the pans and the pans in the oven sans zucchini. Turns out that Zucchini Bread tastes just as good without the Zucchini. Made another batch anyway, since what good is a big bowl of grated zucchini without the Bread part? (Yes, you can make zucchini fritters, but two dozen? For two people? At 10 pm? Unlike Zucchini Bread, they just aren’t the same after they’ve been frozen.)

Tuesday: Shed window. Ralph cut the hole weeks ago, and after saying, “We should put up the screen and trim,” repeatedly, I just went ahead and did it. He keeps saying it looks crooked. I used the level, dammit, which is more than I can say for the hole he cut.

Wednesday: Squashapalooza. I should probably mention that we have one yellow squash, one zucchini plant and a total of 3 cucumber vines. Took the last couple of day’s pickings, froze most of them, and mashed up the rest for squash fritters. Not quite as tasty as corm fritters, but quite acceptable. Just to let you know, that tub below holds over 1 cubic foot of squash. God help me, it’s only July.

actual dimensions 12 x 12 x 14 inches

Thursday: Senior Day at the Delaware State Fair. I got in free. Hubby still has a year to go for that perk. We watched them judge the ponies and miniature horses.

 

Miniature horse, actually.

Miniature horse, actually.

Silly me, I always thought that the difference between a pony and a horse was size: over 14 hands 2 inches = horse, under = pony. However, miniature horses are smaller than ponies. Way beyond cute, too. Then we wandered over to the Poultry Barn to check out the fancy birds. They had an incubator full of hatching eggs with a sign beside it so unintentionally hilarious I had to film it. Alas, WordPress wants me to pay them money to show it to you, so I’ll just have to describe it. At the Bottom of a sign covered in baby chick facts is the directive, “Quiet, chicks are resting.” This, in a barn full of roosters crowing non-stop.

I have no idea what breed this is, but it is clearly on acid.

I have no idea what breed this is, but it is clearly on acid.

Next adventure, the Dover Building, full of food and crafts. Apparently, if a human can do it, there’s a State Fair competition for it.

legos

Yes, that is the Delaware State Grand Champion Lego structure.

 I got a lead on a local quilt group, the Helping Hands. Need to amble over to the Amish quilt store to connect with them.

Friday: Second cabbage harvested, sliced up, seasoned with vinegar, and sitting in the fridge waiting for tomorrow’s potluck. Coleslaw is always better the second day. Made broth out of the leftover cabbage bits and put three pints in the freezer. Put up four jars of hot pepper jelly using Anaheim peppers and dragon cayenne from the garden, using only the non-seeded tips of the cayenne.

pickles

Then I took the rest of the cayenne, including the seeds, mixed it up with vinegar, salt, sugar, ginger, an entire bulb of homegrown garlic, half an onion, and a handful a Thai basil, ran it through the blender, and put it in the basement to ferment alongside the kraut crock. Tasted a little dot on the tip of my tongue and can certify that it is hot. Not OMG I’m-going-to-die hot, but hot enough that after five minutes I decided that it wasn’t going away by itself and drank some milk. Put up three pints of pickle relish and made a big bowl of cucumber salad with 1-2-3 dressing. Then Ralph found two more pickling cukes that I’d missed and notified me that there were 4 salad cukes almost ready to pick. It’s almost enough to make me look forward to frost. Got any good pickle recipes? 

1-2-3 Dressing

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons vinegar

3 tablespoons water

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients, Stir or shake until salt and sugar dissolve. Pour over 1 peeled, (or not, your choice) sliced cucumber. Let stand, refrigerated at least 1 hour. Serve cold. You can add a little sliced onion, if you like.

Ralph took five yellow squash over to Mrs. Stanton. I still have four of the little suckers sitting on the kitchen counter. Did I mention we only have one yellow squash plant?