New guests

The real shockers in the garden so far are two varieties that I’d never planted. I tried planting spinach all winter long – several different varieties, different locations, different times. Nothing really worked to my satisfaction and the crops ranged from total disaster to marginally acceptable. Tucked away in one of my catalogs was a variety that said it did well in the summer, especially hot, moist summers. It was a climbing, red stemmed variety called Malabar Spinach. I tried it out of desperation. It started slowly, as in 2 weeks before the first sign of any germination and it was more than a month before it got beyond the first two or three leaves. I pretty much forgot about it and chalked it up to another spinach failure. It’s been particularly vexing since spinach is really a no brainer crop. Overnight it seems that climbing spinach took off and within a couple of weeks it has climbed up maybe 5′ on the lines I had optimistically installed. If you didn’t know it was a spinach variety, you’d never guess. The leaves are very thick and have a rubbery feel to them. The garden calculator I designed says that I should have edible leaves in a couple of weeks and I’m starting to believe it’s correct. In fact, if it continues the way it’s going, everybody I know will have edible leaves.

The other shocker is the spaghetti squash. We love it and I’d never grown it before so really didn’t know what to expect. This is as close to a jack in the beanstalk story as I’ve come. I planted 3 seeds and have 3 plants; each with multiple stems. At this point the stems are approaching 8′ in length and the leaves are at least a foot in diameter. It started blossoming a couple of weeks ago and there must be 2 dozen baby squashes so far. And I can only see a bit of the plant since I planted it amongst the corn field just like the Indians did. In fact I planted several different types of squash in the corn and in some cases now the squash is actually taller than the corn – that would be over 5′ tall. Maybe I need to rethink my bug killing strategy and let some survive to help harvest the crop.

Also tried a couple new cucumber varieties. Holy cow!!! We’ve been harvesting a couple a day for the past month from 3 plants and they are ginormous. One day they will be micro – a couple of inches – and within a week they are over a foot long and weighing a couple of pounds. Each one would be equivalent to 3 cuc’s you buy in the store. And they are the most delicious ever. No matter how big they retain the firm, juicy character you’d expect from a baby variety. And they are burpless – no bitter after taste that bothers some people. Considering the price of cucumbers, I honestly think that one crop alone has paid for all the seeds for the rest of the garden. Ditto the zucchini.

By the end of the month we’ll be picking corn, tomatoes, green peppers and jalapeno’s. And actually pulling out the first planting of beans from which we’ve been eating for a month.

New guests – we have a pair of screech owls living in the oaks up by the carport. They are incredible birds and are harassing the squirrels (tree rats) with constant screeching and flying beautifully among the trees. The noise is really mind boggling and you can understand the terror it must strike in the hearts of any small mammals. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever seen more than one owl at a time and in the middle of the day. The pair was perched on a low branch facing away from me the other day. I was probably within 50′ which is really close. Then both turned their heads to face me directly. No body movement at all, just the head swivel. Is that creepy – but neat. One second you’re looking at the back of the head, the next the face full on. It’s like the head is totally disconnected from the body.

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