Big Garden News

A few posts back I was wondering whether the red truck or the truck mirrors attracted cardinals. It’s the mirrors. I parked the Merc about 20’ from the truck and the cardinals immediately flew from those mirrors over to the car mirrors. The Merc is a gold/tan color so clearly it’s not the red color that they’re attracted to.

Another crop breakthrough – beets. I’ve bent my pick for the past 8 years trying to produce a decent patch of beets. I was always able to get plenty of foliage but no roots. We were ok with that because Nancy’s quilting buddy loved the greens and supplied us with ground beef (in exchange). I tried a variety named Lutz this year and have been overwhelmed from the get go – fast, high level of germination, success in transplanting the thinned seedlings, great foliage and now beautiful beets roots. I think it was the right combination of soil and weather and maybe not repeatable but I’m sure going to plan on doing it again. Nancy has a blood iron deficiency so we’re attacking it the natural way – with beets. She’s been taking an iron supplement for almost a year and it’s done no good at all. She recently started a series of iron infusions, at about the same time the beets started coming in, so my concern is that the infusions will get all the credit instead of Lutz.

How many tomato plants are too many? The problem is that I can’t see into the future and from year to year have different levels of success. In poor years, aka last year, you have to do it with numbers instead of high production with a few plants but if you plant large numbers and they all work – what in the world do you do with the fruit. We use lots of sauce for pizza and pasta throughout the year but the crop last year just didn’t support out needs for the off season. Right now I have 16 plants, half regular and half plum/sauce types and 3/4 of them are varieties I’ve never tried. I think by the time I’m done planting seedlings, I’ll be at 20, the most I’ve ever done. I’m also pulling out all the stops in handling the transplants. They are starting off in a 2 cubic foot hole full of compost and sprinkled with my personal tomato fertilizer mix that includes egg shells and epson salts. The varieties selected are supposedly the most disease resistant, heat resistant, nematode resistant ones in the galaxy. (also the most expensive seeds ever). No “heirlooms” which always sound great on paper but are just too wimpy to handle a Florida summer. Unless there’s some complete environmental melt down or locust attack, I feel I’ve done my best and we should be overwhelmed with red beauties.

Late breaking garden news – 4 new pineapples popped up overnight. I think I planted them a year ago and if I recall from last time, these will be ready for harvest in June. I remember buying the pineapples on a “buy one get one free” sale so this means I will actually have bought one and gotten 4 for free. I checked on the plants that have already produced fruit a year ago to see if those will continue producing and sure enough, each of those had a new fruit popping out. That means there’s some seasonality to it because there was absolutely no hook between those and the ones in the garden.

Big Veggie Distribution Week

Dropped off another big load of greens to the Crescent City Bridge ladies. This time it was 3 bags of collards, 2 bags of kohlrabi greens, and a bag of NZ spinach. Each bag is large enough for a couple of meals so they’re definitely happy campers. This batch took an extra effort because it was cold, really cold, and windy and a 7:30AM harvest. We’re getting a shot of that big winter storm hitting the NE – actually have freeze warnings for tonight. I just know I couldn’t begin to handle that anymore. Update – made it thru two nights of potential freezes unscathed. All the stuff I covered looks good and the only sign of distress was that the potatoes might have been nipped a bit. I’ll keep an eye on those since it could be getting close to harvest time on them and the way you know that is the foliage starts to turn.

We had some drop-in company this morning, our great niece and great great nieces from South Carolina are going to a family event in South West Florida and stopping by here for a few hours. I’ve been feeding the fish for a month or so and have them trained to attack dried bread as soon as it hits the water. As expected, the kids wanted to go fishing off the dock as soon as they jumped out of the car. As soon as the bait hit the water, Grace had one – and another, and another……………… With that mission accomplished, she joined Nancy in a quilting lesson. She took to creative sewing a couple of years ago and Nancy periodically sends her pieces of material to work with so she was loaded with questions. She needs to spend a week or so, one on one with Aunt Nancy learning the basics. Nancy said she’s a natural and could be knitting and crocheting with just a little basic instruction and coaching. Maybe………..On the way back they stopped for a major garden pick – 8 bags.

Talk about pressure. Nancy sews together little pieces into larger squares and then those squares have to be “squared” before assembly into a quilt. That’s where I come in now – doing the squaring. The pressure is on because with one incorrect slice, I can screw up hours of work. And it’s really on because I’m a natural born klutz and Nancy is OCD on things like straight lines being really straight – she’s German, I’m Italian.

Quick Visit

The garden is transitioning nicely from winter to spring crops thanks to an incredible stretch of weather. If this is global warming, I’m all over it. The row that was 100% cabbage is now 50% cabbage, 50 percent tomatoes. Ditto the cauliflower row. I’m doing all my seed starts directly in the garden rather than in the house so I’m experiencing zero losses when transplanting seedlings to another spot in the garden. The first row of bush beans are working on their second and third set of leaves so they will have about a 3 week head start on the second row. I’ve planted a dozen or so green pepper seeds, a few zucchini seeds and cucumbers. A couple dozen romaine lettuce plants are now about 3” tall and looking strong. The big problem is that the warm winter has made all the winter veggies crater earlier than usual – maybe a month too soon – so we’re having to eat like crazy to keep it all from going bad in the field. There was an article in the paper saying the same thing was happening to the commercial veggie growers in the area so it wasn’t anything I was doing wrong. Lot’s of soups and salads hitting the table.

Took a walk on the wild side this week. I drink green smoothies made from garden greens and whatever fruit happens to be on sale. I decided to throw caution to the wind and use kohlrabi greens instead of the traditional kale or spinach. To go even farther, this kohlrabi is a purple variety and the leaves are dark, dark reddish green with purple stems and veins. It turned out good but the color of the drink would be a little much for any but the most stout hearted – almost black. After that turned out so well I decided trying a drink with a beet tossed in – root and greens inclusive. The beet was about the size of a golf ball. Wow, was it red!!! I liked it and will try to get Nancy to try a taste since she has some issues with iron. I’ll add a carrot to the next one to see what changes to the palette that brings about although I suspect the beet will override anything else.
Nancy was having some keyboard problems – visual problems. She loves to order stuff online where a few missed keys can have some strange results. I saw an ad in the Wallpaper for a special keyboard and decided to give it a try. Success. It’s about the same size as our Mac keyboard but the keypads were larger and the engraving much bolder with white letters on black keypads. She’s ordering up a storm so maybe I’ve solved one problem only to create another!!! No good deed……………….

The highlight of the week was a short visit by Chris. It was a Saturday to Monday visit so not long enough but we managed to squeeze in most everybody. He’s put in for a DM opening in Atlanta and we’ve got our fingers crossed that he hits it. There’s a lot of competition for the spot including applicants from within the district.

The Pressure’s On

I’m now parking my bright red pick up truck in front of the house in a shady location. Turns out it’s a cardinal attractor. I don’t know whether it’s the color or the fact that it has large side mirrors but at almost any time during daylight hours there’s a cardinal or two poking the mirrors, obviously seeing their own reflection. Cardinals are quite vocal and have a really pleasant sound so you really know they’re around. I’m also noticing lots of white splashes on the mirrors and doors. Wonder if there’s a connection?

We found a recipe for broccoli mashed potatoes and since we had all the ingredients decided to give it a go along with the ham and cabbage. Converts the potatoes into a health food and consumes more garden goodies. Turned out really delicious and will certainly be a regular throughout broccoli season. We could probably use cauliflower in the same way but it wouldn’t stand out visually. As my role in the kitchen increases, we’re eating more pasta. Basically you can make a delicious pasta dish with anything that comes out of the garden, usually in less than 20 minutes. Last night we did Prisciutto and spinach with pasta. Yum!!!

I’m under pressure now! Certain quilting moves are now outside Nancy’s visual abilities and she’s recruited me. Up until now it’s been little things that any idiot with eyes could handle, such as threading the sewing machine, (so I make the grade) but today she stepped up my involvement to include cutting the outside edge after the quilting has been done. To ease the pressure she alerted me that one wrong cut and it’s curtains for the quilt. Apparently I did the first one, a small one, ok. I also had to measure a strip and cut it off just right. Again, ok but the pressure is on. One good thing that came from it was she broke out a pair of scissors that I had never seen before and I can see lots of places where I could have used them.

Still working on the house project. The electrical and plumbing are done and we’re doing minor carpentry to prepare the house for installing insulation and dry wall. That should happen this month and I can actually see a move in by the end of April. Race week in Daytona slowed us down since Garret is an avid race fan. Bike Week is next week and I spotted him working on his bike the other day so….But right now the weather is absolutely perfect, cool and dry, but that is guaranteed to change to hot and humid soon. Hopefully we’ll be done by then.