Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bunnies are cute

Of course bunnies are cute, and we have them in abundance on the back hill. But today there was one INSIDE my fenced in garden. Not so cute anymore!
And just how did this critter get into my fenced in garden, you ask?? Well, he's quite ingenious. He just made a doorway for himself. As soon as he saw me he darted directly out the doorway without hesitation. Quite good handiwork if I do say so myself.
While I am impressed with his creativity and know-how, I am still irritated at the damage he and his buddies (who were sure to join him) cause. So far, I've only lost one corn stalk which he chopped down at the base like a lumberjack.

The fencing has now been patched with hardware WIRE. Hopefully that will deter him from further instances of breaking and entering.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

More Garden Harvest and Updates

From a distance it looks like the garden is winding down, but there's actually still a lot of activity going on out there. Here's what's been happening over the past 2 weeks in the garden...

First, I harvested 2 beautiful cantaloupes. Both were a good size and Joe said they were delicious. Amazingly, there were no critter teeth marks on the skins. I'm not sure if the pantyhose slings had anything to do with it or not, but it's possible. These are the only 2 we'll be getting this season. Their vines are already withered and spent. The cantaloupes that were planted inside the greenhouse are still green and leafy, but no fruit. I just don't think there was enough direct sun for them in that location.

The tops of the red onions have finally started to fall over. So as they do, I've been pulling them and laying them out to cure. They vary in size from a couple of inches to 4-5 inches in diameter.

The corn is progressing nicely with 2 ears on nearly every stalk.
One of the things I planted for fall was a purple hulled green been. I only planted 6-8 plants to see how they faired. The plants are very small, barely 12 inches tall. But they are already producing well and the beans are beautiful!

Many of the pink-eyed, purple hull cowpeas were ready for harvest today, so I pulled and shelled them.
There were only 12 pods ready to harvest. They yielded an 1/8 of a cup of peas. That's ok. I only planted ~12-18 plants as a test run this year. I wasn't sure if they would grow in Southern CA since I couldn't find the seeds locally. But they are growing nicely.
I blanched and froze today's harvest and will add the remaining harvest to come as the pods ripen fully. Aren't they beautiful?!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cooper's Hawk

This big bird was surveying the back hill this afternoon while I was outside tending the chickens. He was nice enough to wait for me while I went inside to get the camera. Unfortunately, my camera doesn't zoom enough to get a really clear picture, but you can certainly tell he was a big dude! I'd estimate he sat nearly 2 feet high with a 2-3 foot wingspan. From what I can tell, it appears that he is a Cooper's hawk.

I'm Molting!!!

Clara's head started looking a little strange last week and I wondered if maybe her and Petunia were dukin' it out to see who's really the bossiest hen. They do get puffed up at each other on a regular basis and even more so after Clara came out of her broodiness. But upon closer inspection it appears that Clara is molting. Now it's not just on her head, it's moving down her neck, under her wings, and inside her legs. At times I think she's starting to look like a vulture. You can see all the new little pin feathers coming in.

By the way, Clara is still the boss!

Monday, September 13, 2010

You can't grow watermelons here!

My neighbor scoffed when he found out I was planting watermelons this year. He said they just won't grow here. It was a rough start, but one of the plants finally took off after a couple of months. And then... it appeared! I was amazed at how quickly it grew from day-to-day.

The first photo, it's about the size of a peanut. Four days later, it's the size of my hand!

Six days later, it's still growing fast and getting pretty heavy. After this, the growth seemed to slow down, but it continued to ripen.

I wanted to wait until it was fully ripened to harvest, but when I noticed teeth marks in the rind I figured it was getting close to time to pull it. I decided to wait one more day...

I was very excited to pick my first watermelon! And then the disappointment set in. The missing chunk of melon was not my doing! So much critter damage in one night. As if that weren't bad enough, the melon wasn't nearly ripe. Fortunately, the chickens were happy to pick all the seeds out of it, so all was not lost.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Playing cat and mouse

I'm sure the mouse didn't really think this game was very much fun. He kept inching from one side of the chair to the other. I'm not sure why he didn't just stay in the middle where she couldn't reach him.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Garden Harvest and Update

The last few weeks have been REALLY busy handling the garden and harvest.

Two weeks ago the grapes finally turned that lovely shade of purple and looked like they were ready for harvest. They didn't get as big as they did in previous years, but it didn't occur to me that that could be a problem. Neither did the powdery covering on the grapes. Usually there's a light powdery "bloom" on the grapes that comes off in the wash. Upon closer inspection it became abundantly clear this wasn't bloom, it was powdery mildew (also the culprit in the stunted growth). So here are the 4.5 pounds of grapes that were completely unusable. Bummer.

The tomato brambles have gone wild! It's impossible to keep them off the ground and pruned and it's getting hard to move around the rows in the garden. So far I've harvested about 45 pounds of tomatoes and canned 10 quart jars. Unfortunately, only 30 pounds of it has been usable. The critters mutilated about 15 pounds of my beautiful tomatoes. The good news is, the chickens enjoy the damaged goods so they aren't going to waste. I can tell the plants are getting ready for fall. Some of the leaves are starting to turn brown and dry out and fruit production has leveled off, a definite harbinger of fall.

The cucumbers were doing well until this week. So far I've harvested 7 or 8 cuks averaging about 10 inches in length. A week or so ago, I noticed the aphids had taken up residence on some of the leaves. Now this week there appears to be some sort of fungus on the leaves. I've sprayed with an organic fungicide and insecticide, but the plant isn't looking good.

Both cantaloupes and the one watermelon are still growing. They seem to be close to full size but haven't changed color completely so are not quite ready yet. Unfortunately, the aphids have begun infesting the leaves of these plants too and are past the point of complete eradication. At this point, the spray is just a management technique to hold them down to a minimum.

Tassels appeared on the corn last week and the stalks are approaching 7 feet tall. Several of them already have 2 ears of corn.

Fighting the aphids on the southern peas is a continual struggle. Time will tell who the victor is. The first few lima bean pods have finally appeared.

The purple hull beans have flowered and the pods are starting to develop. I've not grown these before. But they look beautiful and seem to be doing well so far.

We have a dwarf potted lemon tree which seems to have fruited overnight. We'll have fresh lemonade soon!

The celery has made it through the summer heat and are flourishing. I suspect they lasted because I planted them so close to the tomato brambles that, at this point, they are actually under the brambles now. I read that you can dig them up and move them to a pot in the fall to bring inside for the winter. I'm going to give that a try and see how it works.

The onion tops have finally started to fall over and as they do I'm pulling them to begin the drying process.

Lastly, the 3 cherry tomato plants are still going strong. I'm still harvesting 2 handfuls every other day. They are delicious!

The days are getting shorter and shorter, and the nights started cooling off last week dropping into the mid-50's. Fall is on it's way in.