Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Carol Clark
Friday, September 17, 2010
So what's it going to be? A mild Western Colorado winter or a harsh frozen season? Legend says you have to go no further than the Woolly Bear Caterpillar. The Woolly Bear is the caterpillar form of the Isabella Moth and you can know fall has arrived when you see one.
Superstition says when the caterpillar's middle rust ring is narrow the winter will be severe. When its middle rust stripe is wider the winter will be more mild. A friend of mine has already seen one in the valley. They like to eat dandelions and maple leaves so this might be good places to find them.
I remember playing with these fuzzy friends when I was a lonely child on a Loma farm. So far from neighbors, crawly creatures were sometimes my only friend to play with. I put them in canning jars with holes in the lids and fed them grass, but you need patience if you are going to see him turn into a moth. Even after feeding him fresh grass daily and providing him with a stick to crawl on, he eventually got tired and hibernated at the bottom of the jar. (I always thought he was dead...and maybe he was!). Then you need to put him outside in a spot protected from the weather, like a covered porch. In the spring you need to add fresh grass again daily. The caterpillar will eventually wake up and spin a cocoon then you only have a week or two to wait and out will come a beautiful butterfly! (Technically a moth.)
This is a very long commitment for a child and maybe even for most adults. I prefer to let them roam free and find a place to sleep for the winter under a rock or some leaves.
Let us know what it says about winter if you see one.
A road like brown ribbon,
A sky that is blue,
A forest of green
With the sky peeping through.
Asters, deep purple,
A grasshoppers call,
Today it is summer,
Tomorrow is fall.
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Thursday, September 16, 2010
One of the great joys of summer roadtrips, when you’re not the one driving, is the chance to catch up on some reading. Recently, during a 1,700-mile roadtrip through the desert Southwest, I finished reading this useful and inspirational organic gardening book given to me by sister-in-law, Carol. It was written by her friend, Peter V. Fossel:
I’d scanned it before and committed myself to not only rotating crops more often, but to planting “green manures,” or crops that are turned under in their green state to add nutrients to the soil. So earlier this summer I planted a crop of buckwheat barley in a patch of ground that has been heavily planted in vegetables for several years.
I bought the seed from Greenfields and just tossed it on the ground. With a little straw cover and water, it sprouted easily, tolerates heat well and is setting beautiful white blooms.
Because this part of the garden was due for a break, and because it is becoming more shaded by maturing apricot trees, I have designs to plant strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus there next year. In addition to adding nutrients to the soil, buckwheat has allelopathic properties, which means it suppresses weeds chemically, doing double duty.
Next year I think I’ll plant buckwheat where the super-sweet sweetcorn is this year, then I plan on resting and restoring with buckwheat a different section of the garden every year. The garden gets a break, I get a break and, with a little more free time, maybe I can catch up on some more reading.
By Carol Clark
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
After working together on the lawn for the last 27 years Olan and I have a system. I mow and he has fun. He uses a high powered gas Craftsman Weedwacker. Like Tim the tool man, he loves to feel the power and hear the roar of the engine. Whenever I come close, shooting rocks and hurtling sticks sting my bare skin. And... if he is trimming he doesn't have to mow. Here is a photo of him trimming around one of the garden beds.
I have asked more than once that he get rid of the wacker or at least trim only every other week, to no avail. He is a kindhearted man and likes to help out the single ladies who live on either side of us. This last summer he tore a hole in our north neighbor's siding while helping wack the lady's lawn. Another time our neigbor to the south came screaming outside when she thought there was a gun shot, only to find her front storm door shattered into a million pieces by a small pebble the wacker had flung into the door from five feet away. I have asked him to please stop helping neighbors and stop wacking our yard with the dangerous implement. But, he is having way too much fun - and why not let him?
Neighbor's siding $75, neighbor's storm door $195, watching him have fun - priceless.
"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of a genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.
Wofgang Amadeus Mozart.
By Penny Stine
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Once you start composting, you just can’t stop. Especially once you've spread it on your garden to give your soil a boost with musty, earthy organic matter. Makes you feel like such a farmer. Plus, it’s fun to see what sprouts from your compost bin or grows in your garden that you know you didn’t plant.
In my case, I have baby butternut squash growing, which I definitely didn’t plant.
It got a late start. I planted spinach in this bed last November, and was rewarded with it coming out of the ground by March. The bed is also home to my dill weed, which seeds itself every summer and grows like mad in early summer. We ate spinach throughout the months of May and June and I gave dill away to anyone who would take it throughout July.
I planted cucumbers in the bed sometime in late May, since I knew the spinach wouldn’t last. When I finally pulled the spinach stalks in late June, I added compost from my bin to give the tired soil a boost. After all, it had been hard at work, giving sustenance to the spinach.
The cucumbers grew, and I didn’t realize an alien was also growing until it began to flower, with the gigantic, orange-yellow blossoms that identify it as some sort of squash. I had to wait for it to form a little squash before I knew what it was. This pic doesn't show the flowers, but they're there. It does show how hard it is to tell the cucumber vine from the squash, though.
The funny thing is that a fellow gardener from work is having wild success with butternut squash this summer and is freezing it for use this winter in soups and stews. I thought it was a great idea and couldn’t wait to do it next year. Now I don’t have to wait for next year, but do hope that it doesn’t freeze before I get my first squash.
My gardening buddy, Jan, has an even better compost growth. Her bin sprouted a watermelon, and now she has three fairly big ones growing on the vine. How cool is that?
By Geri Anderson
Friday, September 10, 2010
We have a favorite fruit stand where we buy sweet corn and jalapeños mostly. Last week my husband stopped by this fruit stand and bought a box of jalapeños and six mega-green peppers plus onions and a large red pepper!
See, last year we’d made our standard bread and butter pickles from cucumbers from our garden—plus many white onions from the grocery store and lots of Heinz white vinegar, sugar, garlic cloves, pickling salt, and three spices—just a heads up, we bought whole mustard seed by multiple boxes—and sometimes had to visit more than one store to find it in pickling season!
Well, I digress. The point is supposed to be that last year we overestimated how much of the brine we’d need for the cucumbers on hand, so we ended up with quite a bit extra. So, we decided to make up a recipe. We chose to slice green peppers, red and orange peppers, white onion, and jalapeños and pickle them using the bread-and-butter-pickle recipe.
Last year we had perhaps 20% jalapeño in the mix. The Spicy Relish was attractive due to the variety of colors, and on a scale of 1 to 10 for heat, probably a 2. It was popular—we ran out of last year’s supply last month.
Look at the number of jalapeños we used this year!
And aren’t the vegetables beautiful?!
We canned 36 pints of Spicy Relish (in addition to more pickles from our garden’s bounty)! My husband sliced 268 jalapeños!! He diced the six mega-green peppers. I think I used 2 ½ boxes of the mustard seed.
This year the first batch of 24 jars was 60% jalapenos. Ooh-la-la!! He loves it! I do too, but user smaller quantities!! On a hotness scale, it’s a 6. To the last batch of 12 pints I added additional colored peppers and onions, partly for the additional color, but also for toning down the hotness. It’s a hotness of a 4 or so. When we labeled the jar lids, we labeled the hotness scale number too. And we intend to enjoy peppers all winter long!