• Tag Archives tomatoes
  • The Visa Quest Nearly Finished

    Lughnasa                                       Waning Harvest Moon

    Today we moved from conjecture to certainty.  The top person at English Gate Academy, Ahmed, e-mailed Mark and said he would write a personal note to the Saudi Embassy asking them to speed Mark’s visa application along.

    His papers cleared the Saudi Cultural Mission today and are at the Embassy so it should be a matter of days now before he has his passport back with his Saudi work visa in place.  At that point English Gate will send him an e-ticket.  He’ll pack and I’ll take him out the same airport where I picked him up in April, just as spring began to try breaking through the long and persistent grip of our long winter.

    It’s been a long and not always straightforward journey for Mark, but he’s got his head and heart in better alignment plus he pulled off the difficult in this US economy; he found a good paying job, better pay than he’s ever made.

    We spent the morning harvesting wild grapes, talking through the vine.  With the freeze tonight we had to get the sensitive crops inside.  Kate picked the tomatoes that will ripen over the next few weeks and a small bucket of raspberries while Mark and I picked a rose cone full of the small purple grapes.

    That means Kate the jelly and jam maker will appear, working with her alchemical apparatus to strain the grapes, add the sugar and pectin and can the result.  Wild grape jelly has a special and tangy taste.  Great for those cold winter breakfasts.

  • Pick and Plan Eating

    Mid-Summer                                                        Waxing Honey Flow Moon

    Kate and I have decided on a pick and plan eating method.  That is, we’ll pick fresh vegetables, then build a meal around what we have.  I picked this morning, for example, green beans, beets, golden and bull’s blood, lettuce, dill, and 7 garlic bulbs.  We still have onions from an earlier harvest, so there’s the basics for our lunch or dinner tonight.  In addition Mark has picked hundreds, maybe thousands of currants and Kate spent yesterday starting the preservation work.  She’s test drying some, making jams and jellies.  We’re well into the first significant harvest period though we have had strawberries, lettuce, kale, spinach and onions already.

    The tomatoes I started inside, which looked puny early in the season have grown tall and begun to bloom.  That means we’ll get heirloom tomatoes in addition to the two store bought plants.  Through integrated pest management I’ve beaten back the yucky scourge Colorado beetles on the potatoes .  Boy are they gross.  Little fat jabba the hut creatures until they get their wings. The leeks have begun to thicken, not much, but some.  The potatoes have blooms and that signals the beginning of tuber growth underground.  Lots of onions getting bigger, carrots, too.

    Big-Stone Mini-Golf deserves its own entry and I’ll get to that either later today or tomorrow.

  • Bee and Garden Diary

    Mid-Summer                                                                                          Waning Garlic Moon

    Today I performed partial hive box reversals in all three colonies.  The second hive box of three gets rotated to the bottom and the first or bottom box rotates up to take its place.  This means that all the hive boxes have to be moved, so it is a labor intensive activity, especially so now that some honey has begun to be stored.  One hive box was very heavy, my back a bit reluctant.  Having done that I checked the top box on colony 1 and the top two honey supers in colonies 2 and 3.  None of these have much honey.

    Since I put queen excluders on 2 and 3, I pulled those off, intending to leave them off for a couple of days.  At the hobby bee-keeper meetings I’m told this is a common way to get the bees to move up into the honey supers.  I’ll put the queen excluders back on maybe Wednesday.  Since I reversed the bottom and second hive boxes, there’s not much chance the queen will get up there.

    So far the bee season seems to have hurdled the early cold and rain and settled into a more normal pattern.

    The potatoes and leeks both have mounds around their stalks now, blanching for the leeks and more space for the potato plants to produce tubers.  A lot of gardening tasks are very time sensitive and these were among them.  When the potato plants flower (now), they begin to set the tubers.  As the leeks grow, only the parts covered by soil will blanch, turn white, and be useful for cooking.  As the young apples begin to grow, the bags have to go on before the apple maggots come out to play.  Also now.

    The bees, too, require definite care and different kinds of care all through early spring and summer, then less attention around now, when the honey flow begins.  Later in August will come extraction, then preparation of colony 1 for overwintering.  Gonna try one more time.  Colonies 2 and 3 will move out near the truck lane, into the sunny part.  That’s for next year.

    Our tomato plants started from seed have begun to mature, though they are far behind the two plants Kate bought at the green barn.  Those plants have blooms and green tomatoes.  It remains to be seen whether we’ll get any tomatoes from the others.

    We’ve harvested one full planting of spinach, several of lettuce, some sugar snap peas and just this week, lots of strawberries.  We have onions, carrots, beets, more lettuce and spinach, plus pole and bush beans all underway.  There are cherries and plums in the orchard in addition to the apples and the raspberry canes are in good mid-season form.  We’re going to have a good season as we continue to learn how to use our garden to complement and supplement what we buy at the grocery store.

  • And Yet More Planting

    Beltane                                                           Waxing Last Frost Moon

    Cherokee Trail of Tears.  Hutterite.  Soup beans and green beans.  Vidalia onions from sets grown in Georgia.  Purple passion and white asparagus.  Three varieties of tomatoes.  Golden beets.  Pretty much the last of this year’s non-succession planting.  Mark’s been a big help, letting Kate and I focus on the things we do best.  One or two things remain: cucumber, gourds, but they’re delayed right now.  So Artemis Hives and Gardens has all the bees in their colonies, early and post-frost vegetables plants in the ground and daffodils and tulips and our magnolia providing color.  The fruit tree’s buds have swollen; the currants have fully leafed out; the quince has its bright red flowers; the gooseberry plants are in a new home with more sun and Kate has planted shade lovers in the spots where the gooseberries were.

    Left to figure out.  What crop(s) to grow in the hydroponics during the summer.  How to take good care of the fruit trees and their produce.  Succession dates for the rest of the growing season.  Mulching and pruning.  Weeding.

    My object list for my Thursday early evening Love, Sex and Scandal tour:  Venus figurine, The Singer Su Hsia0-Hsia0, Theseus Killing the Centaur, Bacchante and Satyr,  Mlle. Lange as Danae, Lucretia, The Little Girl, The Living Room.  This group wanted edgy.  This tour will qualify.

    Late to bed last night, a great day today so I planted in the am, but I still need to do Latin.  Not so easy with a fuzzy head.  Probably nap time.

  • The Early Growing Season

    Spring ( it even looks like spring today!)                             Waning Bee Hiving Moon

    This morning or early this afternoon I pull the grass out of the entrance reducers and the bees will be free to navigate from their new home.  Tomorrow I’ll check on the hive to see if the bees have remained focused in the middle of the hive box.  Otherwise the newbees have the run of the grounds and the air around here.  From now through fall we’ll be engaged in a delicate dance, first to prevent swarming, then to encourage adequate honey supplies for winter, then, if possible, production of surplus honey for sale.

    One colony will receive the traditional treatment with three hive boxes, reversed and prepared for winter.   The other two get another hive box and after that, supers.  I’m trying to gauge how much sense it makes to struggle with overwintering since the odds seem stacked against it.

    Veggies go in the ground, today, too, seeds and a few transplants–leeks, in particular.  Yesterday I moved the tomato seedlings to larger pots.  The seed potatoes are in a kitchen window, eyes beginning to bulge.  On Tuesday or Wednesday, I’ll cut the potatoes into chunks, each with an eye, then wait a day or two for a callous to form.  After that, in they go.

    At that point the bees will be in their first week, all the vegetables with the exception of the post-frost plantings will be in the ground and the garden will have assumed its early growing season form.  At some point, too, I have to get out and work in the flower beds, the gardening that used to occupy all my efforts.  Now the perennial beds are established and I understand the patterns and problems they have.  Flowers are not as labor intensive as vegetables.

  • A Busy Week Ahead

    Spring                                              Waxing Bee Hiving Moon


    Business meeting this am.  Looked at our IRA and Vanguard balances.  Both healthy thanks to good planning and the recent surge in the market.  Theses glances at our assets won’t be as much fun when the market heads south again, as it will.  Right now though they’re cheering.  I read an interesting article on whether it was better to start retirement when the market  was strong or when it was undervalued.  The consensus was that undervalued was better. I can’t recall why, but I imagine it had to do with a feeling of lack followed by a feeling of abundance rather than the reverse.  The latter could lead to too quick a draw-down on accounts, leaving less money near the end of life.  Ah, well.  We’re well under the recommended minimum per year withdrawal from the IRA so far and we plan to keep it that way.

    Started three varieties of tomatoes this morning:  Roma, Black Krim and a yellow variety.  At the same time I started kale and chard, one variety each.  They go under the lights now and wait just before the last frost (May 15 or so), kale and chard, and until after the last frost, the tomatoes.  Wetting the potting soil resembles playing with mud, an early childhood memory trip.

    We checked calendars.  This week’s a heavy one for me with political, artistic and bee-keeping meetings, plus a birthday dinner out for brother Mark at the Oceanaire.

  • Chicken Pot Pies and Memories

    Fall                                                 Waning Back to School Moon

    Before the Vikings game on Sunday I made two chicken pot pies, whole pies filled with chicken, vegetables and a thickened vegetable broth made in the process.  These are my second and third meat pies and I find I enjoy making them as much as I do soup.  Something about baking a pie that has meat and vegetables intrigues me.  This one had our leeks, potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, parsley and thyme.  My favorite vegetable from this garden is the leek.  The subtle flavor and the delicate flesh of the leek both appeal to my palate.

    Here are a few of the ingredients plus a tomato and raspberries from our garden.  This potato looks similar to the woman of la mouthe in the MIA’s collection.  At least to my eye.670_0300 Fresh ingredients are key to Italian, Chinese and vegetarian cooking so a garden facilitates those cuisines, at least during the harvest system.  Our best meals of the summer happen in September.

    Visiting Westminster today brought up all kinds of memories.  Don Meisel, former head pastor, came into the men’s room once during a Presbytery meeting.  I had a report on top of the urinal, reading it.  Don said, “My, you must get a lot of work done.”  Presbyterian humor. Another surprising Don Meisel moment.  There on the wall of a hallway was the exact same Granlund sculpture, the Tree of Life, that I bought Kate for her 50th birthday.  Don had given it to the church in memory of his wife.

    Jim Campbell’s name came up, too.  Jim was a top exec of Northwest Bank and a leader on the Community Involvement Program’s board.  I worked at CIP for 4+ years, starting as a janitor and week-end staff person during seminary and moving up to Director of Residential programs.  Jim came to me at one point and asked if I would take on directing both the Residential programs and the Day Activity Centers.  I thought about it and said no.  That surprised him, I could tell.  It surprised me a bit, too.  I had no interest then or later in advancement, even though I did end up as an Associate Executive Presbyter.

    Then, the chapel.  What a peaceful space,  a definite English feel to it wood, limestone, slate floor, a beautiful organ.  Wilson Yates, then professor of society and religion at United Seminary, married Raeone and me in that chapel in 1979.  Ed Berryman, the organist, refused to play the music we wanted.  I don’t remember what it was.  We had Handel’s Water Music.  Ed liked it.

    There were, too, many mornings of bible study with urban clergy in the now much renovated basement area.  Bible study was always one of the fun parts because Presbyterian clergy pride themselves on their scholarly ability.

    Well, off to bed.  Gotta catch the Empire Builder at 7:30 am.

  • Getting Things Ready

    Beltane                                       Waning Flower Moon

    After checking the parent colony with the queen excluder in, I found larvae in the top hive box.  That’s evidence of the queen.  That meant I shifted the middle hive box over to the new foundation and bottom board.  A syrup feeder pail went on top of the new, child colony.  This calms everything down and allows for a peaceful slow release of the queen tomorrow.  Leaving the queen excluder on the hive box in which I discovered larvae, I put two honey supers on it and replaced the inner cover and the telescoping outer cover.  The parent colony now has two hive boxes, one with a queen and brood, plus the other, lower box, which will get reversed on top in 7-10 days.

    Tomorrow I’ll check the package colony for larvae a second time.  If they have none, I’ll have to get another queen for them soon.  If there is no queen in the hive, the lack of her pheromones turns on egg laying in the workers, but, since they’re not fertilized they produce only drones.  Once a hive converts to worker egg-laying apparently you have to start over.

    This has been a busy couple of weeks for the bees.  Kate’s been making supers and frames and hive boxes, too.  If the divide and the package colony take, things will calm down for a while until the honey flow ends.  Then, there’s an end of the whole process I haven’t encountered.  Honey.

    Two more bags of composted manure on the leek/sugar pod pea bed, another on the sun trap and a lot of planting.  The herb spiral has the herbs Kate bought Friday at Mickman’s.  I also planted beets, mustard greens, fennel, onions and a pepper plant in the sun trap.  The tomatoes and other peppers will go there, too.  Those two beds, along with the other bed where I have green onions plants along with radicchio, beets from seed and thyme will be our kitchen garden for the growing season.

    Kate did a lot of weeding, including the blueberry patches.  It really makes a difference to have her focused on that aspect of gardening.  She’s also in charge of pruning which has its on rules.

    The leeks, onions, kale, chard, garlic, parsnips, butternut squash, other beets and carrots will also be available during the growing season of course, but most of these will get canned or dried or frozen for the winter.

    I would not like to do the cost accounting on these vegetables and the fruit because the two fences and Ecological gardens have created a lot of sunk costs.  It will take years for them to zero out the costs, more years, I imagine, than we have left in this house.  In our case, of course, that’s not the big point.  The big point is a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle and in that regard the cost accounting has already tilted in our favor.

  • Fall Clean-up

    Fall                                         Waxing Blood Moon

    Out in the garden this morning taking down plants that have finished their labors.  Large cruciform vegetable plants grew from the seeds I started inside, but they never developed any fruits.  They’re in the compost now.  All the tomato vines save one have come down.  The last tomato harvest went inside today, too.  A few straggling yellow and orange tomatoes and a cluster of green tomatoes for a last fried green tomatoes.

    A new crop of lettuce, beets and beans are well underway, lending an air of spring to the dying garden.  While examiningdieback091 carrots I have in the ground awaiting the frost, I discovered golden raspberries large as my thumb.  A real treat at this late stage in the year.  They await the vanilla ice cream I’m going to buy when I go to the grocery store.

    The 49 degree weather made doing these choirs a pleasure.  Odd as it may seem, I like the fall clean-up part of gardening as well as I do any other part, perhaps a little bit more.  Most of these plants I started as seeds in February, March or April and they have matured under my care, borne their fruits and run through their life cycle.  From some of them I have collected seeds to plant for next year.  The clean up then represents a completion that goes one step beyond the harvest.  It honors these living entities by caring for their spent forms in the most full way possible:  helping them return their remaining nutrients back to the soil.  I want no less for myself.

    Got a new toaster and a new ladder in the mail yesterday from Amazon.  Boy, shopping has changed.  I rarely go to a big box store anymore, once in a while to Best Buy to check out DVD’s or for some computer accessory.  I still go to hardware stores and grocery stores, the things you need weekly or right now or fresh, but everything else I buy online.

    The bee guy, Mark Nordeen, had to cancel again today.  His wife, Kate’s colleague, got kicked in the head by her brand new black mare.  E.R. and a concussion later she’s home off work.  Guess I’m gonna have to figure out how to over winter my bees all by myself.

  • Kate the Earth Mother

    Fall                                         Waxing Blood Moon

    Kate made pasta sauce(s) from our tomatoes.  She also made an eggplant (ours) parmesan that we had with one of her sauces along with a toss salad of our tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.  Pretty tasty.  Kate has preserved, conserved, cooked and sewed on her two days off.  In this environment where her movement does not have to (literally) bend to her work her back and neck don’t flare as much.

    After the 40 mph wind gusts I went out and walked the perimeter again, checking for downed limbs.  Just a few stray branches, none big.  I did find an insulator where the rope had pulled away.   I used the insulator itself and plastic case to nudge the  hot wire back into place.  The fence does its job, but it requires constant surveillance.  Fortunately, the energizer has an led that flashes while the fence is hot.  That makes checking on the juice much easier.

    Friend and Woolly Bill Schmidt said he enjoyed the fence saga from his apartment.  He said he spent many nights, often at 2 am, shooing cows back in the field.  Electric fences are part of farming and he had many helpful hints.  He didn’t seem nostalgic for installing or maintaining a fence.

    Both grandkids are sick.  Jon and Jen face the dilemma of all working parents, how to handle sick kids and work.  This is never easy and can create unpleasant situations.

    I’m grateful for the rain and the cool down.  Cooler weather means plants ratchet down their metabolism so they need less water and food.  It’s time for that.  The rain helps our new shrubs and trees.   They’ve got the rest of the fall to settle in and get their roots spread out in their new homes.