Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Green Bean Scene

So it turns out that when you harvest a healthy-sized handful of green beans every day for two weeks, you get a boatload of green beans. Huh.
Daily quantities like these add up when nobody eats them
Also, just FYI, there is nothing you can do to these beans that will make them edible to a small child. The only question in their mind is why their crazy mommy is growing poison in the backyard.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We Interrupt This Program to Bring You Some Whining

A small sampling of the events that have made my three-year-old cry today: I gave her a "boy sticker", I gave her a sticker with a mouse saying "You Are Special" on it, she left her shoes in the car, she applied her tattoo in the wrong spot, and she didn't want to do the new puzzle I got out. I won't go into the many minor boo-boos that cropped up, or the times she had what a semi-reasonable person might consider an actual grievance (using the terms very loosely - for example, couldn't find the book she wanted [on account of it was behind another book on the shelf] etc. etc.).

And yet she pulled it together for five minutes to help her brother gather up fallen (rotten) nectarines, and put them in a tub for counting up by fives - I am paying them a nickel a yucky nectarine on a daily basis. They want the money to buy ice cream at family camp, and I want the nectarines gone so we don't host raccoon sleepovers (any more than we already do). Win-win-uh...loss, if you're a raccoon.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Warning: Harvest in Progress

Jam-packed with flourishing plants

Things are growing together and intertwining, making it hard to harvest in certain corners - a spacing problem, especially in my son's area. Luckily my small people can squirm their way into any opening.

Today I harvested more green beans and two lemon cucumbers. I *thought* about picking lettuce, basil, and nectarines. Unfortunately due to some boring age-related tooth problems, I can't eat many berries nowadays, so that drastically cuts down on my interest in picking them. The squirrels are totally psyched to see so many on the ground - if we don't harvest daily, the ripe ones drop off.

Sometimes (in the thick of spring planting efforts), I grumpily think that harvest is the only thing that makes gardening worthwhile. And then in the thick of harvest season, I'm all, UGH I'm soooo tired of picking my homegrown organic produce. #firstworldprob... well, you know.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rain? In July?

Oh yes. We got a shower lasting an hour or more this morning, and as my son astutely pointed out, the clouds are still gray so there could well be more. This is not good for my tomatoes, but hopefully everything else can roll with it.

Monday, July 21, 2014


We inherited this dumb nectarine tree when we moved to our house in El Cerrito about four years ago. It sits in a weird spot, off-center in the backyard. It did nothing our first year; my husband pruned it the second year; we got a week's crop last year (which allowed us to finally identify what it even was); and now we are at the beginning of what will obviously be an extensive crop.

The fruits are edible, but small and not particularly good-looking. If you don't get out there are harvest daily they drop to the ground overnight and delight the raccoons, who barely need an excuse to party in our backyard anyway. WHY couldn't the previous owners have planted apple, pear, plum, or some sort of normal citrus tree instead? I guess it could be worse. Could be loquat. Zing!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mid-July Miscellany

It's mid-July, and while I've got a continuous harvest going, I do feel like it's not as much of everything as this time last year. (Except berries, which continue to deluge the household.)

The tomatoes, it must be confessed, are not producing anywhere like they should. See the Green Zebra at left - nada. What a waste of time, water, and dirt. My son's Sun Gold has one or two a day. My other cherry has one or two every couple days, and the Indigo remains disgusting - just tastes unripe, no matter how big it gets. Let's blame the drought, or possibly Flora Grubb Gardens for selling it to me.

I am getting - literally - a handful of green beans and sugar snap peas daily. That, at least, is perfect. Can't stop congratulating myself for not overplanting!

Between the two pumpkin plants that came up (out of I can't even tell you how many seeds), we've got two well-established baby pumpkins, with a couple more tiny possibilities. At least all my potted herbs are doing great, for once.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mid-July Harvest

Nectarines ripening up (note new backyard fence section - complete!)
Lettuce tragedies aside, the garden is producing about a pint of blackberries and a handful of green beans and snap peas per day. I'm getting a zucchini a week (perfect!), an occasional tomato, and a bit of lettuce. The Miracle Gro regimen of every two weeks seems to be helping the basil and mint, and boy did the mojito I made last weekend with our mint and our lime really help me.

I am looking forward to when the tomatoes really start producing. We've got a couple of days before the oddball nectarines are ripe. This was an inherited tree in a stupid place in the backyard. The grownups in the family aren't fans of the fruit it produces, but last year anyway my son enjoyed them for its week of abundance. The fruits are small, just about the right size for his hand, and that's as good a reason as any to eat a fruit.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Happier News

Our two pumpkin plants are both happy campers, the slugs have been so busy with lettuce lately that they overlooked a strawberry plant, and my son's colorful garden corner is brightening things up around here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Lows

With gardening as with childrearing, the highs are very high ("I love you, Mommy!") and the lows are VERY low ("I wish you weren't my mommy!"). Some nasty pest - probably a slug colony - nibbled off all my potted mesclun over the course of 48 hours. So discouraging, I didn't even have the heart to snap a photo of it before I angrily upended the pot and destroyed all the slugs clinging to its bottom. The kids enthusiastically pointed out ones I'd missed until we were sure we got all the ones that were visible.

After bedtime, my son called me in to tell me that he couldn't stop thinking about "things that I know probably aren't going to happen, or not for a very very long time" like meteors crashing into our house or volcanoes erupting. I told him that scientists now can detect those things before they happen and they give people warning, so our family and all our friends can go to a safe place far away. I couldn't help adding, "But I won't tell the slugs, so the meteor will crash into them." It's like war up in here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Big Yard Project Continues Apace

Yesterday morning
My gardening has been curtailed lately by the major fence replacement and bamboo eradication project going on between our yard and our neighbors. Our backyard is a staging area for all the tools and the removed bamboo; even though my garden is not quite encroached upon, close enough that it makes it unpleasant to be out there. (I am a delicate flower, apparently, averse to clouds of dirt and loud noises.) However, the work is going fairly well and should be done in another couple weekends.

Yesterday afternoon

These photos also give a sense of our crazy weather: COLD and foggy in the mornings, warm when not breezy, and sunny in the afternoons. I feel for the plants - they just have to adapt to the local microclimate, and I can't really fault those who don't! Sometimes I feel like I have yet to adapt to the local microclimate!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

So Many Berries!

It's pretty awesome! I like them with just a shot of whipped cream (from a can, because I'm all-American like that). The kids generally just pick em and eat em with no intermediate step. For myself, I rinse them. Actually right after this photo was taken, a tiny green worm poked his head out of one of the berries. I downplayed it with my daughter but, my stomach turned over. That's life on the farm, folks.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


We're finally getting some tomatoes! My 5 year old is SUPER proud that his Sungold plant is the first to produce, but he is almost as excited to give me a daily report on how my plants are coming along. His is producing a couple a day; mine are almost ready.

In my first flush of enthusiasm and ignorance, I popped a purple cherry into my mouth before it was anywhere near ripe - YUCK - but I had to quickly mask it so the kids wouldn't get turned off them. O the sacrifices parents make. I'll be giving those guys a wide berth now. They can stay on the plant until they provide me with a written notice of readiness.

Our wacky weather has been cool and foggy in the mornings and late afternoons/evenings, but fairly warm and sunny midday. The zucchini is happy as a clam and producing well. I even have a lemon cuke almost ready to pick, and we're getting a right-sized handful of sugar snap peas and green beans daily. The blackberries continue to flourish. We picked about 10 cups worth in the past few days because my husband was seized with a desire to make jam. Using a newly acquired vintage food mill my aunt gave us, he was able to de-seed them nicely, and we tried the jam this morning. It was excellent. I love helping the kids make that mental connection between taking care of our plants and eating what they produce. Viva los berries!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

Every year I organize a neighborhood sidewalk parade for kids & pets. It gets cuter and cuter every year!