Saturday, August 23, 2014

Frog Rescue

There were six large frogs stuck in the window pit. Now there are none. 

I apologize for the less frequent blogging. There is no internet service at our place in Minnesota. Soon another story. Soon. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Farm Park

Minneapolis has a farm within its park system, Gale Woods Farm.

They raise cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens, in addition to a number of crops. They expose school groups to farming and offer volunteer opportunities. The park is about 15 minutes from our place.

You can buy pastured meats at a fraction of the NYC price (5 lb leg of lamb -$36). As far as I know this is unique to the region, is hardly known even to locals, and is a great resource in a region that has not quite made pastured meats accessible to the urban population. Food is generally more expensive in the Minneapolis region than it is in NYC, variety is dismal, international foods are harder to come by, and produce is not well-stocked or good looking. There is a grand farmers' market in Minneapolis, but it's a drive into downtown. Fortunately, smaller markets are popping up including one in our town despite the fairly short season.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lily Pad

 You might find a frog on the side of the porch. It happens.

 But would you expect to find one inside a day lily?

Hiding spot, feeding hole, great place to meet the opposite sex?

 Do you leap in a single bound or climb the stalk, waiting for the flower to open it's doors?

And do they know the doors close after dark?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Vernal Pond

There's been a lot of rain this spring, creating what may be the deepest vernal pool in the swale. On it, a coating of duckweed.

Friday, August 8, 2014


We arrived in Minnesota early Sunday afternoon after two days of driving and two nights of miserable lodging. It's hard to imagine making this drive anymore after a dozen years of doing so, twice annually, and it's quite possible this will be our last. Rex's ability to take in oxygen is at its limit as is the machine's ability to provide it. He is slowly suffocating to death. We like to imagine his lungs will finally give out under the influence of morphine and heavy sleep, but one can't know. 

His days are filled with an anxiety of breathlessness and jokes mustered around such a condition and a general disposition lighter than one might expect. Every now and then he makes it to his Estonia grand, orchestrating his nimble, digital memory. We cook and although he passes on most lunches, he eagerly takes in dinners under the magical influence of prednisone. We are lucky for his nine to five caregiver, Patsy, whom he listens to as much as she patiently listens to him. The dissolution of age will come for us all, gradually or quite suddenly. It is best to have a plan.

The best indicator of Rex's declining health was the gradual but evident retaking of the trails by plants and fallen timber. Many have become impassable with tangled windfalls and occasional widow-makers, the soft padding of chips disintegrated into soil, the buckthorn and even trillium growing center trail. There was considerable flooding this spring and the smaller marsh became the smaller pond, it's overflow draining underneath this bridge. The rain fell so long and heavy that pond waters rose high enough to float the bridge, dismantling it, and nearly over washing the driveway forty feet beyond. In other words, the woods is a mess and in need of a chainsaw samaritan who will work for cord upon cord of wood. Do you know one in the Twin Cities area? Email me.

The moisture and cool, darkened understory has produced a good crop of mushrooms, like these corals and those below.

Ductifera pululahuana or the White Jelly (Roll)

Last year's unharvested chicken, the ghost chicken.

Right alongside the driveway, growing on a strategically placed, chainsawed oak stool, is this summer's small but wanted chicken.

A day later it looked like this.

And the day after that, we harvested.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Beach Farm Bye Bye

By the time you read this we'll have completed our 1250 mile drive, in our twenty two year old van with cat in tow, to Hennepin County, Minnesota. I'll blog from there when I get the chance -there's been a lot of rain there, so I'm expecting August mushrooms. Also, I got a replacement Olympus XZ-2, just days before the price went back to $599 (double what I paid, but then I had to buy it twice!). Today was the first day the camera got out of the house and I am very happy to be able to occasionally disappear into photography during our time in Minnesota. 

It's hard to believe our two plots were all garlic only three to four weeks back. I haven't seen the beach farm since then, when all the garlic was pulled and buckwheat seed planted in the newly empty space. 

Our new plot is kinder to warm weather vegetables than it was cool weather garlic.

I've let the bulbing fennel bolt. Just haven't been around for a proper harvest.

I'm amazed at the size of the Swiss chard stems -like baseball bats, believe me they are bigger than they look here. The leaves are gigantic and we can't harvest them fast enough. The weather has been chard perfect. These were started from fairly old seed, too. Good to know not to throw those out too soon.

Let the cilantro bolt -that is the plan. Took me years to figure out how to cultivate cilantro and the answer is to plant seed, hope for the best, and should it sprout and grow then allow it to self seed and it will hardly ever require replanting.

Some lettuce has bolted and I'm wondering if it will seed itself and true.

I wanted the other plot to rest after years of cultivation, so I planted what amounts to probably too much buckwheat. It's growing like mad now, necessitating a weeding along the edges of the row of vegetables I planted three weeks ago.

On one end, basil.

On the other, Japanese eggplant.

And the middle? Sweet peppers.

Without much tending other than a few applications of organic fertilizer 5-5-5, they seem to be doing okay. Some have begun flowering and fruiting.

 The sea of buckwheat should grow another foot or two.

And threatens to swamp a random tomato plant and the row of vegetables. Buckwheat is a vigorous grower, used not only as a green manure when turned it, but also to keep weeds in check by shading them out. Of course, some eat the seeds and some the flowers. Not me, however, not me.

We have some green tomatoes, although all my neighbors have red. After all, we planted in July, after the garlic was lifted, and hope tomatoes will be ready when we return from Minnesota.

Nothing special this year (general 'plum,' 'beefsteak' and 'cherry') as I bought only from Larry's, although there may be an heirloom or two in the plots that have volunteered from the prior year.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Cure

All the garlic is hung in the studio, makeshift, along the radiator, beneath the window. The leaves are dry and thistle to the touch. The mold on the dried leaves, invisible to my eyes but not my nose, has me sneezing with too much rustling. I wear a mask for bulb cleaning. All appear to be curing well, some already finished, some a week or so to go. Labeled bundles will be available in limited quantities come mid-late August. Hop on over to Hudson Clove to order in three weeks. 

Asiatic 'Asian Tempest' did better than all other years combined. Garlic growing is a fickle affair -one year bad, another year so so, another great. Always something new, always a challenge, always a surprise!

Artichoke 'Lorz' outperformed 'Red Toch,' although grown side by side I think this was just dumb luck. Both strains lost nearly 2/3 of what was planted -the 'Lorz' is larger thanks to a later harvest.

Silverskin 'Silverwhite' did quite well in the poor, new plot that lost so much garlic. They don't look it here, but they are easily double the size of any Silverskin I've grown in prior years.

Famed, difficult Rocambole 'Spanish Roja.' I grew about twelve from last year's surviving bulbs. They did well and I will likely plant these very cloves. I can wait for it, patience. I have a good quantity of 'Russian Red' and 'Killarney Red' Rocambole available for the bundles.