Sunday, October 3, 2010

Krista Branch - I Am America



I need to see her in concert and America needs more entertainers like her!

Just X out the annoying ad that will pop up at the bottom of the screen. Not there because of me, I guess it is a new YouTube annoyance.

All the best,
Glenn B

October A Good Time For Gardening...

...at least I think so. I got out into the garden at around nine ten this morning and puttered here and there. I also did some of the same yesterday.

Yesterday, I picked a good number of both ripe and green tomatoes and some in between. All will ripen sooner or later. I also picked a few nice banana peppers and a good number of Cayenne peppers. Then I picked most of the remaining butternut squashes, 4 of them. We still have at least another 4 of them on the vines and I figure next week or the week after for picking them. They are all still pretty green, then so were the ones I picked yesterday but those were on vines that were pretty much dead. The remaining ones are on live plants. No worry though, the greenish ones will ripen in our kitchen or down in the basement. We just leave them and sooner or later before Thanksgiving or Christmas they will be ready and yes they stay good a long time if the skin is not broken. We have a few others that are ripe and ready to be cooked and boy do they cook good. My wife makes them in a casserole dish in the oven with butter, garlic and some other spices. Bakes em till ready, then puts em under the broiler to get the top crispy. When she does not over do the garlic, they are scrumptious - one of the best vegetables I have ever eaten.

Getting back to today, I pulled out some near dead tomato plants, picked some green tomatoes (they will ripen inside brown paper bags), pulled out some more squash vines and others, dumped them on the compost pile, then planted a couple of bushes. Linda bought the bushes, two Euonymus japonicus also known as Chollipo, at different times over the summer. I just left them in their pots waiting until the fall to plant them. My uncle used to tell me it was best to plant most trees and shrubs either in early spring or in the fall, so I waited. These are supposedly evergreens though the variegated leaves are both green and yellow. I suppose they mean they have their leaves throughout all the seasons. They supposedly grow 6 feet wide by about 12 feet tall and that will be nice. Probably will piss off my neighbor if they grow over her fence but that is what monthly trimmings are for, and I always take care of that. Easy to care for, tolerant of heat and dry conditions and able to withstand the cold in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 to 9; we are in zone 6 so they probably will survive even in our backyard. I have to admit, if they keep their color and grow wide, tall and busy - they will be pretty nice looking.

As I was digging the holes for the shrubs, I found a couple of nice fat worms which reminded me I had to hit the compost pile both for compost to put in the newly dug holes for the bushes and to get some worms for my salamanders, tortoises and turtle. The very first spadeful of compost I dug up seemed to have a life of its own with earthworms wriggling here, there and everywhere. I picked out about a dozen for my critters and also took some to throw in the holes for the bushes I was about to plant. I then set the bushes in the holes I had dug for each, then filled in the holes with a combination of fresh garden soil formulated for trees and shrubs, potting soil, compost from our compost pile and soil I had just dug up from my yard when digging the holes. I watered them well, let the dirt settle, added more where needed, then headed inside to get rid of those worms. My critter collection enjoyed lunch though I am guessing that the worms may not have enjoyed being lunch. Such is life, it ends in death - often as a result of being eaten - especially if you are a worm.

Now, I am left with an area about 6 feet long between the two shrubs. Neither one is very big yet and they will probably take years to grow enough to cover that space, so for at least the next couple to few year, I have that space to fill. I guess I may as well start now when the weather is still warm enough and just cool enough to really enjoy puttering around in the yard. I will be turning the soil, adding some peat moss, some potting soil and some compost - mostly compost, and letting it all settle in over the fall and winter. By next spring it should be a regular garden-spot of Eden. Probably a perfect spot for some pepper plants or maybe some squash.

I knew that sooner or later, I would get back to the squash. I planted two types of squash this year, and only two types as far as I am aware. One was called Crooked-Neck Squash. It lives up to its name. The squash grows to about a foot to 16 inches in length and the neck twists or turn into a crook as on the end of a Shepherd's staff. They came out early and matured rapidly. Then their vines all died off. Probably picked the last of them in August. They are fairly tasty but nowhere nearly as delicious as were the Butternut Squash we had last year. I could not find any seedlings this year for Butternut Squash but luckily I saved seeds from last year. I planted them, watered them, and luckily they grew.


The thing is they grew weirdly. Last year, the biggest one was about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 times the size of the smallest one from this year - see the smallest from this year in the picture - that little greenish one in the middle row. In other words the biggest one last year were close to the two lying down in the front row, maybe a bit bigger and those were the largest from last year not the average. I think the smallest one this year probably weighs a pound and a half or two pounds. Most from this year, and all from last year had a shape similar to that one too, most were more elongated or bottle necked but all similar in shape with fat bottom and less wide top. Well this year I got one squash that looks more pumpkin shaped and I figure it to be the biggest or second biggest by weight at about 6 to 8 pounds. Yep, it is a squash, and should be a butternut squash even though it does not look like one. It is definitely not a pumpkin, just has that roundish shape. Another one on the same plant is more or less the classic butternut squash shape but also much bigger than any from last year. Those are both pretty big compared to last year's crop, even though planted in a large pot instead of actually in the ground. Still, they possibly are not the biggest of this year's crop though very close if not. We got several other butternut squashes this year that are much bigger than any I got last year and one possibly bigger than the pumpkin shaped one of this year - that one in the middle of the pic. I wish I had a scale to tell which weighed more.

Maybe I did something right to the soil that I did not do last year but all I did each time was turned the soil, added composted cow manure and compost from my compost heap. Maybe we got a great batch of cow poop this yea. Maybe divine pollination was achieved. Maybe cross pollination between different species of squash happened and we have some hybrids. Maybe aliens landed and zapped them with super-growth radiation rays. Whatever, they grew to some pretty big sizes considering that last year batch looked pretty much like the ones with the bottleneck shapes in the foreground of the accompanying picture or like the one behind them on the right side in the pic (as you look at it). That shotgun shell in the foreground is there for scale; it is a 2 3/4 inch 12 gauge shell.

We have at least another 4 of these beauties still on the vine. The three looking the most, what would you call that color, pale yellowish-orange pukish color are the ripe ones ready to be eaten. They have been off the vine since at least early September. They were not as green as some of the others when picked, nor were they as big, but are definitely butternut squash. So, I am wondering did I get some hybrids because at least some of the others, including that big one in the middle came from the same plant/vine. It looks like one of the others on steroids. While I wonder what they are, I really don't care, as long as they are delicious with turkey in a stuffing, or baked in a casserole pan in the oven with plenty of butter and a good portion of garlic and spices like cinnamon and allspice, or similarly roasted in the oven, or cooked on the grill. So many ways to prepare them, maybe we don't have enough of them.

We had several others growing, some got knocked off the vine when a neighbor moved them when he ripped ivy out of his garden (they were on our mutual fence with the ivy), others got knocked off the vine in high winds, others got diseased or bug infested and one or two knocked off the vines by our dogs. We probably would have had another 10 to a dozen of them. As it is, I think we have enough of them to last for a few meals and I should have plenty of seeds for next year.

Heck, I just remembered, the squash seeds I had and planted this year were not from last year's crop there was no squash crop in our garden last year. In fact, they were from the year before and still germinated his year! Last year, I did not plant anything, I was out in Tucson for the whole spring and halfway through July. Last time I gardened before this spring was in 2008.

All the best,
Glenn B
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