In Our Last Episode,
We Investigated the Jungle of Nora,
Where Pumpkin Leaves the Size Of
Brazilian Gunnera Manicata Leaves Grow.
With That In Mind,
Professor Michael King
Decided to Perform an Experiment:
Releasing an Ill-Tempered Sphinx Cat
Into One End of the Garden
In Order to See Where He Came Out.
When He Does,
We'll Let You Know.
And Professor King
Can Climb In
To Find All the Little Surprises Said Cat Has Left Behind.
The Creature in Question:
(Note the Condition of the Top Sheet)
Meanwhile, While the Cat Was Away,
The Beans Took Off.
We've Got a Great Crop of Green Beans
Among the Acorn Squash …
… And, the Beginnings of Acorn Squash Among the Green Beans.
With That in Mind,
We Also Made Our First Harvest Today
They're Real Beans,
But They're Wax.
Not Like Paraffin Wax,
But Wax Beans.
Not Like The Wax Fruit Grandma
Had in the Bowl on Her Dining Room Table
That You Ate and Barfed for a Full Afternoon,
But Real Wax Beans.
(Oh, for God's Sake, Ignore the Wax Part!)
And, Young Otis Gumpox Has Decided to Stick Around Here
And Pick Up Where Furious Left Off.
He Pretends to Drink Martini's
With the Bat Shit Crazy Neighbors.
Then, He Excuses Himself,
And Steals All Their Toilet Paper.
Well, At Least Now We Know
Who Has Been Eating
All the Figs.
The Instructions on a Pack of Pumpkin Seeds
Called for Me (Hereafter Known as "The Farmer")
To Thin the Seedlings Soon After Emergence.
I Couldn't Do It.
They Worked so Hard to Grow Out of the Soil
That I Had to Give Them All
A Chance to Thrive.
And Thrive They Have.
The Little Bastards Have Essentially Taken Over the Lower Garden
(Hereafter, known as "Nora")
And Pushed Everything Off Into a Space
The Size of a Rhode Island Postage Stamp.
Cucumbers and Beans are Currently Fighting for Sunshine
While the Pumpkin Vines are Reaching Over
Into Other Gardens and Need Serious Redirection.
(And, Look! We've Got a Pumpkin!)
The "Surprise Pumpkin" in All of This
Continues to Take Over the East Side of the Small Garden
(Hereafter known as "Asta")
And Threaten The Health and Well-being
Hatch Green Chile Plants.
Once again, I should have Pulled This Sucker
But I Simply Didn't Have the Heart.
About the Only Plants Not Affected
By the Continual Advance of the 200-lb Pumpkin Plants
The Sweet Potatoes
The Purple Petite Potatoes
(Hereafter known as "Basil Rathbone")
"Basil Rathbone" (Seen Above). Just Returned from His Triumphant
Tour of the North Counties
"Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Basketballs."
The One Potted Plant
That Couldn't Seem to Outrun Pumpkin Clutches
The Pumpkin Threads were Using
The Garlic Sprouts
To Pull Themselves Across to the Tomato Patch.
It's Like Watching A Vegetable
Version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
(It's Odd, Because Furious George Argues that The Body Snatchers
Are, in fact, Vegetables. He Tried to Order Some Pod Seeds from
O'Toole's, but Got Turned Away.)
(They're on Back Order with the Big Box Stores --
Seems There's Been Quite a Run on Pod People in Washington.)
How The Garlic Escaped All This, I Just Don't Know.
In The Upper Garden
(Hereafter known as Nick -- or "Neeeck" as Young Otis Gumpox Calls It)
We've Got Slowly Growing Tomato Plants
That Are Receiving Special Attention.
And Some Slowwwwly Growing Plants That Require
Special Dispensation from The Vatican.
(Becky and Mr. Bitterman Have Been Adding Egg Shells
And Coffee Grounds for the Spindly 'Maters
In the Hopes That They'll Think It's Breakfast and Wake Up.)
On the Other Hand,
The Acorn Squash Have
And Are Growing Well
Thanks to Regular Miracle Gro Liquid Feedings.
Lately, We've Had a Family of "Crow Buddies"
Visiting 2-4 Times Daily.
They're Not Bothering the Gardens,
But Have Loved the Cheez-It
We've Left Out For Them Daily.
Young Otis Gumpox (Just Off Stage Left in This Picture)
Has Been Trying All Afternoon
To Convince the Crows to Share
So Far, No Joy.
Dear Kellogg's: If Anyone There in Battle Creek Would Like to Send a Year's Supply of Cheez-It Baked Snack Crackers in Order to Save The Bank Account of A Poor Backyard Farmer, You Can Reach Me Through The Comments Section of this Here Blog.
Personally Endorsed by Young Otis Gumpox.
Everything was Quiet around Here for Most of June.
The Seedlings were Slowly Growing.
(And By Slowly, I mean SLOWWWWWWLY)
Until about a Week Ago when, BAM!
The Pumpkins in Nora and Asta took off Like a Shot.
As Did the Cucumbers.
One Pumpkin we Didn't Plant
And Weren't Expecting
Was the Surprise in the Chile Garden.
The Sumbitch Just Appeared One Day.
I'm Not Sure
If it was a Leftover from Last Year
Or a Transplanted Seed
Courtesy of One of the Seven Squirrels
Bitterman has Befriended in the Back Yard.
It has, however, Forced Me to Consider
Moving at Least Two Chile Plants.
Meanwhile, as Furious George sipped Martini's
With the Bat-Shit Crazy Neighbors,
We Had a Visitor.
While I went Down to Investigate,
Becky Found Mr. Bitterman
And Asked him to Help Shoo the Turkey Away.
He said, "Which one?"
At Which Point They Both Laughed and Went Inside for More Wine.
We've also Got a Beautiful
Crop of Basil
Going in One of the Barrels.
(The Others Have Sweet Potatoes and Petite Purples)
We've Also Had Very Good Luck
With the Acorn Squash.
About the Only Thing
I'm Really Worried About
Are the Tomato Plants
We Have Growing in Nick,
The Upper Garden.
They're Ridiculously Puny
And Refuse to Grow.
I've Tried Building Up the Soil
And Adding Some Acid to the Ground,
But Nothing Seems to Work Yet.
Tomatoes May Be a Farmer's Market
Purchase This Year.
(We've Had Soil Problems with Nick in the Past,
We May Just Have to Clean Him Out
And Replace the Soil.
The Butterfly Garden is Going Great Guns.
Everything We Sowed This Season
Has Seemed to Have Paid Off
We're Very Happy With It.
Furious Wanders Down to Sit Among the Flowers
For His Evening Martini's.
By Number 4,
He's Talking to the Alligator Sculpture
And Dancing Amidst the Buds.
(Artist Representation by Al Hirschfeld)
As for Mr. Bitterman,
When He's Not Drinking Wine
With the Missus,
He's Been Spying on The Tiny Tomatoes,
Trying to Discover
They Refuse to Grow.
Young Otis Gumpox Invited His Family to Join Him
For Part of the Summer.
It Has Been Crowded, but Fun.
Mom and Dad Are Great
But Uncle Hezikiah
Is a Real Piece of Work.
He's a Real Grumpoid
Unless He Gets to Watch
Endless Reruns of
(As He Explained, "They Get Some Really Interesting Shit on That Show.")
(I Hope He Doesn't Discover "American Pickers."
And He's Drinking All My Beer.
Just Another Day in the Garden ...
Somewhere, out in that cloud everybody is always talking about,
or, just lost in the ether someplace, are at least two Garden Blogs
about seedlings. Starting seedlings, and having them take over your kitchen.
I don't know what happened to them, and, for the life of me,
I can't find the damned things. So, here we are, down the road
from the start of the 10-minute Colorado Gardening season,
ready to begin again.
Welcome to Mr. Bitterman's Garden.
The Goal this Season was to avoid crowding,
especially with the tomatoes.
I did pretty well in spacing the pumpkins and the cucumbers in Nora,
the lower garden, but still wound up crowding the tomatoes a bit in Nick,
the upper garden. I had it all plotted out, so carefully, until I wound up
with extra Sweet Hundreds Hybrid Tomatoes.
We love those, so we loaded up and the plot plans were shot.
It's not as bad as it has been in past years,
but by July, it will seem pretty crowded in here if we get the growth I'm expecting.
Also going to try Sweet Hundreds in a pot next to the back porch.
I have no idea if they'll work.
We also have a nice collection of peppers going, Hatch Mild and Hatch Medium.
How can we tell them apart?
That's half the joy of Chile season.
We also have beans growing in each and every garden,
with more still hatching on the kitchen table.
We're having some concerns about the pumpkins and cucumbers.
Both are looking pretty anemic at the moment after transplanting,
but, we'll keep an eye on them and replant as necessary.
All in all, I'm pretty happy with the results and the planting so far.
Normally, by now, I've busted off Lord knows how many stems
and flowers as my shaky paws try to remove them from the overcrowded
Someday, I'll learn, but I am getting better at it.
Mr. Bitterman has set up an easel in the middle of Nora,
carefully avoiding the cucumber and pumpkin vines.
He's pretty sure he's got a masterpiece or two in him.
Furious George said he could get those out with a little
Meanwhile, Furious has been working all Spring on his "Flight to the Moon"
idea, building a spaceship in the back yard with the bat-shit crazy neighbor
while both were high on martini's.
On the other hand, we haven't seen or heard from either one since Tuesday.
Any information would be greatly appreciated at this address.
The little bastard still owes me $42.50 for Liquid Hydrogen
And a Bottle of Ketel One.
Young Otis Gumpox is coming into his own, growing by leaps and bounds
and freaking out the cat.
Last week he dressed as one of my daughter's Sock Monkeys
and dropped on her from the shelf over her bed.
There was a long talk about appropriate behavior at 2 am.
The poor girl hasn't slept since.
Otis sleeps just fine.
Lately, given the frozen water that has been
filling up the backyard all month, the AeroGarden
has been about all I've been able to do
to keep myself occupied,
(Yes, I know, "you can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think")
(Thank you, Dorothy Parker)
One of the problems has been
that the boys have not been around
to do the heavy lifting.
(Not that they're any good with heavy lifting, mind you.)
(That always falls to Becky.)
But, they did get back from vacation on the first.
Yes, they certainly are.
On the last warm, dry day of January,
we laid down a goodly dose of fertilizer on all four gardens:
Nick, Nora, Asta and Butterfly.
The next day, hell, the next month,
it snow heavily and steadily, not clearing the ground again
until the First of March.
Colorado began to feel like Michigan.
What I discovered as I went to rototill the fertilizer into the soil,
was that, rather than dissolve and work it's way down through the loam,
the fertilizer mainly sat on top and hardened into a delightful candy shell.
Fertilizer candy, but, what the hell.
So, not only did I have to rototill it actually into the soil,
but, also, break it up into pieces that I could work it below
the surface of the garden.
While the rototilling does look good from distance,
up close, it's another story.
It is, after all, a small rototiller.
43 cc engine with 8-inch tynes.
Basically, it breaks up the top layer of dirt
and that's about it.
At some point, I'm going to have to get out there
with a three prong pitchfork,
(We've got EVERYTHING here at Bitterman's!)
and dig everything deeper into the soil
One of the problems with using a small rototiller
(or, any rototiller, really)
is that it might dig up the top layer of soil,
but actually compacts the lower levels,
just below the surface,
forcing fertilizer and water to collect too close to the surface
and doing future root growth no favors.
Hence, the heavy duty three prong pitchfork.
(I must remember this season to keep it away from Furious George)
(As he likes to stand on the top of the fence)
(And yell, "I AM TRITON, GOD OF THE SEA! KNEEL BEFORE ME!" at passersby)
(Not only do they not understand his chimpanzee squawking)
(But they have a tendency to call Animal Control, which always loses us a day.)
The Butterfly Garden
is still covered with snow.
The rototiller basically scooted over the top of the ice sheet,
Dragging me through the fence
And, into the Bat Shit Crazy Neighbor's yard.
(George went over, apologized for my intrusion and helped himself to a martini.)
I did get one area tilled.
Not that you can tell.
It was muddy as hell.
Ruined a good pair of Florsheims in the process.
Mr. Bitterman seems happy to be back.
He was growing weary of Anaheim
and working The Enchanted Tiki Room.
Furious seems happy to be back as well,
Especially since his Amazon orders
(on my card)
Seem to be catching up with him.
As a little surprise,
Furious brought his young nephew along
to learn the business from the ground up.
I've got to admit,
Young Otis Gumpox
Is both cute and delightful.
Though he certainly hasn't made friends with the cat.
We'll be back soon
As Bitterman takes over the kitchen table
To raise the seedlings.
I'll let you know
How the cat does ...
Not well, I'll wager.
It was merely a moment, I swear. I looked away for a moment and Summer in Colorado tapped out with a 14 degree morning. We went from this:
To this in a heart-beat. And I didn't even have the decency to be in town when the Frozen North decided to invade my back yard.
(High Desert, my ass!)
The peppers looked like Weeping Willows, the tomatoes turned taupe before going all Onan on me and spilling their seeds upon the ground.
Asta, this year's pumpkin patch, produced beautiful, if small, pumpkins. (Late Start.)
The damned vines went everywhere in the yard. It took me half an hour to unravel Sadie from the clutches of one.
Now, the pumpkins are gone, too, most decorating the front porch where passerby say,
"Where did you get such cute, tiny pumpkins?"
There are a lot of things I'd love to say, but I haven't got the heart.
This season's butterfly garden fared just a bit better through the cold snap. A few colors remain. I plan to follow the old rule for perennials: in the fall, leave 'em tall. Last year, the guys cleaning up the yard decided to take them out and we had to start from scratch again.
This is how Life Among the Peppers looked just before we headed off for a weekend trip to NOLA. It was a wonderful weekend, but quite the surprise upon our return a mere 72 hours later.
And, I must say, despite the Frigidaire weekend, we had a great crop of sweet potatoes. They may be tiny, but they is mighty.
Now, the peppers are gone.
That is sad, I must say. The Oaxacans were wonderful.
So are all the potatoes.
And, all three gardens have grown quiet.
The garden geegaws have moved into the garage.
And the boys have split for the season -- Furious George is off to Petaluma to reprise his award-winning role of Henry Fonda in "Jane, What the Hell Are You Doing Now?" at The Little Theatre of Middlin' Actors.
While Mr. Bitterman is off to Anaheim to visit his Mom and Uncle Jimmy and to pick up work at Disneyland as a talking bird in The Enchanted Tiki Room. Alternate Tuesdays, he'll fill in for Rongo the Polynesian God of Agriculture on the Lanai.
As for us, we'll dream of good days gone by and the good days yet to come -- when the Spring Seed Catalogs finally arrive.
As well as rereading Katharine S. White's lovely book on waiting for those Seed Catalogs and other pieces from the glory days of The New Yorker.
Oh, I'll wait, ever so patiently, for the return of Spring.
As we flail headlong toward October, the harvest of Sweet 100s and Various Chiles (Hatch and Oaxacan) continue apace. We've lost a number of tomatoes to end-rot and not many that have missed that lovely disease have made it to full size, so the winter will likely be a long, highly educational course in "soil management 501." (I'm figuring sand, manure and calcium. Sounds like an old farm poultice from 1853 -- "Well, it may not cure your warts, but sure as hell my ErmaJean will lose interest in ya.")
On the other hand, even though the weather is turning and crimping off some of the pumpkin vines, we've got a good crop this year, the best, by far, we've ever had -- six viable pumpkins -- only one of which has been attacked by the squirrels. (We might get another one that is growing in the shape of a Whitehead Torpedo, but her vine is looking particularly frail and I'm not sure she's getting the nourishment she needs to make it.)
They're not huge, but they are lovely. After five years of trying, we finally got growth, thanks to deep soil (new soil) and plenty of room to grow. Now, if only the Voles would stay out of the pumpkin patch and leave the roots alone, we'd be fine. Any ideas of dealing with Voles, short of a 12-gauge or various scenes from "Caddyshack," would be greatly appeciated.
We've got these two already hidden away in the garage, trying to protect them from a potential freeze and squirrel nips. Mr. Bitterman and Furious George are waiting for their pumpkins to get bigger. Bitterman wants to do one of those elaborate "prize-winning" carving jobs, while Furious George simply wants to punkin chuck his gourd over the fence and onto the deck of the bat-shit crazy neighbors since they stopped inviting him for afternoon cocktails. Something about an "enthusiastic excremental bombardment."
Don't ask me.
As long as he doesn't chuck Mr. Bitterman again, I'll be fine with it.
After all my worries and complaints, we have gotten a halfway decent harvest out of everything this year. The tomatoes have finally begun to develop, while the Sweet Hundreds are playing a major daily part in lunchtime around here.
The beans are also doing well.
These are Coronas, from Rancho Gordo Beans. (#RanchoGordo)
Great little company that keeps us well supplied in the winter months.
As for the pumpkins, I'm not sure which one this is, whether its Huey, Dewey or Louie, but they have gone to town despite numerous vole attacks on their root structure.
(By the way -- the idea that Cod Liver Oil will keep voles away because of the smell and possible intestinal distress, is a load of elephant hooie. I think the voles see it as seasoning.)
Once again, the Sweet Hundreds have done very, very well this season.
It's just amazing to me that one plant can produce this many tomatoes.
And, I'm not big on Cherry Tomatoes. But, I do love these!
Ah, yes, the pepper plants.
Like everything else in Mr. Bitterman's Garden, they took their time getting started, but we've harvested close to half a bushel today of Hatch and Oaxacan.
Bitterman and me are, I think, justifiably proud of what has finally come to pass this growing season. We both hope it can keep up for another few weeks -- month? -- before the first hard frost sets in. I would like to harvest the acorn squash and petite purple spuds before we get frozen out.
Started roasting the home growns this morning. Got great blistering on the Oaxacans. They should peel beautifully.
As should the Hatch, both Mild and Medium.
Our Elephant Garlic were roasted and wound up in here as well.
(Melted two plastic bags and burned one finger and one arm during the process.)
(Now, THAT'S excitement.)
With the Bumper Crop of tomatoes,
(Well, not a bumper ... more of a foison ...)
we'll actually be able to roast and freeze some homemade sauce this year.
(Never got enough last year to really pull it off)
Mr. Bitterman still can't figure out what happened to his crop of rutabagas.
He can't figure it out mainly because nobody has had the guts to tell him that Furious George rode over all the seedlings while he was learning to ride his Segway.
Oddly enough, Furious has become quite the video hit in Japan.
He's been invited to visit and address the Diet during the off-season.
I made him promise to take Mr. Bitterman with him when he explores the exotic east and not to tell him what he did until they cross the International Date Line.
Even then might still be too close.
As I ponder his reaction, I see that could be an exciting flight.
Despite some Noah's Flood moments this past weekend -- no hail, thank the Gardening Gods, but heavy, steady rain -- we've reached the point where we can actually harvest a few of our Million Dollar Vegetables (Harsh Reality and (tm).
Somewhere under all this greenery are two Acorn Squash. One about softball size, the other the size of a tennis ball on steroids. After a season of fighting with them, desperately trying to keep the little boogers alive, at least we'll get a couple of meals out of them. (I assume they know their fate.)
Here you see our "sad to the point of tragic" cucumber patch. One plant survived and has produced three pickling cucumbers over the course of the summer. It's embarrassing in a way, as I was planning a pickling party for later this fall, but such is the nature of dreams.
Red cabbage. (At least I think it's red. It's cabbage, that I know, but I lost the little sticker that came with the plants.) We'll celebrate our German heritage with red cabbage and bratwurst in a week or so, with all the wonderful musical German sounds that accompany such a meal. (It will be just like having Dad back for an evening!)
Christmas Lima beans from seed (well, beans). We've so enjoyed the beans we get from a company called Rancho Gordo that we've begun to plant them, more each season, in the hopes of actually growing enough for a tablespoon of bean soup.
We've still got a ways to go.
The Sweet Hundreds, which have been going gangbusters since August 1, continue to produce. Deep within that batch of leaves there are other tomatoes which are finally developing -- some even without end rot. It seems the calcium added to the soil actually did work this season. At least sporadically.
And, yes, the pumpkins. This is Adelbert, who we discovered quite by accident while showing off the garden to a relative. Hiding in the pine tree is Moe. Larry and Curly are on the ground between the gardens making it impossible to access the Sweet Potatoes. (I added the "e" on the end there in honor of Former Vice President Dan "Have You Already Forgotten Me?" Quayle.)
Just to give you an idea of the reach of these suckers, here is Adelbert's frond, reaching out of the garden, across the yard and into our manure producing cow's pen. I'm amazed that Lillian hasn't eaten it yet, as she eats everything we put out for her including a bowl of dog food and a lawn mower.
Ah, the chiles. The Oaxacans are giving all kinds of fruit, I must have picked ten yesterday. They are very spicy, but have a wonderfully deep, rich flavor.
The Hatch Mediums are also doing well.
The Hatch Milds are a little slower this year (hell, I'm a little slower this year), but are also coming along nicely.
And -- this is the result. Tomatoes, peppers, beans and more yet to come as long as the Weather Foiks are actually right this year and this will be a warm, non-frost September. :30 left in the Colorado growing season and I'm starting to sweat it.
Plans for The Upcoming Off-Season:
ODE TO A GARDEN IN HEAVEN
by Furious George
(Translated by Greg Moody)
The Shortest Path to Heaven
Is Through a Garden Gate.
It Opens With a Creaky Sound
I Hope I'm Not Too Late.
I Wait with Great Excitement
To Reach those Pearly Gates.
To Plant My Little Seedlings,
And Soon to Know Their Fate.
But Why the Rush for Heaven?
To Plant and Not to Fail?
Because Way Up There in Heaven,
There'll Be No Fucking Hail.
It's been a summer, friends. It has been a summer. Noah's Flood in May and June, with two unicorns dropping by the back gate to ask if Mr. Bitterman knew from which pier the Ark was departing. We had wind. We had hail. We had torrential downpours.
Thunderbolts and Lightning, very very frightening me.
Mr. Bitterman returns to chewing odd South American leaves after claims that he just met two unicorns.
Then, July/August got damnably hot, which was uncomfortable to me, but things actually began to grow -- pumpkins, as you saw from an earlier report, cherry tomatoes and chiles, both Hatch and Oaxacan.
Still, everything was really late. Which I think will be my excuse for this season, especially if we get an early frost or one of those damned September 1-foot snows. (Please, please, sweet saint of hobby farmers, give me til October.)
So far, this is it. three chiles and a handfull of Sweet Hundreds.
I sigh, because I refuse to cry over this ...
Blubber a bit, maybe ...
But certainly not cry.