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.
As regular readers of this report will recall, we were way behind the eight-ball in growth earlier this season. It was cold. It was wet-wetterson. It was heaven for hail stones, more hail stones than I've ever seen before, from more hail storms than we've ever had before. No climate change, my ass!
And then -- the pumpkins decided to grow. And grow with a vengence. They fill Asta, the newest, smallest of the gardens (built specifically for them), reaching out across the yard, reaching up into the grassy portion of the yard, reaching across to the other gardens. (Nora is particularly hard hit by the Great Pumpkin Invasion.)
The above is a tomato plant that is suddenly sharing space with the pumpkin plant that is in a garden three feet away from it. This is a roommate situation that no one asked for, at least as far as I know. The Sweet 100s are holding up the tomato frond, which ...
... if you look carefully, is shoosting out the backside of the tomato neighborhood, between the cherries, the Romas and the Beefsteaks. (None of which you can tell apart anymore as I have planted everything too damned close again this year.)
Later in the day, while weeding (actually, while watching Becky and Mr. Bitterman weeding), I tripped and fell into the great green depths of Asta's pumpkin patch. This is what I could see from my vantage point.
This is what Furious George could see from his … he snapped the photo then ran off to ship it to The National Enquirer, hoping to grab the cover with the headline "Bones of Lame Local Celebrity Found in Pumpkin Patch." (It seems they love him there, ever since he sent in the story "Amelia Earhart Lands in Littleton After 80 Years Lost in Worm Hole.")
Our own little Margaret Bourke-White.
(Next Stop: "Fox and Friends.")
After finally seeing the fruits of my labors on Saturday -- scratch that -- OUR labors I've been instructed to say by Mr. Bitterman and Furious George, the produce is not only growing, but growing quickly. Good thing, too, as we've only got a few moments left in the "Short as Moody Stuffed in a Five Gallon Home Depot Bucket" Colorado Growing Season.
One of the medium Hatch Chiles completely snuck up on me. I was thrilled to see him, or her, or them, or ... hey, look over there!
A number of the larger tomato varieties have grown … well, larger. I actually think we're going to have enough for a few batches of homemade sauce this fall.
Yet another pumpkin has appeared. (Damn! Those things are suddenly everywhere!) I must admit, I did get a bit carried away in the final planting (after the fourth hailstorm) and now the vines are going everywhere, including, out of the yard and onto the bike path. (I got a nice new Trek carbon fiber bike out of it when I was pruning the vines. I have no idea where the rider went ...)
And, the pumpkins I noticed on Saturday have somehow already doubled in size.
Meanwhile, the Oaxacan Chile I was so jazzed about growing has continued to grow … Although:
I did find this little shit, a Japanese Beetle, on one of the leaves. I carefully pulled him off and tried to put him in a plastic bag, but in that moment between closing my hand and opening it, the little bastard had disappeared. He is the first JB I've had in the vegetable garden in years. (A few have popped up in the Butterfly Garden.)
Furious George decided it was time to go to war with the Beetles, so he dressed appropriately and strode up and down the yard, going into the house for regular bathroom, TV and beer breaks, never noticing that he had stepped in Dog ... uh ... well ... Excreta ... and was now tracking it through the kitchen. He said he'd clean it up once peace with the pests had been declared. He was figuring that would be by November, 2023.
So, while he was busy mopping the kitchen floor, I attacked the garden with some deucedly professional looking Veeblefetzer Brand "Don't Get This Shit in Your Eyes" Pest Spray. I'll spray it on this afternoon and likely discover by the 4pm News that it has just been declared a possible Carcinogen due to Intensely Radiological Contamination by some obscure government agency that had to withhold its report because funding was cut to the bone so Melania could get a new shoe closet in the WH.
Not that I'm bitter, mind you.
Yes. As the caption tells you, that is a photo.
One of the great frustrations of this growing season has been that everything has grown and yet nothing has produced -- until now. (Holy St. Jehoshaphat of West Covina! It's a punkin!)
I've been really worried about the bee situation, to the point of thinking of keeping bees -- imagine the comic possibilities there -- but the little devils have been up to good, rather than no good, and we have finally got some produce: pumpkins, cucumbers, oaxacan and Hatch chiles, an acorn squash or two, and tomatoes. We got baby tomatoes! The following picture ain't one of them.
One of the pumpkins out of ASTA decided to wander off into the pine tree. Digging around in there we found a fine little fellow just growing away. :30 left in the Colorado growing season and he decided to show up. Well, what the heck. I'll take him.
As for tomatoes -- the Sweet 100s are really taking off.
They're all over the place -- making NORA a very successful garden this season. (The elephant garlic is also doing well. For a Spring planting, I think I'm about ready to harvest, though I do believe I'll simply replant in the fall for next season.
More Sweet 100s. If these make it (through the oddball and destructive weather patterns), Becky should have lil tomatoes for school lunches through October. Below is my most exciting find. (Anyone who knows me realizes I get easily cranked.)
These are what I was really waiting for: the Oaxacan chiles have produced fruit. This year, like the garlic, will mainly be a year to gather seeds, but I'm really looking forward to using some of the fruit in various dishes this fall.
The chiles and the tomatoes -- from the front: Oaxacan, Hatch Mild, Hatch Medium, and the sweet 100s. (There are other tomato plants in there, but figuring out who is what can be a rather daunting challenge right now.)
By the way -- all the bare spots you see are early season hail damage.
As you can see, now that they've taken off, we've got some beautiful plantage going.
A novice (non-union) farmer decided to take up a rake and join with the simian frivolities in the yard yesterday. Sadly, her attempts to join in where thwarted by a 2nd Great Ape Rebellion of the season.
Furious George would hear none of my arguments for letting Devon do a bit of hoeing and weeding, neither of which Furious will ever do ...
While Mr. Bitterman simply screeched at Dev until she gave up the hoe and went back to drinking on the porch. Where she was quickly joined by Furious George and Mr. Bitterman.
Despite the convivial drinking, we have been grieved by the union steward (Furious), and shall appear before Judge J. Wellington Souse' on Wednesday. (That's Soo-say)
We will keep you up on details of what could be the Trial of the Century. (Until, of course, The Great Orange Circus Peanut gets indicted.)
After a desultory June, a ragged July, four bouts of hail and The Great Ape Rebellion, we are finally on track to grow vegetables -- the first fruits of the season should be in by November 3.
The peppers, some of the peppers, are doing well, both the Oaxacan and the Hatch varieties. As with everything in the garden now, however, we're finally getting growth and flowers, but no fruit.
I'm not sure what's going on, but the plants to the south are doing well (more sun?) while the ones in the center and northern portions of the garden are struggling for size, something I've done my entire life. (Important safety tip, kids: Don't mix up any one of those water soluble fertilizers -- 1) It won't make you any taller, and, 2) It will not taste like Tang.
I do have to say that the beans are going gangbusters, from the Coronas to the Christmas Limas. After the bunnies stopped eating the sprouts, things started taking off.
The Purple Petite Potatoes are also doing well. I've never grown potatoes from seed potatoes before and this was fun. Now, I just have to be careful to make sure none of them show themselves above ground as they could become toxic. That's what the label said, at least. Appears they are a member of the Nightshade family. As are Tomatoes and, yes, Nightshade.
Once again, the sweet potatoes are going gangbusters, which is wonderful. Originally, we thought we'd lose them to a late frost, but they survived and have taken over entire sections of the garden.
More Petite Purples … Nightshade, I tell you! Nightshade! Mwwwwwahahahahahaha! (Sorry. That wasn't me. That was Mr. Bitterman.)
Cabbage, Christmas Limas (in the back) and two cucumber plants, the larger of the two the producer of the single little cucumber we've grown so far this year -- the one mentioned in the title. (I mentioned it in the title in the hopes of boosting its confidence and it growing into something other than a gherkin.)
Honestly, not quite sure what this is ... Things got pretty frantic when it came to planting after the last hailstorm, so it didn't get marked. Whatever it is, it is doing well, has flowers and still no fruit. As long as it isn't goddamned zucchini, I'll be happy.
If you look closely in the above picture, you may be able to pick out three, count 'em, three tomatoes. They are the Sweet Hundreds variety. By this time last year, we were awash in them.
Once again, great growth on the tomatoes, even flowers, but very little fruit.
In Asta, the new garden, with the new soil, things are going very, very well. Acorn squash, pumpkins and three small Oaxacan chile plants are making themselves known, while the Corona beans are taking off after sacrificing two of their kind to the Rabbit God.
Once again in Asta. Note the edge of Bitterman's head in the corner of the shot. He's been all about photobombing me this season. He must have learned it from one of those evil Panoncillo children.
An evil Panoncillo Children ruining another joyous family moment. Well, I dunno. Justin was just standing there and nobody was drunk enough to be joyous, but there you are … ruined by another damned millennial. Just like they're ruining Dizzyland!
Another shot of Asta. Note the pumpkin and acorn squash tendrils running out into the yard. They've been snatching at Roscoe all day and Furious George actually had to dig Sadie out of the mass of leaves late yesterday. (We could hear her in there, we just couldn't see her.)
Roscoe celebrating his escape from the evil pumpkins.
Furious George pretending to receive congratulatory phone calls for saving Sadie from the Curse of the Killer Acorn Squash.
One last thing: Bitterman dressed as a bee in the hopes of encouraging pollination among the Sky Raisins (honeybees) of the Yard. Sadly, we seem to have more Jalapeno Sky Raisins (Yellow Jackets) than the good kinds this year.