Sunday, December 2, 2012

Still Here. . .

. . .But not posting much. What will follow may be construed as excuses or reasons.  Take your pick.  Just some thoughts on the Suburban Sharecropping/urban growing/turkey raising experience.

I've been thinking of the gardens, probably because I haven't been able to be in them much.  Maureen has been doing the Lion's share of the work, tho I did help with the weeding.  The bermuda and weeds had gotten out of hand and we had to resort to a herbicide (for the first time and just in the walkways) and a lot of back-breaking work to clean the beds.  It is now a much better looking garden. Sorry no pictures at this time, and no 'before' pics because it was just plain depressing there for awhile and we both avoided even going over there....which just compounded the problem. Benign neglect makes for much weeds.

Another project has been the patch of grass that will be a fruit tree bed in the future.  We had removed all of our grass in our yard to put in vegetable gardens.  This was a dirt area the dogs liked to lay in and play in, so we thought to make it a bit more presentable for us and comfortable for them.







You can see by the progression of the pictures what happened.  I don't have pictures of the final result.  But between dog urine and thinking sod was a chew toy, you can guess the result.  We even sodded it again for Betty's memorial and it looks worse than ever.  Lesson learned and onto Plan C.

After last year's turkey harvest, we bought a frozen bird this year.  Not that we won't try that again; we just didn't plan ahead. Soup, our turkey hen, has become too big and tough to harvest, so for now she is guarding the chicken hens. We also heard that there is something in the turkey manure that is beneficial to chickens and a preventative for some disease.  Still looking into that. (edited by Maureen ~ Steve is putting off harvesting 'Soup' because he has become attached to her...so her benefits to the other birds might just be rationalizations.)


That's Soup on the left.  She got into the nesting box and couldn't get out...often.  We eventually had to block the bottom two boxes to prevent another stuck turkey.

We had a pretty good garden harvest this fall. After a horrible tomato season last year, this year was pretty good.  Maureen canned up quite a bit of tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, catsup and Rotel.  The asparagus will have it's first full harvest this year and is being anticipated with glee. The winter garden is in and growing, except for the plants that aren't.  Every year we have about a 25% rate of unsuccessful plantings.  By that I mean, they don't die, they just sit in a kind of suspended animation.  We put them in and while most around them get bigger (aka GROW) these little buggers just sit there....not dying, but definitely not growing.  Very weird.  We have gardened for over 20 years and have yet to figure out what causes this or what to do about it.  Our solution....plant 25% more seedlings than we will need.  Problem solved. 

A decision we are mulling over now is taking out the pecan tree in the back yard at our house.  This tree was a sapling when we moved in.  It is now over 50' tall and 14" thick at the base.Besides starting to push against our water main, it is a mess....24/7.  One season it drops allergy causing "flowers" and another it's the gooey aphid sap that sticks to everything, on top of leaves that seem to multiply and drop for months.  The shade is nice in the late afternoon summer, but the neighbor has an oak tree that duplicates much of the shade. That same shade though limits what can be grown in that section of the garden.  The nuts are wonderful; but a pain to extract from the shells.  The short story is we are considering taking it out.  The wood would be used for BBQ and a special woodworking project, but will be difficult to cut down because of the tight quarters.  Always a new adventure on the horizon.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

P.S. Turkey Thoughts

After the harvest of our 40+ pound turkey I have an observation that should be obvious, but just became evident. The remaining chickens and turkey are sure eating less food. I used to give them two 1kg. containers of food a day. Without Dinner, it is now one container and some days there is some left in the feeder.

No wonder he was 40 pounds dressed out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our Thankful Turkey Harvest

This post is a summary of our turkey slaughter. Some of the pictures will be graphic, so this is a warning to the squeamish.

This is our turkey just before the processing.




We chose to hang the turkey. It did calm the bird, but after cutting the jugular veins there was one burst of wing flapping, and then a settling down.





The next few pictures are of the process of plucking the bird. We heated two pots of water and added them to some cold water in the red plastic tub. We didn't have a pot big enough, so the tub was used. The water should be warm, not hot. We read 160 degrees, but we didn't check on ours.


After waiting a bit over a minute the turkey was transferred to the wheelbarrow to begin the plucking. We had seen the wheelbarrow idea online and it did help. Being in the wheelbarrow allowed more than one person to pluck at the same time.








After most of the plucking was done, we hung the bird up again. We were tired of bending over to get to the feathers.


The next step was the eviscerating and cleaning of the cavity. We had a bucket with two trash bags to catch the organs, which this year we decided to discard. Care must be taken at both ends. The incision at the bottom end shouldn't be too deep to avoid cutting the intestines. It was fascinating to have most of the organs almost fall out once the hole was big enough.


A piece of plywood was used as a cutting table. Formica would have been better because plenty of water was used to wash the carcass, constantly.







We know what this is. . .


. . .But what are these?


The finished product. The pan weighs 4 pounds, so the final weight was 40 pounds. As a side note, we didn't have a pan big enough to cook the bird, so we cut it in half and froze one part. Also in hindsight we found out we could have cooked the bird at the full 40 pounds with the proper pan. It just would have taken 7+ hours. Has anyone smoked a turkey before?



After thinking about the event and writing this post, some final thoughts came to mind. Overall the process wasn't as daunting as it was imagined to be. With little slaughtering under our belts before, there was some apprehension before starting. Now, afterwards, it doesn't seem too hard, just a bit of work. The chickens look to be much easier now.

Some thoughts about the past and the future came to mind. Seems like slaughtering is natural and normal for meat eaters. I could imagine our grandparents doing this. We could also see having to do this in the future if food becomes scarce or questionable healthwise. Being connected to our food source in a hands-on manner has to be better for us in the long run.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Carrots!

...lots of them:)

Our carrot bed is full and the weather is miserable, so I decided to heat up the kitchen canning some carrots...ugh.

I picked not quite half the bed and filled the wheelbarrow...



...and after cleaning and discarding the tops, we had 25lbs. worth...nice!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Info on the Dreaded Wilts

I started to respond in the comment section to several questions from Barefeet in the Kitchen and then decided my response was getting a bit long-winded for that venue.

I should qualify this advice by admitting that we are not experts in this area but have done a LOT of research and asked a lot of questions....and would welcome any contribution from gardeners who have had experience with these diseases.

We've examined our plants and have determined that the probably cause is one of the Wilts, Fusarium or Verticillium. These fungus were probably in the soil for some time but have been 'triggered' into action by the wet spring. They are similar to the fungus that causes 'damping off' and some of the same preventative measures apply. Unfortunately, sterilizing an entire gardens worth of soil is not feasible so we are choosing to do the following...


2. Pulled out the plants that were near death and those should not be thrown in the compost pile because the fungus can survive unless subjected to intense heat. (Which means it might die in the valley but you'd be taking a chance.)We chose to leave
a lot of the plants in the ground in the hope of harvesting the tomatoes, especially in the beds where they all looked sick anyway.

3. Next year, plant resistant varieties or ones that have shown resistance this year. One of the heirlooms, Chico, looks lush and healthy despite being in a bed where even the Early Girls are suffering.





Here are some helpful excerpts from our Web searches ~


Fusarium wilt and Fusarium crown rot symptoms begin as yellowing of older leaves. With Fusarium crown rot, the leaves often turn brown or black and eventually wilt. With Fusarium wilt, the yellow leaves turn downward and droop.Fusarium oxysporum, the cause of both diseases, is a common tomato fungus that lives in the plant's vascular system, which carries water from the roots to the leaves. To see if either of these diseases is present:

  • Check watering practices. Both over- and underwatering can mimic disease symptoms.
  • Check the roots. Discolored roots indicate root rot.
  • Cut the lower or main stem and look inside at the vascular tissue. Fusarium wilt causes a dark brown discoloration within the vascular tissue. Fusarium crown rot causes a rot or canker at the base of the stem and possibly a root rot. (We found when we cut open the stems of infected plants the entire diameter was brown.)

Most tomato seeds or transplants are labeled with a code such as "VFN," "VFNA," "VFNT," etc. This indicates that the plants are resistant to Verticillium wilt (V), Fusarium wilt (F), southern root-knot nematode (N), early blight (A), or tobacco (tomato) mosaic virus (T). Do not plant tomatoes, potatoes or eggplant in the affected area for two or three years.

And on another site~

The first line of defense against wilt is to use disease-free seedlings. This avoids introducing wilt fungi into the garden. Remove and destroy wilted plants and all debris of tomato and other susceptible crops at the end of the growing season. Rotate tomato-growing areas, growing tomatoes in the same part of the garden only once in four years. The benefit of rotation is less with wilts than with other diseases since both wilt fungi survive for years in the soil and the Verticillium fungus attacks many different crops. Fungicides for control of leaf blights have no effect on the wilt diseases, which are internal infections. Once soil is infested and further rotation impossible, the only possible management practice is use of resistant varieties.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Disappointment


It's not the only reason I haven't posted in quite a while, but the Fusarium/Verticillium wilt that has decimated our tomatoes this year has definitely played a part in my reluctance to show 'garden progress' at this point in the summer.
We think it's a combination of the wet spring, heirlooms that were more susceptible to the diseases and ground that went untouched for 20 years (the destruction is primarily in our shared garden). Whatever the cause, it has been a frustrating experience, but hopefully we are learning something in the process. I will post more pics in the next couple of days, if only to help others who are dealing with similar issues...
...I feel your pain.




Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You Decide


There is a controversy in Oak Park, Michigan over a vegetable garden in the front yard of a family trying to feed itself and become a bit more sustainable in troubling times. Above is the picture of the garden. Here is a news piece on the story.

This is a defense by a recent law school grad that formerly lived in Oak Park and the daughter of a Oak Park city employee....and the rebuttal by Julie Bass (whose tale can be followed on the blog Oak Park Hates Veggies).

This article is a commentary on lawns.

Seems to me Oak Park may one of the few places in the United States that hasn't had it's citizens affected by the Recession if they can worry about vegies in the front yard.

Monday, May 23, 2011

We Will Have Beans this Summer

I have an excuse for not writing for awhile...and it's a good one....I've been busy.


Here are the beans that escaped the marauding herds of voracious pill bugs (rolly pollys, sow bugs...whatever...those little guys can eat!). I've replanted this spot twice and another one 3 times (it is now the pumpkin bed).


Up against the fence in this same bed are the transplanted olallieberries that a friend gave us this winter. I'm assuming the harvest will improve in the coming years:)

Edit~ I was asked what an olallieberry was (we've always just considered them a blackberry) and I found this definition.
Genetically, an Olallieberry is approximately two-thirds Blackberry and one-third European Red Raspberry. The Olallieberry was developed in 1949 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Oregon State University by crossing a Loganberry with a Youngberry. While primarily developed in Oregon, it has never been very productive there and is primarily grown in California. Because the olallieberry has blackberry on both sides of its parentage, it exhibits many of the same flavor characteristics of the blackberry. However, olallieberries are much larger in size and generally are sweeter than blackberries grown under the same conditions.

...thanks for asking Barefeet :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Garden Update for May Day


It is always fun to cross the street and see the garden, even doubly so when Pecan our transplanted cat greets us. Quickest purr in the West.


This is one of my responsibilities, the compost pile. Actually quite a fun venture. Pile a bunch of stuff and watch it rot. This is the half that is left over after sifting the good stuff out. This will break down for a while more. Some will be added and then the sifting will begin again. Probably not the "correct" way, but it works for us and we get good compost.


The next three pictures are of beds recently planted. In the first you might just be able to pick out the new O'Henry peach planted (way way back there) near the shed on the right (note from Maureen~ I will post a close-up photo in the next day or so). The rest are general pictures of the beds and some of the many tomatoes that have been planted this year. We are now up to 74 plants, counting the ones in our home garden, of the 110 eventually going into the ground.

12 more slicing tomatoes...mostly heirloom.



10 more paste tomatoes...also mostly heirloom.


Maureen is weeding around the artichoke, cilantro going to seed on the left there and oregano in the foreground of the photo.


Look close and you will see one artichoke and three smaller ones in this picture.


With all said and done, a good weekend.



...and in case you were playing the 'Where's Waldo' game with us~

Peach tree....

...and baby artichokes.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tomatoes

Starting April 15th, we've been gradually getting our seedlings into the ground. It would be a faster process but our Army son surprised us last weekend by coming home for a visit......yay...before he ships out to Iraq...boo. I just don't want to spend time in the garden when he's here; it's such a precious time. Even when all he's doing is playing Mario brothers with his sister in the next room, I savor the moment.

Anyway, when he goes to hang out with friends, I rush out to the garden and put a few more plants in the ground. Here are some of the slicing tomatoes planted in our late carrot bed....hopefully we'll get some carrots harvested before they are completely shaded by the tomato plants.

Jubilee, Mortgage Lifter, White Queen, Jet Star, Copia and Gold Medal.


A second wave of slicing tomatoes went into the spinach bed.
Early Girl, Goldie Yellow, Thessalonika, and Consoluto Florentine are planted with the last of the calendulas and chrysanthemum. We'll continue to save and dry the calendula flowers to use to make teas and antiseptic salve.



We're leaving the kale in to save the seeds...it's one of the easiest to save and this one plant will provide all the seed we need for next years crop.


Our first bed of paste tomatoes....2 each of San Marzano, Roma, Consoluto Genovese and Goldmans.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Progress....slowly but surely.

Then.....

...and now.

Lovin' the old washer and dryer that used to sit by the back fence...

...not lovin' the cardboard, but if it kills the weeds we can live with it temporarily.


We were written up today in the local newspaper, The Foothill Sun-Gazette, and wanted to say thanks to Mo Montgomery for the very nice and comprehensive article (it was great Mo...and not just because we're in it:)
Rummaging thru old photos reminded me of how far we've come in the 2 years that we've been gardening in our wonderful neighbors yard.....and how much work is still left to be done ~
DG pathways (instead of cardboard:)
Take down the rickety shed and put in more raised beds.
Plant more fruit trees.
Build a proper compost bin.


Lots to do....good thing we like working in the dirt!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fruit trees are a new addition to Joyce's yard (upper left corner)....we'll be posting more on that process in the next couple of days (as well as the tomatillos that went in today). Potatoes and oregano are waiting harvest in the left bed, garlic in the one on the right.

Edit ~ I should point out to those just stopping by because of the article- this blog is a journal of our sharecropping adventure in our neighbors yard. We are entering our third year of gardening in this yard but we've been growing food in our own yard for over 20 years (seems like we'd be past making mistakes......not the case). My personal blog is where I write about our garden as well as canning, dehydrating, bread baking, soap making and other aspects of this cheap hippie lifestyle :)