Monday, July 27, 2020

Bibs 'n Boxers: The Farm Report 07-27-2020

Bibs 'n Boxers
The Farm Report

This time of year is the 'lazy days of summer' time of year. It happens every year, but this one seems special. We're all in some sort of isolation - some of us (ahem!) enjoy it, and some not so much. I was thinking the other day about the comedian, Red Skelton. For you kids who might not have heard of him, look him up. He was the father of most of the jokes the comedians today are telling. Late in his life, he said, "I have reached the age where comfort exceeds vanity." Me too. I've even been thinking lately that while I'm here alone on the farm, I might switch to wearing bibs 'n boxers. My Grand Dad the blacksmith always wore bib overalls. Maybe I should try it, too. Comfort, truly, exceeds vanity in times like these. We probably should all consider the 'bib effect' and not get so uptight about things - while still protecting the things that need protecting and covering; but comfortably and with the least friction.

So here is a big old snaggy Eastern red cedar tree in my back yard. That brown limb is one which was broken off in a wind storm. It is just hanging up there. Honey Bees have been living in that tree. In fact, if you'll zoom back up to the first pic, you'll see probably the biggest swarm of honey bees you've ever seen in your life. It was so big it threatened to break off the limb they were clinging to. My guess is that the bees were coming out of the top of the broken log to form their swarm. Usually, bees don't swarm so high up in the air. Eventually they took off for parts unknown, darn it.

Out in the garden things are growing like mad. Annie and I decided it was time to pick green beans the other day. I pick them just like I pick my peas: Pull up plants and all and put them into the Ranger - and then drive them to a nice shady spot where I can sit down and pluck off the beans.

We got a fair load. These are the first beans of the season. Not nice enough for canning, but great to eat fresh.

A podcast or two to keep the brain from turning to jello, and away we go picking beans.

I had a tremendous onion crop this year. All in all, I harvested over 100 pounds of onions!

Look familiar? I do a lot of harvest prep right here in front of the shop.

So what do you do with all those onions? Eat 'em! Some I eat fresh (steamed whole with butter and you're in heaven). Some, like these, I chop and freeze for winter. I use a french fry cutter to make life go easier when I do this. Plus, when you chop onions with a french fry cutter, you can't help but laugh each time you whip an onion through the machine. It won't work if you don't have 'the conviction of your efforts' as Julia Child said. You've gotta whang 'em through with some force and muscle, and it is funny to see those onions explode into chips.

Some I dry. This is what 17 pounds of onions looks like after I've dehydrated them.

This is what 17 pounds of onions looks like dried, jarred and vacuum sealed.

Out in the tarp garden, things look great. That big bunch of plants back there is a planting of 4 egg plants. They are growing up through one of my Inman Cheap Victorian Lantern wire cages. Perfect!

The tomatoes are looking good too. Next year, which is what all gardeners say, I think I will put in a drip irrigation line for the 'maters. The tarp is great, but it makes it hard to fertilize them. With a barrel drip system like I used for the roses last year, I can add liquid fertilizer.

Over in the field garden I'm having another contest. In the same row, I have some tomato plants bedded with hay mulch, some with white poly house wrap, and some with black plastic. We'll see if there is a difference. Any way you go, though, it beats bare ground and weeding. I'm not into weeding!

If you don't have enough plastic to do the whole row, then you have a contest.

The beans and sweetcorn in the background look great, too.

Looks nice, doesn't it? Well, yes, except the heat index was 104F the day I took this pic. Summer pics like this go better in January when you have forgotten the actual cost measured in heat 'bitcoins' that it takes to go here. It enables social distancing though! Keeps out the riff-raff as my Dad used to say. It is miserable - but the corn likes it!!!

See that little dark spot on top of the false pillar? That is a barn swallow nest. They are protected and it is against the law to tear down the nests, but I wouldn't do it anyway. I like barn swallows.

You can't see them, but there are 4 babies up there. Mom and Dad catch bugs for them all day (which is a great reason to learn to like them). They swoop up and around my porch fan to bring in lunch. Mom and Dad always look to me like they are wearing little tuxedos. They fly so gracefully! 

"You stupid dog." O.J. and Annie are still at it. O.J. thinks about the same as me as far as heat goes. He gets so skinny in the summers. It doesn't work for me that way, but I understand why he drops the weight. Annie was trying to impress him that her friend, 'Froggy' the toad, was inside that planter box, and she could get him to come out and play.

"He lives right in there!" she was saying. "Pffffffft," was O.J.'s answer, and he walked off. O.J. has very little interest in frogs - or toads either.

Annie gets Froggy the Toad out every day and plays with him. Have you ever watched a Texas Heeler herd a frog or a toad? It's a hoot. Annie hauls him out, in her mouth!, and puts him on the grass. She is so gentle with her mouth that Froggy apparently doesn't feel threatened and release the 'bad juice' that toads can squirt when they are in danger. Then she plays herding dog and won't let him go back into his cool hiddie hole for a while. Out in the grass, block Froggy from getting home, pitch him out in the grass again, block him again.... Every day....

"Hey, Tim! Let's go run!" This is how I start my morning just about every day now. I'm sitting on the porch bench here, trying to get my bearings and collect my thoughts while the coffee is brewing - I never have been a morning person -  and Annie is ready to go! Annie is a morning person. She's wanting me to get with it so she can go on her morning run. I lived with a morning person for almost 47 years. I never did understand it. How is it possible to wake up and actually feel good in the morning? I'll never know. But Annie does!

She is so smart I can talk to her. Here is a little sample. All I have to do is mention the two favorite 'R' words in her life, and she is on point, hoppin' up and down ready to go. 1. Run, 2. Ranger.

I wish it was that easy for all of us. It isn't. But othern' that, all is well at Oakdale Farm - and summer is on the 'get out and good riddance' side of the calendar; July almost down, and August to go. Then it gets better.  Cheers!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Happy 4th of July: The Farm Report 07-04-2020

Happy 4th of July
The Farm Report

Here in the USA, we typically celebrate this day with fireworks. Out in my garden, these little Thai Hot Peppers will be my fireworks this time. They are the ones that are only about 1-inch long, but they pack a hot wallop like a 36-inch long baseball bat! I like to fill a Worcestershire Sauce bottle full of them, then fill the jar with vinegar. It makes a great winter's hot sauce on French fries. The tarp garden is where they are planted, and that idea is working out in spades! No weeding, and the plants love it.

BBQ and meat smoking are also July 4th traditions here. I like to 're-smoke' my own bacon.

How? Step A, or 1. is to go to Wally World and buy a package of their extra thick sliced bacon. Then I tie it up nice with butcher's twine. This time, I rubbed it with black pepper.

Then onto a tray and into the smoker. I'll let this one go for about 10 hours at 105F with only a trickle of smoke all the time. It will make spectacular BLT's in a few weeks - if there is any left. If not, I'll make more.

The elusive spuds!

One of my most favorite way to enjoy the baby Murphy's. Wash 'em, rub on a little oil, and then into the steamer 'til done. Salt and enjoy. Anything left over is for fried potatoes - and onions!

The shop marigolds are doing great on their plastic mulch. The wire frame surrounding them is one of Joyce's tricks. Pretty soon, the flowers will completely hide the frames. Then, people will walk along them and admire how upright and perfect they are. They're always a little disappointed, I think, when I tell them they are being held up with an underwire support system.

I guess I'm really into concrete wire. In the mini-bed tarp garden I have these Inman-Cheap adaptations of the Victorian Lantern Cloches. I can put plastic around them to start heat loving things like what we call egg plant ('aubergine' everywhere else). I can pull off the plastic for upright support later on. Mine even have lids. These eggplants are just growing right through the 6-inch squares of the concrete wire.

This is a 'real' Victorian Lantern Cloche, in case you're curious. They are expensive, and I don't do expensive unless I have to - or if it is a machine....

If you're curious how I bend this cantankerous stuff, here's my trick. I made up a simple little 'homemade and handy' bending brake out of a couple of pieces of scrap wood and a pair of hinges that were laying under my bench.

I just lay my purpose cut wire into the brake, and clamp it down. Then, with one nice gentle but steady pull up on the handle, Hey Presto! I have a nicely bent corner.

And Bob's your uncle.

One of my grandfathers was a blacksmith. He frequently opined that there wasn't much more dangerous than a farmer with a welder. So here I am, Grand Dad. A couple of big washers brazed to a nut, turned upside down, and you have a hand wheel for the clamps. No wrenching needed.

Since it is purpose-made and handy, I put a couple of iron brackets on the bottom that slip right under the edge of my Farmall tractor hauler. It makes a perfect and tough work site.

It ain't hard. Don't overthink this.

So just to make the point that gardening isn't always a fun and rewarding pastoral experience, let me share some of the stuff the glossy slick magazines usually don't print. Like a razor, either the deer or the rabbits have clipped off my brocolli, cabbages and cauliflower plants.

One night's work. If nothing else, this experience will put a fine shine and polish on your cussing ability.

"Male Child of a canine female!" I said.

Then I wandered over to the Greenhouse Plug Flat Sweetcorn project. 
"May the higher power of the universe condemn those male children of the female canines!!!" I said again, with more passion.

I still have enough sweetcorn to enjoy a 4th of July sweetcorn feed, but OK, I'll say it: Damn it! In one night - let's count that together - ONE NIGHT - the raccoons or the coyotes got into the patch and took out at least 2/3 of the ears. ONE NIGHT. Electric fencer is now out and on duty. Stopped this villainy in one crack. Next year.....

I don't give up though. Maybe some more tomatoes will help me feel better. I put out some 'house wrap' to make weeding chores go away, and pinned down the stuff around the new 'maters. It is time to have a 'Going Out of Business' sale up in the greenhouse. July and August are not times you - or the plants - want to be in there. I'll start a fall/winter crop about the time school should start - even if it doesn't this year.

Ever have that feeling you were being watched, but you couldn't explain why? Maybe you have a giant Tom Cat lurking around in your aura pulling your chain. I took this from my kitchen window the other day. The more you look at the pic, the more the story tells. First, how did O.J. (Orange Julius, by the way. His brother was O.M. - Orange Marmalade.) get up on top of the Ranger? He has always been a climber, but he had to at least jump up into the box and then on up to the top. Annie thinks the Ranger is HERS! O.J. doesn't. I don't have the audio for you, but you can recreate it by just making this sound as loud as you can: PRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! Annie was like, "I know he's around here somewhere, but where the heck is he?"

Happy 4th of July where ever you are. Stay safe. I'm going to do that, too. And remember, they say you can buy the best fireworks from a guy who wears an eye patch and has 3 fingers on his right hand.

Cheers, from Oakdale Farm