Monday, October 10, 2011

Everything Must Go, and Lessons Learned

We haven't had a frost yet here, and probably can't really expect one for another two weeks, at least. In fact, it's been in the 80s for the last three days, and E and I have the mosquito bites to prove it.

Regardless, it's beginning to look a lot like autumn in some areas of the garden:

These is the Sunsugar cherry tomato nest. It began life as the two little plants in the back left of this picture:

As you can see, it is now a dense thicket of quickly dropping mini tomatoes. Next to it and unpictured were the heirloom tomatoes. One big lesson this year is that heirlooms, as fantastic as they are, became so for a reason: they are difficult to grow, or at least they were for me. True, we had a challenging summer weather-wise – no rain and extremely high temps for one month, followed by tons of rain on and off for another, so that may have been part of the problem. Combine that with a new-out-of-the box, throw-it-in-the-ground-and-don't read-anything gardener, and the outlook was probably not a good one. I had some rot on the vine, and others expand, ripen, and slide down the sad little bamboo poles I thought would be enough to support them. So I might try them again, with a better support structure, and hopefully a less extreme summer.

The Sunsugars were great, though – delicious enough to convert people who don't really consider themselves tomato-eaters, mostly resistant to the weather issues (though they sometimes split easily after a deluge, but who could blame them?) I would definitely plant them again, and once more, use a better support system since they ended up taking over the tomato portion of the garden.

All is not chaos. If you stand where I stood to take the first picture, and pivot just a bit, you see the other side:

Peppers in the foreground, Raspberries and basil in the back.
The serrano hot peppers have been extremely plentiful, to the point that we're not entirely sure what to do with them. We tend to throw them in anything that seems remotely appropriate – maybe serrano chocolate chip cookies for Christmas?

The purple bell peppers were a bit of a disappointment. They were purple on the outside, but remained green on the inside no matter how long they stayed on the plant. And I don't approve. I love a ripe bell pepper (although points to my mom for roasting green peppers and pairing them with Genoa salami for a delicious sandwich.) And to have them, essentially, never ripen? No bueno. Also, they remained rather small and thin-walled. My mom told me that my dad often had the same problem with bell peppers. I will try them again, but will go for a more traditional variety next year.

As to the raspberries, we didn't expect berries this year, which was a correct expectation, but we also didn't expect this growth:

That's a six-foot trellis there, and some of the vines are going over the top and snaking down the other side. Some have begun to die back, and I have to determine if I should get the rest back or not – I've had conflicting reports.

This odd and not easily photographed plant is a purple raspberry, a hybrid of a black and a red raspberry developed in a shadowy lab somewhere. It has been more sedate that it's cousin next door, refraining from issuing tentacle-like shoots in all directions and instead choosing to focus on one long, contour-ruining growth. But it seems healthy and happy, so I'm leaving it alone.

Now to the front of the house.

The homestead is situated at the intersection of two streets in such a way that cars driving towards our place are momentarily headed toward us straight-on. The previous owners developed a nice corner patch to frame the front of the house and distract from some unfortunate cable placement. I worked on this thing diligently throughout the spring and early summer, but despite hours of weeding, it was overrun. I really wanted to do more inside the house. So, once the daylilies started blooming, and the vegetables started coming in behind the house, I conceded defeat, hoped the pretty orange flowers in the front of the patch would distract from the chaos behind them, and got to harvesting, painting, etc. I rarely looked too closely out front, fixing only the most egregious botanical offenses.

But enough eventually was ENOUGH.

On some free and much appreciated advice from a local lawn care professional, we decided that we would eradicate much of the front area in the fall. Although there were some plants we wanted to preserve, there were far more weeds, and terribly invasive, woody ones at that. So yesterday we got to work on Herbicide 2011: The De-Plantening. Sadly I neglected a before picture, which would have been far more instructive, but here it is, post siege:

E went through with a weed whacker (and hedge trimmers and pruning shears as needed), then raked, and I followed with a lot of weed killer. We tried to preserve the day lilies, and a few other plants, but things were too far gone. And was it cathartic. E seemed to really enjoy himself. He said "It looks SO MUCH BETTER" when we were only a short way in, and kept saying it repeatedly until it was too dark to really see out front anymore. The aforementioned mosquitoes were out in droves, presumably for a feast before dying. I was smashing them on my leg and leaving blood smears. But we were bound and determined that we were getting. this. done. in one shot. I ended up by just pouring the weed killer on the last patch, then running inside with by back ablaze with bites under my shirt, manically declaring that I needed a shower, stat.

I hope it doesn't look like one of those panicked at-home-the-night-before haircuts on a kid in an old school photo, but we both feel better. In the spring, earlier, that we would have been able to this year since we bought the house in mid-April, we hope to mulch the whole thing and add new plants we'll choose for ourselves. For now, we'll tend to our welts and look out the front windows as long as the light lets us.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ode to Appliance Joy, Cleanliness Edition

Yesterday was Oktoberfest Christmas here at the House of C and E as this little number appeared on our doorstep, courtesy of St. Fed Ex:

Isn't it glorious? Found it refurbished, and thus much cheaper, online, courtesy of a Facebook post from a friend. It's a slightly older model, but from what I understand, it's all you really need.

Isn't it saying something about me when this is a thrill? 

Here it is after about 90 minutes of work:

More to the point (and I'm almost embarrassed to show you this. Almost.):

Oh yes, it's cruddy, there's no denying. But how satisfying is it to see the fruit of your labors like this? I have a hard time cleaning things that already seem clean. As some of you who have been to my house may have noticed. (But hopefully have not, and if you did, have been kind enough not to tell me. But all is well now –  we're all Dysoned up!)

And where to put the crud once collected? Behold: 

It is ok to think that this is an even more pitiful thing to be excited about than the Dyson. I understand, really. But you will not rain on my parade. No indeed, because while we had a fine green trash can for the kitchen, E and I both agreed that it was a little too utilitarian and not quite purty enough. So on a jaunt to my new favorite store, HomeGoods (no reimbursement provided) on Friday, I found this beauty. It is faux-stainless steel, and by that I mean plastic, so it is both light and very fingerprint resistant. It also has two handles on the inside that, after much fruitless tugging on both of our parts, E realized, were meant to hold the bag in place without having it visible. I unwittingly bought a truly superior can. My kudos to the makers.

More to come as fall clean up continues.