I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain

Monday, November 30, 2009

And now for something completely different

...a project I actually completed! (Well, 95%, but who's counting.)

In the last post, I listed some of my to-do list for the garden cold season, and by crikey here's one that came to fruition. It is about the sloppiest example of wood cutting anyone could ever hope to perpetrate, but what the muck, we have decided that this is just the prototype for greater things to come.

I ripped the majority of the pieces with a jigsaw blade as dull as dirt, late at night, and with no clamps to hold the stock, so we have a rather free form example of the original hod (thanks RunnerDuck!) I set out to replicate. Still, I think it will be very functional and if I don't carry bricks around in it, may last for a few years.

The original design has handle supports attached to the outside of the hod ends, but due to some airheaded measuring, I cut the dowel handle too short. Not a problem; did some 'redesign' and attached the handle supports to the inside of the hod ends. (See this photo for a much cooler example of another handle option.)

Guess what- I like the 'booboo' design even better! Truth be told, I did consider attaching the handles on the inside before I goofed on the measurements. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.) The inside attachment doesn't reduce the interior space very much, but does reduce the outside dimensions if you have storage considerations (as I do).

My final measurements are a little larger than RunnerDuck's, due to going with a 1 x 8 instead of a 1 x 6- 7 3/8 " high x 9 7/8 " wide x 17" long (basket dimensions, not including handle height- that is about 13"). I'm very happy with the extra 2" depth. This is still relatively lightweight since it's made from pine.

That's right, cheapo pine was used here, not the cedar recommended by RunnerDuck (mainly because Homey Deepo did not have any cedar), so I applied a tung oil finish for some water repellance. Right before I took the pic here, the hod was out on the deck and it started to rain. The water beaded up just fine, so I think if it is not left to fend for itself day and night in the cold cruel (outside) world, and is given reasonable care, the little basket will hopefully be around for many seasons.

Another modification was to use 1/4" wire mesh instead of 1/2". My reasoning was that herbs (as well as smaller vegetables, like little hot peppers) could be gathered more easily in a smaller meshed hod, with no 'slipping through the cracks'. The only caveat is that the wire gauge of the 1/4" is also a little thinner. If you want the sturdiest construction, go with the 1/2" mesh. You could always line the basket with a cloth to keep the little stuff from falling out.

One last mod, which has not been applied yet, will be to add 'feet' under each end, creating a little air space underneath the mesh, and theoretically protecting it from getting cut up. The plan is to rip two pieces, 7/8" square x 6" long, and attach them to the bottom of each end piece.

As for the savings over a ready-made garden hod, if you don't count the ~$38.00 I spent on tools- spade bit, jigsaw blades, carpenter's glue, and clamps- the wood and mesh ran about $15.00, and there is just barely enough wood to make one more hod. So much for pinchin' the pennies.

There may still be an opportunity to grab an artistic photo of the new garden basket brimming over with 'plenty'- never mind the fact that it will probably consist of nothing but swiss chard and jalapenos- hey, doesn't everybody still have jalapenos growing at the end of November?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

That's a wrap

What do you do when you know there is no longer any hope of squeezing another cracked tomato, or minuscule eggplant, or puny pepper out of the utterly failed garden? Gather up everything that you did squeeze out and pile it in a bowl so you can pretend you actually had a harvest. There. Denial fixes everything, and I feel much better now.

Due to Hurricane what's her name, anything in my garden that was still clinging to life by a thread has been drowned, ripped off the vine, or otherwise molested. There is currently a large branch from the stupid silver maple impaled in the middle of the beds and the leaves have created a wet mat of slug heaven (why don't hurricanes do the slugs in? Not fair.)

Sunday looks like it's going to be a great day for being outside and taking care of some of the destruction; problem is I volunteered my little self to help out with a booth at the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, for the entire day. (I am an idiot). The first two days of the festival were pretty much a loss due to the storm remnants that ripped through the Mid-A this week, so I guess they deserve to have one good day since it is something that's planned all year. Just wish I hadn't opened my big mouth and volunteered!

The fall cleanup is going to end up getting done in January if I don't start scheduling things a little better. I have been doing some inside stuff, but there's plenty still left on the inside to-do list. Which is why it's always good to keep a list of inside tasks for when the weather outside is frightful; you feel like you're not a complete layabout. Some suggestions:

- Bagging up the seeds you've been drying, if you are prone to collecting way more than you will ever possibly be able to grow, like me. I had umpty billion little dishes of this and that seeds waiting patiently to be put to bed, and many of them are now snugged away in their little envelopes. Not all, but some (hey, I'm a great starter, but a very poor completer, what can I say. Short attention span.)

- Recycling all of the garden catalogs from the past year. I know they're pretty, but they have to go. Go open up your recycling bin right now, gentle reader, and cast them. The 2010's have started to arrive.

- Also recycling all of the oddball containers you've been hoarding that you thought might be good for growing stuff (hey! This is a good size tray/cup/box, I should save this...) No one on the planet needs hundreds of yogurt containers; don't know why I thought I did. But I'm not giving up my mushroom trays, no-sir-ree.

- Doing inventory on the garden equipment. What's broken? Can it be fixed? If yes, start on that, if no, then throw. What do you have too many of? Get rid of the multiples. You do not need six trowels, I'm sorry but you just don't. What might you be hankerin' for next year, that maybe you could make yourself? In this economy, the $40 or $50 garden hod is but a sweet dream, so I have decided to build my own, and the whole project can be made in my back room. I'm thinking there might be a few more do-it-yourself projects waiting in the wings as the winter looms.

- Doing inventory on the garden seeds. I actually already did this a few months ago, but it's a good one for anyone who hasn't already. Those twelve year old melon seeds are not going to germinate, buckaroo, so toss 'em. Pull all of the seed packs out and go through them ruthlessly, figure out what's still good and get rid of the rest. That way you know what you need when ordering season starts, and you don't order way too much and end up with duplicates like I always do (how'd I get four packs of Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach? Not doing inventory, that's how).

- Planning next year's beds. If you are a strict rotator, figure out where everybody can go so as not to invite pesties to multiply. I have never actually been one to pay all that much attention to whether the tomatoes are growing in the same spot as last year, but then the garden was sort of non-existent for a couple of years so don't take me as a good example. Right now my planning is looking like the front yard will be getting ripped up and the back yard left to the damn silver maple and its branches of death.

Wrapping up the garden year is sort of mournful in a way, but then I remember there will be seeds needing to be started in just eight weeks (I'm going to have broccoli and cabbage next year, dammit, if it kills me.) That's when my season starts. In the meantime, there's garden hods to build, and broken stuff to get rid of, and vegetable beds to plan...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oh, what a tangled Web

Well hey, kids- your humble blogger was recently done the honor of having a chat with Susan Harris, a local garden guru, who also has a gig over at the Homestead Gardens blog, as well as being the producer of the world famous Garden Rant blog, and it was a pleasure. They (i.e., the Homestead Gardens blog) are looking for local gardener/cook/bloggers- that means you! I was their first local featured blogger, and hopefully there will be many more to come.

A new venture, the Homestead Gardens blog is sponsored by the venerable local garden business that has been operating in Maryland for over 35 years. In addition to being a pretty mind-boggling place to buy plants/seeds/tools/other garden chotchkies, if you haven't been there during the holidays (yikes! are they almost here?), well I'm sorry, but you just haven't been.

So about the blog. I actually stumbled upon them because Rita Calvert (also at the Homestead Garden blog) stumbled upon me, asking in an email if I'd been to Green Drinks Annapolis, a project under the umbrella of AnnapolisGreen. I had not, but will be checking out some of their events shortly, always on the lookout for forward thinking ventures.

One of the reasons I went squash hunting last weekend (see previous post) was because I'd seen a curry recipe Rita posted that I thought might be interesting in a veggie incarnation- just hadn't decided yet if I wanted to do seitan or tofu as the protein component instead of goat, so who knows, the squash might still end up in a soup (if I can ever stop looking at it; it's so pretty I don't have the heart to break into it yet. Must grow this next year.)

But anyway, one thing leads to another, and before you know it, SNAP! their web has you in it's craw, but it's OK because now you have a mess o' new friends with similar interests, and great new places to go eat and drink until you just can't stand it anymore.

Talk about other people's gardens. Everyone else's this year looked better than mine. But that's normal. Since the weekend is almost here, you must go check out some of your local garden resources before the snow starts flying, and let's all start scheming on next year's garden.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

OPG (Other People's Gardens)

As it turned out, the nine year old was the man with the information I needed. "And which variety is this?" I asked the more 'mature' gentleman behind the table at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. "Here's who can tell you" he said, as he pulled his (I think it was) grandson over to address the customer's question.

"Gal LOW dee ay see NAY" he told me, very carefully enunciating. "Oh, it's Italian?" I asked. "No, French." Must have asked him at least twice more what the name was, but eventually the old brain stored it, and I promised to look it up when I got back home. Three dollars went to the nine year old, and one of the most beautiful winter squashes I've ever seen went home with me.

It was the runt of the litter, so to speak, as it's remaining brethren were much larger and had much more impressive bumps ("those are the sugar caps!" my young instructor corrected, when I referred to them as 'peanuts'). That morning's quest had been to obtain a butternut-type to use either in a curry or soup (hadn't decided yet) so I didn't need a giant, and Grandad assured me this was suitable for my needs. And asked for a report the next time I came back. So I innocently went to the Farmer's Market and come back with homework, which means I can't just stick it on the counter and admire it for the next several months.

Once everything was unpacked at home I set to finding out what this new-to-me critter was. Remembering the bit about the French origins, I started googling Gallo plus Acine plus French plus heirloom plus squash, in various combinations, and bingo! after some twists and turns there she was- 'Galeux d'Eysines'. And of course everybody else in the know in the Heirloom Vegetable Community has grown and loved this variety for years, and numerous catalogs devoted to heirloom varieties carry it. Respect to you, dudes, as well as to my producer.

Galeux d'Eysines hails from Eysines, a city in the southwest of France. Seed Saver's Exchange says it is "The most popular squash that we offer". Most descriptions I've read put it in the 10-20 pound range, but mine is more like 6 pounds. Which is fine with me, and that works out to $.50 per pound for my score this weekend. Most sites also concur with my producer that it is great for soups as well as roasting.

So will it be soup, or will it be curry, or will it be...

Sorry, the homework assignment is ongoing. In the meantime, here are a few sources I found if you're interested in including this in next year's garden. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I currently have to depend on Other People's Gardens (i.e., the Farmer's Market), not my own, if I want to have Really Cool Veggies such as this.

Next year, though, there's always next year.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Gourmet Seed
J.L. Hudson Seeds
Seed Saver's Exchange
Territorial Seed