Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Winter Blues

Just in case you wondered what I was doing with all the money I saved this year.  And how can I be blue?  I love winter!  It was 30 when I got up.  I guess it's time to drag out some long sleeve shirts and put away my flops!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December on the Farm 2014

Welcome the light and rain!

Down in one of the reservoirs
 Well, it's been a heck of a ride folks.  From no water, to wishing I had tanks to put what's falling into!  We had a good 5 inches.  The creek is running.  A darn good sign if you ask me.  I know, we need more.  About 40 inches more to make up for last year, but I'll take what I can get and be happy about it.
December 15 out my back door

Just before this rain, I got the favas and lupini's in .  (Edible lupines).
I'd planted faro, but I suspect the little tweeters got it all.  They ate the lettuce too!   But turnips, parsnips, radishes, greens and other crops were planted before the deluge, so I'm hoping that turnips don't come up in the driveway!

It's halfway through December and I'm just thinking about what to plant next year.  It's been unseasonably warm.  There are still flowers on beans, and limas and tomatoes in the field.

Last spring I had one extra Sungold tomato, so I put it out my backdoor.  

About August, Zack had enough of it blocking the path, so he and Julia hacked it back.  Well, here it is December and it's flowering and making fruit.  That's a first.

We actually harvested the last of the melons on Thanksgiving and hope to serve them up on Christmas.  So you see, seed choosing is not as easy as it once was.

Will there be bugs?  I'm thinking, no frost, lots of moisture....ewwww...there will be bugs.

I've selected some peppers, tomatoes and eggplant to start for January.  Now I have to move onto broc, cauli, cabb, chard, leeks, onions and more peas.  I planted peas in early November and they're up, but I really want to plant more.

I'll have to rummage the seed storage and see what's out there.  We had a lot of problems with brassica bugs at the end of the season, so I'm thinking not as many rows of those.

Speaking of brassicas, here's a couple of interesting monsters.
I'm thinking these are cauliflowers.  Ones that I harvested and left the plant in the field?  Or some new Caulette?  Flowerette?  Cauliflowerette?   Never seen these before.  But then again, I've never had mosquitoes in December before either, so, I guess everything is new and different.

Thank heaven for rain.  Thank you thank you, did I say thank you?  I'm eternally grateful, as hey look at the garlic!  And many thanks to Joseph for so carefully growing garlic for us.
Joseph, at Lofthouse Gardens grows great garlic.  I love his big, easy to peel delicious garlic.  The cloves he sent us were huge!  Now, if it dries a little, I can weed, otherwise, I'm just not going to worry, the garlic is loving the rain.  On the left, the grapes have not dropped their leaves so I haven't even pruned them yet.  Well, January is coming.  In the back of this photo you can see the favas peeking out.
There's still kale and chard in the field, so we are still eating home grown greens.  I may dry some of these and make kale chips.  Might as well, heck I don't have anything to do besides can, cook, bake and clean....

Zack besides working his regular job has been helping me do tool repairs.  Man, he's great at this.  It's one of those jobs that I keep putting off, which results in a barn full of shovels with no handles.

Take a look at some of these poor tools.  These two sledges were really sad...nails put in them to hold the heads on.   They're gorgeous now.  Cleaned up with new handles. 

And just in time to deal with the Eucy tree that bit the dust, a newly repaired splitting maul.  To be fair, I did not break these tools.  I tend to break things like forks.  I've broken the same fork three times.  It's embarrassing.  In the summer the soil just gets so darn hard, that I break them.  

My days of using mauls and sledges are gone.  I content myself to breaking simpler things like pitchforks.  I took the after picture before Zack had time to polish up the metal.  But I was just so tickled.  Nothing better than a barn full of tools that work, even if I'm getting too old to swing some of them. 

Hope your days are Merry & Bright.  I'm just singing in the rain!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Faking Halloween Faking Halloween

You need to sing to Danny Elfman's music to get the tune correct. 

So, since we were kids, no Halloween costume was ever purchased.  You could rummage in the spare closet, go to Goodwill and pick up needle and thread.  Most of Zack's years were spent combing Goodwill for likely fabrics to be a pirate, a Ninja, a Knight...basically Zack would be anything that allowed you to carry a sword.  Now we have a costume trunk, that's fair game for anyone to raid.

So, Leo was getting tired of being a Wizard every year.  It's been too hot for too many years for him to wear his Tigger suit, and I think he was burnt on pirating as well.  (You can only do so much Yo Hoeing when you are a farmer).  So after a bout of bronchitis and bed rest with Outlander I began channeling Dougal MacKenzie and decided I needed my own BAMF.

This outfit is not exactly correct.  And I will say that after months of looking I gave up on finding plaid at Goodwill and settled for Hounds tooth.  So, please don't write to me the fact that there was no Hounds tooth in the 1770's. 

Shortly after Leo got his linen shirt and wool waistcoat, he asked me, "What? No ruffles?"  So muttering to myself and went back and added ruffles to the shirt.

The next night Leo said he was just kidding.  So, now that Halloween is over, the ruffles are going.  They are a nuisance and he keeps dipping them in his pint.

So, at Goodwill I purchased a Hounds tooth Jacket.  (Hey Ralph, how about some plaid?)
The Real Dougal
There were six brand new Ralph Lauren Jackets.  I found one in a size smaller than Leo wears as a jacket and turned it into a waist coat.

And yes, that was a pain in the butt.  Also, the tartan that Dougal wears in Outlander is not a Mackenzie Tartan, but one that was woven just for the film by Anthony Haines Textile.  And no, it's not for sale and I do not weave tartan.  Nope, never have.  I only found one piece of plaid even slightly this color and that was a plaid from Pendleton.  So, I had to settle for another fabric.

For the breeks I found a pair of black leather pants at Goodwill, cut them off, and turned them into breeks and put buttons on the side.  I also found a cashmere coat and turned it into an overcoat.  I was going to make him a proper Beret/Bonnet, but Leo always wanted one of the caps he's wearing.  It's from Scotland and looks wonderful on him.  Don't you just love the green wool kilt hose?

I couldn't get Leo to wear a kilt.  He was worried that I'd have my hand up his skirt all evening. ...

We had the silk neckstock in my drawer, left over from a dye class.  Leo didn't snug it up as he was already wonderfully warm, wrapped in linen, wool and cashmere.  He found it to be a most comfy costume.  Especially since we had rain!  First rainy Halloween Night in about 70 years.

And of course since Dougal was sleeping with the Duncan Witch, well,  I could just go as myself. 

My skirt consists of all the mistakes and leftover bits from previous sewing adventures.  Properly shredded and attached to a waist tie.  I also have a long green shift dress on.  I knitted and felted my hat.  The pin on the front says "Black Hat Society, Since 1692".  This is my LEED's costume.  Since it's all recycled, that makes me a Green witch?

We witches do go back a bit don't we?

So back to Leo's costume, this is the original jacket.  As you can see, I already started removing the sleeves.  This was very time consuming as each sleeve was sewed on twice, once at the lining and once on the wool.  Plus there's tons of padding in there.   At one point I had to actually rip from the outside!  Scarey!  So that I could find the thread I was ripping from the inside.

After I got the sleeves off, I took off the collar.  Now that was such a pain in the butt, if I were to choose again, I'd leave it on. 

 I pinned the lining back to the inside of the armholes and hand stitched the waistcoat openings.

 I used a lot pins in this and eased the lining between the pins.

When I got the collar off, the sleeves removed and the openings closed, I commenced to make button holes.  I have a Viking Sewing machine and it makes SHITTY buttonholes.  That made making this many buttonholes on the waistcoat a nerve wracking experience and I had to rip three of them out.  As they did not meet my standards even slightly. 

The original jacket had 3 buttons/Button holes.  I needed to have 10, so I added 7 more.  I left the 3 originals. 

I recycled the buttons from a shirt I made Leo many years ago.  I used the excess buttons on his breeks.
I spent as many hours scoping for a coat, that I probably could have made one from scratch and believe you me, if I could have found a tartan, I would have.  But Leo loves cashmere and so I settled for this coat.  It's not as skirty as I would have made it.  Now that Halloween is over, I'm going to move all the buttons to one side, and make more buttonholes, similar to the vest.  I had a hard time finding a coat in Leo's size.  The sleeves on this one were short, so I had to let them down. 

The buttons on the jacket have Leo's initials (LD).  These are pewter reproductions of the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons, also known as "Martha Washington's Horse".    I found them at Jas Townsend.   And yes, you could buy this costume there, and it would be mostly historically correct, but it would cost you.

So what were the costs:

Coat $39.97
Waistcoat $26.26
Breeks $22.08
Linen Shirt $20.22
Hat $12.00
Kilt Socks $18.00
Buttons $8.50
$147.00 total.    Not bad for recycling, ehh?  I didn't count thread, needles and lace which I already had in my sewing room.  I spent zero dollars on my costume.  The wool for my hat was leftover from Zack's hat and scarf last year. Zack wanted custom dyed black.  Mood fabrics has both the Ralph Lauren Hounds tooth and the Cashmere at $79.00 a yard.  I figure that if I had sewed the coat and waistcoat from scratch I would have spent around $700.  Time wise, it took me a week for the vest, one day for the shirt and breeks, and one day for the coat.

The shirt and socks will return to Leo's wardrobe, as he needed knee socks for under his rubber boots anyway.  And good wool socks are getting more expensive all the time.  The scarf goes back to the dye blanks drawer.  And Leo is going to turn this coat into an every day coat, as soon as I shift the buttons.  All and all it was a fun project.  I'm left with a couple of ruffles, 2 wool sleeves, but I get to keep the BAMF.  Hey and mine has more hair that Dougal!

Happy All Soul's Day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review of Isola di Este

PI 433654 Nostrano dell' Isola di Este  from Sondrio, Italy

So in my search for the perfect polenta, I gave up trying corn here and instead used GRIN to order the most likely Italian corns.  First, Italy is much like California.  And Northern Italy is where people eat Polenta.  I think this is the 4th in a series of Italian corn.  I've had a lot of help from the corn curator for GRIN, Mark Millard.  Thanks Mark.   I originally planted this corn in 2011 and it was attacked by wild pigs.  I was only able to get enough of a crop to save seed to try again.   And it here it is, a beautiful golden/orange corn.
August 3, 2014
This is the field at harvest.

Planted Mar 27 to trays, Transplanted 4/13.  I estimated that it was 122 day corn.   I began harvesting on August 2.  As you can see about 90% is at the field dry stage.  I could have probably pulled this out of the field 15 days ago or earlier.  Remember, it's been hot, hot, hot here.  How hot?   In the 90's almost every day with very very little of our normal 4 days heat and 3 days fog.  Someone has stolen the fog.

August 3
This is a photo of the corn up close and personal at harvest.  This corn has the longest silks I have ever seen.  Almost every stalk made 2 ears, one large and one small to medium.  A large stalk is 12 inches and a small stalk is 8 inches.  The interesting thing is that most of the medium stalks were not long and thin, but short and with more rows.   This corn had beautiful tight wrappers.  Some of the best wrappers I have ever seen.  I'm talking fine enough to be tamale wrappers.  The cobs were held at about 3' and 4' from the ground.  The stalks themselves were about 7'.  Not too tall, not too short.  This may be the Goldilocks of all the flint corn I have grown.
June 23, 2014

This corn did not lodge.  Nope, not even one stalk.  Speaking of stalks, the only problem that I see with this corn is that it makes 1 1/2 stalks. Corn is the only major field crop characterized by separate male and female flowering structures, the tassel and ear, respectively. However, in most corn fields it is not unusual to find a few scattered plants with a combination tassel and ear in the same structure - a "tassel ear." The ear portion of this tassel ear structure usually contains only a limited number of kernels.  The "Good Tassel Ears appear as miniature corns"

The tassel ears often appear on tillers (suckers) arising from plants with normal ears and tassels. These tassel ears are produced at a terminal position on the tiller where a tassel would normally appear. However, tassel ears may also be produced by individual plants. This is what I call the 1/2 stalk.

Tassel ears are a reminder that the male and female parts of the corn plan are structurally very closely related. Wild progenitors of corn-teosinte spp. have complete flowers tassels and silks together. These can be crossed with Zea mays (normal corn).  I suspect this is a very old trait.  I have rarely seen this in my fields.  However, it is a trait I would select against.

Half stalk with Tassel Ear

Why?  They are so cute!  Take a close look, the dreaded Huitlacoche (corn smut) appeared on all but 2 of these tassel ears.  Why?  The tassel ears have no wrappers.  Wee little birds of the seed eating type come and peck these cute leeetle ears.  The corn sends out a damage report and huitlacoche steps in.  I don't like it, I don't have a market for it, and left uncontrolled can ruin an entire field in short order.  So, As these developed, I took a pair of loppers and walked through the maze of maize ad lopped them off.   All those years my dad made me take the tillers off of corn, maybe he was onto something?  Nope, just trying to keep these idle hands out of mischief.
left ear crossed with Kanga Pango.  Right ear is a tiller ear.

In future years, I would just keep removing the tillers of this corn.  I'm also not saving any seed from the tillers.  Which leads me to wonder what seed to save.
Of course I'll sort the out the corn with spotty germ, incomplete tip fill and probably ears that I think are too fat, plus anything that was crossed (only the very end row). These will all be ground for polenta.  All the very long thin perfect ears that dry quickly is what I'm aiming for. (1, 3 & 6 in this photo).

The corn borers are just beginning in this corn.  When I get corn borers, I get pink mold, so I'm in a rush to get this corn out of the field. 
Starting to get the hang of it.

The Isola di Este is in the foreground and the Kaanga Pango in the back ground.  We had a 90% germination on both.  The gophers took a couple so, we ended up with 84 plants.   These were placed on 18" emitters and I think that's a good choice for this corn.  This corn was not composted at planting, but side dressed on May 11th and given a shot of fish emulsion the week after planting.  
May 11th, 2014
Isola di Este as all our corn was irrigated to the standard of approximately 1 gallon per week.  The temperature throughout the season has been hot 90+ every day and the evening lows, around 59 F.   It's drier than Prohibition here, so I think this is another corn that would be great in a drought.  Now, we just have to wait for it to get dry enough to eat.

Once again, I'd like to thank the USDA GRIN program for the germplasm and particularly Mark Millard for his continuing support and encouragement of our search for drought tolerant flint and flour corns. Viva la Polenta!

Coming soon.  Photos of of the 3 toed Dar's Drought Tolerant, Isleta Pueblo Blue & Papago.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review of Kaanga Pango Corn

I'm in the process of harvesting the Kaanga Pango Corn.  First, let me say that I know very little about this corn.

This is a heritage corn from NZ and was from the Wellington Seed Library.  I do not know what the Maori used this corn for.  The Maori historically used corn to making a fermented corn, they ate corn fresh, they make something that looks like a tamale, and they ate a pudding/mush from corn.
April 23 Foreground, Isola di Este, Kaanga Pango - near compost pile

It was estimated that Kaanga Pango was 110 days.

May 11, 2014 - Corn side dressed
I planted this corn on March 27, 2014 to flats.  It was transplanted to the field on 4/13/14.  As you can see the soil as already extremely dry and both corns are up and doing well.  I started 100 of each of these in the tray, at transplanting, there was approximately 85 of each.  The gophers ate a few and each plot ended up with 80 corn.  This field was not composted this year, but the corn was side dressed with compost and fertilized with fish emulsion and endo mychorrizae at planting.

June 15, 2014 Kaanga Pango Left, Isola di Este Right

By June 15, the Kaanga Pango was in full tassel.  The Isoa di Este had not tasseled at this point.
Kaanga Pango is about 6' tall.  It makes 3-4 tillers, and on the outside edges, each of these tillers made an additional corn.  These were planted on 18 inch centers, and by the looks of them, they could have used 24 or even 36" centers.  It's Leo's opinion that if I had planted them on 36 er's I would have yielded 4x as much corn.  For a not very tall corn, they are very broad.  The corn is held at about 2 1/2 feet above the ground.

July 13, 2015 Kaanga Pango & Papago Corn in the foreground
By July 13, the Kanga Pango was ready.  I left it in the field until Sunday, July 27.   All of this year's corn has been irrigated to the standard of approximately 1 gallon per week.  The temperature throughout the season has been hot 90+ every day and the evening lows, around 59 F.  We have not had our typical coastal fog once a week.  Leo noticed that due to it's tillering nature and the shade associated with that and that it was shorter, it need less water than other corn in the field,.

July 30, Kaanga Pango on the hoof
On July 27th, I harvested 2 rows.  In the field, I pulled back the husks, the husks were already too dry to braid, so I've just tied and hung them.  At this point the Isola di Este is ready to come out of the field as well, but it's 98 degrees, and I'm having a hard time working more than a couple of hours in the heat.

A few individual ears.  Note the yellow kernel where the Isola crossed with the Kaanga Panga
The cobs themselves are pretty nice looking, they range in size from 11 to 6 inches.  The central leader corns are larger and the tillers make smaller ears.
Harvest from only 2 rows
Due to the extreme drought, these didn't get quite as much water as they might have wanted during the flowering stage, which of course leads to some blanks and not quite perfect tip fill.  So now I'll let these dry down, while I get the rest out of the field.    This is about 50ish corns for 32 plants.  After I taste it, I'll get back to you.  Flint or Flour?  hmmm?

My son tasted this corn in the dough stage and found it to be very sweet.  It may double as a sweet/roasting corn if harvested early enough.  The outside husks were loaded with aphids...they know a sweet thing when they see it.  As for disease issues, there was some minor corn ear worm damage. With worm damage, comes a frass  that causes mold.  This occurred only on the tip of the corn, I think it partly because of the tight wrapper.

So, if we grow this corn again, we will grow at 24" and give it a try as a roasting corn.

Next up with this, we'll try baking and boiling.  

Yield:  Shelled 38 pounds.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dar's drought tolerant corn

HOLY MOLY, look at that corn grow.  This is Dar's drought tolerant corn.  This was transplanted on 5/11.  It's got tassels.
And look at the hooligans running amok in the corn.  Of these 3 kittens, 2 will become farm cats.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July Corn 2014

This is Dar's Drought tolerant corn...it's growing really fast.  I think I see the first tassel.

The Isola de Este is almost ready to harvest.   The Kanga Pango is right behind it.  Both literally and harvest wise.
Today we are harvesting the shallots, so that I can get these tomatoes trellised.  Yikes.  The cabbage is looking pretty good, better than the darn broccoli, which the darn gopher is feasting on.

Monday, June 23, 2014


For those of you who aren't used to seeing the farm from the other side, here it is.   Alas, it's burnt.
You can just about see the corn in the distance.  For those of you wondering...half the field, about 5 acres.  And just way to close for comfort.

Corn Porn

Dar's Drought tolerant corn is growing so fast, I can hear it.
And here it is up close and personal.  I think this is going to be a tall corn.

Speaking of tall, here's the Isola di Este.  Tassels, silk, corn on!   I think another 30 days in the field and this will be dry and ready.

What's a little corn without tomatoes & beans?  So here are pinto beans, surrounded by tomatoes, with the Isola & the Kanga Pango in the background.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

From a Distance

From on top the hay 2014

Every year when the hay is baled, one of us climbs on top and takes a photo of the farm.  Sometimes it helps to get some perspective.  Look at that corn!  That's the Italian corn, Isola di Este.  How fuzzy the asparagus looks.

How good the creek trees look, how small the traveling chicken house is.  

From this distance, it's hard to see the weeds, the bugs, the voles...or even the kitten monsters.  Below I can see the fallow fields, everything beyond the tree.  Each time I walk by one of these, I want to plant it.  I just cannot get used to how dry everything is.
Fallow Fields.
How small my world is.  A few seeds, a bit of soil, a piece of sky.