Blight and Pestilence

As a farmer or gardener, one is often reminded of impending apocalypse. From evidence of a changing climate to unpredictable weather and indeterminate growing seasons, the evidence of doom is everywhere. But never is it more obvious than in giant fucking mutant bugs.

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The red spike makes them even more menacing, doesn’t it? That and the fact that they devour tomato plants faster than Cookie Monster devours cookies.

But they aren’t the only predator of the innocent tomato plant. There is also blight. I don’t know whether ours is early or late, but it’s definitely here now.

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This is only happening to the tomato plants in pots. The one in the raised bed is virtually blight free. I drilled holes in the bottom of the buckets for drainage, but I suspect the buckets still don’t drain well, and tomatoes like well-drained soil, so this might be a factor. After speaking to the Blight Guy (You want that to be your job, don’t you? It’s almost better than the Repo Man.) at a local nursery, apparently lack of calcium in the soil can also cause blight, so I got a spray-on calcium that can be used both as a fertilizer in the soil and directly applied to the leaves. I also bought a copper fungicide that can supposedly be used for organic gardening. I applied both of these only once, and the blight does appear to be contained to the lower leaves of the plants. There are also spots on the fruit, though, even on the plant in the raised bed.

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Is this blight? The fruit tastes fine, amazing actually, if you try not to think about the fact that you are probably eating a fungus-riddled tomato.

But that’s not even the worst garden problem. The worst is Japanese Fucking Beetles. This should be their technical name because they proliferate like they’re afraid of going extinct.

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Oh look, there’s a couple going at it on our apple tree sapling. We pick them off every single day and ruthlessly feed them to the chickens, who adore this wriggling protein snack, but they Keep. Coming. Back. I was already nervous about the copper fungicide. I abjectly refuse to use pesticide. Even “gentle” pesticides like neem oil kill on contact and are hazardous to the already scarce bees. Knowing that the lack of bees is also a sign of the apocalypse, which I have personally witnessed, I am not about to unintentionally make the problem worse. Bee keeping is next year’s adventure, though many of our friends lost their hives this year because of the long winter and cold, recalcitrant spring.

In the meantime, we will continue to enjoy our other giant fucking mutant lifeforms: squash.

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An Embarrassment of Riches

Seriously, I don’t know what else to call it. Our garden has exploded into such splendor that we can barely keep up. Just look at it.

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And this is after I tore out all the spinach, arugula, and cressida that had gone to seed! We are truly blessed with an overabundance of good garden juju. Today I put together five one-gallon bags of salad green mix (spinach, arugula, cressida, baby dinosaur kale, and beet greens) to give away as well as bundles of rainbow chard, collard greens, and Red Russian kale so that we could make room for our next round of planting and allow some of the other plants to thrive without the leafy green umbrella.

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Want some? No, really.

In addition to the leafy greens, we have been able to enjoy baby red potatoes, a couple Chioggia beets and early carrots, cilantro, and basil.

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If you saw my last post, then you know that small and misshapen is where it’s at right now and in no way does that affect deliciousness.

In the next couple of weeks, we can look forward to munching on sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.

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And then summer squash and zucchini, onions, broccoli, and pole beans. The squash and zucchini are totally taking over the garden right now. The leaves are the size of serving platters, and, despite the powdery mold (more on this later), they are producing like wildfire.

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This photo was actually taken a couple of weeks ago. Now that squash is about the size of a large bratwurst and has at least five younger siblings. Even the blossoms are huge! We planted some pumpkins back in June so they’d be ready by Halloween, but they are currently fighting for space in the same bed as the squash, as are the onions. Anyone know if you can cut back squash leaves to give other plants some sun? Will this affect output or the health of the plant?

Well, that’s the good news. For some information on late blight, powdery mold, and Japanese beetles, stay tuned for “Blight and Pestilence,” my apocalyptic blog entry coming in the next few days. In the meantime, know that we are eating well and enjoying the color and abundance of our own gardens.

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Lay Lady Lay

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Check it out! This is our first ever egg from our wee flock of three. Lady (Red Sexlink/Golden Comet) began laying last week these adorable mini eggs. You can’t really tell from this photo, but it is about the size of a Cadbury Cream Egg (mmmm, Creeeeeam Eggggggs). Apparently it’s common for the first eggs to be small, misshapen, or for laying to be erratic at first. She laid this one from the roost, which surprised her I bet, but it remained miraculously intact—well, until we ate it.

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Look at the beautiful orange color. I’d like to think this is result of a steady diet of layer pellets, oyster shells, leafy greens and weeds, and bugs. All three of our hens are entering the laying phase (18-24 weeks, depending on breed), so we began mixing their grower crumbles with layer pellets a couple of weeks ago, as well as oyster shells with their grit. And, since our garden is in full display, they also get a lot of veggie scraps.

Lady laid one perfect little egg a day for three days, then took a two-day hiatus. Now she’s back in action. She has learned to lay in the nest box, but hens prefer to lay in private and Millie is a bit of a shadow, so I have had to shoo her out of the nest box twice now.

All three hens are about 20 weeks old, but only Lady is laying. Mavis looks ready. Her comb and waddle are fully formed and bright red. She is all feathered out. Bring it on, girls, and in the meantime, “Lay Lady Lay.”