Saturday, September 27, 2014

Paging Dr. Pooka

I mentioned recently in our monthly pictures that Pooka seems to have developed her own tomato. I don't remember planting a Roma on that said of the deck, and I know I didn't plant anything beyond a standard Roma, so where our purple/black Roma came from, I have no idea. I guess I have a little geneticist as well as botanist in Pooka.
This is a Pooka tomato
 I don't know if you can tell from the picture above how dark the Pooka tomatoes seem to be. These tomatoes are completely ripe and are very tasty, but they are certaintly different looking. I will also say the vine they came off of is very prolific, so we are getting quite a few of them.
Traditional Romas and Pooka
The Pooka roma is a much smaller tomato, but I am wondering if that is due to being on the shadier side of the deck. I will say I do see more Pooka tomatoes on the vine then the regular romas. I will admit I made a point to grab some great examples of the tomatoes to work with.
Traditional Roma Vs Pooka Roma
 You can definitely see the difference in color between a Pooka tomato and a regular roma as well as the size difference. They are both very meaty little tomatoes, which is great for canning. The Pooka plant also seems rather sturdy since it has decided to grow THROUGH our patio table.
Let's see if we can do it again
I will say that I wondered how viable the seeds are. In fact, I am wondering if we can get a tomato that really likes our yard and does well everywhere. Pooka likes the fun colors of them, so Daddy, Pooka and I talked and then I did some research. We decided to try saving the seeds from it and see if we can reproduce our "oops." I will admit we have never saved tomato seeds because frankly the idea of doing it is a bit daunting. You have to put the seeds in water until they ferment and get nasty, then you rinse them and then you dry them and frankly, I didn't know if we could do it, but I can't go buy more Pooka seeds, so we are going to try it. I have 2 different sets of seeds (From 2 different harvests) to see if these work. Now to get to the nasty part then wash them. Only time will tell I guess. Wish Pooka luck on her "Pooka tomato." Who knows, maybe in the future Pooka will be giving away "Pooka Tomato" seeds to family and friends.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lemon, lemon, lime

We got a lemon off our lemon tree. It only took 6 months to ripen, but I guess good things are worth the wait. We ended up using the lemon in a homemade apple pie that we took to a pot luck. Pooka loved telling people she grew the lemon in the pie.
Homegrown lemon
Our lemon tree, Cave, has a couple more lemons that are almost ready to harvest, as well as flowers and some smaller lemons that might be ready by christmas. 
Lots of lemons
Caroline even has a few limes on her that may get to a real size. I would love to be able to say "the lime in dinner came off our tree." We still have not gotten a lime off it in the first year we have had it, but I wonder if that had anything to do with the pot being too small. Now that Caroline has been transplanted into something larger, she is covered in limes. This is even after I pulled a few off in hopes they would get larger. 

I do wonder if Caroline and Cave may need larger pots next year. I think it may depend on how the look after the winter.  That is a decision that needs made another day. For now, Pooka is just enjoying her citrus trees.

Caroline in her pot

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Begining of September pictures

 I will fully admit we have been a bit busy. In fact, we have been swamped with real life. I completely forgot the first of the month pictures for August. This just means that there will be more of a noticeable difference in the garden. That's it, I wanted to show more of a difference.

Pooka's pollinator garden
Pooka's polinator garden is filling out. The plant I left there not knowing if it was a weed or a plant was actully milkweed, so its a good thing I left it. I will admit I need to weed it bit, but its filled out on one side. A few of the last plants we put in didn't seem to do well, so we will wait till next spring and if they do not come back (Since everything in there is a perennial) then we will replace them. Pooka and her friend K go play in her little flower bed daily and pick flowers for butterflies or the birds. Even if it adds more work, its been worth it to see the girls have so much fun.

Garlic bed
The garlic was pulled in July and we replaced it with annual herbs and veggies again this year. We have dill (that is going to seed) celery, parsley and Pooka's black eyed susan sitting in the corner. The living chair has done much better in this spot, however, I think I will need to get another pot of mint to really fill it out for next year. However, in a few weeks we will rip out all of these plants and plant next years garlic. Keeping other plants in this bed after the garlic has been pulled also keeps the weeds down.

Front bed
 The explosion that is the herb bed is out of hand. I dry and I dry herbs, and I cannot keep up. The tarrogon will be divided next spring and sent to new homes, and I will probably get rid of all but one thyme plant. With all the wet weather this year we didn't water as much, and I noticed the top tier was dying from lack of water. This means next year it either needs to be hardier OR I need to remember to water it even when its been raining. One or the other.

Peppers and basil

All of the basil plants are quite happy having flowered completely. Its gotten to the point you can't pull the flowers off. Pooka and I did not put as much energy into that this year and you can tell. The plants still did well, but they are a bit spindly and starting to die back a bit. At least we got our basil jelly this year. More on that another day. The chinese 5 color peppers AKA Death peppers are very happy in their spot. We had to stake them up so they didn't fall over with all their bounty. Daddy is a very happy man as we are drying our own hot pepper flakes and hes begun his talk of siracha-cha again.

The sunflowers are doing very well. We did have a couple that fell over due to being too big, but for the most part, they do not seem to mind having been started straight into the ground. However, not all of the seeds seemed to start, and the plants themselves do seem to be much further behind in producing seeds. This was our last year of using store bought seeds so I am hoping they will produce enough seeds to continue for next year. I do still have some seeds from last year, but I know Pooka loves being able to save her seeds and have Pooka sunflowers. The leaves on the first sunflower are bigger than not only mine or Pooka's hands, but Daddy's as well. Hopefully we can continue saving at least a few seeds.

Corner of nothing
 This is a very sad picture. It had been raining so I pulled everything off the corner stand and put them on the table to get watered. As you can see, the musculin lettuce bolted horrible and our squash in this pot is still fairly small. It doesn't seem to be doing well. The rainbow char just needed a good water. As pretty as char is, we don't seem to eat it, so it will probably be pulled from the garden never to be seen again. We don't plant for pretty around here. Pooka's humming bird hanger is doing well. The flowers just keep getting bigger, however, the cold weather is causing it some issues since it does not have any ground to keep it warm. The lemon tree has a few more lemons about to finish riping and some new ones starting. Although it may need a bigger pot next year.

Long view of the messy deck
Oh the mess that is my back deck. We have lettuce and spinach that has bolted, the tomatoes on the end of the deck by the table have decided to eat the chairs. No one can say I only show the pretty shots. The blueberry bushes and lilac are doing well in their little pots, Although Audrey the morning glory never did do well this year. We got a couple of flowers, but for the most part it has just been a few leaves. I will admit this area looks better today then when I took these pictures at the begining of the month because I started to clear out most of the dead/dying plants for fall. You can't really see from this view, but the lime tree actually has limes that are getting bigger on it, so now I wait and see if we have fresh limes at Christmas.

Onion bed
 As you can tell, 99% of our onions have been harvested. I should of planted something here, but there are a few bulbs we missed. I just recently heard of a variety of onion I can plant in the fall. Our onion crop is generally fairly small onions and we need to expand this crop. I am hoping the fall variety (once I order them) will help with that. These guys will be put in the same bed for 2 years just so I can see if it works and how well. This is where Pooka yells "FOR SCIENCE" . We admit we are learning new things and experimenting on what works.

Brandywine, Rainbow cherry and fireball tomatoes
Tomatoes and more tomatoes. These are the brandywine, fireball and rainbow cherry tomatoes. I swear you should start calling Pooka Dr. Mendel. Somehow in this section grows what we are calling the Pooka tomato which is a purple/black roma. I didn't plant anything like that in the entire yard, so I have no idea where it is coming from. Also, we have fallen in love with the Brandywine tomato. Its a nice meaty tomato but we have pulled some off the plant that are a lb a piece. While it is more a paste tomato, we have used it as slicer, and are considering getting rid of all the Beefsteaks once we run out of seeds.

Tomatoes, Basil, Carnival, long sweets and cubanelle peppers
The tomatoes are rather imposing and eating my deck. The pea plants were eaten by the tomatoes and pulled fairly early. The basil has held its own, but is still fairly small. We still cannot grow a bell pepper to save our lives. I don't know what it is, but they never seem to produce. The long sweets are loving this spot, as are the cubanelle peppers. But the bell peppers we may just give up on for our friendly peppers. The purple peas are very dead in this picture, and should of been ripped out by now. They did not restart when I reseeded them.

Beefsteak, Roma and Blueberry tomatoes with pots
The rest of the tomato jungle. I have had a couple of tomato leaves get singed by the grill, but all in all the tomatoes like this spot. I don't think this is the tomatoes favorite spot, but it works. The beefsteak and romas are doing well but the blueberry tomatoes are exploding, and Pooka loves all the colors they come in. I guess its another time to call her Dr. Mendel since they have grown to multiple colors. We have 2 little watermelons growing in the pots and the raspberries are doing well.

Another year, another failure with corn. It seemed to be doing well in the pot and then a windstorm came through and it was done. I think next year we will try this in a small section of the yard. But unless something changes, I will not be buying more seeds of it. So we have until this packet of seeds dies to figure out what we are doing wrong. Where we live, you go a couple miles in almost any direction and all you see is corn. Really makes you wonder what we are doing wrong we can't grow it around here.

 The tomatillos are doing wonderfully. We are getting a ton to cook with. However, the purple ones only turn purple when they are left on the plant after they split their lantern. They don't seem to last on the plant long enough to do so. This is another plant that will be sticking around, and we may increase what we are planting of it. We will have to see how much room is in the garden next year.

Hot Peppers and Eggplant

The hot peppers and eggplants are doing well. After they got big enough to hold off mr. Bunny. Daddy loves this variety of jalapeno since it grows a large amount very quickly. However, they have been very mild this year (As well as the poblanos). Hot peppers do require hot dry weather to get hotter peppers that we just haven't had. The poblanos make a good substitute for green peppers in most of our dishes, so they will be sticking around for a long time.

Broccoli and Cucumbers
The broccolli has done well. The geometric broccoli is still not producing (So much for that one) but the standard broccoli has done well, even if every single broccoli plant has decided to fall over. I should stake them up, but for now they are okay where they are at. The cucumbers had done okay. They did loads better than last year but not as well as the first year. This location they get some sort of pest that ate just the skin off the cucumbers, but if you peeled them they were fine and maybe some squash beetles because the plant is suddenly dying back. But in the end, we got our cucumbers for lunches and salads and some pickles so we are happy.

Like every year, we have some successes and some failures. But that is what happens in science. Not everything works the way you think, so you keep trying until you figure out what does work.

Friday, September 12, 2014


This is just a sampling of the colors we find in Pooka's rainbow cherry and blueberry tomatoes. I think it is safe to say we eat plenty of different colors here, even if they all come from the same plants.
Colors and more colors
Supposedly the blueberry tomatoes are suppose to be purple/black where the sun hits them and red on the other. But I think we are getting some crossing between the rainbows (which tend to be yellow) and the pink brandywine tomatoes. Either way, it makes for very pretty salads and even prettier pickled cherry tomatoes. And they are all very prolific. These were just the ones we picked for pickling.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Harvest time

This is the time of year I love. The time of year where I finally see where all that effort and money and time went and I get results of our labor. Now generally, we should of been rolling in produce since July, but with the weird weather this year, its taken a bit of time to get things really progressing. In the last 2 weeks, I have been able to walk away saying 'Yep, The garden is producing."

Anyone hungry?
This is the sight that greeted us two weekends ago. That is 15 lbs of tomatoes, over a lb of basil for basil jelly, cucumbers, squash and peppers, oh my. We canned almost all of it in a canning session that took 6 hours, and set off the carbon monoxide detector as well as the smoke alarm. Nothing bad happened, we just were canning with the air on since it was a very hot weekend. Turns out, we put too much humidity in the air and freaked out the detectors. Lesson of the day, can with the windows open. Pooka loves her basil jelly and asked if we could try purple basil jelly as well, so we did. More on that another day. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the finished products, but I will be updating the harvest page and the canning page hopefully when I am done here.

Then last weekend, I wish I had taken pictures. We had 22 lbs of tomatoes and 2 lbs of tomatillos come in since the previous canning, not to mention peppers and things. We were in such a rush to deal with it all because we had a busy weekend and we knew it wouldn't keep another week. Pooka had a trip to a farm that day for girl scouts, so once we got back, it was straight to canning. She had no problem getting in there and handing us jars and lids out of the warm water so so she could do her part. She loves helping us, I only wish our kitchen was slightly bigger so we had room for her.

In the end, Pooka has already taken basil jelly sandwiches to school for 4 days since we made her the jelly. She loves being able to say she made the jelly and grew the basil, and I am happy to have made it with her.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Purple Tomatillo

Pooka finally got her purple tomatillo. It was one of many we harvested over the weekend. 2 lbs of tomatillos that we in turned processed into salsa verde. In fact, we made 5 half pints got were processed so we can have a bit of summer all winter. Pooka was just so excited to see that it was purple, however the salsa still came out green instead of purple. Turns out these little guys only turn purple where the sun hits them.
Purple Tomatillo

In other news, I do have the first of the month pictures that I am hoping to get up this week. The back to school rush as well as the garden finally really producing has made things a bit busier then I expected.