Thursday, April 23, 2009

Behind The Scenes.

I know not everybody who reads this blog is a full time church goer, but for those of you who are you will relate to my past week, as I had one of THOSE church weeks. The one where all your responsibilities converge at the same time.

To start, my wife and kids are headed to Nicaragua this summer on a mission trip and one of the ways they raised money for the trip was working on a very large church yard sale. One that takes up a whole gym and lasts for 3 days. A lot goes into one of these kind of yard sales, you must set a hundred or so tables out, fill them up with millions of pounds of stuff (organized of course), put sticker prices on all the stuff and then sell the stuff. The good news is they raised over $6,000........the bad news is it has to be split 25 ways. lol. On top of that I wear a few hats at my church like Christian Ed Director, Sunday School teacher, Tenor in the choir, Advisory board member and finally Mission board member. Throw in Plumbing Contractor, Dad, Husband, and my wife and I getting sucked into watching the past 5 LOST seasons to catch up with our friends who watch & talk about it regularly, and it's been an exhausting week. Barely enough time for the garden......but I'm back!

I'd like to thank Margaret at for waking me up to the easy solution to my squash problem. She told me to just take the male squash stamen and rub it on the female flower (or is flour Margaret?). I know it sounds dirty, but as you can see below in just one weeks time I've got some squash! I feel like a dummy!
aaGarden 504
Above: Magda squash.
aaGarden 502 aaGarden 501
Above left: Sweet Lightning, Above right: Spaghetti squash.
aaGarden 474
Above: Crooked Neck.
aaGarden 480
Above: The Squash Patch.

In the middle of my busy week I had a disaster in the garden as well........20 pepper plants chopped down like the Amazon Rain Forest by some Cutworms. It's totally my fault. I stubbornly didn't listen to the advise I got to collar the stems of the plants. I guess I though I was Super Conservative Gardener and cutworms wouldn't dare continue to mess with me. I had read somewhere where an old farmer would put nails next to his plants and the cutworms wouldn't hurt the plants because the nails would bother them. Well......take a look:
aaGarden 453
aaGarden 469
aaGarden 455
The above pick shows where there used to be about 15 plants, the rest in the pic are now gone as well. I've got a bunch more under the lights getting ready to come out to the garden. Next time......I've got some Dixie cups going around them. (And yes, that is an eggplant that I mistakenly planted with the peppers)

And of course no blog would be complete without an update on my favorites........the Tomatoes.
aaGarden 457
aaGarden 471
aaGarden 463 aaGarden 467

I'm excited about the tomatoes.....they look strong! The cutworms did get about 5 tomato plants, but I had some ready to take their place. (btw- you can click on any picture and it will bring you to my Flickr page where you can enlarge the pic if you want. Just don't go browsing around my Flickr invading my, just kidding)

Well that's quick update, I'll see if I can do my next post without letting a whole week go by!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

One Big Mistake.

aaGarden 400

Since I was a Junior in High School when I moved to Florida way back in '82 (like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite), I had to visit the Guidance Counselor to figure out how to transfer my school history from Massachusetts to Florida, and then calculate the classes I needed to take to graduate from a Florida school. The Counselor made it known that my schooling in New England was stronger than what I was going to get in Florida, and that I only needed a few classes to graduate by the first quarter of my Senior year.

"Cool", I said.

So they gave me a list of classes to choose from, and on that list was a class that caught my eye.........French 1.

You see, where I lived in Western Massachusetts there's a nice little French population. I lived right on the Connecticut River near the Vermont border, and if you follow the river north through Vermont & New Hampshire (the Connecticut River is actually the boarder between the two states) all the way up to Canada you'll find yourself in French Canadian country.....Montreal, Quebec City, etc. You can actually listen to radio stations broadcast only in French in that area. So it was common in our school system for kids to take French as a language class requirement, and so I did......for 2 years. As in French 1 and then French 2. I should have been going into French 3 to continue my studies.

You must know that I was a terrible French student. Mostly C's & D's with a B- as my peak grade. Making matters worse, my French teacher, Mr. Routhier, had his son in my class who, obviously, was an A student. I was the antithesis of his son ,who spoke French like a Parisian. Needless to say I was also an annoyance to Mr. Routhier and he rode me hard for 2 years. So much so, that the only thing I can say in French to this day is....."Fermez la bouche, vous etes un cretin".........translation......."Shut your mouth, you're a moron". lol. Seriously.

So when I saw the French 1 class on the list I started to think......"Don't they know I've already had 2 years of French? Is this a test? Are they serious? They don't really know? If I'm able to take French 1 again.......I think....I think... I could do well. Will my old school tell the new school? Can I get this past my parents?...... If I check it and they say something, I'll just say I checked the wrong box.....yeah, that's what I'll do"

So I checked the box. (Routhier be damned!). I showed up to class and the teacher busted out the garcon (the boy), les femme (the woman), parlez-vous francais (do you speak french) and so on. Well! I was a master. Before long all the girls in the class surrounded me and were stunned at the ease in which I mastered the French language. Yes.....Mr. Routhier......I was a "star", an *A* student in French!

I never told anyone and nobody ever asked (my parents still don't know), but I was the best French 1 student in the history of Deland High School. How they ever overlooked such a thing I have no idea. Which brings me to my point.................

How I ever overlooked the need to have flowers around my garden to attract bees I have no idea. But I did. I'm like the Guidance Counselor and overlooked an easy, obvious issue. So I had to humble myself (if only I could humble that Routhier! lol!) and go to Lowe's to BUY some flowers and hope that I attract some bees to pollinate my squash before........the pickleworms get here! One big mistake.............. I won't make again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

In Case You Didn't Know.....

I believe that God is the Creator and I am the creation.

I believe that Jesus is God With Us - Immanuel.

I believe that I'm a sinner (liar, thief, murderer, adulterer, scammer) .

I believe that His death has payed for all those sins.

I believe that Jesus is who he said he was.....God.

I believe that I can't grow anything without the Creator giving me a seed.

And for you naysayers.......make me a seed from scratch....... It's only wood.

And for you naysayers........Jesus is considered a great teacher by everyone, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and even atheist.....What was His crime?.........claiming to be God. How many people/teachers in the history of the world claimed to be God and weren't considered crazy, a liar or a fruit cake?


Except Jesus...............I wonder why?

That's why I believe that on the 3rd day................... He rose.
aaGarden 341

Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Morning Garden Update.

I love trees. I also love shade. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I spent so many years as a new construction plumber working outside in the Florida sun. So day after day, year after year of the bright Florida sunshine burning my skin caused me to seek........shade. So when I went to build my house a few years ago I picked property that was woody & shady. To me it was just so comfortable. That's how I viewed shade........comfortable. Little did I know that years later I would start my first garden and need lots of ..........sun. Which is why I've been spending that last year cutting trees down. Just so you know, I hate cutting trees down. I still love the shade that trees provide, garden needs sun! It can be such a battle. So there's been times when my garden has been too shady and as a result I've had some failures in the garden. Twenty plus trees being cut down has fixed a lot of that. One of the failures I was sure of was the onion patch I planted. When I planted it I had full sun, but as Winter got closer & closer the shade also crept closer & closer until.......complete shade covering my onions. I was bumbed. I thought for sure the onions were done. But as Winter passed and Spring came around, and some trees being removed, the sun returned. As the sun returned the Onions kicked back into gear and today I harvested my first mature Onion. So the lessons continue as I realize just how cool it is to grow your own stuff. Why didn't I start doing this 10 years ago? aaGarden 332
aaGarden 333
aaGarden 337
I'm also growing shallots in my onion patch.

aaGarden 354
aaGarden 359
Check out my double-headed squash flower. I'm really afraid of the dreaded pickleworm destroying my squash, so I planted them as early as I could so my harvest will be before they get here, which is usually in late May. I hope. No signs of them yet, so my plan is far.

aaGarden 364
This is big. I'm going with a different system for staking my tomatoes. I'm using mostly 10' long re-bar driven into the ground 2-3 feet deep for each individual tomato plant. I've got 70 tomato plants this year and this seemed to be the best way for my garden. If the plants get too heavy with fruit later on I have a plan to strengthen the stakes by tying them all together. We'll see!
aaGarden 366 aaGarden 370

Monday, April 6, 2009

Thanks Aunt Kathy........

aaGarden 310
Thanks for the "Real" Maple syrup, candy & cream....we loved it! And yeah, I'm having breakfast for's fun sometimes. And if I could grow Maple trees in my grove, there'd be buckets hanging from them right now! Thanks again....tell everyone hi & we love you.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

One Big Sunny Spot.

One of the tricks of gardening in Florida is staging..........getting the last of the winter crops out in time so that the spring crops have time to ripen before the heat/rain/bugs in June/July kills everything! You Yankees up north wouldn't know about these problems because July/Aug for you is Prime Time growing. Not for us. Actually, July/Aug is the only time during the year we really don't grow anything.

Because of this I'm always having to think ahead so I can manage my garden to it's fullest. Throw in some inexperience, different crop heights, crop rotation, & different locations for sun/shade and it's easy to end up with empty spaces where a crop should be!

My point is this....... I've been a little worried that I wasn't going to be able to grow some corn this year because my potatoes are taking longer than expected, and they're in my planned corn spot for Spring. So I started looking around and notice a real nice sunny spot on the South end of my garden. Not in the garden, mind you, but outside of the garden fence. A pretty big sunny spot at that.

So the Wife & I planted 8 rows of corn 40 feet long with 4 different varieties: Ambrosia, Sugar Pearl (white), Early & Often and Sugar Dots. I don't plan on fencing it in, I believe that I've planted enough seed to have a great harvest even if I loose a few. Plus.....I don't feel like putting up more fence! lol. I estimate about 350 plants if all goes well. I'm pretty excited......I've never grown corn before!

AAIMG_0210 AAIMG0208

Not nearly as exciting is my Bush Bean planting. I planted some "True Red Cranberry" I got from Old Sturbridge Village in Mass. I also planted "Rocdor", "Borlotto Solista" (from Italy) and "Jade" which is pictured above.

What a Saturday!

Friday, April 3, 2009

1st Year Anniversary.

I'm not real sure what started it all. If I had to guess I'd say it started with me trolling the Internet for information. Who knows what kind of information? Probably from reading the book "Mayflower", which is about the Pilgrims voyage to the New World, and in it I read how they had used the "Three Sisters" technique to grow their veggies. You know, the one where the Indians taught them to grow beans, squash & corn together. Being intrigued and starting to remember learning about such things in school, I went to Google, and from there Wikipedia. You know how it goes. Once I started reading about it I started to think.........."I've always wanted to grow my own veggies." So I probably clicked on some link, and then clicked on another link, gathering info all the way, and then ended up on some blog called "Skippy's Veggie Garden" : . As I started to read about how a fellow New Englander was growing her own veggies, I was impressed. Especially how she grew her tomatoes. And, to top it off, she showed you how to do it.......with pictures! The rest is history. The next thing I know, a year has gone by and I'm eating homegrown potatoes for breakfast and writing in my own blog every three days!'s my 1 year Anniversary as a gardener. I actually didn't plant anything in the ground until April 21, 2008, but the garden prep was started a couple weeks before. So here are some photo's from about a year first garden.

aasummer2008 116
aasummer2008 092
The original 4 raised beds. No compost bins, and if you'll notice, there's no path to walk on or harvest from in front of the beds, just a fence. I just walked around the fence to pick my first tomatoes. My fence was also held up by little 1x sticks, not the 4x4 posts I use now. And yes, I used pressure treated wood for the beds..........hey, I'm a contractor, I thought lasting longer was better! I also used "Skippy's" tee-pee technique for my tomatoes (pressure treated again!)......I'm still trying to find the best way to stake tomatoes. This year I'm going with 10' re-bar stakes. Besides the tomatoes on the left and right, I had cukes in the middle, beans & squash in the back with watermelon & pumpkin next to the bean bed. The squash & pumpkin got destroyed by pickleworms, and the watermelon wasn't grown with enough room in mind. The cukes did pretty good, as well as the beans & tomatoes. But they all got planted a little late and eventually succumbed to the Florida weather ( & bugs).

aasummer2008 110 aasummer2008 588
Close ups with a pic of my first ripe tomato.

aasummer2008 592
aasummer2008 594
aaGarden 271

Not bad for my first garden, but I quickly realized that I needed to make some improvements. I knew I needed more sun, so I cut some trees down. I then added some beds, put in a couple of compost bins and change the fence a little. The last photo is the current garden. That darn $20 book!........I guess the Pilgrims are still inspiring.