zucchini
tsp for scale

Gardening season is winding down. We almost had frost Saturday morning. Almost. It has been such a warm autumn, frost is late in coming. This has allowed me and James some extra time to make repairs to the chicken coop roof, and for me to harvest one small zucchini from the garden. Just when I had given up on them, the heatwaves backed off and we got a little more rain and then one of the three stunted, but still alive plants, finally produced a female flower. All summer they have been blooming only male flowers.

Now the race is on for two small pumpkins. The pumpkins also had only been producing male flowers and suddenly two small pumpkins have emerged. These are a new (to me) variety I have not grown before called Dickinson. They are supposed to be large—8 pounds or more—tan, with a thick skin, which would make them good winter storage pumpkins that I would not have to puree and freeze immediately. They allegedly make good pie. One of the pumpkins is currently still a deep green, the other is yellow-green trying to ripen to tan. Both are only about 3 pounds. Will they make it to ripe? Fingers crossed!

In spite of the drought, the amaranth did fantastic and I didn’t even directly seed it. It all pretty much came up from seeds dropped from last year’s plants. I managed to harvest about half a cup of grain last year. This year I will get much more than that, enough to actually try and pop/puff instead of toss in with one morning’s breakfast oatmeal. Hopefully it will be something fun to add to salads and other things.

I know y’all have been wondering about how my sexy blue corn turned out. I had 24 cornstalks. In spring a good many were attacked by the Dread Pirate Rabbit and I thought they were goners. But corn, being a grass, turned out to be more resilient that I expected. The stalks recovered and, while not growing to great heights, did tassel and produce ears. 

And as those small ears developed on all the stalks, the squirrels began sampling. The squirrels took no prisoners. They destroyed close to half of the cornstalks. I fought back by putting nylon stockings on the corn after the tassels turned brown and were done with their pollinating. All went well. The corn got bigger, the squirrels left it alone, and I dreamed of a meal of Mexican street corn with enough corn leftover to dry and make into flour for my very own tortillas. There wouldn’t be enough flour for very many tortillas, but that was beside the point. 

While I dreamed, the squirrels watched, planned, and bidded their time. Were they listening on the Saturday I told James, the corn is ready to pick to make elote? Did they hear James say he was not prepared to make it for dinner that night? Did they giggle with glee to hear me say, that’s ok, I’ll pick it tomorrow for dinner? 

James and I went out Sunday morning for a great bike ride. We came home, showered, had lunch. I went out to the garden to pick the corn. There was one cornstalk left standing. All the rest had been broken and the corn stripped. I found nylon stockings all over the garden under trees and shrubs. And beside the stockings, shreds of corn husks.

blue corn

Undefeated, James valiantly made elote from two small ears of corn the squirrels had not yet eaten. As I enjoyed the deliciousness, I vowed never to grow corn again. Ever. I told James that in 3-4 years I am going to say, let’s try growing corn again! His job is to say, Stef, absolutely not. Remember the blue corn? Because I can easily override James on all things garden, I have also been telling friends to remind me about the blue corn. And now I am telling you. I am depending on y’all to say, in 3 or 4 years when I mention I am going to try growing corn again, Stef, remember the blue corn.

For next year’s garden I am going all in on garlic and potatoes. I didn’t grow any garlic this year. I don’t remember why, but I am glad because it would have added to my stress from the heat and drought. Next year might still be hot, but there will not likely be a drought. So I have planted a pound of German garlic, a big bulbed porcelain hardneck variety sourced from a local farm, and a quarter pound of Spanish roja, a spicy red rocambole hardneck variety I bought online from Pinetree Gardens. The garlic bed is currently covered by row cover fabric to keep the chickens from digging in it. And once the trees are done dropping their leaves, the garlic will have a nice thick layer to keep them safe through the winter.

Speaking of chickens, the Nuggets continue to grow. They no longer peep, but they don’t quite have their big girl voices yet. They are in between peep and cluck. The sound is kind of honking—clonking? Sia’s bouffant is looking fine. Lucy is turning out to be chill like our Margaret was. And Ethel with her feathered feet, looks, as James observed, like she is running around in her bedroom slippers.

chickens
4 out of 5 chickens

And while the Nuggets are not exactly integrated with the Dashwoods, I have seen Mrs. Dashwood hanging out with them. And Sia and Lucy will walk up and stand near Elinor. Ethel, on the other hand, continues to remain terrified of Elinor. Obviously Elinor is top chicken and Ethel is on the bottom of the pecking order. Still, when they are all out in the garden, I have seen them busy with their chicken business within two feet of each other instead of as far away as they can get. Progress, bit by bit.

If only progress could be made on global warming. COP26 is only a couple weeks away and so much is happening and not happening. As Greta Thunberg said at the Youth4Climate conference in Milan earlier this week, it’s been “thirty years of blah, blah blah.” 

Even Queen Elizabeth is frustrated. She was caught on mic the other day complaining how world leaders talk, but they don’t do anything. It would have been really awesome if she’d said blah, blah, blah but I suppose that wouldn’t be very Queen-like. Her remarks make it seem likely that the Royal family, who accepted a petition with 100,000 signatures the other day, might actually rewild Royal land. Wouldn’t that be something?

Sadly, in the United States, Biden is revising climate spending plans after the @#&^%$ Joe Manchin, declared he would not vote for it. So once again, the U.S. is going crap on our responsibility to avoid an even more dire climate crisis than the one we are currently in. Tom Dispatch has a good article explaining that unless the U.S. and China can mutually agree, and actually follow through, on reducing carbon emissions, we can forget about keeping global temperature rise under 2C. 

 So increasingly it is looking like COP26 will be more blah, blah, blah. A card from my Effin Birds postcard book sums it up nicely:

effin birds postcard

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14 thoughts on “Almost Frosty

  1. We’re still almost frosty in VT also. In fact, this is the new record length for the growing season, and the new latest first frost date record was set over the weekend. Almost 2 weeks after the last record date. But even that freeze only happened at the top of the state’s tallest mountain, so I don’t count that… My garden is still going strong. We have, however, lost most of the leaves off the trees. Before frost. It’s kinda eerie to have bare trees paired with green grass and blooming asters.

    I’ve foresworn corn several times. Most recently was raccoon destruction though. The blighters knocked down all the stalks, peeled all the cobs, and ate maybe two or three bites from each. It’s like they were looking for some particular flavor and each ear kept missing it. *bite* “Nope, not that one either.” *toss* “How ’bout… this one?” I was incandescent!

    As to blah, blah, blah… I gave up on top-down solutions, or really any solutions, about a decade ago. The math of market-driven fixes will never work. Part of why I started this blog of mine to describe how I’m trying to create a muddling-through lifestyle that might actually muddle through. For me and my sons and whoever wants to coattail along on this project anyway. I figure everyone is going to have to come up with their own tailored muddles though, and I don’t see much of that happening in the wider world… so yeah… the odds are not in our favor.

    Love the Effing Birds! Now that would have sold in my bookstore. Sadly, they didn’t exist yet.

    1. I hope you have gotten frosty by now Elizabeth. We finally did over the weekend. Oh those raccoons are as bad as my squirrels! I hate when critters take just one bite and then leave a mess of ruined veg. Insult to injury.

      You are right about the top-down solutions never going to work. I am familiar with that muddling through lifestyle creation. It can be ever so tiring though with some days being more muddly than others. But we’ll keep on muddling on, we really have no other choice.

  2. This video makes me laugh so hard. I just love the music in time with the chomping (and the story of course):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNdts2P-djg

    Somewhere recently, I read an article about interplanting so that there were crops on the outside designed to distract the munchers so that the inside crops would have a better chance to grow and I thought about your relentless critter community. Heheh I can’t remember the specifics, but i do think corn was involved somehow (an indigenous planting practice of some sort) but you’ve probably come across this in your course and reading already.

    I’m glad the Queen didn’t say BlahBlahBlah but she didn’t need to say it for us to understand that’s kinda what she meant (it’s suitable for Greta somehow). 🙂

    1. OMG BIP! James and I both laughed so hard at the groundhog garden video. I feel like the garden this year was for the squirrels and rabbits. I’m really glad I don’t have groundhogs! I’ve tried interplanting. I’ve tried putting stinky unpalatable plants around the desirable ones. I’ve tried pepper sprays and things that move in the wind. None of it has worked. Well, the pepper works to keep squirrels from eating pumpkins but we have to refresh it immediately after rain. I think the corn practice you might be thinking of is the three sisters? You plant pole beans to climb the corn and squash to cover the ground and suppress weeds. That’s how I grew the blue corn. It does not keep critters away. It just gives the rabbits and the squirrels something to eat 😀

  3. The royals all certainly have plenty of land to rewild, so fingers crossed but NOT holding my breath. I’m glad your girls are beginning to blend a bit. I’ll remind you about that corn. I got six apples on my tree and two of them were eaten by birds.

    1. I won’t hold my breath about the royals rewilding their land either, but I will keep my fingers crossed. I hope the four apples you got to eat were good! Pretty soon you will be getting so many apples on your tree you will have plenty to share with the birds 🙂

  4. I had not heard the US news on climate spending plans, that is indeed sad and infuriating and worrying for the rest of the planet as well.
    We will remember the blue corn! And your squirrels are very, very cunning and misbehaving!
    I’m not a gardener at all, but I always hear that corn requires too much water to grow and that here in Europe farmers should grow other types of cereals. Did you find blue corn uses up a lot of water?
    I have seen an enormous pumpkin at the market last sunday and I hope yours get to be as big!

    1. Aren’t the squirrels terrible Smithereens? Corn needs regular watering but not more water than anything else in the garden. We had a drought this summer and I watered the corn with a bucket about 2-3 times a week and it did fine.

  5. Oh, the Adventures of the Corn made me laugh. I tried to grow corn once in my garden in Livermore and experienced much the same — darn you, squirrels! My dad grows lots of corn each year but he doesn’t seem to have the same squirrel problem. I had a small squash harvest this year (three mashed-potato squash — which I recommend, by the way — delicious — a few spaghetti squash, far less than I had hoped, and many small round green pumpkiny-things that I don’t recognize and am not sure what to do with). The deer ate nearly all my green beans except the ones at the very tippy-top of the tall teepee structure I made. I will let those dry and try again next year. I have a few last tomatoes to gather (poor tomato year) and need to get my garlic in the ground before we leave on a short road trip this weekend. Honestly the garlic were the most successful item in my garden this year. I need to put some effort into improving the garden this winter — lots of compost and weeding. Trying to decide whether to pull the kale or not — it’s still producing, and it’s nice to go get fresh kale into December. I’ll probably leave it. Oh, the other fun thing is I tried luffa this year — waiting for those to get dry enough to harvest! It’s a mystery! But I have at least 9 or 10 very large luffa waiting to be harvested so I’m keeping an eye on them. I did let the chickens out last weekend and they had a good time checking out all the things that happened in the garden since they were last allowed out (late spring). It’s time for them to get scratching!

    1. I’m glad the blue corn adventure made you laugh Daphne. I made me swear and pout but now I can laugh about it. I envy your dad his corn patch! Oh, I have never heard of mashed potato squash so I looked them up. They are so cute and little! Sorry about the deer eating all your green beans. I was at a neighborhood clean up day recently and someone was there giving aways seeds and I got some luffa seeds! How big did your vines get? Do they need a lot of climbing space?

  6. *(&@#(@^$ Joe Manchin!

    That’s nuts about the blue corn and the squirrels! They totally heard you guys. I’ll try to remember to remind you not to plant corn again! LOL. Fingers crossed for your pumpkins!

    I got some garlic to plant – will do so Friday when I’m off. I got Music Hardneck Garlic.

    I’ve actually had some tomatoes fruit late in the season! Better late than never. Not enough to do much with but enough to eat and enjoy a few. The little yellow pear shaped ones just came up on their own as a surprise.

    Love the Effin Bird postcard – saw Care’s post about it. 🙂

    1. Oh Laila! I am so excited about your garlic! I have grown Music before and it’s tasty. I hope it is a success for you! And so wonderful you got some tomatoes finally! Next year’s garden is going to be amazing, I just know it!

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