Can’t catch ‘‘em all

A missed sweet potato showing its hands next to the winter brassicas.

It’s been a decent sweet potato year. I tested yield differences between ones left to creep and crawl and ones given climbing options.

Both varieties gave noticeably higher yields under trellis, the purple Japanese variety really pulling out all the stops in a combined test of second year growth (volunteer list from last year) and shared trellis with a melon. I got maybe 30 lbs from that one spot.

I kept going for a good while after taking a progress photo.

I am not sure between Vardaman and Yellow Jewel how yields were, as they got eaten quickly and I hadn’t labeled the spots, mistakenly thinking I’d be able to tell them apart upon harvest. Both were creamy and tasty, and much less floral than the purple ones (the only way I can think to describe it, it’s not a bad thing.)

The purple ones are also more starchy and fibrous, but the yields on them are impressive in the second year. In the first year they mostly vine and send down a web of roots, seemingly to prepare for next year. No wonder I’ve yet to see slips for them for sale. (These I started in my pantry from organic ones from the grocery store.)

I imagine future sowings will depend heavily on future location climate more so than preference. If I were staying put another year, I wouldn’t add any more purple ones, as I’m sure I left some in the ground already, but would likely triple my creamier varieties to 36 plants, all trellised, and see if I couldn’t get a proper scale.

Delicious, nutritious, purple snowflakes.

Good morning, beautiful.

Some bacon, sweet peppers, and another “national yolk test” to see if we still like the eggs we regularly buy the most.

The nearest egg was the most affordable in the “all the good things” category. The palest was local and likely receives a lot more feed than nutrition from fields. The darkest yolk was also the most expensive, and not that much greater than our usual variety, so we’ll likely stay put for now.

I did learn that you can force a darker yolk by adding yellow-orange pigment to feed, so while we like to use it as a gauge on foraged and pastured hens, it’s not foolproof.

Slush hunting.

The freeze came.

The hottest September on record followed by the coldest November 1st.

Sweet (potato) neighbors creating safe haven for small (golden cherry tomatoes) to survive.

But that’s not what I’m hunting for.

I hunt a little differently than many hunters.

But I bring home a haul all the same.

Tomorrow will be more of the same, as I’ve still more than half way to go here, and two more spots in the garden for hunting.

Like here. Where the sheets didn’t fully protect the green beans in the background.

Tis the season…

Tis the season for growing compost piles, for weeding unwanted seeds from the stockpile, for starting a wishlist for next year and reflecting on the season’s passing.

I think it may be the last year for the raised beds. And I think I’ll help them go. They harbor ants nests I can’t beat back or cajole away. They permit sweet potatoes to bunker under the walls, lessening the harvest and sowing the next generation of ground cover in the same allowance.

But to do so would require remapping the irrigation installed by our predecessors. And that is not in the time budget between now and the early sowings of spring when we’ll try for more peas and beans and carrots and things.

So perhaps another year, I’ll eke out of these tiring lengths, and perhaps next winter we’ll be moving, or the kids will be old enough to require less of my ship’s side to barnacle upon which will both ease and sadden my heart, and also increase the time budget a smidge, methinks. We shall see.

So the beds will rest, the compost will grow, and the caterpillars will continue to feast like royalty upon my cauliflower dreams.

Slugs in June.

“I’ll make you a deal,” I plead, cheerful optimism forced upon each syllable. “You go to sleep and stay asleep before the sun sets so I can have some garden time, and I’ll give you three extra kisses.”

It’s dim, but not dark. Just before eight o’clock. I rush outside. I want to dig the rest of the garlic before it rots where it’s buried. I see an ant sipping the wine of the Mexican Oregano.

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The fading light leaves a squash blossom alit.

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I check on the carrots, long shaded by last year’s hidden sweet potatoes.

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And the leek’s getaway is complete.

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I hear the backdoor creak open. My heart sinks.

“He’s asking for you. Do you want me to bring him down or do you want to go back up?”

I go back up. The irrational emotions flare with each step. I take a deep breath, lower my shoulders, and swallow them down until I’ve softened.

It’s nearly nine o’clock. I haven’t finished my dinner. I nearly sprint out the door, snatch up my trowel, and make a bee line for the garlic. Surrounded by liquefied chard leaves the garlic is doing its best to thwart the hunger that crawls around it, along it, but hopefully not through it.

I send the blade deep into the soil and pry. Each root gives one by one and at once. The soil clings heavy. The roots ching greedily. Tap, tap, tap – some falls. I drape the shoot over the edge of the bed and move on. Another. Slice. Pry. Tap.Tap.Tap. Drape. Again.

The pill bugs scatter. The slugs hold tight. An earthworm seemingly launches from the earth and frantically races toward blind freedom. I watch it a moment. Dropping soil gently down its length, I bury it.

It’s dark now. Ration has yet to return. Dinner is three hours cold. I’m depleted. Unable to find enjoyment in the moments of daylight spent outdoors, alone, I step past the dinner bowl discarded to feed others, tend to others, love on others.

An apple, a knife, and a jar of peanut butter usually does the trick. Here’s hoping.

Across April.

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“Puhpul flowers”

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“Peas? More peas?”

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“Caderperar right dere?”

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“Tomayo!” (And a sweet potato volunteer…)

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“Uh oh. It get down.” (The arbor fell in a storm.)

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“Snail! Hold it? Mama hold it?”

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“Carrots ok.” (And more sweet potato volunteers.)

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“Lello flowers.” (On a broccoli that never made broccoli but made plenty of greens and is now over six feet tall. This photo is at my eye level and it’s well over my head.)

Now, onto preparing for a little gardener’s airplane party… (“aye-plane!Noise…See it!”)

Dig deeper.

If at first you find only frustration and disappointment…
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Dig deeper.

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It’s not quite the fifty pounds from a few years back, but for the size of that planting and the size of this one I’d say it’s a tie. 28 pounds of sweet potatoes and I’m pretty sure I missed a few that dove down or escaped under the planks to the edging paths.

And while I felt a month late, apparently I’m 11 days earlier than 2012. Also, note to self: if you want to turn questionably nutritious soil into glorious earth sow sweet potatoes first. Now what to sow tomorrow to keep it lovely until spring?