Sunday, October 28, 2012

Farm Diary: Leek repentance

So, I finally found the instruction sheet, buried deep under the leeks in the box.

They want loose soil? Eh.

Amended with manure or compost? Pfft.

Trim the tops? Pshaw.

Hill up? Maybe I can get out of that.

Trim the roots "as short as possible"?


For some reason, it's roots that I take seriously. I suppose this is because every single dead plant that I've dug out of the garden has come out with a sad pot-shaped rootbound ball. Declining to prune or train or remove fruit or flowers, neglecting to fertilize or dig nice holes, failing to presoak seeds or plants, rarely seems to be punished by failure. Root disobedience? Dead plant. As soon as I started breaking up rootbound rootballs, dead plants mostly stopped happening in my garden.

So, fine, be that way, hmph. I'm going to take off the weed cover, yank the thirty leeks already planted, add two bags of manure and some fertilizer and perhaps some soft rock phosphate ("Supply your leeks with ample phosphorus while growing."), till it all in as deep as I can, trim the leeks root and leaf, and replant them at a six-inch spacing. This will have the advantage of allowing the current bed to absorb a whole lot more leeks. (Mathmath: 4 feet by 15 feet by four leeks per square foot gives me...more leek spaces than I have leek plants. Yay!)

It would have been better if I had made this resolution yesterday, so I could do the actual work today. On, you see, the weekend. It would have been even better if I had made the resolution on Friday, to save me and Gardening Friend and a now-broken hole-digging tool. 

But so be it. I'll clear the weed cover and yank the poor leeks and cover with plastic against the rain (it's hard to till pure mud) on Tuesday, till on Thursday, and plant on Saturday. Meanwhile, the rest of the leeks are waiting in the fridge, and I should probably give them a drink of water, as if they're cut flowers, tomorrow. Because the instruction sheet says that I already should have, and I'm trying to be obedient.

Mumble. I hate obedience.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Farm Diary: How not to grow leeks

I ordered far, far too many leek seedlings. I wasn't supposed to need to order leek seedings at all--I was supposed to start my own or, at worst, buy them from the Grange. But I didn't, so when Himself found some online at Peaceful Valley, I got excited and ordered, um, about a hundred and fifty. (I say "about" because you order them by the pound, not by count.)

Today Gardener Friend and I finished clearing and raking a roughly four by fifteen foot bed where corn had been growing and covered it in biodegradable weed cover and tried to plant the leeks by punching holes through the plastic and into the soil.

Very funny.

See, I didn't re-till, not since this spring's tilling of that space for corn. I didn't think I should need to re-till. I also didn't think that leeks would need more nutrition than was left over from the well-manured and well-fertilized corn. Right now, I can't imagine why I thought either of those things. It's not as if I don't know how to read a book.

For any number of crops the failure to re-till would have been fine, but not for large leek seedlings; we just couldn't get a reliably deep enough hole. But my only basis for not fertilizing was, I realize now, a source that said that potatoes would do just fine in leftover post-corn fertility. Leeks and potatoes may get cozy together in a soup pot, but that doesn't mean that they agree on their preferred soil.

Anyway, we planted thirty leeks into the un-re-tilled soil before getting tired and running away. Another fifteen will go in (one foot spacing), and we'll see how those lean-and-hungry leeks do.

Did I mention that leeks are supposed to be hilled up so that you get a nice blanched stem? That's going to be hard to do with the weed cover stuff there. I suspect that I'll need to pull the weed cover off in a few weeks and start hilling. At least that will give me exposed soil to scratch fertilizer into.

The good news is that there are plenty more leeks, and plenty of soil to plant them into, once I clear more space. That's also, of course, the bad news.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Perfume: Vintage. Danger. Also, Danger.

I've always avoided buying vintage perfumes, fearing bankruptcy and heartbreak combined.

Oh, sure, when I saw a little vintage bottle of Tabu at the costume jewelry shop I bought it, along with the equally tiny bottle of Replique that it was sharing shelf space with. And being a fan of greens, I had to order an itty bitty sample of vintage Vent Vert. But I've averted my eyes from eBay, and I tried to forget the existence of all those vintage Diors, and in general I focused on the classic perfumes that were still worth appreciating in their modern versions. And I didn't even like the vial of vintage Mitsouko that I bought along with the Vent Vert, so that helped.

But now and then I checked eBay for vintage Vent Vert. You know, just to see. To fill an occasional idle moment. I hadn't bought anything from eBay in years, and my PayPal account was just as idle, so I was more or less safe.

Then I woke up my PayPal account to buy a bottle of Schizm.

Then I had another idle moment. And I looked at eBay. With an armed PayPal account.

The bottle of vintage Vent Vert is predicted to arrive on Halloween. The tiny vials of seven different Dior parfums will probably appear a week or three after that--I went roaming beyond eBay and to Surrender to Chance. Then there's the vial of Vol de Nuit. And the sprayer of Indult Tihota. (Much more modern, but similarly prone to causing heartbreak.)

And I keep going back to eBay to look at the gorgeous houndstooth bottle of Diorella.

Oh, dear.

Image: By Hawkins. Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, October 22, 2012

NaNoWriMo: This year's plan

So this year I'm going to be a NaNoWriMo Rebel. Instead of writing fifty thousand words of a novel, I plan to write and post fifty thousand words to this blog.

Yes, it's madness. I rather doubt that I'll actually get there. But it seems to fit my current writing goals more than the traditional NaNoWriMo. To me, NaNoWriMo is mainly an exercise in poking perfectionism in the eye. And my perfectionism problem isn't at all with what I write I private, but instead for what I write and post. So that's the place to attack it.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Perfume: Blinking in the light

Things happened in the perfume world while I was gone.

Parfumerie Generale, arguably my favorite house, released Djhenne. And possibly Tonkamande; at least I don't remember it. Serge Lutens seems to have just continued the import/export shuffle, making Chene harder to buy just as I'm ready to buy it.

Side question: Has LuckyScent always had a category named Boozy? I love that.

Parfums de Nicolai, a house I like very much, has two new perfumes. But one (L'Eau a la Folie) looks fruity and the other (Musc Intense) is officially musky, so sadly I will probably skip sampling them.

I've never heard of this Ann Gerard name, but I'm tempted to try them just because they're offering small (9ml) sampler set bottles. Two of the set mention galbanum, too.

There's a perfume bottle (A Rebours) with fur on it. I'm scared. It mentions galbanum, too. The notes list is pretty interesting all around, in fact.

Danger, danger.

Image: By Remi Jouan. Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Farm Diary: Pumpkins and paths

So, since the last farm diary entry, it rained. And rained and rained. It stopped just before the third "and rained", and we haven't had any significant rain for a couple of days. Today would have been a perfectly plausible day to do a little gardening, but I'm still not quite over that cold. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. Maybe I'm afraid of mud.

But we did harvest many of the remaining vegetables. About ten pumpkins. Two squashes from seeds called "Red Warty Thing", which fulfilled the promise of their name. Five or six wildly overgrown zucchini, some of them with nice hard shells like winter squash and a pretty two-tone coloring that should look nice as harvest decorations. An odd thing with one elongated end that I think is an immature Red Warty Thing.

And one Copra onion. There are lots more onions but I got lazy. Irritatingly, the onion tops didn't fall, so I'm not sure how well they'll keep.

I didn't start leeks in time, so I ordered a hundred or so American Flag leek seedlings from Peaceful Valley, to plant soon. And three pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, which will almost certainly freeze to death, but I wanted to give them a try. And from Johnny's, some landscape paper and biodegradable landscape fabric and regular landscape fabric.

Maybe I'd better go get the rest of those onions...

Edited to add: Oh, yeah. I never go to the paths discussion. There wasn't much to it anyway.

I did go get the onions, and they're a puzzlement; even though I took much better care of them this year (last year I barely weeded them at all), the average bulb size is, if anything, a bit smaller. The thick necks can probably be explained by my failure to withhold water when I should, but I don't understand the bulb size. Of course, I was growing them in a different bed, and I planted them too late. I really can't complain until I finally plant them when I should.

I also harvested a couple of dozen assorted peppers. And transplanted ten or so strawberry plants to the far end of the future strawberry bed, so that we can see how they take to my rough-and-ruthless transplanting process, and to being transplanted in the cold.

That's all. Probably.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Farm Diary: Weeds and strawberries and cauliflower

I'm a lousy garden recordkeeper. And I wish that I were a better garden writer, which is something that will probably happen through more garden writing. And sometimes my mind is too full of gardening to blog about perfume or chicken. In theory, logging my garden activities in this blog could help with all of that. In practice, odds are good that I'll write this one diary post and never write another. But, hey, what's the harm?

The Rambling:

So. As previously discussed, we have a large-to-us vegetable garden that we refer to as The Farm. It's all tilled in wide rows, roughly four feet wide, with two-foot paths in between. Counting left to right from the south fence, there are six rows about sixty feet long, then five about eighty feet long, for Row One through Row Eleven in the discussion below. That's (mathmathmath) just over three thousand square feet of garden space, most of it with several hours a day of full sun.

Our previous garden garden was twelve by twenty-five feet. One-tenth as big. I didn't keep up with the weeds there, either.

I learned this year that in some ways, it's easier to control weeds in a large space than a small space. If I want to grow a variety of crops in a small space, I have to amend and improve the soil like mad and use pretty tight spacing, and that means that I'm committed to hands-and-knees weeding; I can't use a stand-up tool with enough precision to get between closely-spaced plants without beheading half of them. With a wider plant spacing, I just have to slice off weeds next to one plant, not between two, and I seem to be able to do that. I kept about 500 square feet of corn and assorted vegetables pretty nicely weeded for most of the summer, with two sizes of hula hoe, a small trapezoidal hoe, and a miraculous little weed-slicing hand tool. Most of the work was done with the small hula hoe and the miracle tool.

The wider spacing that makes weeding easier doesn't reduce the crop much, possibly not at all. Tomatoes planted eighteen inches apart need a lot of pruning and training and arguing. Tomatoes planted twice as far apart, and therefore one-quarter as many plants in a wide row system, will grow bigger and produce more fruit per plant, and don't need as much wrestling. But there are, again, one-quarter as many plants, and in a tiny garden there might be room for only one plant at that spacing. If it dies, no tomatoes; if it thrives, lots of only one kind of tomato. So the narrow spacing in a small garden is about variety and insurance, not necessarily about higher productivity.

So. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Weed control. Wider spacing makes it easier to control weeds with a hoe. But not enough easier. The 500 square feet that I kept weeded this year isn't enough. This winter and next year I'll be working with other methods of weed control. Herbicides will never be on the table (we'll just go back to grass before we do that), but landscape paper and plastic and fabric and perennial ground-crowding plants are. Wider spacing should work better for those strategies, too.

The Log:

The Big Till: Most of our tilling is done with the Little Tiller belonging to Gardener Neighbors. But there's some lawn next to The Farm. We want a little lawn to plop a chair on, but we'd like it to be small enough to mow with a hand-push rotary mower. Little Tiller will choke and die on all that grass. So sometime this winter or this coming spring, parts of the lawn adjacent to The Farn will be professionally tilled and covered in plastic for a year, eventually making each of the shorter rows a bit longer.

Since this means that a tiller that laughs at long grass will be at the farm, we're keeping an eye out for other spaces to till - such as all of Row Two, known this year as The Haystack Row, since all we did with it this year was fling clippings from other places on it. Well, and eat cherry tomatoes from the volunteer plants all over it.

New strawberry rows: So, about this time last year we (OK, not we; Gardener Artist did the work. I miss Gardener Artist in the garden, but I'm never really going to garden if I have someone to rescue me, am I?) cleared two rows that had grown cucumbers and onions and other miscellany and covered them back to the back fence shade line (maybe fifteen feet from the back fence) with black plastic, based on advice that black plastic for a year will help to knock back Bermuda grass. (This was Rows Three and Four, counting from the south fence.)

These two rows are destined to be the new strawberry bed. Last week I removed and rolled up the plastic, raked off the remaining dead stems, tidied up a little, and me and Gardening Buddy tilled them to a tiller depth, to about twenty feet from the fence. I was a bit surprised that it was possible to till; I thought they'd have been baked to one giant brick and would need hours of watering to be tillable But, no, there was a good little bit of moisture in the soil. I don't know if this was ground water preserved by the plastic and lack of plants, or if it wicked over from the irrigated bed next door.

We covered the rows with bird netting to keep them from becoming the world's biggest litter box, gave them about forty-five minutes of sprinkler because the soil was still a little dry and we were going to re-till amendments later, and ran away.

Yesterday I bought six bags of manure and two three-pounds boxes of soft rock phosphate, dropped them off, and watered the space again. I intended to do the math and figure how much of Row Three that stuff would take care of, and spread and till it plus a dose of organic fertilizer today. Instead, I got a tickle in my chest last night and I can't afford to catch a cold before the coming workweek, so I'm typing about gardening instead of gardening.

I suspect that the math will tell me that those six bags will amend a tiny laughable fraction of the bed, and we'll talk to somebody about delivering a partial truck of some sort of soil amendment. Although the previous strawberries went into, I think, totally un-amended soil and did really well,

We'll read reviews of landscape fabric and spring for the good stuff for this bed, because we plan to plant it for a three-year run.  We may learn that the fertility is played out in the second year, but if we don't, I'd hate to have the fabric fall apart prematurely.

Once we're amended and tilled and fabriced, Himself will run dripper line down so that there's one dripper per square foot in both directions, and we'll start moving strawberries in at that twelve-inch spacing from the current weed-infested strawberry bed, all winter. If our gamble goes bad and the strawberry plants freeze and die as a result of the disruption, there are probably enough berries in the overgrown previous bed to plant the new bed three times over, so we'll just curse, wait for early spring, and do it again.

Corn row clearing: Last year, we grew corn on about fifteen linear feet (sixty square feet) of each of Row Seven through Row Ten. In bits of time last Sunday and this Saturday, we cleared the corn part of Row Eight. Even though I largely abandoned weed control in late August or early September when the corn got as tall as my shoulder, the space was pretty easy to clear--the weed cover was fairly young and easy to yank, and clearing the roughly sixty square feet took about a gardener-hour and a half. (Half an hour for two of us last week, half an hour for me this week.)

It's ready for tilling, if I'm going to plant any delicate primadonna plants, or, more likely, just planting. The other three former-corn-beds should be cleared in a couple of weeks, giving me four beds for planting anything but corn, since we did corn last year. Each is big enough to reasonably divide in half. 

This all makes me, the geek, think that I need a terminology for the rows. See, we planted the corn in the second quarter of the eighty-foot Row Seven, which could be called Bed 7b. (Where we also have a 7a, 7c, and 7d.) And if I'm going to plant half of that, then that's Bed 7.b.a. Heh.

So my tentative plan winter-spring plan for these spaces is:
  • 7.b.a will be prepped for an early spring planting of potatoes and covered in landscape paper. By early spring the paper will probably be rotting through; I'll put down another layer and plant the potatoes through it.
  • 7.b.b will be planted in garlic as soon as possible, through landscape paper or the cheap landscape fabric that we already bought.
  • 8.b is not yet planned; I might just prep it for warm-weather crops and cover it. Or I might spread alfalfa (we have a few bales), plant favas, and plan on tilling them all in in spring.
  • 9.b will be planted in overwintering cauliflower as soon as possible, through that same cheap landscape fabric, and covered in floating row cover against cabbage worms.
  • 10.b iwill be prepped for an early spring planting of shelling peas (in half) and snap peas (in the other half) and covered in landscape paper.
New blueberry row: It's not just the strawberries that are infested with weeds; so are the blueberries. The blueberries also aren't properly planted in acid soil. So most of the row by the south fence ( in my terminology; the first three-quarters of row 1) is destined to be tilled in The Big Till, amended with plenty of acid peat and re-tilled with the Little Tiller, covered with the best landscape fabric we can get, festooned with drippers, and planted with the existing blueberries at a pretty wide spacing. In the spring, we'll get enough blueberries to fill the whole row back to the back fence shade line.

Shade line raspberries: Speaking of the back fence shade line, we're planning to put raspberries back there, behind rows 1 through 4. (1.d, 2.d, 3.d, and 4.d).  This area isn't flat-out shaded, it just has too little sun for your average garden vegetable--though more sun than many areas where I have grown some garden vegetables. We have raspberries in the back yard at the house that are producing halfheartedly in less sun, so I expect that we'll have a decent crop back there, with little labor. I'm not sure if we'll plant them at a controlled spacing in landscape fabric, or plant them through landscape paper on the assumption that by the time the paper has rotted away, the raspberries will be their aggressive ground-shading space-filling selves and will be shading out most weeds.

Plant purchases: Oh, and yesterday I bought three Japanese anemones from The Grange - two Honorine Jobert and that pink single-flowered one. In one gallon pots. I'm hoping that if I log all my plant purchases, then later I might actually remember what's growing.

Whew! That's just a fraction of the plans. The perennial herbs also need to come in from the back shade line and go somewhere sunny. And I want to fix up Row Eleven, the gravelly row by the fence next to the parking lot next door, where I hesitate to plant edibles but could plant cutting flowers. Whee!

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rambling: Weekend farming

Weekend! Ha!

I should clean the house. I want to fry chicken. I want to sew my very first knit garment with my new serger--or at least prewash the knit and stare at the pattern. I want to get about six patterns traced and fitted--or at least sketch the new cuff on the Princess Shirt.

And I want to work on getting The Farm under control. I did a pretty decent job of controlling the weeds for part of the space for much of the summer, with a couple of fancy overpriced hoes. I now have a third fancy overpriced hoe that I'm eager to try out, but I also know more about my weeding limits. So I want to learn what (1) landscape paper, (2) landscape fabric, and, worst of all, (3), black plastic, will do for me.

The first plan is to move the strawberries and blueberries to new spaces, with landscape fabric controlling the weeds. I keep reading that landscape fabric is iffy for weed control--that weeds punch through it and turn it into a tangled mess, that it needs mulch to keep it from deteriorating under the sun, that the mulch means that weeds sprout on top, blah blah blah. There's a lot of no-win there. But we're going to give it a try anyway.

We were advised that the best way to deal with Bermuda grass is to cover the area with black plastic for a full year. That's what we did last year with the wide rows that are about to receive the strawberries; we'll see how it worked. And then that's what we'll do to the wide rows that the strawberries and blueberries are coming out of.  Toward one end, we might leave a few square feet uncovered, plant pumpkins and melons, and then let the vines roam over the plasticked part, because leaving garden space totally unused makes me twitch.

The landscape fabric bothers me because it's semi-permanent and doesn't allow soil amendments. So I'm also going to experiment with landscape paper, rolls of crepe-textured paper that are supposed to suppress weeds for a season (or a chunk of a season) and then deteriorate so that you can till them in at the end of the season. I'll use it for substantial-sized annual plants like kale and tomatoes and corn and such. Well, no, probably not corn, because corn seems to really need fertilizer infusions throughout the season, but the others are generally less picky.

Anyway, tomorrow I plan to haul twelve bags of manure out to The Farm and start amending the strawberry rows. Probably. Or I might take the black plastic off of part of the ornamental row by the fence and steal some manure for there, because I'm more excited about planting Japanese anemones than prepping for strawberries.

It is, of course, possible that I'll just sit outside in the side yard and eat sunflower seeds.

I like weekends.

Images: Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Link: Those amateurs again!

A link to a link to a link...

In The New Other Blog, a post about folks debating whether those amateur book reviewer types are destroying literature. It reminds me of the amateur-perfume-reviewer debate, plus perfume bloggers tend to do a good bit of book reviewing, so I thought I'd do a little cross-linking.

Image: By Raider of Gin. Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Quick Sniff: Ayala Moriel Sabotage

I don't like red wine. But every time Himself has a glass I try a sip, just in case that's the glass that changes my mind. And every time I eat at a buffet that offers grits, I try some, in the same hope. (No, that doesn't happen often on the West Coast, but I used to visit relatives in Tennessee.)

Chicory. White chocolate. Coffee. Mashed potatoes. Zucchini. There are a lot of things I'd like to like, so I keep trying them. Once in a long while it works, too--I once tried hummus in a Japanese(?!) restaurant in Nashville, and was sold on the stuff.

I want to like vetiver. But the few vetiver perfumes that I like never really seem to be vetiver. They're related to vetiver in the sense that those attitude-free canned olives that you find on buffet salad bars are related to the sharp, bitey olives that make me squeeze my eyes shut when I eat them. Vetiver Tonka, for example. Or Creed Original Vetiver. They're nice. Friendly. Non-threatening. I like Vetiver Tonka quite a bit, but I think that's more about the Tonka than the Vetiver. And I've been meaning to give away Original Vetiver.

Ayala Moriel Sabotage may be the vetiver fragrance that turns me around. It doesn't blow my head off, but the vetiver isn't nervously peering past a layer of cream sauce, either. It's grassy, with a little attitude and bitterness as a companion to the citrusy notes. I don't get the tobacco and tonka mentioned in other reviews, but there is something keeping it grounded. I like it. A lot.

I'll try it again, soon. Maybe it'll convert me.

(The picture? I went looking for photos of grits. I think that dish might do the job.)
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Blogging: Yes, I started another one

Now and then I rant (remember this one?) about the state of discussion about blogging. It all seems to be about clickthrough rates and SEO and ad placement and, well, bleah. Blogging's a fascinating subject; why is there so little interesting talk about it?

So I started a blog, named Yet Another Blog About Blogging. Where I'm going to try to discuss other aspects of blogging and (here's the hard part) try to persuade others to discuss with me.

Will it work? We'll see. Wanna click over and join in?

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Perfume: What I've been wearing

I've been slacking on perfume.

I wore Comme de Garcons Garage last week. That was entertaining. I have a full bottle now; did I mention that?

And I wore Parfumerie Generale Cedre Sandaraque yesterday or the day before. It smells so odd--like a combination of medicine and floor wax--that I find myself wondering if I smell what was intended, or if my nose is missing a note. I like it, but, well, there's oddness.

Oh, and my bottle of Schizm came! Ayala Moriel Schizm. Yum. I wore it and enjoyed it, but once again it had to fight with other perfumes. I had been sampling at a Dawn Spencer Hurwitz display and was wearing Bancha and Gelsomino and, oh, a bit of a Royal Apothic Orange Blossom Extract. I'll wear it properly another day soon.

Speaking of Gelsomino, I really like it too. Classic old-lady jasmine.


That is all.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.