Monday, March 28, 2016

POTD: Snacks. And the farm. And stuff.

I took the photo at Lardo, in Portland, on Saturday. Fat and fries. Mmmm.

I took it with a rented Fuji X100T, rented for three days because I wanted to know if I like that camera substantially more than my current camera. Not that I'd buy it soon even if I did. I'm figuring I should do this photo thing for at least a year, maybe eighteen months, and put some savings into a Camera Piggy Bank (either real or virtual in the form of an extra bank account) before I buy something like that.

I like the Fuji, but there is no lemming for it yet.  It looks really cool and retro; good. It gets great reviews; good. The sensor is bigger; good. It's pretty expensive; bad. There is no zoom; bad. Well, the lack of zoom is arguably good, but only in the sense that grated carrots are good--it would enforce discipline that I should learn. I should get used to getting close to my subject and get an instinctive feel for just how close I need to be, but the fact is that I'm not there yet. I may never be there.

The Fuji seems pretty bad for macro (look at me pretending I'm comfortable with the term "macro", when only a few weeks ago I would have said, "little things close up") photography. I read that in some reviews, and we went to the art museum and, among other photographic experiments, tried taking close photos of the netsuke on display, and the Sony did a much better job.  Macro isn't my thing, but until I've been playing with this for a while I don't actually know that it's never going to be my thing. I might be cranky if I buy an expensive camera that's no good at it. (Reminder to self: If I ever get around to that plant breeding thing, I might want good close up photos of flowers and leaves and seeds.) The Sony's capabilities are beyond my skills for a while, so there's no rush to choose a next camera.

This year I'm going to try to photograph the farm--both pure record-keeping photos and some photos that might look good as photos. Maybe.

The below is what much of the farm looks like right now, though the photo was taken around this time last year. In case I haven't clarified, lately, the farm isn't literally a farm--it's a garden of twelve wide rows, each row containing ten beds, each bed four feet by six feet, with two-foot paths between beds. So the beds are six feet wide center to center, but we're only planting four feet of that width--though the plants might reach their roots into the paths.

That means (math, math...) 120 X 24, or 2,880, square feet of growing space. We have yet to actually use all of that growing space. Last year we covered much of the farm with high-quality landscape fabric, merrily violating the fabric's warranty by failing to mulch over it. The same landscape fabric used in smaller quantities in the past seemed to hold up quite well across some years without sun protection, so we took the risk. Because weeding more than four thousand square feet of ground--the number goes up from the 2,880 when you include paths and the ten-foot DMZ reserved for eventual shrubs at the back--was never going to happen. Ever.

Ever. Did I mention ever? It took me some failed years of "farm"ing to accept that, but it's accepted now. Even the two lettuce beds in front tend to get out of control.  The fabric makes a huge difference; a few weekends ago I went out to the farm and was able to make a non-trivial dent in the required prep work for the summer garden in one little four-hour afternoon.

I suspect that the next reality-acceptance exercise will be accepting that I won't plant, tend, and harvest anywhere near 2,880 square feet of annual plants every year, even at dryfarm spacing. So we'll be slowly adding more perennials.  Very slowly. We're planning on roses, blueberries, raspberries, possibly asparagus, possibly artichokes, and so on.

I even had brief thoughts of hazelnuts, but after reading about pollinizer trees, it looks like I'd use up more than the entire farm before I planted enough trees to be reasonably confident of a crop. There might be pollinizers in the neighborhood, for all I know, but I'm not going to count on it.

Anyway. The main plan right now is still beans, beans, and beans.

And that is all.

Images: Mine.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Rambling: Garden Time

We're entering the time when the garden starts to push everything else out of the blog. I'm late; this year, I abandoned the fall and winter and early spring garden and am starting with late spring. My main rule this year is going to be, "If in doubt, plant more bush beans." It's all all all about the bush beans.

Last year, the Blue Lake bush beans failed. I planted, failed, planted again, failed, planted again, failed again, and only then did it occur to me that, oh, yeah, sometimes failure is about the seeds, not the conditions or the variety. So I got new seeds and those did just fine, but they were really really late.

So I just ordered the preferred variety--Blue Lake Bush--from three different sources. I also ordered Fortex pole and Jade bush, and plan to get some Blue Lake pole, and I still have some other bush and pole bean seeds from last year.

My other new garden rule is that I prep garden space for crops by crop priority, rather than by order of planting. So the first priority is to prepare nine four foot by six foot beds for bush beans, ready to the point that all I have to do is poke seeds into the ground--when planting time rolls around. Three of the beds are ready, and most of the rest are still in decent shape from last year. I should be able to just stir in some fertilizer with the electric tiller--half an afternoon's work. I just have to wait for the soil to be the right balance of not-wet-not-dry, and recruit someone to be ready to call 911 in case I cut my foot off.

The next priority is to similarly prepare space for...four? Six? pumpkin plants, again ready to poke the seeds in the ground. That will be more work--the ground hasn't really been broken for a couple of years, though it has been covered in landscape fabric. Though maybe it won't be that much work, because I may just dig out a bucket or so's worth of soil and then cheat by sprinkling fertilizer over the rest of the space.

Then I'll prep even more bean beds. I may pound some stakes into some of them for pole beans. Or I may let some pole beans sprawl around on the ground. I think that Steve Solomon (author of, among other things, Gardening When it Counts, and Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades) said you can do that. Though I may be remembering wrong.

Then I may or may not get around to prepping space for some Sunshine F1 squash. Carol Deppe (author of, among other things, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties and The Resilient Gardener) says that it grows good squash even when grown poorly. "Grown poorly" is mostly how I grow squash.  She says that Sunshine F1, when harvested immature, are very good for slicing and drying. We don't actually have a food dehydrator, but we have a smoker oven that maintains a similar slow, steady heat, and that might be worth experimenting with.

She says that Costata Romanesco zucchini--which are normally harvested immature--are also good for slicing and drying. I was going to grow those, too, but I realized that those are useless if I let them get out of hand and mature, while the Sunshine are no problem at all, because maturing is their usual job. And I'd get some squash blossoms for frying from the Sunshines, too.

So I guess my third rule for the garden this year is to grow plants that grow their way to a distant and flexible harvest date, rather than ones that are a waste if I don't get to them this week. Well, except for the snap beans.

I do intend to cheat and plant some potatoes in the two existing usually-lettuce-beds, even though potatoes are a quite low priority.  I may do that as soon as next week.  Then I might till two more lettuce-style beds for more when I'm tilling the beans. This is entirely breaking the "first priority first" rule. But I've been wanting to grow potatoes. And they fulfill the "distant and flexible harvest date." So I'm cheating.

So, beans, more beans, squash, more squash, potatoes.  Far fewer crops than I usually flail around with, and only the beans have to be harvested in a timely manner. Are there any beans that are high-quality snap beans AND high-quality dry beans? Then if I let a bush get out of hand, I could just let it sit there and mature its beans.

I'm skipping lettuce because too much of it goes uneaten--oddly, even though we eat more salads than we ever did. We buy those prewashed salad greens. Maybe next year that will change. I skipped the usual Copra onions because I could tell that I wasn't going to get bean space prepped in time for beans if I took the time to prep onion space in time for onions, and beans were a higher priority.

If the beans, beans, squash, squash, and potatoes get planted in time, I may have spare time for frivolities. Zinnias, sunflowers, and maybe more, late, potatoes. Or I could start some overwintering onions from seed and have a winter garden this year. Or I could put in some more perennials. I enjoy the presence of the perennials--this year we'll have several kinds of herbs, strawberries, currants, and possibly artichokes (there's a volunteer plant), without extra work. Well, without much extra work; I should really fertilize the strawberry beds.

I'm torn about cucumbers. I love Armenian cucumbers, but they produce too many fruits. On the other hand, they seem to just keep on producing, no matter how many giant cucumber-goardy things are on the ground, so why not? I can just toss the giant ones in the city green bin once in a while.

But, anyway, beans. Top priority. Beans.

Image: Mine.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Photography: Stopping Time

Tum te tum. Te tum. Tum.

Maybe this blogging-daily thing isn't good for getting any actual blog writing done. Maybe it trickles out all the thoughts and doesn't leave enough to build up any writing pressure.


Trickle trickle.

Earlier today, I was thinking about why we like photographs of people. None of the obvious reasons seem to work. For example, I think it's not loneliness for people that we miss, because we're delighted by pictures of people that are right in the room looking at them with us. And not about a memory jogger, because we're delighted by pictures that we just took moments ago.

One thought: With a photograph, we freeze time. We can have a good long look at people's expressions and manner and gestures in a way that we can't in real life, because in real life those expression move, constantly. That's the main thing that pulls me into photographs. Expressions. Gestures. People. Characters.

Many people apparently don't like street photography, because they don't understand the point of taking pictures of strangers. I don't understand not understanding that. Strangers are fascinating. People you know are fascinating, too, of course. But that's no reason to ignore the whole rest of the world, right?

I spent most of my pre-adult years being an isolated introvert. Maybe that also explains a pent-up fascination with people? Of course, I also spent it reading hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of novels. So maybe all of those people are fictional characters.

It's a theory.

Hey,  I wrote paragraphs!

I'm going to quit while I'm ahead.

That is all.

Image: Mine.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rambling: Rambling

OK, this time I'm going to write something. Really. Absolutely. Stuff, there's going to be written stuff. Sentences, paragraphs, all that. Yep.

So, that photo is another one from Disney. People get tired at Disney.


So, that photography thing. I notice that a fair percentage of the street photographs that I see on the the Internet are pretty or graphical or otherwise heavily about the visual. Lots of street, not always a lot of person. I seem to be almost entirely into facial expressions and gestures.

I've taken plenty of non-people pictures, but my reaction to most of them is...meh. Except for reflections. I like reflections. Usually in windows.

OK, maybe there will be not so much sentences and paragraphs, as pictures, in this post.

In fact, it appears that that is all.

Images: Mine.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

POTD: Aliens!

Aliens! In San Francisco! Aiee!

Well. No. Not really. But it's a cool sculpture, isn't it?

Did you detect the pause there? Another daily post for which I don't seem to have things to say. But, still, daily posting is good, right? Right?


OK, apparently that is already all.

Image: Mine.

Monday, March 14, 2016

POTD: Bovine Sunglasses

I mostly like photographs of people, but I also like the weird. Like this, of a local shop window.


See, I was hoping that just opening a blog post would inspire me to write things. But I find my mind a blank. I did just eat dinner, so it could be a simple food coma blank.


Well, I posted, right?


That is apparently all.

Photo: Mine.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Rambling: Photography and Like That

"If you're traveling with small children...good luck with that." (Droid, Star Tours preshow.)

I've been away from the blog, playing with the camera and taking countless photos of strangers; the street photography thing. So far, I only like a few. The above, taken at the Kingdom of the Mouse, is one of them. (Click to make it bigger!) I may start doing a Photo of the Day. We'll see.

I'm slowly learning the camera and all that stuff about shutter and aperture and ISO (oh, my!). My knowledge is still around the level of "Fast shutter means I can photograph things that are moving, yay!" (And "Low light. No fast shutter. Dang.") I'm debating whether a brief photography class would speed up the process, or if this is one of those things that I learn best by teaching myself.

And I'm already eyeing fancier and terrifyingly expensive cameras. I've been listening to Valerie Jardin's Street Focus podcast.  She talks a lot about the Fuji X100 series, so in a fangirl-like manner I keep eyeing the X100T longingly. I guess you could call it a camera lemming. It's not a logical camera for me to seriously consider right now--I need to find out whether I'm going to reliably work up the nerve to get close to my subjects, first. If not, I should get something with zoom. (The X100 series has a single no-zoom, no-remove lens.)

The photography thing is weird, because one of my firm facts about myself has always been that I have no talent, not even basic competence, in the visual arts. I hesitate to question that, for fear that I'll find out that, yep, it was always true. But as long as I'm enjoying myself, why not? It is a good thing that I'm not interested in pretty; I'm interested in character. Thoughts. Faces and gestures. So I'll give it a try, and not worry about making a fool of myself.

That is all.

Image: Mine.