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Well, I’m no longer Surviving on Massachusetts. 

No, this isn’t a note from the beyond, from now on, I’m Surviving on Virginia!

I kinda lost track of y’all there for a while, I know.  By the end of the summer, my farm garden had turned into an overwhelming pile of weeds, several snake sightings were making me hyperventilate every time I went out into the garden,  and I was struck by powdery mildew that destroyed every last one of my zucchini plants in a matter of days.  It wasn’t a great gardening year, and I lost hope.  I’ll admit it. 

That isn’t why I moved, though.  My move to Virginia had been in the works even before I planted the first seeds in my farm garden, so I didn’t leave anyone in a lurch.  I had decided that my three year experiment up north was mildly successful, but I was ready to get back to the land of sweet tea where I could grow okra and watermelons without having to make sacrifices to the weather gods every day. 

So, in October, I flew south.  I’ve moved to Fredericksburg, VA, and beautiful colonial town with gorgeous homes, a grand canoeing river, and weather that makes bulbs bloom in February.  Hooray!

The blog title just seemed plain silly to keep, so I hope y’all will follow me to my new home Surviving on Virginia.   I’ll keep this site up, but it won’t be updated anymore.

Rain rain rain

For the last three days, it rained.  I mean non-stop, continuous rain.  It was never hard, just constant, and we got a little over three inches.  The garden certainly  needed it.  I don’t irrigate (except when things were just getting started) so all my plants were looking incredibly sad.  Except the weeds, which have won the battle of the garden this year.  Sigh. 

Because of the constant rain, I haven’t harvested anything in four days.  I did run out and pick a few zuchs and some okra, but my poor beans are the size of my forearm.  I hope they don’t stop producing.

Along with the rain came cool weather- I don’t think it’s been over 68 degrees since this weekend, and I actually had to shut my windows and put an extra blanket on the bed for the last few nights.  HELLO!  It’s AUGUST!  Pair that with the sudden and shocking realization that I was looking out into the woods and seeing yellow and red trees and I’m pretty bummed right now.  This year has been frustrating in the garden, but hopefully the next few days of warmth and sun will kick everything back into growing mode.  I’m not ready for the garden to be done with yet…

Harvest Monday!

I had some decent harvests this week, though I ridiculously don’t have any pictures to show (my camera charger took an unexpected trip to Virginia and I won’t be down there to retrieve it until the 14th so I’m nervous about using it too much!). 

I harvested a total of about 20 lbs of tomatoes this week and 6 pints of sungolds.  Still a little frustrating, because I have SO MUCH green fruit and it just isn’t ripening.  GRR!  C’mon, plants!  Show me what you’ve got!

Zucchinis are finally coming around.  I’ve lost ALL of my big 8 ball plants to fusarium wilt, but luckily it hasn’t touched my other varieties.  They were slow to take off, but they are starting to set fruit pretty heavily now, so maybe it won’t be a total loss on that front this year.  I harvested about 12 lbs of zucs this week.

On Saturday I finally gave my peppers some attention and liberated them out of weeds that are chest high (no joke…it’s embarassing).  Despite being entirely shaded and starved, I harvested 2 pints of serrano peppers and one single, giant Italico.   The serranos especially are covered in little peppers and still flowering, so they are doing remarkably well despite their abandonment.  Bless you, little peppers…

And I finally, FINALLY have beans.  I harvested a small handful of fortex beans which I ate raw standing in the garden.  I have some nice rattlesnake pole beans that should be ready today.  The rest are flowering like crazy, so I think this may be my last week where I’m not overwhelmed by bean picking, but that makes me happy.  Picking beans is my favorite gardening task!

Ah- I did take a trip down to Jeff’s restaurant on Saturday to deliver a box of veggies, and I got there right as they were sending some of my tomatoes out to customers!  I was SO EXCITED to see my veggies making their way to someone’s table!  I hope they liked them!

Head on over to Daphne’s to share your harvest!

Harvest Monday

Here’s my cute little harvest from yesterday afternoon:

Lots of tomato varieties!  I think I’ve gotten at least one tomato off of all my plants now, with the stars being the Black Sea, Black Sea Man, and Sungolds.  That big, gorgeous yellow one is the Azoychka, but this is only the third tomato I’ve picked so far.   They aren’t doing well.  Hardly any more fruit set and not growing much either.

I’ve also got some zuchinni there- all 8-Balls.   My Zucs are disappoing this year.  The plants are mostly still VERY small with the exception of 5 of my 8-ball plants, but those are now being stricken with what I think is the same Fusarium Wilt that killed off some of my tomatoes early on.  I thought it was Squash Vine Borers (same symptoms) but when I cut open the stems there was nary a sight of them.  Very sad.  I’m pretty bummed. 

I also dug the first potatoes yesterday, mostly because I was just curious to see what they were doing.  The week or so of VERY hot weather and no rain stopped them in their tracks about two weeks ago and I haven’t seen any new growth.  Most of them never even bloomed.  I dug some up to see what they looked like.  Well-formed tubers, but not many.  What you see there is the result of THREE plants. 

I did have one little victory!  Remember that big Black Sea tomato I posted a few weeks ago?  Well, he finally ripened:

He had some cracking around the top, but the bottom was beautiful- and don’t you love those striations?

He was heavy, too!

That may be the record for this year!  I have  yet to see any that are that big on the vines so far, but we’ll see. 

Share your harvests!  Check out Daphne and tell us what you’re growing!

Amazing!

Last night I got home late from work and went to do my usual scan through the garden walk.  I was shocked- shocked- to discover that five of my full-size tomato plants had ripe fruit on them!  First of all, pretty crazy that 5 plants (and 4 varieties!) all ripened on the same day, but y’all- it was on July 15th!  This is so early for us.

Most of the fruits were pretty small, and since we got something like 3.5 inches of rain the day before, all but one of them had split, but I’m still pretty psyched!

Here are the ones that ripened:

Black (Which had lovely striations on it and was quite large)

Black Sea Man

Arkansas Travelers (these were the ones I predicted would ripen first, as they set a really remarkable amount of fruit early on, but they have been very slow to redden.  The one I picked was very small- about the size of a ping pong ball.)

Azoychka (Which had two plants with fruits on them.  One was small but the other was the size of the palm of my hand and pristine- no cracks, no ugly bits!)

I guess something can really be said about the Russian varieties in our cool climate, eh?  I wish I could do a taste test for you!  Maybe I’ll get Chef Jeff to come over and taste them so I can do a writeup of the taste differences!

And my Sungolds are going to be gangbusters in another week or so.  Fruits are starting to ripen on multiple sprays off of the same plant now, and holy cats are they rambly.  I’ll have lots of those soon!

Wineberries!

About two weeks ago my friend Anna, who lives in Western Virginia, posted this on her Facebook status:

“Dear wineberries:  I love you, I love you, I love you.  I wish I bought more of you.”

Now I had never heard of a wineberry, so I asked her what on earth they were.   She pointed me to a Wikipedia entry about them, and my response was:  “Oh, you mean that big thicket of mysterious berries that are growing the in middle of my yard?”

Turns out, I had wineberries right under my nose and had no idea.  It seems that lots of people mistake them for wild raspberries, though they actually aren’t native.  Have you seen these growing and thought they were raspberries?

You aren’t alone!  Apparently they are native to China, Japan, and Korea and were imported as a fruit/ornamental crop and, like many imported things, turned feral.  It certainly grows vigorously in our little patch, and in parts of Virginia is runs entirely rampant.

I’ve been watching these little fellas grow for a while, as they start life wrapped tightly in a tiny, hairy husk and they only open when they are just about ripe.  Quite unusual and striking.  They also have a slightly sticky sap on them, which actually helps when you are picking them, but builds up on your fingers.  It is very easy to wipe off, though.

Here’s a just-opening bunch:

Held side by side to a conventional raspberry, they really do look quite different.  They have  a squat, domed shape to them unlike the pointed tip of a raspberry.  I was going to take a picture of them next to each other, but by the time I walked over to my camera with the three raspberries I was able to dig out of the thick foliage, they had somehow fallen into my mouth.  Whoops!

The most striking difference is the color.  Where raspberries are dull and opaque, wineberries practically sparkle.  They look like rubies.  This picture was taken at dusk with a heavily clouded sky, and you can still see how gloriously they shine:

And of course, they taste amazing.  I think I like them more than raspberries.  They have a more subtle flavor- on the sweet side, but you can pick them a little early for tartness.  They are amazingly juicy.  Eating a handful of them is like taking a sip of water.  They dissolve in your mouth leaving behind a lingering sweetness that can’t be beat.

I’m having a love affair with these berries- I think they may have replaced blackberries in my heart.  You may already be eating them in your own yard (or know of a patch on the side of the road), but if you aren’t, they are probably worth cultivating.  I know now that I can never live without these berries again!  From what I can tell they have no pests, no diseases, and no drawbacks (if you can keep on top of their natural ramblyness).  Oh, and they are heavy producers.

I love my farm!

Harvest Monday!

I spent an incredible 5-day weekend in Vermont (and yes, it was quite hot even up there) and came home to a nice harvest!    Not only did I harvest my first zucchinis (8-Ball and Plato- the Cashflow’s have a few small fruits on them but not big enough to harvest just yet.  Disappointing, considering it was billed as an “early” type.  Slow to mature AND bad germination?  If they don’t end up as heavy producers, I wont be growing those again), but I also got a nice handful of Sungolds and two pints of wineberries (nope, those aren’t raspberries!  I’ll tell you more about them tomorrow!) and the most exciting thing- I found a new blackberry patch!  They are quite large and pretty tasty- a little tart but still good for out of hand eating, which is different from the other blackberries we have growing here.  I’m SUPER excited to have these!  Blackberry cobbler is in my future in a few weeks!

And what are you growing?  Head over to Daphne’s and let us know!

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