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!


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!


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!

Garden horror

So, I have a fear of snakes.  And I don’t mean that I don’t like them and a get a little squeamish, I mean I have a legitimate phobia of snakes.  Full on panic attack if I see one.  Even pictures of snakes make my palms sweat and I have to take a few deep breaths.

And Thursday, the thing that I have been fearing all along finally happened: I saw a snake in the garden.

I thought that I saw him the day earlier, when I glimpsed something black and shiny and rounded struggling in the netting that we put up around the blueberries.  I hightailed it out of there IMMEDIATELY when I saw it, because I knew if I actually saw a full on snake I’d lose it, and at that point I also thought it may have been a turtle (he was in a shadow, and at the base of some other plants, so pretty well hidden).  Then on Thursday afternoon when I got home I was walking past the berry patch to the garden and I was looking toward that shady spot at the bottom of the net, just in case.   As I was looking something caught my eye and I looked down towards my feet and not two feet away from me was the snake.  And he was BIG.   (God, even writing about this is making me shake a little bit.)

In the .02 seconds between my eyes seeing him and my brain screaming “SNAAAAAAAAAAAKE!  YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!”  I started running.  Heedlessly, as I realized when I was about 20 feet away from him and regained control of my legs, since I ran RIGHT through my patch of baby okra and swiss chard plants, smashing several of them into oblivion.   I stopped, turned around to see him still there and partially hidden in the grass and just started sobbing uncontrollably, because that is a useful response to certain death.   Thanks a lot, EVOLUTION!

I kinda stood there for a little bit not knowing what to do when my boyfriend called and talked me down from being absolutely hysterical and unable to breathe.  I walked out through the back of the garden and around the OTHER side of the house to get to the porch where I finally collapsed on the stairs and shook and cried for about 15 minutes before I was able to breathe calmly again.   OF COURSE, I did not go back out to the garden for quite some time, but when Ann got home later that day I told her what happened.   And then I found out that her daughter had come by that morning and seen him too.  In the same place.  Curious.

Once the sun went down, and I was certain he had gone back to the mouth of hell (which must be where he lives), I went back out to the garden (the long way, of course- avoiding the berry patch) because I had ripe Sungolds and I couldn’t NOT pick them!  Also I was trying really, really hard to be brave when all I really wanted to do was just light the whole garden on fire and never, ever, ever go back out there again.   Ann was sitting on the porch of the house as I was picking the tomatoes (far, far away from the snake side of the garden) and as I looked over in the direction of where I had seen him, I could still see a telltale divot in the grass, and what looked like the smooth, shiny ridge of a snake spine.   Now I know enough about snake behavior to be pretty sure that if a snake is almost stepped on by a screaming adult, he isn’t likely to stay around, so I called out to Ann (remarkably calmly, considering…) “I think he might still be here…”  She came down off the porch with a garden tool (I can’t remember which one) and walked over to where I was pointing and said “Yep, that’s a snake.  And wow- a big one!  I think he’s dying…”

I didn’t care to look, so inside I went.  The next morning she went out and he was still laying there, this time with flies buzzing around him, certainly dead.   Still too scared to go anywhere near him (I KNOW!  It’s a phobia, ok?  Nothing rational going on in the old grey matter here…) I called over a friend to dispose of him, and he was deposited somewhere far, far away where I will hopefully never come across him.

So, a happy ending, right?  (Well, for me at least- not so happy for the snake) Except now the neuroses are kicking in and I can’t go near the berry patch without my chest hurting.  I was out there yesterday trying to pick some blueberries and I heard a rustle in the raspberries and next thing I knew my legs had carried me 30 feet away without any active input from me.

Sigh…what a frustrating phobia for a gardener.   What I wouldn’t give to trade it in for a fear of heights or crowds or something…

(And yes, I know it wasn’t poisonous and I know they are useful and they eat rats and all that stuff.  Rationally, I get all of that.  I can list off all the reasons why I shouldn’t be afraid.   And listen, I grew up in the woods of Alabama where there are about 17 varieties of snake that will kill you as soon as look at you and some of them will even open your doors and crawl in your bed and BITE YOU IN THE FACE (or something like that…) and this wasn’t one of those snakes.  I KNOW!   If you are about to tell me why I shouldn’t be afraid, I invite you to go to Wikipedia and look up the term “phobia.”)


A snapshot of my garden on June 6th:

That same spot, one month later, on July 6th:

See what I mean about the weeds?  Yeesh.  You can also see two of my trellising methods for the tomatoes.  Maybe one day I’ll get around to posting about them, you know, when I finish the weeding (hahahaha!).

Weird year

I’m sure it is somehow my fault, but this has been a weird year in my garden,  to wit:

I harvested my first tomatoes at the end of June, and I have yet to pick a single squash or bean.  Soooo bizarre.

Look:  Tomato:

And my beans:

Look up at the top of the image- this one is only now sending the first climbing tendril out.  What is up, beans?

Well, actually I’m pretty sure it is because my tomatoes look like this:

while my beans are lost in the weedy mire off to the right and they look like this:

At least they did.  Yesterday I spent a hot, sweaty hour doing some weeding and mulching, which is why that first bean looks so pleased.  I think they will be much happier.   At least they better be, ingrates!

And while I have yet to harvest a zucchini, I will very, very soon.  This 8-Ball looks almost ready…

I have to confess.  The weed situation is OUT OF CONTROL.  It is not easy to reclaim a garden not used for 5 years.  The tomatoes got the earliest TLC, while everything else languished.  The squash, peppers, and eggplants are in bad shape still.  And the weather has been hot, hot, hot these last few days, so I haven’t been able to spend more than half an hour out there during any given block of time.  This is the crunch time, I suppose.  When the weeding and the trellising and the pruning and the harvesting all smashes into you at once and you think WHY O WHY DO I DO THIS?!  Then you eat your first sauteed zucchini or bowl of green beans and you go “oh yeah…”