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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.”)

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Growth

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…”

Harvest Monday!

Well, I actually forgot it was monday until I checked my feed reader and saw all of the Harvest Monday photos out there!  Whoopsie!

Not too much to report this week except for one big victory:  Dah da da dahhhh!

Yup.  I got maters!   These are, of course, Sungolds- the ever reliable.  But I picked the first handful of them on June 29th!!  Tomatoes!  In June!  Amazing…

Everyday I get a handful.  I have yet to summon up the courage to try one.  I have a feeling this year will not be the year of the tomato for me, but apparently it will be the year of the tomato for my garden, which is producing early.

No blushes of ripeness on any of the others yet, though about 70% of the Arkansas Travelers have turned a gorgeous, buttery yellow.  Soon!

There were some berries- mostly of the blue variety- but a terrifying incident with a snake (more on that later) has kept me out of the berry patch for several days now, so I have nothing more than a few handfuls to show of those.

But!  Tomatoes!  Victory!

Care to share what you’re harvesting?  Go visit Daphne!

Got jam?

Hi guys!  I’m looking for a good, simple jam recipe.  I’ve picked and frozen enough berries now to start preserving them.  Anyone have a good berry jam that they make?  I’d prefer no pectin.   Thanks!

Relief

Anyone who lives in New England remembers what last summer was like.  May was cold and wet.  June was cold and wet.  July was wet and cold.

The only thing that I grew that did well was potatoes, and several things just up and died like my eggplants and corn and lima beans and okra.  Admittedly, most of that was probably due to neglect, but the cold weather certainly didn’t help things.  It was a challenging year to grow hot-weather crops, and combined with the late blight that spread quickly and wildly all over the eastern US, it spelled disaster for a great many Solonaceae.   Our CSA had an embarrassingly small tomato crop last year, but we were luckier than some neighbors, who had to pull up their entire tomato crops.

I was certainly a little nervous to be growing primarily crops that need lots of hot, sunny weather to thrive, but I didn’t need to.  This has been a GLORIOUS spring and summer for hot crops.   Lots of days of very hot (for up this way, at least…) weather, full sun, and the occasional soaking rain.  It’s been wonderful, and my plants are very happy because of it.

ALL of my tomatoes are fruiting, the big standout being the Arkansas Travelers, who have set a truly startling amount of fruit, even so early.  And yesterday I noticed the first ones making the change from bright green to mild yellow.  I’ll be seeing red soon!

The ones that will ripen first are the Sungolds, of course.  We’re supposed to have hot, sunny days for the rest of the week.  If I get lucky, I’ll be picking the first of these by the end of the week, I bet.

The biggest tomato so far is actually on a surprising plant- one of the last ones that went in the ground.  These little guys are still quite short- just under 2 feet (the vast majority are up to about 3.5 ft high at this point!), but this Black tomato is biiiiig.  I was tempted to pick it off green, since I should be letting this plant put energy into growing, not setting big fruit, but I couldn’t help myself.  I want this one to ripen- and ripen early!

(I know, I know…I shouldn’t be touching wet tomato plants- but this was the only one that got handled and then I left the garden!)

Other things are happy, too.  Check out my Serrano Peppers!  These guys have grown like crazy over the past two weeks, and are dripping with flowers and eeny little peppers.  These are the biggest of all of them.

And my first potato flowers!  YAYYYYYY!  I cannot WAIT for fresh potatoes!  Soon, my sweets…soon…

Someone’s been gnawing on them…haven’t seen any buggies on these though- guess I need to take a closer look.

How’s about all that GREEN!?  Isn’t it glorious?  How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

88 Tomatoes

Glad I didn’t suck it up and cram another tomato in to make an even 90, because one up and decided to kick the bucket anyway- so I would have been back to 89.

No idea what happened here- one day it was as happy as the neighbors, lots of blossoms, strong growth- one of my better plants, in fact.  And now it looks like this:

This all happened over the course of about 4 days.  On Saturday morning I noticed he was looking a little droopy, so I gave him a good watering.  Perked up, but by the end of the day was sad looking again, even though all the others next to him were happy as ever, without a drop of irrigation.   I stopped at that point- no use worrying over a plant that can’t hold it’s own.  By Tuesday morning he looked like this.  Bye bye- we hardly knew ye!  

And the strange part is- it is the only one.  The only one in the whole garden that isn’t doing well (or at least holding steady- apologies to those little guys I just threw in the ground so recently…).   The tomatoes on either side are chugging along, nary a wilted leaf or droopy flower in sight.  No idea what happened to him.  A garden mystery!  Any guesses?

(UGH.  I wrote this post last week and somehow forgot to publish it, and yesterday I found ANOTHER tomato doing the same thing- and this one with two big, lovely fruits on it!  WHAT IS HAPPENING?!  And the one picture above is now almost invisible and gone.  It is TOTALLY dead)