Welcome to The Navage Yaps. In these posts, I’ll yap about whatever comes to mind or whatever I may be doing at the moment that isn’t related to our projects. I meant to get this yap out yesterday, but as usual, a bunch of other crap crept in and stole the hours from my day.
Yesterday morning was cool, and the ground was wet with the night’s rain. The forest trees clung to the rising mist, unwilling to let go of its nurturing embrace. The world was still and at peace. I opened the sliding door and stepped onto the deck as our dogs rushed past my legs to uncover the nefarious plots of wily gray squirrels. I closed my eyes and breathed in the heavy air, perfumed with the blossoms of a new generation. I stepped down from the deck onto the lawn and walked towards the vegetable garden. The earth was emerging from another long slumber, and it was full of life, full of promise, full of…SHIT!
“GAH! Dammit” I looked down at the brown smear on the grass and lifted my foot to inspect the tread.
“Penny! Pepper! Get over here!” The dogs were too smart for that. Penny came close, head bowed in submission, and then rolled onto her back about ten feet away from me, tail wagging furiously. Pepper stayed at the other end of the yard, eyes narrowed in a squint, teeth bared in a shameful smile.
“You jerks need to stop crapping all over the yard! Go poop in the side yard!” The louder I yelled, the faster their tails wagged, as if that show of love and affection could absolve them of their crimes and guilt. I felt like I wasn’t getting through to them. Don’t they understand English? Yeesh.
I hobbled over to the hose and cleaned off my shoe while giving my girls the stink eye. “Jerks.” I muttered and continued on towards the garden.
Here is a picture of our vegetable garden from last summer. You can click the pic to see a larger version.
Last year was a struggle for many of our crops. Our tomatoes failed almost completely. I think they were over-watered due to a problem with our cobbled-together irrigation system. Our cabbages were a 100% loss due to an infestation of disgusting worm/caterpillar things that laid their eggs in every conceivable nook and cranny of every cabbage. Not labeled in the picture are the grape vines, hidden behind the tomatoes. Early in the season, we were looking at a bumper crop – the vines sagged beneath the weight of so many delicious grapes. But Mother Nature, that hideous crone so revered by hippies, saw fit to deny me of every last grape. I had to watch in silent month-long horror as each cluster - every succulent grape - succumbed to The Black Rot.
My onions fared okay, but either I harvested them too soon or I overcrowded them or they were just weak little runts. Every onion was about the size of a golf ball. I used them in stews and cursed the amount of peeling I had to do for so little tear-jerking goodness. Not shown in the picture is our blueberry patch – six poor little bushes that had already been replanted three times in as many years. Except for the first year, when we had one handful of berries, we’ve never enjoyed their fruit, and last year was no exception. Though Handan built an admirable enclosure, chipmunks – nature’s little assholes – stole EVERY SINGLE BERRY. I was venomous with rage. Our beans flourished, but they were these awkward things, tough as leather. I was at a loss with what to do with them, so I made a good show of not being wasteful by keeping them in the kitchen (and then I threw them out when no one was looking). The cucumber jungle produced prodigious monsters, more cudgel than vegetable. Check out this behemoth.
Sadly, most of them ripened so quickly that they turned a freakish shade of orange.
I pickled some and turned others into sweet and spicy relish with the help of my hot peppers.
Our eggplants did pretty well last year, but the real stars were the peppers. While all other vegetables were vying for a Darwin award and hoping for a participation trophy, my peppers were busy kicking ass and taking names. They were the undisputed heavy weight champions of the garden, and they had the heat to back up that claim.
I love my hot peppers, and this year, they are getting more garden real estate.They’ve earned it, unlike the sissies from last year who barely managed to pop out a fruit.
This year, I got an earlier start on my fruits and veggies, partly due to better weather and partly because Handan and I aren’t mired in a back-breaking outdoor project like we were last year at this time.
Here’s an overview of the garden so far this year.
About half of the beds haven’t been planted yet. The three circular bean plots and the raised bed to the left of them were used to house un-potted plants from last summer. They will be excavated and replanted this weekend.
Where the photo from last year has the caption “Weeds,” this year we’ve turned that into another blueberry fortress. Yes, those poor bastards had to be replanted one more time. One died over the winter, and now we only have five. This year, I will eat blueberries or nations will crumble and burn at my feet.
Believe it or not, there are five bushes there. Handan built a far better fortress this year. I will be beefing up security with mouse traps. Please don’t tell me how cute and awesome and innocent chipmunks are. I used to believe that load of crap too, before I became a gardener. Now their mask is off, and I see them for what they truly are: sneaky, thieving little bastards that would kill you if they had the chance and then steal the lint from your pockets. They are distilled evil wrapped in a cuddly package. I will have my blueberries.
Where last year I grew beets and yellow onions, this year, I am growing garlic. I ordered some promising varieties last summer and planted them in October. They are doing great, and I eagerly await their harvest in late summer.
Where last year I planted red onions, this year I planted radishes, carrots, parsnips and potatoes. We’ll see how they fare. Here are some radish seedlings.
My peppers are back in full force, with many varieties this year that I started from seed. One bed is devoted to sweet peppers. Most of those seedlings were purchased from a nursery.
And one bed is devoted to my hots. About half of these were started by seed, including my precious Carolina Reapers – the hottest pepper on planet Earth.
I may have planted my Reapers to early though. Their leaves are turning funky and distressing colors.
If anyone out there knows what is happening, please let me know. I am a rank amateur when it comes to gardening, and everything I do is on a wing and a prayer. Come to think of it, that’s kinda how I operate in the DiY realm, too!
This year, I’m planting mostly Roma tomatoes. I have one bed dedicated to Roma and Roma II (like Roma, only better!). If I can find a couple of German Queens, I’ll plant them in a separate bed – I love them for eating. But my Romas are 100% for canning in the late summer.
As for the grapes, here’s how they looked before The Black Rot came in and murdered them all.
The vines were already an unruly mess, and it only got worse as the summer wore on. I had no idea about pruning. This spring, I got around to learning how to prune a grapevine. I thought I may have cut them back too late in the season and far too aggressively, but they are giving buds. They live!
I still need to deal with The Black Rot, though, Apparently it is a fungus that doesn’t go away without treatment. I gotta get on that soon…
Let’s move on to the yard – I want to show you my fruit trees.
This little runt is my sour cherry tree. There used to be a companion tree, but it died after the first year. Handan tells me that cherry trees need other cherry trees to pollinate. That may explain the grand total of two puny cherries this monster produced last year.
This year, I’m not convinced it’s even alive. There are little things that look a bit like buds, but shouldn’t it be giving some leaves or flowers by now?
Please don’t look at my lawn. It is my great shame.
Next up is one of my two Fuji apples trees. Fuji apples are my favorite. Last year, each tree produced two apples. Two we ate, and two were eaten by some unseen beast whose days are most certainly numbered.
I also have a peach tree, two pear trees and a few more apple trees. None of them have ever given me anything but grief and caterpillars. This year they better give me some damn fruit or start looking for a patch of dirt in some other sucker’s yard.
Okay, come back to the deck. I want to show you what’s growing there. Let’s start with the lettuce. I’ve always had trouble growing lettuce. It’s finicky, and requires too much attention (mostly in the form of cutting and eating it). When I had it growing in the garden, I’d forget about for days on end, and it would grow tall and bitter. Nobody likes bitter lettuce. It’s bad enough that we have to eat our vegetables, but far worse when they are bitter for having been neglected. This year, I have them in a planter box right outside my door. Couldn’t be easier.
I have two more planter boxes in the same area. One is dedicated to cilantro – one of my absolute favorite herbs.
And the other is dedicated to Greek oregano. I have another huge planter box full of Greek oregano that will be harvested and dried for the winter. This planter box is for eating throughout the summer.
I have a small basket for dill – essential for my Turkish salads (and Handan’s favorite).
I have a pot full of Italian oregano – to eat and to dry.
Some young rosemary plants. Rosemary is essential for beef and lamb. I cannot live without it.
I have two hale and hearty chive clusters that are waiting to be transplanted into a permanent home.
Here is that bigger bed of Greek oregano for drying.
And finally, another long planter box full of sweet basil, English and French thyme, and a new one this year – pineapple sage. Its leaves smell of pineapple. I intend to make a jam out of it later in the summer.
Well, that wraps up the little garden tour and the first official Navage Yap. Would you like to read more yaps? I’ll try to get one out every Monday. Please let me know in the comments section. Also, as I was digging around for pics of last year’s garden, I realized just how many random photos I have on my iPhone. Would you guys be interested in a weekly post about some of those pics? I could call it The Navage Snaps or something like that. Let me know about that in the comments, as well.