Rabbit Pays a Debt

This story is for Trifecta’s April Fool’s day prompt:

rain (transitive verb)
1: to pour down
2: to give or administer abundantly
3: to take a lot of money in bill form and toss it up in the air. This is most effectively done at a strip club for the effect of raining one dollar bills on the dancers (and it makes them feel so pretty), or to snub a hater by throwing money into their face that then falls to the floor like rain (use this when paying a debt to a punk bitch who keeps asking for their money to the point that they are ruining your friendship or when dumping someone who has been bankrolling you for a while now that you’re making money).

It was also inspired by the carrots which are coming up both in the rabbit pot I painted as well as the garden beds. I love carrots! Carrots make me think of rabbits. They are strongly linked culturally, though my friends who keep rabbits tell me they don’t actually eat that many carrots. Rabbits are perfect for April Fool’s Day because like Coyote and Anasi,Rabbit is a great trickster. SAM_1729

***
When you do mischief like Rabbit, you get in trouble. Money, everyone knows, gets you out of trouble. Stealing a carrot can land a body in jail, but a rich man can steal a whole farm, if he has money to buy police.

Rabbit borrowed money from everyone, a little from each, hoping they’d forget. Times being hard none forgot. They all looked for Rabbit when they had need of their money. But one thing Rabbit can do is hide.

Rabbit was resting in a briar eating fresh blackberries, when he heard voices.

“Have’ya seen Rabbit?” asked Possum

“I’ve not seen him since I let him a few dollars” said Fox

“I sore need the money I gave him” Said Possum

“Have’ya talked ta Bear? He gave me what Rabbit owed, sayin’ he’d get it back from Rabbit along with what’s owed him” said Fox

“I’ll go see him now” said Possum, hurrying away.

Rabbit was afraid. Bear had a long memory and was mighty fierce. Rabbit added up what he borrowed all together. It was enough money to fight over.Rabbit made a plan.

He told Chicken, a known gossip, about a beautiful lady at the hoochie-coochie show on the edge of town.

That night Bear came to the show. The girl came out, hiding behind two fans. She danced ‘round the stage, everyone hottin’ and hollerin’. Bear didn’t see too good, but he knew this must be the lady he’d heard of. To impress her he made it rain, emptyin’ his wallet. Later Bear tried to find her, but she was gone.

Next day Rabbit found Bear sighing in his cave.

“Why do you sigh?” Rabbit asked

“I lost all my money, to impress a lady. Now I have no money or lady” Bear said
“Good news! I’ve come to pay you back. Lucky I waited or you might have lost this too” Said Rabbit, giving Bear almost as much money as he had thrown at the mysterious lady.

Carrot Pot

Carrots are in the top five of my favorite vegetables to eat and my number one favorite to grow. There is something so satisfying about harvesting them, sort of the same feeling as opening a birthday present. I never know the size, flavor or even color of the carrot when I start to pull, so it is always a surprise. I’ve been growing them in garden beds for six years now. The first year they were horrible, only about an inch long, furry and with a strong bitter flavor. Each year they have been getting a little better as the garden’s soil quality has improved, but I will never have smooth, long store bought looking carrots in garden beds at this house, because there is just too much clay.
Here are a few of 2012’s best carrots. carrot

They were a respectable size and the flavor was phenomenal, very sweet and more carroty than you get at the store. Some are a little furry and some were oddly shaped as you can see. Over all these made me happy and I plan to grow more in the garden beds hoping for similar results.

This year I am also going to try growing some in a pot and I figured if I am going to have containers in the garden, they might as well be pretty. It is now rather obvious what should be growing in this one. Carrot and Bunny pot

Painting pots is harder in my opinion than canvas (not that I am an expert on either), the top is bigger than the bottom and the whole thing is round of course, not to mention that the smooth surface of the terra cotta does not want to hold onto the paint. I sealed this pot and did two base coats of white acrylic before I started the painting itself. I started on it yesterday afternoon and it took about 3 hours or so of active work start to finish.

Having a little art in my garden will certainly brighten things up and make it more fun.

Now I have to sift some compost and mix it with peat moss, sand and potash to fill up the and then add the carrot seeds. I have 4 varieties and a mix this year. Since the rabbit is sort of anime I think I will put Asian varieties in the pot, Shin Kuroda and a long thin Japanese Imperial type disappointingly called tendersweet.

I will let you know how the carrots turn out in a few months.

Here is an informative site Carrot Museum if you want to learn everything there is to know about carrots.

Peach Blossoms

I know I said the next one would be happy. Sorry, I lied. This one is not happy, but I think it is sort of fun at least.

I am killing two birds with one stone today.  Who throws stones at birds? Seems like a rather silly way to get dinner. Anyway…The story below was written both for Trifecta and inspired by the peach blossoms that are stubbornly blooming in my garden, even though I begged them not to.  They are so lovely and charming that I can’t help but take joy from them.  But they are also fleeting and delicate.  This weekend there might be a frost, and if there is, all of the flowers will wither and die overnight.  If not, they will stay a short spell longer gracing my garden for few weeks before floating away to make room for summer’s peaches.  I enjoy the fragile blossoms while they last, but I adore peaches. I appreciate that something so striking can be transformed into something delicious and that not everything that is lovely is just for looking at. Beautiful and practical is the best of both worlds.

Peach Flower

Then again, some plants are not very pretty at all and they make great fruits or vegetables.  Beauty is not everything, and when it fades, which it will, I hope that I have plenty of canned peaches to last me through the winter.

Stepmother’s Toast

“A fairy tale is a story, a pretty vintage lie handed down from mother to daughter across the generations.  As we grow up, the lies slough away, washed off our brains by science, reason, and experience.  No 100-foot tall beanstalk could support its own weight. Clouds are puffy water, unsuitable foundation for a giant’s castle.  Horses are noble creatures; we can’t blame them for lacking the whimsy to evolve a single golden horn.   Fairies don’t flutter by on gossamer wings, nor do wicked witches sell produce door-to-door in this age of grocery stores and farmer’s markets. There are no magic lamps with jinn in residence or talking animals, unless you count the brutish groomsmen.

Why do we insist on holding out for Prince Charming, doing our best to freeze our bodies with creams and botox, so when he finally comes to rescue us, our skin is smooth and our cheeks blush prettily at his chaste true love’s kiss.

By the way, you look lovely, my dear, fresh as a peach blossom.

Many cling to fantasy, unwilling or unable to doctor their expectations with a pinch of reality, a dash of practicality.  They try every magic they possess to find and capture, or if all else fails, create their prince.  He is kind, manly, strong, gentle, clean, yet unafraid to get his hands dirty.  He will stand up for you, but never stand up to you.  He loves what you love, is respected by his peers, successful in business, and must make an excellent father, to raise the pretty princesses and handsome princes you spawn.

Then some minor thing goes wrong, an errant sock, less than convincing interest in rose gardening, an unslain spider. You start to question.  Is this really my soulmate?

Each mundane day the magic will erode, slowly turning your prince into a frog.

Anyway, I wish the beautiful couple happiness, of course cursed to be temporary.  Please enjoy the open bar my husband is paying for.”

Garden Giddy

I try to garden some all year. For example, right now I have a few carrots, onions, chard, and cabbage that are ready to eat. However, the garden looks rather bare. It is not the riot of bright colors that it is in spring and early summer. There are no big pretty flowers, red tomatoes, or high-climbing purple spotted beans. But there will be soon.

Yesterday we ordered most of the seeds we will need this year and then planned out where everything is going to go. Looking at the garden plan makes me so excited!

Garden Plan 2013

We are trying out a few new crops this year: tomatillos, ancho peppers, zapallo del tronco squash, rat tail pod radish, and ground cherries.   There are also several new herbs to try out, but they are not on the garden plan yet because I have not decided on placement.

Every year the garden gets better and more beautiful.  Knowing that soon this garden diagram is going to come alive brightens up these last few weeks of winter.

Peas and Carrots

The fall garden is doing well.  The star crops right now are jalapenos, radishes, peas and carrots.  I don’t really know what to do with many of the jalapenos, I have been putting them in soups mostly.  Radishes has been going in anything I think they might work it, salads, cole slaw, roasted veggies.   Just this week the peas were big enough to start harvesting and the carrots needed to be thinned so I thought peas and carrots.  I regret this decision a little, because my husband has this weird thing were he loves quoting “Forrest Gump” so once I told him we would have peas and carrots, he told me “Jenny and I were like peas and carrots” for the whole day.

This is the first time I have ever cooked peas and carrots together as a side dish.  They have been together is veggie soup, or chicken and dumplings.  I had a bit of a fear of them to be honest.  I ate frozen peas and carrot when I was a kid, and it was horrible.  For years I would not eat cooked carrots because I was sure they would be nasty.  I got over that a few years ago thanks to “honey and ginger glazed carrots”, but when I decided to try cooking pea and carrots together I was a little nervous and it made me feel a bit sick.  I know, weird right?  I love cooked carrots now, especially fresh ones.  And fresh peas from the garden are pretty fool proof delicious.  And yet, part of me was afraid that if I put them together some sort of dark magic would happen and they would both become horrible. 

Thankfully I was wrong.  It was delicious.  I just cooked them with butter, a bit of water and salt until tender.  It was veggie sweet, salty and perfect.  I will not have enough peas again for about a week, and carrots might be longer.  But as soon as I can harvest them both at the same time again, this is going to happen again.

I planted more carrots on Sunday with the hopes that I will have carrots to eat all winter. Peas of course will die at the first frost unless I can make a cold frame or something for them. This is the second year I have tried to grow food all though the winter. It is nice to always have something out there. Makes me feel quite self-reliant.

Moonflower

This is the first year I have ever grown these, in fact I don’t think I have ever seen them in real life before.  They looked so pretty in the gardening catalog. I needed them to be mine.  They bloom every night just around sunset and stay open all night.  On nights with a lot of moon they look romantic and magical.  The smell is soft and delicate, and reminds me a little of suntan lotion and walking on the beach.  They are going to be a regular feature in my garden in the coming years.

Three Sisters and a Cousin

I have several goals when gardening.  I want it to be pretty, easy to work with, not to time intensive, cheap and attract fun bugs.  But the most important goal however is I want lots of food to eat.

I try to grow plants in such a way that I have the maximum number of healthy, high yield plants in the smallest space possible.   In order to do this I used biointensive methods (http://www.growbiointensive.org), raised beds, compost, natural fertilizers and companion planting.  Companion planting is when you plant two or more different types of plants together so that the properties of one can be beneficial to the other.   Like perhaps one plant is prone to a bad bug that is going to eat it all up, but there is another plant that the bad bug hates the smell of.  You put these two plants together in one area and they help each other.   You can use this method to repel bad bug, attract good bugs, make use of shade, manage nutrients, give structure and protect against disease.

This year I have been the most successful I have ever been by using the most time tested method I know, The Three Sisters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture)).

The idea here is that corn need to be spaced a bit away from other corn in order to have room to grow and nutrients.  Corn also needs lots of water.   The leaves of the maize plant are not good at creating a canopy and shading the soil.  So if you plant corn alone you will have to water it all the time.  This is where the squash is helpful, squash stays much lower to the ground than corn, and has gigantic leaves. If you plant your corn and squash together correctly then very little light will ever touch the ground, so no evaporation. Added bonus, no light means few weeds.

Corn is also a heavy feeder, it loves to gobble up nitrogen.  Beans have this neat bacteria, rhizobia, which hangs out in the nodules of its roots.  Rhizobia produces nitrogen compounds.   This is called nitrogen fixing, you should look it up if you want more info.   So now there is extra nitrogen and the corn says “nom nom nom”.    Beans like to climb up other things, and the corn makes a perfect structure for them to climb on.


You also see a few pretty red/orange flowers and lily pad looking leaves in here.   That is nasturtium, which is a lovely flower that I heard helps squash.  I have not actually looked into this, so it may or may not be true.  I just really like this flower so I am going to pretend it helps even if it doesn’t.   It does help fill in any gaps to the canopy that the squash might miss. In the last month I have not watered this bed.  We have been getting rain about once a week, and in a bed with this much canopy that is all you need.

But here is the best part.  Lets say your corn packets says each seed needs to be planted 12 inches apart.  I take that to mean from other corn not other plants.  So the first thing I do is lay all the corn seeds out in a honey comb.  The first row all of them 12 inches apart, the second row is 6 inches away with each seed being in the center of where the last row seeds were, next row 6 inches away lining up with the first seeds.   After that I put in a few squash seeds.  Once the corn is up, I plant the beans about an inch away. The nasturtium is planted along the edge.So, to sum up.  You have squash on the ground, corn straight up and beans on the corn.

Using this method I can harvest a massive amount of food from a tiny space.   The bed in these pictures is 28 square feet.  Planted in this bed right now I have 30 stalks of corn, 5 large squash plants, 5 nasturtium and about 20 bean plants (should have been 30, but some did not get enough light and did not thrive).   This garden bed is about the size of a queen sized sleeping bed.   That is not very big at all.   Being conservative this season I should get about 90 ears of corn, 150 lb of squash, 75 lb of beans.

Do you companion plant?  Tell me your favorite combos.

Spring….I think…maybe

In Georgia there is a thin line between the weird unpredictable winter and blistering summer.  It is hard to actually call it a season, because it does not last nearly long enough to get that title.   The weather bounces back and forth across the line for a few months.  This year, January had days that got up to 70 degrees; last year Atlanta (yes, pretty much the whole city) shut down for a week of ice and snow.  I stayed locked up in my house eating french toast for 7 days.   Two weeks ago it got down to 21 degrees; today was the mid to high 70s.   I’ve decided to call it spring and hope for the best.  Granted, two years ago it snowed on the 1st of April, so I can’t guarantee anything.  But I figure I will go ahead and do my spring planting and other activities, because the gain I could receive in terms of harvest greatly outweighs the cost of a few seeds.   If it did frost again, the peach blossoms would die, but I have no power over that.   I think I might cry if that happened; summer tastes like peaches.

I did a lot of planting in the winter this year.  The plan was that hardy plants could go ahead and get started under a leaf cover, and I would be saved having to try to start seeds inside.  I am horrible at indoor seed starting.  Almost all my inside seedlings died last year due to fungus gnats.  A few of the winter plants got so big I harvested and ate them already (cabbages, chard).  But most are still small.   But it is a heck of a head start over where I was last year.

.

I spent today removing leaf cover from the carrots and lettuce.  You should know I already did this once.  I was sure 3 weeks ago that while freezing might happen there was no chance it would drop below around 28 degrees.  Lettuce and carrots would have been just fine at 28, but 21 no way!  So I had a mad cat scramble to put the leaves back on.  At least I got the carrots thinned out the first time.  The lettuce got thinned today.  I took all the small plants that were being choked out and moved them to the back of the bed.  I find this method of broadcasting lots of seeds and then moving, eating, or composting the smaller plants to be much less work than starting seeds one at a time in a flat or pots.   As Scrooge McDuck says, “Work smarter, not harder”.

On some tasks I am really behind.  I only got around to putting compost crops in one bed.  And over the winter I let the weeds get really out of hand.  I spent most of my day weeding, but happily it is almost all done!  That which is left is only about an hour of work that I can do tomorrow.  It was getting dark and we found a snake, so it was time to go inside.

I got one more bed seeded with compost crops, which seems a little silly at this point.  The beds should be for food right now, not rye grass and clover, but the front bed was in really bad shape, so it could use it.   I am only going to let the compost crops grow a few weeks before I let the chickens attack them. I am really interested to see the chickens working in the garden.  I might take them outside tomorrow if I can make a safe enclosure for them.  I hope they enjoy the weeding more than I do.

There is a lot of work to be done over the next few weeks; ordering seeds, planting, hopefully getting time to build a few beds in the back yard.   This is the time of year that is all work and almost no harvest, aside from the never-ending salad (oh, that reminds me, I need to plant radishes tomorrow).

 However, I did have a nice little surprise in the front bed.  I found a wee lucky potato.  

Winter Garden

Today I just want to post a few pictures of my winter garden.  Last winter I started experimenting with four season gardening, but I only planted a few things.  This year I have a whole bunch more.

  These are peas with lettuce in the background.   I had peas for a while this spring and harvested quite a few, but for a very short time.  By the time we got to May it was already too hot for them.  This is one of my favorite crops.  They are easy to plant, easy to grow, have pretty white flowers and make a weird squeaky sound when you touch them.   There are lots and lots of flowers right now, so I should have a crop of peas to eat in the next few weeks if this amazing weather holds.  Even if not, as long as it does not get too cold these plants should be ok.

This picture is of chard, onions and carrots. All  are from seed.  The odd part is the onion seeds were planted last spring.  Not sure why they decided to just hang around and wait until now, but that is OK.  They need to do whatever works for them.  I put some compost and lime on the chard yesterday.  This is my first time using an additive for a specific plant.   I normally work under a system of everyone gets dirt and compost and the strong survive.  But I really want chard to be big and delicious for New Years, because those are my greens of choice.   The carrots have nice tops but the carrot part is tiny because the soil here has too much nitrogen.   I don’t have a good plan on how to deal with this.  Each year my soil will get better, so where do I put the plants like carrots and sweet potatoes that grow best in bad soil?  

 This is the only time I have had success at brassicas, which I have up until now planted in the spring.  These had a few bug problems early on, as you can tell from the outer leaves.  But the first frost mostly fixed that. It killed the moths and the cabbage worms, but from time to time I still see these ashy gray aphids.   Since then they have been growing like crazy.  I am actually amazed at how big they are.   Had I realized this, I might have planted them further apart.  There are 6 plants in a 3×4 area.   I am going to harvest the one in the front for dinner tonight.  Mmmmm corned beef and cabbage.   The flavor of the outer leaves is a little spicy and bitter, different than cabbage normally is, but I like it.

The last picture is of my artichoke patch, all finished and sincere.  These were planted last spring, but pretty much left to their own devices.  With having a job and the big garden in the front, I never got around to even watering them.  Somehow they were still alive when I was raking a few weeks ago, so I decided to build a special area around them so I could not forget them again. The fence is the wattle I was building in the last post, and the border is $20 of landscaping timbers.  The plants are noticeably bigger just in the last few weeks.

Building A Wattle Fence

It is the middle of  December and the weather is perfect for being outside.  I wanted to do something and also felt crafty. I made a long list of projects, but before most of them could be done I had to clear a bunch of ivy where we will be putting in a chicken run.  So since all the ivy had to go anyway, I thought I should do something with it, and that is what prompted this project.

 A wattle fence is made by weaving flexible branches or vines between posts, like making a giant basket. The posts can be very small like the ones I used for this, or much bigger.  The weaving material needs to be small and pliable enough to work with.  Saplings are great for this; many people use willow and it is supposed to be just about the best thing you can use. I don’t have any willow, but I would love to try it some time.  When I buy land for my farm one of the first things I will plant is willow.

This is an old practice.  If you have a hatchet and enough material, you can build fences, walls, or even houses using these techniques.  When building a house use wattle and daub. Daub is a mud type stuff put all over the wattle.  You should look it up, they can be neat.  Wattle can be pretty or rustic, and can last a long time.

The first step is to cut down some branches. I chose to cut them each 4 feet long.  You can clean off all the smaller branches on each or leave them for the weaving; I chose to clean them because I find that easier.  I left some forks and lots of little nodes to set the weaving on.

Once I had as many as I thought I would need, I made the ends sharp with the hatchet. Hitting things with a hatchet is fun; if you have never done it before you should.  After that I pushed them in to the ground and then hit them with a hatchet, so were really small at the top.  At this point I realized they would have been better a little thicker; I worry about them falling over. But they are what I have, so I carried on.  

Once the posts were in the ground I started gathering the weaving material and weaving it on.  This is the part that took a long time.  Sometimes the ivy would break while being pulled out, as it was such a tangled mess.  Some of this was here before we moved in, and we have not done much to keep it under control.  I took off the leaves and roots of each piece to make them easier to work with.  Some pieces were very long, as much as 8 or 9 feet,  some that I used were as small as 3.  It was pretty much random.  If I liked a piece I used it.  If not, I put it in the leaf pile.   This part took several hours of work over the course of a few days.   The hardest part is joining a new piece to an old piece; sometimes that can be really annoying, but before too long I had the hang of it.   As you can imagine, it  gets pretty complex.  I went around the fence 3 times on each level, wrapping, braiding and weaving the ivy.

This picture is of a first pass, but you can see the finished ones underneath.

This is fun alone or with friends.  It is much faster and easier when you have help, because often 3 or 4 hands are needed to make it work right.  The structure is all done now, if a bit wobbly, and I am happy with the results.

 If you don’t like old fashioned or rustic, it might not be your thing, but if you like free then it certainly is.  There is more I can do here if  I want.  I can weave the other direction, making it sort of chain link.  Or I can go diagonally from post to post, making a diamond pattern.  Or I can decorate it, which is what I am doing.  So far I have added on some ivy with leaves, and I am going to put on bows and maybe some white holiday lights.