Horse Manure!

Today, I borrowed my dad and his pickup truck, and went to get a load of well-rotted horse manure. I had contacted Sienna Ranch, a wonderful place that offers farm, survival, and horse classes/camps for kids. They immediately returned my email, letting me know that they had plenty of composted horse manure for pickup. Not only that, the site manager would load the truck with his tractor, if we liked. Oh, we liked. I knew I would already have enough shoveling ahead of me; any shortcut was welcomed!

The manure is dry and barely smells at all, and it makes a nice pile on the driveway. Yes, I warned the neighbors ahead of time. At this point, all of their eye-rolling, if any, is internal - they know my quirks when it comes to my yard and tolerate me. :)

I'm developing a head cold (ah, the perks of working with children), so I didn't get as much moved today as I would like. I managed to put a good couple of inches on the asparagus bed, plus the berry bushes. I also moved four wheelbarrows-full into one of the raised beds, then tilled the bed.

This is where the corn had been. As soon as the manure settles in, I'll plant a quick cover crop of buckwheat.

I cleared out almost all the pumpkins, the sweet potatoes, and the potatoes. This week I'll clear out the cherry tomatoes and peppers (too decimated by the deer and raccoons to save). Then I'll add manure to those beds and till it in.

I wondered if the bark underneath the raised beds had decomposed completely. As I dug, I saw very little evidence of any bark. But I did see wonderful black compost, and plenty of fat worms. Of course the cardboard and grass underneath all that is completely rotted as well. Sheet mulching WORKS. I haven't seen any interesting mushrooms in my vegetable beds in a long time, which also makes me think that the main decomposition is done there. I did, however, see this beauty over in the flower bed.

Mushrooms continue to fascinate me. I am hoping to take an identification class, sometime in the winter.

Now, for the recent disappointments in the garden:

1) Deer. For example, here's what they did to my peppers.

No leaves. Last night, the raccoons came and got the remaining pepper fruits. At least I'm assuming it's raccoons, since the deer seemed to eat the leaves and leave the fruit alone.

The deer also ate so much of the greenery of my potato plants, I was concerned that they might not form fruit. And I was right. I harvested ONE LONE POTATO. It was delicious. I was very sad that there were not more.

It was interesting to look at the seed potatoes, though, as I dumped them in the compost. They had been completely bored through by these strange little wormy bugs, which I found when I picked the potatoes up. I couldn't get a picture of the bugs, but here are the holey seed potatoes.

2) Yellow Jackets. They've been hovering, en masse, underneath the bee hive, preying on dying bees. I don't mind them providing the service of removing the dying bees. But I was worried that their numbers were growing, and eventually they'd make a go at robbing the hive. My hive is strong, with probably 20k bees, but helping them as much as possible seems right. Today at the local farmers market, I was talking with a honey seller (and beekeeper), who said he's already feeding his bees, he couldn't believe my bees are still bringing in nectar. He also repeated that I should take whatever  measures I could to protect the hive from yellow jackets.

Long ago, I had bought one of those plastic cylindrical traps, and it's been up since I got the bees. 4-5  months, and it hasn't caught even ONE wasp. Dad told me about this other kind that he gets at the hardware store, and they really work. We bought one and put it up earlier today; and eight hours later, there's probably 50-60 wasps in there. Mwah ha ha.

This is a bad picture, but the dead wasps are all floating on the surface of the water in the trap. As I took this picture several wasps were buzzing around, looking for a way in. Goodbye, yellow jackets.

Some things that are going right in the garden.

1) Cucumbers. Still a prolific producer. The bees like the blossoms, too. My go-to salad for pot lucks is a cucumber and tomato salad, the recipe is from Epicurious. It also uses mint from my herb spiral.

2) Tomatillos. The fruit is getting bigger inside its papery skin. There are hundreds on my plant. A slow starter, but it's going to produce a lot of fruit. Apparently, they reseed easily and I'll need to watch for that.

3) Watermelons! There was some question if we'd get enough sun for these babies, but they are growing! Right now, they fit in my palm. Cute, right?

4) Acorn Squash. Despite the deer eating most of the leaves, I've got a nice sized squash developing.

I'm not sure why I love winter squash, but loathe summer squash. Perhaps it's a texture thing.

Last week, I experimented with another recipe from Against All Grain, this one a black bottomed banana cream pie. Delicious. It really helps to have treats every so often, and this one was a goodie. I recommend doubling the filling if you prefer lots of filling over lots of crust. Here is the baked crust with ganache and bananas, waiting for the custard:

And that is your weekly report from Poppy Corners 'Farm'. Hope wherever you are, you're eating wonderful local produce!

(Oh, that reminds me: PBS is piloting a new show called "Food Forward." I can't wait to see it. Make sure to add it to your DVR!)