Pumpkins, gourds, other interesting finds

I've had absolutely no time in the garden, so tonight when I came home from a day in San Francisco with Adam, the first thing I did was go harvest the pumpkins and gourds before sunset. Our haul is meager. The terrible powdery mildew problem really put a cramp on the pumpkin beds. The large pumpkins didn't fruit at all, and I harvested only one medium-sized pumpkin. However I have about 12 mini pumpkins and four gourds. Enough to decorate the house with. Not nearly enough to use for carving or pie. Bummer.

I guess I should be grateful to have any at all!

Regardless of the fast pace of my days, the dog still has to be walked, and I suppose that's another thing to be grateful for, because I get to slow down enough at those moments to look around me and absorb what's happening in nature. This week I collected some Osage oranges from our nearest open space.

Osage orange trees are in the Mulberry Family, and can be invasive in areas which were over-grazed or in abandoned agricultural areas (this particular open space used to be cattle pasture, plus it's an old walnut orchard). The fruit is not edible and it has a strange scent. An old wives tale is that you can use the fruit as an insect repellent, but as far as I can tell from my research, that's probably not true. Insects and birds don't seem to eat them, and there seems to be no apparent use for these strange balls. However, I think they look very autumnal and a bit 'brain-y' and are perfect for Halloween decorating.

On another walk in a local open space, I noticed the oak trees festooned with mistletoe.

Mistletoe is invasive and can kill the tree, albeit very slowly. Our old Cub Scout troop used to go collect it out of the trees and then sell it at Christmastime. Most of the mistletoe I see is far too high to obtain, or I would try to get a little some of it myself. I'll keep looking for a lower infestation, as we get closer to the holidays.

On yet another walk I came across this:

Alas, I did not have time to relax in this hammock. Also, I was just a tiny bit skeeved out. Maybe I'm not as adventurous as I thought I was.

But, I don't have to go as far as the open space to find treasure. Some of it is right here in our yard. Such as this orb weaver web in our pepper tree, at sunset.

I'm gone again for most of the day tomorrow, but I'm hoping to have time to rip out the pumpkin vines and add a buckwheat cover crop, as well as harvest all the butternut and delicata squash and rip those vines out as well. I would like to remove our paste tomato vines as they are looking really horrible now (though they still have some fruit on them) and possibly try to dig up a section of the sweet potato vines and see what's happening under there. I also need to harvest the last of the cantaloupe and rip out those vines as well.

We also need to check on the honeybees and see how they are faring with the varroa and wax moths.

We've scrapped the enormous chicken tractor and are thinking about a sleeker design. More to come. We need to get that grass ripped up (eaten, scratched up, dug in by chickens) before the rains come, or it'll just pop right back up again. And I have big plans for that area. I'm reading a great book called "Eating on the Wild Side" by Jo Robinson and she gives great ideas for extra-nutritious plants to grow. Blood oranges, anyone?