Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tomatoes for Tuesday!

Have I mentioned yet that I am addicted to tomatoes? Well, I am, absolutely! Every year, I pledge that I won't plant as many as before, but I do. I can't help it; I'm drawn to tomatoes as a bee is to honey, as a flea is to a dog, as a ....you get the idea. But, tell me, one person does not need 20+ plants -- do they???? I NEED them...I don't know how to can, but I freeze or give away what I don't eat.

I already have planted those tomatoes that were part of my Burpee live plant order a few weeks back and they are doing well. Otherwise, I have gathered them along the way. For instance, I planted a few tomatoes I purchased from James, of Solitude Farm, who comes to our little Farmer's Market in town. At a yard sale the other week, I snagged another one for a song (not really, you don't want to hear me sing). Yesterday, I traveled to the mainland to Thomas Gardens Nursery and found some gorgeous specimens I just had to have, seen in the photo.

Here's a record of the new additions--

From James, these are all new to my garden:

Aunt Ruby's German Green Tomato (80 days; heirloom; indeterminate). Described as succulent and sweet, with 1 pound fruits. It can be prone to concentric cracking. The reviews are either love it or hate it, and production seems variable. But, I love green tomatoes, so I will give it a try.

Japanese Black Trifele (75 days; heirloom; indeterminate). Actually, it is not Japanese in origin at all. I have read that it hails from Russia by some accounts, Estonia by others. It's a beautiful teardrop-shaped, burgundy colored tomato with greenish-black shoulders. Fruit are small, just 6 ounces, but it is said to produce well, resists cracking, with a delicious, smoky taste.

Japanese Black Cherry (hybrid). Also not technically Japanese, as this plant has US origins! It is described as a high yielder, with huge clusters of fruits having the typical smoky taste of a black tomato.

From Laura's yard sale:

Champion (70 days; hybrid; described by one source as determinate, but indeterminate by another). Almost seed-free, these are said to the the ultimate sandwich tomato. They should thrive in my Southern garden, tolerating both heat and drought. It produces 12 ounce red, meaty fruit. This is also new to me.

From Thomas Gardens:

Pineapple (90 days; heirloom; indeterminate). Having grown these before, I can give them the thumbs up. They are mild in flavor for a yellow tomato and are quite prettily ridged. It's a beefsteak type, with few seeds, and with good yield.

Patio (hybrid) I always have one or two patio tomatoes in my garden. They also lend themselves to a container garden because they are compact in size. Fruits are small, but flavorful and it yields and yields and yields!

Green Zebra (86 days; termed a "created hybrid"; indeterminate). Quite possibly, my favorite tomato, ever!! Love it, love it -- I describe the taste as "zingy" -- and it's just so pretty! Fruits are quite small, just 3 ounces, but perfect for Caprese salad! I have had mixed luck with it though...two years ago, all three of my plants just wilted. They weren't necessarily planted next to each other either!

San Marzano (85 days; heirloom; indeterminate) This plum tomato is regarded as the ultimate for sauce. Grown originally near Naples, Italy, it does well in warm climates. The first year I grew these, I had terrible problems with blossom end rot. I fared better other years and can attest that they are delicious and produce very well.

No doubt, this will NOT be the last tomato post! Gotta go, dirt beckons...

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Make Way for Ducklings!

Here, on Chincoteague Island, ducks rule! They are everywhere -- people even stop their cars to let them cross the road. We coexist with them and as a result, the wild ducks have become semi-tame.

Before I moved to the beach full-time a few years back, I made the house available to vacation renters. Somewhere along the line, someone apparently started feeding the ducks. So, my first spring here, ducks started showing up at my door -- literally! One I named Fiona was so bold that she would bang on it with her beak! Over the years, some have come and gone -- such as the sweet Daisy and Dartagnan, who were such regal older ducks.

This little duck mommy is called Tess and these are her twelve -- yes, twelve -- ducklings who showed up at my house on Wednesday. Tess had been coming here with her mate, Ted. Then, I noticed that they started showing up separately. What that meant was that she was on a nest somewhere. I don't know if the mallard males sit for females when they need to eat or stretch their legs. If so, that would explain why they no longer came together.

In any event, it is now Sunday and all twelve have survived to this point. There are many hazards to these darlings -- snakes, cats, and most of all, gulls. In fact, one gull swooped down while they were feeding that first day, but I let out a scream and it flew away. My cat, Lola, has watched them curiously, but has not made a move toward them. I am hoping the fact that she will soon have kittens is making her maternal in some way toward Tess. I think the reality is that she just feels like a big whale at this point and doesn't have enough energy to do anything more, which is fine by me. In actuality, neither she nor Zane, my other cat, have ever brought home "presents", which I appreciate!

Two other mallards, Dirty and Diana, were recently trying to look for a spot in the backyard to nest. That attempt lasted about two days, thanks (or no thanks, actually) to Syd, now nicknamed "Syd Vicious"! She would have no part of these interlopers and relentlessly chased the two from the yard until they finally gave up. Phoenix was terrified of them and kept her distance! (FYI, poor Dirty, who has been coming here for about three years, got his moniker because his face always appeared to be dirty. When I was finally able to get close enough, I could tell that the "dirt" was actually color variations on his facial feathers. But, by then, the name had stuck!)

Back to Tess...she has been faithfully bringing her babies here several times a day to eat. Then, she travels with them about 200 feet to what I would describe as a marshy glade. In this sheltered spot, the ducklings can swim and are much safer from cats and gulls.

In any event, I will keep everyone posted about their progress!

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Foraging for the Geese!

I suppose that we are all trying to be a bit more frugal these days, tightening our spending belts whenever we can. Last summer, when my geese were babies, they foraged on grass and weeds in my yard, supplemented by greens from my garden.

Over the winter, I needed to continue to include greens in their diet, which meant purchasing them from the grocery store. I was lucky enough to have a steady supply of commercial dandelion greens -- their favorite -- for Sydney and Phoenix, brought down from Pennsylvania. This was supplemented with spring mix. Since the grass died back at some point, it turned out to be quite expensive to feed them over the winter!

My lettuces are just beginning to fill out in the garden. The girls get very excited, waiting at the garden gate for me to bring them out little bites of red or oak leaf lettuces as treats! Unfortunately, I am beginning to think that my dandelion ameliore seeds I planted a few weeks ago are not going to germinate -- or else, they are the slowest growing greens I have ever encountered!

Now that the grass and weeds are growing again in the backyard, the girls are quite content to "graze". But, what I have been doing is creatively supplementing Syd and Phoe's diet with "found" objects -- by that, I mean the common, ordinary dandelion that we all love to hate in our yard and the equally dreaded chickweed! With certainty, I am sure to be the only person in the neighborhood who doesn't dig out their dandelions. Instead, I selectively harvest some of the leaves, much like we harvest the outer leaves of lettuce in our gardens! Chickweed (on the right in the photo) is my friend, allowed to run rampant in my front yard!

Phoenix also favors a favorite childhood weed of mine. The father of the family who lived next door to me growing up introduced us to eating a wild sorrel that grew in the yard. He was Bulgarian and I am not sure of the exact spelling in that language, but phonetically, we pronounced it "kee-sah-lits". They have a taste that I can only describe as somewhere between bitter and tart. Syd doesn't seem to care for it at all, but Phoenix gobbles it up! Both girls crave what I think is wild parsnip, which is supposedly toxic to many animals -- but apparently not to geese!

It's free, it's plentiful, it's healthy -- and it will get me over the hump until my garden greens can feed my geese (and me!)!
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