Baby Mothra!!!

So I discovered a terrifying (but also kind of fascinating and beautiful at the same time) new element to the garden this morning. We’re having a heat wave here, and so this morning before leaving for work I thought I’d give the tomato plants a spot of moisture. I passed one of the tomato clusters and noticed that one of the (still green) tomatoes had a large bite taken out of it. I assumed it was an experimental bite from a squirrel (my nemesis – or one of them), and muttered dark things under my breath and then prepared to move away the strange coiled leaf that seemed to be on top of it. Then I noticed.

It wasn’t a leaf.

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It was a HUGE caterpillar! Enormous! Giant and green with spots and even a red horn at one end! There’s a moment when you’re unexpectedly close to a creature like that where your skin crawls for a bit. Well, mine did for a while [...] Click to continue reading this post

Morning Sex

gardening_3rd_july_2014_2Yep. This is an exciting new discovery for me. No, it is not what you think! I’m talking about gardening matters. It seems that a lot of my cucumber and squash plants are not producing a great deal this year, (with several small squashes not developing much before falling off) and I could not figure out why. On the other hand, I’ve done a better job of building sun shields for them, to stop them being fried by the intense heat over the course of a hot day. I now think that maybe these things are connected. First of all, I’m not seeing a lot of bees of any sort in the garden, and so I wonder if it is simply that there’s not a lot of pollination going on. Couple this with the fact that the sunscreens (some quite low) are probably hiding them from some bees that might be passing by, I’ve begun to wonder if it is time to help things along a bit. [...] Click to continue reading this post

Shade Emergency!

Well, making it was a bit like a Lego project, and so… fun! Basically, it is ridiculously hot here. The last couple of days have been over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and there are more days of this sort to come. This is not pleasant, in my view. I tend to operate very poorly at such temperatures, and the sun is oppressively hot, feeling like it is hammering on your head, neck, any exposed areas. (We had a wave of this sort a few weeks ago too, which resulted in a new investments in a new shape of hat.)

My main concern however is the various plants in the garden. The planting of Summer crops this year was quite late (largely because the Winter crops were slow to develop due to lack of Winter rain) and so they are still at the delicate stage where a day or two of strong hot sunlight can destroy them completely. No amount of watering can save them from this sun. So I decided to make some shades to reduce the amount of sun on various plants in the garden and on the patio. The idea was to make a nice geometrical shape that allows the plants to be nicely displayed while at the same time protecting them from that mid-morning to mid-afternoon hammering heat that I’ve seen burning the leaves on several plants. I put together a prototype design, and you can see the steps in the photos: [...] Click to continue reading this post

When Life Hands You Lemons…

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Accidentally harvested a handful of my precious Meyer lemons from the tree earlier this morning while clearing a branch from a nearby tree. They are delicious and I only get a small number of them each year, so I tend to treat them like gold. Will have to make something special with them…

Yes, also, there’s a metaphor somewhere in there for other things going on, so…

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

A Present

rose_animation_jan_2014My mum has been visiting for the holidays. For her recent birthday I decided that instead of making a birthday card from a photo of one the roses from my garden (as I usually do) I would make her a drawing/painting of one on a card instead. The paper of the card has a ridged texture and I imagined that this would be an interesting component of the final piece. Using a photo of one of my roses as reference on screen in front of me, I sketched onto the paper [...] Click to continue reading this post

Automatic Beans

self_shelling_beansSo here’s a nifty thing. The beans on the left are a sort of speckled butter bean (or lime bean, if you prefer) that are pretty automatic. Each year, since I first planted them long ago, I get a lot of new bean plants appearing in the patch that the last ones grew in. Basically, the beans tend to [stay on] be left on the vine until they dry and then they pop open and replant themselves, ultimately, since I never find all of the ones that fall on to the ground. This is great, since it means that I never have to actually plant the things again… they just show up and start spreading. I need only put some stakes and climbing frames out, and each year they will just cover it with vines and new beans. This year I discovered another automatic feature. […] Click to continue reading this post

Late Arrivals

20131103-074202.jpgThe garden is quite dormant right now, after a busy Summer. But not as dormant as I thought. I spotted these a week ago, to my surprise, and gave them a bit of extra time. Today, I harvested them, mostly because they are close enough to ready, partly because Fluffy is very active in all trees outside, gathering Fall finds, and anything round seems fair game for being picked, and then mostly discarded. (Because of a fortuitous alliance with Flitty, which can raid my traps for nuts without being caught, annoyingly, Fluffy is difficult to control right now.)

Anyway. A pleasant arrival in the kitchen…

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

When Life Hands You Tomatoes…

… make chutney!

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So the garden has been yielding a great deal in the tomato department, as you saw from earlier posts. There’s been quite the fig surplus too, but more on that later. Last night – late last night – I decided to work on another food item that allows me to use them up and save this glorious condensation of Summer for a later time. I decided to make a tomato chutney. Well, I’m making two. I wanted to take the yellower tomatoes to make one with a lighter colour and flavour, and I will (later tonight perhaps?) make another, darker one with red tomatoes (with a little pepper from the garden for warmth).

A chutney is simple. It’s a bit like a savoury jam but even easier. I halved the little yellow pear variety tomatoes, and chopped a yellow onion – about half as much in volume as I had tomato. (Some extra tomatoes showed up late – I found a few green [...] Click to continue reading this post

Red, Gold, and Green

red_gold_green_july_2013_2Happy 4th of July, those of you who are celebrating it. I should have brought you Red, White, and Blue, but those are not the colours prevailing in the garden right now. Also, I don’t know of any blue tomato varieties. There’s a bit of a bonanza of tomatoes right now, I am pleased to report. All that time spent composting is paying off again, perhaps. A small part of the harvest is in the photograph above, showing six of the varieties in the garden this year. (Click for a larger view.) I don’t recall all [...] Click to continue reading this post

Lattice Experiments

... and out it came, just as I finished hand-whipping some cream for an accompaniment. Hurrah! Apologies in advance to people who clicked over here because from the title they were expecting a post on discrete approaches to quantum field theory such as lattice QCD. This is mostly about lattice cherry pie, which, you’ll perhaps admit, is at least as interesting. Best to use the ones that have a slight sour edge to the taste, in my opinion… not too overly sweet.

Yes, it is time for an Asymptotia visit to the kitchen. Sunday I had a little dinner gathering for five, which called for an afternoon of cooking. I took some pictures, but in the end the set is incomplete since I got distracted with the important business of helping serve everything nice and hot and on time. So the main focus will be the pie (shown at the top so you don’t have to wait – the photo makes it look at lot darker than it actually is. It is not burnt!), since that’s all I have a complete set for. The [...] Click to continue reading this post

Baby Harvest

The many squash plants in the garden this season all started a rather cluttered rush of fruiting. Some of them stalled in their growth, and overall it seemed a good idea to remove these small ones and some others, generally thinning the plants a bit to allow them to focus their energy resources into fewer squashes. A bonus of this procedure… an early Summer squash banquet!

baby_squashes

Earlier this week I made a very tasty bean stew with some beans harvested from last [...] Click to continue reading this post

Late but Still Great

Here’s a rather pleasant surprise from just outside my front door.

This started out as a “volunteer” tomato plant. It just showed up in a patch of soil somewhere, and so I planted it in the front garden and left it, occasionally watering during a particularly dry spell…

Now it is very late in the Fall, and it is producing some tomatoes! It’s not a particularly interesting variety, but nice to see all the same, this late in the year. (And to taste…)

Because of the unusual warmth of the Fall, the main line of tomato plants in the vegetable garden (that were quite prolific during the Summer – see some [...] Click to continue reading this post

They’re Back!

…And this time they mean business…

That wonderful giant cactus plant in the back garden has done its trick of suddenly producing a host of lovely large flowers again. (Click to enlarge photo, and see below for links to earlier years’ posts on the very same phenomenon).

I saw them Tuesday morning, and I think they’ll be gone very soon (by Wednesday or the day after).

So lovely, so massive… and so sad that they last for so short a time.

But such is life. Enjoy and revel in things while they last, and then move on, holding the essence of it close inside you.

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-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Survivors

Little cherry sized tomatoes always seem to be the ones that survive the extremes most readily. At least in my experience. The many varieties (see a previous post) that are out there in the garden have been suffering a lot in the extended heat wave of late, and although more or less healthy, don’t flower, and hence there’s no fruit. Not so for these red cherries. They just keep on giving. (I took this photo near the end of August, when I [...] Click to continue reading this post

Red, Gold, and Green

Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, the garden continues to produce tasty things. (I had to sneak back from Aspen for a few days for some meetings, and a couple of business-social events…) There are still several varieties of tomatoes producing, and I got to spend some time building new stake supports for the various plants as they are much more extended and weighed down than just a couple of weeks ago…

There’s a runaway giant flying saucer squash, ready for turning into something [...] Click to continue reading this post

Tomato Bounty

I stopped off in LA after Amsterdam, to recharge and to just be home for a bit. The garden is now bursting with tomatoes of various types, I’m happy to report, and you only need to wait a day or two in order to pick a variety pack such as the lovely one above. (Click for larger view.) I brought a bunch of them to Aspen with me, and continue to work through them, in cooking, sandwiches like the ones I’m just about to eat for lunch, and so forth.

I’ve had none of the rodent problems with the tomatoes this year, since I [...] Click to continue reading this post

Containment Cube

No, not some geometrical artifact of immense power… It is the containment for my next batch of compost. Click for a larger view. I made it last year out of PVC pipes and chicken wire, and it was a huge success (see recent posts with pictures of the produce that has been appearing from that compost batch….) with one design flaw: It was a bit high so that digging in it to turn the forming compost over and so forth was tough on the back – I put my back out for days one time. So I’ve cut it down to a smaller height and now it [...] Click to continue reading this post

Anticipation

This is actually a picture from Saturday (click for larger view)… Several plants in the squash family are going crazy in the garden and producing fully mature tasty vegetables already! A friend of mine has suggested that the compost I produced in the last cycle (that everything is planted in) is somehow super-great for them. Maybe that has indeed helped. (See earlier posts, e.g., here and here, for more on making your own compost, how it works, and so forth, by the way…)

I’ve been running a bit late on posting things, so since then I’ve harvested some of these, and I took a few pictures. I’ll show them to you tomorrow!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Back to the Routine

I’ve finished my four weeks of back and forth between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. It was very rewarding, although it (of course) meant that I had to make several adjustments to my usual routine, putting aside a number of things (including and consistent work toward moving The Project forward). This is fine, as it was part of the plan to put things aside somewhat and focus on the visit. It meant an interesting process of trying to put most of my Los Angeles business (including teaching and any meetings, etc) into Monday and Friday as much as I could, and catching up with reading and lecture writing in the in-betweens, often on the three to three and a half hour journey on the train. (People universally assumed that I’d driven up, and were mostly surprised when I mention I took the train. One person even inquired as to whether I don’t have a car. I politely explained that I do, but I don’t feel compelled to drive it everywhere. One person could not understand how I would get to the train station in LA without a car. I explained there was a subway system… Others talked about how they never visit LA from Santa Barbara because they can’t get around without a car and the traffic is terrible… They prefer (in one or two examples related to me) to go all the way up to San Francisco where they can just leave the car and explore without it. I smiled politely and mentioned that you can do this in Los Angeles too. This had no effect on their belief system, as far as I can tell. I am constantly amazed at the incredibly limited images of Los Angeles that people hold in their heads. In all cases, we agreed that getting to work on the train was in fact a good thing. I explained, as a bonus, that I get over the business that the train takes twice as long as it should be simply pretending it is twice as great a distance than the 95 miles it actually is. This is true.)

So anyway, sad as it was to leave the KITP behind, with all the stimulating conversations, great talks to attend, friends old and new, and so forth, it is time to [...] Click to continue reading this post