Topsoil and Wind

14 04 2009

Today was topsoil day. Wonderful guy that he is, AJ hopped into the truck and went to pick up the soil. I set about getting Oasis2 ready to fill. I’m not crazy about the name “Oasis2”. Once it gets some personality I will have to come up with a better title. For now I will shorten it to “O2”. Hey, I kind of like that…

Oasis2-Beginning

The soil has arrived. Hmm, that doesn’t look like very much. I hope it’s enough.

Truckload-Soil

With the truck backed up and ready to unload, AJ sprung a change on me. He offered up two tires we had sitting around. I guess these are $250.oo tires with a little life on them, but nothing we can use anymore. So, at the last minute I tried to incorporate them. Now that it’s finished I know how I wish I would have configured it; but you know what they say about wishing…

Ready-to-fill

We got the truck close enough that we were able to walk the soil over by the shovel-full.

Oasis2Filling

Within 45 minutes the bed was full of this gorgeous, rich soil. There was exactly enough and not a scoop more. Sorry compost heap, I’ll have to go with plan B on that.

Oasis2-Filled

The shoveling went so fast because we were racing this weather system approaching from the West.

Ominous-Weather

The first band chased us inside right after we filled the bed. We waited for the big gap in the middle and then went back to work.

Radar

From back to front, left to right: cucumbers, lima beans, pole beans. watermelon,

broccoli, super giant productive cherry tomato plant, musk melons,

lettuce, carrots and more eggplant. Actually, I thinned out the lettuce from The Oasis and transplanted many of them throughout O2.

Oasis2-Planted

The weather co-operated and I was able to add the gravel mulch.

Finished-Oasis2

This super tomato is supposed to get up to 6′ tall and produce over 600 cherry tomatoes in its lifetime. It’s so small and cute now, but I know it will become a monster. I’m sure I’ll be sorry I planted it in the middle of the bed, but gardening is so much more exciting if you mix it up a bit!

I faced the dilemma of how to support the plant once it begins to take off. I looked around for something with which to fashion a tomato cage. I just hate those utilitarian metal ones. Bamboo…plenty of bamboo everywhere, but how to hold it together? Then I remembered something I learned from my best friend Kris’s mom, Karen. Karen owned a flower shop and was a talented florist and designer (still is, although she is now retired).

One day we were enlisted to collect grape vines. I had no idea why, but Kris and I had to cut and yank down a huge mass of the tangled tendrils from her grandmother’s fence. This was a grueling and painful task, and we were covered with cuts and scratches before it was done. Afterward, Karen showed us the fruits of our labor. She grabbed a handful of the feisty vines and skillfully wound them into a beautiful wreath. I was always impressed with the fact that both of Kris’s parents were entrepreneurs and so creative. The wreath idea popped into my head when I thought about the tomato cage, so I went out on the back lot and cut some grape vines.

Tomato-Cage

AJ helped me secure them. The whole thing looks a little crooked, and I will probably straighten a bit and eventually add another ring towards the top, once the plant grows up a bit. I really like it, though. It works perfectly.

Tomato-Cage-CU

I hope the big tomato plant in The Oasis inspires the cherry tomato. The big tomatoes are bulging out everywhere. If you look closely you will notice that one is starting to turn orange. I’m hoping that we will have vine ripe tomatoes within a week. I still feel guilty about dogging the flea market tomato plant when I first got it. I think these are “spite tomatoes”.

Big-Tomatoes

After we finished up the wind began to blow. It has been blowing steadily around 25mph all afternoon with gusts up to 45mph. The new plantings are really taking a hit. Now I wish I would have waited for this front to pass before subjecting these babies to the elements. Tomorrow I will survey the damage and see how everything fared.

Even as the wind howled, nature gave us a gift; the most brilliant, apocalyptic looking red sky in many moons.

Red-Sky

Glad that portion of the project is finished. There is still a lot to do. I must cut and install the bamboo fascia; and will likely run out before I’m done. But the plants are in, and if this wind ever lets up they should start growing fast.

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day. I think I’ll make you wait to find out what is in the works, but I will give you a hint: There are chickens, worms, mushrooms, heirloom plants and tie-dyed shirts involved. Check back tomorrow evening for the lowdown.





Week in Review: A Week of Natural Gifts

22 02 2009

It’s been a lovely week here, with temperatures dipping into the low 40°s and reaching the 70°s.

The Oasis is progressing nicely. I will take a week ending photo once the light goes down a bit. Yes, the sun is blazing out there and I have the door and windows open (as I have had most of the week).

PAPAYAS

Earlier in the week I was pleased to see that the papaya seeds I planted, before the last cold snap, had sprouted up with a vengeance.

Papaya Seedlings

I replanted a good number of these seedlings, tasted one (sweet and peppery at the same time), and gave the rest to other people in the park.

Papaya Seedlings Replanted

After giving them away (which I don’t regret) I learned that the sprouts are recommended as a salad topping, and that the dried seeds can be ground and used like pepper. Since I had another papaya on hand (gifted from my business partner), I saved those seeds and am drying them now.

Papaya Seeds Drying

COCONUTS

My business partner and his family went wildnerness camping on an island last weekend. His yard is full of papaya and coconut trees. He brought along some coconuts and experimented by roasting them on the fire. I was the beneficiary of two of these beauties.

Campfire

On Monday I cracked one open and proceeded to scarf down more than half. I couldn’t stop because it had a great smoky, roasted aroma and flavor. The next morning I wished that I had stopped before I ate so much. The old saying “Too much of a good thing” certainly applies to coconuts; and that’s all I am going to say about that!

VOLUNTEER TOMATOES

The papayas  and coconuts were just the beginning of the natural abundance I enjoyed this week. I took a look at my poorly managed (see “neglected”) compost heap and noticed some strange looking sprouts poking out. Surely this is sign that no composting is taking place? It’s OK, because I got a bunch of volunteer tomatoes for no effort (other than burying some kitchen scraps and ignoring them).

Volunteer Tomatoes

The little rascals have since been relocated to The Oasis where they are getting plenty of water. As soon as I planted the newbies my first tomato plant (purchased from the flea market) has stepped up to the plate and started to flower (I think it may be showing off).  I have no idea which variety  any of these tomatoes are, but I hope to get a good mix.

CITRUS JUICE

Another gift from my business partner was a big bag of locally grown Indian River grapefruit and oranges. Since we have orchards to the west of us, the fruit flies are plentiful. The bag of citrus has been attracting fruit flies all week and I finally got annoyed enough to do something about it.

Yesterday I washed the fruit (although it doesn’t look like it) and proceeded to make juice.
Oranges & Grapefruit for Juicing

This handy little juicer strains the seeds and pulp and collects juice in the cup with a pour spout.
Juice Production

The lid holds the fruit in place while you twist to squeeze.

Squeezing


Pouring Juice

Here is the aftermath. I added a little raw sugar to take away the bite and ended up with 3 1/2 quarts of excellent juice.

Juice Aftermath

OKEECHOBEE BASS

To top off a week of goodness we got a knock on our door yesterday. It was our neighbor, Fred, bearing a nice bag of filleted Okeechobee Bass. We sell wild caught Florida shrimp and have a bartering agreement with Fred.  We get our fill of shrimp and he gets his fill of bass so every now and again he comes by for a trade. He even brought some homemade batter! Since last night was our fifth wedding anniversary (we don’t make a big deal out of spending money to celebrate) we had a little fish fry and enjoyed the tastiest, freshest, most delicate bass you can imagine. Sorry, no pictures. We ate it too fast.

OUR ANNIVERSARY  PRESENT TO EACH OTHER

A couple of weeks ago AJ’s mother asked us to sell our Volvo to her so that his sister can have it. This care is safe, runs well and is in great shape. It has a few cosmetic issues such as a bad headliner, cracked dash and peeling paint. It is also two colors, since I smashed it up a little and AJ had to replace a fender and some other body parts. Still, it’s a great car and perfect for a young, “carefree”  person, such as his sister. Our perk for letting go of this car for super cheap was that his mom would finance our purchase of a “new” car. Neither of us believes in paying the outrageous price of a new car only to have it depreciate immediately; so new to us means “old but in great shape”. The hunt for this car and the surprising result will have to wait until we pick it up. AJ will immediately get to work sprucing it up (although it is already stunning), and when he is finished I will post the story of the search and some nice photos of the gift we got each other on our fifth year married.