So I think I've finally gotten over my depression about big pumpkin not making his way into the record books. And really after battling with vine borers and excessive heat and drought I should be pretty happy with the results. Not to mention that big pumpkin is nearly perfect in shape and color and is going to make a stellar jack o' lantern.
The whole operation was quiet in the end. Kris came over and we knew that it would be a dirty operation. The mosquitos out back are brutal and we would have to keep low and off their radar as long as possible. I grabbed my brute shears, the ones that made The Husband make that Tim Allen grunt when I brought them home. They could only have been better if they would have had little flames painted on the handles. We ran out, I gave Kris the camera and I set to work. I held my breath as I began cutting through the vine. It was tough and in the end I had to come at it from both sides and use two hands even though I've easily felled 1 inch trees with these shears one-handed. I was amazed.
Once it was free I rolled it foward to check out the bottom, despite the sand there was a chance that there would be rot underneath. Athough I insisted I smelled a mold smell, the underside was not damaged in any way. We moved big pumpkin out of the way and snapped a quick picture of his empty spot and prepared to move big pumpkin out to Kris's car.
I heaved big pumpkin up and clutched him to my chest, then put him back down again. I opened the gate and cleared and path and we tried again. Dang. Big pumpkins are heavy. They're slick and they're round. (I know this sound obvious, but imagine trying to lug an enormous bowling ball). There's no good way to clutch it. Couple that with an intense fear of dropping the poor fellow and we must have looked like an old movie, running around the yard, Kris fumbling to get the car door open. I think I had to set him down in the front yard too.
Over at Kris's house she ran inside to get the scale and I had another crisis of strength waiting for her to get the scale to zero out. We weighed big pumpkin and then I looked at Kris. We both knew the plan. It was a simple plan. Bring big pumpkin over and store him in her basement. My basement was too wet. The flaw in the plan revealed itself as I stood there, panting, looking at big pumpkin on the scale. The problem with the plan was architectural. It lay in where people generally keep their basements. Most people that I know keep their basements beneath their houses. Which is fine, great for tornadoes and storage and stuff but to get to a basement one generally has to go down the stairs.
The look Kris gave me was one of "Your pumpkin, you carry." And she was right. Big pumpkin and I had made the journey together this far, I had to get him into the basement. So I picked him up again and down we went, thankfully without incident and I found him a comfy spot in a soft chair and that is where he sits today.
I managed to pull most of the muscles in my abdomen and up under my ribs carrying him around. I also added nearly 5.00 to my swear jar.
But I guess the big question now, since October is still a few weeks away, is how much did big pumpkin weigh?
I'm not telling! You get to guess! Leave a guess in the comments and the three that get the closest will get some genuine seeds from big pumpkin to try again at their house next year. Or if you are just feeling devious, to plant in the neighbor's back yard. Oh, and by the way, the "E" you see on the scale, not to worry, just an indication of how svelt big pumpkin is, no body fat to speak of.
If you've got tomatoes, you've got fruit flies. Because I have some exotic pets I have to deal with fruit flies off and on all year. I have no idea where they come from in the dead of winter but they recognize a good setup when they see one. If you've got these little beasties trying to fly up your nose and in your eyes you have shared my frustration. To make matters worse they are nearly indestructable when they are flying and they are almost ALWAYS flying. I've never had them this bad however. Bringing in bowl after bowl of tomatoes took its toll and somewhere things just got out of hand.
A fruit fly trap is easy enough to make. A small jar, some clingwrap, a rubber band, and some bait. Insert bait, attach clingwrap, poke small holes in cling wrap, place jar on counter. This isn't rocket science. But over the years I've had a number of baits recommended to me and I decided to stage a little experiment. For this experiment I used banana baby food (got plenty of this on hand), apple cider vinegar, and red wine. The little jars were set out in various places around the house and checked over the course of a week. In the end, the red wine won hands down with at least 10 that I could see, floating in the muck. The big lose was my personal pick for favorite, the banana, which makes no sense to me at all because during non-tomato time the biggest fruitfly draw in my house is a fresh banana. The vinegar did ok with 4 that I could see.
So get out there, happy hunting! May your fruitflies be both hungry and dopey and only mediocre flyers. If you've got a different bait that works even better let me know, I'd love to try it out!
I got up this morning and couldn't find Charlotte. I looked in all her hidey spots. The nights have gotten pretty cool here, in the 50s. It worries me that she's just going to be gone one day. Later on I found her back on the window sill and this time when I approached with my camera she turned to study me as I moved in closer than ever. This is a new thing for her. Usually I have to carefully move in and do a delicate maneuver which involves me getting as close as possible without her making a mad scramble toward the ceiling. Maybe she is use to me now. Maybe she has gotten use to the daily photo sessions.
It wouldn't be the first time I have seen an animal diva-out under extraordinary attention. When I was an undergraduate we did a play that involved a live chicken. The play was called (I kid you not) The Praying Mantis. That chicken cowered and hid in the shop for the first two weeks but around opening night her whole personality changed, she began to strut and cluck when students came by to see her. She had arrived, she was a star. Mrs. Boss over at the Cottage Smallholder seems to have been swept up in the same haze of glory, so it could be poultry related.
I also thought you might enjoy seeing where Charlotte lives. I know you've seen it a lot in close ups. It's just a small back porch that has no door, but I realize that you've only ever seen close ups, unless you count the pic of the neighborhood cats hanging out! Can you find Charlotte?
My son wants me to bring Charlotte to his school in a small cage so that everyone can see her. I'm tempted but worried. I took one of the babies and it would be good for them to see one all grown up but I know it would stress her out.
I stepped out last night to bring in another tomato harvest. I've averaging every other day, sometimes every three days. The last three or four trips have been a little demoralizing. Lots of tomatoes are falling off the vine, many have been eaten by birds, one whole plant was taken by some black spot (plague) and I removed the whole plant. Last night I threw more tomatoes to the waste pile than I put in my bowl. Fruitflies were out of control all over the garden as they moved in and raised little fruitfly families in the tomatoes left half eaten by birds.
Dont get me wrong, I'm not upset about the birds. Really, they've been a help most of the summer and as you can see I'm still getting plenty of tomatoes for our family. What I'm sad about is the fact that the garden is gasping its last of the summer crop. Last month at this time that bowl of cherry tomatoes would have been full. Now, not only is my yield low, blossoms are non-existant on the plant, but most of the tomatoes split after a few hours off of the plant. I'm assuming it's a desperate effort to expel the seeds for spring but it makes for some squishy surprises. Shallow I know, but I don't like eating split tomatoes. Because I pick them a handful at a time, there's no way for me to know exactly when it split. If it split after I brought it in, it's fair game.
The first few times this happened I just thought I missed quite a few split ones. This last time I inspected them when I got them in the house, two hours later, 8 had splits in them, by the next morning the number was closer to half.
I turned to The Husband with the bowl and pointed out the little pile of split tomatoes on the top of the freezer.
"I think the tomatoes are almost done."
"Well, yeah, it's September."
I narrowed my eyes. "I'm going to blog about you for saying that!"
Am I the only one that thinks that was a crappy, heartless think to say to a gardener? I can think of a half-dozen things he COULD have said!
"Noooo, it's just about to get its second wind!"
"Why don't we try a fertilizer treatment, that will pick up production."
"I just saw some blossoms out there yesterday!"
"Why don't we water all this week? That will fix things."
"Are you kidding? We're going to be harvesting until Thanksgiving!"
"I forgot to tell you that I've been harvesting tomatoes at night and giving them to the hungry, your yield is actually three times that."
So for all of you gardeners out there feeling the first fingers of fall wrapping around your garden take this friendly advice. Won't happen. Your garden will be lush and green forever. The tomatoes will turn for you at a delightful yet manageable pace, there will be sweetcorn every weekend this winter and fresh lettuce at Christmas dinner.
It was a regular day, she was up with the kids
and decided to tend to the garden
She dug around the basement for her gloves and her shears
Came upstairs and drew back the curtain.
There it stood, leaves spread out, in a slow motion sprawl
A wild luxurious fracas
A determined expression crossed the gardener's face
A grim nod, to Charlotte the Mantis
Bent over and sweating, ripping and tearing
She was a beast of horticultural fury
Every weed, ever shrub that did not give with a tug
Met her shears and found the waste pile quickly
It was then that she stopped and examined the spot
Where a monster lay nestled in clippings
A frankenstein 'mater was waiting it out
A veg prayer to avoid weeding's rippings.
Large in size, dark and red, and perfectly ripe
And no doubt, quite pleasing in flavor
Upon closer inspection, found one ugly mug
A face only a mother could favor.
Still the gardener carried it into the house
Laid it quietly onto the counter
And picked up her digital camera, close by
To document her tomato encounter
Could it be just a fluke, an effect of the drought
A novel tomato mutation?
Could it be sliced and chopped and enjoyed
In spite of its strange manifestation?
She placed the tomato on cutting board flat
Grabbed the camera to capture the tableau
The Tomato revealed his message of love
And in the end, was quite tasty on tacos.