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Eggplant Paradise Discovered

September 16, 2014

I thought eggplants were supposed to slack off after peaking mid season.

Apparently I was wrong….

The good harvest my three traditional plants were providing has turned into a ridiculous harvest. Raised beds, drip irrigation and a lot of sun had left me suddenly awash in eggplants. A few days ago a branch sheared off of one of the plants while I was outside; the three large fruits were undamaged but it motivated me to stake the branches later that evening.

After turning the plants into works of suspended engineering art somewhat resembling Maypoles, I counted 37 fruit between the three plants:

Two staked eggplants dwarfing an artichoke transplant

Two staked eggplants dwarfing an artichoke transplant

"Laden"? Is that the word?

“Laden”? Is that the word?

We really like them but can’t eat 37 eggplants over the next week or ten days, so if you are local and interested in taking some off our hands then please get in touch.

Snatched Snake Snack

September 8, 2014

While listening to a football game on the sun porch, something unusual caught my eye on the back of the garden. A peek through some cheap binoculars I had handy confirmed what I thought I was watching, so I grabbed my camera and a 200mm zoom lens and stalked out onto the patio to see if I could get a picture.

Not the best of quality but under the circumstances, these are passable…


One of our local Red Tailed Hawks had snatched up a small snake and was consuming it while perched on the blackberry netting frame. He (or she?) tolerated me observing from 100 feet away and made quick work of the little “snack”.


And with that it took one more glance around then moved on.

I saw it again this evening moving about; I’m hoping it has discovered that my wildlife-friendly garden offers some very healthy tomato-fed squirrels and will become a regular visitor.

Parsnip Greens?

August 24, 2014

I decided to try to grow some parsnips this summer and in hindsight, I have no idea why.

I can’t say that I can remember ever even tasting a parsnip or a dish that included parsnip as an ingredient. Hopefully I like them; I guess that in a worst case I will adapt and find some tolerable dish or soup that includes them.

Anyway…. I learned that these need a long growing season and managed to get some seedlings out of the ground by early May. I also learned that it is best to wait until the first freeze to harvest, so by my calculation these would have something in the range of a 26 week growing season, a modest 10 weeks more that the recommended minimum of 16 weeks. (Hopefully there isn’t an issue with having too long a season; I suppose I’ll learn towards the end of October.)

OK on to the greens…

My expectation was that these would put up greens similar to what I have become accustomed to with the handful of carrot varieties I’ve grown over the years. The carrots all had fairly delicate leaves on stems that reached at most 12 or 16 inches above the soil line. By comparison the parsnip greens are colossal; the top of them come just beyond my belt line:

Parsnip Greens

Parsnip Greens

A friend asked me a while back if the greens were poisonous; she indicated that she’d heard they could raise blisters on some people similar to those caused by poison ivy. I had never heard this and didn’t think about it again until this afternoon… So I asked professor Google and yes, it seems some people are extremely sensitive to some types of parsnip greens.
As best I could gather from the scattered articles on the subject (most with graphic pictures), wild parsnips tended to be the culprit more so than most garden varieties.
I was up to my elbows in the greens this afternoon checking a few of the root tops for girth and thus far I haven’t blistered or raised any sort of rash on my forearms, so perhaps my tiny square of parsnip greens are not toxic.

If you are curious about the sort of blistering some people have suffered click here or in a more detailed description of wild parsnip issues click here.

A Helping Hand

August 18, 2014

“Cicada killer” season is winding down and this year’s colony has been spread mainly towards the back of the boxwood garden.
The cicada killers still around at this point are the last of the hard working females (Check this archived post out to see just how hard they work), who dig their burrows then drag paralyzed cicadas down in order to lay an egg on them then entomb them both in a chamber. They are constantly reappearing from the surrounding trees, approaching in lumbering flights with the much larger cicada in tow underneath; in between they hover and put up a pretty good bluff to try and intimidate you to move away from their burrow.

The other day I noticed something odd; I was viewing the abdomen of what appeared to be a cicada having a seizure just under the edge of a shed door (pardon the hastily snapped phone pic’s focus):

As it wobbled back and forth it became obvious one of my hard working cicada killer gals was struggling to pull her prey into the shed. So I opened the door and there she was with this cicada and a couple others that she had given up on trying to get through the crack at the edge of the shed floor.

They like to select areas with dirt surfaces for their burrows’ gateway; I’ve had them come under the door of one of my workshops and dig burrows a couple of feet into the shop. This one was pretty clever to figure out she could slide through the crack and have a sheltered burrow entrance underneath the shed floor. Unfortunately, she didn’t measure her gate ahead of time to insure her fatter bodied cicada prey would fit through as well.

I felt bad for this little insect and had to help her out. A handy shovel was enough to to pry the crack open just a little bit more, all the while with her buzzing around in front of my face trying to scare me off. Just as soon as the crack creaked open slightly, I stepped back and she went right back to work, quickly grabbing the freshest cicada and disappearing underneath to her burrow.


She still doesn’t like it much when I come in and out of the shed, but as usual she is all buzz and no bite.

And this concludes the 2014 cicada killer update.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

July 30, 2014

First, the “good”:

The overall size & quantity of the first waves of Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter & German Yellow tomatoes has been above average; Mrs cohutt has referenced the “early pumpkin harvest” on more than one occasion.

Brandywine & German Yellow tomatoes

Brandywine & German Yellow tomatoes

Another “good” is the ample supply of eggplants we have been harvesting; the flea beetles are around but I’ve kept them at bay with an occasional light dusting of diatomaceous earth on the leaves at dusk. (I have rinsed it off in the morning to keep wind from spreading it where I don’t want it.)
A week's eggplant harvest

A week’s eggplant harvest

Likewise, the first waves of soy (type “Envy”) have been good and more productive than last year’s initial try.
First soy harvest of the season ("Envy")

First soy harvest of the season (“Envy”)

The “bad”:

I have a serious tomato plant problem that is probably Fusarium or Verticillium wilt. If I confirm one or both of these is will have a serious impact on the garden over the next few years due to limitations of what can be planted in infected soils. (More on this in a future post, should I manage to figure it out.) Basically the leaves are dying very quickly from the bottom up- right now there are few if any live green leaves in the the first 4 feet of the plants. This has left little shade on the developing fruits so I have a lot of cracks and sun scalding on those tomatoes harvested so far. Unfortunately this will also limit or eliminate the 2nd large harvest wave that usually follows in September.

Wilted Brandywines

Wilted Brandywines

The “ugly”:

My garlic harvest was hit with onion maggots, which has given me the disgusting aroma of rotting garlic wafting everywhere as I have attempted to cull the infested heads. The worm is pretty much undetectable until the clove or cloves it has been eating tunnels through begins the inevitable hidden festering rot process. The nose knows first; rotting garlic has a way of letting the whole house know.

(If you are reading this @ mealtime, you might pass on the remaining pictures.)

The culprits:

Onion Maggots in Inchelium Red Garlic

Onion Maggots in Inchelium Red Garlic

The resulting damage:
Inchellium Red garlic rot induced from onion maggots

Inchellium Red garlic rot induced from onion maggots

Another example of onion maggot damage (Inchellium Red garlic). NASTY!

Another example of onion maggot damage (Inchellium Red garlic).

Red Medusa?

July 6, 2014


No, Chinese red noodle beans, aka red “yard long” beans.

I believe “prolific” would adequately describe the initial yields these have delivered. Two modest bamboo bean pyramids are now well covered in the bean vines and they are providing this amount every 2-3 days right now. They will slow down a bit though once it gets really hot and the plants get through their initial burst of production.

On the vine, an eye pleasing contrast:


These are actually just a relative of the common summer cow pea and the peas themselves are pretty good fresh. This being said, the taste and texture of the pods prevent very many from making it that far in cohutt’s household.

They keep their color and do very well in a hot pan with a bit of oil. Yum.



Put together some burnout, writer’s block and some temporarily distracting medical concerns and what you end up with is 48 days without an update. Perhaps this is all behind me now and more frequent postings will be seen going forward.

Fava, Chapter II

May 19, 2014

This is the second season we’ve planted fava beans (aka broad beans); we really enjoyed what we harvested last year and definitely wanted to include them again this spring.

Our first experiment was to plant them in the fall (October I believe) as I had read that these are usually quite hardy. In hindsight, the winter of 2012-13 was a good one for this as it was relatively mild, and it turns out that favas are as hardy as claimed, mostly, sort of…

While all the plants survived the winter, each freeze tended to disfigure the soft hollow stemmed plants a little more. The main stems would crimp then fall over but the plant would survive and eventually regain any tender foliage lost to the cold. The plants survived but by spring the beds were a tangled Medusa head of chaos and flowering didn’t really occur until the weather started warming up.

So this year I skipped the cold (I thought) and in February I planted fava beans (“Windsor”) saved from last year’s crop. The ground wasn’t frozen but was still quite cool, so the seed lay dormant in the ground for over three weeks before gradually sprouting about the time I was giving up on them. They handled the last few frosts and a light freeze or two and by late April the healthy plants were covered with flowers up and down the mostly straight stems.

Here in the middle of May we are about ready to begin what should be a very good harvest for fresh consumption in salads and pasta dishes while the summer garden continues to fill in. At some point this week I’ll wander out for my fist serious fava search & rescue mission of the year; they hide well among the leaves and stems, especially when dummy gardeners plant a full 4’x8′ bed on a 6″-8″ grid.

Young fava bean pods

Young fava bean pods

5 Minutes of Quiet, in Pictures

May 4, 2014

Yesterday was D-Day for the garden tour. You know, the one that over the last few months had forced me to address multiple unfinished projects, permanently organize my garden tool/supply storage and do a thorough combing of the area for removal of scraps, artifacts and other random objects that had been moved/kicked around and tucked in corners over the last 5 years of “build out”. It was badly needed regardless of whether or not the gate was to be opened for a few hundred interested friends and strangers to view inside my “fortress of solitude”.


I had trained my brain to ignore scores of lumber scraps, pieces of metal fencing and all of the fragments of bricks, bottles, and other oddities unearthed after residing under a layer of dirt for the past 50 or 100 years. Over the last few weeks Mrs cohutt ramped up her attack on the ever encroaching English ivy and for the first time in a half a century or more, most of the back had been “picked to the bone” (an overly dramatic description and a modest exaggeration perhaps, but in relative terms it makes my point.)

A few minutes before the gate opened and the few hundred (mostly) interested people wandered through, it dawned on me that I had not taken a picture of the garden in this very rare state of tidiness.


Five minutes later the camera was stowed in Lizzie’s house and the first visitors appeared wide-eyed through the gate. I had not considered that in comparison to the confined scruffy area of the alleyway near our back gate, the guests were greeted by an entirely unexpected and open oasis hidden behind the fence.

Mrs cohutt has reinforced how this should be the “new normal” for our little plot. I have earnestly agreed, but the only time will tell if she will be able to re-train this often scatterbrained & ADD gardener to clean up after himself every day. I am certain she is up to the task and hope that I am as well.

Just in case, this is how it looked a few minutes before 10:00 yesterday morning. (All pictures will click through to open a higher resolution version if you are interested).















No words

April 29, 2014

More Spring Salad


Spring salads

Low Vista