Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Aftermath of Hurricane Irene: Part 2

During the Hurricane, I worried about all the trees around our property and in the adjacent woods. I thought for sure that a tree would coming crashing down.  One did, but in the woods and thankfully not on our property.  Here is the gaping hole where a tree used to stand.
Here is the tree that fell. It's not a good photo, but you can see the trunk a bit in the foreground and there is a big limb leaning above that.  These trees are very tall and sit in city owned property.  I am so fortunate that the tree didn't fall onto our property crushing the garden or garage. 
And speaking of Hurricane's... I have a gripe to pick.  I keep hearing talk around the internet and even from friends  about how people, the government and media over reacted about how bad the storm was going to be and that the storm wasn't a big deal when all was said and done.  It's easy to Monday Morning Quarterback, and complain after the fact, but I don't think we should underestimate the power of mother nature.  A Hurricane is unpredictable, and I think it's better to be prepared for the worst.  Seeing all the photos and video footage on TV about all the flooding, property damage, fallen trees, and down power lines is significant and shouldn't be downplayed.  In NY alone, there were 6 deaths attributed to the Hurricane.  There could have been many more if it weren't for the city government's mandatory evacuations, MTA shutdowns, and stern warnings to stay home.  As a wife of a first responder, I see why city officials would close down the MTA and issue evacuations in the flood zone as a preventative measure to protect the citizens and the first responders.  If they didn't shut down the MTA trains, subways and buses, I know there would have been a lot more accidents and injuries since more people would have been out in the storm, putting more lives at risk, especially the first responders.  While everyone is safe at home, first responders are out in the storm risking their lives to help others.  Rescuing people from floods, car accidents, fallen debris, you name it.  While the "complainers" are sitting on the couch eating their potato chips, complaining about the subway not running, my husband and all his colleagues are putting in two 19 hour shifts during the storm responding to 911 calls. They only gave his squad a two hour break for a quick nap and then it was back to work.  So this is what I ask of you the next time you want to complain about the preventative measures of Irene, think about the firemen, policemen, EMTs, and all the first responders who don't get to go home and watch TV and ride out a storm.  They are the ones that work in the storm, saving people like you and me.  So let's give them some respect, and stop complaining about being inconvenienced for 2 days.  Instead, just thank them and your lucky stars that Irene was a mild storm, and that you are SAFE and sound.  End gripe.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Aftermath of Hurricane Irene: Part 1

I had such a rough night with the Hurricane. I did not sleep a wink since our basement is prone to flooding when we get constant rainfalls.  Without fail, after hours of constant rain, water started coming into the basement through the floors, windows and bulkhead door.   Water was even starting to come in through the drain of the slopsink in the basement.  It's because the slopsink is connected to the sewer line and with the rainwater overloading the sewer system in the neighborhood, the water was coming back into the house.  I spend about 4 hours scooping out the water out of the slopsink with buckets.  The more I scooped, the more the water filled the sink. I kept at it even though I was exhausted because if I didn't remove the water, my basement would have flooded.  What an ordeal!  The next project on my list is to install a shut off valve to prevent water from coming back to the house. When the Hurricane finally passed us, I went outside to check out the garden.  I couldn't wait to see what was in store for me.  I was really surprised, the garden didn't look as bad as I thought it would.  I thought the wind was going to tear down the bean pole trellises, but they were still standing.  Yeah!
However, the same can't be said the same of the tomato plants.  You can't really tell from this photo, but many of the tomato plants  have all fallen over.
Here is a closeup, this tomato plant was tied to a wooden dowel and tomato cage, but that didn't help it  much.   It toppled over.   LOL.  I need to come up with a better trellis system.  I was pretty amazed that some of the tomato cages barely budged in the howling wind.  They did pretty good with protecting the tomato plants.  You'll see on the left a cage still standing.
Before the storm hit, I hesitated with picking the green tomatoes.  I ended up not picking them and hoped for the best.  To my surprise, these large Brandywines stayed on the vine!  I thought because they were so heavy that they would for sure be knocked off the vine.  I am so glad I didn't pick them because I prefer to have them ripen on the vine. Hooray!  I can't wait for the Brandywines to start changing color!!  I can't wait to try these tomatoes.
Outside the picket fence the plants didn't fare as well.  I guess because they had less protection from the wind.  I think the picket fence helped protect the other plants from the whipping wind.  Here is the bed with the tobacco and tomato plants.  It is a toppled mess.
A view from the other side of the raised bed.  The plants are still alive, they just need to be supported somehow.  To be honest, I'm not that sad that these plants were crushed.  It was the hubs hobby, not mine. :)
Here is the bed with some of the tomato plants.  Totally blown over.
Most surprisingly, I only found one green tomato on the ground.  A Yellow Pear!  Isn't it just amazing that all the tomatoes stayed on the vine?  I am sooo impressed!  Even after many of the tomato plants fell, the tomatoes stayed in tact.  I learned a lot from this big storm, that plants are pretty resilient even after Hurricane gust winds and torrential rainfall.  I hope everyone who was in the path of Irene came out of it safe and sound.

Riding Out the Storm

It's about midnight now and the eye of the storm is inching closer and closer to us.  The outer bands are right below us now, and we are getting lots of rain and we are starting to get strong rain gusts.  On the news they were saying we could get a foot of rain!  That is a lot of rain.  The garden is definitely going to flood. :(
Since I was pretty much stuck in the house all day, I decided to take this time to make a batch of Sweet Dill Pickles. I went to the market before the storm and picked up dill, habaneros and onions.  The cucumbers, and garlic are from the garden.  I tried to grow habaneros like I did last year, but none of the seeds germinated.
Yesterday, in anticipation of the storm, I harvested some Heirloom Tomatoes, Isis Candy, Chocolate Cherry and Jaune Flamme.  Since I had a bunch of ripe tomatoes, I had an idea to make some fresh bruschetta. The rest of the ingredients, I harvested this morning. I picked some Italian Genovese Basil and got a bulb of homegrown Garlic that is hanging in the rafters of the garage.   Add a bit of olive oil and sea salt, and that's it! Everything everyone says about Heirloom Tomatoes are so true!  I didn't grow up eating Heirloom Tomatoes so this is a new experience for me. They are so tasty and flavorful, it's like candy!  No wonder everyone loves and raves about them.  Isn't this just gorgeous?  I am loving all the different colors of tomatoes.  As a kid, I only ate red tomatoes, so to know that they come in all these different shades of Orange, Yellow, Purple/Brown is amazing!!
I didn't have any crunchy loaves of bread at home, so I just toasted 2 slices of bread and scooped the bruschetta on top.  Oooooh is this ever good!  I could eat this every day!  I may be stuck at home during this Hurricane, but at least I am eating well!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Final Pickings Before Irene

I spent the morning taking one last walk around the garden and tying all the tomato cages to the picket fence.  If it gets really windy it won't go very far since they are all tied up with twine.  I also picked the vegetables that I could save before Irene makes her appearance.  Any tomato that had a blush of pink / yellow was picked and will ripen on my windowsill.  I decided not to pick any of the green tomatoes, I'm hoping they will stay on the vine... I'm sure most of them won't, in which case I'll have to make fried green tomatoes or pickled green tomatoes. I have to find more recipes with green tomatoes.  Do you have any suggestions?  I also picked some basil, I think I'll make some bruschetta since I will be cooped up in the house riding out the storm.  At least I'll eat well!  I saw there was a beet sticking out of the ground, so I harvested it.  It was a small little one, the beets didn't size up very well this year.  More compost is definitely needed for next year.  I'm as ready as I can be for Irene, so now it's just a waiting game.  For all those on the East Coast, stay safe!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparing the Garden for the Hurricane

With Hurricane Irene expecting to make landfall here by Saturday night, I spent most of the day in the yard getting ready for the storm. This meant putting away the umbrella, barbeque grill, garbage cans and lawn furniture in the garage. Along with all the patio plants. Let's just say it's pretty packed in there now.  Thank goodness for the garage.
I also took this opportunity to walk around the garden and take some "before the storm" photos.  The garden is finally starting to look good, it had a rough start earlier in the summer and things were taking it's slowpoke time to grow.  But now everything looks so lush.  I am so sad that the storm is going to wreak havoc on all the plants.
The back wall has all the cucumbers and string beans growing up the picket fence and everything looks so green and amazing.  They are saying on the news that we should expect 60-70 mph winds which bums me out because I fear that it will knock down all the plants.  A spring / summers worth of hard work to be knocked down in a day.
Here is the pumpkin plant, these plants are just giants.  And I have yet to see a pumpkin forming!  Lots of male flowers but hardly any female flowers.
Here's the pumpkin plant spilling out of the garden and taking over the lawn.  I was planning to let this plant grow as large as possible to see if maybe a pumpkin would emerge. 
The heirloom tomato plants will not stand a chance to Hurricane winds. 
More tomato plants in the raised beds.Yeah, these will be a toppled mess after the storm for sure.  I don't know whether I should pick all the green tomatoes or leave them on the vine.  What to do, what to do.  Will they all turn color indoors if I harvest all the green ones? I normally don't pick or eat green tomatoes.  But I don't think they will survive on the vine with this storm coming.
Here is a Rutgers and a Paul Robeson tomato plant.  I definitely will pick the ones that have a blush color so they can continue to ripen on my window sill.  I am so loving how large these Paul Robeson tomatoes get.  They are easily 1 pounders!!  I will so grow these next year!
Here are the Rutgers tomatoes up close.  These beauties are gorgeous.  I love that these tomatoes are named after my Alma Mater.  On the Rutgers website it says that these tomatoes were "introduced in 1934 by Rutgers breeder Lyman Schermerhorn as an ideal locally well-adapted and improved "General Use" tomato for processing (canning and juicing) as well as fresh market."  I hope they taste as good as they look!
I saw this pink rose blooming in the rose garden.  It's so pretty, and has no clue what's coming.  Maybe I should cut the rose and bring it inside.
I harvested these from the garden today.  I only picked the ones that were ready to harvest or had fallen to the ground.  Irene may be coming, but at least I won't go hungry.

Picking Tomatoes Before the Storm

This has been quite the interesting week for us.  First we felt the Earthquake that hit Virginia, all the way up here in NYC!  Now we are preparing for a Hurricane.  An Earthquake and a Hurricane all in the same week?  Talk about an eventful week!  Watching the news about Hurricane Irene barreling it's way up the East Coast is very scary.  Tomorrow I'll be going out to the garden and put all the lawn furniture and garden pots in the garage for safe keeping.  We haven't had a Hurricane like this hit these parts in some time, so I'm beginning to worry.  In anticipation of the Hurricane coming our way, I went out to the garden and picked some Heirloom tomatoes.  My favorite is Tiny Tim.  I see now how it got it's name.  It's as small as a dime!  Cute.
I was watching the news today and saw that I live in Zone A, a flooding and evacuation zone of the NYC area.  Mayor Bloomberg said he would announce on Saturday morning whether he will give the order for a mandatory evacuation for residents that live in the orange areas of the map below.  That big orange blob in Staten Island, that's where we live.  Crap.  Double crap!  Tomorrow, I have to go into the basement and move all the boxes to the 1st floor just in case it floods like it did 2 years ago when we got 24 hours of non-stop rain.  I'm thinking about all those people who live on the East Coast, hoping and praying that everyone stays safe and sound.
Update: I found this interactive map on Weather.com and it tracks the storm.  It's a good tool to use to see where the storm is heading.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Waiting for the Heirloom Maters

I've been anxiously waiting for the heirloom tomatoes to turn color so that I can taste these beauties. My plan this year was to grow as many varieties that I could so that I could zone in on the varieties that I thought tasted the best and therefore would make a return appearance in the garden.  I plan to save the seeds for the heirloom varieties that I think are the tastiest.  Here is Chocolate Cherry, they are turning into a cool brown color.  They should be ripe soon, and I can't wait to try these.  I originally received these seeds from Wintersown.org.  It's a great place to get tomato seeds.
This is a Persimmon Tomato, seeds given to me by Snarky Vegan.  This plant actually got a disease so this is the only tomato on the plant.  That makes me super sad.  I planted a few Persimmon tomato plants, it's now a waiting game to see if the other plants get diseased.  I hope not.  This tomato is finally showing a blush of color.  It sure is a pretty brilliant orange color and really does look like a Persimmon.  I see now how it got the name.  I put bird netting around all of my tomato plants because last year we were plagued by squirrels stealing the tomatoes before we got a chance to eat them. This year I proactively tried to prevent the squirrels from taking the maters, even though they stole my peaches and grapes.
This plant has Pink Brandywine.  I got seeds from Our Engineered Garden. I am amazed by how large these tomatoes are.  They will easily be 1 pounders.  I can't wait until the tomatoes turn pink.  They will be delicious I'm sure.
I plan to save seeds and start a seed bank so that I can share with fellow gardeners.  It was fun to grow so many varieties of tomatoes this year, it was so exciting to see how large each tomato got and what color they would turn.  I've never grown any of these varieties before so it was all new to me.  But I must say, it was also a lot of work.  We ended up having 75 tomato plants, much of which I didn't even sow, many were volunteer tomato plants.  Here is one of the raised beds with the tomato plants.  I packed 15 plants in here and it's a total tomato mess!  I definitely need to do a better staking system because the plants were drooping all over the place.  I put tomato cages around some of the larger plants and then tied the other plants to the cages.  Even though we had a whopping 75 tomato plants, a few died from disease, some were destroyed by storms, and others just never produced a lot of tomatoes.  Next year, I definitely want to limit the number of varieties that I will grow, because I was definitely overzealous this season with the planning.  Initially my plan was to grow as many different varieties to see what tasted good and continue to grow the ones I liked in the future.  However,  when it came down to organizing all the plants and seedlings, and isolating the blooms, for each plant it became completely overwhelming.  There are some plants in which I never ended up isolating the blooms, so I hope the seeds saved will be really true to parent.  With so many tomato plants, I actually didn't have time to devote to my other vegetable plants.  For example, I didn't grow enough Pepper, Eggplant, or Squash Plants.  And plants I didn't get a chance to sow properly were my herb plants, Chamomile, Sage, Cilantro and the some vegetables that I never ended up sowing at all were Parsnips and Kale. I wanted to try those this year, but the tomato frenzy took over my life.  Definitely next year, I will create an herb garden, and definitely less tomato plants.... I hope!
Update: Hurricane Irene is heading straight for the East Coast and everyone is preparing for the rough stormy weather.  I am beside myself with worry about my tomato plants, some are so tall and I don't know if they will survive the winds.  Hardly any of the tomatoes are turning color yet.  Ugh.  I'm hoping for the best.  I hope everyone who is in the path of the storm stay safe and sound.  And their gardens too. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Want One of These!

Last week, we visited my husband's Aunt in Upstate New York.  I've always admired her beautiful pergola that she has in her backyard.  It has Wisteria growing all over it.  I love pergolas and really would like one in our yard one day.  Isn't it just beautiful?
Here is another view from the west side of the pergola.  If I had one of these, I would grow grape vines to cover the pergola.  She said that the structure has been here for many years, and have since started to have structural problems.  She told me that since this was built out of wooden beams, the wood is starting to break down / decompose and so she had to nail reinforcement 2x4s to support the beams.  She said that if we were to put in a pergola to consider using a metal material instead of wood, however I do love the look of the old wood beams.  I know that cedar holds up better than most other types of wood, but does it last forever?  I definitely don't want to use treated lumber since I would want to grow grapevines on it.
If I had a pergola like this, I would eat so many meals under here.  It is breathtaking.  I would throw parties just to find ways to use this pergola!  Or just relaxing underneath it with a lawn chair and a good book.  It's so romantic and pretty.
The hubs Aunt said that the Wisteria is pretty spectacular when it's blooming in the spring.  I have yet to see it in full bloom.  Maybe next year.  She said that now it is producing lots of seed pods. She gave me some seed pods to take home. The seed pod has an amazing velvety texture.  It's so cool.  I plan on drying the pods out and trying to grow a Wisteria plant.  I'll have extra seeds available so I think I'll bring the seeds to a seed swap that I'm helping organize in Brooklyn.  If any of you readers would like a few seeds, I may have some extras to give out.  Please note, Wisteria is a large growing vine, so you need a good support system for these plants.
On her property was also this amazing hydranga bush.  Wow, it was gigantic and the blooms were starting to die.  She said it's all blue in early summer.  Beautiful!
I found one of the mopheads still with the vibrant blue color.  I hope my hydrangea bushes grows this nice!! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Tour of the Garden

I took these photos a few weeks ago. I realized that I haven't posted any photos of the garden layout so here is a little tour.  On the right, is the raised bed of pumpkin and zucchini squash.  Next to that is a bed of Eggplant, Leeks, Celery, Beets, and Radishes.  In the very back are the pole beans, yardlong beans, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.
I'm really loving the celery plants, the seeds were given to me by Food Garden Kitchen.  They are growing really slow, but doing very well.   And the best part, bugs seem to leave them alone.   I like to cut only what's needed for cooking, I'll trim only the outer leaves and stalks to cook with and then continue to let it grow.  This will definitely return to the garden next year.
Here is the Japanese pumpkin plant.  I'm a little bummed because I have yet to see a pumpkin growing on the plant.  The plant is gigantic, so it's very frustrating.  Argh...
On the far corner of the garden, are the cucumbers growing up the picket fence.  I don't even put up a trellis because they will grow up the fence.  I'm growing a few different varieties of cukes this year.  White Cucumber, Straight Eight, Parisian, and Boston.
I should have labeled these plants, because I have no idea what's what.
I believe this is a Straight Eight cucumber that is forming. 
Here is the left side of the garden.  We never got around to putting in raised beds so everything is directly in the ground which I hate because there are SO many weeds!  This side has the peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, asparagus, peas and strawberries.
Here are the raised beds outside of the fenced area.  We quickly ran out of room on the inside fenced area so we put 4 raised beds on the grass.  I'm thinking I still need more room.  Maybe I can put in more raised beds and get rid of the grass entirely.  hahahaha. In this bed, the hubs is growing tobacco to roll his own cigars.  I'm not thrilled with this "crop" so I only gave him half a bed to indulge in his hobby. The other half of the bed has tomato plants.
This is the bed with the Heritage raspberry plants.  We only got 2 berries this year.  I'm looking forward to next year, I hope we get lots and lots of berries!
We have one bed with 15 tomato plants in it.  I think it's going to get overly crowded, we shall see.  Behind that bed, is our rhubarb bed.  I have 3 rhubarbs growing in it.  For some reason, I have a very hard time growing rhubarb.  The three plants I grew last year all died.  I planted 4 more this year so I am hoping for the best.  I just hope next year I can harvest some rhubarb.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Get Bigger My Sweet

I'm growing Brandywine this year for the first time, from seeds given to me by EG at Our Engineered Garden. The fruit are forming and getting larger.  Get bigger my sweet.  I'm looking forward to eating you.  I plan to save some seeds to grow next year.  Any extras I'll give away to readers just like EG did.  Pay it forward, mater style.

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