Filed under: Recipes
Filed under: Vegetables
Growing 200 tomato plants is not for sissies. That we had a bumper crop of tomatoes this year is a miracle: beautiful Heirloom Wisconsin 55s, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Amish Paste, Brandywines, Green Zebras, Black Krims, Purple Cherokees, White tomatoes (which are actually yellow), a French variety called Marvel of the Market and many types of cherry tomatoes.
We started them last spring in mid-March, 20 flats, or 360 tomato seedllings in organic starter soil mixed with worm castings. In the late fall, we had modified a sunny room in the house into a temporary greenroom by adding a heated tile floor The plants were under lights and on heat mats. augmenting the sunlight.
For months, we watered the ever-growing plants, transplanting them into larger
pots when they outgrew their starter containers. The vines were hardened by
schlepping them outside and back inside for a few weeks before finally planting
them. By then, the soil was prepared. We created mounds, adding rich homemade
compost, before planting and then staking the tomato cages. The rule of thumb is
to plant tomatoes outside around June 1. But it was cold and rainy so we waited
After they were finally in, on June 20 it started raining. Then it rained
and rained and rained some more. Tomatoes hate to be too wet and many were sitting in standing water, even with the mounding. So we started the arduous process of unplanting the most critical and putting them in five-gallon containers, moving others to dryer parts of the field. Then we settled back we watched them grow and grow some more. Well, not actually settle back. We needed to put newspapers and cardboard around base of the vines, as well as hay, as a weed barrier and to prevent low lying fruit from flopping on the grown.
That process worked out well, both in minimizing the arduous task of pulling weeds, but also providing a needed cushioning for our ripe fruit. The hay, of course, will be soon turned back into the earth when we do our tilling after the season winds down. By then, the underlying newspapers and cardboard will have mostly dissolved.
Maybe it was our minimal watering, or the Epsom salts we put on them, or our
homemade compost, or sheer luck but we’ve had hundreds of pounds of beautiful
tomatoes in all shapes, sizes and colors. Our CSAers who get a box each Wednesday and the buyers at our Fox Point market stand on Saturdays seem appreciative of the flavor. So far, rave reviews.
With all this bounty, I chuckle to think of my Dad, who when in his 90s saw a beautiful, buxom woman on television and remarked. “Look at those tomatoes!”
Filed under: Chickens
I have raised chickens for more than 25 years. In fact, I went through periods of being totally obsessed with the fowl. So obsessed that I wrote a book about chickens…and then another. The first was “The Complete Chicken” – an entertaining history of chickens, published in 2001 by Voyageur Press and the second was “The Field Guide to Chickens” (same publisher, 2004), as if someone needs a reference when wandering in the woods in case they run into a chicken.
Now I view chickens in a more utilitarian manner, as little egg machines to supplement our income. We have 150 of various species (Rhode Island Reds, Aracunas, White Javas, White Rocks, mixed breeds, et al). All but four are hens.
The randy roosters’ sole purpose in the hen house is to service the girls, which they are more than happy to do, day and day out. His multiple sex romps are made possible by the fact that it takes a nanosecond to have chicken sex. The rooster leaps on the back of the hen, grabbing her by the scruff of her neck. He wriggles for a second or two while spraying his “magic dust.” The hen then giggles and jiggles as the airborne dust transfers from him to her. He then jumps off and ruffles his feathers, often crowing to announce his conquest. Braggart! No courting, no foreplay, no nothing.
Other things you need to know about chicken sex.
* Not to malign the old fella, but ironically the rooster (cock) has no cock. Instead, both he and the hen have a cloaca or hole.
* You do not need a rooster to lay an egg. A productive hen will lay about 300 eggs a year, whether or not there is a rooster around. The only thing a rooster does is fertilize the egg.
If you would like more details on this cock-a-doodling-doing, secure a copy of my books via your local library or from your local bookstore, or at Amazon.