Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday July 29

What a year.  The corn is as high as an elephant's eye.  The land around these parts is a mix of field crops, pasture and forest, depending on the terrain.  Driving the roads through the bottom land around the White River is like driving through a tunnel of corn.  It's surely different than last year. 

I'm waiting on enough tomatoes to ripen to make some salsa.  There's enough jalapeno peppers ready.  One cluster broke off the Supersonic plant and several Cherokee purple tomatoes have fallen off.  I put them on one of the onion screens to ripen.  It's about time for the potatoes to come out, but they still have some green foliage and the moles have not been a problem this year, so I'll wait a little longer. 

The Ruby Ring onions were combined onto one screen.  I'm going to put them into the pole barn at the end of the day as there are storms headed this way, but right now it is sunny.

There's a few in there with bad spots that I'll remove and use soon, but most of them are rock hard.  Now I've got to find some onion bags and find a place to put them. 

As for tomatoes, no more heirlooms.  I don't have the room to give them the air they need.  The Cherokee purple has got fusarium wilt and several other diseases, and has given the wilt to the other plants where they contact.  I'll be happy if it maintains enough foliage to ripen the tomatoes it has already set.  With the garden expansion I'll be able to plant at least 4 cages next year, and the modern disease resistant varieties will give me the production I need from those cages.  That may sound like heresy but it's certainly more practical from my standpoint.

The first eggplant and summer squash were picked this week.  Here's the first eggplant, Lavendar Touch from Pinetree.  This eggplant has done really well for me.  Pinetree says it won't be selling it next year so I'll have to find another variety.

I had some bad luck with the first summer squash, a yellow zucchini that was touted for disease resistance but kept dying on me.  Then I planted a variety called Genovese, either from NK or Ferry-Morse,  picked up at the big box store.  Probably an older Italian variety and it's crowded badly by the huge acorn squash but that's OK.  I don't want massive amounts of summer squash, and these are trickling in.  It's actually pretty good.  I've been stir-frying the squash with okra and eggplant.

Later in the week I got another squash, eggplant and tomato.
For the week, beans 17 oz, okra 11 oz, eggplant 20 oz, peppers 8 oz, cucumber 2 lb 3 oz, summer squash 17 oz, tomato 11 oz.  Total 8.1 lbs.  Yearly total 74 lbs.  To see what other people grow go to

Friday, July 26, 2013

End of July

This is the Year of the Shovel.  Speaking for myself of course.  First there was the levee repair.  12 cubic yards of soil delivered, loaded onto the cart, towed by the garden tractor out to the levee and put into the gash.   Then wire was run from the house to the pole barn.  To do that a two foot deep trench was dug from the house to the barn, about 80 feet.  I still need to get another truckload of soil (I'm trying not to call it dirt), about 6 more yards, to do some finishing work on the levee.  One of these days.

My main occupation in the garden at this time is removing foliage.  There's been plenty of rain so far and I've only needed to water a few times.  The Kentucky Wonder pole beans never stop growing.  On Thursday I got the first small picking of beans from them.  While picking the beans I kept snipping out new vines, any leaves damaged by Japanese beetles or rust.  I had to do that just to find the beans.

The Honey Bear acorn squash has quite simply gone nuts.  Last year it would not grow and this year it takes up about 25 square feet.  A compact bush habit?  Hah.  I've been removing vines when they escape the bed.  And it's doing a real good job of keeping the lone summer squash plant under control by crowding it.  Come to think of it I may always plant summer squash after the winter squash to keep those zucchinis in their place.

For reference the pole beans on the left are a bit over 6 feet high.  The acorn squash is in the center and the summer squash occupies a corner on the right.  Then I took a picture from the other side of the bed.

This plant covers a bed about 5 feet wide.  It comes up to my chest.  I can only hope that the borer hasn't gotten to it.  I was spraying the main stem with Bt once a week, but now I can't even find the main stem.  Here's a nice "acorn" hanging over the edge of the bed:

The butternut squash is free to ramble out over the "barrens" near the pond. Now it's setting some butternuts.

The Teksukabotu squash is growing from the same bed.  This squash has the largest flowers I've ever seen on a squash.  Here's a fruit growing on the trellis:

l want to make some chili powder this year.  I made a small batch last year and it is much better than the storebought powder.  This is the ancho pepper plant.  The anchos are sizing up very nicely this year.

The Holy Mole pepper plant has set out 7 or 8 nice peppers, some of them nearly a foot long.  It's a Pasilla pepper.  I'll have to buy some New Mexico chiles.  Next year I'll grow some Anaheims and use those instead of the store bought chiles.

Soon I'll get a bunch of tomatoes, enough to make salsa.  There's plenty of Jalapeno's for that.  There will be some San Marzano tomatoes, but if there's not enough of them I'll use the Supersonic tomatoes.  This tomato is also very meaty, with few watery seed cavities.  This is one that I picked a few days ago and sliced open:

Monday, July 22, 2013

The calm before the storm

Was that melodramatic enough?  Not much came out of the garden this week.  The first patch of Provider beans has mostly stopped producing.  Maybe it was the spell of cool cloudy weather two weeks ago or maybe they are just about done.  In a few days the patch of Tendergreen bush beans and the Kentucky Wonder pole beans will start producing.   I expect a lot of beans.

The two Lavendar Touch eggplants are about 4 feet tall and very healthy this year.  Up to now they've endured almost no bug pressure, and eggplant is a bug magnet.  Today I noticed the first flea beetles.  There's some eggplant just about ready to pick and many more will follow. 

The tomatoes are just about ready.  I had to put in a support for the Cherokee Purple plant as the lower cluster was pulling the whole plant down.  The cool spell was really hard on this plant, infecting it with a variety of fungi and wilts.  With my plants crowded like they are, a variety that does not have the built in resistence will suffer.  I had to cut nearly all the foliage off but it's growing new foliage.

The Supersonic tomato actually did lose a lower cluster of tomatoes, just peeled of the stem from too much weight.  I put the cluster on one of the onion cages.  They should ripen up OK.

Even with a cluster missing, the Supersonic plant is just loaded, and already six feet tall.

Then there's squash.  The first summer squash will size up in a few days.  The Teksukabotu winter squash planted down in the "barrens" down by the pond is going crazy.  I let one runner go straight away from the plant to see how far it will go.  Right now it's about 20 feet long and growing.  The squash are very healthy this year.  What really amazes me is the complete absence of squash bugs so far, not even egg cases.  Maybe the late winter killed many of them.  In fact the bug pressure so far has been almost nonexistent, just a few cabbage worms and Japanese beetles.  Even the mole, my nemesis, has vamoosed. 

As for the okra, production keeps increasing.  This is the Millionaire okra in the SWC's.

As for the harvest.  Well it wasn't much this week.  Some okra, cucumbers, beans and one tomato.  Just one picture should do:

For the week: 
Beans 9 oz, okra 1 lb 8 oz, peppers 3 oz, cucumber 2 lb 3 oz, tomato 9 oz, garlic 2 oz. Total 4.4 lbs.  To see what other people are growing go to 


Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Terrible Night

I know this is a blog about raising vegetables, but there are times when I feel that I have to say something about the current state of affairs and this is one of them.  I thought about the best way to get people to think about this and came up with the idea of a thought experiment.  I’m imagining a scenario in which someone is shot dead.  Two people are involved, one real and one fictional.  

The fictional person’s  name is Travis Maxwell, a name I just made up.  Travis is a teenager, his parents divorced.  Normally he lives with his mother in Springfield, Missouri but this week he is staying with his dad, who lives in a condo in Sanford, Florida where he moved after the divorce and started a small electrical contracting business.  Travis is a typical teenager, an average student, been in a few scrapes, likes music that adults hate, wears his cap backwards, can be truly obnoxious at times, smokes some weed once in a while, and tries to talk tough, like he’s a real player.  He grew up in a rural area of west Missouri, some would say redneck, before his parents moved to Springfield.  Travis knows how to hunt and fish, and can handle a gun.  His family life has been a little rocky with the divorce, but his parents made sure he was taken care of, and Travis has got enough smarts not to go down the rabbit hole, even though he may sometimes come across as a real dillweed.  The night of the NBA all-star game, Travis leaves his dad’s condo at halftime to go to the 7-11 and buy some snacks.  He’s heard the stories about crime in Florida, and stuffs his dad’s .22 pistol into his jacket.

Here’s the other player in this fantasy, George Zimmerman, a real person.  George has been in a few scrapes himself.  In 2005 he was charged with resisting arrest and battery on a police officer, a result of getting into an argument with a cop at a party and pushing him.  The charges were later dropped as George agreed to go into an alcohol rehabilitation program.  This is probably a good time to point out that George’s father worked in law enforcement.  A few years later his ex-fiancee requested a restraining order against George for domestic violence.  She said that George was trolling her neighborhood.  One night he came to her apartment.  She asked him to leave.  George insisted that he take some of his things first.  They were yelling at each other.  Her dog bit him.  George claimed he was the victim and countersued her.  The judge told them to stay away from each other. 

George especially liked his role as an unofficial* neighborhood watch person in his gated community in Sanford, the Retreat at Twin Lakes.  George was the kind of guy who wanted everything to be in order, in fact he had made numerous calls to the police dispatcher over seemingly trivial things like trash out of place, or people walking through the neighborhood that comported themselves in what he thought was a suspicious manner.  Sometimes George went out of his way to help people in the neighborhood, but he also antagonized some residents who had filed complaints with the homeowner’s association and the Sanford police about his aggressive behavior.  At an emergency meeting of the association one resident was escorted out after loudly asserting that he had made numerous calls to the Sanford police about Zimmerman, who had previously approached him and and at one point came to his house.  George was the kind of guy who wanted order in his environment. 
The night of the NBA All Star game George is driving in his car and spots Travis near the north entrance.  Travis sees him – they make eye contact.   There’s something about this kid that George doesn’t like, he looks like he’s up to something.  George parks in front of the clubhouse and calls the police,  tells the dispatcher that this kid with the baseball cap on backwards looks real suspicous.  As Travis continues along the street George moves his car several times to keep him in sight.  By now Travis is acutely aware that this strange guy is following him.  Where the street curves to the right there’s a sidewalk that cuts across to the next street over.  This sidewalk connects to a sidewalk that runs down the middle of the block, between and behind the two rows of houses that front each street.  Travis decides to get to his father’s house on this sidewalk, which goes right behind his dad’s house, away from the street and away from this guy in the car.
George says he’s lost sight of the kid and is going to get out and follow him on foot.  The dispatcher tells him he doesn’t need to do that, the police are on the way.  George says he doesn’t have an address that he can give them, in a small neighborhood that he patrols regularly with only a few streets, so he’ll have to get out and find an address so they know where to find him.  George walks over to the sidewalk between the rows of houses.  He’s got his 9mm handgun with him, loaded.  At some point the two men’s paths cross.  Travis sees this guy is not a cop, and says “Why are you following me?”  He’s not a big kid but he’s wiry and knows how to take care of himself.  Then he sees the gun in George’s hand as he walks toward Travis.  Travis pulls his own gun out of his jacket and squeezes off a single shot that hits George in the heart.  George collapses and falls to the ground.  

Travis is charged with manslaughter.  In the trial he argues that under Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws he has a right to defend himself from what he perceives as a deadly threat.  Under this law Travis was "justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself."  Travis "was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force.”  The jury agrees, Travis is not convicted.  His gun is returned to him.

Of course we know that scenario never happened but a similar scenario did.  In the reality the teenager’s name is Trayvon Martin, and in the real outcome Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman.  In the real trial neither George’s past history of stalking his girlfriend, hitting a cop, nor his heavyhanded tactics as neighborhood watch volunteer were allowed into the trial.  George claimed that he was merely defending himself the night he shot Trayvon Martin and Martin was the aggressor.  The defense pointed out that in Florida it is not against the law to follow someone.  The jury did not convict.  In both the real case and the hypothetical case one of the two people ended up dead, and the jury did not convict the shooter.  A plausible outcome in either case.

So what is the difference?  Why can Travis claim self-defense in one scenario while George can claim self-defense in the real case?  One reason is that under Florida’s law the shooter is almost always right.  It’s his word against a dead man’s.  Under this law the burden of proof is on the state, in other words the state has to prove that the shooter did NOT act in self-defense.  That’s a high bar, and in most cases the state considers it hopeless and doesn’t press charges.

The stand your ground law seems like a very bad law, a law that encourages two people having an argument to simply go for their guns to settle it with the winner, the one still alive, getting off Scot free.  But it has one rule that, if applied, makes the law a little more reasonable, the initial aggressor rule.  This rule states that if one person initiates a confrontation that results in another persons injury then he cannot claim a stand your ground defense.  In the trial of George Zimmerman the judge denied the state’s request to instruct the jury on that part of the law.  Without the knowledge of the initial aggressor rule, the entire confrontation lost the context of George watching and following Trayvon.  The meeting between the two men was framed as something of a chance encounter, existing in its own independent universe, not something that was the culmination of Mr. Zimmerman’s actions.  A conviction would never happen.

What actually did happen in the last minute of Mr. Martin’s life?  We’ll never know, we have only Mr. Zimmerman’s version of the events to go on.  I would argue that the chain of events leading to this boy’s death began long before their meeting that night.   George was an accident waiting to happen, a cop wannabe who played out his cop fantasies as neighborhood watch guy.  He’s got a police scanner in his vehicle, thinks he’s a real-life criminal investigator, a real crusader for righteousness .  With his history he should not have been an armed neighborhood watch guy, but he was.  He sees everybody not like him as a criminal.  

When George Zimmerman got out of his car that fateful night, after being told not to, he should have lost any right to claim self-defense.  When he got out of his car to pursue Mr. Martin, he assumed the role of a police officer, a role for which he did not have the training, the capability, the psychological fitness, the experience, and most of all, the authority to assume.  He literally took the law into his own hands.  Mr. Zimmerman had no more business pursuing that kid on foot than someone who took a course in first aid has to perform an emergency appendectomy after being told that the ambulance is on the way.  And yet George played cop, and that kid wound up dead.  

Suppose the hypothetical Travis had left the house without a gun, and he met the same fate at Zimmerman’s hands as did Trayvon.  It shouldn’t make any difference whether Travis is a white kid from the Missouri ozarks or Trayvon is a black kid from Miami Gardens.  When you look at this from the 10,000 foot level it’s clear that Mr. Zimmerman began the chain of events that led to this boy's death.  You can chalk Zimmerman's reasons up to bad judgement, delusional thinking, or a hateful agenda, but whatever his reasons the act constitutes manslaughter.  Mr. Zimmerman killed someone and got away with it.

What’s really disheartening is the reaction of some of the so-called pundits on Fox News.  It’s not enough to argue the case for George Zimmerman’s innocence, Geraldo Rivera and others make the assertion that Trayvon Martin had it coming because of the way he looked, he was wearing a hoodie, or because he smoked pot or had been suspended from school.  He was unarmed, carrying Skittles and iced tea back from the store, but according to them Trayvon had it coming.  What could be more divisive than what these people are saying?     

*George claimed to be a neighborhood watch captain but the group had never gotten recognition from the USAonWatch-Neighborhood Watch organization.   The National Sheriffs Organization, its parent, issued this statement after the killing: “The alleged action of a ‘self-appointed neighborhood watchman’ last month in Sanford, FL significantly contradicts the principles of the Neighborhood Watch Program.”  A spokesman for Miami-Dade Citizens Crime Watch said “In no program that I have ever heard of does someone patrol with a gun in their pocket.  Every city and municipality has their own policies. Here in Miami-Dade we train people only to be the eyes and ears of their communities. Not to follow and most definitely not to carry a weapon.”