Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Aphids attack in the Office Garden

The Office garden is just chugging along, and I even have a few bell peppers coming.

A few days ago, my coworker asked me if the eggplant was being eaten by bugs. I said, "not that I know of, but I saw the holes, too and wondered". Well, after she left that day I took a closer look and flipped out. Mother F! it's Aphids! The scurge of all the gardening seas! Aphids are my worstest nemesis out of all my nemesises!

(you can click to zoom in on this picture)

Man, no wonder the blossoms were dropping off. Since these aphids are green, they had been reproducing uncontrollably without anyone knowing! They had all sorts, Big, small, winged ::shudders::

Now I don't know about you guys, but I get hebbe jebbe about bugs.
I may have seen just a few, but to me, that's like millions. In fact my igination takes over, and then I start thinking there's aphids everywhere in my office and on my clothes...

Aphids have always been a mortal enemy to me, because they are SO hard to get rid of! When I had aphids on my pomegranates, I couldn't wait till spring to put them outside, because they would all magically disappear if I put them outside (maybe the winds or the rain, or the ladybugs, --- who knows). However, with it being November 17th, I have a long way to go until it's spring.

Insecticidal soaps, neem oil...
anyone have a scoop on how well they work? the basil seem unaffected by the aphids on the eggplant, but I notice the aphids have spread to my bell pepper.

So far, I am taking off leaves that have lots of aphids on them, and squashing a bunch of them by giving the leaves a "massage". My mind is screaming as I'm doing this. "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE gross!!!"

I don't know what I have against spraying, but I will give the dish soap/water/vinegar solution a try on Monday when I get back to work.

<3 Holz

Sunday, November 14, 2010

$5000 on 1/10th of an acre?

Hi all,

It's close to 1AM, so I am just going to write a couple lines, and keel over onto the mattress. Recently, I've been toying with the idea of getting ALL my property taxes back to me in the form of food.

I came to the realization today that my property tax is almost like having a trophy wife. Paying thousands of dollars on land that is just sitting there. (I am not contemplating the what the tax money is used for, etc... but rather the fact that each square foot or whatever of my land is costing me $XX). Then there's the cost for accessories and procedures for making my land look pretty. My neighbors can choose to envy it, or hang out with it, or maybe sleep with it - JK on the last one, but you get what I'm saying here. My trophy wife is costing me money and just laying there.

WELL HELLO!!!?!?! Starting this coming spring, this land is getting off it's lazy butt and GETTING A JOB. I have given it an ultimatum. Pull your weight around here! Pay me rent money~!

The average duplex in my subdivision pays a tax of $5336.00
So how can I possibly make this land give me that much in groceries? Then there's the water it'll require. Hopefully the two rain barrels will help that (although there IS the cost of the rain barrels).

The Dervaes family in Pasadena makes $30k/year off their backyard, but that is selling to restaurants, and having California weather all year long.

If they can make 30k, I'm hoping I can make at least $5000 in veggies just for my family. I will have to get a scale, and a notebook to keep track of how many pounds or bunches of things I get and multiply it by the retail price at Dominick's (a local grocery where we buy food). I should also keep accurate detail of cost of supplies for the backyard. I have planted all the trees I will ever need or can cram into my place, so we can start calculating from spring 2011. By the fall of 2011, I hope to reach a nice sum of money saved on groceries.

Sigh... that is alot to ask out of a lazy person (me). Scratch that, My dreams are to be lazy, but I know myself better. I mean, I am dead tired, and thought I'd write two lines and go to bed. Yet here I am still blogging.

Ok world. I've declared war! and ...I'm going to bed :)!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Surprise, it's Garlic!

After seeing the kids onto the bus, I took a look at my zombie garden.
The neighbor has been raking her leaves and putting it out to the curb for the trash to pickup. When I am able, I take a wheelbarrow over there and shovel up the leaves with the kids, and then proceed to dump the leaves all over my gardens. I figure it's free nitrogen and worm food. She has told me in the past to feel free to take her leaves :) (Whilst I sit back and wonder why she sprinkles fertilizer on her trees/lawn, and then bags up all the clippings and leaves for the trash to haul away. It's a vicious cycle of her losing all the fertilizer she's putting into the place.)

As I scanned the garden, the tomatoes were all droopy, and the sesame leaf stems were drying out to be stiff in the wind... and I saw something growing out of the leaf mulch. huh... looks like... GARLIC?! That's Madness!

I planted that in the Spring, and I didn't see it growing at all! In fact all summer, while I was tending my garden, I was somewhat disappointed that only 1 garlic stem was growing. By the time Fall arrived, I pulled that 1 garlic to find... 1 big bulb on the bottom. Wow that really didn't look like Garlic at all. But now, here... every single one of them are greeting me... WTFFFFF??

So what exactly did I do wrong? (O_o)

Well, I found out from Natalie, our local expert, that Garlic should be planted in the Fall to harvest NEXT Fall. So it has a whole year of growth underground. Wow, so all the garlic that are coming up now are ready for being in the ground next year :) ! HA! I totally am way better at this that I thought! In fact, I could maybe say I MEANT to do it. ::Evil cackle::

This actually makes me want to plant even more garlic, because now is the season to do the planting. That, and any of my friends will tell you I LOVE garlic. I love to eat it on pizza, with stir fry, roasted, and sometimes even raw with food (learned that from my Albanian neighbors).
This is much to the dismay of my friend who have to be around me after I've been eating a whole head of garlic.

Some other good news: I found the digital camera, and I can soon add photos to this bloginess!
In true digital camera fashion, I found it had drained the batteries that were in it.

Here's also a photo of the front of the house from Spring. We've since painted the white/primer parts a tan color, but the shape of the front yard is pretty much the same. This will be one of a few "before" photos used before the front yard is transformed by my friend Pam from four seasons, who has encouraged me over and over not to give up on the dream of edible landscaping.

Here's a shameless plug for such a sweetheart of a person!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cold outside, and it's only November.

Whenever it starts getting cold outside, my feet start dragging to do anything outside.
The frost has been here for about a week now, and a part of me knows I am overdue to work on the front yard. Probably by now, I'm supposed to till over the front yard and add manure, paper, and dead leaves. Must also bag up the sod and put it into black trash bags, so it can "die" by the time summer comes, and it can be composted.
First, I need to snap photos and get measurements of the front yard to give to the landscape designers. From there, I'm guessing there'll be a mockup and I'll have some winter time to mull it over. I also need to observe the shady/sunny parts of the front yard.

Sorry for the rambling. That's my placeholder, and you all can hold me accountable :)

I read in the self-sufficient life by John Seymour that winter is a time for enjoying the stored foods/grains/meats etc from the summer/fall. While I don't have meat and a ton of stuff saved, I do have 5 bags of frozen apples taking up too much room in my freezer. This was the result of having more apples than we can eat from the fall. I imagined that I'd turn it into pie filling, but living the crazy life I have, I didn't have any time to do such a thing. So here I am trying to squeeze chicken leg quarters into my freezer, and taking out the 5 bags of frozen apples in a huff.

Can frozen apples me turned into "Canned apple pie filling"? Only one way to find out :\
I followed the recipe for making Apple pie filling and poured them into the canning jars.
This is where I admit I am not so good at canning. My blueberry preserves was too mushy, my crabapple jelly turned into crabapple sauce, I constantly have some jars that don't seal, and I need to put them in the fridge. However, I did well with peach preserves... :\

So I canned the pre-frozen apple, apple pie filling. And since I was doing this at 12am, I accidentally let it process for 2 hours. To my surprise there were still 2 jars that didn't seal. Ah well. Sometimes you lose some. I made 1 jar into pie, I put one jar into the fridge, and then the other 4 jars were sealed, and put into the pantry. Since I made 1 of the unsealed jars into a pie, I was able to taste and see whether pre-frozen apples were an issue in terms of texture and integrity. It was actually, delicious. Even the girls were going gaga over it :)

If any of you want to learn more about John Seymour, and his book about the self-sufficient life (which is a very "introduction to the urban homestead" kind of book) his website is:

I believe the author has since passed away, and the legacy lives on here through Will Sutherland:

there are courses you can take in:
Making bread
Making sausages
Brewing beer and wine
Making Baskets
Making jams and jellies
Planning your smallholding/garden
Creating a clean seedbed from weeds and grass
Laying paths, blocks and cement
Building composting areas, making compost and use of compost in the garden
Pig and chicken husbandry
Management and improvement of soil
Scything, Haymaking and Grassland management
Tree planting and management for fruit, nuts and firewood
Growing soft fruits, pruning and manuring
Control of weeds and pests
Cutting and storing firewood, including the chainsaw, its use and maintenance
Harvesting and storing food from the garden, drying, picking, and freezing
Use of the rotavator for controlling weeds and improving soil structure
Use of the greenhouse and transplanting
Tools for the garden
Knots and ropework

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Frost is here - and 2 more trees in the home orchard

Well, there was a preliminary light frost a couple days ago, but today I looked out the window to see the inevitable REAL frost. Everything was slightly whitish... beautiful yet deadly :(

On Sunday, I wanted to go to Home depot. The trees/shrubs were on clearance at 50% off.
Heeeey now, I can build my mini orchard for Half the price! LOL.
We ended up going to a home depot in Vernon hills off of Milwaukee and 60/town line road.
The kids found the trees, and they all looked pretty scraggly. It wasn't only because it was the end of the season. The stores around here buy trees in the spring, and again in the fall. Those are the times you're supposed to plant. I asked the kids to help me look for nice looking trees, with fruit that they'd eat... and surprisingly, we found some REALLY nice looking trees and took them home.

Benefits of planting in Spring:
Warm Weather
Instant gratification
easier to tell if the tree is dead/alive so you can get a refund for it

Benefits of planting in Fall:
Roots grow during the winter, so growth is greater in Spring
Dormancy leads to less transplant shock
more productive tree, because of the larger roots

I like buying trees from Home Depot. Not only, because of the sales... the garden club gave out coupons via email that had "buy 1 tree, get 1 free", but because they carry dwarf/semi dwarf trees, AND they allow you to return it a year later no matter what the reason as long as you have your receipt.

I had to return a peach tree that was plain out dead on arrival, but I just thought it was dormant :( and I am contemplating returning the bartlett pear tree for a Semi-dwarf bartlett tree. I do, after all, only have a 10th of an acre to work with.

On Sunday, I picked up a Montmorency Tart cherry

and an Elberta peach

It was $10 each tree, so I can only hope that maybe next year I'll get $10 of fruit. The first year of fruits are supposed to be cut off, so the tree can concentrate on growth, but I don't see the fun in that. In Nature, they'd have fruited, and I leave it at that. let the kids pick the fruits and love the tree that gave it to them.

(I highly recommend people to read instructions even if you don't follow them. Then you'll know what you did wrong if things go awry. )

With the winter approaching, some of my posts from Edible Landscaping will cross with Urban Homesteading, because they are very intertwined with eachother.