Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Big, Bad Wolf er, Coyote, at PAR Davies

Hi Everyone,


No, we're not growing cute little boys!
Thursday was a bittersweet day at Davies for all of us who have worked so hard in the garden. We were greeted with the destruction brought on by the raccoons the last few nights. Below are the remnants of the melon patch. I will say they didn't waste the melons because each melon was cleaned out inside. On a funny note, we saw an area where they spit all their seeds. Susan went out Wednesday despite the rainy forecast and found the remnants of the raccoons' tomato destruction. The way she described it, there must have been 50+ lbs of tomatoes that we lost in the last few nights. It was very disheartening to say the least.

Watermelon and cantaloupe almost ripe
I found a roll of bird netting in the barn, and Michelle and I covered the watermelon patch and anchored it all around with bricks and metal stakes. I hope that if they try to remove it they get their little hands and feet all tangled up. Jamie, G.A. and Larry started out immediately adjusting the new bottom fencing by bending the bottom in an 'L' to lay flat on the ground about a foot out, so the raccoons can't dig under the fence. They are working on a plan to keep them from climbing up and over the fence. Ladies, we couldn't make it without our great group of guys….doing all this fence work right after they installed the new water pipe/faucet! They were still working when I left at 10:30.

G.A. and Larry raccoon-proofing the bottom of the fence
On a happier note, the weather on Thursday morning was great with the temp in the upper 60's when we got to the garden and less humidity even after all that rain. Gardeners were Maxine and Dorothy (first timers), Michelle, Ann, Martha, Susan, Larry, G.A., Jamie and myself. The main order of the day was the harvest, and it was a good one despite all the destruction. We picked tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, squash/zucchini/Sweet Fall, cucumbers, jalapeƱo, shishito, banana, habanero and bell peppers, Aunt Ida's pole beans, Dixie butter beans, eggplant, green bush and yellow wax beans. There were still 148 lbs. of tomatoes picked even with all the destruction, and we had 29 lbs. of cucumbers. I was concerned that we might be sending more basil than they could use at the shelter, but I found out that they love it and will use all we send. Martha delivered everything to the shelter today, and she reported back that they were very grateful.

Below is the one and only surviving Minnesota Midget cantaloupe, which I brought home Saturday. These were growing in four containers and had quite a few little melons, which I am sure were tasty morsels for the raccoons. I sliced it up for the gardeners today to sample, and everyone agreed it was excellent and want to grow more. I have saved the seeds which I will keep some for PAR and share some with the gardeners. I also have these growing at home, so eventually will have even more seeds to share. These were recommended by Carl Wayne, and are exceptionally sweet with a very thin rind and practically no waste. Just right for one or two people. Imagine a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some mixed berries in the seed cavity. Yum!

Minnesota Midget…..sorry about your babies Ann, but now you can plant your own
The squash were checked for squash bug eggs and quite a few were found and destroyed on the "Sweet Fall" squash leaves. These vines are growing out of their bed but we've seen only two squash so far. There is an abundance of mainly male blossoms. The smaller of the two squash has disappeared to I presume the raccoons, so I picked the remaining one. We weren't quite sure if it was ready to pick yet, as the stem was still firmly attached, but it looked like it might be ripe. We wanted to do a taste test before sending any to the shelter, to make sure we picked it at the correct stage and also that the flavor is good. After cutting it open, I believe it could have stayed on the vine a little longer, as the rind edge was still a bit green. But after it was baked it all tasted quite good, similar to an acorn squash, but sweeter. If these ever start producing, they are definitely worth growing again.

"Sweet Fall" squash baked. This is a 9x13 pan, so it is quite big at about 4.5 lbs
Most of our time was taken up with harvesting, but we were also able to collect some more of the recently cut grass from the manor house lawn to add to our compost. When we have some extra time there are a few bags of leaves that need to be shredded to mix with the grass. Everything has had another growth spurt due to the rain, and pictured below are several beds overflowing into the walkways. We should soon be able to harvest the purple hull peas and okra.

Back row are the cucumber towers interplanted
with bush beans and zinnias, then the sweet potato bed, 
and in bottom right corner is part of the purple hull pea bed.
Below is our scary coyote to deter raccoons. Hey, we'll try anything. We will be able to tell folks what works and what doesn't, and isn't that one of our objectives at Davies?  I happen to like this little guy, even though he looks like a ballerina standing on this tippy toes!

Looking at Saturday's forecast, there is a slight chance of rain. We will go ahead and plan on working Saturday unless the weather changes, at which time I will notify you no later than Friday evening.

'Til later,

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