The Results Are In!

We wanted to see which of three added fertilizers would result in more growth for our basil plants; a commercial powder, our own compost, and our own worm castings, with an a fourth basil plant with nothing added as a control.

Here is the ‘Nothing Added’ plant

The commercial powdered fertilizer.

The worm castings plant.

And above is the added compost one.

Hmm… Can’t tell the difference?

Well I figured out that the problem with my experiment was that as basil plants get bigger, you can’t help but want to make some pesto.

So the photos above are after I cut off the best leaves to use in my pesto. You’ll just have to take my word for it that the one with the added compost wins. All for the advancement of Science!

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Volunteer pumpkin

All of our vegetables in the garden are doing great this year. The only thing that has not worked out so far are our pumpkins. We grew six pumpkins from seed, they were all hardened carefully, transplanted to the garden, and then they all died in about a week. Pumpkins need warm weather, and unfortunately we had a couple of cool nights in late June that probably killed them.

However, we do have a volunteer pumpkin in our side yard which is doing great. Is the term ‘volunteer’ used outside New England? It means that we did not plant this one, it just started growing. Most likely from a composted pumpkin from last year. It stretches across two sections of fence, each about eight feet long. Every few days I have to check to see if it is growing into my neighbors yard, I’ve already had to move the huge vines out of the neighbor’s yard twice.

There’s also a small tomato plant squeezed in there too.

I hope we get some pumpkins from this one!

A gardening experiment

We’re experimenting with our basil this year. We eat a lot of pesto, and it usually costs something like $6 for a four ounce jar, so we’ve been growing our own. Homemade pesto is very inexpensive and any excess can be frozen too.

Basil tends to grow like a weed here, but I noticed that our plants have not been doing well so far this year. We have them in old kitty litter bins, to keep the dog from trampling them. It’s possible that the potting soil-dirt mix may just be played out, it’s been in the same bins for a few years now. So we’ve added some supplements to the bins to see which one helps the plants the most.

In this bin we have added some compost from our own compost bin. Decomposed fruit and vegetable peels and cores, grass clippings, leaves.

A commercial plant food. It’s a powder that is mixed with water.

Worm castings. We have a worm bin. C likes to say that he takes care of a thousand pets in addition to the dog. Possibly another post to come on that. The worms eat the same type of fruit and vegetable scraps that we have in the compost, they also eat paper, newspaper, and cardboard. We then gather up the finished castings.

And as a control, a bin with nothing added.

Each bin had about a quart of each supplement added to try to make sure each one is equal. Each one also receives about the same amount when we water them.

We’ll see what happens.

Vegetable Garden ‘18

Last year we had a plot in our town’s community garden area. We have a small yard and what do have planted will be trampled by our dog anyway so the community garden is a good option. We had been on the waiting list for about two years, and I had not planned anything ahead of time when they assigned us our plot in late May. So we had to rush to get seedlings in the ground and we just were not able to get much done in time, so by the end of the season we ended up with just some carrots and a few stalks of basil.

Once you’re in the garden you are automatically renewed unless you cancel so this year we were determined to plan ahead! Here’s what the garden looks like at the beginning of the season.

We have a 20 x 40 plot, located where the pile of garden tools are in the photo. In the distance are a group of guys playing cricket!

Here’s what it looks like now.

Several plots are in the photo, ours is the three rows in the center. The enormous cabbage in the foreground is C’s contribution, part of a school project. Whoever grows the biggest cabbage in his grade wins! I forget what the winner gets, but he’s determined to win.

Here’s our Brussels sprouts and swiss chard.

Here’s our zucchini.

Results are already much better than last year. We’re going to have more zucchini than we can eat. We’re already using it for zucchini bread.

The whirlwind

Where does the time go? Looks like it’s been six months since I’ve posted anything!

I’ve been busy training our new dog mostly. She’s an Australian Shepherd, a very active breed. Here’s a typical photo from when we first got her: just a blur of puppy energy. That’s a rope she’s chewing on.

We found out quickly that she’s bred to herd. She refuses to leave the house unless she’s in back of us, nudging at our side with her head. Here I am trying to teach her it’s OK to go out to the backyard.

Ok, come on out! Here, watch me!

Where are you going boss, you’re not supposed to get too far ahead of me!

She’s a chewer too. The dog really did eat the homework.

Ate the pencil too.

And part of the wall.

Soft toys don’t last long. I gave her this one just this morning, it’s already in the trash.

The 2:00 am wake up calls were exhausting during the house training stage. But she’s getting better, already growing out of the puppy stage.

Her name is Juno, or maybe it’s spelled Juneau, or Jeuneo.

More infrequent blog posting to come!

A brush with greatness

Yesterday, I was reminded of this incident from way back in my college days. I think this happened in 1987.

It was late on a Friday night and I was walking around the student activity center.  I was taking a break from studying, or maybe I was on my way out for the night, I don’t recall.  I walked down a corridor and something caught my eye.  There was some activity in a meeting room that looked out of the ordinary.  The door had a glass window at the top,  so as I walked by I saw a group of people in the room milling about who didn’t quite look like students.  There were maybe a dozen or so in the room.  Most were talking in groups of two or three.  There was one person who stood out among the others.  He was wearing a leather jacket, sitting at a table, smoking a cigarette, drinking what looked like beer from a glass, looking both oddly frail and menacing at the same time.  Who is that guy, he looks vaguely familiar.  The “Student Activity Center” was really an enormous study hall, there was no smoking allowed in the building, and drinking was obviously banned too.  So maybe it was him raising the glass that caught my eye at first, or maybe it was his smoking, since either one would have been very noticeable.

During my college years, I spent a lot of time listening to a nightly program on a college radio station. “No Commercial Potential” was the name of the program.  As the title suggests, anything unusual was played, especially current experimental, electronic, or punk rock music.  If anything sounded good to me, I would take a bus, then a train, to go to the one store in the Boston area that sold records by these no commercial potential artists.  I would also sometimes purchase music magazines imported from the UK, such as NME, or Melody Maker, to find out more about the artists that were played on the college radio station.

It soon struck me who the man at the table was, I was sure that I had seen his picture in one of the magazines. Was it Mark E. Smith from The Fall?  Were The Fall playing at the theater in the student center?  I had not heard about that, this was exciting news.

‘Hey!  Mark!  Hey!!!  I shouted from my side of the door, probably looking like a mental patient.

“Hey, it’s The Fall! Are you playing here tonight?!”  I shouted again.  By this point I was most likely jumping up and down a bit too, looking increasingly like a deranged person by this point.

Mark narrowed his eyes at me, called over another guy in the room and pointed to me. The second guy approached the door, opened it up.

Wow, I thought, maybe they’re going to let me into the show?  Or maybe meet the band?

He quickly slid through the door, and said…

“Mark wants you to FUCK OFF!!”

“Oh, Ok, sorry”  I said.

OK, I guess that proves it. The Fall are playing here tonight. I slunk away. I’m being a little sarcastic in the title of the post as I had read a little about how Smith sometimes reacted with fans,this was not really out of character, it may have even been a bit subdued for him.

I went downstairs to the theater that was in the student center, which did indeed list ‘The Fall” as being on the schedule for that evening.  I purchased a ticket and went inside.

‘Theater’ is a generous term, it was more like a large meeting room. It was an area that was also used as overflow for the cafeteria.  It was a sparse crowd. Not surprising since Mark Smith and The Fall never really made much of an impact on the radio here in the US.  His lyrics are cryptic, meandering, sometimes political, and more spoken than sung.  And for a few years I absolutely loved everything they released. There were plenty of other bands and performers who I liked more, and The Fall were often just too abrasive for long term listening, but in my quest to find the unique sounds of the time, they were one of the leaders.

The band appeared on stage first.  Look there’s that guy who yelled at me, playing guitar! Mark Smith came on stage and for the entire concert he sang while holding a cigarette in one hand and glass of beer in the other.  He did keep a stool nearby where he would place the beer now and then, to give his arms  a rest I suppose, or to pour more into the glass.  He never faced the audience, standing somewhat to the side of the drummer, his back to the crowd, but oddly enough he was a very charismatic performer.  You just couldn’t help but watch him.  He didn’t sing in the traditional sense so much as snarl.  Spitting out the words not with the rage common among punk rock singers but with a detachment, as if to say ‘This is the way it is, you can’t do anything about it.’   What was he saying? What is he going to say next?  Would he leave the stage early for some unknown reason?    The Fall and Mark Smith performed a full concert that night, which may have been unusual.

I had not listened to The Fall in years when I heard that Mark Smith had died on January 24, he was just 60.   He was a unique artist.  I’m not sure who I would compare him to.  Lou Reed? Tom Waits? Captain Beefheart?  No, there wasn’t anyone else like him.

Here’s a link to a better tribute than I could ever write by someone who followed the band from beginning, sometime around 1976, to end.  Mark Smith was performing up to the end too, having recently performed from a wheelchair with his arm in a sling.