Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How does your (winter) garden grow?

After perusing the Frau's latest garden musings, I felt compelled to get my garden cap on. The seed books are coming out - and Baker Creek's is a piece of art this year! - and the garden jones is coming back slowly...

This is my first year to plant a fall/winter garden and I think I learned a few things...

1) Start earlier. Trust the planting dates. Even if it's 106 degrees outside. I started most of my stuff in mid-late September and it didn't have enough time to mature.

From what I gather the plants are supposed to be full size by the time it's cold, cold, cold. Call me dense, I'm just now putting this together. That way, the garden acts like a form of cold storage, keeping your (now dormant) carrots, parsnips, cabbages, turnips, etc. freshly bedded in a pile of leaves. Aha moment for me!

What I have, conversely, is about 20 mid-sized broccoli plants (the overwintering variety) who are hanging on quite well, a few smallish cabbages, some tiny parsnips, a bunch of lovely (and correctly cultured) prepubescent garlic, some fava beans that are putting up a helluva fight, some spinach and small kale plants, and some teeny, tiny leeks that will probably be the world's most all-weathered vegetables by the time this winter is over. Between two frost blankets, a tarp, and a few upside down planters acting as cloches, we're making it through. It got down to 10 degrees while we were away for the holidays, but everything seems to have pulled through (although the fava beans look like they need to be in the vegetal ICU).

So I'm hoping that all of my covering is not for want and that I'll be able to see these plantlings into the spring, at which point - I'm crossing my fingers here! - they'll pick up where they left off and produce me something or other...Or perhaps I'm in denial of biology, physics, and the earth's natural cycles and all I'll have to show for it is a bunch of deep green leaves. Either way, it's been a learning experience. (And I could probably survive on the deep green leaves if I needed to!) I will definitely have garlic, though. Hallelujah!

I tried something new with the broccoli this year, too. When I thinned it out, I replanted the 6-inch thinnings and all but one took. So no waste! Hopefully it will make it through the winter and give me some early spring broccoli shoots! The weather's been sunny and warm the past few days, so who knows...

I used the last of my fresh peppers yesterday when I made a big pot of black bean soup (very simple - just 1 lb beans, soaked and cooked with 2 diced onions, 4 garlic cloves, some chicken/vegetable stock, hot peppers to taste, served with hard-cooked eggs, green onions, and lemon juice. YUM!) The pepper plant didn't give up the ghost until early December, I think, when the garden went down hard (all the frost blankets in the world probably wouldn't have saved them!). I still have a few tired looking tomatoes that have ripened slowly since that time. And 10 or so butternut squash out in the garage. Not bad.

Still have yet to decide what to purchase/try this year. I still have a bunch of seed left over from last season plus all the seed I saved. Still though, I want to try some different hot peppers. I don't want as much okra. I'm going to try cowpeas over our fence (let them duke it out with the morning glories) since they last all the way through the major hot summers...Ah, garden dreams! I can't wait!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Consuming thanks

One day post-Thanksgiving and I'm thinking about what a weird (and sometimes lovely) world we live in. One day post-Thanksgiving and I'm not shopping.

Black Friday, indeed - a clerk at a Wal-Mart in Long Island was trampled to death and a shopper had a miscarriage...in order that the families of these mad shoppers could have the latest techy toys and High School Musical pajamas? What is this sick thing within us humans that pushes us to externalize our wealth and make it a symbol or replacement for love? This drive to consume, is it evolutionary? Has it gotten mis-translated and warped by modern times as many other evolutionary safeguards have? (Update: thank god the pregnant woman and her baby are both okay, the reports of a miscarriage were false.)

In another post on ecopsychology I pondered the implications of a brain that evolved in concert with nature now feeling the brunt of a technological divorce from that shaping force. For instance, we have an incredibly effective internal alarm system called the fight-or-flight response which triggers a whole host of bodily responses in case we need to get the hell out of dodge. Breathing increases, heart rate increases, the blood rushes to the core to support increased heart-rate and organ activity to facilitate fleeing or standing to fight. Highly adaptive over millions of years, no doubt. And still adaptive in times of true need. Yet highly inconvenient if triggered by a rude motorist who cuts you off in traffic, or if set into effect before an exam in the form of test anxiety, or if made more susceptible to triggering as is the case in panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

Is our drive to consume similar?

It was at one time highly adaptive, certainly. We needed protections against the future - food, warmth, fuel in the form of firewood. Consuming could be seen as a hedging of bets and a protection against terror, simply put. Bringing things under one's dominion, leading to a prosperous life full of the illusion of control, probably helped people sleep easier at night and did help get them through lean times. Even gaining weight - at which we are spectacularly adept now - was an evolutionary advantage against hunger. People from the colder Northern climes gained easier and those of us who are their descendants still do!

There is a similar drive to amass within the peak oil movement, although it's metaphor is the squirrel storing winter nuts, rather than useless gadgets and new plastic crap from China. But nonetheless - we have within us a need to gather things for our protection. It affords us a greater illusion of control in an uncontrollable life. It helps us to feel okay in a world on the verge of considerable change. And there are many unscrupulous folks out there who would take advantage of this potential weakness - indeed there are a lot of people making money off the threat of peak oil, hocking expensive wares through manipulative fear.

I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't be thoughtful about potential shortages and therefore take time to save useful items, or even to consider purchasing a few new things (preferably used!). It would be imprudent to suggest that we shouldn't prepare. It would be impossible - an nonsensical - to suggest that we stop consuming.

But I think it's hugely important to be honest with ourselves. Is our consumption coming out of fear? Has an evolutionary advantage been kicked into hyperdrive by the availability of 32 kinds of ketchup and 18 types of maxipads and an infinite variety of clothing and toys? Are we being wise when we purchase out of misplaced anxiety? How much are we controlled by our instincts to hedge our bets? Is uncontrolled, mindless consumption of clearance junk from Target or Black Friday "deals" from Macy's a sickness? When does it become one? At what point have we lost our balance?

At what point can we feel okay without lists and lists of things we can turn to to protect us? At what point do we realize that our true wealth, security, and comfort is internal and interpersonal?

At what point do we have enough?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fall wrap-up

Well, witness what an academic semester looks like by reviewing this blog...One post in November, one post in October, two in September...Ouch! It's like a tsunami came and sat on my head! (Which is what it felt like, incidentally...)

So what have I been up to over the past several months?

One, riding the wave of course prep and lecture development for a class I hadn't yet taught (2 more weeks of that post-Thanksgiving, hallelujah!).

Two, riding the rising tide of mental health use. We've been so busy this semester! I don't know if it's the economy and all the bad news in the media that's made us busier or if it's just a fluke. I do know we've been smacked hard.

Three, checking in on my garden from time to time...I have loads of over-wintering broccoli, turnips, carrots, leeks, tons of garlic, chard, spinach, and kale all sitting in their maturing adolescence out back. I've had to cover everything with frost blankets 3 times so far and expect to 3 more times this coming weekend (I'll probably just throw on the covers and leave them for that stretch). But they look great all in all, provided the early spring isn't too brutal, we'll have crops all the way through here. I tried to transplant the broccoli thinnings this year and I think it's worked pretty well. About 3/4 of them survived the transplant, so that might become a new practice. Nothing lost if they don't survive beyond a few minutes of my time.

Four, the end of the food prep! The peppers went absolutely gonzo until a killing freeze knocked them back last week. I have so many different pepper products that I may not have to grow to peppers next year (not that I won't!). I have about half a pound of pepper flakes in the mild, medium, and hot varieties; habanero pepper sauce; tabasco pepper sauce; aji dulce pepper sauce; aji limon pepper sauce; green chili relish; pickled habaneros; pickled Hungarian wax peppers; frozen dried peppers of all varieties; and frozen hot chili sauce. And there's probably more stuff I'm not thinking of right at this moment.

I do think I'll scale back my pepper production next year. I got tired of having to come up with new ways to save them! I must have gotten several hundred tabasco peppers (they're small, don't forget) and close to a hundred habaneros off one plant each! It was sick! Next year I think I'll do a jalapeno (mine wasn't prolific this year and I love the large dried flakes/pieces that jalapenoes make when you dry them. Delicious in mashed potatoes!), a mole pepper, the aji dulce I can no longer live without, and a smaller bell (I'd rather have more smaller than fewer large bells).

Also in the food prep category, I canned up 10 qts of beef stock made from the lovely, silky knuckle bones from my local food co-op. Bought a 20 pound bag of potatoes to save in our cool garage, stored the 12 leftover butternut squash from this summer's bumper crop, and bought several small pie pumpkins for the makeshift garage-root-cellar. Dried 10 bell peppers I found on sale. Inventoried all the food storage to date. I've had to watch the mounting anxiety I feel whenever I see anything to do with the economy. It seems like most of the peak-oil bellwethers have moved from advocating a 3-month food supply to at least a 6-month supply. What do you guys think?

I've been struggling to find time to breath and I found that time away from the computer was the way to go for me. I was still (and am still!) reading/scanning other people's blogs - in brief, stolen moments - but writing on top of the lecture development was too much. I guess when I get busy I prefer to power down and away whenever I can. Hopefully I'll have some time to write over the next few weeks until the semester picks up in the spring.

Hope you are well and enjoying the winter gardening and/or planning for spring. My Pinetree catalog came last week! First of the season... anyone else starting to get seed catalogs?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

At the doorstep of history

Last night I was so happy I cried. We weren't prepared for the sudden announcement - I still thought it too soon and didn't want to get my hopes up. Then there was jumping, dancing, obscene phone calls left on friends' voicemails, a congratulatory call (reaching across the aisle) from my sister and mother, more tears of joy, glasses of champagne.

And awe. I was in awe. I am in awe.

It kind of feels like waking up after a bad dream and having that soothing, grounding feeling in your stomach when you know things are going to be okay.

Thank you to everyone who organized, activated, shook, rattled, rolled, and voted for change! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Mr. Obama, for your inspiration.

This is history.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Long Silence = Whirlwind Fall

So a wise woman, and former teacher, reminded me that I'd be busy this fall with teaching...And I thought, surely not! I'm pinch-hitting a course this fall but was given the syllabus, book, and powerpoint dummies (and they were seriously dummies). I thought it would be easy-pleasy. But OH MAN. Prepping 2 weekly 75 minute lectures (and reading and grading and test making) is very different than teaching the upper-level discussion/seminar-based courses I've been used to...Egads.

So yes - a long silence on my end. However, I did have time for a guest blog over at Green Tulsa. I talked about trying to steal little bits of time for myself whenever and however I can and then to use them mindfully...very a propos right about now.

More on gardening, living, and eco-psychology coming as soon as I can take a deep breath...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

August Eats Stash

  • August 23 - yellow tomato salsa; sandwich toppings; roasted peppers
  • August 21 - mixed beans with herbs
  • August 19 - baked potato toppings; sandwich fillings
  • August 18 - jalapeno poppers; lamb's quarters, peppers, onions, tomato stiry fry
  • August 15 - veggie burger fixings; additions to chicken stock
  • August 10 - salsa; 14 frozen batches of pesto; Island Stew
  • August 9 - veggie burger fixings; Spicy Marinara with fresh herbs and angel hair pasta
  • August 8 - Dixie Special (yellow squash, (turkey) bacon, onions, tomatoes, peppers)
  • August 7 - grilled chicken with pickled okra, habanero pickles, and cherry tomatoes
  • August 6 - 9 1/2 pints peach and blueberry jam (didn't grow, but proud I tried!)
  • August 5 - veggie burger fixings
  • August 4 - green beans and onions
  • August 3 - tomato salad with fresh herbs and balsamic vinegar
  • August 2 - jambalaya!!!; homemade tabasco sauce

Monday, August 25, 2008

All Quiet on The WidsomBlog Front...

This week: school starts and the madness begins.
Next week: I'm blowing it off to go here.
The week after that: I'm back in black, baby.

Have a good coupla weeks!

PS: the fall beans are off; the shallots and leeks are transplanted; some late tomato seedlings have been set out...the true fall garden goes in Sept 13. Stay tuned for disco!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I heart Al Gore

I loved this so much over at jeneflower's blog that I had to do a repost.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fall Planting - woohoo!

Well, the weather this year has been down right weird. It rained and rained and rained in June. Then it got normal - hot and scorchy in July and most of August so far but the past week it's been around 80 degrees and overcast with some rain. Portland weather!

In the midst of the cool down I decided to start the fall garden with a first sowing of green beans and romano beans. The spring beans did well until the spider mites nearly obliterated their numbers. I'm hoping the cooler fall weather will spare them of this menace since heat seems to send spider mites into heat (the reproductive kind). I also tucked in some more winter squash (Chicago warted hubbard, black futsu, and jumbo pink banana) since the last round got decimated by squash vine borers. Not sure I'll get anything off of them but I'll try. Today I followed up with a mix of fish emulsion, hot pepper spray, and insecticidal soap to get the heat-oppressed garden back up to par. The peppers till look good, as does the okra, sylvetta arugula (that stuff is amazing!) and cherry tomatoes. Everything else looks sad and will probably come up soon.

Several weeks ago I also started some fall tomatoes (a pink Israeli tomato I received as a thank you from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - it's a trial tomato not for sale, so we'll see), shallots, leeks, and beets under lights inside. I plan to plant out the tomatoes tomorrow and hold off for cooler weather for the other stuff. I've been trying to decide what and how to plant everything for this fall. I just got a big order of seeds from Pinetree that included three kinds of kale (konserva, dinosaur, and dwarf blue), rutabaga, brussel sprouts, daikon, spinach, collards, cabbage, miner's lettuce, salsify, and some seeds for next spring (banana legs tomato and the bianco lungo cucumber). Garlic should be arriving from Territorial soon. I already had some carrots, broccoli, leeks, favas, turnips, and peas that are relatively cold hardy so we should be good. I need to get a few more frost blankets, though. Between that and some salvaged windows we should be able to make several things last through the winter. Okie winters involve a lot of ice but aren't typically ridiculously cold.

In terms of putting away the harvest, we've been busy on that end, too. I've made 14 large batches of pesto (anyone want some???) which are currently in the freezer. Dried and froze some tomatoes. Dried habaneros and cayenne for Pizza Flakes from Hell. Pickled peppers. Pickled cucumbers. Canned salsa and jam. Made homemade tabasco sauce. Canned tomatoes and green beans. Stewed and froze some tomatoes. Dried loads of dill, rosemary, and cilantro. Tonight I'm canning up loads and loads of chicken stock with homegrown onions and carrots and herbs. Oh, and the crazy volunteer butternut squash has just provided number 17! I've got them stored in an old bread box until it cools down enough to clear a space in the (largely uninsulated) garage. I checked my calendar and I first noticed it had come up on March 29 which is ridiculously early and cold. I didn't bother to cover it when it froze two more times after that, so it was one hardy bitch! :)

And lest it sound like its all roses here, it's not. Absolute failures in the garden included the aforementioned winter squashes and the chartenais melons (nice vines - no fruit!). Largely failures included the broccoli, red onions, and white onions (the yellows did great). Somewhat failures included the damned Opalka tomatoes! I'm so disappointed about them!!! I'm going to do some more research to see if I can clarify the problem...

Well, I suppose that's it. I need to work on the course I'm teaching starting in...10 days...Au revoir summer. You were one belle soeur if only for just a little while...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The journalistic prowess of Martin Brashear and company

ABC did a Nightline story on (mostly) peak oil survivalists last night. Of course the whole thing was sort of like "Look at the crazy monkeys in the zoo, little Johnnie! Aren't they weird? They're saving FOOD!"

Someone, somewhere, on some blog (probably lots of someones) made the point that the green movement/peak oil preparedness movement/locavore movement, etc. is garnering enough attention and short time devoteeship that it might eclipse itself into trendiness (which it has) and eventually passe-dom. I certainly hope this is not the case...but stories like this don't help.

Nightline story on survivalists

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Two night ago was the first time I found myself jumping up and down and screaming in my living room in quite some time (well since OU played last year...). I get somewhat turned off by the melodrama that goes into enormous sporting events, but watching the athletes themselves is such a pleasure. Especially when you get this:

Frickin' awesome

Last night lovie and I marveled at the absolutely outrageous Chinese gymnastics team. Those dudes nailed their landings, you could see shock waves rippling through their backs before they stood up. Good god.

And Jonathan Horton is like a bullet with magnetic feet.

He may be from Houston, but he goes to THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA!!!!

Diving or Jumping?

I can do without the Morgan Freeman schlock, but this stuff is sweet.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pepper Report

Another update on the growing guide...

This year I grew Roberto's Cuban Seasoning and Lemon Drop peppers from seed, as well as a hot pepper mix that included ancho, jalapeno, cayenne, Hungarian Wax, and poblano. These I started under lights inside in March and April. I bought plants for habanero, red bell, and tabasco. All were planted out the last week of April in a soil amended with homemade compost, store bought mushroom compost, and manure.

Roberto's Cuban Seasoning
Started 9 seeds of which three were viable. Planted those out - 1 died and two are still a-growin'. One is now reliably producing a gorgeous and delicious wrinkled Chinese lantern type of pepper. The other is still growing and is stunted for some reason, although it looks healthy. Roberto's is billed as being a heat-free version of the habanero with that delicious taste. While it doesn't look like a habanero, it could be reasonably similar in appearance to a savina or scotch bonnet, but wrinklier. It does have that phenomenal taste and very low (though not heat-free) heat. I had trouble getting these maturity, but I frequently have trouble starting and maintaining peppers from seed (except for Fish Peppers which seem to grow themselves). They're worth the trouble, though - great pepper if you can get em going. Very, very, very tasty!

Lemon Drop
I started 6 of these, of which 2 were viable. Planted them both out and 1 died. The other is now covered in green peppers that are beginning to ripen to yellow. I guess I can't really comment on the flavor as they haven't ripened yet, but hopefully they will taste like the one I got from the pepper lady last summer - it tasted like a pepper dipped in lemon! YUM! In any case, these too were persnickety in terms of the growing culture. I don't have much space for heating mats and a big lighting rig, but I bet that would help my pepper turnout...

Hot Pepper Mix
These grew very easily in comparison to the speciaty peppers mentioned above. They are likely hybrids, though - wasn't mentioned on the package specifically what variety they are. In any case, they were much easier. So far I've gotten some of all, but the real stars have been the Hungarian Wax peppers which have gone mad. The anchos are doing okay. The jalapenos are doing well. The cayenne is working on it. The poblano is not doing so okay. Both the poblano and the anchos are somewhat spindly and growing straight up, rather than bushing out. Not enough leaf cover to prevent sunburn on the fruits. Lame. I think next year I will pinch all of my peppers when they are young things and remove the first sets of flowers. I want busy, bushy plants!!!

Red Bell
Hmph. Usually when I've purchased plants they've done well. Well, not these. The plant looks okay but I've only gottn 4 bells off it so far. Boo! And the first had BER on the side of it. I know it was a weird year weather-wise (wettest on record by July!) but still. Not impressed this year.

I've had good luck with habaneros in the past and this one is no exception - big, bushy plant with loads of lethal orange beauties. Doing great.

This is probably the standout plant in my garden this year - well, this and the Grendel Squash of Doom - but this one is much more manageable and productive in a much, much smaller amount of space. This plant is literally covered in hundreds - yes, really - of tiny peppers. I'm constantly pulling them off. Very much worth the space and time, particularly if you love things bloody spicy. Need I mention homemade tabasco???

Friday, August 8, 2008

Homemade Tabasco

Easy, very hot sauce to dribble onto everything. Except people. This could seriously burn eyes and sensitive membranes (never pick your nose after cutting peppers...it's just a bad idea). Use hot pepper safety.

Homemade Tabasco - makes one jar

  • Save yourself a Tabasco jar with lid and plastic stopper.
  • Simmer about 1 cup of distilled white vinegar with about 1 1/2 cups tabasco peppers until peppers look soft and mushy (maybe 15 mins?).

    The little orangey-red peppers in the left hand corner are tabasco peppers

  • Grind it up in a food processor or food mill. If you are so inclined and have the time and equipment, put it through a sieve to get out the seeds, etc.

  • Place a funnel into the neck of the bottle - you might have to shove it down on there. This one came from a flask kit.

  • The bamboo kebab stick helps you poke the pulp and seeds through so they don't just bottleneck the funnel. Top remaining pulp with enough vinegar to cover (maybe a tablespoon or so).

  • Shake! Shake! Shake!

  • I left enough room to add more peppers, so adjust accordingly. I think I'm going to regrind this or maybe sieve it because it's getting clogged. Or I might just remove the stopper and see how that goes.

  • This sauce is really hot! It tastes a lot like regular Tabasco except it's not fermented for three years because frankly I don't have that kind of patience or self-discipline. We had it on eggs and on jambalaya and it really is great on most savory things. But be careful, though, because it's firey hot. The seeds make it hotter than the real deal.

    Et voila!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

July eats stash

* July 31 - sandwich fixings and salad
* July 30 - Buffa-pho (peppers, basil, onions), mixed beans, Greek salad
* July 28 - Faux Nicoise
* July 27 - green beans; tomato salad
* July 26 - lavender infused vodka...
* July 25 - turkey and bulgar burger fixins', yellow tomato salsa, homemade pickles
* July 23 - Butternut alfredo with edamame and oyster mushrooms (I didn't grow those!); tomato salad
* July 22 - caprese salad
* July 20 - lamb's quarters and bulgar stir fry with carrots, onions, eggplant, okra, tabasco peppers, and tomatoes
* July 19 - 13 pints tomatoes, 3 quarts mixed beans
* July 18 - bulgar pilaf with onions, carrots, and dill
* July 16 - butternut squash with goat cheese and pasta; dill and habanero pickles
* July 15 - tomato salad and sandwich fixings
* July 13 - Greek salad
* July 11 - gi-normous batch of salsa
* July 10 - salad & enchildadas (tomatoes, onions, peppers)
* July 9 - zucchini & onion frittata with tomato salad
* July 8 - salad
* July 6 - tomato salad
* July 4 - big batch of salsa!
* July 2 - butternut squash and onions in habanero cream sauce over wild rice with mixed tomato salad
* July 1 - Green tomatoes, onions, & mixed herbs with organic chicken and pickled onions

Swimming in powerpoint slides


I feel I've been silent too long!!! Truth is I've been crash prepping for a survey course I'm teaching this fall, still helping with campaigning (it's run-off time), still trying to improve my food storage skills (peak oil can be fun and instructive despite the scariness!), still trying to beat the heat, and still trying to relax after all that. So...my posts may be few and far between (or not, who knows) for a month or so. AND in 3 1/2 weeks my lover and I are taking a belated honeymoon to Greece! Woohoo! I'd feel guilty about the carbon issues except that it will very likely be our last trip abroad (besides O Canada and El Mexico) maybe ever (unless newer, better, cheaper technology develops fast and I don't mean hot air balloons). So it's going to be a busy month!

Tara, at Enough..., gave me an award for my quest for knowledge and frequent invocation of the triple word score - thank you, Tara! Using large words in public makes me feel that my indentured servitude with Sallie Mae is somehow worth it. Some.How.

In kind, here are few fun and random facts about moi:

1) Je parle francais. Au moins, j'ai parlé francais auparavant - which is probably self-evident by the spelling and grammar errors. My folks lived abroad for a little over five years so I spent time in France, the Philippines, Malaysia, and New Caledonia.

2) I spent 18 magical months working with these guys: Pongo and Grub back in 2000.

3) I am a twin.

4) My grandmother's family on her father's side was in the land run. My great-grandmother was an educated well-to-do woman who graduated from Boston College in the early 1900s but found herself a spinster at 28! She decided to make an adventurous trip out to Oklahoma to see her cousins and ended up meeting my dashingly good looking (but illiterate) great-grandfather who roughnecked on oil rigs. They married. They had four kids. She had a stunning nervous breakdown from which she only partially recovered. They never divorced but lived across the street from one another in matching tar paper shacks. Aren't people fascinating?

5) I am distantly related to Edgar Allan Poe but come without the torment or the inspiration.

Some pictures before I go!

Vegetable Art I

Vegetable Art II

Vegetable Art III

Pickled Peppers I wrote about here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Growing Guide for the Little Pink House 2008, pt 1

So I wanted to make some notes on what worked this year and what had problems. As we cruise into August I don't have super high hopes for everything. I think the okra and squash will stay strong and the tomatoes will probably limp through but we'll see. We'll all do the best we can in 106º heat...

Opalka, Paul Robeson, Golden Queen started from seed under lights in March
Green Zebra, Amish Paste, Ananas, Mexican Midget, large red cherries bought as plants

Opalka - Large, horn-shaped paste tomato; giant plants, very late to set fruit, have harvested two tomatoes to date! Disappointing. They tasted good, but not great. It was exceptionally meaty and there were very few seeds, as to be expected from a paste tomato. Also the Opalkas are showing the most heat and time damage - I think! - with the bottom 1/4 yellowed and drying. I'm seeing a resurgence of Blossom End Rot on these, unfortunately, and I guess it's due to the dry, dry weather. I think it's the climate here - maybe it was too hot too fast or too rainy. Did not live up to the rave reviews I read online. (Pinetree)

Paul Robeson - black-brick tomato; big plants, good fruit set with heavy, large fruit. I was surprised at how big the fruit is, actually. Baker Creek said 7-10 oz but mine have averaged on the large size with several 2 lbs+. Serious problems with cat facing and cracking but awesome taste. I planted 6 from seed and 1 of the 6 has turned out to be more pinkish-purple than the rest and resistant to cracking and cat-face. Guess which one I'm saving seeds from? I labeled them Pink Paul, which I like! These tomatoes have tasted great, just wish I had more of them. They have ceased setting fruit over the last few weeks and one looks as though it may have some form of wilt.

Golden Queen - 3-4" orangish-yellow tomatoes; big plants, great fruit set - having a bumper crop of these, actually. Mine are smaller than 3-4", more like large cherries at 2-3". They taste great and are pretty, one complaint being a rather thick skin. Not much loss of acid like you sometimes get with yellow tomatoes. Still setting fruit despite the temps! Definitely a keeper! (Also from Pinetree.)

Green Zebra - 4"-5" ripens to yellow with green zaggy stripes, green on the inside. I LOVE this tomato! So flavorful and psychedelic. They had some early troubles with BER but have gotten over it and are now doing great. Very prolific and still setting fruit even in the heat. I will definitely keep this one around. (Bought plant.)

Amish Paste - giant paste tomatoes that grow so thick they're almost heart shaped. I've pulled several of these and they're good, but not great. Not prolific for me and the plant is drying up around the base due to heat stress. No new fruit in several weeks. Not sure what the problem is this year but haven't had good luck with either of the paste varieties I tried. (Bought as plants.)

Ananas - Large, yellow striped tomatoes with a red core, up to 2 pounds...Boo. I was prepared to be delighted with these beautiful fruit and they were beautiful...but I couldn't get them up to a ripe harvest before they had cracked and became infested or rotted. So I tried a couple that weren't ripened to perfection and they weren't that good. Very thick, so would probably make good salsa roughage, but not that tasty. Again, this is probably due to my/Oklahoma's error as I hear it's a fabulous tomato. Maybe a bit delicate for our climate or needs stronger/more pesticidal attention (we're all organic chez nous). (Bought as plant.)

Mexican Midget - tiny little gum-ball tomatoes. SOOOO freaking good!!! Producing like crazy, even now. The plant has spred enormously and every day I get at least a handful or two of these guys. Very reliable and delicious - the skin isn't too thick, either. Definitely a keeper! (Bought as plant.)

Large Red Cherry - 1 oz+ cherry tomatoes labelled generically as large red cherries. They are producing well now, despite the heat, and the heat seems to have improved their flavor. At first I was not at all impressed but they've gotten better over the last few weeks. I don't have science to support me on this, but I'll bet it's something chemical. In any case, I won't devote too much early garden space to these but might consider adding some in June or very early July. (Bought as plants.)

Here are some of the troubles I've experienced with my tomatoes this year - septoria leaf spot, aphids, spider mites (though not bad, the beans have had it much worse), stinkbugs (eww), BER, and blossom drop. I'd say the single most impactful thing has been the blossom drop, which as I wrote about here, is due to environmental conditions usually. Therefore I've started researching tomato varieties that like heat (and aren't hybrids, as I like to save seeds). I'll have that out fairly soon. I'll update with the rest of the garden roll call soon, as well. The sad fact now is that the heat is taking its toll - stuff's starting to get ugly and there's not much I can do about it except write! (And make sure everything's watered, of course!)

Here's a question for all of you garden pros out there - how do you distinguish between normal heat-related dying, yellowing, drying, and browning of the bottom foliage of your tomato plants with wilts and blights? Enquiring minds want to know!


Okay, this was so good I have to share...somehow this has turned into more of a kitchen blog than a gardening blog but as I said yesterday, the garden is in deep-heat-survival mode.

So I ordered a buffalo roast from our coop last month. We used it as a roast, as yummy sandwiches with dijon mustard and pickles, and as BUFFA-PHO.

If you're a pho devote like myself you'll realize that all you really need to make a good pot of pho is a few fine ingredients. Simple, simple. Pho is Vietnamese noodle soup which includes a meat, onions, peppers, rice noodles, fresh bean sprouts, fresh basil, lime, and a squirt of hot garlic chili paste. Man, is it good! And it's fairly light, too, so while it's soup, it's still good on a summer night. No food coma afterwards. Typically it's made by quickly heating raw meat in simmering stock and then serving immediately. I usually make it with leftovers, though, and it's great!

Here are rough estimates of what I threw together the other night, remember my constant motto - taste and adjust!

Buffa-pho for two

  • about 6 oz thinly sliced buffalo roast (throw in the freezer for 30 mins to make it easier to slice the meat thinly
  • 1/2 pkg rice noodles, prepared according to directions (boil water, remove from heat, soak, use)
  • 2 peppers, hot or not, sliced
  • one small onion, thinly slice in rings
  • 2 cups stock + 2 cups water (or 4 cups stock, we were running low)
  • about 2 tsp soy sauce or Braggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • about 8-10 basil leaves
  • 1/2 lime, quartered
  • Sriracha sauce at the ready!
Heat stock and slice meat while it's warming up. Toss in onions and meat and peppers. After four or five minutes add the rice noodles. Let it all get hot but don't cook it for too long - the veggies should still be crispy. Ladle, and garnish with bean sprouts, torn basil leaves, squirt on lime and Sriracha and you're ready to go!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The garden is laying down

...just for the next few weeks. It's soooooo hot out that everything but the okra seems to be asking for a nap. The heat here is sweltering and oppressive. No real rain for almost three weeks now and the hum of the cicadas entices us all to go into hibernation.

But despite that I picked two more butternut squash (11 and 12 from one vine!), tons of small tomatoes, loads of peppers, some cukes, the last of the carrots, and some dill that pleaded with me to end its suffering.

On a whim I made pickled peppers last night. Easy pleasey.

1 Quart of Fridge Pickled Peppers

  • Wash about 20 medium sized Hungarian Wax peppers and 2 cayenne. Slice into rings and shake off excess seeds.
  • Boil up 1 qt of water, 1 cup of vinegar, and 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • Push peppers into quart mason jar
  • Add 1/4 tsp dill seed and 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • Pour hot brine over peppers and let cool.
  • Refrigerate. They'll be good almost immediately but better next week. They'll last 3 months or so.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

10 minutes to chic

Not sure why I'm so busy lately. Okay, maybe I do: the course I'm crash-prepping starts in a month, my friend's election is wrapping up, my partner played a music festival this past weekend, and I just developed a training module for work...maybe that's why I'm a bit tired and have no time to blog...

Or cook for that matter. Here are two quick, cool recipes we've had in the past few days.

Chilled Avocado Soup
(I know I saw something about avocado soup on someone's blog but I can't remember where it was, so if I haven't acknowledged you, please link to your recipe in the comments!)

3 ripe Haas avocados, peeled and chopped
juice of 1 lime
2 cups milk (I used skim, you use whatever)
1 cayenne pepper, chopped (you can use ground red pepper or a jalapeno, or omit)
1/2 dozen currant tomatoes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Toss in the blender, puree, chill, eat with tortillas. Be happy your kitchen is cool.

Faux Nicoise
1 1/2 cups left over bulgar
Salmon or tuna (we used salmon)
1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
kernels from 2 ears of cooked corn
1 cup green beans, lightly steamed and cooled
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/4 black olives, pitted and chopped
1-2 tomatoes, cut in large pieces
faux vinaigrette - 2 pts mayo to 1 pt lemon juice and 1 pt dijon, add fresh thyme and/or basil

Layer, dress, eat.

One quick garden note: I think it's almost time for my beans' final rewards. The romanos are so decimated by spider mites and the bush beans are just...tired. I'm still flummoxed as to whether to follow the fall planting guidelines (which suggest I should start planting fall things now) or to wait until it's not 100 degrees outside. Logic says the extension office most likely know what they're talking about. My intuition says "hold the damn phone, nothing wants to germinate when it's this hot!" I'll keep you posted on who wins...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Holy Toledo, Batwoman!

Bats! I saw BATS in my back yard last night!!!! Swooping and darting up through the space between our trees...It was AWESOME!

(image courtesy: http://www.rozylowicz.com/retirement/carlsbad/carlsbad-bats.html)

I don't know if you know about the mosquitoes in Green Country, OK. They are absolutely horrendous! I've heard they are worse this year (this is our first year in this area) due to the mega rains we've had. It's already the wettest year on record in July with many more months to come.

So when I saw the bats arrive, I wanted to stand up and do a bat cheer! Welcome home, my flying friends! PLEASE stick around! PLEASE eat several hundred mosquitoes tonight! (Mosquito tartare is delicious, I hear.) PLEASE beat that nasty white-nose syndrome! Yaaaaaay, BATS!

Several years ago I used to drive out to Weatherford, OK to some bat caves my ex- knew about. They were a locals hang-out for college students who wanted to chill (i.e. drink beer) on hot summer nights. We used to go during the day and explore the caves and gather guano. It was stellar in the garden! I hear that the caves have become more protected and that people from OU and OSU are conducting research there.

That's probably the strangest thing I've lost in a break-up...access to guano. Ah, well, what can you do? Maybe the bats will do a gracious fly-over of my garden. That would be nice.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Fridge Pickles of Death + home-econamarama

...or maybe Fridge Pickles of Doom. Which one makes you more afraid? Disclaimer here, folks, I have been called Asbestos Mouth by a former roommate. I like the heart palpitations that go along with extremely hot peppers. That and the spins make peppers quite a nice legal high! Either way, this pickle is supposed to burn your face off. Here at the Little Pink House in Northeastern Oklahoma we're of the mind that more is more. More spice, more garlic, more sour, more heat! Turn it up to eleven!

Fridge Pickles with Habanero and Garlic - makes one gallon

1) Grow pickles.

2) Harvest pickles (about five pounds, maybe? Maybe more? As many as fit in the jar. No more, no less...)

Sample Pickles

3) Harvest dill.

4) Harvest dill flowers. Harvest habaneroes. Harvest onions (or cut some from your braid in the garage).

5) Clean and wash pickles and habanero. Place in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes.

6) Clean out a big pickle jar you've been saving for just this occasion.

7) Fill with 5-8 dill flowers and some extra dill fronds, a whole head of peeled and separated garlic, 2 small, quartered spring onions, 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns, and 1 tsp. coriander.

Top View!

8) Boil up the brine - 10 cups water, 2-3 cups vinegar (depending on your sour jones), 1/2 - 3/4 cup Kosher salt (depending on your salt jones...and your blood pressure). Stir until salt dissolves.

This is what simmering water looks like:

9) Prick the habanero with a knife or fork. Place the pickles and the pepper in the jar. (This makes for a spicy pickle...if you don't want it that hot, use less - maybe a strip of habanero - or use a jalapeno or other milder pepper...or skip it if you're from New England......kidding.) Observe hot pepper safety.

10) Put the glass jar in the sink, just in case there is some heat reaction type breakage. This has never happened to me, but I always put it in the sink just in case because that idea is scary as hell. (Flying shards, oh my!) Let the brine cool slightly and then pour it into the jar. There will be an almost immediate color change.

11) Top with a handful of wild grape leaves (or cultivated grape if you are so lucky) for crispness. My grandmother told me about this tip.

12) Let sit in a cool dark place for 3 days to a week then move to the fridge...Voila! Fridge pickles!

**A note of caution: The brine will be spicy due to the pepper for several days. I found that the first few days it actually burned my hand on contact (not bad, but enough) and then lately has mellowed. Just be careful when handling and cutting super hot peppers.

And, in other news, I spent Saturday canning. My first time! I was a canning virgin until July 19! I canned up 13 pints of homegrown tomatoes and 3 quarts of beans. Unfortunately the liquid in the beans is no longer to the top of the jar. I don't know if I had seepage or what, but I imagine I'll have to eat them up pronto. I'll blog more about this soon, because I had so many questions and it was quite the process...

I've also been seed saving like mad! So far I've sifted out Viroflay spinach seeds, red savina peppers, butternut squash seeds, dill seeds, onion seeds, and three kinds of tomato - Golden Queen, Green Zebra, and a specimen from the Paul Robesons that was more pink than the others and had much less cat-facing. I've got lettuce and radish seeds at the ready but haven't gotten them sorted out yet. And the birds are digging the drying sunflower seeds!

Super high-tech seed saving technique - looks like the Star Wars backdrop in reverse!

Also yesterday we wandered into the part of the yard that makes us long for a compass and a boyscout tent to start cleaning out the (I shit you not) 5 foot tall weeds that were growing there. Mostly lamb's quarters and poke and various vines, morning glories, the heart-shaped leaf type (I don't know what that is), and wild grape. Long, hot story short, we ended up taking down two huge lamb's quarter bushes and made up a tasty stir fry afterwards featuring bulgar, okra, Turkish orange eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, Tabasco peppers, lime juice and peanut butter (for that delicious Thai flavor!).

Pre-dinner time
And then tonight I was sooooo inspired by Melissa's delicious basil culinary dare-devilry that I whipped up a nectarine, basil, and goat cheese salad with blue berries, lime juice, and a dash of Tabasco! Yes, really! Tabasco! Just a dash - it really made it all come together. YUMMMMM!!!!

So that's all for the home-econamarama...more on canning and my exquisitely local review of what grows well at the 36-95 in peak summertime heat...coming soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pot-pourri means spoiled pot

...or rotten pot, but whatever, 'tis but semantics en francais...

I've been overly busy of the sort that happens when you think your life is about to slow down and then - wham. Random things demand your quick attention.

Like piano moving, for instance. Everyone's favorite scorching July afternoon activity. But I realized something this time around (my piano has moved at least a dozen times and three times overseas and back...it's a long story)...you have truly reached a different kind of adulthood when you are delighted to pay someone else to move a piano for you. There was a time when I was 22 or so when I would have thought it was an extravagant and asinine waste of money to pay some big dudes to move my piano when I could just round up enough beer and burly guys to do it for me. These days brawny guys willing to move pianos for beer are in short supply in my life. At this point they'd rather I just pay someone to do it, too.

So that's what I did on this glorious Bastille Day. I loaded up a trailer and some ratchet straps, watched two guys move it onto the trailer in 10 minutes (that'll be $90!), drive up the turn pike, rinse, repeat. Truly different sort of adulthood. And now we have a spinett piano shoved into our adorable little pink house. For you and me.

We also went camping over the weekend which was delicious. It has been way too long since I camped. Last summer I got to spend a weekend in Arches National Park so this was ... quite different ... but fun and pleasing nonetheless.

The garden has me overloaded with tomatoes already and is also demanding a lot of 90+º day-attention. So far the heat and the accompanying spider mites are winning an ugly battle, but I don't give up easily...Well, I fade a bit when the weather is hot but I come back like a raging bull come Indian summer.

I'm still way too busy trying to save seeds from onion heads and radish pods. That is some tedious work. I need to figure out a threshing mechanism because I felt like an uber-chump picking out those damn seeds for three hours. Chumpsville. Population: me. Help needed if you got it!

The squash vine borers also took out (in the mafia sense) two of my four jumbo pink banana squash. They were 2 feet long and beautiful - they'll be missed. I'm nervous for the remaining two, as well as the Black Futsu and Chicago Warted Hubbards. I've been looking for some Bt to do a syringe full of intervention but I can't seem to find anywhere around here. Is that weird? Not at the big garden stores and I can't locate a good local supplier here. There are some boutique greenhouses but no medium sized supplier like Horn's in OKC.

The compost volunteer butternut squash is rokken like dokken, though! So far untouched by those damn diamondback thugs. We've harvested 7 of those delicious squash to date and one was 3 1/2 pounds. Notice the difference here?

Freaky genes
One normal sized, one talked to Rogers Clemens...what can you do? Squash these days, it's really a tragedy. A national tragedy.

More recent harvests...

There's tomato creole, tomato gumbo, pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried...

...pineapple tomato and lemon tomato, coconut tomato, pepper tomato...

...tomato soup, tomato stew, tomato salad, tomato and potatoes, tomato burger, tomato sandwich...
and...that's, that's about it. (Merci, Forrest Gump!)

On this one you get produce and a whiskey chaser

...and it's almost time for pickles!!! I'm planning to make fridge pickles tomorrow. I don't eat so many that I need to actually can them but I came up with a mean dill fridge pickle featuring habañero and garlic. Simply smashing!

These guys are destined for brine

And I guess that's pretty much it for now.

That's all folks!

Monday, July 14, 2008

June eats stash

To minimize widget sprawl I'm going to keep these notes to a month and then store them as one entry...Canning and pickling is on deck for next week. Woo-hoo!

  • June 30 - okra, cherry tomato, & habanero hash
  • June 29 - coleslaw!
  • June 25 - Green bean & eggplant pesto
  • June 24 - Pork chops with kohlrabi greens, okra, romano beans, garlic, onions, and Hungarian wax pepper
  • June 19 - Lamb's quarter & basil risotto
  • June 17 - potato salad

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wastrels and the wastey wasters they rode in on...

Maybe I'm getting old.

Maybe I'm getting such an utter head change from being on a downward consumption shift over the past few years that I've gone a bit stodgy.

Maybe I'm just in a bad mood.

But SERIOUSLY. There are some college kids I work with who have no sense whatsoever of conservation (prime teaching opportunity, right? If I can be delicate and encouraging rather than ranting like I am right now...)

They turn the thermostat down to 66 degrees. They leave the (single stall) bathroom light on constantly. If we run out of coffee they make a whole new pot, even if it's 4:30 and we close at 5. They leave all the lights on in all the rooms even if they're not in there and won't be (this is the one that makes me feel old and revives the spectre of my dad c. 1982).

And god knows it's not just them. Our neighbors always have gobs and gobs of trash to put out twice a week since they recycle nothing. Most of it doesn't get hauled away since we're only allowed two bins each per pick-up. We barely have enough trash for a once a week haul...I'm just sayin.

A co-worker will have an entire conversation with the door of the refrigerator open while I'm itching to shut it, even though it's being held open...

People drive down our street and gun the motors on their giant-ass pick-ups and SUVs. They do seem to be fading in popularity, but still! Why waste gas that way??

When I worked in the Borders Cafe several years ago I used to have nightmares about all the plastic and paper cups being thrown away. A lot of times people would ask for a double cup instead of using the heat sleeve. I would try ever so casually to encourage people to use the ceramic dishes we could wash and re-use but it rarely got me anywhere. I would imagine stacks of cups stretching to the damn moon...

I know I have things I need to work on - so I'm trying to remember to refrain from judgment and recognize that we're all at different steps on the journey (even if it feels like some people haven't yet packed their bags). So I'll take a deep breath and calm down.

In that spirit here's a confession of what I need to work on to reduce waste:
* stop with the Diet Coke already! Cans and cans, even if they're recycled! Lame!
* get the solar oven thing going, either by homemade option or by buying one. A hot house is lame!
* line dry every time, even if it's 8000 degrees outside. No excuses. Lame!

What do you need to work on? I promise I won't make fun of you.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Please don't kill that bug!

Hello everyone! Hope you're refreshed and enjoying yourself after the 4th weekend. We had a great time relaxing with friends and family. Even snuck in a discussion of peak oil and its ramifications here and there...poolside, no less. Ah, sweet irony.

After my blog on nasty garden bugs, I promised to follow up with this one, which will feature some of the dudes you want to keep around. So if you see these guys, please don't raise your fist or get out your pinching claws. These are the ladies and fellahs who help support your organic jones. Don't kill them!

Now why do they support your organic jones? Because diversity is the key to a healthy garden (and many other things, but we're talking gardens here). If you have a plethora of veggies, foliage, fruit, and bugs they all get to benefit from one another. Multiple plants draw in multiple bugs which helps balance their populations (i.e. they eat each other like mad). This is probably also why mono-cropping organically, particularly on a large scale, is an unlikely prospect. We want riots of color, texture, and variety.

Many of these bugs you probably recognize right off, like the adorable ladybug.

The Lovely Lady Bug
(image courtesy: http://www.ent.iastate.edu/imagegal/coleoptera/lady/0156.29cmaculata.html)

Why we really love them - beheading an aphid(image courtesy: http://www.ladybugindoorgardens.com/controls.html)

Ladybugs also come in oranges and ivories, although I haven't seen any ivory ones. Be sure to protect the nymphs and the eggs, too.



Next, of course, is the bee of which there are many varieties. The honeybee is a major pollinator and is also falling prey to a mysterious illness euphemistically called Colony Collapse Disorder, which you can read more about here.

Honey bees(image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/56119072@N00/519742656/)

Get well soon, little fellah!(image courtesy: http://www.carolinabees.com/about/bees/)

If you really want a massively hungry and warlike creature in your garden (a good warlike creature, a scourge, if you will) then be sure to cultivate any and all friendships with these guys:

Praying Mantis(image courtesy: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Praying_mantis_india.jpg)

Mantises eat flies and aphids and the bigger dudes actually have a taste for meat, stalking lizards, frogs, birds, rodents, and snakes! Holy camoley.

Lacewings are a common garden visitor, as well, and someone you want to be friends with. While the adults stick to pollen and aphid honeydew, the larvae are voracious feeders, pigging out on aphids, caterpillars (yes!), beetles, scale insects, leafhoppers, thrips, small flies, mites, and sometimes one another. I guess they're temperamental.

Here's a good website on lacewing activity with loads of pictures.

Adult Lacewing

Lacewing nymph
(image courtesy: http://adlib.ac.uk/adlib/content.aspx?doc=10816&id=10835)

Another keeper is the ground beetle. It eats anything it can catch and kill, including grubs. Hang on to them. They only come out at night and they mind their business. Don't pick them up, though, because they emit a nasty smell.

Ground beetle

If you're lucky you might spot a robber fly. I saw a couple of these over the past few weeks in the back yard and I didn't know what they were until just now (as of this writing when I found them online!)...they look like mean-ass dragon flies but they eat all sorts of things we prefer not to be bothered with ourselves, such as wasps. Call in the robber flies and avoid the poison sprays! They also eat grasshoppers and other prey as big as themselves oftentimes. Now that's some insect muscle flex!

Call me deadly - Robber Fly

I will eat you!

The tachinid fly does us a favor by laying its eggs on another species, typically caterpillars but also bugs and grasshoppers. The eggs eventually hatch and burrow into said species, basically using it as a food source. Like that giant alien did to humans in the Alien series (Sigourney, I love you!). Very medieval nasty stuff. But hey, in this case, we benefit. There are 1300 species of tachinid fly in North America - mostly they're gray, black, or striped, but they can be hard to distinguish from regular house flies.

Tachinid fly

House fly
If they're flying around, chances are you won't be able to tell which is which. Moral? Leave 'em be. The other predators and frogs should be able to sort out extras of either species, anyway.

Predatory wasps do much the same thing. You can tell a predatory wasp from a regular wasp because the predator is smaller. The ones I've seen are a slightly orangey color and have small greyish-bluish wings - they remind me of flying tripods, sort of like a cross between a wasp and a fly.I'm not sure if they sting humans, but they haven't ever bothered me (then again, I'm not the sort of person who freaks out when they see a wasp or bee). They eat aphids, whiteflies, and moths, such as cabbage loopers and hornworms. Think small attack drone, specially designed for dangerous reconnoitering missions.

Brachonid predatory wasp predatorizing

Eggs on a caterpillar becomes parasite and host

Here are a few more to keep around - be friendly-like...

Assassin Bug - flies, mosquitoes, beetles, caterpillars
(image courtesy: http://kaweahoaks.com/html/assissin_bug.html)

Centipede -
slugs, worms, fly pupae
(image courtesy: http://ruudvisser.wordpress.com/2007/01/)

Damselfly and Dragonfly - beautiful and voracious, love mosquito tartare and aphids

Rove Beetle -
aphids, springtails, mites, nematodes, slugs, snails, maggots, and compost makers
The day the Rove beetle larvae met the housefly maggot... (friendship did not ensue)(image courtesy: http://entomology.unl.edu/images/beneficials/beetles/bene_beetles.htm)

Yellow Jackets - caterpillars, flies, beetle grubs (and sting us human folk, too)
(image courtesy: http://www.worsleyschool.net/science/files/yellow/jacket.html)

Spiders eat more bugs and insects than any other beneficial per year, combined!!! Do watch out for black widows which like to make webs inside stored planting pots.

Spiders are garden heroes!!!
(image courtesy: http://www.spiderzrule.com/superstitions.htm)

Soldier Beetle - aphids, caterpillars, grasshopper eggs, beetle larvae
(image courtesy: http://www.geocities.com/brisbane_beetles/CANTHARIDAE.htm)

Firefly!!! - larvae, snails, slugs

So that just about does it...I'm sure there are many more and I thought about including earthworms, which are my personal favorite garden creature. But I think I'll dedicate a whole blog to the precious worm.

In the meantime, please know your bugs. Get to know them. Watch them. See if you can catch them eating. I got to watch a lady bug take down an aphid bite by bite last week - it was amazing! Re-think the use of broad-spectrum pesticides...use diversity to invite good bugs to do your dirty work for you.

Two good websites for more information: