Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Around the Commune: Where are you guys?

I'm sure that's what you're asking yourself. What's going on with the garden? How are all the plants? Yes, yes. Here's an update.

Mx moved out. He got a great oppuetunity to go to law school and off he went. Congratulations, Mx!

When Mx moved out, Kv took is place upstairs.

Mt, not to be outdone, is getting ready to move off to India (with a quick stopover in Okinawa, Japan first). :sigh: We all hate him now because he's just soooo much cooler than us. :pout: (<3 you, Mt!)

This all means that Nk has the back apartment all to himself (soon).

Jn has a new job lined up to start soon. Congratulations, Jn!

Al, Rb, and I are just doing our everyday thing. Nothing super new or special here.

So now you know what we are all up to... you probably want to know about the garden:

Well... we live in Texas and it's ridiculously hot these days. So, being the lazy hippies we mostly are, there isn't a lot getting done with the garden. We decided to skip our July planting and wait until the heat has dispersed and we will actually do the projects we want to do.

Right now we are barely managing to water the plants we have and pick the food they give us.

Also, Jn has saved some of our cucumber and jalapeno seeds. He's going to try to plant them and see what happens. And our tomato plants that were looking bad are looking better after a treatment with ash.

Stay cool!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Plans for July 1-15th planting...

We have 3 major points to hit in the next two weeks. (Everyone was supposed to have 10$ to me by today, btw... but I only have mine so far.)

  • mulch: We have a big problem with erosion and water retention, especially in our side garden. We decided at our meeting to mulch this area first, about 2-3 inches deep. We'll probably mulch the rest of the garden eventually (hopefully even the containers) but, due to being broke-ass hippies, we're going to start slow.
  • compost: Our new planting area (the fence garden, as we call it) needs its soil amended to help our yummy food grow. We didn't do much towards this on our first set of gardens but want to improve our gardening awesomeness with each new step. We'll be buying enough compost to make some compost tea to spread over all the gardens and then hopefully have some of the raw stuff to mix in with out 'compost' from the pile behind the shed.
  • planting:
  • First... the fence garden (NEW!) will have eggplant, carrots, radish, marigolds, pole beans, roma tomatoes (to make into tomato paste) and some random herbs and flowers.
  • Second... across the driveway, in our side garden, we won't be changing much. But we have a few tomato plants that aren't going to make it (oddly, the ones that are actually producing fruit). So it may behoove us to buy a few new tomatoes to replace them with. Also, a few more marigolds and a couple new bell pepper plants to fill the holes in the garden would help. We also need to take out the cilantro down the center row and plant parsley.
  • Third... and finally... the front garden gets a makeover. The row of cucumbers will stay as is, but we'll pull out our bean plants to make room for MORE CUCUMBERS! In the empty space up front (which was supposed to have Brussels sprouts) we are going to plant squash plants (zukes, yellow squash, and one other variety). [The confusing drawing in the bottom right-hand corner diagrams how we plan to plant the cukes, and maybe the squashes. It's a fairly hard-to-draw recommendation by the lovely gardeners at Redenta's, one of our local gardenries. It will be explained via pictures when we actually do it. ;) ]

Changing colors...

Our red cherry tomatoes are kicking arse. Two out of three plants already have tomatoes that are ready to eat. Several of us hippies have already noshed on some of them (and were very pleased)! There should be enough of these to give each of us a couple a week (not much, but it's something for our labor). I'd say 2 of these plants would be about right per person.

As for our other tomatoes... all of them are flowering but...
Only the purple cherokee (one of them) has made any fruit. This little guy has been hanging their green as the day it was born for well over two weeks. (I'm not great at being patient... I thought the cherry tomatoes would never turn.) I'm secretly (well, not so much anymore I guess) hoping that we'll get at least 1 hillbilly tomato. They're kind of my pet plants. :shh:
We have already eaten two delicious cucumbers and have one more on the vine that will be ready any day now (and three more babies to boot!). Our beans are still coming surely but slowly. Our jalapenos are producing with a lust that our tastebuds can't keep up with.

And finally... our bell peppers...

We still only have the one fruit to show for all our hard work but it's finally starting to turn! It's a California Wonder and it sure is wonderous! I'd love to see some Blushing Beauties or Purple Beauties but I'll take what I can get.

I have to say that (as with our other hippies) I'm torn between disappointment that our garden hasn't been more productive (partly because of laziness, partly because of being beginners, and partly because that's just how it goes sometimes) and excitement at what is getting done and what we hope to do from here on out.

I guess that's the way it goes, huh?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bad News, Folks.

Our hardy octet was excited about a new project: CHICKENS!

We had put in much research and design, meetings, and hopefulness. But, alas, today our landlord (*play pompous trumpeting here*) banned us from being able to have them because 'it would draw attention'.


Around the Commune: To work or not to work?

Imagine it's a quiet Tuesday afternoon. The Dallas weather is sweltering at best. The commune is unusually still and deserted. All it's inhabitants are at work or school.

Except two lone hippies with nothing to do.

What did our intrepid hippies choose to spend their afternoon doing?

One choose hard manual labor with old rusty (but effective) tools. The other did crossword puzzles.

It's a good... if lonely... day at the commune. :)

Plant updates!

There are limes starting to show on the lime tree.

The stevia has survived and is coming back much stronger than before.

The mint and catnip are still struggling but haven't died out.

As I mentioned last time the tomatoes, peppers, and cukes are producing. However, we are still having problems with what looks to be early blight on the tomatoes. Even though I trimmed and we've started being more careful about watering, the plants are still turning wilty and yellow.

Our herbs and lettuce are pretty much spent. (We should eat the rest of it soon!)

The beans are almost done for the season...
and we have a plan (mostly) for next season (thanks to last night's meeting).

:whew: Busy hippies!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Around the Commune: Meeting tonight!

We're having our follow-up meeting for garden and chickens tonight. I'm hoping it will be productive... we've fallen down on most of what we had planned to get done after the last meeting. (Of course, that storm changed a few things...)

In other news, our tomatoes are finally starting to turn, our cucumbers are cuking, and our pepper plants are peppering. :D

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two surprises and a contest!

A lot of our garden is sad after the storm. The side garden fared pretty well but the front garden and (especially) the container garden got hit pretty hard. The strawberries are on the brink of destruction, something has started attacking our beans and our lettuce was completely destroyed.


All hope is not lost at tehCommune. NO. We are survivors. And here is our proof:
Grow, babies, grow!

And lastly, but not leastly, there is a GARDEN CONTEST being held over at Instructables! I know I'm going to enter something! Are you? If so, link to it in the comments so we can all see it and vote!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Storm of Doom (aka 'And Thor said FU!')

Apparently, it's bad for me to leave the Commune. I was dropped off at Love Airport at 5:30 am and shortly thereafter disaster struck.

The storm that had been threatening us for a day or so hit... HARD. Our power lines and meters were ripped from our house and it took almost a full week for it to be restored!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


We have a tiny little cucumber. Actually we have about 5 of them, but this guy was the first!


Our poor poor Brussel sprouts were eaten alive by caterpillars. Unfortunately we found the culprits too late (they're pretty good at blending as you can see and they only show up in cooler temperatures). They have been RIPped out to make way for our next planting.

The strawberries (which are delicious and producing fairly well) recently turned white. Well, actually there is some white gunk on them. I don't know what it is, but I just washed it off when I watered and I'll see if that's all that needs to be done. (Maybe it's just bird poop. o_O)

Last, but definitely not least, our earliest tomato plant (who has several fruits that are full-size but still green) is turning yellow at an alarming rate! (Thankfully it's only this one plant! :whew:)

We thought they might just need more fertilization, so we used John's recipe on them a few days back, but alas no change for the better.

In my handy-dandy "The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book," someone else had a similar problem:

My tomato plants looked fine until just before the first batch of fruit was nearly ripe, then they turned yellow and wilted. Should I have fed them more?

... [Y]our plants probably didn't die because of insufficient fertilization. Instead, they probably succumbed to one of the major tomato diseases such as fusarium or verticillium wilt. While plants can become infected early in the season, symptoms often don't show up until fruits begin to ripen, and the plant is under stress.

The author then goes on to explain about early blight and late blight and how to identify them (concentric circles and black or purple spots, respectively). These diseases are supposed to show up on the lower leaves first. But we don't have concentric circles or black or purple spots (they are just sort of brown) and it didn't start on the lower leaves but rather the leaves nearest fruits. Here are what ours look like:

So what to do about our poor plant?

Well after much more internet searching, it seems like it's likely to be early blight (even though I can't see the concentric rings). So the consensus seems to be to trim off all the infected leaves and avoid overhead water (something we're pretty bad about here at the commune).

I plan to do that right away and will keep you updated.


One of the goals our commune strives towards (or rather a select few of our members want) is the procurement of fruit-bearing trees.

To start with, the property has a pecan tree and Jn has an apple tree.

Recently we've been expanding our collection:

  • Jn potted a wild baby pecan tree and is going to try to learn to graft trees.
  • Jn also bought a plum tree.
  • Rb bought a Kefir lime tree.
  • And Js tried to buy a Meyer lemon tree, but found out it was selling for 250$ (not 50$, as she had thought). :(

Mosquitos... OH NO!

Mosquitoes are out of control at the commune. And we are tired of the itching and scratching...

We've planted citronella-scented geraniums near Jn and Mx's porch and are going to try the same (plus catnip, variegated lemon thyme, lime thyme, lavender, and lemon verbena) next to Rb and Js's porch.

Wish us luck in our mosquito-genocide!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cleaning up

One of the things we talked about in our meeting, as a current project, was cleaning up the brushpile (that accumulated when we took out the trees in the front garden). Our backyard has looked quite a mess with all those limbs and leaves clogging up the driveway, so the guys got out there and started cleaning it up to make our big trash pickup deadline.

Yay for big trash pickup. In our neighborhood we found loads up lumber that we can repurpose for a chicken ark, compost pile organization, and more!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

How To Blanche And Freeze Beans

Here at the commune, we found ourselves with a little problem. Our bush beans had started producing but not in such numbers that we could all take our fill. So what to do?

After much discussion it was decided that I would pick and store the beans as they came ready and then we'd share our load of deliciousness together.

But the beans just didn't come fast enough for refrigeration alone. We needed to blanche and freeze these bad boys! (One problem: I had no idea how to do that... BUT NOW I DO!)

Step 1: Get your steamer ready.
I used my handy-dandy rice cooker/steamer/cake maker on the steamer setting.

Step 2: Prepare the beans.

Ours had been chilling out in the fridge (washed, dried, wrapped in paper towels, and stored in bags).

Altogether we had 64 green beans and 28 purple green beans. :D

<-Look at those beauties!

To prepare your beans, just snap off each end (pulling the string if one presents itself) and snapping them in two. The bean should do most of the work for you and it can be quite a meditative process (or lots of fun to share with a loved one).

Step 3: Steam your veg for 3 minutes.
They aren't quite cooked through after 3 minutes but the resources I've used say that is all that is needed. I suppose you'll cook them the rest of the way when you use them.

Step 4: Ice bath
Once they've finished their 3-minute steam, cool them down quickly in an ice bath (for 6 minutes).

We didn't have any ice so I just filled the sink with cold water and threw in a few frozen veggies. I put them in one side and when the water seemed to warm up a bit, I switched sides. Do this as much as you need to in order to cool the beans down quickly and stop the cooking process.

Step 5: Drain the beans well. (Nothing I saw suggested that you need to actually dry them off. I didn't because I want them to retain as much moisture as possible.

Step 6: Bag 'em!
I threw these little guys in a sturdy freezer bag (be sure to leave at least 1 inch of empty space at the top) and then sucked all the air out.

Step 7: Throw them in the freezer. (I labelled mine first: 'Garden beans 06/07/09'.)


Current and Future Projects

Just in case you're wondering what goes on at the commune besides gardening (and drunken bees), here is the list of current and future projects that were discussed at our meeting. (If you want to know more about one, leave a comment!)

Current projects:

Garage sale
New website
Commune organization

Future projects:
Drip irrigation
More garden
Yard work
Workout setup
Rain collection
Solar power
Better composting
Row covers
Greenhouse/cold frames
Lease or use empty lots

Around the Commune: Look what I found on the way to the laundromat!

One of our crazy communite hippies (Mt) also happens to make his living as a writer.

He (not too long ago) wrote a hysterical piece about animals getting drunk and that's where I learned all about bees getting drunk on pollen.

So wasn't I surprised to find this guy on our driveway:

He's clearly covered in pollen, completely coated. He was just sort of dancing around like a very tired rave kid whose glow sticks are being outshined by the sun rising.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Around the Commune: A meeting?!

How organized of us!

In further news, this site is about to be abandoned in lieu of a better homemade site. (Thankies, Rb!) But don't worry I will be sure to tell you exactly where and when to switch over! Until then keep coming here for more updates!