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!