Friday, October 14, 2011

Tomatoes and Sagging Gates -- part 2


By Fred Owens
Georgie started the turnips in the greenhouse before going back to England in mid-September. Last week I took them out in flats when they were about four-inches tall and planted two 30-foot rows.

I put them in the new raised bed that Michael had constructed this summer. He had but good wire mesh underneath to keep the gophers out, then he replaced the topsoil and added a three-inch layer of sifted leaf mulch -- it looked like a work of art after he was finished.

It also seemed like the perfect place to plant the turnips for a winter garden, because it was in such a sunny place.

So I took out the flat of four-inch turnips to plant, but I was concerned about the heat. I figured that transplanting in the heat would put them in a swoon. So, after I got them in the ground, I put a very taut piece of twine between the two poles at each of the turnip bed, and then I flung a 30 by 20 foot piece of shade cloth over the plants, figuring to leave it there until the turnips got adjusted to their new home.

That was five days ago -- and the turnips are doing just fine.

Now I have two flats of red and green cabbage to plant in Row E, near the fence. This is a problem because about a dozen ground squirrels live on the other side of the fence and they love to chew on little cabbage plants. This summer I planted a whole bed of zinnias in Row E and the ground squirrels ate them all.

So I need a plan. I might have enough black plastic netting to cover one or two rows of cabbage plants. This might work, so I will plant a small patch and then wait. If it keeps off the ground squirrels, then I will plant the rest of the cabbages in two or three weeks.

Next I will plant more onions. The ground squirrels don't bother with the onions, so I will just put them in the ground and walk away. I have been doing well with onions this summer, so I'm feeling good about this.

The Possum Tragedy. We are not at war with critters on this farm, we salute all life, and so, not being overly fond of possums, we were still roundly dismayed at a recent tragedy.

Out on the tennis court -- it used to be a tennis court before we turned this place back into a farm -- we store old pots and garbage cans and what-not. One old garbage can had a bunch of culled dahlia tubers in the bottom. Two possums climbed into the garbage can to eat the tubers.

They ate and they ate and then it rained and rained, and pretty soon the garbage can began to fill with water, and you would think that a possum, being smart enough to climb into a garbage can, would be smart enough to get out.

But no, they drowned. We discovered that the next day. I don't know why this made me sad, but I started to think about all the critters around here, great and small, the cute ones and the predators and the pests -- there is a lot of death around here.

I solemnly buried the two possums next to the tennis court and I am constructing a small garden and shrine in their honor. I'm calling it the Tomb of the Unknown Critter. This is a shady spot, so I hope to plant Astilbe, Bleeding Heart and a variety of ferns -- Currently we don't have a budget for buying decorative plants, but someday the shrine will blossom for the possums.

Success with Tomatoes. I grew Brandywine tomatoes from seed this year. Heirloom and organic, low-acid and not too sweet. You can just eat them. I'm trying to eat as many as I can.

Success with Carrots. I have overcome a mental block about growing carrots. You know that feeling, which is "I can't grow carrots. The little seeds are too tiny to plant, and if they come up, they are too thick and I can't thin them out, so I can't grow carrots."

But I gave myself a calm determination to overcome this obstacle and I got the carrots the grow this year.

Sagging Gates. This could happen on any farm. The wood gets soft on the gate post and the screws don't hold and the hinge kind of works its way loose and pretty soon the gate is scraping the ground when you open it. Then you check the gate post itself and it kind of wobbles. We arrived at this problem over at my brother's house. But he said he didn't use that gate very often, and then I said "Well, then we don't have to fix it just yet."

Politics. I don't have much to say. I was going to occupy Wall Street or Los Angeles or something -- I have vast experience in this area. I have slept on the sidewalk a hundred times in a dozen cities. I have dealt with the police. When you live on the street you have to get straight with the police every day. Here's a few things you need to know about "street work."

1. Never scare the police. Never do anything that frightens them, because they will strike back with power. This is what the wise old hobo taught me. He said, "Don't worry about being afraid of the cops, worry about them being afraid of you."
He said, "Never put your hand in your pockets when you're talking to a cop -- they might think you're armed."

2. Cops don't care a fig for political issues one way or the other. With a cop, it's all about turf. If you're on the street, on a certain block in a certain town, then you are on his turf, his beat, and that's all he cares about. He may or may not defend that turf ferociously. You may or may not refuse to move. But don't ever waste your time arguing the issues with a cop -- they don't care. But they do care intensely about the square footage of sidewalk under your feet.

3. Sanitation is not a phony issue. When one or two hundred people camp in a certain spot for over a month, things can get very funky -- believe me, I have seen this many times. You might need to go home for a day to wash your socks and take a shower. I think it would be a good idea to power wash that park in Manhattan -- not as a reason to get rid of the demonstrators, but simply because of basic hygiene.

So, instead of occupying Los Angeles, I went with Laurie to a two-day music festival in a campground next to Joshua Tree National Park. The weather was perfect and the music was wonderful. We had a really good time.

California Will Rise. A while back I wrote a California Booster Essay, about how this great state has wonderful opportunities for personal and financial gain. It was an optimistic statement, and not just a feeling, but grounded in reality. California will grow in a good way. Of course nobody believes that. Public opinion is almost unanimous in declaring that this place is going right down the toilet. All is lost. We are doomed to a squalid future. The California Dream has turned into a nightmare. That's what everybody says -- except me.

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