Soul Food
FrankenFlower: A Story of Survival

Battle of Good and Evil in the Garden

The cucumbers are doing their best to cover my back deck. I may be doing a lot of pickling if all those blossoms make fruits.

Creeping tendrils of fuzzy yellow cucumber goodness:

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This one is about halfway grown. Lemon cucumbers are supposed to be harvested when they are lemon-sized and just starting to turn yellow. If they are allowed to reach full maturity, they turn a bright yellow with vertical stripes. I tried one that was already mostly yellow and the skin was too thick to enjoy, so now I harvest them sooner, rather than later.

Sliced:

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Here is a counter full of bounty:

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Chamomile blossoms on the left, a jar of pickled radishes, and a bunch of cucumbers, onions, turnips and a bell pepper. All of these are pretty small, about the size of a lime or lemon. They make up for their size with fabulous flavor!

I've got sunflowers that are about to open up, and lots of blossoms and babies on my pepper plants. Some of the labels went missing, so it will be even more of a surprise to see what kinds of peppers they make. The beans are doing really well, but I am still not happy with the trellis I made for the pole beans. I think I need to do some minor carpentry.

Also, my peppers and cukes look so heat-struck every day at mid-day in this heavy heat. I think I will make a shade that I can use to cover them in the harshest hours of the day, without blocking out all of the light. I've got some weed barrier lying around, and that seems like it would be enough to take the worst of the scorching sun away.

Most of my plants only require a moderate amount of water...I supplement the frequent short rain showers with a few moments of running the low pressure irrigation and nearly everybody seems happy. However, the container plants need more water than the ones in beds, and the cucumbers are gulping water like crazy! I think they probably go through at least a gallon a day.  Sometimes I have to water them twice a day. Today I added a tiny bit of fertilizer to the water, since so much volume goes through. I'll see how it gets on over the next few days.

I've been thinking a lot about why I enjoy gardening so much...I think it engages my curiosity because there is always something new to discover. I love growing something for the first time and seeing what it will do, what sort of flowers it will make, how tall it will get, what it will smell and taste like. I had no idea that squashes and cukes were fuzzy and grew on fuzzy vines that make you itch if you brush against them. I was absolutely spellbound last year when I saw my first okra blossom, delicately beaded with water after a summer rain.

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The harvest is so exciting. I can't wait to go outside each day and see what is ready to pick. If it's something like a root vegetable, every once in a while I'll dig down around the plant, pushing the soil away ever so gently to see if it's big enough, then carefully patting the soil back into place.


Update: GAHHHH!!! EWWEEEE!!! OMG! Ick-factor Eleven!

I just got really freaked out...

I went outside to check on my plants and water the cukes and noticed that two of my tomatoes were half-eaten away. I pulled them off the vine and saw some type of blackened, shriveled poo-goo on the leaves below and wondered what crude, foul and mannerless critter was eating my 'maters and then adding insult to injury by emptying their bowels right there at their dining table.

It was at that moment that my eyes locked onto the most ginormous, ookiest, scaryiest green caterpillar-monster thing I've ever seen in my life - quietly pretending to be part of the tomato vine!

As soon as I saw it and realized how close I had come to touching it, my body went into immediate and uncontrollable "GET IT OFF ME" flailings and convulsions. I think I remember hearing the sound of terrified squealing, too. As I was the only one around, I'm pretty sure the noises were coming from me.

(See, I have caterpillar fear. I have suffered this fear ever since I was a little kid. It isn't rational, I know, but it really doesn't matter - caterpillars creep me out in the worst way. True Story: about 10 years ago Ian, an ex boyfriend of mine, spent a good 5 minutes coaxing me to come over and take a look at a large black and orange specimin he had discovered clinging to the screen on his porch. I was on the same side of the screen as the cater-monster, and I guess Ian just couldn't resist the temptation...he flicked the vile creature onto me, gleefully laughing at his joke until he realized that I was literally convulsing, screaming and flailing about in terror. I was even crying. He had to hold me by both arms to get me to stop flailing, and then gently flicked the caterpillar off of my shoulder, where it had been clinging the entire time. This realization of course made me start flailing about all over again.)

So there I was today, face to face with my terror. This dude was big and he was gonna have to go down. I looked frantically around me for a weapon, something that could smash and destroy, but nothing too short...I couldn't risk letting the ooky thing touch me! My eyes lit upon a large pair of pruning shears. Just the thing.
 
I poked the monster-pillar with the tip of the shears, half-squinting my eyes, my head held wayyyy back in case he tried to spray me in the face with a stream of acid-spittle or slime-venom. He reared back a bit. Gulp. I poked again.
 
He tried pretending he was just a part of the plant, but I was onto him. I wedged the shears under his belly so I could pry him off of the plant. I wanted to get him down on the deck so I could do my smashing without damaging any 'maters.
 
That's when he started shaking back and forth violently, RAWR!
 
I jumped and squealed. I retreated and went through another course of squick-tremors.
 
Deep breath. No. I had to remain strong. My 'maters were at stake here, I had to protect them!
 
I went right back in there, but this time my tactic was different. I couldn't pry the fucker off of the vine, so it was time to fight dirty. I opened the shears and - cut!
 
UNNGH!!! YUCK! The head fell to the ground in a very wet, slimy, dark-green splat of writhing guts. (**shudder**) The body still clung to the vine, dripping slimy ooze and twitching. The fear and revulsion were so strong in me that my eyes started streaming. I was shaking. I poked again and again and again until I could get the rest of the bug's carcass off of my tomato plant. I had won.
 
I left the body there as a example to any other tomato-munching interlopers, and looked at the plant for more to smash while I was still feeling strong and fierce. I found another much smaller caterpillar nearby and smushed him quickly with the shears. But I had reached my limit. No more Outside for me today.
 
Noah's been sitting with me for the last half hour while I wrote this report. He gives me a gentle lick every now and then, to reassure me. His paw squeezes my thigh gently to let me know that it's okay. I think he may be laughing at me a little, too, but I don't mind.

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