Container Garden Update — June 26, 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here. June 28, 2015 post here. June 28, 2014 post here.  June 23, 2013 post here.

Looking at last year.. we’re well behind. For comparison, in 2015 the zucchini was already over the top of the 8′ trellis. It’s not 5′ tall yet this time.

Today has been one of the nicest, sunniest days we’ve had in a while. There are supposed to be at least a few more nice days coming up. I doubt we’ll equal last year’s overall production, but the improved weather should help pick things up.

A few of the plants are doing at least ok. The Oregon Spring are first on the scene, as usual:

160626 oregon spring

The Tromboncino are growing. Hopefully we’ll be able to start harvesting in a week or so:

160626 tromboncino

Standing next to the cucumbers, looking north at tomato plants:

160626 inside

The flowers in the whiskey barrels are doing well. The nasturtiums have completely overrun their container:

160626 flowers

The tomatillos have lots of flowers too:

160626 tomatillo


The boy cat hanging out in the shade:

160626 boy cat


Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Update — June 16, 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here. June 14, 2015 post here. June 21, 2014 post here.  June 16, 2013 post here.

The weather lately has been all over the place. Looking at last year, overall we’re a little “behind”.

An overview:

160616 overview

[Tomatoes on the left, peppers in the front, basil on the right. The tall plants in the back center are tomatillos.]

It’s not super easy to see, but the Serranos (front right, rear right, center left) have gotten much much taller than everything else in this box:

160616 pepper

Something ate a hole in one of the Gypsy peppers this week. I suspect earwigs again. In addition, a few other peppers had their leaves chewed on. As a remedy attempt I dosed a very few grains of Sluggo Plus at the bottom of each pepper plant. Normally I wouldn’t use that around veggies but I’m sort of out of answers. In any event, it was only 2-3 grains per plant.

Onward — We paired Taxi and Oregon Spring tomatoes again. They’re doing great:

160616 taxi oregon spring

They’re of comparable size and they’re both very early. No reason to mess with what works.

The cucumber plants are almost to the size where they can be threaded through the netting:

160616 cucumber

In the meantime, the cucumbers are sort of flopping everywhere.

Finally, we didn’t wind up with two Tromboncino this year. The smaller plants in the picture below are lemon cucumbers. Assuming that the cucumbers are allowed enough space to climb the trellis I think it’ll be fine. The sun came out from behind the clouds just as I took this photo:

160616 tromboncino lemon cucumber

More sun would be appreciated.


Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

A Blast From The Past: Revolt On Antares

by A.J. Coltrane

Back in the early 80’s TSR (the D&D people) published minigames. A minigame would come in a small plastic case with dice, a short rulebook, and a small map:

For scale: An over-exposed nickel on the left

For scale: An over-exposed nickel on the left

If you look closely at the top of the picture you’ll see the hole used to hang the game for display and sale. It’s a clever all-in-one package.

We played a lot of Revolt on Antares way back when. (It was published in 1981.) It’s a fun (if oversimplified) war game in the style of Axis and Allies. Little chits represent troops. You make little stacks of chits, move them around the hex map, and use them to attack other little stacks of chits/troops. Here’s a mid-game picture:

Note that same nickel, now up at the top of the photo.

Note that same nickel, now up at the top of the photo.

The symbols on the map represent terrain features and resources. If you squint really hard at the light blue chit on the brown island at the bottom center you’ll see that it says:  “Hovercraft”, and, “2-8”.  That troop unit has 2 attack and 8 movement. “Laser Tanks” are 6-4. “Jump Troops” are 3-5 (and can ignore rough terrain). And so on.

I gave up my original copy for lost years ago. I got the bug to play it again, so I bought a copy online. Naturally it was at that point my own copy resurfaced in an old D&D box.

Then I mostly forgot about the whole thing for a while. Periodically I’d see the game the closet and want to give it a go, but I didn’t get around to playing until very recently. I invited a buddy over and we tried out the most popular of the old scenarios.

The scenario calls for the “Terrans” to fight the “Rebels”. The Terran player starts out at a numerical disadvantage but gets more reinforcements over the course of the game. The game lasts ten turns, and the object is to control the most resource nodes and capitol cities at the end.

I believe that when I was younger my opponent and I would set up on opposite sides of the map and be tactical about it. Unaware of the finer points of these strategies, my buddy and I both set up in the center of the map and got into a giant slugfest.

The fight went back and forth. He was massing for another assault when I loaded a nuclear bomb onto a hovercraft… and directed the hovercraft into his two biggest stacks of troops.

And that was that.

It may be that if we played a few more times then some real strategy would kick in. Our strategies basically consisted of making the biggest piles of force we could and using those to smash smaller enemy forces.

I think we had fun with it.


In a related note:  Shopping for games used to be a lot easier, but a bit of a crapshoot at the same time. If the game was by TSR or Avalon Hill then you were likely spending your money wisely, though without online reviews there was always an element of- “You pay your money and you takes your chances.” Still, the minigames were a cheap gamble, in contrast to some of today’s $60+ games..

BoardGameGeek page here.

Making Room For The Upcoming Harvest Pizza

by A.J. Coltrane

The summer garden harvest will be starting soon, so we’re readying for the needed freezer space by preparing dinners like this one:

160530 pizza

Roma tomato sauce (with oregano, salt, and garlic), peppers, pancetta, and bunch onions all from the freezer. The crust was augmented with porcini powder and minced roasted tomotoes. The “white” is a light dusting of mozzarella.

[The dough:  300 grams AP Flour, 180 grams water (60%), 12 grams olive oil (4%), 9 grams sugar (3%), 1 teaspoon instant yeast.]

A nice weeknight pizza for basically free.

Peas, Garlic, And The Summer Garden Layout

by A.J. Coltrane

The summer garden layout from the 2nd-story deck:

160522 overview

Top left row (L-R):  Basil, peppers, peppers, peppers, determinate tomatoes, indeterminate tomatoes.

Center row (L-R):  Marigold whiskey barrel, trellised cucumbers, indeterminate tomatoes, indeterminate tomatoes x2

Bottom row (Trellises (L-R)), Tomatatillos. The far right box has Lemon Cucumbers and Tromboncino.

From the “front”:

160522 front

To make room for everything the garlic had to be harvested:

160522 garlic

I think overall the cloves were slightly smaller this year. It may be that they need more space, but it wasn’t a bad harvest.

Finally, the Super Sugar Snap peas that didn’t get eaten as they were harvested:

160522 peas

I count ten. I’m guessing we ate about half of them before the photo. It’s a good start.


Plant list here.

Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Sometimes Things Don’t Go The Way You Thought They Would — The 2016 Plant List

by A.J. Coltrane

On May 7 we showed up early for the May Tilth Edible Plant Sale. Unfortunately they actually held the sale on April 30(!)

Every year the sale had been on the first Saturday in May. Not this year.

Improvisation time. We had twelve EarthBoxes to fill, and time to go to two nurseries–

The Tomatoes:

The Big Idea What Happened
Black Krim Black Krim
Sun Gold Sun Gold
Oregon Spring Oregon Spring
Taxi Taxi
Roma Roma
Yellow Pear Yellow Pear
Paul Robeson Paul Robeson
Cherokee Purple Cherokee Purple

Not bad. We had hoped for a small, short-season melon called “Minnesota Midget”. Neither of the nurseries we hit had a melon like that, so we chose to cut bait and grow an “extra” box of tomatoes instead. It all breaks out to two Cherry Tomatoes (Sun Gold and Yellow Pear), three “Purple” Tomatoes (Paul Robeson, Black Krim, and Cherokee Purple), two “early” tomatoes (Oregon Spring and yellow Taxis), one Sauce tomato (Roma), the striped Tigerella, and a pink/red Valencia.

Ten tomatoes = five boxes. That left seven boxes to go.

The Peppers:

# The Big Idea What Happened
1 Anaheim College 64 Anaheim
2 Early Jalapeno Jalapeno
3 Hungarian Hot Wax Anaheim
4 Numex Highlander Anaheim
5 King of the North Orange Bell
6 King of the North Red Bell
7 King of the North Melrose
8 King of the North Red Beauty
9 King of the North Baron
10 King of the North Ace
11 Iko Iko Orange Sun
12 Iko Iko Serrano
13 Carmen Carmen
14 Carmen Carmen
15 Carmen Serrano
16 Carmen Serrano
17 Gypsy Gypsy
18 Jimmy Nardello Gypsy

Well, sorta. I was happy that we got Serrano, and the King of the North was replaced with other assorted bell peppers… I’m fine with the way the peppers shook out. Three boxes of peppers makes for a total of eight boxes filled.

The Cucumbers:

# The Big Idea What Happened
1 Marketmore 64 Marketmore
2 Marketmore 64 Marketmore
3 Marketmore 64 Marketmore
4 Marketmore 64 Marketmore

Which Marketmore did we get specifically? Who knows. Hopefully “in the ballpark” is close enough. I feel ok with it, and we’re down to three boxes to go.

The Tomatillos:

This year Tilth didn’t offer either of the types that we’ve grown in the past — “Mexican Strain” or “De Mipa”. We selected “Verde” as the replacement. It turned out that the first nursery that we hit had “Verde”, so…

# The Big Idea What Happened
1 “Verde” “Verde”
2 “Verde” “Verde”

Ding! We’re down to two boxes to go.

One box with basil plants will be a gimme. We’ll buy starts in the next 10-14 days. We’re going to try basil from seed this year too. We’re covered regardless. One box to go, and it’s intended to have Tromboncino Zucchini…..

And today a nice woman at the nursery helped me find one of the two Tromboncino plants for the last box. It was labeled with the alternate “Rampincante” name. With any luck they’ll have the last plant back in stock on Tuesday.


The Salad Table And Peas – May 2, 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

The temperature was in the 80’s today. The peas responded by busting out:

160502 peas

I thought they were getting close to flowering.

Though I didn’t get a picture of it, the “rogue pea” is blooming too.

The salad table continues its slow progress:

160502 salad table

Some of the arugula has already bolted. The dill is having issues germinating, as is most everything else — I’m thinking that the setup needs some fresher, looser soil. The surface seems relatively compact and it wouldn’t surprise me if the seedlings are having trouble wedging their way free. The right answer may be to mix in a combination of potting soil and compost. Maybe. Either that or it just hasn’t been warm enough yet for most of the seeds to sprout.


March 9 Update here.

Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

The Winter Garden In April

by A.J. Coltrane

The backyard garden hasn’t yet fully transitioned to “summer”. Maybe next week. The whiskey barrels have some energetic flower starts — Territorial Seed’s Bee Mix, Bug Mix, and Nasturtiums (Jewel Mix).

As of March 2nd, these containers only had gravel in the bottom. They’re in the coldest, shadiest part of the yard that will eventually see good sun as the season progresses:

160425 whiskey barrel

(Front to back — a container of Bee Mix, a container of Bug Mix, a container of 1/2 Bee Mix and 1/2 Bug Mix, a container of Nasturtiums. We’re now planted Marigolds – “Brocade Mix” in the spots that haven’t germinated.)

Next, a close-up picture of the Nasturtiums. We planted about nine seeds. Seven of those germinated. It looks like seven plants is going to be plenty:

160425 nasturtium

The raspberry plant (with a blooming rhododendron behind it):

160425 raspberry

The raspberry plant needs some pruning. I’m holding off until I’m dead certain nothing is going to grow out of the older stems.

As far as everything else:  The mache and chard bolted at the first sign of warm weather. I’m hoping we can harvest mache seed at some point — they’re blooming now. The carrots continue to size up, and it looks like we should be able to harvest those in the next 30 days.

The garlic will need to be harvested in the next 30 days to make room for the summer vegetables as well:

160425 garlic


The actual work on the backyard garden starts soon.

Container Garden Update — April 17, 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

This weekend it was time to harvest the rest of the bunch onions that were planted last fall. It turned out to be just over four pounds:

160417 bunch onion

We separated the onions into whites, stems, and greens and ran them through the slicing disk of the food processor. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a huge time savings. The boy cat had to check it out:

160417 processed bunch onion

I think the processor actually did a better job than the photo implies. The bigger pieces mostly wound up on top.

All in all, it turned into about fifty bags at one-half cup per bag.

The salad table is finally moving forward. Direct seeding is slow in the spring. It seems the better idea would be to start the seedlings inside and transplant. The “tall” stuff towards the right side is arugula:

160417 salad table

The peas were planted on February 8. They’ve now getting grabby with the netting:

160417 peas

Sometime in February a critter came through and dug in the pots. Look what has popped up on the other side of the walkway:

160417 rogue pea

Can’t stop ’em.


GNOIF: GNOIF’s Three Hour Tour

by A.J. Coltrane

GNOIF #22 recap — GNOIF’s Three Hour Tour (Games about water, islands, and pirates.)

Games That Got Played:  Avalon – Resistance, Dominion (Seaside), Pandemic, Pirate’s Cove, Pirate Fluxx, Forbidden Island, Ultimate Werewolf.

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Amerigo, Carcassonne, Forbidden Desert, Island Port.

I enjoy teaching new people Fluxx for the first time. It’s quick to learn, and players always have fun once they wrap their heads around the idea that the rules change almost every turn. It’s a goofy game, but planning still gets rewarded sometimes.

Fittingly, the forces of failure were everywhere — we managed to lose at least one game each of Forbidden Island and Pandemic. The evil team won two out of three games of Avalon. The werewolves won two out of three games of Ultimate Werewolf.

Thanks to everyone who played!

Those Poor People….

Galaxy Quest: A must-see movie if you haven’t already watched it.


In other news, we just passed 1 million sp*m, thank goodness for filters.