It’s time to come clean. Way back in March, or April, or maybe it was May, I wrote in these pages predicting—it was really more of a populist pandering, almost a campaign promise—that we would grow 500 lbs. of vegetables. That was worth a giggle then, and somewhere inside I knew it was a bold pronouncement, but it seems much funnier now.
Armed with lessons learned from our previous gardening heartbreaks, attendance at a master gardening class, etc., and no shortage of work–rebuilding the raised beds, amending and improving the soil–we might have been a little cocky. But we had, or thought we had, the garden gnomes–those mute little lobbyists–on our side.
And now that the snow has fallen, twice, conjuring nightmares of last winter’s ice dams, houses in flood at -26°f, cars in the ditches, and you know, all of the other joys that came with it, I would be cowardly if I did not put the numbers out there.
We grew 18 lbs of peas. That was an excellent start to the season, and gave me great confidence in those early days of a young summer. Nothing beats the crispy sweetness of a sugar snap pea. Of course, no one knew then that we were going to lose all of August, and half of September, to smoke from the explosion of Krakatoa, but I’ll get into that later, as this tale of Central Oregon gardening runs from comedy to tragedy—like any modern political campaign–most ricky-tick.
We grew 14 pounds of green beans, but my wife doesn’t like them. She says they taste like cardboard. I think she’s right. I planted a different variety this year and although they came on strong, they were never going to win converts to the greater pleasures of green beanery.
I planted two kinds of onions and we pulled 9 pounds of them out of the ground. That was a big win for us because there was no sign of the onion maggots that have, somehow, found our onion patches in the past.
We grew 150 pounds of spaghetti squash. I cannot say why, but the squash went crazy. I only planted 5 of them—started in the greenhouse—but whatever combination of things they like, they definitely received, because the squash just kept coming. This was, by far, our biggest win of the season. The rest of the tally isn’t so impressive.
I had also made some bold predictions about growing corn—which other people do with some success in Central Oregon, and I was determined to grow a bushel of gigantic ears to post pictures of, like fishermen do with huge trout, just to brag about what a terrific farmer I am.
Meh. I did two things that are arguably stupid. The first was trying to beat two problems at once. First, I transplanted corn from the greenhouse into the garden. This is fraught with problems, although the best ears we had came from those transplants. The second was just trying to grow corn at all.
We had terrific early success with the corn, and some very nice ears, before the law of averages caught up with me and not much else happened. I poured the bloodmeal to them early and late, sang my best Ian Tyson love songs to them, and even went native by planting with the 3-Sisters method—corns, beans, squash–but in the end the corn crop was a flop. 7 pounds.
Which brings me to the bigger heartbreak of this season. Tomatoes. I generally plant in the neighborhood of 15-20 tomatoes. Tomatoes are not a difficult plant to grow. But they require sunlight, and heat, and relatively clean air, which was not going to be one of the gifts last summer gave us. Just at the time when our ‘maters needed a final push of glorious sunlight, Krakatoa exploded, the earth went dark, and the tomatoes began to choke, and stunt, and sit sadly in the swirling clouds of ash. The tomato totals ran to 25 pounds, which was okay, but not enough for the loads of salsa and tomato sauce I was dreaming of canning this fall.
Also, we grew one apple. We planted several apple trees last year, which blossomed nicely in the spring, but we watched as the buds took a hard frost early and we ended up with just one apple. But it was a good apple, and I shared it with the horses, who each got a nice slice.
We also grew trashcan potatoes. There were lots of potatoes in the cans, but something about them gave us both the willies, so mostly we aren’t going to eat them.
223 pounds, mostly squash. That doesn’t count the lettuce, kale, cucumbers, or the odd few pounds of carrots, but it’s clearly not the 500 pounds I was shouting about from the rooftops, and to anyone who would listen to my ravings. But I had to come clean. By sharing this information, going public in this forum, and maintaining the long tradition of Figure 8 Ranch vegetable transparency, I have completed the final harvest of the season.
And next year—I don’t know why I can’t stop myself from doing this—I just know we are going to grow 500 lbs of vegetables.
Well Craig, since you have already employed Ian Tyson I thought I would bring in a tomato expert to assist and inspire next year’s crop. He is one of my absolute favorites culinary or otherwise and hails from West Texas. Give it a listen and maybe install some raised bed mounted speakers to boot. A green thumbs up for next season:
Yeah buddy! One of the great songs ever. I like this idea of speakers in the garden. Watch for it!!! Safe travels, Tramp!
Laid over at the Alamo waiting on a load. That would be the Alamo (Petro Stopping Center / They don’t call ‘em truck Stops anymore) in Sparks, NV. It is of course adjoined to the Alamo Casino. Nice facilities though even if I’m not a gambler in that sense. Farmers are most definitely (hard toiling) gamblers as you have no doubt described to us readers. Good luck!!!
Hats off to you. Sparks is an interesting place. The big bend of the truckee east of you is where Numaga wiped out those sad sacks from Virginia City in the Paiute war, and just a litte further south and east are some of the oldest petroglyphs known. Reno used to be a great cow town, but those days are over.
Thanks! Appreciate the insight Craig. Typically I have always been under schedule and just passing through or otherwise encumbered when in the Sparks / Reno area. I did however spend time (on a car trip) at Fort Churchill and nearby Buckland Station (The Longest Ride) and time around Tonopah and Goldfield (The Longest Pugilist Match) bookending the trip nicely. Wish I had 3 months just to wander Nevada from top to botttom and side to side. Those petroglyphs really intrigue me as well as any of the old west history and sites. Really enjoyed photographing Fort Churchill. Adobe against a blue sky. It frames itself. You would be a wealth of insight into the area. I have run the main roads but so much is left unexplored on the back roads. You would most certainly be a trusted guide. Best of luck with all efforts on the Figure 8 and by the way that is my chosen lucky number and holds a real significance for me. Keep up the posts. They are always appreciated.
Those are great reflections Craig and a positive topic. Growing or killing your own food is a real thing and if more were connected to that, we would all be happier. The garden was beautiful, I can t wait to see what happens next year. I might try fermenting mead next year.
It is a commitment to a way of living. If we had to rely on it, we’d starve, but that is a fact beyond our immediate control. Next year will be better 🙂
Sometimes plants are independent things. We let our garden stand fallow this year and yet we had cherry tomato plants spring up like crazy. A year or two ago, zucchini returned in bounty even though we hadn’t planted it that year.
Love the layout of your garden. I wouldn’t have quite that much space to dedicate to the endeavor.
I love those volunteers, they make for great surprises. Thanks, I spent much of last winter, under the snow, designing and redesigning the layout on graph paper. It helped me from going crazy. I would love to make it even bigger, and might, but my bride has put the brakes on me for the time being.
Zucchini is like edible kudzu. Once it gets started, it tries to take over. Once summer when I was in high school, we had some much zucchini, we were having multiple zucchini dishes at every meal.
Love the layout of your garden. I’m sure next year you will reach your goal. Did you really eat all that spaghetti squash?????
Thank you. We keep trying hard and make improvements every year. The growing season here is short and difficult. We ate a lot of it, but also gave a bunch away to friends and neighbors.