martes, 29 de septiembre de 2009

Garden 911

I don't mean to alarm anyone, but some of my plants need HELP!!
Please pardon my departure from cheery pretty plant posts to lament some of the tough realities in my organic garden.
Maybe you've experienced one of these issues, or you are an accomplished gardener, or perhaps you are simply a nice person with an idea, please feel free to TELL ME WHAT TO DO!

First, have a looksie at my pipian--it is a local variety of squash, soft skin much like a zucchini. This is what keeps happening :(
The leaves develop a white moldy-looking hue, eventually yellow and die, as do any developing squashlings.
In the past my zucchini and yellow squash was decimated by several pests; for educational purposes i will relive these painful moments wherein my cucurbits were prey to striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and vine-borers. Yesterday i found evidence of vine-borers once again AND i caught this sneaky lady bug look-alike chomping away.

I am now wondering: Is it the pests causing an untimely demise to my pipian,,,,or is that white stuff a tell tale mold/fungus problem?
My garden, though pest-ful, is pesticide free ;) so spraying toxins is out. I do have a concentrated neem oil that i am more than willing to use. I have also employed companion planting and beneficial plants (nasturtium, mint, marigold, borage, garlic) to discourage pest infestations.
And here, with my pumpkin plantitas (probably started too late for Halloween), is a cute preventative method i read about:
shiny aluminum foil wrapped around the base of the stem, with the intention of foiling those vexatious vine-borers. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Next up in my Plagued Plant Tour, a disappearing leaf incident. Congo chiles are the spiciest type of local chile you'll find in Nicaragua. they are tiny but pack a punch. My congo bush was thriving, until......
one day it had NO MORE leaves! Nada. And this has happened before with another congo, which subsequently shriveled up and died. ¿que paso?

Finally, assuming you are not too depressed to keep going, may i submit one more sickling:
Scarlet Runner Bean
Again, not a new issue. The bright scarlet beans sprout and grow about this much before the leaves yellow, curl up a bit, and die. I have not seen any pests. and pole beans have done well in the same area. hmmmmm...
That's the sob story. FYI we are in the middle of the Wet Season, buckets of rain almost every day.
I appreciate any advice, suggestions, tips a kind reader might have! or commiseration, or just good-old fashioned pity....
con mucho gusto,

lunes, 28 de septiembre de 2009


Thanks to the creativity and kindness of our latest industrious visitors, yet another micro-habitat has been built on the farm!

With drills, saws, nails, and screws, Michella and Jamie transformed our old pick-up truck's cab-over
into a deluxe two- story condo!
From the outside, an enormous yet unpretentious tortoise adds an eclectic and mysterious energy to the garden.
Who's living in there????

¡Mama Canela y Familia!
La Señora and her four chicks seem pleased with their new residence. They've been busy scratching in the dirt, pecking at weeds, and nibbling table scraps since they arrived. We hope Canela will make good use of the laying boxes positioned conveniently at the rear of the structure,

where i plan to gather fresh eggs every morning!!!

and surprise, surprise: it looks like i've already got a volunteer to help me
You can't argue with the perfect protein of an egg. I do get grossed out by their slimy consistency, but that is easily amended with a well cooked scramble. Despite our eagerness to eat only our own local eggs, Canela is our sole layer for now. Hopefully a couple of those pollitos will be hens (supposedly 50%), though we have several months to make bets.
And no, we will not be eating any of our feathered friends; i am not against doing it, but my other half is ;)

p.s. farm work at our place isn't all work:
Muchismismas Gracias for work and play well done, mis amigos!

martes, 22 de septiembre de 2009

holy limones!

If i were ever to have imagined or fantasized about living in an orchard, lemons would not have been my first pick. Most likely I would have chosen a tasty fruit, like peaches or cherries, a snack that i love to eat. and would probably be thoroughly sick and tired of by now. After living through a practically perpetual season of lemons, the supply is one i cannot live without!
On a daily basis i gather lemons as I walk across the farm--usually there are 2 or 3 in my pockets. In the kitchen, a full basket regularly awaits my attention. Limonada is a constant here. When things get boring i blend it with our favorite cactus fruit, pitaya,
for a gorgeous and zingy refresco:

A drop or two of lemon juice is squeezed into EVERYTHING, from fresh salads to soups to pasta. When my sweet tooth demands indulgence, i satisfy with a sweet yet tart dessert: a ridiculously simple batch of lemon bars!

And the limones are not only indispensable in the kitchen! The kitten now endures weekly lemon baths, a supposed natural flea repellent (can't hurt), and I whipped up a homemade lemon/vinegar cleaning productmaking use of lemon's antibacterial acidity and fresh scent. With our gray water system in place, all cleaning products must be non-toxic and plant-friendly.

With so many free lemons, and with so much cheap RUM, who wouldn't experiment!?
Supposedly a higher alcoholic content allows for greater flavor absorption, which explains the deeply delicious pungency of the Italians' limoncello, made with a high proof vodka. My version, (think more latin lemon fiesta) will feature none other than Nicaragua's legendary Flor de Caña!
Drowned in the clear liquid rum, my little homegrown lemon zests have been infused for almost a month now. one more month 'til tasting.
Cheers to a crop that doesn't cry for daily attention, provides shady relief from the blazing sun, sweetens the air with its fragrant blossoms, houses a myriad of bird life, cleans my house, cleans my pets, flavors my food, and makes me smile ;)

domingo, 13 de septiembre de 2009


Saludos y Feliz septiembre!
Following the tragic end to two new cameras, I have been depressed (and apprehensive) about posting anything without photos. However! from the dusty confines of a storage box comes an archaic yet fully functioning Sony Cyber-Shot. HALLELUJAH!
Though it is September and the end of many planting seasons up north, another Nica season is only just beginning.
Without further ado, I must address the starlets in my garden: Bell Peppers!
Out of the eight hearty plants that i transplanted from seed boxes and are now tucked cozily in a garden bed, SIX have peppers! The seed packet, a mixed bag if you will, promises a certain percentage of 4 or 5 different varieties. I've been waiting eagerly for each plant to show off some distinct color or shape, an inkling to it being an Orange Sun? a Chardonnay?
a Diamond...
or a Big Red??
Personally I don't know what any of these varieties truly looks like, aside from the photo arrangement on the packet. Deducing the implication of a "bull's horn" from this nombre italiano, i'm fairly certain i've got a Sweet Corno di Toro
The peppers all start off green, regardless of their eventual hue, leaving the gardener the choice to harvest early or to allow the peppers to ripen on the vine. The dilemma, (there always is one), is that the plants are known to produce more heavily if they are harvested earlier. You can then ripen your peppers in a brown bag or other cool dark place. If you hope to save seeds however (which i do), it is important to leave the fruit adequate development on the plant so that the seeds fully ripen. ha! what to do?

Keeping with the mixed bag theme, I gently clipped a pepper or two from several of the plants, encouraging them to continue busting out blooms and fruit, and the others i am allowing to patiently develop their perfect pepper potential.
the line-up
After 2 days in a dark box:

In celebration, i featured the latest harvest in my favorite cuisine, pictured here along with the other homegrown ingredients (lemon, lemongrass, chiles)

And for comparison, a scene of the extranjero foods:

Thai Coconut Curry Soup!
*home-grown basil and beet greens added at finish