Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The ceremonious picking of our first carrot

I have never liked carrots. Throughout my childhood, I would eat all sorts of kid-unfriendly vegetables, but not the traditionally kid-friendly carrot. I hated them in all forms (except in cake). My parents used to force me to eat my age in carrots (until I reached double digit ages and they showed mercy by stopping the count at 10). Now, my more mature adult self will deign to eat carrots...but only if they are slathered in butter and cooked until they are total mush.

Despite my passionate dislike for this vegetable, we wanted to try growing them this year, and it has been a very exciting process because of all of the suspense. As we obviously can't see the carrots growing underground and only have their leafy tops to go on, the anticipation of what our carrots look like has been building for weeks. We finally cracked yesterday and picked our first carrot.

David let me do the picking honors. I selected the largest one, though it turned out to still be rather small.

Victory! A photo of me laughing with our carrot. (The funny part not captured on film was that I lost my balance and almost fell over while pulling this tiny thing out of the ground.) This carrot looked a little sci-fi in the sense that it still had roots at its tip, and it obviously needed more time to grow. We will not pick any more for a little while so that they can get bigger.

David's best imitation of Bugs Bunny.

And now for the most unexpected twist during our carrot picking ceremony: I LOVED the carrot. LOVED IT. It was sweeter than any other raw carrot I have ever eaten, and I could have eaten 10 of them easily! And so, let this be a lesson to parents of cute little small children refusing to eat vegetables. The solution is simple - start planting them in your backyard! I promise your kids will come around.


There has been much excitement in The Danger Zone recently, and we have been able to enjoy many yummy vegetables and spices. Above Farmer/Chef David is cutting some oregano for our dinner yesterday. And so, though it has not been very is another picture update:

Our corn is growing really tall! I am the scale bar of sorts in this photo, and I am 5'8". It is pretty much as tall as me now! The sunflowers are also growing taller - they up to my waist now.

A closer view of the corn.

We covered the split stem of the most healthy squash plant with more soil, and that plant has recovered beautifully. Perhaps we will have to try this with some of the others. The leaves are much healthier, and we are even beginning to see signs of little squashes growing.

HELLO GREAT PUMPKIN! Our pumpkin plants are growing out of control, and here is our first developing pumpkin. I have named it Linus.

Watch out squash row...the pumpkins are invading.

Our first pickling cucumber! It has just a few more days to grow and then it will be ready to pick, as these do not get very big.

The cucumbers are flourishing in general. Here is a shot of the pickling cucumbers taking over their trellis. (The regular cucumbers are also doing very well.)

These peas are peas from the heavens! They are so sweet and delicious. Avid fans of The Danger Zone may recall that last year our peas were pillaged by scavengers of the air and land variety (birds/rabbits) before we could get any harvest from them. This year our marigolds seem to have protected the peas, as we have already picked one batch and will probably pick another later this week.

Our Chinese eggplant plant would like to hang on. It really would. But those pesky black bugs just won't let up! You can see them on the leaves in this photo. I am not sure if it will be able to overcome these critters, even though we regularly spray it with the pesticide.

Green beans! These have a while to go before we can pick them, but after a lazy start they are finally coming in.

Our cherry tomatoes are starting to come in...

...and our larger tomatoes are getting even larger.

And last for this update (but certainly not least), our cute little pepper buds are now full-fledged peppers, though I hope some of them turn red so I can eat them. (I find green peppers to be disgusting, though I used to find carrots disgusting until I ate one grown in our garden, so maybe I will come around.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Down on the farm - a Danger Zone update

After a slow start, our plants are thriving in The Danger Zone this year. Above is our first bounty, though there have been many more since this photo was taken. Right now we are able to pick swiss chard, mustard greens and lettuce at least twice a week. (My next plan for our swiss chard is this, found on pages 290-291 of my new love, the Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts book.)

This is a photo of row 1. The front part is green lettuce, carrots are in the middle, and red lettuce is in the back. We have been so tempted to pick a carrot early just to see the tiny little carrot growing underneath the leafy top, but so far we haven't done it yet. (I have come very close though.) Lettuce grows very quickly in comparison to the other crops, so we can replant it often to yield many batches. (I think we are going to have to throw a salad party pretty soon though in order to be able to eat it all.)

Tomatoes are in row 2. Last year we only had cherry tomato plants, but this year we planted tomatoes big and small, and of all different colors. These are the Celebrity tomatoes - they are getting so big already!

Peppers and eggplant are in row 3. So far, the eggplant plants have been plagued by little black bugs, though they are trying really hard to stay alive. We bought a (organic of course - we are in Ithaca after all) bug spray to try to salvage them, and they are flowering against the little bugs' will. I will post a picture of them on my next update. As you can see above, our pepper plants are now flowering and producing tiny pepper buds! These are growing bigger by the day, so the little pepper bud in the middle of this photo is now a mini-pepper.

Cucumbers and peas are in row four, and both are coming in now. This picture of the pickling cucumbers was taken after we first added our trellis. We also planted full size cucumbers this year.

These are the English peas, though we also planted sugar snap peas too.

We planted red (shown above) and green swiss chard in row five, which are doing amazingly well. Last year they were plagued by the little black bugs, but this year the bugs prefer the mustard greens and the eggplant, so that has increased our swiss chard quality. (Note to self - always plant sacrificial mustard greens!)

Our bean plants popped up rather quickly in row six, but haven't had much activity since. They were slow to produce last year, so perhaps they will be a little lazy this year too.

Also in these rows are collard greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts and potatoes. The collards, broccoli and brussel sprouts are all popular food for the bugs, so they are slow growing so far. The potatoes were a late addition after our onion seedlings (that accidentally got left in the car overnight before we planted them) failed to grow. Hopefully all of these will grow more in the next few weeks and I will have wonderful photos of them too.

Our last rows contain squash, pumpkin, sunflowers, and corn. The squash plants shown above are currently suffering from stem splitting and are not producing squash yet, but we are hoping they will revive and produce crops soon.

Our other plants in this section are rock stars! Shown above is one of our pumpkin plants. I was super excited to plant pumpkins because of my love of the Charlie Brown Halloween movie, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! I am convinced we are growing a Great Pumpkin in our garden this year, and I may have to camp out in our garden with a blue blanket to prove it.

Our sunflowers are growing taller and taller. Right now they well above my waist and working their way to growing taller than me! I am thinking they will surpass me soon.

Our corn is growing like mad. We planted more seeds a few weeks ago because it is growing so successfully. Even though we routinely drive past fields of corn, seeing tall corn plants in our own garden is ridiculously cool.

Farmer David and I have done well this year!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More Ben!

I continue to receive picture updates of my godson, Ben (the lovely son of Amanda and Paul) and I thought I would share some of the latest. He really is the cutest baby ever (until everyone I know that is pregnant right now has their babies in the fall/winter, and then Ben will have stiff competition for that title).

Amanda and Paul had a professional photo shoot with Ben while I was visiting last time, and they had me pose with Ben for a few shots. While Ben was the point of the photo shoot and is appropriately adorable in every picture, I have to selfishly put out there that this may be the best photo of me ever taken. This picture looks much less weird when taken out of context and put into a blog about me, but I have to admit it jumped out as being a little random when it was among the other professional photos from the day. I have to wonder if the photographer was thinking on some level that I was the "godmother" rather than the godmother. I do love this photo of Ben and me though.

Here is one of the professional shots of Ben and his actual parents. They look amazing too.

I am supremely excited for Ben's baptism on October 2nd, though I will be spending some quality time with the Hoertzes (and this smiling face that was in my e-mail inbox this morning!) later this month.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Trips to MA #3 and #4

In June, I had two more (great) reasons to visit Massachusetts.

First, trip #3. David and I went to Kate and Chris's wedding on June 18. Kate was my "little sister" in the BMB program at Penn, and we have been good friends ever since. It was a beautiful wedding, and we had a lot of fun. As bride and grooms tend to be, Kate and Chris were both stunning. As you can see in the above photo, Kate wore a fabulous feather fascinator attached to her veil.

Kate and Chris were the most giddy bride and groom I have ever seen, and I couldn't be happier for the two of them. Here is a photo of them grinning from ear to ear during their wedding dance (taken before Chris dropped Kate on the ground while a little too successfully trying to dip her).

Kate and Chris got married in Amherst, which was conveniently an hour or so away from Ken and Carol's new house in Lenox. We stayed with them for the weekend, along with Brian and Jane. It was really fun to visit with everyone, and David and Brian did their duties as men by helping Ken accomplish many tasks around the house. Ken and Carol's new house is heavily under construction, but I know the finished product will be as beautiful as the parts that have already been redone. The best part of the house in my opinion is their backyard / pool area, which looks like it has been landscaped for a magazine photo shoot! Here is a photo of me resting on the hammock by the pool (my new favorite reading spot at their house).

Trip #4 to Boston was a week after Trip #3. I attended a crystallography workshop at Harvard Medical School on June 24 (which was very useful), but stayed in town for the weekend to catch up with my college friends and my favorite city. Above is a view of some of the flowers in bloom at the Public Garden in Boston Common. It was a beautiful weekend to walk around the city and do all of the things I so miss doing. (I am such a nostalgic sap!) I stayed at the Best Western in Washington Square (Allston/Brookline) so that I could walk down Beacon Street into the city each day. (I walked this route to Kenmore Square every morning when I was doing summer research in the Elliott laboratory, always stopping at Brueggers to meet Alison for an early morning bagel.) After the conference ended, I went shopping at the Prudential Center and at the shops around Coolidge Corner, and ended the evening by seeing Conan O'Brien Can't Stop at the Coolidge Corner movie theater.

Saturday afternoon, I rode the swan boats at Boston Common. On my way to the T, I ran into this street performer (I think this picture really speaks for itself.)

But mostly, I ate a lot of food and spent time with many fantastic people while I was in town! Katinka and I had dinner at Brown Sugar Cafe, Jessie and I ate at the Uno's at Kenmore (for nostalgia's sake), and Ainsley and I went to Border Cafe in Harvard Square and had Mike's Pastry for dessert. I also had an Ana's burrito for dinner after the conference, and JP Licks for dessert. (No wonder I exercised so much more as an undergraduate...)

It was sad to leave Boston knowing that it would be my last visit for a little while, but it is exciting to think about David and I moving back there in a year or so! (During my walk into the city, I even picked out a few possible brownstones on Beacon Street that we could live in...)

Monday, July 11, 2011

So much to share!

Dear family and friends,

Happy July! My blogging time lately has been interrupted by busy days at lab. I am mentoring a summer undergraduate student until August, and my days are filled with keeping her busy (which keeps me busy). However, I have so many June adventures to share with

...TWO more trips to Massachusetts!

...Danger Zone updates!

...Pictures of the Crane Lab's new laboratory space! (TODAY IS MOVING DAY! We are moving to the third floor of this building.)

I promise to update you soon. Until then, let us all marvel over the fact that the Pirates are one game away from first place! Way to go, Buccos! I hope you continue to play like it's 1990-1991.