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First Harvest

E says the word “Harvest” sounds like “genocide” to our plants. He’s probably right.

Regardless, I don’t feel the tiniest twinge of guilt despite eating about 10 cherry tomatoes and eagerly awaiting the final ripening of Mr. Stripey’s firstborn:


As of last week, the garden as a whole looked like this:


Which is good, because we’ve successfully managed to control the fungus that infected 6 of our 7 tomato plants. We trimmed leaves. We fertilized. We sprayed antifungal. We switched to an every-other-day watering plan. And, thankfully, although they are a bit sparse for the wear, they seem to be doing much better. At last count we have somewhere around 150 tomatoes waiting to ripen. How exciting!!!

The earliest producer of the group was the squash. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve picked about 7 great fruits like these:


The first meal was sautéed squash in a sage in browned butter sauce over whole wheat penne topped with black pepper and grated parmigiano reggiano:


And the lesson we’ve learned is that it’s best to pick them when they are still pale yellow. Apparently, the darker the rind, the thicker the rind.

Speaking of thick rinds, this dark yellow rind (an early developing fruit before we realized we should pick earlier) did a reasonable job of protecting its important reproductive portions from our local raccoon (I was still grumpy that we wouldn’t get to eat it):


Remember the Okra from seeds experiment? Well, several of the non-culled survivors have grown to full-fledged plants that have and will continue to flower, and should (hopefully) bear many fruits:


And finally, my fascination with the biology of the cucumber continues, unabated. It has grown from the tiny seedling, to the clutching, wrapping vining monster, to a fully trellised plant with a wingspan greater than 5 feet:


E and I shared the first cucumber with some store-bought tomatoes and we agreed it was amazing and we couldn’t wait for its siblings. Thankfully, after a few weeks of fallen flowers, the female flowers are now producing over-grown ovaries like no-one’s business. The babies look like this (look at the appendage attached to the unbloomed flower on the left):


And, they grow, very quickly to look like this (note the fully bloomed and wilted flower at the far end for scale):


We’ve got several proto-cukes and we can’t wait to enjoy them with the tomatoes, which are coming ever-so-slowly closer to being ripe each day.

Tonight’s garden-inspired dinner was a first course of sliced black krim (from the farmer’s market, ours are not yet ready) topped with olive oil, aged balsamic, basil and lemon thyme; followed by a second course of habanero, yellow crook-neck squash bisque that cleared my sinuses but was quite a delicious non-recipe invention, if I do say so myself.

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Black Letter Law

A client asked a question that has me reading cases tonight.

And there, at page 29 of Kozinski’s majority en banc opinion in Fair Housing Council v. (April 3, 2008), I find this jewel on CDA Section 230 (c) immunity for website operators:

The message is clear: if you don’t encourage illegal content, or design your website to require users to input illegal content, you will be immune.

Where were the gloriously clear black-letter holdings like this, when I was in law school?

Sure, I’m gonna finish the full 54 page opinion and try to struggle through the nuances. And, yes, I will know more about this area of the law than I did when I started reading this thing. But, a clear concise statement of the take-home message that can fit in a fortune cookie — if I were in charge, this would be required in all published cases.

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Surrogate Children

I took a break from work this afternoon to go speak with our across-the-street neighbor because she will be babysitting for us while we are on vacation.

Okay, so really, she’ll actually just be watering the plants. But I don’t think I’ve ever gone out of my way to line up care like this for something in my absence…and I can’t help but think of the plants as E’s and my children. We discuss them. We worry about them. We brought them to their current level of maturity together. We even (I wish I was kidding) have argued over the best way to treat them.

So, it was almost like giving the babysitter instructions when I walked our neighbor through the watering rules we follow (How many times a week should I water them? Well, we just keep ’em damp. Umm…you know, we just check ’em several times a day. We walk out there for breaks from work, breaks from life, just general breaks. Typically, we only actually hit ’em with the hose once a day, but sometimes, like this weekend when it reached 107F in the eaves, it’s several times a day…)

Anyways, I’m going to get back to work now. Or perhaps I’ll take a quick walk outside to check on the plants first…

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It’s halfway through June. When did that happen?

It seems like just yesterday that E and I planted the transplants in the garden and tried our hand at growing okra from seeds.

And yet, here we are, 39-days post transplantation for most of the garden, and they are huge! All of the tomato plants have at least one green tomato that is in development, and many have more. (11 days ’til early girl is supposedly bearing her early fruit, and just a few more for the others. I can’t wait!):


The herb box has been amazing. My success made me so excited that I purchased some herb seeds and planted those as well (cilantro, dill, chives). Predictably — it was less of a success — the dill sprouted, but died over memorial day when no one watered it. The cilantro is hanging in. And the chives, which the packaging swore were like weeds have not yet sprouted.

In particular, the basil is just kicking ass this year. I love it. Every week or two I trim the tops of all 6 plants for a huge harvest of the freshest basil available while forcing them to become even more bushy in their quest for sun.

In such a short time, despite many trimmings for meals, the herb box has gone from this:


To this:


And, much to our surprise, *all* of the okra seedlings. We actually had to cull some of the plants to prevent them from strangling each other. We’re still not sure how much success we’ll have in pots, but regardless, we’ve gone from this:


To this:


Plus, a fellow-tomato lover heard of our sunshine and asked if she could borrow some sun. She donated a yellow pear tomato plant that quick caught up with its friends and is doing very well. And as a thank you, she gave us a crook neck squash. This thing is out of control! When we got it it was maybe 2 inches tall with two leaves, and yet, here it is:


It’s even starting to produce squash:


But, the biggest surprise for me has been the japanese cucumber plant. It went from this:


To this:


But what’s most amazing is the structural supports this thing sends out. I swear, this plant has intelligence. It grows these long probes, which extend in search of things to support itself and when it finds supports, it attaches. And not just a little bit:


Amazing, I tell you.

I’m finding it so fascinating how quickly plants change — it’s a much needed reminder for me that everything is constantly changing. Every day, each of the plants are different from the day before. The squash, in particular, wilts without enough water, and then stands right back up when you alleviate the problem for it.

Yes, the best part will most certainly be the enjoyment of the fruits. But the care and observation of the growing is full of joy as well.

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The Miracle of Life

Last night, when I arrived home in the dark, E greeted me outside with a flashlight and a huge grin.

He showed me this:


And This:


I realize that these look like buckets of dirt. But if you look very, very closely, you will see sprouts of green which made us very happy.

These would be the okra seedlings that we somehow managed to germinate from seeds. Despite failing to soak them prior to planting (why would you read the directions?) and despite some severe overwatering (read: standing water), we managed to coax several shoots of green to burst forth from the dirt.

Until recently, I was best known for my brown thumb and my ability to kill any and every plant with which I had contact.

I haven’t grown anything from seeds since I was a kid (and my parents helped), but E really wanted okra and there were no seedlings. So, we acknowledged that it would probably fail but tried anyways. I’m so proud!

And, like a parent with child pictures, I present pictures of the rest of our garden as well, to show that I love all of my plants.

Tomatoes, 7 days post transplantation:


Herb Box:


Japanese cucumber, 7 days post transplantation:


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This year’s garden

Well, since last year’s single Black Krim seedling brought us much happiness, and supplied about 1/2 of our tomato needs for the months it was bearing ripe fruit, we did the logical thing, and planted 6 tomato plants this year.

So, in order of predicted fruit-bearing, assuming we manage to keep them alive until they bear fruit, you can expect to see tomato recipes featuring:

To go with these, we also planted an expanded herb box containing 6 basil plants, lemon thyme, rosemary, italian oregano, and marjoram.

In honor of our vacation, we’re trying our hand at 1 Japanese cucumber plant.

And, in honor of E’s southern roots, we planted okra, from seeds (but of course, we don’t know what the hell we’re doing, so we planted, literally, 10 seed-filled indentations with 1-4 seeds each, and it’ll be a miracle if we manage to raise one to a fruit-bearing plant.) After the planting was done, E read the packet to see we were supposed to soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting. We decided post-planting soaking was the best way to remedy this mistake and watered accordingly. So yeah… I’ll report back on that one. I’d say that at this point, one fruit-bearing plant would be a success, and none would not, necessarily, be a failure, since we couldn’t possibly plant the whole seed packet and the winner might still be in there.

So yeah. It’s good to be home. I’m excited about summer harvest.