The Latest Summer Garden

This year has been a doozy for Northern Californian gardeners. Winter was long. Spring was uncharacteristically wet. And summer seemed to lag by at least a month.

The result?

I didn’t have ripe tomatoes until after August 1st this year. Typically, ripe tomatoes are a July 4th treat and by the time August rolls around, I’m knee deep in tomatoes that need to be canned, dried, and gifted.

But not this year. The first real harvest of the year was the typical size, but it didn’t come until the second week of August:


And, the next week’s looked like a typical haul from the second week in July, not the third week in August:


Even the garlic bulbs were smaller than normal this year:


But, despite the late bloomers, we’ve finally started enjoying some of my favorite summer meals. Big salads of mixed veggies like this one (broiled eggplant, baked corn (a gift), baked squash, fresh red onions, fresh tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar and chevre).


Now that’s a summer garden treat.


As you may recall, I started late on the garden this year, and decided to minimize the plantings.

I am glad.

I started with this:


A few weeks later, had this:


And, now, after 3 weeks away with the garden on the automatic watering, I have more than enough work cut out for me:


Due to the late start and the cool summer start, I still don’t have any ripe tomatoes, but there are hundreds of green ones. And I can’t wait.

There are a few ripe cucumbers, and I suspect I’ll find a few other early goodies when I clear the weeds, prune the plants, and support the plants that have outgrown their allocated spaces.

Overall, I’m congratulating myself on the decision to downsize the garden this year. At the beginning, when the plants are small, it seems so easy to add just one or two more. But now, when production is in full swing, I’m going to have several hours of work each weekend just to keep the plants healthy and bearing fruit.

The garden/start-up analogy is clear: Plan for growth at the start so that it doesn’t crush you when it comes.

The Next Cycle

Due to living part-time in the Seattle area and part-time at home for 3 months, I haven’t had the time to garden as much as I would have liked. Law? Lots of time for that. Tech? So much I don’t quite know how to process it. But Garden? Well, the Garden took a bit of a back-seat for the months prior to last frost.

Of our 8 garden beds, only 5 are planted (and some not fully). At this time of year, that’s a waste of resources.

But, I have experience on my side. While I know I am wasting space that collects amazing sunlight and could be used to grow beautiful California plants, I also know that each one of those plants sucks the resource of time.

And, if I am honest with myself, I didn’t have enough time to properly prep all of the beds even before the plants need attention. Too many travels. Too much work. So, this season, I am focused on proper execution in the garden. Maximum quantity of quality within the constraints that I have.

Again, my garden is a perfect metaphor for one of the cycles in start-up life (when you could do more, but it would suck time and/or nutrients from other things that don’t have enough to support them unless you scale back for a season).

The tomato seedlings post-planting:


The eggplants (the big one will be asian purples, the small one below it is a breed of white/pink mini-eggplants):


And, of course, the peppers:


Habanero, Hungarian Carrot, Jalapeño, Caribbean Red Hot, & Anaheim.

Already, the investment is starting to show returns. The tomato plants are dark green and easily triple the size shown in the photos above, eggplant fruits are showing, and the peppers are already flowering. Also, several cucumber plants and squash plants are spreading their hungry vines in search of sun. Even with perfect weather, it will not be the biggest harvest I’ve ever prepared, but it is clearly focused on the most high value benefits (e.g. those that produce the most to eat where the taste differential between the garden and the store is the highest).

Thank goodness for learning from the past — this summer/fall harvest is destined to be quite good despite requiring about 1/2 the effort of prior years.

Summer Harvests and Storage

Finally, we’re getting into the time of year when the tomato plants are so productive that we can’t eat everything they give us. The rest of the garden is no slouch either.

Tonight’s gorgeous harvest was limited to slicing tomatoes and paste tomatoes (no cherry tomatoes, no squash, no cucumbers), and even so, I’ve got my work cut out for me over the next couple of days.


Last weekend, the harvest was reasonably bountiful:


So, I spent much of the weekend doing the very meditative acts of canning, pickling, and slow roasting.


I yielded 5 pints of Tomato Sauce from chopped up tomatoes:


Plus, a tupperware full of slow-roasted tomatoes, 2 quarts of pickled green tomatoes (so delicious!), a quart of pickled squash, and two colorful quarts of tomatoes in their own juice.


At the end of the canning, the kitchen was a disaster. Imagine an entire kitchen covered with splashes of juice and seeds. Even my shoes were caught in the crossfire.


I’ve learned, though. This weekend, I’ve recruited help.

Summer Harvests

Summer’s first harvest is always some type of squash. This year, we didn’t grow the Zucchini Romanesco, which is sad, because it’s such an amazing producer (see last year’s huge fruit that kept growing and growing in our weeks of neglect):


But, we did grow some yellow summer squash that are producing like mad:


And, our first tomato harvest was a welcome addition to the kitchen:


Especially the crazy megabloom sweet horizon (it must have been 2 pounds, at least):


The next week’s harvest was almost double:


And, most importantly, we finally had enough ingredients to make the first garden Gazpacho of the summer:




This first American Indepence Day that I am experiencing as a sole proprietor, small business owner — it feels very American.

We are staying home.

I am looking forward to catching up on the sleep that I missed closing transactions at the end of Q2 2010.

Also, I’m looking forward to giving our garden some love. Because right now, it’s a bit of jungle:


Especially, when compared against the garden immediately post transplants, in May:


Now that it’s finally warm, everything is growing like crazy, including the Nasturtiums:

And, the leeks and onions we didn’t get a chance to harvest in time are now flowering:


Most people would abandon the leeks and onions post flowering, but I’ve found that if you act fast, they fare reasonably well in bakes, stews, and other long-heat forgiving food preparations.

As for tomatoes, we don’t have much. Just a few cherries from the Sun Sugar that appears to have given up the ghost:


and, some promising early turning Heinz tomatoes:


As for me, I look out every day and see all of the green tomatoes and can’t wait for the heat that will make them ripe. Certainly, I may regret the drying, the canning, the stewing, and other means of preservation. But at the moment, I only know one tomato annoyance — and that is impatience for locally grown ripe tomatoes. So, of course, when the annoyance is no more, I suspect I’ll have a different complaint…. wish me well.

The Latest Case Against Facebook

On May 5, 2010, The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the FTC regarding Facebook’s privacy practices (or lack thereof).

The biggest two complaints, to my reading are that (1) Facebook unilaterally tried to convert some information previously designated as private to public; and (2) Facebook changed its developer data retention policy to allow developers to retain end user data indefinintely.

Neither of these changes benefits end users, no doubt. But, what I’m fascinated to see is that today, a mere 12 days after the complaint, the user experience is significantly different from the experience described in the complaint (notably, the experience is more protective of user’s data when compared against the experience described in the complaint).

The legal process is slow and cumbersome and using it to argue with a quick and nimble internet-based adversary is going to be frustrating, to say the least. However, where end users are concerned, perhaps the quick responsiveness of Facebook is a benefit. If enough people complain, they just roll out a fix, long before the Feds, or the courts order them to do so. Certainly, this means that the fix is likely to be on Facebook’s preferred terms, rather than what the court or Feds order, but isn’t a quick fix better than a long period of open sharing without a fix (when it comes to privacy)?

I’m not saying I approve of Facebook’s most recent blunders. But, I do applaud of their quick “opt-in” and “opt-out-of-all” additions after the complaint about the blunders. And, I’m fascinated to see how or where the law fits in this world where the facts upon which any legal claims may be based are so ephemeral.

On Growth

About 7 weeks ago, I sowed the seeds of entirely too many tomatoes.

Some sprouted much earlier than the predicted germination time, and I found myself caring for spindly, tall, weak-stemmed seedlings.

Others died due to my lack of properly allocating resources to water them while I was on vacation.

Today, after hours of potting up over the last couple of weeks, I am left with 362 tomato seedlings in various stages of maturity:


Tonight, we moved them to the garage to keep them out of the coming storm for the next few days.

If I am lucky, I will end up with at least one healthy plant of each of the varieties that we can plant for ourselves in our garden, and a couple hundred for gifts to friends and acquaintances and distribution to strangers to market Tech Law Garden.

Yet again, gardening shows me that it is an excellent metaphor for technology startups. You have to invest a ton in hopes of future rewards. Even if you think you know what you are doing, there is great attrition. There are unexpected obstacles. And, when things are good, the growth is much faster than you expected, which can be an obstacle to success in and of itself.

Please shoot me an email or give me a call if you’d like a tomato seedling or three.

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Mas Porno Del Jardin

So… I can’t help but wonder what the title above is going to do to my web analytics… (yes, I’m a data nerd.)

Anyways, here are the baked dinner and slow-roasted tomatoes we made in the gas BBQ (’cause the oven is still broken) from last week’s harvest (in case you were wondering — pepperoni, bacon, okra, tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and garlic are a fabulous combination!):


This weekend’s harvest was nothing to sneeze at:


So, we decided to make tomato sauce to freeze:


You know, all the tomatoes that will fit, plus garlic, some basil, some olive oil. Boiled down for a while:


And eventually put into containers for the freezer:


Delicious (if a wee bit too acidic, if we are honest — we will have to bear that in mind and use with carmelized onions, or some other form of sugar to cut it).

In other news, the world’s slowest growing plants, the hot peppers, have finally begun to put out a decent harvest (just in time for the cold fall… we shall start earlier next year):


The top one? That’s a squash pepper — it looks like a habanero for a reason. Amazing flavor, but *very* hot. Supposedly we’re supposed to leave it ’til it turns red, but even green they have great flavor and almost too much heat, so it’s hard to be patient.

The long slightly wrinkled peppers? Yeah, Pimiento D’espelette — we haven’t had the patience to let a single one turn red. They are flavorful, but not very hot at all. More smokey. Complex. I like ’em. E thinks they are useful for fiber.

The jalapenos? Well, if you grow ’em in your garden, they will be hotter than the ones you buy in the store. But effort to reward ratio? It’s likely that next year we’ll add some other wacky peppers like the squash peppers instead of the jalapenos.

And, I think that’s a wrap.

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Belated Harvest

With everything that has been going on in our lives, E and I have not been paying too much attention to the garden.

But, this year, we were much more professional than in years past, so we have an irrigation system (plus it’s *raining* right now, weird!).

Turns out, that even as your life is spiraling into its own random course, the garden, if properly planted, fertilized and watered, will continue to grow in your absence.

This morning, I finally had time to harvest after about 3 weeks of neglect (this was the haul minus the bag I packed up for E2, and without any okra, radishes, or cucumbers, all of which are also ripe):


Yes, I will be giving away some serious gift tomatoes at work tomorrow…

This awesome harvest is very unfortunately timed, as the heating element in our oven took the liberty of entertaining us with a very spectacular failure yesterday evening. I wish, in hindsight, that we had taken pictures, but at the time, we were watching the arc travel the filament despite the oven being turned off with E at the ready with a fire extinguisher, so the camera was nowhere near the top of our list. Bummer — this would have been a good week to return to the slow-roasted tomatoes… And, of course, while I’d scheduled a weekend to can at the G’s as they recovered from burning man, somehow that didn’t make the cut due to our other obligations (duh!). So, we’re stuck with entirely too many tomatoes. I suspect I’ll find a way to turn this problem into a blessing. Perhaps I’ll have to make and freeze sauce…

Anyways, in case you couldn’t tell from the larger picture, one of the hilarious things about the garden is what happens to small-to-medium sized summer squash when left on the vine entirely too long:


Yes. That is my arm for scale.

So, the moral of the story is that a well-tended garden will just keep growing and producing in September even if you completely neglect it. No matter what else is going on in your life, the garden will grow.

I find this very comforting.