June 10. All is right with the world. The Tomato seedlings are growing so fast you can almost see them stretching out to the sun. The pepper plants are happy and healthy with their sweet little white flowers- harbingers of the fruits to come. The skirret has shot its strange leafy shoots up to 4 feet high. My heirloom "Eva's Burgundy Lettuce" is already bolting (i.e. flowers about to go to seed) since it overwinters and is so far ahead of other lettuces at this time of year.
Then WHAM! I saunter out the garden and see there is no skirret! Zip, nada, nothing there! There is a hole in the deer netting with a little pathway in the grass. OK, I guess I was delusional. I had spotted a very large groundhog a few days prior but he was just shuffling along the edge of the woods. I didn't think it was a problem as I have occasionally encountered groundhogs before usually helping themselves to windfall (fallen to the ground) pears and apples at the other end of the farmette. Only now this guy had gone in and helped himself to ALL OF MY SKIRRET ! Now I am the only person in the USA growing skirret for seeds , so it is a very important crop for me.
By the next day all of my lettuce was nibbled to the ground as well. Totally gone ! I am the only source of this 5 generation heirloom lettuce. I got my original seeds from my gardening mentor, Eva, and it is an exclusive . Again, a very important crop for me.
Then, by day three he moved onto the pepper seedlings, after having rifled through the tomato seedlings. Mr. Groundhog pulled up ALL the pepper plants and tore out the labels as well. I'd never be able to know what was planted if the peppers even survived being uprooted.
I was desperate and this meant war. I couldn't find him to dispose of him. They are nocturnal animals and unless I wanted to camp out in the garden where he would smell me anyway and hide, I knew I wasn't going to have any luck. I finally had to hire an animal control guy who came in with traps. Much $$$ later, problem solved!
Oh, and good news, amazingly, the Skirret bounced back even after being totally eaten right to the ground. It took all summer but I was able to get a crop of seeds although not as much as usual. And thankfully, my later planted "Eva's Burgundy Lettuce" also produced a bumper crop of seeds. YAY ! I got the "torn out" pepper plants back in the ground but without proper ID. Please read my "Lions, Tigers, and Groundhog Pepper Mix " description for more details.
So now you know why the title to this year's essay is "Lions,Tigers and Groundhogs, Oh My!". Remember Judy Garland chanting the little song in "The Wizard of Oz" that goes "Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!" ? Well, I also chanted all summer! Listen to it here.
Continuing on the animal theme....2016 was the Year of the Animal in so many ways. Sadly, my dear little kitty Duke passed away in March. Earl, his buddy since kittenhood was just disconsolate. Here is a sweet picture of Duke and Earl sleeping together as they always did. Duke is the gray kitty.
To help Earl be happy again,in May I adopted the little tuxedo kitten B.B. King. Here he is inside his favorite toy, yep -the Christmas tree! Earl and B.B. were inseparable right from the start. They especially like to sit on the " cat castle" by the kitchen window and look outdoors.
And of course there is Frankie, my orange garden cat, who follows me everywhere outside. Here he is keeping cool under the tomatoes.
You absolutely can't be in a bad mood if you have a sweet kitten in the house, that's for sure. Any annoying, bad day is instantly "cured" by the loving purr of my kitten B.B. King. He only wants to be held or to sit in my lap (or type on my computer, since he knows that will get my full attention!)
Also continuing on the animal theme, as you can probably tell by my eclectic seed collection, I am a total sucker for tomatoes with animal names. This summer I grew out these new "animals": Fox's Nose, Kangaroo Heart, and Eagle's Beak. The original seeds I planted were from Croatia via the former Soviet Union . Also I regrew a customer favorite "Little White Rabbit". I am sure children and those with a sense of fun will enjoy having these in their garden. Be assured, they are not just novelties, these ended up being some of the best tomatoes I have ever grown! Be sure to read their stories.
2016 was also the summer of "sweet eating" tomato names. Hence: White Sugar, Brown Sugar, Sugar Pounder, Amish Orange Sherbet, Paw Paw and Summer Cider. Doesn't that just tempt your sweet tooth already?
You will see me mention my "Official Tomato Taste Tester" Dave D. in many of my tomato descriptions. Actually, I have been feeding Dave D. morsels of my still warm-from-the-sun tomatoes for years. This year I decided to record verbatim his enthusiastic reactions. This is a man who just adores and appreciates tomatoes since he comes from an Italian background. He cooks with them, eats them fresh and is a gardener to boot. And I think I kept him very happy this hot, dry but amazing tomato season, as you read his inspired poetic words.
Now I want to talk to you about something very important seed wise. Lima Beans! (aka butter beans when they are smaller sorts.) Yes, Amishland Heirloom Seeds is becoming the be all and end all of Lima Beans now. Most of the seed sellers are carrying maybe 2 kinds of Lima beans at most these days. They are nearly becoming extinct, particularly the old fashioned pole sorts. But thanks to the dedicated growing efforts of my "Beany" friend out west, Cliff, I am able to offer many rare Lima beans. More than any other commercial seed company now to the best of my knowledge.
Cliff and I think that is so exciting. Be sure to look at my "Beans-Other Page" to see them all in their glorious colorful beauty. You won't be disappointed!
So as this record breaking heat and drought filled season came to a close I was able to look up at my late fall trees and be thankful for what turned out to be a bumper year despite the "Groundhog invasion."
NEW AND BACK AGAIN FOR 2017
NEW FOR 2017!!
DeBarao Black Plum Tomato-(in Russian -De Barao Chyornyi)
D.B. COOPER TOMATO
MUSHROOM BASKET TOMATO - translated from Russian - Gribnoe Lukoshko
FOX'S NOSE TOMATO - translates from Russian -"LISKIN NOS"
LOTUS TOMATO ~ in Russian translates as "LOTOS"
SAKHARNY PUDOVICHOK - translates loosely from Russian as" SUGAR POUNDER"
GREEK ASIMINA TOMATO ~ Scarce!-Hard to Find!
SHIRLEY TOMATO ~aka Shirley S. Tomato~ Genuine Lancaster County Pennsylvania Amish Heirloom
BELYI SAKHAR TOMATO - translates from Russian as "WHITE SUGAR"