Friday, October 22, 2010

Sweet Potato Surprise

All the rain this week reminded me that I wanted to grow more winter wheat this year. The point of the crop is to utilize the free water and spare growing space- there's only so much cabbage and beets I can convince my kids to eat- to at least produce some kind of crop, even if all I use it for is to amuse the chickens. (While I could thresh and winnow the grain and use it for breadmaking, it is much easier to just give the matured stalks to the chickens and let them do their thing with it. It's funny to watch, and it's that much less feed I need to give them.)

One of the sections of garden I wanted to plant was used over the summer to grow a sweet potato vine. I had planted it meaning to grow sweet potatoes, of course. I was told that the vine would put down roots along the length of the vine, and form new tubers at these locations. Well, mine never did. It produced plenty of foliage, which the rabbits really enjoyed eating when I finally got tired of it spreading everywhere, but it never rooted anywhere but where I had planted the original chunk of rooted tuber. So when the weather turned, I ripped up the vine, turned it over to the rabbits, and made a mental note that sweet potatoes had not been a success, at least not in a mild-summered year.

I didn't think about it again until Wednesday. That was when I started pulling the accumulated weeds out of the plot to get it ready for seeds. Pulling out a large patch of spotted spurge, I spotted a flash of orange in the dirt.

Hmm. I'd never seen a weed with an orange root, at least, not a BIG one. I got a hand trowel, dug in, and turned up a sweet potato, paler and pinker than the ones I buy in the store, but definitely a sweet potato. I kept digging, moving a little farther out to try not to damage. More sweets! I finally got my pitchfork and probed the several square feet where the vine had been.

By the time I was done, I had edited my mental note. Sweet potatoes may not do as well here as they do down south, but they do just fine. When you take into account the fact that both their roots and their foliage are useful (roots for us, vines for the rabbits), they are downright wonderfully productive.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Erector Sets for Big Girls

This is the new trampoline we put together last week, after the old one started shedding springs like a trees sheds leaves in autumn. The kids even did a fair bit of helping, much more so than 6 (?) years ago when we last had to replace this particular piece of backyard recreational equipment.

And this is what I did with most of the frame from the old trampoline.

Have I mentioned that I love my Makita cordless power drill? (Not to mention the joys of brand new drill bits and self-tapping metal screws.)

I'm pretty sure this will become a trellis for a kiwi vine next spring. It may also do some time as a hammock stand, although the structure is only 4 feet deep, so it wouldn't be for big swingers. Sorry, kids!

I also have a hankering to build a platform under it and set a few benches there so people could sit and observe the occasional wonders of the wildlife in the brackish channel on the other side of that wall. It's pretty scruffy out there, but being only a mile from a wetlands, we do see a nice variety of sea birds and jumping fish. Anybody have a dumpster full of broken concrete?