Summer’s End

The deer, having accidentally ripped through the flimsy deer netting I put up, have figured out that they’re capable of breaking through it, so it’s become useless. Many nights over the past couple weeks, I’ve had to run outside to chase deer out of the garden.

Earlier this summer, they’d torn down the netting in one corner, and I repaired it with sticks and wire.

primitive deer fence, renewable building materials, urban forest farm Columbus

After they started ripping down other parts, my first thought was to do the same there, and I spent a day working towards that.

urban pioneers, stick fence, deer fence garden

But then I thought better of it. The nights are getting cold and our wood stove isn’t hooked up yet. Before I can hook it up, there are a bunch of other things I need to do to the house. I don’t have many nice days left to do so. The garden is pretty well done for the year anyway, and deer season for archers begins September 27th. Better, I think, to focus my attention on fixing the house (and practicing my marksmanship), and let the five deer who’ve been grazing here get fattened up cleaning out the old squash and tomato vines. The ODNR says I’m allowed to kill four of them this year. If I can do so, that will probably see us through the next year and then some as far as red meat is concerned.

Mayda’s been saying I should use welded wire to fence the garden. It would be effective, but it’s also a lot more expensive. If I don’t have the money for wire fence, I can set aside sticks for making the fence as I’m cutting firewood.

Having pretty much given up on the big garden for the year (other than planting garlic, which the deer have always ignored), we’re just gathering up what we can before the deer eat it, selling some of it to Mayda’s co-workers and their friends, and preserving the rest. [I notice they seem to be ignoring the tomatillos, too. Maybe it's because those are planted closer to the house.] Last night, Mayda rigged up a large food dehydrator with some bread racks, window screen, a box fan, a few blocks of wood (to hold it up so air can blow underneath), and some craft paper to cover the sides. In the photo below, I’ve pulled down one of the paper “walls” so you can see inside. I’m drying tomatoes, peppers, and garlic (just for our own consumption, in case you’re reading, ODA/ODH/FCPH).

cheap food preservation, urban homesteading Columbus

Fortunately, the front garden has been safe from the deer, so the Glass Gem corn and pole beans are still growing. (I did see corn smut growing on one plant earlier this year, so if anyone’s interested in huitlacoche, give me your contact info and I’ll get in touch with you if any more appears.) I’ll pull what’s left of the beets and carrots out there and plant some cool weather greens to eat through the winter.

Our First Ripe Indigo Rose

The green part turned red on this one. There are still a lot of green and purple ones out on the vine waiting to ripen.

Indigo Rose Columbus organic tomatoes

Acorn Squash


The whole family just picked about a bushel and a half of acorn squash. I had done a “Three Sisters” thing with my Glass Gem corn this year, planting squash and corn in alternating rows so the lush foliage of the squash vines would shade out any weeds around the corn, and planting pole beans between corn plants so they could climb the corn and feed nitrogen to it at the roots. I’ve been picking beans the past few days, and I think we’ll eat all of them ourselves. Frankly, we could probably eat all the squash ourselves, too, over the winter, but with so many, I’d be happy to sell some. I’m not sure where we’d keep so many.

We Have Ripe Tomatoes

Nice ones:

Plenty more where that came from. We have summer squash, too–some with smooth yellow skin, some with bumpy yellow skin and crooked necks, and dark green zucchini. You can buy green tomatoes right off the vine, too, if you’re interested. Come get ‘em. (614) 390-2692

Indigo Rose


This is my first year growing Indigo Rose, and I didn’t really know anything about it other than that it’s pretty. I’m a little disappointed the fruits aren’t bigger, but I just read a really interesting article (linked below) by Oregon State University, the developer of this variety.

Indigo Rose is different from other purple varieties. More familiar purple varieties like Black Krim have the color they do as a result of green chlorophyll still being present along with the red lycopene. When you mix red and green, you get brown, and in the case of a lot of “purple” tomatoes, what you actually see is a reddish brown that passes for purple. But with Indigo Rose (and one other variety I’ve never heard of, “Purple Smudge”), the purple is from the combination of red lycopene and blue anthocyanin, an antioxidant also found in blueberries, grapes, and eggplant. Unlike those other varieties that are purplish-brown all the way through, Indigo Rose is only purple on the outside.

These are not GMO, as the University emphasizes in the article. They were created by traditional selective breeding. Eggplant and tomato both belong to the genus Solanum. Breeders were able to cross wild solanums that have the same anthrocyanin-forming genes with cultivated tomatoes until they got cultivated tomatoes with purple skin.

Only the parts that get sun turn purple, though. I have several of these plants, and the tops of the fruits turned purple while the bottoms remained green. I waited, hoping the rest of the tomato would turn eventually, but the tomatoes remained two-toned. I thought of calling them “Joker tomatoes,” after the purple-and-green Batman villain. According to Oregon State, though, if you pick the tomatoes and expose the green parts to sunlight, they should turn completely purple in about a week.

Doing an image search on Google, though, I see that when the tomatoes are ripe, the parts that aren’t purple are red. Mine aren’t. When we cut them open, they’re green on the inside, so I guess they’re still not ripe. We’ve been stir-frying them with other vegetables like this and they’ve tasted fine. According to this podcast, picking some of the green ones might even help the remaining ones ripen faster.

Purple Tomato FAQ from Oregon State’s Dept. of Horticulture

This Week’s Harvest

organic vegetables Columbus urban farm

Here’s what I’ve harvested so far this week (minus what I kept for us to eat), displayed at the Women’s Business Center. There should be more squash in a few days. In maybe another week, we’ll have kale. In another couple of weeks, perhaps, we’ll have collards. There are lots more green tomatoes, but these are the biggest ones, picked at the request of someone who wanted them for frying. Unless someone else asks for them green, I’m going to let the rest ripen. There’s a lot more garlic, too. It’s been hanging up inside for a little over a month now. There are more beets, too, just waiting to be picked.

If you see anything there you’d like, send me an email ( ) or give me a call at 614-390-2692. Anything that doesn’t get sold today will come back home with Mayda, and even if there’s nothing left, there’s still more growing.


Here’s how the gardens look right now. This is out back:

columbus urban farm organic vegetables

…and this is the one out front:

Columbus urban farm organic vegetables

The corn has tassels now!


I’ve been without a phone for some weeks now, so I apologize to anyone who’s tried to call. Unfortunately, though, I do have one now, so if I don’t answer, just leave a message. (Really, email is a much better way to reach me.)

I’ve noticed that there’s a pattern to the things most people call about, so as a convenience for us both, I’d like to head off some of the more common inquiries here:

- No, we don’t have chicken. I don’t know when we’ll have it again.
- No, we don’t have eggs. I don’t know when we’ll have them again. I’m hoping next spring, but I still haven’t predator-proofed the hen house or saved any money for chicks and feed, so…no.
- No, I don’t know where you can buy the things you wanted to buy from me. Try a farmers market.
- No, I don’t want to pay you to advertise my business.
- No, I don’t want to buy anything.
- No, I don’t have live birds for sale. Not for slaughter, not for eggs, not for pets, not for your kid’s school project, not for anything. I have no chickens. Take a cat. We have plenty of those. And they’re free.
- No, no turkeys either.
- Nor ducks, nor geese.
- And I’ve never had pork or lamb or goat.
- I especially don’t have cattle here on my four-point-something acres in East Linden.
- Yes, I do know where you can get chicks and started pullets. Let me Google that for you.
- No, no tenemos frijoles. Ni pollos. Mire arriba. Y no entiendo español bien. Soy gringo. Por eso, si no quiere hablar ingles usted, debe tener patiencia conmigo…o, preferiblemente, hable con mi esposa. No, ella no está aquí ahorra.
- No, we’re not hiring.
- Yes, I actually am willing to answer questions to help you with your paper for school, but I prefer to do so via email.

Trying Something Different

Frijolito Farm voluntary payment donations workplace

Some of the peppers and tomatoes were ready to pick, and I needed to thin out the beets a little. I also cleaned a few bulbs of garlic to see if it was done curing yet. The kale is growing, but it’s still small, and selecting leaves from several plants, I only managed to gather a single bunch. What I ended up with was a harvest too small to take to a store or a restaurant, too small to bother booking vendor space at a farmers market (and trying to get the requisite liability insurance, and arranging transportation…), but too much to just let it go bad in the fridge waiting for you all to come to my house and buy it if I posted something here or sent out an email. And I didn’t want to just eat it all or give it all away. If I were growing just to feed my own family, this might have fed us for a day or two, but I am trying to earn some money at this, and we’d already bought plenty of food.

I decided to send it with my wife to set out in the break room at her part-time job. Rather than bothering with pricing and change-making for such small lots, I took a cue from Panera Cares and had Mayda put out a sign that said, “Take what you need, pay what you can. Donations welcome!” (Notice the new button in the upper-right corner of the page.)

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that almost everything was taken, even the beet greens, which I wasn’t expecting to be all that popular. Better yet, some local people who didn’t know about the farm learned about it. Some likely future customers, including one restaurateur, expressed interest in buying certain items in the future. This is great feedback, because it guides my decisions about what to plant next year. Some people who couldn’t afford to pay got to share in the harvest, and others paid a fair price or promised to, so it wasn’t a total financial loss.

I know that thoughtful eaters are a generous community, and I figure if I keep doing this, I’ll come across someone willing to chip in a little extra just often enough to fund those who can’t afford  to pay. At least that’s my hope. We’ll see how it plays out. My deer fence is mostly built (and mostly working), I have a functional tiller now, and I’m making progress on clearing the rocks out of that quarry I call a garden. I figure next year, I’ll be able to grow a lot more and the harvests won’t be so small. I might even have the store open by next summer. I’m clearing another field, so I’m thinking that by 2015, I should be able to double my production. For now, though, I’ll try this pay-what-you-want deal as a way to hedge my losses and make sure unsold food still gets to the people who need it. I’ve been looking to rewrite my business plan. If this goes well, I may adopt it as a regular practice.

In other news, the Glass Gem corn is 6-8 feet high but I haven’t seen any ears forming yet. On the other hand, the acorn squash I planted to suppress weeds around the corn has been quite prolific. I’ve seen several normal-sized fruits growing on them. The pole beans seem to be doing a good job feeding nitrogen to the corn, but I haven’t seen any blossoms on them. The onions were a bust. I need to study more on onion culture. I planted them too shallowly or something. I keep finding them laying on top of the soil, as though the bulbs are sunbathing. The summer squash is doing well despite a few of the plants having become deer chow. They (the plants, not the deer) have blossoms on them and I do expect a good yield out of them before the end of the season.

I’ve had worse pepper crops. Actually, this is the best run of peppers I’ve ever had, which isn’t bad considering all of them are from half-dead plants a neighbor gave me around the beginning of July. I’m fairly sure I haven’t been watering my tomatoes enough. The tomato rows are quite jungle-like, but not as much as they should be by this time of year. I can’t say enough about using pipes, conduit, and rebar as tomato stakes. Unfortunately, I haven’t scrounged up enough for the fifty-or-so plants I managed to get in the ground, so about half of the vines are just crawling around on the ground.

The potatoes were also a bust. That was my own fault. It was a rush job. Mayda got some potatoes she wanted me to plant, and it was already about as late in the year as I could get away with, but they weren’t sprouting at all. They still haven’t…or at least nothing’s appeared above the soil yet. It still could, but at this point, I’d be surprised if they yield enough to even replace what I planted. The beets are doing remarkably well, given the pebbly clay they’re growing in. I hope to be tilling sand into the garden annually in future years. (I already till compost into it.)

I have about a sixty-foot row of overcrowded collards growing. I’ll be thinning them out a little and transplanting the thinnings to where the onions are. I also have a row that size where two or three kinds of kale are just starting to grow. We had decent crop of mint given that we hadn’t planted any. I hung a couple pounds to dry; it’s nearly ready. There’s still more out there. I’ll get at least a second cutting before the year is out. I planted a bunch of herbs in containers a couple weeks ago, but so far no sprouts. This is fine, as many of them take three weeks to germinate, but I’m impatient. I planted a few rows of broccoli, cabbage, and bok choy, but it’s still too early to say how that will turn out. I’ve seen some seedlings emerge.

Furrows: Low-tech Rain Harvesting

columbus urban farm

We’re enjoying a brief, heavy downpour right now, and I wanted to take the opportunity to show you something. Fans of raised-bed gardening often criticize row gardening (as depicted above) as being wasteful of space. But look–those paths aren’t just for walking or operating machines. When you use a furrower between rows to build the rows up, the paths become irrigation channels. Particularly in clayey soil like we have, this allows the rows to be well drained, while the paths act as reservoirs. Over the next couple days, most of the water pooled up in those paths will soak down into the soil. In a few days (if we don’t get more rain), the hilled-up rows will have mostly dried out, but there will be a reserve of water several inches deeper that the roots can get at.

Here’s a shot of the same thing going on out back. Notice that I’ve laid these rows out along the contour of the sloping land, so that the water gets caught between the rows instead of just washing down hill and eroding the soil.

natural low-tech rain harvesting

Garden Progress

Glass Gem corn urban farm Columbus Ohio

The is the front garden. In the half towards the street, you see flint corn growing. The other half is beets, carrots, and onions. Between the rows of corn, I planted rows of winter squash…acorn, I think. Within the rows of corn, between the corn plants, I planted pole beans. This is my own take on the “Three Sisters” technique. Native Americans traditionally grew corn, beans, and squash together, but all together on little mounds of soil. By doing it this way, I retained the benefits of the Three Sisters technique–nitrogen from the beans feeding the corn, the corn stalks serving as poles for the beans to climb, and the squash spreading out to smother the weeds all around–while maximizing the use of space and speeding up the process by using the hiller/furrower attachment on my tiller to make rows instead of hand-building mounds.

Three Sisters corn bean squash Columbus urban farm

Here’s a closeup of the squash providing weed suppression around the corn.

Out back, here’s what it looked like before I pulled up the garlic:

Music hardneck garlic Columbus urban farm

Weeds, weeds, and more weeds

Since harvesting the garlic and hanging it up to cure…

Columbus urban farm sustainable organic garlic

…I tilled up the garlic plot. Here it is after planting a row of bok choy and a couple rows of broccoli yesterday:

Columbus urban farm local food

Last night I picked the first couple handfuls of hot peppers and gave them to the neighbor across the street who gave us the pepper plants. You can see the pepper plants in the picture above growing immediately to the left of the three newly planted rows. The weedy looking things in the middle are tomatoes. Toward the top of the space between the bok choy (the new rows) and the tomatoes is mint that I’m going to cut this evening. As soon as I’m done with this post, I’m going to go out and plant some red cabbage and Brussels sprouts in that space between the bok choy and the tomatoes. I’ve got a lot of half-ripe Indigo Rose tomatoes–purple on top, but still green on the bottom. Maybe I should offer them as-is and call them “Joker tomatoes.” To the right of the tomatoes, you can see some young summer squash plants. To the right of that, there are late plantings of collards, chard, and potatoes but you can’t really see the sprouts yet in this picture.

The deer have completely given up trying to eat the gardens, but we’re battling groundhogs now. At least it’s a battle and not just unfettered destruction on their part. We often scare them away while they chew grass outside the fence, but we have seen a lot of plants that have been nibbled. They’ve eaten pepper and tomato plants, some collards, and a bit of chard (visible just to the upper-left of that yellow watering can, near the top point of this diamond).

I’m still pulling out cart-loads of rocks. I’ve been using them to pave over the muddy spots on the trails throughout the property, but I’m starting to run out of muddy spots! I may have to start making French drains and filling them with these stones. I guess I could use the soil I dig up to build raised beds.

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Summer's End

Summer's End

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September 11th, 2014

Acorn Squash

Acorn Squash

September 10th, 2014

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September 6th, 2014

Indigo Rose

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August 29th, 2014

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