East Sac Edible

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Garden Clean Up and Leaf Hoarding

DSC_0346 DSC_0354 DSC_0348Well a week ago I spent some time trying to clean up the remnants of the summer garden. I always get lazy this time of year and put this off as long as I can. This year I called in my dad and he did most of the work. We took out the tomato plants, basil, tomatillo, and spent squash vines. We chopped them up with clippers and added them to the huge compost pile. I have been battling two mice who decided to live in my compost and then move into some tunnels in my raised bed. I am not sure if the mice made the tunnels or if something bigger did. For now, I disturbed the tunnels to let the mice know they are not welcome. They don’t seem to be making a home in my now open-air compost which is good and I haven’t seen them living in my raised beds lately so perhaps they got the message.DSC_0350 DSC_0349

Did you know that Sacramento has the most trees per capita than any other city in the world? This is a great thing for gardeners looking to improve their soil. Huge piles of leaves form in the streets waiting for city pick up. My property doesn’t have any large trees on it so I am lacking in brown materials for my compost. Last week I took two huge bags and helped myself to one of my neighbors piles. The neighbor came out and asked what I was doing… I’m pretty sure she thought I was a bit strange. Free material people! This stuff is gold! Some of the leaves went straight into my compost. Others I spread over my newly cleaned up garden beds. I am hoping that these leaves will decompose straight into the beds in time for spring planting. I plan on collecting several more bags of leaves to use in the spring because I tend to run out of brown material for my compost to keep the compost pile happy. I use the brown material to cover freshly added kitchen scraps which will hopefully help discourage the mice. I hope to have enough leaves to make a leaf mold pile as well.

Not much is happening in the garden although I did pick the last kabocha winter squash (Hokkori) and the butternut squashes. We roasted these for dinner the other night. The kabocha was delicious and I will definitely plant this next year. The kabocha yielded a little over 9 pounds and was happy growing out of the compost pile. The butternut was pretty good but several of them split before I picked them so I may experiment with other varieties next year. DSC_0345 DSC_0344

Another little small victory in the garden: In August I threw some Italian Parsley seed below my garden hose faucet. Every time I use the hose (which isn’t very often because of the drought) I noticed that when I turn off the water, some water backfills and leaks right under the spigot. I decided instead of wasting these few drops of water, I could plant something fairly hardy so I chose parsley and look at it today! I have never “intentionally” watered this plant. Also California is in a severe drought so every drop of water counts!

DSC_0353Also in my garden I am anxiously waiting for my Owari Satsuma Mandarins to ripen. This is the second year for this tree and although it is tiny it is pretty heavy with fruit. I had to prop up one branch with a tomato cage just to make sure it wouldn’t’ break off. DSC_0351Hope you are able to eat something from the garden with your loved ones this week! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Courageously I went forth…

… or maybe not. There was a lot of screaming coming from my garden yesterday. And that screaming was coming mainly from me. I’m not afraid of rats or mice but I do get scared when they jump out at me. For the past few days I noticed that when I went to take out my compost (mainly at sundown since that is when the baby goes to sleep) there is a rat at the very top eating my fresh compost scraps. So I made a mental note that it is time to turn the compost. I was pretty sure this rat was just visiting so if I turned the compost in the middle of the day he wouldn’t be there. Well I was right… there was no rat. But two mice came bounding out of the top after a few shovelfuls into the job. My sister was there to witness my screaming. I took a break and went back later in the afternoon to finish the job. I worked very slowly because I was so afraid of running into a bunch of baby mice. Thankfully I didn’t see any baby mice but 5 more mice jumped out at me. They couldn’t climb up since the level of the compost was lower at this point so they ran out the bottom, running into me then down the side of my house into the front yard somewhere. And not all 5 jumped out at once either… they decided to pop out at random intervals making me increasingly more nervous as I continued emptying the bin. I’m glad my sister went home so she couldn’t witness the rest of the afternoon of screaming. Well it took all afternoon but I finally emptied out the bin and moved it into the round composter to finish off.

Some lessons learned from yesterday:

1. My compost was really dry. I read somewhere that mice like nesting in dry compost piles so I will have to do a better job of keeping my pile moist.

2. I need to do a better job of covering fresh scraps going into the compost to discourage rats or mice.

3. I need to turn the pile more often. A disturbed pile does not make a good home.

4. I read up on the dangers of mice droppings and urine in the compost including Leptospirosis which is caused by inhaling infected rat urine. Once the urine dries, the pathogen doesn’t survive. Mostly I am reassured that the compost is still safe to use but I couldn’t find much information on this in regards to gardeners. Still I am going to be cautious even though this is exceedingly rare.

5. I am probably going to need some therapy and some anti-anxiety medication.

Sorry there are no pictures of any mice coming out of the compost. I was too busy screaming.