Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Birds, Tobacco, and the County Fair

I'll be upfront and tell you that the three subjects in my title are not related in any way.   They are completely independent topics.  But with my limited time to update this blog and my desire to write about topics while they are still relevant, I am clumping some of our current events together for this week.

1. Keeping birds away from our sweet nectar.

Some of you have asked how we plan to control birds in the vineyard so they won't eat our grapes.  Most vineyards will put netting over their vines.  This is probably the most effective way to keep birds out, but it is also very costly and time consuming taking the nets on and off all the rows.  And time is not something we have a lot of right now.  With just 220 vines producing grapes for our first harvest, and the fact that we are not dependent on them for income this year, we are testing out a few other methods to see how they work. 

We bought a bird call from a local grower. 

Aaron set up speakers in the vineyard that are attached to this bird call device and every 10 minutes, the sound of a distressed bird calls out, "Ka-Ka!!!  Ka-Ka!  KA!"  Or something like that.  It's not a pretty sound and is supposed to be the sounds of a bird in danger.  The idea being that all the other birds will flock from the area because they believe a predator is nearby harming or killing their own kind. 

It appears to work relatively well, but probably not long term.  Even though these same creatures fly into house windows, they are not as dumb as they seem and after a while, I think they will figure out that they are being fooled.  But it only needs to work for a few weeks...until grape harvest. 

We do feel a little bit bad for our neighbor who has a row of birdhouses lines up on a fence that borders our property.  I'm sure he appreciates us scaring off his tweety birds with obnoxious sounds.

Aaron also put up some flash tape, which looks like red and silver shimmering streamers draped across the vines.  It's a little bit hard to see in the picture below, but they reflect sunlight, flicker with the slightest breeze and are meant to distract and confuse the birds and thus fly away.  Jury is still out on this.  Of course, trying out both of these methods at the same time, it's hard to make a clear decision on which is most effective.   But both working in conjunction seems to be working okay so far.

2. I forgot about one of our gardens.  Oops!

I know, I know.  How could I forget about a garden?  Pregnant brain is my excuse for everything these days.  In early May, we set up an area out in the field to grow some things that germinate later in the summer and into the fall and keep them separate from our original garden.  Here's Aaron putting down landscape fabric between the rows to prevent weeds.

We planted a variety of pumpkins, gourds, spaghetti squash, and tobacco.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when I walked out there the other day and saw all sorts of things sprouting up. Weeds among them, of course.  But those random pumpkins we planted, squash, and all of Aaron's tobacco plants for his second try at cigar rolling are benefiting nicely from the rain and heat we've had this summer.  I didn't get any good shots of the pumpkins yet.  Still to come.  But last year, I promised to show you some pictures of the tobacco plants while they are still green so you know what they look like.

I told you they are pretty plants!

How could I have forgotten about our second garden?

3.  The County Fair is taking place THIS WEEK. 

The big moment I have been waiting for to show off my prize zucchini has snuck up on me! I have been nursing one zucchini all summer long, watering it, talking to it, helping it grow into a blue ribbon winner...but it started turning orange already.  So last night I scoured the zucchini patch full of oversized zucchinis and picked out another one that I think stands a chance in the competition.  We didn't have a digital scale to get its exact weight, but we weighed it on a bathroom scale somewhere over 6 lbs.  About the size of a small newborn baby. 

But not as cute. 

And since I was entering one thing, thought I'd throw a few more in there as well.

Strawberry Jam, with the help of my friend Staci.  Check out her new blog--she reveals some big cooking and canning secrets.  Not sure that a rookie jam maker like me can win at the County Fair, but I've gotten some great reviews on the jam and thought I'd throw it in there and see how it measures up.

Most Unusual Vegetable.  I honestly have no idea what they are looking for in this category.  I decided their lack of criteria meant it was pretty open ended, so I am going to throw in a couple of those weird hybrid squash gourd zucchinis I plucked from the compost pile. 

Zucchini Bread.  Because I've made 672 batches of zucchini bread this summer, I am hoping I've got my favorite recipe down by now. 

Zucchini Relish.  I've never had this before in my life. What do you eat with zucchini relish?  Is it any good?  We'll find out.  I don't have a picture since Staci and I just canned it the other day, but it looked a lot like a pickle relish, but with some red peppers mixed in.  We made one batch and are each going to enter a can and see if one does better than the other.  We're sly trying to fool the judges like that! 

Wish me luck and I'll let you know how I do.