What is this blog and/or any mention of The Ever-Growing List? Explanation.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 Tomato Review

Detailed pictures of varieties & garden time-lapse coming this weekend!

The seeds (brands/descriptions/links).

Sowing to Harvest
Sowed indoors: February 22nd
Transplanted: April 19th
Transplanted outside for hardening: May 3rd
Planted in garden: May 18th

Harvest: Early August (slightly later than usual)

Harvest sample
(L to R: Certified Organic, Great White Wonder, Brandywine, 4th of July, Rutgers, Big Rainbow, Sweeties)

As with last year, I conducted a taste-test with the help of my dad, and these were the results.

1.) Big Rainbow
  • For the second year in a row, Big Rainbow was the CLEAR winner. We probably shouldn't have started with these, as it immediately set the rest of the varieties up for failure and our taste-buds on a downward spiral.
  • Orange/yellow/red (can vary) outside; swirled insides w/perfect texture.
  • It is a perfect, sweet, meaty tomato--the kind of tomato you're going to give someone who doesn't like tomatoes if they give you ONE chance to change their minds. 
  • Almost like a candy, delicious. As with last year, even sweeter as the season goes on.
  • Sizes can vary from small & round to... gigantic mutants.

2.) Brandywine
  • Dusty pink in color
  • Medium size
  • Sweet and sour
  • Absolutely beautiful insides; meaty, okay texture.
2a.) Sweeties
  • Varied from size of grapes to golf balls
  • Delicious, sweet, pop-'em-in-your-mouth flavor. 
  • These are the way to go. Love them.
3.) Rutgers
  • Good, plain tomato.
  • Mild.
  • Small, round.
4.) Certified Organic Beefsteaks
  • Sour, nothing particularly special. 
  • All plants produced very small tomatoes the same size as the Rutgers variety. Plants given away to others yielded the same results.
5.) 4th of July
  • I wanted to love these just based on the name alone!
  • Produces BEAUTIFUL consistently round, vibrant red fruits.
  • Taste wise, a mediocre tomato which didn't place with the best. 
  • What really placed this so far down is, wait for it, the unbelievably mealy texture. I didn't even finish my test slices.
  • Good candidate for sauces and stews.
6.) Great White Wonder
  • Pale yellow
  • Very large!
  • This was my pride and joy for the growing season (aka my "oddball" variety, as my dad would call it). I had tried one earlier in the season, and it had a delightful, light, very mild taste. However, when the full crop came and it was time to taste test, the taste of these can't even be explained. Not good.

Unranked is the Giant Belgium Pink. I had a whole entire row planted, which produced plenty of foliage... and not one (edible) fruit!

Next year, from this crop, I will again grow Big Rainbows and add the Sweeties. Nothing else particularly stood out like the BR and Black Krim had from 2013.

Friday, May 23, 2014

2014 Garden: Update

While I had lofty goals for this year's tomato garden, it was probably a good thing that half of the seeds I ordered never arrived in time (and 2 months late), as, currently, my garden wouldn't have been large enough to host 12 different varieties. Even after giving away at least half of my army, I still have about 20 plants left, which I will most likely do with as I did last year, which is put them in front of my house with a "free tomatoes" sign.

Sharing, indeed, is caring.

Actual 2014 crop:
Certified Organic Beefsteak
Great White Wonder
4th of July
Giant Belgium Pink
Rutgers (while it didn't score well in my "top of the crop" for 2013, I had extra seeds around...)
Big Rainbow

Sowed indoors: February 22nd
Transplanted: April 19th
Transplanted outside for hardening: May 3rd
Planted in garden: May 18th

I await the first pick!

Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 Garden: Tomato Variety Selection

Being that the middle of February (seedling sowing!) is in just a couple of weeks' time, it was time to weed (pun intended) through my tomato-seed wishlist and narrow down the candidates. After some research, I've come to a final list of tomato varieties I've purchased and intend to try for this 2014 season. There's a mix of traditional reds and experimental blues, whites, and bi-colors.

New for 2014
Brandywine - Heirloom, beefsteak, red.
Giant Belgium Pinks - Heirloom, dark pink.
OSU Blue Tomato/"Smurf" tomato - The blue tomato! Pricey seeds, only 5 in a pack. I am excited to see if I get anything out of these seeds. I hope so!
Pineapple Tomato - Heirloom, bi-color.
Black Sea Man
Watermelon Beefsteak
Forth of July - An early variety tomato, which I am looking forward to. The usual waiting time for tomatoes between the end of June and the end of July is torture.
White Wonder (Heirloom) - A white tomato; I'm intrigued!

From 2013
Big Rainbow (I can't wait to eat these. They're like candy right off the warm Jersey vine!)
Black Krim

I've opted not to start peppers this year, which will free up a lot of time and space for tomatoes. I've become deeply fascinated and interested in the various species of tomatoes and how different their tastes and textures can be. One day I'd like to try to cross-pollinate and come up with my own! One day! For now, I'm determined to have an insanely awesome mostly-tomato garden all summer long.

How many times can I say the word tomato? TOMATO!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bathroom Before & Afters!

I've been working on my house for a couple of years now, trying to DIY everything. It's a very satisfying journey in many aspects, but you rarely feel as if something is complete-complete. However, my bathroom transformation is basically done, sans finding some good artwork!

Sometimes I stand in the hallway and take it all in with this little voice inside of my head going, "Yes! YES!" I replaced what needed to be replaced and kept what could stay (for now!). I recently put down the new floor (TrafficMaster Allure, Pacific Pine) and replaced all of the hardware, which pulled it together. Feels good.

Here are some before (circa 2010) & afters.



Before (*eye twitches*)




Couldn't afford a new cabinet/mirror... no problem, just covered the crappy side with some contact paper and created an entirely new look for about $3.

Frosted window film for privacy, A+. My house gets rather dark, so keeping heavy curtains off certain windows really opens up and brightens areas. There is a frosted contact paper (which I did try), but it's cheap & looks pretty awful. Upgrade to Artscape quality window films; you won't regret it! I have another of their patterned films, and it's beautiful.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

2013 Tomato Review

I've not a lot to admit to when it comes to the way I've chosen my seeds the last few years. I'd grabbed whatever looked decent and had a reputation for putting up a decent fight in my zone. It's not hard to grow tomatoes in New Jersey, after all, so it was easy to sow the usual and reap in the delicious, delicious rewards. But hey, what about a little risk, eh? It was time to branch out.

After doing some research, video-watching, and review-reading, the experiment eventually came down to these varieties: Rutgers, Better Boy Hybrid, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Big Rainbow, and Mortgage Lifter, all of which were from Ferry Morse Seed Company. I planted other varieties and vegetables, too, but for now we'll concentrate on these.

The Seeds
I have nothing but the highest praise for these seeds and will be purchasing from Ferry Morse from now on! The germination time and succession rates were the best I've experienced bar-none. Every single one of my peat pods had two or three strong tomato sprouts within a relatively short span of time, which is quite impressive.

It wasn't long before I thinned them out (you can see some of the sorry siblings whose lives were taken for the good of their brethren below) and put them in cups under some lighting. Even if you don't have fancy lighting, just a basic lamp like this *does* help. This one came out of one of our sheds. I'm pretty sure it hadn't been used in the eight years since I've been here.

You, uh... you can't see it, but they are mostly arranged by how each plant was named: presidents, founding fathers, constellations, fictional characters, friends, and inventors! Benjamin & Franklin were 2 of my favorites! Respect your plants.

By the time they were ready for transplanting, I had 140 tomato plants. I gave about 80 away to other people, planted in my own gardens, and put some in my front yard for the neighbors to take. It was a success, as they took all of my extras. And now they have yummy tomatoes, as well. I love that! Sharing is caring, folks!

Transplanting was as it always is minus the addition of red plastic mulch, which is said to possibly produce higher yields. It's still a bit controversial, but I thought... why not give it a shot?

I'd say it did produce more than my usual amount. As for specific numbers, I just didn't pay that close of attention. The tomato supply was aplenty this year... well, that is, before the groundhog got in.

I lost half of my crop to that groundhog over the course of three days. THREE DAYS! Annihilator! But I suppose groundhogs have to eat too, and there was plenty to share!

And then, the first harvest!

My favorites from best to least: Better Boy (delicious, traditional, split resistant, weighty), Big Rainbow (sweet, split resistant, weighty), Rutgers, Black Krim (meaty, interesting, good balance of sweetness), Cherokee Purple, and lastly was the Mortgage Lifter. They all have their own definite and distinctive tastes; some you'd be more partial to than others. Of course, these are all tomatoes used for different purposes--some great for sandwiches, some for salads, others for sauces and chutneys.

I was most impressed with the Big Rainbow fruit. The last one I've pulled from my garden looked like a peach upon opening, and it tastes nearly like one, as well! It's the kind of tomato you can bite into and not have any sort of sour reaction. My early Big Rainbows were quite small and always purely yellow or orange, but they tasted like candies fresh off of the vine.

I will likely grow Big Rainbow, Black Krim, and Better Boys next year, but I will move on from the others to experiment with new varieties next year.

Bonus: Monsieur Mustachio Tomatooooe and his family (Ms. Tomatooooe, Peregrine, and Snippet, respectively) made an appearance!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Garden, My Garden!

Prepping for planting, pH seems good-to-go for most of my vegetable beds/plots!

This year I'm concentrating mostly on different varieties of tomatoes while just growing one variety of other vegetables. So far, tomato-wise, I've started Black Krim, Rutgers, Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple, Big Rainbow, Better Boy Hybrid, Big Boy, etc.. I've switched seed companies, as well. Ferry-Morse is this year's experiment. I've heard they germinate well, and so far, so good!

It'll be an adventure either way, and hopefully at the end of the growing season, I'll have made a few crock-pots full of insanely awesome chili with some really fun tomatoes and consumed many tomato sandwiches!

This year I've also decided to go ahead and try red plastic mulch. I'd read about it in one of my gardening books before but wasn't sure if it was worth it. There's research suggesting it produces higher tomato yields, around 20% or so. How could it hurt to try? I ordered this pack from Amazon, and I'm excited to see if I notice a difference. Last year produced a fair amount of fruit, but it was less than the years previous. We'll see!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Treating Tilt-Head In Rabbits: Birdy

Hi! You've stumbled upon this post, probably after Googling queries about tilt-head, wry neck, or Ecuniculi in rabbits. You're scared; I was scared! My hope is that you'll find the story of my Lionhead Rabbit, Birdy, inspiring. I want it to give you extra hope if you're despaired and at the end of your rope. I want you to not feel helpless or give up. It's easy to want to, but you're here, now, which means you're engaged and haven't given up. I know it's hard, but here's hoping you get to the solution months faster than I did so you don't have to watch your beloved rabbit flounder.

  • Walking in circles
  • Nystygmus (darting eye)
  • Rolling (in later stages)
  • Paralysis of the hind quarter
Early symptoms frequently overlooked are:
  • Lack of movement around the cage - huddling in corner
  • Loss of appetite
  • Darting eye (nystygmus)
  • Weepy eye
  • Lying close to the floor with head down
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Weaving from side to side
  • Staggering gait
  • Stargazing (staring up at nothing)
What finally helped was this treatment from BarbiBrownsBunnies.

WARNING: There are some grizzly and possibly uncomfortable pictures. Why did I post some of them? Because I spent weeks and many sleepless nights, on and off, over that 4 months, Googling and searching for pictures that portrayed anything similar to how Birdy had become. I wanted to find hope that she could get better, to find before-and-after comparisons, but found few and far between. That was so disheartening. So here, have some heart and some hope!

Here are the before and afters:

And now (October 2012) She even posed for you!

But first, here is the story from then until now!

The Beginning - August 2011
My 7-year-old nephew was after a hamster. He'd been talking about it for months. I'd even taken him to pet stores just to peer through the cages at them and marvel over them. I was even beginning to humor the idea of getting one myself. Instead of going to a pet store, though, I opted to check out my local animal shelter, first, via PetFinder. There I was, taking a casual glance of the various animals as I did occasionally, when I came upon a picture of this glorious creature:
My heart latched to the screen. That face! Those ears! That little lump of fur! I'd never seen anything like her, though. Giant hamster? Guinea pig? Trendy exotic animal? No, not quite! Rather, she was a young Lionhead Rabbit! My family had had a rabbit when my siblings and I were little (RIP Bun-Bun), so I was intrigued.

It wasn't long (a couple of days worth of staring at her picture and seriously contemplating about getting another pet) before I was at the animal shelter with my nephew and mom in-toe to check her out, to see if such a creature could be real.

Upon first seeing her, I noticed she had a strange little head tick. She would go a few seconds normally, but then she'd sort of tilt her head and shake, as though lulling to sleep and then hopping (HA!) out of it. We asked the shelter if that was normal, if something was wrong with her. They said no, but they only did full examinations on the cats and dogs. Someone had found her in a yard, and the shelter seemed to not be too concerned with her. They tried to show me other rabbits, but I felt like I was in an alternate universe. I didn't want another--any other kind--I wanted her. I'd come for her. She had already become part of my presumed future. We were already in it together.

"I'm pretty sure she's meant to come home with me. She just is. Even if she's sick and just needs somewhere to go and die, I'll make sure she's taken care of." I was already on to something, here.

After thinking about it further, researching more about taking care of indoor rabbits and the right temporary enclosures, we went back a day or two later and picked her up. She was moving around okay, alert to her environment, but I noticed her head moved oddly, almost always at a right angle against her own will, and her eye would move from side of side just a bit. I pretended not to notice.

August 13th, 2011

In her new cage the day she came home. Already you can see that her head is slightly tilted right, but I didn't notice at the time except for figuring it was part of her special circumstance. I thought maybe an injury sustained from being outside before being found? Ear infection? I'd only had her for a day and I was full of questions.

That night I set her down to play, to explore, and while I could tell she wanted to, often she just stopped abruptly. She couldn't get around like I could tell she wanted to. She'd move in vague circles, never straight, and she often wobbled. Here's an example of an abrupt stop and the circles (near the end) she was moving in:


Still, though, she seemed to be adjusting okay to the environment. I made sure she was drinking plenty of water and that her ears were cool so she wasn't overheated. All of that stuff was going well. She was going to the bathroom fine. She was even litter-box trained. But it didn't all go well from there. Those subtle symptoms I--and the shelter--had been overlooking turned more obvious.

It spiraled downward. Quickly. This was her six days later, on August 19th.

Her head had tilted so far down, abruptly, one evening, that she couldn't stand. If she tried, she would just spin and spin violently on the floor as she tried to find equilibrium and her feet unsuccessfully. Her pupils would move from side to side, and she'd lost her appetite. It was a heartbreaking sight to behold. The only thing that could be done was to stabilize and secure her, so I rolled up old clean towels and tucked her between them in a plastic storage box to secure her and let her head rest comfortably, thus eliminating the spinning so she could make it through the night.

I put her little box next to mine in my bed, and my face near hers, and kept watch over her. Little did I know, it would be this every night for the next four months.

By the time we were off to the vet, she'd gotten worse. Her head had titled more, and to make it worse, she seemed to be in pain except for when she could rest in certain positions if I held her against me. Her eye-darting had gotten worse. Over the next couple of months, we spent a lot of time like:

August 21st

I Googled local vets to see if there were any that might have known anything about rabbits, and I got lucky. One of the vets did have some experience with rabbits. Off to the vet we went. Yup, the vet said, what I had already since figured out with a quick trip to Google: tilt head/wry neck/ecuniculi. No charge for the visit considering the circumstances (I'd had her for about a week). The staff was super nice and supportive, but we all knew not too much could be done. All we could do was hope the medicine helped.

Medicines: Enrofloxen, Meclizine HCI, Metacam, Trimeth Sulfa.

A diagnoses was half the cure, right? Half the battle.

She had an appetite, even though it was small, and I was feeding her by hand--timothy hay, fresh veggies, and some pellets from time-to-time--and feeding her as much water as she would take.

August 23rd

Oh hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

Have you ever heard a bunny cry? No? You don't want to. Kills you slowly. Or quickly. It just kills you. Ever seen a bunny shed a tear? You don't want to.

Even with the pain medication and the antibiotics, her condition had worsened. I'd been back to the vet, again, but to no avail. I didn't go anywhere without her at this point. I skipped the first week of my family vacation to stay and take care of her. I finally took her with me, though, for a couple of days despite how grizzly things were becoming. My family was pretty awesome about the whole thing and took turns looking after her while I took a short break. Thanks, mom! :)

The amazing thing was that, despite how bad it had become, she was the opposite of a zombie-rabbit. She gave lots of kisses and affection (just as I gave her) and her ears perked up and she often tried to lift her head. She liked to interact and watch everyone and sniff little flowers and things. She was inquisitive and engaged. She had moments of total zombie-dom, though. We had both accepted her situation (okay, so I tell myself) and we knew we had to make it work. I knew she was going to be okay, somehow, in the end, and didn't think twice about that.

These next pictures were when things were pretty bad. But if you're out there and your rabbit looks like this right now or worse (not showing those pictures, honestly), HANG IN THERE.

End of August, family vacation

Her head, pretty much upside down, skin and bones. What you see is her chin/bottom of her mouth.

Aye. Her neck was so tightly wound that I had to juxtapose her body often and keep constant watch. I'm still amazed that she didn't break her neck at any point in the whole process.

My family was pretty great about the whole thing, and I think it taught all of us a lot in the end, or at least about the power of life. Or maybe it just taught me more about the power of life.

Summer wound down with no improvements. I'd made the decision to go back to school earlier in the summer which took 20 hours a week, so my mom would watch Birdy during those hours once school started. She was amazing to have helped me as she did. She often babysat my nephew, as well, when I was at school, so my mom and I would take this big Tupperware storage container with her to my sister's house to keep watch on Birdy before I'd head to school. Teamwork, folks! Family, A+!

September 5th

The antibiotics and pain meds seemed to be helping a little bit at this point, enough that she stayed comfortable and, at times, I could fluff up the comforters and she could briefly sit without spinning so long as she was propped properly. I was full of hope! But mostly she stayed supported and secure like in the bottom picture because she couldn't move without falling over.

September 12th
Oh hi mom!
She was a lot more alert and full of character and affection but still in this position. Still unable to walk. Head completely tilted.

September 24th
She built up enough strength to occasionally venture upward, usually because her BFF, furry monster Hoppy, was around. And yes, I have a dog named Hoppy and a bunny named Birdy. All I need now is a bird named Dog.

With said BFF.

October 6th
Well, hello! A good day, good enough to take a picture.

October 18th
Still not able to walk, but happy and alert, always ready for snuggles. This was about the time that I was able to put pellets in a little bowl, or anything else, and she got back to snacking for herself a little more comfortably

She was like this for the next 2 months, well into December. This amazing creature endured so much, including the human factor (aka me). There were a couple of times early on which were unpleasant. I put her box down while I made my bed, and she spun right out and over her box and onto the hardwood floor and all of the way across the room. And then there was that time in October when I was was taking her small box downstairs, and all of the sudden, at the top of the stairs, she lurched to life from snuggling in her cove of towels, over my hand, and FELL DOWN THIRTEEN STEPS. Literally, from the top of the stairs to the bottom, hitting each of the bottom six. I saw life flash before my eyes.I still see her little limbs in slow-mo squirming in mid-air.

I get queasy thinking about it.

Somehow she survived everything that came at her. I'm telling you this so you don't panic. Bunnies are amazing, resilient creatures. Just remember that! You're trying your best. I know it's hard to when your bunny seems crippled beyond belief or saving, but there is hope!

By the time December came around, I was fully into school, staying up nights to take care of Birdy and studying all of the time, generally not getting a lot of sleep, and despite having been back to the vet and having gotten more prescriptions for antibiotics and medicine, they told me there was pretty much nothing I could do. My only option after that was to let time step in.

Nothing else was acceptable, you know? You know.

But time itself wasn't helping. I exercised her, but it didn't matter. No matter what it was I tried, it simply didn't help. She couldn't find her center. She couldn't stand without falling and turning over. Her muscle tone was gone. Her head was still down as much as it had been back in September. She couldn't walk, and it hurt my heart for her. I knew I had to try something else, and when I saw signs of her progress starting to slip, I knew I had to try my last option.

I had read something early in my research, but I'd been too timid to see if it would help, opting to wait as long as possible to see if the combination of antibiotics, time, and physical therapy would help her.

Basically, this entire babbling story can really just be summed up with this: http://www.barbibrownsbunnies.com/ecuniculi.htm

This site and this treatment saved my bunny. Within a week, I was able to put her down on her feet and she was able to keep standing and even take steps without spinning over with my hands to guide her. We built her strength back up and her head eventually returned to its normal position. The rest is history.

The solution suggested there? Ivomec. Yes, THAT Ivomec: the Cattle de-wormer!

Read the entire page. It is imperative that you read it correctly--that you read everything there and as much as you can elsewhere--so you know what you're doing. If you are afraid, if you don't think you can figure out the right dosage (a tiny amount, just... so, so tiny) then go to your vet and have him/her do it and make sure they understand and read the provided information, as well.

I bought my Ivomec on Amazon. I had ordered it in October after reading about the treatment but had held off on using it until I was sure there was no other option. I wish I hadn't waited so long in retrospect.

A week after giving her her second treatment of Ivomec, she was coming back to bunny-dom.

December 19th
Still slightly tilted right but VASTLY improved. Standing on her own!

December 24th

December 26th
Best Christmas present ever. Ever.

 Currently, her hobbies consist of:
A penchant for snuggling. Your hands are not your own. Oh no!

Fine cuisine.

Snuggling and sleeping between two secure surfaces, probably habit from her good old days in the box.

Stealing covers and being generally adorable.

Being a better lion than actual lions.

Occasionally moonlighting (or daylight-ing?) as the Easter Bunny.

Enjoying playtime outside (and being well-supervised, probably much to her chagrin)

October 2012

Basking in the glory of the reminder of the power of hands, touch, time, and care.
And awesome people on the Internet!

I'm forever grateful to BarbiBrownsBunnies.

Thanks for reading! It's been an adventure!


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