Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Christmas Cactus

Fifteen years ago I acquired a teeny Christmas cactus from Texas. Today it is still alive and blooms only once a year, at you guessed it... Christmas. Here is my first attempt at using my new toy, a webcam. Perhaps it will figure into future blogs in the future. Season's greetings, Mr. Mustache

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just a quick hello

Just to let you know I've written another witty, insightful yet nostalgic post for the Sixties.
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The end of the crop

So that's the end of the tomatoes for
this year. Took these off the vines

before Jack Frost visited these here

parts. Come next year, a new blog.

Don't have a theme yet so I'm open for suggestions. Happy Halloween!

Friday, September 26, 2008

My favorite blogs

While waiting to do the Balcony Tomatoes finale, I thought you might enjoy going down memory lane and looking at some of my favorite Mr. Mustache blogs. Here are a few of them.

Lives is sort of cute and can be applied to all jobs.

Miss Reingold is one of my favorites and should bring back memories to all the Met fans who have a place in their hearts for this New York brew.

Less has been written about the pre Beatles sixties than the longhair era. Here is a nice piece about that world when adults discovered albums.

Finally, like all greatest hits collections, I have included new material! A new post for the Sixties blog about a bed and the Beatles White album.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September Song

So we have one or two tomatoes with potential on the vine. Two or three peppers left. Starting to come to the end of the tomato season. Don't worry. We're not done yet. When the last tomato is eaten and the stalks are in the dumpster the blog will be over. Notice how tomatoes are starting to go down in price at the Farmer's Markets?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's Labor Day

Soon the school buses will be blocking the roads on the way to work. Soon the parking lots will once more be filled with cars. Soon the birthday parties and Halloween parties will start up.

Hard to believe it's already Labor Day. Still have one green tomato on the vine with some promise and a few more babies probably born too late. Like most generation x's these tomatoes will not live up to their parent's expectations. Happy Labor Day All!
Editor's note: Artwork ny Barbara Vizet.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gardening and marriage

Like children and pets, gardening is often a point of contention among married couples. Here is a typical conversation you might hear.
Me: So Uncle Tony, how are the tomatoes doing this year?
Uncle Tony: They were doing okay til we had that hot weather and then I hurt my back and couldn't water no more.
Me: But that's why you have Aunt Marie. I'm sure she was happy to water.
Uncle Tony: Don't get me started.
Me: So Dad, the two of you go out every morning and putter in the garden?
(Father points to our dear mother)
Father: Her... she grew up on a farm and won't even walk in the garden.
Our Dear Mother: Don't get me started.

So, slowly but surely, I'm getting more tomatoes and peppers. Even the basil is coming up. And the peppers will turn red around Labor Day and then go from hot to very hot in Scoville units

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The flavor of a Ramapo tomato

So now we have a tomato that is almost fully ripe. Not that big, but red enough to be sampled. Not as tart as the other ones. A mild, sweet flavor but with
a strong tomatoey taste that you rarely find in the stores. I'm not a foodie or anything but these tomatoes definitely are flavorful.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mid August report

You can see two tomatoes almost ready under the bird netting. A few cayenne peppers are becoming ripe too. Next year I think I'll go back to cherry tomatoes. They are more manageable than Ramapo's, unless you have a yard.
Hello to all of our readers in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Guess for some of you the season is just beginning and you want to hear from the experts on the procedures involved in container gardening, along with a few witty anecdotes.
You don't have to log in to comment, so don't be shy!

Monday, August 11, 2008

the Olympics

Yes this week everybody is talking about the Olympics. Not bad, really. Turn on the telly, sit on the couch, pop a few cans of brew and watch women's beach volleyball. Doesn't matter who wins. It's the competition that counts.
Yeah the tomatoes are doing fine. What's left of them. Maybe I can have a couple more in a few days.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Won't be eating that one

Oh well, one of the tomatoes fell and is now feeding the birds and squirrels of the neighborhood.

THE day is cold, and dark, and dreary,
It rains, and the wind is never weary.
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,But at every gust the dead leaves fall, And the day is dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart, and cease repining,
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all, Into each life some rain must fall.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Hansel and Gretel

Here's Hansel and Gretel with that nice lady who owns a house made of gingerbread and her Ramapo tomato. The tomato plant is a little spindly. Closer examination does, however, reveal a green tomato.

If you have Hansels and Gretels of your own and live in New Jersey you may want to visit the Butterfly Festival this Saturday. Lots of butterflies, music, food and nature related stuff.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The happy gardener

At top: I decided to take some basil seeds I harvested from a plant last year and see if they would would produce new basil. Apparently the answer is yes.
Bottom: Note the reddish tomato at the top of the Whiney tomato plant. The cayenne pepper is also finally getting some fruit. This is the golden time in gardening. Everything is working out. To think, in a few months, we'll be late for work, scraping ice off of our windshields.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The first of the tomatoes

I was as the Shop-Rite and they were selling fresh Jersey tomatoes for $1.50 a pound. I was tempted then I remembered I had two home-growns on my windowsill. So what the heck, I ate one.
A teeny bit green and tangy but even so, a nice flavor. How many of us have started projects only to have them die (literally) on the vine. Perseverance pays.

Monday, July 28, 2008

After the storm

After the big storm Sunday afternoon I checked the plants. The plants were intact but the wind had dropped the large plant almost to the ground. Hopefully, the tomatoes will still ripen on the vine.
Prudence being the better part of valor, I cut off the two reddish ones that were perilously close to the floor. Now they are sitting on my kitchen window sill. Worse comes to worse, I may have to do a Fanny Flagg.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Approaching the quest

Things are definitely looking good on the tomato front. Happy weekend, all.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I had bird netting over the cayenne peppers and they were getting scrunched and the leaves at the top looked wilted. I took a pair of scissors and cut the netting so the plant could come through. It grew two inches in two days. The rainbow effect, while unintentional, is a result of shooting right into the sunlight. This is a learn while we go experience.

Tomatoes are getting bigger but are still green. It's so hot out (it's been in the mid 90's every day it seems this past week) that I have been watering in the evening and morning.

Speaking of hot peppers I bought some Poblano peppers at the supermarket. The kid at the cash register didn't know what they were. I said "Poblanos". He showed me his vegetable and bar code guide. No Poblano peppers. Finally I told a white lie. "Well they're a type of jalapeno." At least that got me out of the store. I don't know if I underpaid or overpaid.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

the Dinky

I think it was on public television a few years ago I came across a documentary on the Princeton Dinky. I always promised myself I would ride it. Over the years I always imagined it as a narrow gauge steam train with conductors in colorful costumes and folk singers.. As I passed through Princeton Junction on the train, I was always envious of those lucky souls taking the Dinky.

Even the term "dinky" had a certain allure. One day Albert Einstein told one of his students he was bound on the train to see his sweetheart in New York, calling her "Der Ingwer Niedlich Kirmes Irrlicht" which the student acronymized as "Dinky". The name stuck and since then, the Princeton Shuttle has been known as the Dinky.

Today, being idle and up for adventure, I took the Dinky. It's a cute train, albeit slow and not always synchronized with the main line. If you crane your neck you can see the towpath of the D&R Canal.

While in Princeton I bought a sale book at a bookstore and was asked if I would donate 5 cents to reduce my carbon footprint. I knew I had left Trenton and was now in Princeton.

Back to the tomatoes. They're getting bigger but are still green.
Editor's note: The Albert Einstein story is bunk.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Trenton

I was just reading about the future of Trenton. Trenton will have smart shops, upscale housing, hip but expensive clubs. It will be like Albany Street in New Brunswick. The funky pizza parlor that every state employee goes to on Warren Street will be replaced with a Pizza Hut. Café Ole will be replaced by Starbucks coffee. The film and jazz festivals will have world renowned hosts and be pricey.
And the grizzled old hipsters will wax nostalgic about how Trenton was so much better before it was discovered. Friendly bars. The weird barber shop. Scruffy film festivals that were not mentioned in the New Yorker. When there were art galleries with paintings for sale under five hundred dollars. All night art festivals that lasted twenty four hours and were free. Just like the people who will tell you how much better Philadelphia or So Ho in New York were in the old days when manufacturers fought with artists over space. Yes, these are the golden days of Trenton.
Speaking of the golden days of Trenton, there is a Wednesday night film festival at Café Ole and jazz on Tuesdays at the steps of the War Memorial during lunch hour.
Back to the tomatoes. The squirrel is climbing the gate I put up to guard the tomato plants and using it as a ladder to sniff around. I moved the gate.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Yes we have some tomatoes

There they are. A bunch of tomatoes. Let's see how the rest of you afficianodo's are doing. I know you're all in Pamplona this week.

Thursday is the first of the Capital City Farmers Markets, State and Broad in beautiful downtown Trenton. 12-2 and there will be a jazz singer, I've been told.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Manasquan Reservoir

Yesterday I took a hike around Manasquan Reservoir with the Sierra Club. The park was full of bicyclists, kids, fishermen, and dogs swimming in the water and annoying the fishermen. The reservoir also is a working reservoir and serves the water needs of Monmouth County.

The tomatoes are fine. Wet but fine.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

So how are the plants?

Sometimes I forget. This blog is about my tomatoes. A close investigation will show three tomatoes. Still waiting on the peppers. Happy Fourth of July.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fourth of July

Since it is almost the Fourth of July, I'm going to share an excerpt from my great unpublished novel, "It must be the altitude". It is a passage about how the holiday was celebrated in the eighties in Jamestown, Colorado.
Jamestown Fourth of July always did its fireworks in a big way. I was inside the family house eating spare ribs when I heard a loud crack in the air that made me think the whole town had been attacked by terrorists. A giant boom, an earth shaking sonic boom. Louder than anything I had ever heard at that point in my short sweet life. A great, astounding tremulation that sent every rodent in town up into the high country.
Yes, it was the great, stupendous, annual BIG BOOM of Jamestown. An annual ritual, with origins dating back to the last century, when miners had lots of dynamite on hand, together with bellies full of whiskey and patriotic fever. For this great thundering event, the locals would assemble one hundred pounds of dynamite and place them over a two hundred pound lead anvil. On top of that was more dynamite, and another lead anvil, about the size of a Bronco. This would all be assembled behind second base in the baseball field. Someone would light the fuse and KABOOOOOOM the top anvil would hurl two hundred feet up into the air. The bottom anvil just went vertically about one hundred feet, towards the stands. Now that was the Fourth of July. "Oh, they're doing that again, Aunt Melray remarked." I was impressed.

The tomatoes are doing well, now with bird netting draped over them. These are going to be one group of expensive tomatoes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My first tomato

There it is. A closeup of my first tomato.

Back to the squirrel. Remembering something I read on the Internet, I bought some hot peppers, they were unnamed at the supermarket and were checked in by the supermarket kid as "chilli peppers". I cut one up and sprinkled it over the ground of the pots and nearby on the wooden floorboard.

Then I rubbed my eye. In agony, my eye full of capsaicin, I ran to the bathroom and poured water all over my face. Hope the squirrel likes the peppers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I have a visitor

I saw two tiny tomatoes coming out this morning. This afternoon I opened up my shade to see how they were doing. The whiny tomato has a visitor. A squirrel. He looks so innocent. Keeping out of the sun in the nice shade I created with the chicken wire.
Editor's note: I can now count the number of visitors in Sitemeter. What an international group! Small but international.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cape May tomatoes

Here is one of my progeny that was imported to Cape May. It almost died in the recent storm, but appears to be doing well. My balcony plants are flowering but so far, no fruit.

Two free events that may be of interest to some of you, the second annual twenty four hour Trenton art festival is this weekend. Sort of fun. Last year featuring dollar beer.

Further afield in New York, David Byrne of Talking Heads has a weird installation where an organ is played and sounds of jack hammers and other noises recorded in New York are activated, depending on the keys hit by the player. In a real funky location at the Marine terminal near the Staten Island Ferry. You can always tell a good show. It's free but you have to sign a waiver. Guess if there is falling plaster that hits somebody David Byrne doesn't want to get sued.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The peppers

Having grown up with a Texan for a mother who made notorious chilli I developed a taste for Tex Mex cuisine. This was augmented by my years in Denver and weekly visits to the famed Satire bar on East Colfax. Moving east, I discovered I couldn't find fresh cayenne peppers in the market so I grew my own from seed.

As you can tell from the picture, last year I had a very large crop of cayenne peppers. I offered them to people but usually they told me, " I have ulcers" or " I have a bad stomach" or "I can't eat peppers, sorry". I ended up freezing most of them and I ate them all winter. Of course there were the ones I put out in the break room at work. The break room vultures took them.

Editor's note: Some tiny peppers are emerging. Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I ate a tomato

Last weekend I bought three tomatoes at the Shop-Rite. I used two to make a spaghetti sauce and saved one to slice up for sandwiches. I had tomato on my sandwich on Monday. On Tuesday I dallied. I looked at the two slices staring up at me between the provolone and the salami. I tempted fate and kept the tomatoes in the sandwich. I lived to tell the tale. Thankfully you cannot get salmonella from tomatoes you grow yourself. So they say.

Editor's note: Welcome to those of you introduced through the Jersey Blogs column. Contrary to what you may have read, we do go off topic occasionally.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

We finally got that hot weather

The air conditioner is on and the tomato and pepper plants are luxuriating in the heat on the balcony. I had some milk that was past its expiration date and I added it while I was watering. Tomatoes supposedly like calcium.

It's farmer's market time again in New Jersey. Hip intellectuals discussing crops with farmers while fingering white zucchini. Here is this year's schedule.

There is an interesting history of Ramapo tomatoes in Dig it magazine. Happy weekend.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

They've gotten big

A little rain and some sunshine. Not bad at all. Yes I've seen Sex and the City. Liked the tv show. Like the movie. I never knew it was about fashion.

If you look real close, you can see the blossom on the plant. The plants in the collards garden are getting big too.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Going upscale

Last week I heard a rather prominent thump on my balcony. There I saw a large squirrel meandering around the plants. It didn't bite into anything. Perhaps it is waiting for some nice fresh tomatoes to whet its palate.

Taking heed from that old expression, "prudence is the better part of valor", I went to Lowes and bought some chicken wire to protect the plants (well, two of the plants).

Gone are the computer box materials. Gone is the video equipment bag. I have gone upscale.

Monday, May 26, 2008

the Novelty is over

When you first get a plant, it is a novelty. You spend all your idle time watering it and fussing over it. Just like when a family gets a dog, at first, the kids fight over who gets to walk it. With a cat they argue over who gets to clean the kitty litter. Soon, the novelty wears out and the kids are complaining over their new chores just because Mom wanted a dumb dog or alley cat.

The same goes with plants. At first you are so excited. Then it becomes a chore. "Darn it, I have to water the plants. Oh cr-- there are weeds all over the garden. And I was just going to watch the View"

I am at that stage with the balcony plants. Fortunately plants know they have to blossom and flower to keep up their owners interest. Tell me when they flower. I think Barbara Walters is on today.

Editor's note: I have changed to settings to allow anonymous comments. It's not like I was being overwhelmed or anything.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More are planted

It was a rush job. The sky contained a menacing black cloud directly overhead. The plants were quickly dumped into the ground.

Later we headed to a bar for beer and whisky. On the way, we saw a pair of rainbows.

Editor's note: Photo from Independence Mall in Hamilton, New Jersey.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The old man

The old man loved to garden but he was cursed with the clay soils of Northern New Jersey. After hours of patience and work the meager plot in Hackensack would at most yield two or three tomatoes, usually in late August or around Labor Day. I always remember the time we grew corn and Mom was rewarded with one ear of corn which the family shared.

When the folks retired to Texas they had a bigger yard and better luck with the gardening operation. In the upper right hand corner of this picture is the retirement victory garden, fenced in to protect against birds and other varmints.

Monday, May 19, 2008

More rain

So we're still getting more rain. April was like May and now May is like April. Enjoyed the You Tube video sent by Mr. Bartok. I used to play Bartok alot when I was a classical music DJ in college. Wonder if they're related.

One thing I would never have the courage to do is to prune the way he does. I always feel happy to have anything and could never behave that way.

Well the tomato plants are getting bigger anyway. My father always waited patiently 'til August before he got a tomato he could sink his teeth into.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


So I am not an organic gardener. I went to a plant store, saw a jar with a tomato on the label and bought it. According to You bet Your Garden (a popular public radio show) you should also grind egg shells and put them in the soil. Here are some hints for tomato gardening I found on the show's website. I have broken most of the rules, starting by rushing the season.

Lolling around the house listening to public radio on a Saturday is one of the great treats of being childless. I feel sorry for all the parents standing in front of the Shop-Rite with their progeny selling stuff so the kids can have sports uniforms.
Editor's note: Comments?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's cold

A month ago it was warm and I put out two of the tomato plants. Since then, it is like fall, getting colder every day. My home and office are freezing since everyone turns off the boilers on May Day. So far the plants are still alive. It should get warmer today. So much for the Farmer's Almanac.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

the Break Room

One of the great things about the world of work is the break room. Here you can deposit stale donuts, fruitcake, shoes, over ripe Roquefort cheese, etc. and within an hour or two whatever was there has been consumed by the break room vultures. Realizing I was getting an oversupply of young tomatoes in congested housing in the kitchen, I braved the rain and deposited a pot with three aspiring young Ramapo tomatoes in the break room. By the time I had brought my camera in to take a picture, the break room vultures had stolen them away.

The whiny tomato is now on the balcony, wet but happy. I have also transferred my two cayenne plants to the outside world. I did share the whiny tomato with one of the cayenne's. There is a theory that cayenne plants scare away squirrels. Salsa anyone?

Editor's note: In this picture is a rare souvenir from one of America's most popular television shows. Thanks, Skitch.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

They grow them big in Texas!

That is black plasic mulch covering the soil. It has many advantages in gardening but can also act as shelter for rattlesnakes.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Texas tomatoes

When I was a young tyke, my mother would take me to visit her kinfolk in Texas. You had to use the out-house to do your business and for recreation they raised fighting chickens in the backyard. On Saturdays they would all drive up to Oklahoma where they would enter the cockfights. Everybody had a swell time, bet on the chickens, smoked and dipped snuff. Well some of the chickens didn't feel so good afterwards.

Today Texas is more sophisticated. A morning traffic jam in Dallas would scare the beeswax off of someone in New Jersey. My kinfolk now drive to Shreveport and bet in "the boats". They do, however, have a great climate for tomatoes. The pictures are of a Ramapo tomato (raised from seeds that I sent them). I don't get the black tarps. Maybe someone can explain them to me.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The thankful tomato

So once it gets warmer we will put another tomato on the porch.


So I went to KMART. The garden shop isn't that great but it's close to home and relatively inexpensive. Took a bit to find the cheapo top soil but I eventually found it in the out of doors annex.
Also got something I hope I can use to protect the whiny tomato and the hot peppers when they go outdoors later this week. They're staying indoors now. It's cold and rainy here. Here's wishing the Czech's luck in hockey.

A whining tomato plant

I woke up this morning and I could hear some rattling in the computer room. It was one of the tomato plants that is still indoors, sharing space in a too small pot. It had gotten big.

Mr. Mustache, when am I going to get to go out to the porch?

I'm sorry, but you are a spare that will be given away. You are an alternate.

But I want to go out on the porch with the big kids. Why can't I go out on the porch?

Because I have run out of 5 gallon pots and I've run out of topsoil.

Well, buy more! Don't be cheap Mr Mustache. Puleese?

But pots and topsoil cost money!

Oh go out and buy more. I'll give you lots of tomatoes, I promise!

So I went to the local K-Mart. We'll see how I do.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A cold spell

It has gotten cold and rainy the past few days. It is also windy, not at all unusual in Mercer County. There is also a threat of frost. Well, actually no official source is predicting a frost. It should come close to but not touch forty degrees tonight, according to the Internet. Still, the guy sitting in the bar a few stools up from me pronounced "we're gonna have a frost". The true arbiter of truth: The news on TV? The New York Times? Yahoo? Or what men say in bars.

Looks like an old co-worker of mine got some seeds from Rutgers and gave them to her mother. Looks like we should get pictures from Texas, Cape May, and now, Jersey City. Should be an interesting year for Ramapo tomatoes. ... If the frost doesn't get'em.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

They're on the balcony

To your left is one of the squirrels that I will attempt to fend off with the fencing, scary bird, and hot pepper sprinkled on the dirt. The weird blue thing on the left is the insulation from a Dell monitor.
It was warm last week but it should be cooler and wetter this week. The plants have turned out to be real hardy and I have two more pots with ready reinforcements should these plants meet an untimely demise.
Later on I will also grow some cayenne peppers like I did last year. Today they are still indoors.
Editor's note: I am volunteering this year at the Trenton film festival. Looks like they will have a lot of interesting if, I think "alternative" is the correct word, pictures this year.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sharing the wealth

My seedlings have done well. I have decided to share the wealth and give some new adolescent plants to a friend who has a real backyard. You may remember her from the collards story a few years back. She has promised pictures if the plants prosper.
So far this blog may seem a little wimpy. So he's growing tomatoes? Big deal. But I promise a fascinating plot. Conflict, battle with the squirrels, the weather and the local barn owls will fill this blog.
Already a squirrel has taken a nip at one of my balcony plants. I have sprinkled cayenne pepper on the dirt and put fencing around the plants. More to come.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The seedlings

Here are two of the seedlings as they looked a few weeks ago. Note the African violets edging into the pictures. The seedlings sprouted very easily and did quite well in the kitchen window. Note the plate they are sitting on. This is a traditional Italian plate that I used to eat spaghetti on when I was a little bambino.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ramapo tomatoes

A few months ago I was listening to Brian Lehrer on WNYC radio and he had a guest from the Rutgers Agricultural Extension service who was talking about the recreation of an old tomato hybrid, the Ramapo tomato. I bought the seeds, planted them in pots and I just transferred two of the teen aged tomato plants into larger pots and put them on my balcony. This blog will follow the adventures of my plants and the inevitable battles with the local squirrels. While not a major opus like the last two blogs, this blog is a summer project, similar to the "Twisting by the Pool" E.P. that Dire Straits issued a few decades ago.
In some ways it is closer to a true blog in that, unlike the sixties blog, it is being written in real time and I have no idea whether my stint as a gardener will work out as planned. I sort of knew how the sixties would work out.