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AI Internet Takeover: What does it really mean?

 In the past year, AI generation has come to the forefront of the public's attention. It first came to my attention when listening to an art podcast where they brought up Midjourney and frequently discussed its implications and followed its progression and other sprouting AI offerings. Artists were enraged by duplicitous online artwork made in their styles and appalled to realize their art was no longer only being knocked off for a quick profit by cheap online POD merch stores, but now also by apparently anyone who wanted to. Now artists are not only losing rightful income due to copyright infringement, they are at high risk of artistic identity theft. The current climate of visual artists for hire depends on projecting a style, a self-image, online via social media. The danger of that style, that self-identity , being hijacked by anyone who could then possibly compete with the actual artist online or in the market is more than a little unsettling. It i

Zucchini Patch Update

 Hello my friends!

It has been four months since I began putting my garden together, and in the last month, it has really taken off! I have indeed been flooded with enormous zucchini, but not more than I can handle! I'm excited to share with you what I have learned from my first garden!

A colored sketch of the zucchini plant in my garden

First off, I didn't actually know when to expect produce to start maturing, so I was rather impatient the whole time. It turns out July is a good bet for the beginning of zucchini season. My first harvest was a few cherry tomatoes and small zucchini in the middle of June, but production didn't really pick up until early-mid July. I believe if you do some special hacking, or if you live in a different climate, you can plant earlier than I did and probably get an earlier harvest. Also, If you water your plants like you should, then that would probably help too.

It was really difficult for me to water everything consistently, and it reflects in the growth of things that weren't my first priority. The black plastic tarp trick helped keep the moisture in, so the effects of intermittent watering were minimized and no mature plants died. Harvesting consistently has also been a struggle because the garden is all the way on the other side of the yard, and the zucchini plants are so thorny! I was not expecting that! 

Next time I want to use a low-effort watering method in combination with the plastic tarp, either leaker hoses under the plastic OR this crazy method I heard from a friend. She said you drill a few holes in the base of a five-gallon bucket and bury it halfway, then plant three plants around the bucket and you fill the bucket every three days or so and it just waters deep and constantly without stress! 

Next time I also want to use another fertilizer or add another one in combination with what I used this time to make sure that the soil is yummy enough. I didn't fertilize the soil on the side of the house (shady spots) when I prepped the garden bed soil, so those plants could have done better probably. 

A question I had when I started this garden was how important is the recommended spacing anyway? I bent over backward (and even signed up for a newsletter) to find out how to space everything...but then I realized that would make it tough to fit all my zucchini in, so I said heck it and overplanted in places. Overall, I have found that spacing is a recommendation that helps your plants be as healthy and productive as they can be. But they don't lose too much with slight overcrowding. I think I will try harder to follow spacing guides next time, but I don't regret overplanting the lettuce and zucchini as there haven't been significant drawbacks that I have seen.

Another thing I learned is that it is important to do all of the same sorts of things at the same time. Don't think you're going to prepare any more soil once you've started planting or that you will plant anything else after you put your little shovel away! I came by some purple and pink potatoes later and figured I'd turn part of the yard into another garden bed, but it never did happen. The potatoes have just been shriveling up on my porch since I remembered them.

What has produced what:

lettuce: I direct sowed two rows of seeds in the second sunniest spot in the garden, and also in the second shadiest spot with correct spacing. It took about a month for the sunny lettuce to start contributing to my salads, but the shady lettuce took two more weeks. The spaced-out lettuce grew bushier, and the lettuce rows had a lot of tall thin lettuce with five or so leaves, but overall was very bushy. I had some snail problems because of how tight those were packed and so I started to thin them out. I stopped eating the sunny lettuce at the end of July because they are blocked by the zucchini and they have gotten pretty sad looking, but the shady lettuce is still tasting great!

kale: I transplanted the floppy sprouts to the shadiest spot next to the house, and even though it's not great soil they have grown well. This late in the year they are tasting more bitter, but that is kinda what I expect from kale. The grasshoppers also really love the kale. I haven't taken any preventative measures, so they are real holey.

strawberries: I found this strawberry patch in the shadiest spot next to the house, and after cutting back to stems and putting down mulch the strawberry plants were pretty bushy after a month, but we haven't gotten many more than 12 strawberries, I think due to lack of fertilizer and less water than they needed to be happy. The harvest was from late June through late July. To extend the harvest I could plant a few ever-bearing varieties since these all seem to be June-bearing.

cherry tomatoes: I have two varieties, an orange one in the third sunniest spot, and a Juliet next to the house in the second shadiest spot. Juliet is more like store-bought cherry tomatoes and the orange ones are surprisingly sweet. Juliet started bearing in late June and has given us at least a gallon of tomatoes so far. It is easier to harvest and snack on (and also water) because it's right next to the house. The orange ones are really bushy, but the tomatoes are only starting to mature in bulk now in early August.

mountain fresh tomato: This plant isn't more than three feet tall, but is covered in medium-sized tomatoes. We have harvested three ripe and three green for salsas by this time.

orange accordion tomatoes: This is a mammoth plant! It seemed it was bushing out forever and only started setting fruit (strangely gathered and bunchy like an accordion) in late July, first mature fruit probably mid-August.

bell peppers: These were planted in the side of the garden that got morning sun (fourth sunniest spot), and they never got bigger than one foot and set one pepper (still small) this whole time.

jalapeno: Similar story to the bell peppers, all these plants are in shady spots and have not grown much nor set fruit.

banana pepper: This was planted in the sunniest spot and it has really exploded! It is almost three feet tall and has put out 10 peppers that are almost a foot long each. It is really crazy! I hardly know what to do with them all! The original plan was to pickle them, but they are about as spicy as an Idaho Jalapeno--so pretty decent salsa material but maybe too scary for MY sandwich. I might still pickle them if it isn't too hard.

cucumber: This is in the sunniest spot in the garden, which is why it died originally, and I bought a bonnie sprout. It struggled at first but eventually pulled through. I think they needed more water than I have been giving it, but it has produced one whole cucumber (picked at the beginning of August) with another one on the way. It has really started vining out since the end of July.

watermelon: This is next to the cucumber and has a similar story. It is only now starting to vine much and has one watermelon about the size of a golf ball.

cantaloupe: This is next to the watermelon, and similarly is starting to vine now and is thinking about setting fruit.

onion: We planted these all over, but none of them have gotten bigger than a golf ball. the ones that have grown that big are kinda sticking their heads out of the ground, idk if that is normal or if it is keeping them from getting bigger.

carrots: I haven't pulled any of these up because my neighbor planted them, but they have leafy tops, that's all I know.

zucchini: OKAY! What we really care about. I transplanted two seedlings each of golden and black beauty (green) zucchini into the second sunniest spot in the garden after Mother's Day. I should have thinned the seedlings from two per spot to one, but I decided to heck proper spacing and let them all grow. Once they started getting big I put tomato cages around them to help them grow vertically, but when they started flowering lots of buds were getting smooshed by the cage or other plant limbs and fell off. Eventually, the crowded plants started growing in different directions and the fruit and flowers had more space. I learned that it is advantageous to hand-pollinate zucchini flowers, which are open early in the morning, with a paintbrush to guarantee the fruit reaches maturity and doesn't get mushy with blossom end rot. That has begun to be a problem since I don't get to the garden regularly in the morning. I think in total I've lost over 10 mini zucchini to blossom end rot, which is sad, but I've gotten at least 10 enormous zucchini since mid-July, so I'm still happy. A few stray seeds got into the shadiest spot next to the house and sprouted, so I have two younger zucchini plants there. They don't grow as fast as the ones in fuller sunlight, but they are still happily growing their little zucchini. 

The zucchini patch was immensely valuable as reference while I made another draft of my book dummy, which I began submitting at the beginning of August. I didn't want to make a book about gardening and summer produce without having that experience personally, and my illustrations are better because of it. I'm happier with the zucchini and zucchini leaves in my illustrations, but also during my journey, I learned a dozen small things about what goes into taking care of and living with a garden that has informed how I have had my characters interact with the garden. I'm so glad that this project worked out so well and that I enjoyed it so much.

Until next time friends!


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