Tag Archives: gardens

Dripping into August

July was far too humid – I felt like I was (and still am) pushing through the air after sweat bath mornings in the garden.

If I had to commute to work every day, I’m not sure the garden would survive, or at least organically. So far, squishing bugs and eggs and more bugs for a couple hours a day has been more effective than traps and lures and early barriers.

It’s exhausting, and the tomatoes are in full, delicious, swing but I’m worrying over those plants now (might be in early days of disease or nutrition issue or too much rain after not enough, and while focused on the tomatoes, I ignored the borlotti beans that sadly began to rot/sprout and I lost at least a third of the crop). And cleaning up tomato goo from inexplicable places days after each canning session.

august-lilies

I transplanted several formerly deer-destroyed day lilies to the confines of the garden late last year and have been rewarded with continuous blooms so far – and different colors on each. Another 3 or 4 plants (with quickly munched blossoms) showed up in the yard this year so I’ll have to eek out a bit more space or plan another fenced area at some point. I refuse to do as my neighbors and spray deer deterrent nearly daily…

august-wildflowers

N and the dog (who continues to be a challenge and I’ve got to pick and squish his nasty bugs (ticks) daily too) go on canine-exhausting adventures every morning and have been bringing back foraged goodies, both delicious and lovely.

Several quarts of berries (which I recently learned are wineberry and yes, an Asian invasive like many of the “wild” things around here) that didn’t make it into homemade frozen yogurt, ended up in our new chest freezer along with much of our recent excess produce – we’ve suddenly become very ungenerous with the neighbors on that front, but I am stupidly, grinningly pleased that we’ll be eating our own veg well into the winter.

august turtle

(One of my favorite vintage tea towels and rare cheap local flea market find from last year.)

And on the fiber front, very little is going on – I’m knitting a few rows here and there and stitching up some paper pieced quilt shapes from time to time. And I’m still organizing my supplies and collections, deciding what to keep and what to sell, though my workroom is still too hot and to be avoided on most days, and I’m so unenthusiastic to start up the huge batch of online auction listings I’d hoped to have up and running by now – I miss the old days of selling shit online – perhaps I’ll try the even older days and do a flea market table instead…

 

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Closing time…

I won’t add to the legion of voices bitching about this time of year when the light is left behind and we’re slammed into darkness all too soon. I’m not adjusting quickly enough, though I never do, and I’m cranky and mad about falling asleep over my knitting most nights. I’m working more at the moment now too, so the loss feels even greater, but at least my home office has viewing windows to the wild antics in the yard.

closing-buck

The weather has been hinky too as evidenced by the laundry basket which contains woolen base layers and snot smeared gloves as well as sweaty t-shirts and cotton socks (I don’t go to a gym).

And I’m shaking my fist at the rain gods who still haven’t smiled upon us much this year.

Thankfully we packed some tomatoes when we went on vacation because those were the last tasty vine-ripened fresh bits of the garden that we enjoyed.

closing-redtoms

There was a light frost while we were away that took out the green beans, and a heavy one the night we returned, so we were forced to pick everything immediately or cover it and hope for the best.

closing-tomatoes

We opted for the acquisition nearly 20 pounds of green tomatoes which were then promptly pickled and canned. Unfortunately, the additional delicious small batch of crispy refrigerator pickles we also made are already long-consumed… I’m not as much of a fan of the squishier canned ones, but I’ll still take them shoveled onto a cheesy sandwich. The lettuces and greens turned bitter and were cooked in a massive heap with lots of garlic and oil and gamely choked down. I’m nursing the last of the borlotti beans hoping a few will mature in time, and a few carrots decided to finally (quite belatedly) show themselves, but I have little hope for them.

Now the non-work daylight is spent pulling out the dead garden plants, moving the deer-chomped yard plants to safer digs, raking and raking and raking leaves and shredding them a bit to spread and dig and dig and dig into the garden… We’ve probably got another two weeks of this nonsense that felt good at first but now seems like it’s eating up too much of the precious daylight…

But the birds are passing through or setting up their winter digs and I’m happy to hear the white-throated sparrows calling out their Sam Peabodys all over the place and the screech owls are more often purring at early dusk instead of too early dawn.

And I’m hoping that the buck who’s been showing up in the yard is the same young “Bucky” that we’ve seen from the previous year – may he make it through hunting season…

 

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Ghosts in the garden, sheep at the fair

Last week saw a day over 100 degrees Fahrenheit here… And it hadn’t rained in nearly a month.

The lawn, which is mostly weeds, was mostly dead, the rain barrels were empty, the well getting low, and my seedling hopes for some fall crops were scorched and disintegrated…

Except for a bit of greens and radishes we managed to save with a pack of very cheap, unused sheer big Swedish store curtains that worked as excellent covers. I love it when having something too late to return and not yet dropped off at the thrift store pays off well – a nice satisfaction and justification for my mild hording habit…

NJwool-ghosts

They still catch my eye at dusk – something phantasmagorical hugging the ground as the bats begin to fly about, but hopefully we’ll still be eating our own fresh things until the frost or just a bit after. The tomatoes are soldiering on despite some still lingering pests and diseases, and it’s finally the time for some of the ugliest but tastiest heirlooms.

NJwool-caterpillars

And our tiny and woefully inadequate parsley plants attracted some munchers I don’t mind. I’m pretty sure they’re Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars, which are quite common around here, but slightly odd since I saw a kaleidoscope of Tiger Swallowtails in the yard this summer instead. I was tempted to mess with mother nature and bring them in to save them from hungry birds and watch them transform, but I don’t know what they do at this time of year – turn quickly, or sleep it out over the winter? I’d hate for someone to hatch in the basement in January and die, so I left them be and they ate every last bit of our parsley and took off (or got chomped). I’d hoped that they would do their pupating thing close by so I could watch and also make sure we don’t mow or turn them under, but they didn’t leave a forwarding address…

So with all of this scorching weather, the last thing on my mind was that it is officially wool festival season around these parts – I had no idea on that 100+ day that in less than a week, I’d be trying not to buy much of anything soft and lovely and watching wooly things on parade… but luckily I saw (and paid attention to) one of those low roadside signs (typically advertising cheap king mattress sets, or sadly fighting against a proposed pipeline) for the Garden State Sheep Breeders festival just in time.

NJwool-jacob

The day was overcast and becoming cool  –  the same seasonally-appropriate weather as the festival in years past. I bought just a tiny bit of roving, though there were more than a few tiny things I’d have liked to buy, especially since I most enjoy meeting the beast (or at least seeing a picture) whom I’ll be spinning or knitting. I get more than a bit turned off at the overtly religious [sheep] breeders though – I don’t want to give someone money who might then use it to support someone or something I don’t. But I guess I prefer being an informed consumer rather than an ignorant one, so jesus fish and bible quotes on your sheep signs are an effective deterrent – I get that whole shepherd reference, but it’s so damn tiresome…

I spent more time watching the sheepdog demonstrations this year, and missed out on the lamb barbecue sandwich because I ran out of cash – always feel a little funny eating those around their living comrades and kin though…

NJwool-herding

These last few days have bright and cool, following a few inches of delicious rain – nothing like the inferno last week. I am once again awakened before dawn by the neighs and purrs of screech owls from the finally opened windows.

But I don’t want to jinx it – the air conditioners will stay in place for at least another month…

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From dirt to delicious

We installed a few rain barrels off of our gutters back in April.

N tapped into his Roman ancestral knowledge of aqueduct engineering and rigged a system to flow away from the utility meters and wiring at one corner of the house a barrel down a hill and close to one of the garden gates.

Then it didn’t rain…

Until the first week of June.

(In the meantime we rigged over 200 feet of hoses from a very stupidly placed spigot on the opposite side of the house to the somewhat delicate well and I had more than one fit of anxiety over the whole thing…)

But now the barrels are filled, the garden is going really well (except for a moderate skirmish with the three-lined potato beetle on our too-few tomatillo plants that seems to be under control now thanks to neem oil, and aphids or something on  the eggplant, but I’m not that crazy about eggplant* anyway) and we’ve been able to stuff our gobs from it a bit.

pasta-rapini

I was a vegetarian for most of the 1990s and early 00s and lived in a city that only caught up with food trends (and since far exceeded them) in the last decade or so. Going out to dinner meant getting the same delicious eastern/easternish ethnic thing over and over and over and over again (vegetable lo mein, falafel, veggie korma, etc. ) or something that was often disappointing and not worth it – especially in “Italian” (Italian-American) restaurants where my only option was

pasta primavera.

Those two words in combination are a quick ticket to destroying my appetite.

The veg was almost always out of season, overcooked, under or over seasoned; the pasta was always bland and overcooked, and then there would sometimes be an overwhelming inappropriate flavor – dried herbs or an entire grove’s worth of lemons.

But N recently whipped up a little variation with some baby rapini I just thinned from our dirt, and local veg from a new-to-us organic farm just a couple of miles away, and my faith in the dish is restored.

pasta primavera

(Though I’ll still never order it again in an American restaurant…)

Since then, and after perhaps too much rain, (but I’m not complaining at all, but have had to try to air out the dirt a bit) the whole edible green-goodness has gone gangbusters. That baby rapini went big fast and has replaced our need to purchase any supplemental greens. I’m a bit worried about the zucchini only still producing male blossoms, but there’s still time for the ladies, and the dudes are at least tasty in the interim.

blossom salad

(And I don’t want to jinx it, but we might actually have ripe tomatoes in a couple of weeks which I can’t believe and I’m so excited about, but it almost doesn’t seem real, and it could all utterly fail before then…)

But for not expecting much in the first year of our dirt, I’m exceptionally pleased.

Although weeding and general garden-tending has taken a considerable bite out of my sewing/knitting/puttering time…

*Eggplant Parmesan was also one of the few dishes I could get as a vegetarian, and was most often a disaster, so it killed my taste for the veg all together – I’m only just now warming back up to it, though I’d rather have it grilled or mushed up into baba ghanoush, or baba ghannouj, or babaganouj or however the hell it’s spelled…

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Plotting my dinner…

We’re a little late with the garden this year, but that’s because we have a brand new big one!

It went from this pathetic thing:

garden-before

To this glorious piece of productive real estate:

garden after-leftgarden after-right

(Too big for my lens)

Still lots more digging  and other random fence finishing tasks to do, and only a few herbs planted at the moment, but hopefully we won’t have to contend as much with the local feral cats and this lovely lady and her buddies:

deer2 003 - Copy

And just playing and planning with seeds makes me hungry…

garden-planning

And when I get hungry, I can get just a teeny bit bitchy…

The whole Whole30 craze is making me really sad, and social media has made fad diets so exceptionally annoying. Back in the ’90s you could just walk away from the Atkins conversations and stink of your co-worker’s daily half chicken from Boston Fartet, but now you can’t putter about the internet without seeing images of plates and shopping baskets and bizarre exclamations of “gee, ghee in my coffee is really awesome!” And many of those shopping basket pics are full of things that aren’t really that healthy or good for the environment – factory farm meats and heavily packaged veg aren’t really food in my book. I get that people struggle to loose weight, have frustrating undiscovered food sensitivities or massive allergies, and have a hard time adopting a healthier lifestyle when they weren’t raised with one. But I don’t get the fad part. I don’t get that the message of eat whatever moderately as long as it is organic or nearly organic as possible, and as local/fresh as possible, and cut out processed shit isn’t good enough? Or experiment with an elimination diet to see what truly does mess you up rather than flatly demonizing certain foods (foods, by the way that populations of entire continents eat daily, so it’s downright offensive to deem something poisonous just because you are privileged enough to not have to eat it or it isn’t a part of your culture).

So I’ll be here sipping my delicious butterless coffee and licking my plate after an occasional small almond pastry while I watch the plants grow (and dig-weary fingers and arms heal enough to start knitting again…)

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