Tag Archives: grow your own

What Phil* had to say

It’s a bit disorienting to be in February and have only been through an extended mud season – mud from rain, not snow (except for a tiny bit). I don’t mind a mild winter per se, but the ticks haven’t died (have I already bitched about the ticks still hanging on – on the dog – this winter?) and I’m sure the garden’s not-frozen foes are planning their evil attacks…

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Go back to sleep! #january #itsnotspringyet

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But there is still ample time for a blizzard or two, so I’ll shut the hell up.

Thanks to N with his speedy PVC erection skills, we’re good to go with seed starting this year – just need the electrician to add a plug, and a few more supplies.

feb-grow

The signs of spring are urging us to eat up last summer’s bounty – we’ve barely touched the frozen veg, but we’re down to just one butternut, and the last of the juicy peak of season blueberries made their way into a pie.

None of my current knitting projects wrapped up by the end of January, so they’ll be finished when they are – soon, likely, for the socks, and I have to really force myself on the sweater – I need the needles from it though (to start another likely long-suffering, but less painful to knit sweater) so that might be the needed kick to the finish line.

I put the hand crank on the Singer red eye.

feb-crank

And it will hopefully be awesome – now, not so much – the machine is far more gummed up than I thought and the movement is sluggish (I think I last used it in 1999? and it’s been in and out of basements and storage units) – and I have to learn a bit more about disassembling parts and well-greasing and whatnot. “Fixing” old sewing machines for me has just been a good wipe down, oiling, and replacing a missing part or two, so it’s time I get a few more mechanical skills on that front – and at some point, I’d like to be able to restore the finish and whatnot, but maybe not – I want to use these machines, not look at them being pretty.

*as in Punxsutawney.

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Garden end days

(I’m sick over this election bullshit and low maddening hum of misogyny like a high voltage wire stretching over the continent here, so let’s stick with some light “lunching ladies” garden talk for now…)

The garden broke me this year – there wasn’t a single plant (except the hot peppers) that wasn’t hit with disease, multiple diseases, and pests – even the fresh dirt in the new raised beds now harbors various evils.

garden-end-eflin-thing

There was some balance – some of the new pests attracted some new predators – but not enough, and/or not in time and I’m going to have to be even more proactive next year with using more or other organic interventions.

garden-end-mantis

The fall crops mostly failed from no rain and continued heat through September, but a few sprouts are gamely hanging on, and the poor embattled (nearly zombie) tomatoes are desperately trying to ripen their very last fruit.

garden-end-army-worm

We had a few more butternuts than last year, but not enough for the work we put into them to keep them alive, and my experiments with letting some volunteer plants grow failed miserably since they were a month or more behind and maturing at the height of pest season.

garden-end-squash

Google took new satellite images of our town and our garden can be seen from space! Near space, that is, and luckily it was captured after a fresh batch of straw in the aisles and before the plants got big, so there’s good contrast.

garden-end-satellite

The new garlic is now in, and the old garlic is already half consumed – unfortunately we’re definitely not going to make it until next year’s crop.

garden-end-canned

And the canning is finally wrapped up – just tomatoes in various consistencies, jalapeno salsa, and a tiny batch of overly sweet hot pepper jelly. The rest of the bounty is tucked away in the new chest freezer. I experimented with blanching or not with a few things, so we’ll see what worked best, and anything too mushy to eat is heartily consumed by the canine, so it’s not a total loss.

Now starts the month or two of raking and shredding leaves…

(And a heads up that I agreed to put “a subtle message” urging Americans to register to vote in my posts, so if you see it, it should be there, and please vote unless you like Trump or any of the other election-throwing candidates, then please stay home.)

 

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Creeping madness garden tour

I am filled with disgust for my country these days – we’ve often been on tenuous terms, but the politicians (especially the oddly coiffed asshole), some law enforcers, and a few everyday folks are creating this entirely horrific trifecta of ignorance and madness and triggerhappiness…

I think about making things as a response, or a way to process, some of the news, but by the time I put needle to cloth, another something terrible happens and I retreat to less loaded projects.

The garden is back to serving as a place where I can zone out while pulling weeds and waging a calmer, natural war.

I just called in 1,500 ladybug troops to neutralize the aphids.

garden-ladybugs

Releasing them was ticklish.

And reminded me of this book:

garden-creeping madness

Or rather, the cover – it’s a narcotics education book I inexplicably had as a kid.

(I’ve also been mildly interested in dunking my feet into a tank of flesh-eating fish to clean up the dead skin – but while a few creepy crawly nibbles don’t bother me, a dozen or so might. But never, ever centipedes and millipedes – I must admit, I’ll occasionally jump and scream at little at those – especially when they charge.)

And yes, the vast majority of the ladybugs flew away, but a handful stuck around – no noticeable reduction of the aphids, yet…

garden-gooseberry

The gooseberry bush is fruiting away and I tried one at the first blush rather than waiting for it to fully redly ripen – it was pleasantly tart and tasted nostalgic.

We’re eating so much lettuce and greens that our blood and guts seem laden with chlorophyll – I’m expecting a bud or tiny leaf might appear from a popped pimple.

But I was overjoyed to indulge in one of my fleeting favorites recently – garlic scape pesto – followed by a few pickled scapes sprinkled on salads and sandwiches.

garden-beanpole

N disassembled parts of one of my old (large) wooden sculptures from college to create an industrial-strength pole bean teepee. I’d clung on to the still semi-unfinished piece for more than 20 years – seems ridiculous now – and the rest will become warmth and marshmallow fuel in our fire bowl.

garden-lots-o-zukes

And I don’t want to jinx it, but this year, the ladies have finally taken over in the zucchini patch – last year it was mostly dudes – tasty, short-lived dudes.

garden-baby toms

I don’t think we’ll get a lusty red ripe tomato by the 4th of July this year, but hopefully it will come shortly thereafter. And the heirlooms are way ahead in the race – the sauce tomatoes might end up flirting with the frosts again.

garden-seats

And N pulled a slightly rotting outdoor settee sort of thing out of the trash, and with a few new pieces of wood and a fresh coat of paint, we can now sit and watch everything grow.

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Oh garden, my garden

The garden has continued to exceed my expectations for first year dirt.

garden-full

Don’t get me wrong, it’s got many problems, but we’re at the point where we can eat something from it every day, and I’ve been able to freeze a few things too.

garden-stuffed peppers

(I’ve got my fingers crossed for a big tomato canning session soon if all goes well).

And it is immensely satisfying – both in eating something homegrown and not having to shop for veg of unknown origins.

garden-green stuff

But I’m still learning a great deal and battling far more pests than I’d expected – my former urban gardens didn’t have half the critters that live in or near the country like we do now, and the bone-dry spring followed by a swampy June has messed things up a bit…

Three lined potato beetles went to town on the tomatillos, followed by a minor invasion of cucumber beetles on the squashes that I thought were just baby three lined potato beetles, but weren’t and are much worse… (Thanks K for catching that one!). Powdery mildew is making sad stuff of the zucchini and I found end rot on one of the precious tomatoes. The cauliflower went ricey early (but I put that in too late and didn’t expect much), leaf miners have been selectively browsing, the cilantro bolts practically the second I put it in the ground, some things are misshapen likely due to soil deficiencies or the wacky rainfall, flea beetles have made lace of the eggplants and I’ve given up on them entirely, and there is something that I fear to be leaf spot on some of the peppers (though the actual peppers haven’t been afflicted).

And some fucker is nibbling on the tiny watermelons.

garden-watermelon

So I’ve been spraying concoctions of soaps and oils and baking powders of dubious efficacy, though still organic, and squishing everything evil in site, but it’s also been a joy to watch the area become even more populated with daddy long legs, lady bugs, praying mantis (though those can be a bit evil too – I had no idea that they ate hummingbirds – hummingbirds for chrissakes!) and birds, though we’ll have to address keeping them out of some parts when we put in berries.

But we’ve had some glorious tomatoes by the first week in July, and…

garden-tomatoes

an early panzanella…

garden-panzanalla

and caprese salad…

caprese

makes it all worthwhile…

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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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