Posts Tagged ‘vegetable garden’

That old saying “Time flies when you’re having fun”  also applies to working hard.

I did indeed go to Alaska.  We cruised for three days up the Inside Passage to Juneau and Skagway.   It was beautiful.



We went whale watching and did see whales, both humpbacks and orcas.  All those amazing photos you see of whales?   Taken by professionals who got 5000 shots just like mine:


Out of focus and not very interesting.   But the experience was fantastic.

We also saw the Mendenhall Glacier.


There was a glacially carved pond along the walk way to the view point.   I loved this.


I was entranced by the moss/lichen forests.


The area right below the view point for the glacier was roped off from visitors.   The arctic terns were nesting there.   I watched a pair in their mating dance; the male flew down to the glacial lake and brought his intended a little tiny salmon.   She accepted it.   Farther down the beach there was a female who was deep in the process of incubation.


We went on a bus tour of the inland part of the state, starting in Canada and crossing into Alaska near Tok.   On to Fairbanks, where I did the tourist things I never did while I lived there:   sailing on the Riverboat Discovery on the Chena to the Tanana River, visiting a gold dredge and learning to pan for gold.   It was fun.

Then we took the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park.   There were more mountains than it seems possible.   And wildlife.   Mostly moose.  This was taken on our wildlife tour in the park.   This mama had twin babies.   They were less than 24 hours old.


When I got back home, there was a 60th birthday to celebrate, which was done appropriately.   Apparently I am not quite done with my birthday.   Yesterday in the mail I received a beautiful ammonite fossil that someone anonymously ordered off Etsy and had shipped to me.   I feel special and loved.

While we were aboard the ship, we sat for professional portraits.   I believe this is a good way to demonstrate how 60 looks.


Back at home, I had plenty of work waiting for me.   I got my day lily bed north of the stroll garden cleaned out, much to the day lilies’ relief.  They were being swamped by goldenrod, violets, wild iris and sundry other volunteers.   That took a few days.

I also had to catch everyone up on their massages, and I have been very busy with that ever since we got home.

Last night Jim mentioned that he thought we ought to rake the algae out of the pond that has been forming.  I went out there to do some of that this afternoon.  I decided to be circumspect about it, rather than just wholesale rake in clumps of algae.   I am very glad I did.   It is being used by literally dozens of tiny salamander newts.   They were not too happy to be fondled and photographed by the local paparazzi.


You can see his gills and tiny legs.   I believe we may  be leaving the algae alone.

Of course the robins have been very busy too.  This fellow was outside my massage room window the other day, chirping loudly to his parents to induce them to feed him.   They were just as loudly exhorting him to move his butt off the juniper and learn to hunt for himself.   He won the day that afternoon, but I saw him out on the lawn a couple of days later, following his papa around and learning to find bugs for himself.   This is so gosh darned cute.


When I left in mid May, the vegetable garden only had the cool weather crops in, and so since the beginning of June I got the squash, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and I don’t know what all else planted.   It is doing just fine.

We’ve been feasting on beautiful salads.


This is how the garden looks today.   Notice the wooden boxes rather in the middle.   Those are the potato towers.   I’ll let you know how the crop is.


Just in case I thought that all this belonged to me, the wren was there to set me straight.


Well, that catches you all up a bit, I hope.   It is a long summer still.   Now I believe I shall hang out ANOTHER load of laundry and then take Ruby for a walk.

It won’t be a moment too soon for Mallory, who is trying to take a nap on the chair behind me and wishing I would move my derriere off Her Chair so she can get comfortable.  Cats.   Always willing to put your importance into perspective.


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It seems that the desert heat of July and August are over.   We got quite a bit of rain in September, not enough to make us even for the year, but enough to make everything much much happier.   Especially me, when I get my water bill for September!

However, rain means grass, which means mowing.   Jim has been keeping up on that chore; in fact he is out there doing that thing right this very minute.    Now, I have lots of clients who have lots of things to say about how their husbands mow off their shrubs, etc.   One of them got to the point where she would plant an 8 inch piece of rebar with each plant she did not wish to have mowed off.   After her husband injured his lawn mower trying to mow off the rebar, he stopped being so callous towards her shrubbery.  I certainly do not have that problem.   This is how the lawn looks after Jim has mowed around the wild flowers and grama grass I am hoping to collect seeds from.

This sort of piecemeal mowing job gives the Compliance Officer heartburn, but we are generally such good citizens that they don’t cite us for our tall weeds.   I can hardly wait until I start the front prairie garden installation.  I’m sure to have several amusing conversations with our local constabulary regarding the height of my weeds flowers.   Doing a front yard no-mow garden often involves educating the local politicians.   I’m practicing my non-confrontational polite tone of voice now in anticipation of needing it later.

Anyway, the grama grass has a friend.   This crab spider has been in the same place for several days now.

This is my curbside Mexican hat  (Ratibida columnifera).   I have a lot of it in the prairie too.

Aside from the fanciful name, I love this flower.   It is a perennial that reseeds itself freely, and yet is not terribly invasive.   It also was one of the few things that continued blooming throughout the harsh conditions we had this summer.

Up in the front entry garden, the colchicums are drawing to a close.   I moved the sternbergia around last year because I wasn’t happy with its location behind the peony, where I couldn’t see it unless I walked out onto the lawn. This is why I love bulbs.  You buy six and after a while you have a lot more.   Anyway, these are doing quite nicely in their new locations.

I have a minature rose by the front door step.   Miniatures seem to be the only ones I can keep alive for any appreciable period of time.   Please don’t freak out at the following picture.  Remember the rose is only one inch in diameter, and you are not even seeing the whole rose.   This little occupant is probably why the rose isn’t full of holes.

Out in the labyrinth, I planted a few bulbs by the central rock.   In the spring there are crocuses and chionodoxa.   Now there are colchicums.   I think I may put a sternbergia out there.

I put in a few hours in the last couple of weeks putting the vegetable garden to bed; at least as “to bed” as I ever get it put, I suppose.   Needless to say, there were a few things that I couldn’t pull out because they were doing so well; like the salad green patch, the chard, the beets, the zucchini squash.   There are also butternut squashes that are still ripening.  In spite of that, I planted all the beds with a winter cover crop.   The first stands are well up, as you can see in this shot.

In the foreground are the leeks, which will stay in the ground all winter.  We pull them as needed.   The far background is the asparagus patch, which I have not cut back because it is busy being the lady bug nursery and pupating ground.   On the right in the background you can see the zucchini plants.

They are not done.

All that gorgeous mulch came out of the compost pile I made last fall from the leaves we mowed up around the place.  That condensed down from a pile three feet deep to one about 9 inches deep.   On top, it doesn’t look like much, but when you take off the top half inch, what is underneath is pure black gold.

Every bed in the vegetable garden has gotten its layer of this grand stuff.   The rest is going onto the hostas and out in front.   Just as soon as I finish this post, actually.

Moving along, we have drifts of wild flowers around the pond and all over the root cellar mound.  There are white asters like snow banks, and clouds of goldenrod and New England asters.   The pollinators are loving this.


The stroll garden is looking quite special right now.

There are all sorts of things blooming in there:  red annual sage, two colors of hummingbird mint  (agastache), a few late canna lilies, little white asters, mexican hat, goldenrod and some other things that aren’t in the shot.

One of the ones that isn’t in the shot that I am quite fond of is a plant I acquired at the Missouri Prairie Foundation plant sale last year.   It didn’t do a darn thing last year except not die, but this year it went to town.   It started blooming in July and hasn’t quit.   It’s common name is Texas Green Eyes, a perfect name for this little beauty.   Sceintifical appellation:   Beriandiera texana.

There is so much more going on out there, but I really must get to work and finish spreading that mulch.   Because very soon there are going to be leaves to pick up and put in a compost pile, and I need that space…

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I’m pretty sure that most of us are far too young to remember the Perils of Pauline, a movie serial circa 1933 that involved the adventures of an intrepid young lady named Pauline.  I don’t remember this, but my mother does, and she used to mention this series rather fondly.

Mother was not that old in 1933, but I imagine that the Perils of Pauline circulated around for several years after the first iteration.  It wasn’t like that had that many movies back then.  Anyway, apocryphal or not, my mother used to tell us that she would save the nickel that her mother gave her every day for the trolley fare to get to school by walking instead.   Then on Saturday she would have enough money to go to the movie theater and see the next episode of the Perils of Pauline.

Imagine.   There was a trolley that she could ride to school on, and it only cost a nickel.   There was no school bus to pick the kids up!  They were expected to walk, ride their bikes or take the public transit.    My, my, my!   How did they survive to adulthood and reproduce themselves?

We are planning on a vacation to California in the fairly near future; going to get our Pacific Ocean fix, finally.   One of my friends said she was willing to look after Ruby while we were gone, and in order for Ruby to have met this person’s dog and be familiar with her place before the actual babysitting, we thought we should get together a few times at her place.   So on Friday, after I had done my morning chores and practiced Qi Gong with my buddy, I loaded up Ruby and got on the Interstate to go see Rena.

We hadn’t gotten very far, only a few miles outside of town, when all of a sudden my truck began to act like a stubborn mule, jinking and pulling to the right, and thumping alarmingly, dragging its heels (so to speak).   “Oh hell,” I thought to myself.   “I have had a blowout.”   I applied my attention to getting the recalcitrant vehicle safely to the edge of the pavement and out of the way of traffic, and sat there for a moment, feeling the high winds of the passing semi trucks buffet my little pickup truck as I allowed my heart rate to slow a trifle.

I watched the traffic behind me through my rear view mirror, and when there was a break I descended from my steed and went back to assess the right rear tire.

I assessed the lug nuts, which were rusted in place, and looked at the spare tire, which was suspended under the truck by some arcane device whose operation I was not familiar with.  I realized that I was not going to be capable of just changing the tire myself, assuming that the spare tire had any air in it….  I kicked myself about a little, remembering my father’s dictum that one should be familiar with the boring details of the vehicle one is driving so one can deal with minor difficulties such as changing a tire.

After I beat myself up a bit, I assessed the rest of the situation.  No cell phone with me.  I had left it at home since it had no minutes left on it.   No water.   No hat.   No air conditioning in the vehicle.    I was about 4 miles from town, I judged, and from there it was another 3 miles of street to get home.   I figured I could walk 7 miles, no problem.

So I put the leash on Ruby, locked the truck, grabbed my purse and strode away from the freeway to the frontage road and proceeded to walk towards town.

Ruby thought this was the most stupid walk we had ever taken.    It wasn’t interesting at all, since she had to stay on the leash due to traffic considerations.    I wanted her to heel properly, but she insisted on walking almost directly behind me and to the right, basically walking the white line that delineates the shoulder.    It took me a while, but after observing her, I realized she was trying to walk in my shadow, to maximize the shade available.

This was pretty difficult to accomplish, since it was just after noon and my shadow was not very big.    It was hot, too, about 94º,  and the pavement was radiating at us.   After we had walked a couple of miles, there was a big farm pond down at the bottom of a hill to our left, so I took her down there and she had a nice cool off, swimming about in the clean water.   Afterwards, we continued our promenade.

I had already ascertained that no one was willing to pick up an older woman hitchhiking with a dog, and after the dog became wet they were even less inclined.    I have to admit I overestimated my stamina, and Ruby was certainly suffering from the heat.   We had covered about half the distance home, and  I knew it was going to be an ordeal to walk the whole way, so when we got to a local geothermal heating purveyor, I stopped in and asked to borrow their phone.   The lady looked askance, but charitably allowed my my one phone call.   I was able to get through to a friend, and she came and gave me a lift home.

When Jim got home, he immediately wanted to know where the truck was.    So I told him.   We unloaded the groceries, and were going to share a beer before going to deal with the situation, but I hadn’t even finished putting away the canned goods when he called around the corner,  “We had better get out there and get that tire changed right now.   There’s a line of storms coming.”

We hastened to the location where the truck was still patiently waiting.   At this point I realized my decision to not to try to change the tire was the correct one.  He had to use considerable force to free the lug nuts, and once they were off it took a lot of beating and hammering and prying, none of which I would have known where or how to do, to convince the wheel to release its death grip on the axle.   Apparently driving on the rim, even for a short distance, does some things to the trim of the wheel that are not necessarily good for it.

At any rate, we got the tire changed, there was air in the spare (not much, but enough to take us the four short miles to the nearest gas station).  We proceeded on our merry way home, and we were almost there when the storm hit.  It had a monsoon like intensity, with winds gusting to 70 mph (according to the weather service).  No hail where we were, thank goodness.    We got home, went in the house and started thinking about dinner.

The tornado sirens went off.   We corralled the cats and put them into containers for taking them to the tornado shelter.   Impy got the actual cat carrier, and Mallory was none too pleased to be unceremoniously bundled into one of our canvas duffle bags for the transfer.   Ruby was happy to be on her leash, we grabbed my purse, the jewelry box, the best dragons and headed out to the storm shelter to wait out the situation.

The tornado did some damage west of town but petered out before it got to the city.   We went back in the house and threw together some Leftover Soup from the contents of the refrigerator.

As we were sitting down to eat, Jim commented, “This has been pretty much a ‘Perils of Pauline’ afternoon for you, hasn’t it?”

I ruefully concurred, adding that I didn’t need another day like that for a while.


In other news, I harvested my sweet potatoes.  Not a bad haul for 7 plants.

I went and spent a small amount of money and repopulated the whiskey barrels.

The fall hostas have recovered from their July sunburn, and are blooming furiously.

So are the sedums.

The local library finally obtained a copy of Hilary Mantel’s “Bring up the Bodies”, which I read with great enjoyment.   Then I went and acquired the first novel, “Wolf Hall”, and enjoyed that too.  I am awaiting with interest the final book  of the trilogy.   Meanwhile, I have become rather fascinated with the Virgin Queen, and am racing through a comprehensive biography of Elizabeth I.

Now, I really must get on with my day.   It is far from perilous today, a nice crisp end of summer sort of day without a cloud in the sky, and I have green manure to plant in the vegetable garden and the salad garden bed to prepare.  I also think I shall do something about mulching the front, which I have been giving short shrift to the last couple of years in favor of the Stroll Garden.

The day lilies out there are performing the plant version of being tied to the railroad track with the train coming around the curve, and I think I should rescue them.

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It is with apologies to Charles Dickens that I title this post, but I just couldn’t resist.  And it is a tale of tomatoes in my garden.

This growing season has been rife with difficulties.   It started out well enough, although everyone was very confused by the extremely early spring that we enjoyed.   It seemed like everything was about a month ahead of time.   This was okay if you were planting seeds out, but if you were planning on procuring seedlings and setting them out, the seedlings simply weren’t available at the time the weather said that they should be.   All those growers and computers just “knew” that I should not have any tomatoes to set out until the middle of May.   By then, it was too late for them to get their roots firmly established before the horrible weeks of over 100º days that were coupled with NO RAIN set in.

Anyway, I had some seeds to plant, and so I did.   Specifically, I have some heirloom seeds of an oxheart type tomato that one of my clients gave me.   She also told me how she plants her tomatoes, and last year, with great trepidation, I followed her method and met with good success.   So I did it again.

You do not start your seedlings indoors.   When it is early spring, you plant your tomato seeds directly into the garden, and water them well.   Then you place a nice quart mason jar over them.   You do not move the jar.   When you feel like you need to water, you just water the bed without moving the jar.  Eventually, your seeds will sprout and grow inside the jar.

For some reason, it never gets too hot inside the jar, probably because it isn’t that big of a surface to collect heat.   Anyway, if your seedlings outgrow the quart jar, you replace it with a half gallon jar, and by the time they get too big for the half gallon jar, it  will be good enough weather for them to survive without protection.

I experimented and discovered that this method also works for peppers.

Considering how long I had to wait for the seedlings I ordered from Cook’s Garden, I won’t be doing that again.   I intend to seed directly into the garden hereafter.  Goodness knows I have plenty of jars.

Notice also the thick layer of mulch on the tomatoes.   That mulch was on all the garden beds.   What it is is clean straw, which is the stubble harvested after the winter wheat crop has been combined.  We buy it in bales form a local feed store.  I use the term “clean” advisedly, since it had plenty of wheat heads in it.  This is because not all wheat is the same height, and when it is combined not all of the wheat crop makes it off the field.  Seeing as how it wasn’t really clean, there were plenty of wheat sprouts to pull up all spring.   But it did NOT have weed seeds, which I believe is what they mean by “clean.”

As things turned out, my tomatoes were doing fairly well considering everything.   But they weren’t ripening.

Very frustrating to have such lovely tomatoes that stubbornly remained green.  Then the weather turned Saharan on us, and the tomatoes did not like it at all.   In order to try to preserve them, I put floating row cover over them and also installed shade cloth on the south side of some of the cages.

And we watered assiduously.   For the first time in my life, my water bill was higher than my electric bill.   It didn’t really surprise me, I was expecting it to be high.   But it was quite impressive.   We are so fortunate that our town has very deep wells that produced well all through the drought and heat, so we were not put on water restrictions like some of the communities to our south were.

You might surmise from the way the plants look that they are suffering from the heat and the drought and that is why they are brown and toasted looking.   You would be partially correct.  The heat and drought made the ants hungry, and the little darlings established aphid colonies everywhere, and also availed themselves of the stem integument as a dietary supplement.   This made the tomato vines very unhappy indeed, and also made them susceptible to various soil borne fungi, which is really why the vines are all brown.   It is more than likely that what is going on here is Fusarium wilt, which is quite common in this area.

Fusarium wilt is why I never put my spent tomato vines into my compost.  I also generally do not put bean plants into it either, as they are generally infected with viruses by the end of the season.   Squash vines also don’t go in there since there are always eggs from the squash bugs on the leaves and quite often borers in the stems.   All of these items get put on the bonfire.   Since I have been doing that, the disease problems in the garden have subsided.   There are still disease vectors, of course, and the bugs come from all around.   But problems have become minimal.

One pest that I have not been able to get rid of is the squirrels.   I realize that there are lots of people who think these animals are cute, with their fuzzy little faces and their flicking tails.   They play together so nicely in the spring when the babies emerge from the nest.    Just don’t ever forget they are rodents, I view them as rats with furry tails.   And they LOVE tomatoes.

Once they have started chewing on a tomato it stops ripening and becomes a haven for the millions of ants to eat off of.    And squirrels are not particular about whether the tomato is ripe:  they will happily eat the ripe half of a half-ripened tomato, which will then rot on the vine.

Squirrels also love beans, and corn, and squash.    I have seen them climb my corn stalks and cling to the plants, gleefully shucking the fresh corn and eating it right off the cob.

Cute Schmute.  I’ve heard that squirrel stew is quite tasty, but it will never appear on my dinner table.   For, as Jim says, “I don’t eat rat.”

However, all that aside, the tomatoes have done pretty well this year.   I have been roasting them regularly and have put away about 15 pints of new roasted sauce to join what was left over from last year.

This is a portrait of last night’s salad.

This was picked about half an hour before we ate it, and contained arugula, kale, endive, mizuna, chard, beet greens, mustard, cucumber, yellow zucchini, carrots, asparagus, beans, broccoli, and a couple of tomatoes the squirrels had missed.

So in spite of the weather challenges and the varmints, I would say we have had a pretty successful garden year.  We are thankful.

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I was always a weird child.   We took advantage of the hot lunches at school, and when spinach or broccoli showed up on the menu, I just really enjoyed them, much to the disgust of my fellow fourth graders.

I think maybe this was because since we lived in the mountains in Colorado and it was a long way to Safeway, my mother shopped for groceries only once every two weeks.   She was committed to providing us with a balanced diet, and so there were always vegetables on the table, and they were always out of the frozen food section.   They also were always the least expensive varieties, so we had corn, green beans, carrots, peas, peas and carrots and mixed vegetables served on a regular basis.   Spinach and broccoli were occasional treats.

Anyway, for whatever reason, I have always loved my vegetables, and broccoli is one of my favorites.  It wasn’t until I started growing my own that broccoli achieved the status of a love affair.   The difference between broccoli that you grew yourself and picked a few minutes before it was steamed and the broccoli that has travelled all the way across the country to a warehouse, sat around there and then travelled some more to live in the cooler of a supermarket for several days before you actually purchase it is indescribable.

I’m sure if I had know the sweetness and tenderness of  fresh broccoli earlier in my life, I would have committed more garden space to it sooner.

Nutritionally speaking, broccoli is one of the dieter’s friends.   It is packed with all sorts of nutrients including vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, lots of potassium and even sports a complete array of amino acids, which makes it a decent protein source.   Of course, there are also cancer fighting antioxidants and fiber to keep your colon happy.  All of this benefit with relatively few calories:  24 calories per one cup serving.

When you start growing broccoli, you discover that you are not the only being in the world who thinks it is tasty and nutritious.   Believe me, I have watched my broccoli being consumed by cabbage looper caterpillars, and corn ear worms are not averse to feasting on broccoli either.

As an organic gardener, I will not douse my vegetables with poisons.   Over the years I have tried diatomaceous earth with limited success.  Bt is something that works, but you have to keep applying it.    Over the years, what I have found that works perfectly is the floating row cover.

Here is a shot of floating row cover in action.


It acts as a physical barrier to the bugs.   Since they can’t get through it to lay their eggs, there are no caterpillars munching the broccoli.   I also use it to protect my eggplants from flea beetles.   I cover my sprouting beans and peas to keep the blue jays from eating the sprouts.   This year I am using it as a light shade to keep the tomatoes from burning up.

As you can see, I have it deployed over hoops.   The hoops are not really necessary, the fabric is so light it will rest gently on the plants and not bother them.   But I like the way the hoops look and also with the row cover stretched over the hoops I have discovered I can water right through it.

Here is my broccoli patch, approximately five days ago. I have the row cover pulled back for picking and weeding.

Despite the hot weather, my broccoli is doing just fine.   I plant a variety called Calabrese sprouting, and once you have picked the main heads the plants continue making side shoots in great profusion.

This is the picking I made that day.  It is the third picking of side shoots I have made.   Some of these are over three inches in diameter; not bad for a side shoot.

I made a delicious salad out of this.    First you lightly steam the broccoli.   Then you lightly toss it in olive oil and  roast it  at 450 until it browns.   Then you toss it in a mixture of 1/4 c soy sauce, 1/4 c rice vinegar, 2 T sesame oil (I used roasted sesame oil), a little salt and pepper, and 4 T toasted sesame seeds.   At least that is what the recipe I found on the Food Source site told me.   I thought that sounded a little bland, so I added about 1T honey, and chopped 1 T ginger and 1T garlic and added that to the dressing.

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