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My pot of tiny Mother of Millions babies has sprouted company.
Look at these cute little mushrooms. I can just hear their tiny adorable voices, saying, “Hi–you suck!”
Regardless, I killed these mushrooms. I watered the other houseplants and strung up the tomatoes and cucumbers, and pulled out some of the terrible cilantro-smelling weed in the front bed, and tipped the four inches of water out of the blueberry pot. I gather it’s not draining well anymore. I’m headed for Seattle for a week to visit my family. I’m going to miss my first zucchini while I’m gone, and I expect the garden to be an unholy mess; but that’s what I get for vacationing in the summer, and it’s worth it. See you in a week!
I found this little guy on my patch of Chantenay Red Core carrots a couple of days ago. The carrot patches are jungles of insects–beetles, flies, the occasional ladybug, and this grasshopper. I looked up grasshoppers and I should have killed him, but I probably wouldn’t have anyway. I’m not very afraid of locusts eating my crops (though I did read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books) and I’m kind of glad to see all these insects hanging around, as long as they don’t overstay their welcome. I feel like a proud hostess.
My garden is drowning. My whole house is afloat. Not literally; there’s some water in the basement but that’s because we didn’t clean the gutters in the spring (or the fall). I think. I may have contributed to it when I dug the herb garden.
The herb garden is on the side of the house, you see, a fairly narrow swath of lawn that was absolutely useless to us except in increasing the exercise Eric got while mowing. So I claimed it: I killed the grass and added soil amendments and dug beds and paths. I dug down to make the paths. It made sense at the time; I wanted elevated beds to discourage rabbits (which was worked beautifully, unless the rabbits wouldn’t come that close to the house anyway, but I doubt that) and digging down made more sense than adding dirt since we were on a tight budget. I didn’t think about how we still don’t have a rain barrel for the gutter that comes down that side of the house. I didn’t think about the torrential summer rains.
And now it’s raining heavily for the third or fourth time in three days. The driveway is awash; the neighbor’s pool is noticeably fuller than it was; and my herb garden is drowning. The paths are flooded. Spots in the beds that weren’t quite high enough, like where I planted the new turnips and basil, are flooded. The gutter opens onto the path. Which I figured was better than rushing out onto a bed–maybe this is actually better than planting things flat, without the grass to soak up the water–for the garden if not the house. I never did put in a rain garden. There are daylilies and hostas that were already there, but that’s all. When the floodwaters recede, I may need to rethink things. And possibly replant.
I’m feeling kind of fussed and discouraged and downcast for no good reason. Especially since I got the quilting done I needed to and I think I won a contest at work and the freelance work I’ve been discussing is moving forward more quickly than I thought. Okay, I know the reason: it’s weird living alone again, even temporarily. I guess I did have a reason for keeping Eric around after all.
But my life is good, even though the storm kept me from getting any kale for dinner, and there are pictures to prove it. Here is my tiny guest of honor in the herb garden:
It’s a Cherokee wax bean, and it’s less than an inch long. Well, it was; it rained terrifically and then was sunny and then rained again, so this thing may be the size of my index finger by now. I’ll check tomorrow if it isn’t still raining.
(The very brown pine branches in the back are from the dead Christmas tree that’s supporting the beans. I think I made a few people at our ice cream party seriously doubt my competence when they saw that and thought it was supposed to be growing there.)
Behold: I have now gotten further growing indigo than I ever have before!
And then there’s this lovely little thing.
Carol gave me her borage seeds this past winter, saying she wasn’t going to plant them this year, they were so huge and reseeded so much. (She moved this year from a community plot to her own backyard, by the by, so there are none in her garden to my knowledge.) My borage plants are still very short–about a foot tall–but this one has made the first move, and I love it. I will taste later flowers to see if they really do taste like cucumber. (Not that I doubt, you know, the entire gardening world; it’s just best to verify these things for oneself.)
Eric’s away at Origins, a gaming convention, so I have five glorious days of cooking whatever I want for dinner. (I would like to note here that A, I love my husband very much and missed him this morning before he’d even left because I had to go to work first, and B, it’s not like I couldn’t cook what I want for dinner ordinarily, but I often don’t because if we’re not cooking together, Eric generally won’t bother to cook for himself and will opt for chicken nuggets or Testosteroni instead, and I would like his arteries to survive longer than his current car.)
Today it was aloo mutter: fry ginger and pureed onion in oil, then mix with cumin, chili powder, salt, and my feeble imitation of garam masala, then add frozen cherry tomatoes and water and potatoes and garden-fresh peas and cook until potatoes are soft. Tomorrow I’m thinking lentils with kale and caramelized onions. And the cilantro is already doing its best to flower, so cilantro-walnut pesto and another cilantro planting are in my near future.
I’ve been looking forward to tonight’s meal since I planted the peas. I suspect it will become an early-summer ritual (and fall if I get my act together enough to plant fall peas–when do those go in?). Maybe next year I’ll be able to use my own potatoes and onions as well. I did root around at the bottom of my potatoes, but didn’t find anything except lots of fibrous roots, and I had nothing to dig with and the mosquitos had found me, so I gave it a miss.
I planted Golden Sweet peas and Pioneer peas, and picked some of each for this meal. The Golden Sweets were lovely snap peas, sweet and crisp; I tried a Pioneer pod early on and it was tough and unappealing. The Golden Sweet peas themselves are starchy and thick, while the Pioneer peas are sweet, even sweeter after a light cooking. I noted with interest that the Golden Sweet pods still taste fine, even though the peas need cooking to be good, and briefly considered saving the pods but decided it was too much work and swept them into the compost bowl with the others.
The remaining Golden Sweets that have swelled past snap pea stage will become seed or soup peas. The remaining Pioneers may go into more aloo mutter if there are enough, or will be popped for snacking if not. Other things are afoot in the garden–I have pictures but it’s late and the camera’s downstairs, so tomorrow I will show them in their miniature glory.
Some 8,000 steps’ worth of gardening yesterday, mainly while the peach ice cream was churning (there were two batches). I strung up the tallest tomatoes (this morning I plucked some suckers off, then realized if I did all I needed to I would be late for work and got in the car) and noted that my dry beans are coming up, which relieves me. I weeded a little, and took pictures, and wondered why the Beaver Dam peppers are growing so much faster than the Burans. I moved the piles of mulch from the middle of the backyard, where the previous owners had a sandbox and tried to make a sort-of flower bed around it (not well, since it’s right beneath an enormous shade tree), to the new back fence bed and to the perimeter of the herb garden.
The perimeter includes the non-edible bank by the house (because I’m afraid of lead paint residuals) where the potted pitiful blueberry, the elecampane, and some flowers are; the hostas that were already there; the coneflower and butterfly bush and scarlet flax I planted this year; perennial herbs including feverfew, wormwood, hyssop, lemon balm, and chives; and the Swiss chard, because they just happened to be on the edge. I like the idea of the herb garden being rimmed with perennials, decorative and useful, with the inner beds planted and changed every year. It’s changing even this year so far, with the removal of the brassicas, the addition of Hutterite beans, the disappearance of all celery except one, and the planting of extra basil, turnips, and carrots I did yesterday.
The brassicas are all doing okay right now. The new transplants have recovered and look good, though I don’t know how long they’ll stay that way. The kale is gorgeous, the turnips and beets are holey but healthy, and the three broccoli that are left are big and frosty-looking. I don’t think I’m going to get anything from them, but I don’t really need the space, so they’re welcome to hang out and grow for the time being. I figure I can plant my second try at fall brassicas where the lettuce and rocket are once they’re finished, and probably where the first wave basil is once it starts going to seed. I must say, this succession-planting thing is more taxing on my organizational skills than the plant-it-and-be-done philosophy I was mostly following last year. But it’s more interesting, too.
I am the pleased owner of a raspberry patch! If they live, anyway. Edith had a glorious raspberry patch last year, and while we were taking care of the house while she was gone in the summer we harvested some. They were marvelous. But she feels the plants she has are enough, and over the past couple of years those plants have spawned babies she wanted to rip out. So she dug them up (way too close to the stems for my liking) and gave them to me.
There’s one really good spot in the yard for growing fruit: by the fence that separates the backyard from the driveway. It’s not close to a painted wall and it gets a lot of sun. The daylilies that have undoubtedly been there for years are extremely happy. Or they were; I cut off their flower stalks, dug them all up, divided them, planted them in the back fence bed (they filled it up, which is nice), and put the raspberries in their place.
I admit the raspberries aren’t going to be nearly as pretty. Or as nonpainful. If I had a kid whom I would let run around in the backyard, I might not have put the raspberries in such an accessible spot. I’m not sure whether I’m going to try to do something about that or not. Would a little decorative fence help? Would a big one be too ugly? My parents’ plants were just let run free…I think…but they were by a rock wall in the back of the property. These plants are all droopy and sad right now, of course, but once they recover–and I think they will, mostly, even with the paltry root systems they’ve got; they’re tough little things–I suspect they’re going to be very enthusiastic growers. I’ll deal with it as it comes up, I guess. If I get more raspberries this year than the plants I already had are promising, it’ll be worth it.
Yesterday, Eric’s mom called to say that she’d bought peaches from Costco, they were divine, and what would it take to get us to make ice cream out of them? She rates our peach ice cream as the second-best she’s ever had, and the first best was imbued with childhood nostalgia (she was eight, it was her uncle’s recipe in a hand-cranked machine on a perfect summer day, etc.), so ours is the best she can realistically get. After a prolonged discussion of what materials we needed, we decided to visit (they live around the corner) and talk it over in person.
“Taste this,” Brenda said, handing us each a slice of peach as we came in. They were, indeed, very good: sweet and juicy, yielding but not mealy. They had also bought cherries and blueberries and had strawberries in the fridge, and a bowl of sliced cantaloupe stood there on the table. We nibbled everything and discussed ice creams. (Cherry is next on the list after the peach and the well-loved strawberry.)
“It might be a good idea to buy a lot of fruit now and freeze it,” Edith said.
I objected. “We tried using frozen peaches once and it didn’t turn out well.”
“If you bought frozen peaches, I’m not surprised,” Brenda said.
“I’ve never frozen my own fruit, so I can’t compare,” I said.
“Well, the main thing is that the chunks of fruit wouldn’t be the same as fresh. But if you processed it first–”
“We’ve been macerating and then pureeing the fruit, so that would probably work,” Eric said. “And it wouldn’t take up as much space as full ice cream.”
“I’d certainly be willing to give it a try,” I said. “It would be nice to be able to make summer-fresh ice cream in February.”
“Absolutely,” Brenda said. “And you won’t be able to get fruit like this for long. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like it comes all at once for a short time, and then you can’t get it anymore–”
Eric’s glance met mine. “Well, yes,” he started to say, but she was talking about cherry ice cream and then we discussed Thin Mint (also on the list), and the moment passed. We had other things to discuss on the way home (like Eric’s promising job interview) so we didn’t bring it up, but I wonder. I’ve always known that fall is apple season, winter is orange season, and summer is cherry/peach/berry season. Surely she does too. Fruit more than anything else is still seasonal, even in our welcome-to-the-global-market grocery stores. Has she noticed that I only talk about pomegranates in late fall because that’s the only time they’re available?
I know I’ve been tuned into the locavore/gardening philosophy and she isn’t, but I worry a little. And I feel a little sorry for her, too. She was amazed at the flavor of those peaches partly because she buys them year-round, and three-quarters of the time they’re not very good. Eric and I are becoming used to the idea of not buying things that aren’t in season, of waiting for food that will be at its best. (Not completely. But we’re working at it.) Our kids are going to learn about growing seasons and about eating a ripe, glowing piece of fruit after ten months of not having it. And the peach ice cream we will eventually make with the peaches from our own tree will be the best we’ve ever had.
I probably should have been more productive today, but I accomplished that in other areas (and I did harvest another slug-uneaten strawberry). Today I just poked around and looked at leaves.
The cotton is doing well. Each set of leaves makes them more and more like maples; if I didn’t know I had planted them I might be tearing them up with all the maple seedlings (six of which my mother-in-law pointed out in my front lawn today, asking if I was growing them on purpose). This one’s in the raised bed; there are two there, three in pots, and one by the garage because I didn’t have anything else to plant there. I’m looking forward to the flowers, which are supposed to be quite pretty, but of course I’m really hoping they’ll live long enough to yield cotton.
I’ve never grown a watermelon before, and I was expecting leaves more like a cantaloupe’s. (The two I set out are still there and getting bigger.) I had vaguely wanted to grow Moon and Stars watermelon after hearing that their leaves are splotched just like the fruits–I’m not sure why that was enough to push me into it–but this is a fairly ordinary watermelon and its leaves are beautiful just by themselves. When did I become a foliage aficionado? I mean, I’m not really, but I’m getting closer all the time. I’m definitely looking forward to fruit from this guy, but in the meantime I’m content looking at its current prettiness.