Friday, August 28, 2009

Misc Images Aug 10-22 2009

Here's a photo dump from August 10-22--since I've fallen behind the last two weeks and the GARDEN keeps going! **It rained past our 10-bucket "gauge" capacity last Sunday night, then a little more Monday and a few drops last night--Thursday. Always feels like a godsend. The dogs like drinking out of the rain buckets... guess they like the taste, the novelty and 'at their age' not having to bend down. (grin)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ides of August - part two

G started to create a new fall bed in one spot, then realized as she spent time in that patch of the yard, that as the arc of the sun sags, the house will blot out the afternoon rays. After pacing and considering, she began again. Hard labor—by hand, a total of two feet down—one shovel full at a time. She is preparing the fall plot according to the instructions in a new book she bought a week or so ago. She was engrossed by it from the day she brought it home, but by day two or three she was in a real snit. He’s challenging all my beliefs and assumptions, she fumed. I was pretty startled. She’s one of the most sweet-tempered people I know. She was curt and snappy. “So where is he from?” I asked.

I’m guessing this is a big undertaking, that we won’t end up with much because the bed won’t be ready to plant in a timely way (i.e. now, and no later than the next two weeks). “Double-digging”

Lizard – oops.
She was very sad; said she accidentally killed one of our many chubby lizards as she rolled up the fencing from around the new patch of grass on the west side. It somehow got tangled and mangled. I didn’t ask for details. I tried to soften the blow by saying that we’ve been keeping the cat in—so that has to have made the yard a bit less perilous. With all our new plantings and watering, there must be more hunting ground and more insect prey. But then I wonder what I really know about them.

Up Front by the trash bin & the mail box
Crape Myrtle day two. That frustrating ash that keeps dying back to the ground: maybe the third time is the charm? Several weeks ago (a month? 6 weeks?! egads) we started a new bed up front… in hideous soil, with mystery plants Linda dug out of her yard to make way for a driveway. (We think one bit of twigs could be a Chamisa? a more robust small thing with tiny purple flowers might be something commonly referred to as Bluebeard, and a young, good-spirited clump of spurge.) With a few random stones to line out the area, a couple of handfuls of gravel scrounged from somewhere. Ratty. Half-hearted. But G has watered the sad little spot from time to time & I’ll be darned if they aren’t hanging on. Saturday I stuck in some of our 9 thousand Walking Onion babies. May not be well-drained enough for them. G frowned at my efforts. I did not exude the confidence of someone who had used enough compost. We added 3 decorative rocks, more edging stones and several quarts of gravel. It actually looks like of sweet. Tamed. Hopeful.

The new crape myrtle. (Need to research them...)

What’s Hot and What’s Not:
This past week, I was sorry to see that the landscaping crew had hacked down several lovely huge old Junipers (the size of 3 VW beetles). How old were they? How old do they live? I have been musing, based on some older neighborhoods around the university, that junipers were in fashion in the early 60s. I hated to see them go. Seems wasteful and mean. But I didn’t intend to go on a pro-old Juniper rant. (Pollen Factories? The males but not the females? Seems like I heard that somewhere). My observation was about Fashion in landscaping: what they put into the bald spot, startling me this afternoon on my walk back to the parking lot, were Crape Myrtles! Now I’m thinking that my recent awareness of them has more to do with marketing and product placement than with any intrinsic merit on their drought-tolerant profusely blooming qualities. As I pay more attention, they seem to suddenly be everywhere!

The carnation report:
A single maroon one this evening. Such a spicy peppery fabulous smell. Who knew? Sad to say that they seem to be short-lived. Nearby, the summer savory has exploded. I swear it has doubled since I last considered it—a heroic sprint to the seasonal finish line like the lemon verbena. The red thingies… oh come on, big cut flower dudes—white pink and red. The blossoms keep growing after they open. Unbelievable!

At the Feeder:
Surprise. Last evening, fuming after a bad day at work, sipping a very palatable Cabernet, I suddenly realized I was looking at a red-headed woodpecker! The feeder G bought a few weeks back and hung under the middle apple tree was designed for woodpeckers; poof. We suddenly manifested one! What a surprise!

Realized tonight, apropos of nothing, that I haven’t heard our phone pole Grackle in a long time. ?! Was it a male who got lazy after the young were fledged? When he could let down his feathers about defending territory? Or did they head north to escape the heat? Surely a neighborhood doesn’t suddenly lose a Grackle family?!

Note to self:
?! A couple of weeks ago now, the chicks and hens began sending out strange thick phallic shoots... it turns out they are covered with tiny blossoms. I meant to photograph them last weekend and then got distracted.

Finally photographed them 8/22. First week of classes delayed posting photos. [And that is an understatement! grin] Here they are... wild huh?

The Ides of August

The last week all those collective losses since the equinox have added up to a sudden tilt in time. Daylight yawns, stretches and slowly rolls up over the neighbor’s roofline into our side windows after my alarm has gone off--not before. And with the shrinking photoperiod, go the nightly lows. Just in the last few days the bedroom is nippy in the wee hours without the hard work and purr of the ceiling fan. And after months of mid and high 60s, yesterday morning started at a crisp tart 57. But the afternoons are still emphatically in the hands of summer: it was a hundred and six by early evening. No wonder that the exuberance of early spring seems so far away. That’s a walloping 50-degree spread for life forms that can’t do a whole lot to maintain a semblance of thermal equilibrium. No wonder the parsley, Echinacea, and thready second-blush Jupiter’s Beard blossoms look slightly grim.And after 20 minutes in traffic in my old beater car (no AC), windows open, sun beating down, I’m puffing and sweating myself.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Third Week of August

Ahhh... finally a little rain. It had been so long it hurt. Gentle rain--est. 2 buckets but it started and stopped overnight, so we weren't watching to switch them out.

Corn!! I forgot to mention the CORN! G planted a funny little square of it in a blank spot in the yard. Monday night we plucked 2 from our tiny crop. Boiled and ate them all within the space of half an hour. They tasted SOOOO good!

Last night we did a big tomato sweep (honestly, they are intimidating). Took flowers, a couple of chilis, some green beans and a bucket of tomatoes and red grapes to G's parents and Julia/Lorena who were hanging out with them during dinnertime. We stopped back by the Co-op on the way home for crusty bread... then had tomatoes, basil, Mozzarella, Balsamic vinegar and fresh bread for supper. We were famished... nearly 8:30 and dark-- spitting rain outside. Tasted so good. The cherry tomatoes were like candy.

("Growing Food in the Yard is the last significant Political Act left to the Individual.")

*Work is insane. :(
*Have been reading Marco Polo a little every night, my curiosity piqued by distant times and places. Existence has not always been the way it is now... [Spend time with people you admire. Do I admire him? Not sure. Admire the writer of the book, that is certain!! grin]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hot Harvesting

[Placeholder - work is awful-frantic-insane-hateful so I don't have time for a real post for the next 2 weeks until the start of Fall semester]:
Still working on the paper mache lily this past weekend (Sat and Sunday). Now time to build a collar to yoke them together. So at least they are taking up half the space on the livingroom floor.

We've started to move towards harvesting, preparing, giving away and storing things. It's daunting!

*First Carnation Bloom: a pale creamy butter yellow. Smells wonderful.
*Zinnias! Bells of Ireland are enormous.
*All the cosmos at the back under the white grapes are blooming in and amongst the end of the coriopsis. Pink and yellow. Very lovely.
*Tomatoes are actually intimidating... the vines so huge and sprawling and unruly, and loaded with fruit.
*Basil plants are enormous. Feel like a bad steward with those too. But how much pesto can you really use in a year? We still have some left from last season.
*Cucumbers... the unsung heroes of the garden. How many plants? Very tasty. Nice looking with their bright green leaves and pert yellow flowers. ?! [Take some photos]. G grew them from seed. How many plants? (~4)
*Swiss chard: actually wilting a little yesterday. Being ignored, which made me feel badly. Like a sin.
*Eggplants. Made baba ganouj (sp?). May have put too much salt in it. Used Molly Katzen's recipe. Might be something missing. ?!
*3rd meal with fresh green beans. (tri-colored bush snaps). Soooo handsome.
*Overcome with those delicious tiny red seedless grapes. have been pushing ahead pretty hard plucking and popping them into the dehydrator. Told G yesterday I'll never look at a raisin the same way again. She laughed.
*Very, very curious about the sweet potatoes.
*Onions are mixed... several seem to be thriving. Several are still puny.

*Lost 2 more peppers. Leeks are puny. Still battling to the death for the butternut squash.
*Sunflowers - apparently we overwatered them. At least half are dead, which suits the finches who are happily shredding them.
*G bought and hung a seed feeder. (She's been wanting to go to Wild Birds Unlimited & finally did.) Under the middle apple tree. She also got a "transfer pump" ?! And a set of 'bottle buddies' ... to make erstaz upside down ollas out of hollow clay stakes & upside down wine bottles.
*G's compost pile is looking really promising.
*Weeds... we have actually done very very well keeping the ditch clear and keeping down the pigweed, ironweed, bindweed, foxtail and still shoving back against the 'greys'
*Still losing gl0ves, no matter how many pair we buy. And still really loving our weeding knives and "swishes" (the Felco pruners). 6 miscellaneous wide-brimmed straw hats. And three pair of plastic clogs. Funny huh?

*Weather: Can't remember when it rained last. Otherwise, an innocent stretch of blue sky, with breezes. Highs in the 90s. Lows very lovely... 60s.

*This morning, for the first time it wasn't full daylight when I got up at 6am. A pronounced, notable tilt towards fall.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Paper Maché

A couple of summers ago, at the downtown Saturday farmer's market, I saw a booth that had gigantic windmill flowers. ~3' across, mounted on old bike rims... like gigantic floral pinwheels. I was smitten with them.

And I've continued to think about them over the intervening months/years. I knew I wanted to make some. (I have a short article on welding equipment in one of my many piles of papers at home, and have talked to people about how to do it.) But as in intermediate step, I got it in my head that I wanted to try a stationary one out of paper maché.

So during Staycation, I spent the better part of 2 days, building a wire and hardware cloth frame for a 4-petal thing that I intended to be a squash blossom. By virtue of the materials I had on hand, it came out much more like a lily, so we're going with it. grin. But after getting an initial coat on it, I realized that it needed another ring of petals to fill it in and give it a pleasing overall shape. So the project doubled on the spot.

This time I bought chicken wire & tried that. And boy have I been surprised. The two kinds of frames are very different to work with. (Who would have thought?!) Suddenly, I had a whole different set of problems. All entirely unforeseen of course. I mean, paper mache is for elementary school kids, right? {Hmm.}

This past weekend, I added more layers to strengthen the original set of petals. And battled getting a cover coat onto the contentious chicken wire bunch.

Late Saturday afternoon, I came in grumbling. "I suppose I'm so out of sorts," I said, "because this ended up being a real relationship." (Art. Creativity. Commitment. New skills that I have to practice.) I think I originally was just looking for something fun to paint with the acrylics left over from our wheelbarrow makeover... in that sense, it got way-way out of hand.

Worked on it from 10am to 3:30 Sunday; was starting to attract flies. Tickly little feet all over me; my hands too goopy to swat them. Ardently wished for a tail. By the time I finished, I had flour splotches everywhere... up to my elbows, on my legs, on my shorts and shoes. Ayeee. Have used an entire 5# bag of flour. And since they have to dry inside, poor G is tripping over them trying to get to the pantry shelves. I want to brag that G is being a very good sport about all this: helping mix goop and hand me paper strips, and bringing me a drinking straw for my water glass. (Hard to drink when your hands are dripping wheat slime.) She keeps saying how nicely they are coming along--even when I know full well that they look like something that escaped from a neighbor's trash bin on Thursday mornings.

As you can see from the dog's expression, while she and her rangy sister like the company outside, the overall project is thoroughly baffling them.

Last week of July

Things are starting to ripen faster than we can eat them!

Let's see... The tomatoes (cherry & yellow pear) are ripening like mad. G has a food dehydrator she dragged out of a closet somewhere... Yesterday she started Romas. And we can't keep up eating the small red seedless grapes, so she threw those in. They make raisins that are tiny but to die for. Haven't tried Grandmother's pickle recipe yet. (Oh my... I'm probably letting the pickling cukes go bad in depths of the vegetable crisper drawer.) What else... Eggplant! We have already harvested 5 perfect globe eggplants. G made a dish with zucchini, tomato, onion and eggplant that was fabulous. Then we gave several away. Swiss chard... we have a huge patch which has just been effortless. As hard as we are fighting for squash of any kind, it is hard to stop and appreciate the huge, strapping greens. Had some for dinner the other night on the spur of the moment.

*G harvested some of the chilis, roasted and peeled them and froze them, I think. Basil--those are huge. G made a batch of pesto & we froze it. (That was 10 days ago. Ancient history--grin.)

*Next wave will be string beans. I would say "green," but we actually planted pencil thin wax beans and a tri-color mix that will ripen first... purple beans... they are SOOOO cute. They are about an inch long at the moment, big around as the electric wires that go to the average outlet box. We also have 2 kinds of green beans, but I haven't seen much flower activity on them yet.

*Sweet potato vines finally look happy... we heard that they take up a lot of room, and so far they were staying close to home so we wondered if they were languishing in the heat, or not liking our cruddy soil.

Wilt. Lost all the sugar baby watermelons, several squash plants, and recently 2 pepper plants (not even in the garden proper). : (
G's pink rose has the grunge. : ( Maybe the rust spread from the hollyhocks nearby. Should figure out how to deal with that.
Beans, coming along, coming along, coming along!
Sunchokes, 8' tall, but no sign of blossoms. ?! Amaranth at the back is short but has handsome seed heads.
Morning glories are a thick rope burying the front side of the garden fence.
Green beans--also a thick rope.

Little or no rain recently. G has spent her life watering (wonder if it is starting to feel that way to her?).

Drying the grapes has made scrumptious raisins though. And we have pretty high hopes for drying the Romas for winter consumption. Need to try fresh salsa and bread/butter pickles.

Bought a 5-gal Crape Myrtle at CostCo ($12). Excited about it!