Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Do I seem obsessed with the subject? Last night, after assiduously skirting around us for--nearly 3 weeks?--we had a real rain in the north valley. Probably would have filled the rain barrel, but I can't really use it as a gauge this time since I kept siphoning the water into buckets, and eventually into the blue plastic kiddie pool. (Wonder how many gallons it holds?) Along with the rain came an electrical storm. Very dramatic. Someone posted a photo in the UNM student paper this morning (left).

We ate our first Brandywine over the weekend (August 22nd or so), and have started collecting 1-2 cups a day between the cherry tomato plant and the grape/mini's. Lots and lots of all 3 coming. Gloria started her first batch of raisins in the dehydrator over the weekend too.

Oh, and we have a million zillion tiny white spaghetti hair worm babies in the worm composting bin *finally!* Trying not to starve or over feed them... And keeping an eye on the water in the bottom so they don't drown. (How does mother nature DO this?!)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Crowded corner

So many shapes, attitudes, habits, layers, shades and colors. How is it possible that this happens in the space of a couple of months, and then dies back to nothing?!

Flower and Herb bed... a belated update

Could this be only the second year for our herb and flower bed? It looks dramatically different from 2009.... My strapping sage plant and a smaller Bells of Ireland are holdovers. This time we put in basil (?! not sure which variety). She looks great.

Put in some dill and a purple basil plant [picture] purchased from one of the box stores. She's actually doing okay! We transplanted a volunteer echinacea--she seem to have really liked her new home. And tempting fate, put in 2 zinnias just before that blazing heat spell in June when I was suddenly in charge of watering while G was away. I can't really take any credit, but they are enormous! Does something always have to dwarf everything else? G put in a delphinium... she is peeking quietly out from under her huge neighbors. Also noteworthy, but not pictured: a variegated sage. Very pretty. In my experience, not very hearty. A small rosemary plant. She's growing very slowly: hope she'll overwinter. The silly xeric cascade of color pot I got on sale--a purple salvia and two maroon blanket flowers are holding down the north end of the bed. Still blooming. Looking quite handsome. Also [not pictured] a couple of graceful lacy things I'm not familiar with--ask G. Summer savory?

The graceful, petite white spikes (below) are either garlic chives or society garlic. I have this dim sense that I asked the flower and bush lady at UNM if I could have a start from the thriving patch that adorn one of the fountains near my office. Gloria thinks she spread garlic chive seeds... So once again, erring on the side of being informal and experimental and surprising ourselves, we really don't know what it is. grin. PRETTY. Very pretty.

Wild promise: 4 or 5 varieties of tomatoes

"Wait for it... wait for it...."

We have a dense vine hedge along the west wall: intertwined cherry and Stupice vines, loaded with flowers and fruits. Daubs and doodles of paint on a palette.

Not pictured, we have several other varieties. Two strapping plants in the garden proper. Several in the double-dug bed--varying degrees of size and robustness based on how close their volunteer sunflower neighbors are. The ones in the middle are puny, having been threatened by botanical giants.

Also not pictured, the 5 or 6 plants of unknown variety in 3-gallon containers crouched under the Mulberry tree. In a previous post I already confessed this greedy sin... they were transplants from the raised bed. Removing them gave us the possibility of more salad greens anyway. The spinach seeds have germinated, and have sent out their quirky second set of leaves--so spiky, so unlike the round lobes I dearly love to eat. (It has taken me a couple of plantings to start recognizing them at this stage.)

Gorgeous grapes

The grapes are gorgeous. The vines, heavy laden--make me wish I was an artist. They seem to be begging for someone to sketch or paint them, capture their glory and promise. G planted these two 5,6,7? years ago. For many seasons, they did not produce any fruit to speak of. Whether it was due to age/ maturity or generous rounds of ditch water, suddenly last year they went crazy. (We still have raisins from the 2009 crop! ... And speaking of, that was a strenuous undertaking, all those tiny guys plucked off the bunch and carefully arranged in trays, even though the results were very tasty.) G thinks cold weather killed one of the vines back to the root stock. [Interesting, huh? I don't understand any of it, except in the most general sense. Grafting. Yikes!] So far, the wildlife in the yard hasn't done them much damage. Not to be cynical, but the sparrows and finches seem to be focusing on the apples. You know, a peck or two from each. Just enough to spoil most of them. We console ourselves by imagining that they are wormy and still bitter. If it keeps them out of the grapes, I suppose we'll count ourselves lucky! grin.

The vines themselves are so enthusiastic, we are starting to consider how to create more robust structures for them to scale. As you can see, they are starting to trail along the ground out of desperation.

Big Fat Summer Day

First week of August.
RAIN: Last Thursday (the 5th?), the monsoon clouds took pity on us at last, and gifted everything with a generous rain--the kind of hard showers that left an inch of water in all the 5 gallon buckets strewn around the yard.

G with the first 2 eggplantsSaturday G picked the first two globe eggplants. Small but perfect. We took a deep breath and chopped back 10' sunflowers and ripped up some volunteer pole bean vines to give plants number four and five enough sun to thrive.

On a whim, I planted some peas. A few in between the sweet potato vines, since there is a lazy rope trellis already dangling there, and put the rest in a tidy row where the garlic was.

Blossoms on the trumpet vineLIZARDS We have a lot of lizards this season. [Need to explore and see if I can find out what scientists call them...] It's hard to be anywhere in the yard/ garden without hearing a faint rustle. So far, I have not figured out how to capture them on camera or video. But they sure are cute. Planting the little gallon Bluebeard (check name) up in front of the fence by the trumpet vine, we must have disturbed their home. We spotted not one but two youngsters prowling around. They were about three inches long, from the tip of their snubby noses to the end of their slender, metallic blue tails. Whether it was due to their youth or just general lizard pluck--they did not seem to be afraid of us. As we crouched there in the dirt, they calmly explored the spot where we had been digging. They got so close that G started telling it, in a stage whisper, NOT to climb up her pant leg. Since I was further away and wearing shorts, I thought it was funny and chuckled softly.

Bean flowers are just flat-out gorgeous. And as I have confessed elsewhere, I LOVE eating their babies. Here is a long-awaited photo of our first bean of the season--a purple snap.
First purple snap bean

Wide shot with winter squash, a blur that are snap beans, and a  second blob that are the biggest of the eggplantsWe waited until practically the end of July to finally plant the winter squash plants. G read somewhere that they liked mounds, so she put these guys on a small hill. Most of the greedy squash bugs should (a)have not found this part of the yard yet and (b) be dead by high summer. We have been carefully watching, having fought vicious battles last year. Saturday I found and killed 2 pair, one pale green adolescent and two half-hearted batches of eggs. We'll see. As we often say, either smiling or sighing, "There's a lot of hope out there." And yes, we are being unashamedly species-centric: Hope for us bipeds, NOT for the crunchy brown insects with the rapacious piercing and sucking mouth parts!

Not sure why, but haven't kept up with my photo documenting process this summer. Yesterday I finally ran around and snapped a shot of everything--for posterity. Here is a sudden bumper crop. The blossoms on the trumpet vine never fail to arrest my attention. So sensuous. And ditto the sunflowers framing our huge western sky. They help me stop for a moment, and see, really see the clouds. I accidentally caught a bee in mid-flight in this one. The blooms are covered with them, though it seems to be one gal per flower. I witnessed what I think was a dog-fight between 2 bees for the rights to harvest one blossom in particular. ?!