16 August 2012

Adventures In The Squash Patch

On Tuesday's to-do-list was weeding and mulching around the zucchini plants. They are located next to the blueberry plants which are consequently barely visible. Next year I'll plant the zucchini on the other side of that particular spot in the garden. The zucchini is doing very well. We started some indoors but the biggest plants are the ones that sprouted from the seeds I simply pushed down in the dirt this spring.

The pumpkins had a rougher start but are now slowly taking over the patch at the back of the garage. Only one plant made it from the indoors to the outdoors but again, dropping a few seeds in the dirt gave the results we were looking for. Sort of anyway. So far I have spotted only one jack-o-lantern in the making.

The finickiest plant turned out to be the watermelon. Not one of our indoor starters made it and only one of the seeds I planted, sprouted. But we do have a little watermelon growing behind the blueberries. I hope it ripens before summer ends. We'll have to wait and see.

A gardener must remain vigilant at all times however. While I was harvesting zucchinis I spotted squash bugs on my plants. I immediately ran inside to grab a spray bottle of Neem oil, a biodegradable leaf polisher and bug killer. Wonderful stuff! Because I was stalking my zucchini plants, anxiously waiting to rob them of their fruit, I caught the bugs at their nymph stage, which enabled me to ward off a full fledged infestation. I cut off the leaves with eggs and sprayed the remaining leaves with Neem oil. I think we're going to be okay.

Squash bugs are not the only animals to look out for, though. When Lola and I were looking at the baby watermelon, I spotted a snake in my patch. I nearly jumped over the corn fence. It wasn't very long, not even two feet, but it was a fatty. I don't know much about snakes but I could tell by the markings on its back that it was not a garter snake.

Source
I don't like animals that slither. But at least with garter snakes I know they are harmless. Nevertheless, they freak me out when I stumble upon one. This snake looked like a rattle snake with a bright colored head. It lay there, very still, with its tail in the blueberry plant and its head under the mulberry tree.

Lola and I went back inside to see if we could identify it with the help of Google. Sure enough, we discovered it was a Fox Snake. Looks like a cross between a rattlesnake and a copperhead, but without the venom. It's actually very useful since it rids your garden of rodents. With Sandman having decided he is too old for that sh*t, we could use some help in that department. The chipmunks are out of control, to be honest.

We went back outside to take the snake's picture. Knowing we were not in imminent danger, we quickly made our way back to the squash patch. Too late. The snake had vanished. I did not like that. Much as I fear the creature, I would prefer to be able to see it and know where it is. Our grass needs to be mowed (hint, hint...) and it's difficult to see if there's anything hiding in the grass.

Needless to say, weeding and mulching around the zucchinis is still on the to-do list.

23 July 2012

Things I Learned Today

:: Every time I think I am making progress, I find another obstacle on my path. Sometimes I feel like I am drowning. I succeed in making it to the surface and am briefly able to breathe, only to be pulled back down moments later. I want this to change. Now.

:: Lemon Verbena is not a hardy plant, at least not in this part of the country. (I have quite a few in the backyard, and they are not in pots.)

:: A furnace filter needs to be replaced every thirty to ninety days, depending on the filter and whether or not you have a cat.

:: I don't hate ironing anymore.

:: There is no such thing as 'wrinkle free' cotton.

22 July 2012

Bounty







The Journey Of A Seed

The squirrels have finally figured it out. After numerous attempts to get to the birdfeeder with the squirrel guard, they recently noticed there is another birdfeeder hanging in the ornamental cherry tree that has no such protection. So now the birdseed disappears even quicker. The chipmunks take care of the feeder outside the kitchen window and the squirrels empty the other one.

It's not all bad news, though. I don't know who is responsible but either the squirrels or the chipmunks, or both, buried a sunflower seed by the garage. That seed subsequently sprouted. Lola found it and asked us to transplant the seedling to her garden. I have done this before in Washington and while the sunflowers did bloom, it wasn't something to write home about. They grew less than a foot tall and had itty bitty flowers. I figured this would be the same thing.

It was not.


Impressive, no? Naturally we are saving the seeds of this one.

21 July 2012

Da Bears Still Suck



“Hey Lola. Why don’t you whisper ‘Da Bears Still Suck’ in Wenzel’s ear?”
 
(For those of you not in the know, Wenzel is the drummer and the last remaining original member of the Happy Schnapps Combo, a local Wisconsin polka and party ensemble who sing in glorious Wisconsinese. Also, da bears in question are the Chicago Bears, a local football team from south of the Wisconsin border.)



“No, really. It’s okay. He’s not going to bite you.”




“Would you like me to say it instead?”




“Psst…, Wenzel, my daughter thinks da bears still suck.”




“High five, sister!” 


17 July 2012

Karmic Payback

When I was ten years old, we moved to The Hague, into a large town house where my sister and I each had our own room. I don't recall ever adorning my door with anything, but I know my sister did. She always had a poster hanging on her door.

I remember this so clearly because I used to rip her posters when I was angry at her. Not full on tearing and trashing, I didn't have the guts to do that, but tiny little tears along the edges of the poster. Just to make a point, albeit a very sad and pathetic one.

Fast forward three decades. I walked into my craft room yesterday where I have a project laid out that I am currently working on. It consists of six felt squares with appliques. Some squares are cut from craft felt and some from hand died, rather expensive, imported all the way from Holland, one hundred percent wool felt.

In one of the cheaper felt squares I noticed a few small cuts along the edge. I was pretty sure the felt was whole when I cut my squares. I suspected Lola or her friend B. accidentally cut the felt when they were cutting up some paper.

I was wrong. As it turns out it was not an accident. My daughter fessed up to cutting the felt on purpose. She was "just so mad" at me. Not that she knew why she was mad, she just remembered she was. And to make her point, she cut my felt. Like her mother, she did not have the guts to really go for it and cut the good stuff, so she went for the cheap felt instead. A wise choice.

Naturally she was reprimanded for this little stunt and threatened with eternal banishment from the craft room (a fate worse than death in our house) if she ever pulled something like this again. But I had a very hard time actually being angry with her.

As I was talking with her, I was chewing the inside of my cheek, trying to suppress a smile. I could not believe she did the exact same thing I did as a child. And all the while I could hear my sister laughing in the back of my head.

Karma is a b*tch. So is payback.

06 July 2012

Summer Tidbits

I dipped my foot outside this morning and discovered it was nice out. A balmy 86F (28C). Much better than earlier this week. Finally I can sit in the garden again, and watch my vegetables grow. I feel bad about staying indoors when the sun is shining, but really, it was just too warm to be outside. It was 99F degrees (38C) yesterday. That's hot. Sweltering hot in fact.


Speaking of my garden, it is looking wonderful. The tomatoes are out of control, as are the weeds, the corn is growing well (the second round of planting yielded a much higher germination rate), and the peas and beans all need trellises now. I picked up an old metal chair at a garage sale which I placed just outside the garden, in the shade. It's my new favorite spot.




We harvested our first peppers on Wednesday, and a bunch of basil. I made fresh pesto last night to go on a homemade chicken, sausage, and artichoke pizza. How's that for summer fare? Goes nicely with the watermelon pops, too. And the red clover lemonade, a very interesting drink. I am still tweaking the recipe, but as soon as it's to my liking, I'll share that one with you.





We had a very relaxing Fourth, not doing much of anything. A little bit of fishing, a little bit of grilling, a little bit of hanging out. As summer days should be.

29 June 2012

My Heart’s Desire And Homemade Bread

If you look deep into my heart, you’ll find a longing for simplicity. A desire to be part of the rhythm of the seasons. To grow my own food. Have chickens. Make my own clothes. Spend more time in nature. Teach my daughter about the birds and the bees in the literal sense of the word.

Some day I want to be free of worry. Worry about money, worry about bills, worry about a job, worry about the future, worry about my daughter watching too much Scooby Doo. My heart knows I should “Let go, and let God” but my brain puts up a powerful fight every time.

But until we have our own piece of land with our self built dream home that doubles as a Bed & Breakfast, I shall satisfy myself with little snippets of what’s to come. And so I grow corn, tomatoes, strawberries, and assorted peppers, make homemade toys, and occasionally bake my own bread.

I own a bread maker and love it. It’s so simple to throw in the ingredients and wait for the wonderful scent of fresh baked bread to fill the kitchen. The only thing I miss is a nice crust. And I don’t like the bulky machine on my kitchen counter so I put it away in the basement and then it’ll be months before I use it again.

But then I found the perfect recipe for crusty bread. It’s even simpler than using a bread maker. It does, however, require patience. This bread must rise for 12 to 18 hours. Plan ahead! Aside from patience, all you need is flour, salt, yeast, and water, and a Dutch oven or cast iron cooking pot with a lid that you can put in the oven.



Ingredients:
  • 3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups of water

Recipe:
Pour flour, salt, and yeast into a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Add the water and mix it in until you have a nice sticky mess. Cover the bowl and let it sit on the counter for 12 to 18 hours. Do not refrigerate. The amount of dough should double in size.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Once it’s hot enough, put your cooking pot in to preheat as well. Leave it in for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, take you sticky dough out of the bowl and shape into a ball on a heavily floured surface. Cover and let it set until your pot has reached the right temperature.

Take your cooking pot out of the oven, it is now HOT!!!, and dump your loaf into it. No need to grease the pot. Put the lid back on and set it in the oven. After 30 minutes, take off the lid and let it brown for 15 minutes more. Take the pot out and let your loaf cool on a wire rack before slicing it up.



It is very tasty bread, and the crust is just right. If it weren’t such a pain to slice fresh baked bread, I would be in heaven. (I’ll just add a food slicer to my wish list.) I have yet to try making rye bread (replace 1 cup of all purpose flour with rye flour) or mixing in chopped rosemary, olives, cheese, cranberries, and other tasty additives. But I will, rest assured.



I am linking my loaf up with:
All Spunk No Junk at Twig and Toadstool
Creative Friday at Natural Suburbia
Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions

Joys Of Summer: Fishing

Summertime,  
And the living is easy,  
Fish are jumping,  
And the cotton is high...

I don't know about the cotton, but the fish were jumping. Not onto our hooks, though. But that doesn't matter. It's more about the act of fishing anyway. And spending time with family.













Easy living indeed.

28 June 2012

Murder In The Backyard

Lola and I were sitting on the front porch. It was shortly after 8 o'clock and it was already hot outside. She had just gotten up while I was sipping my third, and final, coffee of the day. We were quietly enjoying the morning when all of a sudden an explosion of sound came out of the yard. Something was clearly amiss.

Upon closer inspection the ruckus was taking place in the large pine tree in the middle of the yard. A dozen or so robins, mostly females, were frantically fluttering and screeching. The focus of their attention was a large black bird up high in the tree. A crow I assume, trying to rob one of their nests.

He, or she, succeeded despite the mama robins' attacks and made off with a baby bird in its beak while Lola and I helplessly looked on. Now I know why they call it a murder of crows. Bloody beasts. As if it's not enough that they empty my garbage bags every Monday morning, forcing me to collect my trash twice. Now they empty the robins' nests as well.

21 June 2012

Joys Of Summer: Limeade


Recipe for fresh limeade (found at The Idea Room):
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (three to six limes, depending on their size)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts of cold water
Pour sugar into lime juice and stir until dissolved. Add cold water. Cute paper straw optional.

Enjoy!

14 June 2012

Step Into My Garden


For the first time in our gardening lives, Ryan and I have full sun available to us. We attempted a vegetable garden in Olympia but had to make do with partial sun. In spite of the lack of rays we were moderately successful. Had we been more diligent at thinning, I am sure we would have had better results.

We have high hopes for our garden this season and so far, things are going well. We built four raised beds, which filled up much faster than I anticipated. We will not be cultivating a full on kitchen garden just yet. There is just not enough room. We may have gone a little overboard on the tomatoes. There are eleven plants in our tomato bed, four different varieties, three of the plants started from seed. Salsa anyone?

Aside from the tomatoes, we have beans in three colors, peas, strawberries, and assorted peppers. Wherever I found a free spot, I planted onions, kohlrabi, chamomile, and celery. Today Lola and I shall plant several varieties of lettuce around the edges of the beds. We were going to plant the greens in gutters attached to the greenhouse, but that is a project for next year. And then we wait.

Alongside the beds, we have planted corn and sunflowers. The sunflowers are doing well, but I am not too impressed with the germination rate of the corn. We started a few plants indoors, but the majority was direct sowed. I put the second batch in the ground yesterday, and filled in the empty spots. I used a different variety of corn, perhaps we will be more successful this time.


On the west side of the garage you'll find the blueberry patch and zucchini. The zucchini is growing well. Only one measly watermelon has sprouted. The ones we started indoors did not make it either. I am having a really hard time with pumpkins as well this year. I don't know what the deal is. Perhaps the June Bugs are a bigger problem than I thought.

What is left on my wishlist is an herb garden. Right now the herbs are in pots in the green house where they are very happy. The sage is out of control, and the thyme, oregano, and chives are also thriving. My only concern is that I cannot find the tiny but very hungry caterpillar that is eating great big holes in my basil.

To protect our tiny plants from critters and other wildlife, we have erected a fence around the garden, with a sturdy garden gate built of old wood we found in the garage. I love the look of the different sized and colored planks. The jury is still out on whether or not we will cut off or round the top of the gate. We will probably leave it as is. We like it. But I might persuade Ryan to cut out an opening. Perhaps even a heart.

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