Tag Archives: garden

Can You Come Out and Play?

Denver Harvard Gulch Outdoor Pool (Wiki commons)

Denver Harvard Gulch Outdoor Pool (Wiki commons)

No, my friends don’t put it exactly that way these days. “Let’s hang out” is also passé. The brilliant weather calls to me wordlessly. The birds call, the sun shines, hoodies and jackets are shed. Friends call, and I dutifully stick to my work schedule. Usually, that is. Right now I am as bad as a high school student with “senioritis” when invited to come out and play.

On an typical day a friend may ask whether I am going to the gym, the pool, taking a walk, want to have a cup of tea, or a drink in the garden. There are even a few with whom I work collaboratively. I also receive invitations to concerts, to parties, to celebrations & ceremonies as well. But neither obligations nor preplanned events are daily temptations.

Everyone who works from home is subject to many of the same temptations, interruptions, joys, and frustrations. Kids who normally have no interest in mom suddenly have important information to convey. If I snap that I’m in the middle of something, I’m beset by guilt moments later. If I drop work and engage, likewise. The kitchen table office just isn’t working that well, but that’s where I work most of the time.

Friends are more understanding when the reply is “busy working.” It was always more tempting to hang out with friends than with parents as a kid. Some things don’t change. The family reconvenes at dinner and night time, but as an adult, it is more difficult to find friend time.

The temptation to spend time with a friend who also leads a semi-solitary creative life writing, composing music, creating art, as a university professor, or running a business from home is always there. Yet we almost always resist. We all work, or at least attempt to work, more than do those who “go” to work. We simply never finish because we have allowed ourselves the dubious luxury of doing the dishes or laundry, or the definite luxury of reading or listening to music for pleasure and because we have the kind of work that is never done. Like parenting.

The lettuce is wilting again though I watered it twice yesterday. It is so hot and sunny that I must hang out the laundry to bake rather than using the dryer. Be right back!

Two friends texted me about swimming in our community pool yesterday. Lap-swimming is hardly the most social occupation, but playing chicken is strictly forbidden at our public pool, so we have a hasty exchange or wave before or after we swim laps. Maybe this is my summer of learning more than a back dive! At 6:15 yesterday, I missed one friend who came & left a little earlier. The other–a swimmer, as opposed to someone who can swim–was swimming when I arrived and still swimming when I climbed out. We did catch up on a few things while rinsing off in the locker room.

Today our glorious Olympic-sized pool and diving well both open for the first weekend of summer. Not only will I bring goggles, cap, and lap suit, but a beach towel, sunglasses, snack, phone, earbuds, & a book. But what I really plan to do is unabashedly hang out and play. The time has come to rouse my inner child. I hope my friends can come out and play, too! Still undecided about working on those bikini lines :/)

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Dear Resistant Gardener

Fothergilla Mt. Airy courtesty of Wiki Commons

Fothergilla Mt. Airy courtesy of Wiki Commons

What a funny banner ad in Gmail. Oh…it actually read “Deer Resistant Gardens.” So, there are simple solutions to cope with the deer, but what are we going to do about gardeners like me? There really are things growing in my garden. I catch Peter, or possibly Flopsy, Mopsy, or Cottontail with nose pressed up against the netting wound around the raised beds both morning and evening. Still, I remain convinced that this is a secret society, that everyone else is gardening the “right” way, and I am going about it all wrong.

What vegetable should I plant next? Should I pull the ferns that are growing among the hydrangea out? The hydrangea do seem to be deer and rabbit resistant, as there they are, soon ready to bloom. The ferns are pretty, but it seems to me that they are choking the hydrangea. And I am beset by bigger questions: are any of these things native plants? Shouldn’t I be planting native plants?

Yes, I am a classic overthinker (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=overthinker.)

Seeds better not be RoundUp Ready, or they are not welcome in my garden. In that case, I prefer the dandelions and clover. Isn’t there a clever scientist out there who will defeat the evil Monsanto empire by making a RoundUp ready dandelion and spreading it, helter-skelter, everywhere? That could spell the end of RoundUp! After much consternation and Googling, I have determined that Burpee is still a family owned seed company based in Philadelphia. The two pots of Burpee bell peppers purchased for planting in the garden are, therefore, “ethical” bell peppers, non-GMO, and not RoundUp ready.

The time has come to stop thinking, be happy with my spring crop, soon ready for harvest, and start planting a summer crop. Not only do we have rich compost from our own yard waste and plant matter, but compost from our town’s compost program. We give them revolting stuff, almost any conceivable organic (carbon-based) matter and we have now had rich, black compost returned to us, filling our last, waiting garden box, to the brim.

Thankfully, we have a doer as well as a thinker in the family. A Fothagilla Mt. Airy shrub now festoons the front border. The Fothagilla is a native plant–a native southeastern plant, and we are in the Mid-Atlantic region–but I am no longer resisting. The climate here is not that different from that of Georgia is it? Now I hope our Fothagilla Mt. Airy survives to show its resplendent fall foliage.

It Takes a Village to Grow a Gardener

Coypu Courtesy of Wiki: Eat Your Vegetables!

Coypu Courtesy of Wiki: Eat Your Vegetables!

While I was sitting on the porch this morning, broccoli seedlings at my feet, a man arrived to repair the crumbling porch steps. We didn’t discuss the steps much.

The experienced gardener generously complimented me on how my garden was coming along. I have two cherry tomato plants, not started from seed and confess that it is not a beautiful garden. We commiserated on the difficulties of starting bell peppers from seed. Out of two sets of ten seeds, started indoors, I have one minuscule pepper plant. First I overwatered, and then underwatered the second time I tried.

When discussing the tomato plants, I explained that the tomatoes doing well thus far are Golden Globe cherry tomato plants. I have never succeeded in producing larger healthy fruit. Also an organic gardener, my morning mentor gardener suggested that a bit of lime around the base of tomato plants would be helpful against blights. The horn worms require me to be more vigilant. That means spending more time outdoors in the garden.They always seem to find the largest, plumpest tomatoes, just as they are almost ready to harvest. When I find the happily munching horn worms, I just toss them along with their bounty into the ivy or compost pile.

Robert, my mentor gardener of the day, made me more consciously aware of gardening culture. He has thirty tomato plants in his garden, and donates the surplus to his neighbors and either VFW or VVA.

Not only was Robert happy to share expertise and encourage my novice efforts, but he shares the physical fruits of his labor as well. Are there grumpy gardeners? Thus far, my efforts begun in early April have demonstrated that not only plants are cultivated in the gardening process. So, it seems, are the people tending the plants and the soil they grow in. The smell of earth, the dirt under my finger nails, and caring for the little seedlings and tender young plants will, I hope, cultivate me as well and make me worthy of this giving, sharing sub-culture.

My past solo efforts have not been very fruitful. Maybe my efforts as a novice accepting help from the gardening community will, with persistence, bear enough ripe fruit for me to share.

Beware of a woman bearing summer squash! So far, I have three surviving plants. Four of eight seeds sprouted and one poor donated and transplanted seedling was mercilessly weed-whacked. So the world may not be overrun with summer squash just yet. Is it possible to grow too many peas? The first crop is sprightly and soon ready to flower. With success comes temptation and the desire for more. It often turns out that there is a clutch of baby bunnies being raised inside the garden enclosure, so planting more may stave off disappointment should Peter Rabbit and his family come calling.

In theory, I do not object to eating rabbit. Eating wild rabbits as well as the deer that are destroying our forests here would help our threatened Sourlands survive. Eating wild boar and nutria (large rodents also called coypu, species m. coypus) that are uprooting native plants and destroying swamps in Louisiana would also be a public service. In practice, all of the above critters are quite safe from my clutches or landing in my All-clad cookware. The pots and pans will be brimful with peas, carrots, and broccoli anyway!

This Artichoke will Save the World

This Artichoke will Save the World by Circespeaks

This Artichoke will Save the World by Circespeaks

We, who are fortunate to have enough food to eat, spend time thinking about how that food arrives on our tables. We are also concerned about what it does, or at least should, in our personal views, consist. Two of my favorite bloggers have also written about the ethics of eating today.

What should we eat? How much control do we have over the means of production and the effect that food production has on both the people who grow and package our food and the animals we eat? These questions are examined today by both Rachel Marie Stone, (http://rachelmariestone.com/2013/05/13/eat-with-joy-justice/ ) and K Blake Cash, (http://kblakecash.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/vegetarians/ .)

Not only do veteran bloggers concern themselves with food and sustainability, but so do those whose livelihoods depend upon it. Without water, we can grow no food. The privatization of water is a disturbing subject. Water wars and concomitant environmental destruction in the U.S. West and in China, as well as ongoing drought in Africa and the Middle East are ongoing problems. That’s just a random sampling from the buffet, all selected from the too-little-water side, reflecting my San Diego roots.

So, what are concerned people to do? Cook and eat at home is generally rule #1. We typically follow this rule, but I wonder about economy-of-scale. If only we had communal cooking facilities. It could be my turn to cook the brown rice for many families this week, and the turn of another to roast vegetables, or…even make beef stew.

Composting, wasting little–depression-era style consumption of leftovers is practiced here–buying and eating less of the foods that put the greatest strain on the environment, and participating in a local CSA farm are among the things easier things we do.

Those who are not vegetarians (I am a former vegetarian, not so now) can buy and eat less meat. If available and affordable, it is better to buy pasture-raised meats and dairy products from grass, not grain-fed, animals. The best scenario is when these purchases can be made locally, so that the miles to market by the delivery vehicles and shoppers are minimized. Small, local, organic, community-supported agriculture is best. I usually shop at the local grocery store when not at the health food store.

When I enter the grocery store, a taxing flowchart weighs heavily on my mind. “No,” I remind myself, “it would be worse to drive fifteen minutes each way to shop in order to buy food from a corporate-owned grocer packaged in compostable containers.” When organic produce is wrapped in plastic on Styrofoam trays, I forgo organic in favor of less packaged produce. The Styrofoam is surely more toxic to the earth than whatever amount of pesticide and herbicide was applied to these two lemons/these two bell peppers is the answer I arrive at through applied calculus.

No. I don’t really do calculus, and though flow charts are pretty, and I am sure an engineer, or even I, could draw one of the thought process I go through in selecting every item I purchase, I don’t really have a physical grocery-item-selection flowchart. But I do obsess. It weighs on me and takes a toll. Shopping is no breezy task. The health of the environment rests heavily on my shoulders. I am of the “we are all complicit” school of thought. Furthermore, good intentions are just not working. New atmospheric carbon levels were just recorded this week. How depressing. And due to the storms and saturated ground, it was either two trees or our humble abode. The trees were coming down with or without help, so though it is always painful, I reluctantly gave the thumbs up to have them removed. The last time I resisted tree-removal too long it almost cost our neighbors their humble abode.

None of this is fun! Amazingly enough, I enjoy eating and drinking and don’t worry much about calories. Once the food is on my plate, I live for the moment. But I’m convinced that I take food far too seriously. How can that be? Without food, living things die.

The return of fun: I enjoy drinking local beer (and Belgian beer as well, so I am not a purist.) Maybe it is only a symbolic gesture, but I am once again starting a garden this spring. Thus far, the most exciting and bizarre thing I have going is one artichoke plant. The peas are doing beautifully, as is the Romaine lettuce. I promise not to deprive my local health food store of business, as the rabbits may eat it all, and I have no livestock on the premises, nor the ability to grow spices from the far east or tropical fruit–yet.

Maybe, just maybe, I hope, my little raised bed gardens will reduce the number of trips I make to the store and the packaging and transporting of our food. Why must every head of lettuce, cilantro, parsley, arugula, spinach, collards or kale have a paper and metal band wrapped around it?

Yes, I feel completely helpless regarding the building of dams in China and even more so about the draining of the Colorado River.

I’m certain that the rain that falls unbidden from the skies and my lone artichoke hold the key to saving the world. Then I recognize the risk that my artichoke, lettuce, peas, and rich soil of home-cooked compost are just lulling me into complacency, as my neighbor is lulled by driving her Prius or Tesla. Circe does lulling well, and the results are generally not gratifying. Are we all lulling one another?