8/10/2006

A Little Botany, A Little Philosophy

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 9:03 pm

or: Why Gardening Is Cool 101

I said at the beginning of this that I’d make every effort to bore the pants off of everyone with tales of how my garden grows, so here we go.

Tomatoes are, of course, ridiculous. They have passed the lower sill of the bedroom window, they are past the upper border of the bathroom window and are now reaching for the gutters. Approximately 7 1/2 to 8 feet high. And it’s not just the cherry tomatoes that are so energetic. I’ve got a striped Roma tomato (I don’t know the subspecies name, the plant stake is at the bottom of the plant and I can’t find the bottom of the plant to grab the stake and find out) that is one of the enthusiasts that is reaching for the gutters.

For the record I purchased the plants from Territorial Seeds. I never start seeds myself, I’m not good at it and Territorial grows such nice sturdy plants. They’re living in self watering planters; either Garden Box or Gardener’s Supply Self Watering Planters which are covered with Territorial’s 30mil plastic red mulch which helps keep the water in and the weeds out. I fed them, once, with Organic Tomato Fertilizer from the Gardens Alive cataloge. I’m afraid to do it again.

I harvested our first ripe tomato, a Tiger Like (a small round red and green striped dude) , on July 26th. My father claims I could be convicted of witchcraft for my tomatoes this year.

Potatoes are just about finished. The vines have all pretty much died back and now what remains is to dig the potatoes (YAY, red white and blue potato salad!) and replant the patch with, I think, lettuce.

Black beans aren’t doing as well this year as they have in previous years. The plants are a little stunted and the bean yield isn’t as high. I’m not sure whether or not this has anything to do with the rows getting a little weed choked while we were in Europe.

Sunflowers are a joy as always. I don’t think I’m going to get many, if any, Russian Giant and I don’t see any of the cool new Peach Passion sunflowers that I bought from Territorial this spring, but I can always try again next year with a larger number of seeds. It looks as if I’m going to have a nice yield of seeds again this year which will help keep me from having to purchase sunflower seeds probably ever. That is, if I can keep them from the finches.

The pumpkins that Anastasia and I planted in early June are starting well. One has a vine that’s nearly 4 feet long at this point and since I planned the patch fairly carefully this year they should have enough room for once. If I can keep them and the loganberry canes from getting in each other’s hair.

I have finally managed to conquer the powdery mildew that has previously claimed all of my curcurbit plants. I’ve currently got two different types of cucumber (Lemon and an heirloom variety called Botheby’s Blond) and (whoopee!) a very vigorous and viable loofah vine. They were planted in fresh from the bag potting soil with a heavy dose of Vegetables Alive! fertilizer from Gardens Alive. They, too, are living in self watering planters and are covered with 30mil green mulch which helps keep the soil warm and reflects better spectrum light to improve (theoretically, I haven’t seen it in action yet) fruit production. I have great hopes for actual HTG pickles this summer.

My border plants; lavenders, a golden sage, several varieties of thyme, a couple of different oreganos, my Australian Bush Mint (of which I am very proud), and Doug the Fir who acts as our Christmas tree, are all in varying stages of health depending on how wilty they’ve seemed over the last few weeks and what sort of time I’ve been able to eke out to water my plants in the mornings before work.

What must have been the pride and joy of (probably) Mrs. Eacrett, the enormous dahlia patch which I inherited when we bought the house is, sadly, dead in its tracks. I think the tubers froze after I dug up and re-set them two falls ago. I keep finding little sprouts here and there that look like dahlias, but I’ve only got one or two plants (out of forty or more) that are actually identifiable and only one is producing flowers this year. Oh well. They’re pretty, but they did take up a lot of space. There are a few that I’ll probably purchase new from Swan Island Dahlias and start again, but honestly with my passion for pumpkins and other vining garden plants I could really use the garden space.

I am the penultimate in dilletante gardeners. I grow what pleases me and what I’m successful at with an unflagging enthusiasm. I grow things with, of course, the hope that we’ll be able to eat and enjoy the fruits (or tubers or whatever) of my labor, but without much hope that what I grow will provide a substantial part of our diet. Honestly I think that if we had to depend on my labors for our every day sustenance we’d probably get REAL hungry.

But I enjoy it. Gardening occupies my eyes and my hands and leaves my mind free to roam. Today was the first day in probably several weeks that I’ve had the chance to get out and actually spend, well not as much time as I’d have liked or I’d probably still be out there, but a good deal of time doing nothing but taking care of my garden. A big chore without a doubt, there’s still at least a solid week’s worth of basic maintenance that needs doing. Creating order out of chaos or, as it applies to the border of the garden itself, chaos out of order is good for the soul.
Too, I came to the realization earlier this evening that today is the first day that I’ve been actually tired in a long time. Not beat, not weary, not bagged, or lagged, or knackered, but really tired. My mind at rest, the kinks transferred from my brain to my muscles, and ready to fall into bed and sleep. Everyone needs something that will produce these same results.
I’ve got a vicious bite on my arm from one of my rosebushes and even after a shower I’m still finding bits of rhododendron bush in my hair and stuck to the bottoms of my feet.
Couldn’t be more content at the moment thanks. And you?

Food Fright, Part 14

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:22 pm

foodfright-14.jpg

Shot this while shopping at Costco with Margaret last week. There was a whole pallet of these 5-gallon buckets on an end cap between the deli stuff and the beer and wine. Gosh, where to begin….

Firstly there’s the idea that Costco has jumped on the “Disaster Preparedness” bandwagon. That’s just so….well, so incredibly American. I mean, it’s cute in a way, thinking of folks going about their Costco-y business, loading up their preposterous aircraft-carrier-landing-deck-sized commodity sleds with frozen chicken nuggets and cases of Kirkland Signature┬« Sports Drink (aka Gatoresque) stopping in front of the stack of Kegs-O-Human Chow and saying, “hey, yeah, what the hell, there’s still room in the garage next to the lawn edger.”

And yet, if you’re the type of person who regularly shops at Costco (as do we), you already by definition have at least a half an Apocalypse worth of food stored in your home; isn’t an additional 5-gallon tub of yummy foodlike substance just a redundancy?

Then there’s the fascinating array of foodish substanceoids present in the container. You can’t read it from here, but among the entrees proffered herein are: blueberry pancakes, mashed potatoes and something unnervingly called a “scramble”. A survival situation is by its very nature one of personified by the act of making do or doing without; tarting up your friendly neighborhood disaster with gourmet-style rations seems, well, unnecessary and slightly daffy. Personally, if I decide to stock up for the End Times, I think I’ll go with something simple, like a 55-gallon garbage can of beans and another one of rice, triple-sacked and stored with a few bricks of dry ice to keep the aerobes down. If you want something more exotic, dry dog kibble is almost perfectly nutritionally balanced for human consumption (and that’s before you count the extra protein from all the bugs); just a few vitamin supplements will round out your meal plan.

Unless you’ve packed some dehydrated maple syrup in your survival kit, them pancakes are gonna be mighty dry.

Lastly there’s the wierd vibe I get off these things. I’m reminded of nothing so much as the scene in Repo Man where punk wannabe Emilio Estevez pulls a can of “FOOD” (in black block letters on a plain white label) out of his parents’ fridge and starts digging into it with a spoon. During an interchange with his parents watching TV in the living room, he is seen to be masticating something chewy from the can one instant and crunching something quite hard and brittle the next. I don’t think I’m quite ready to be one of tens or hundreds of thousands of people who will be rooting through my bucket of “FOOD” when the Big One hits, desperately trying to find something that goes well with a side of anthrax, cesium or contaminated drinking water. For some reason I’d rather eat dog food. Or the cats, maybe. After all, we’ve been feeding them for years; only fair that we get something back on the investment.


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