Category Archives: Max

Summer begins

So once again, I cannot take a lot of credit for moving the garden from concept to reality – J has done the lion’s share of the seedling care & planting. I did go on a massive weeding spree this past weekend, so the gardens are attractive enough to be posted on the internet:

Main garden
Main garden
Parsnips, carrots, turnips, beets
Parsnips, carrots, turnips, beets
Herbs & lettuce
Herbs & lettuce

It has been such a cold spring that growth has been sluggish.  Everything went into the ground the weekend of May 17th but it’s barely done anything.  I know the heat of July will kick everything into high gear.

One crop that is doing well are the hops – J bought three different types a few years ago.  The first year we put them in pots outside our sun porch, and ran them up a trellis.  Last year they were transplanted out into a sunny spot in the area where the orchard is going to go, and this year he split them.  Several of them are already higher than five feet:

Hop vines - without flowers (yet)
Hop vines – without flowers (yet)

Two years ago J grew barley, with the intent of trying to brew his own beer.  The birds ate most of it, and Max napped in what the birds didn’t get.  It was less than optimal, so we’ve abandoned barley.  And beer brewing, truth be told.  Turns out Sam Adams makes perfectly acceptable beer, and it is ten times easier to get it at the store.  Go figure.

Finally, the back garden went in this weekend – this year, everything is being started from seed (watermelons, corn, beans, peas, pumpkins, etc.) so there’s nothing to look at here except exceptionally fluffy soil and beautiful rows achieved with the assistance of some John Deere tractor attachment that’s been cluttering up our basement.  Meaning that it gets to live another year at our house, because there is no way I want to rake a 25′ x 90′ garden into parallel rows.

Back 40, after planting
Back 40, after planting

And now we wait.

The winter of our discontent

We are continuing to be buried in snow, and it’s much too early to start planting seedlings, but I do have something entertaining for you to chase away these dreary winter days.

You may remember almost two years ago, when we had that problem with the crows, and we accused Max of trying to rip his way through the screen into the house?  J put up a sign, which apparently works – our neighbor captured the following one day last summer, but just sent us the video:

Proof the Sign Works!

Granted, that crow is sauntering away, but he does take in the sign and leave.  It makes me laugh every time I see it.

 

Good Night, Sweet Friend

We last saw Max on Sunday, July 29.  I had a bad feeling that whole week – his water hadn’t been touched and he hadn’t been by, which is very unusual for him.  We have pretty much been unable to open a window or have a conversation in our pantry without hearing, “Mrrow?” and having him appear.  The railing to our deck comes right up outside the window in our pantry, and more than a few times he’s startled us by suddenly appearing in the window:

What’s going on, guys?

Even when the window’s been shut, if he could hear us moving around in there, we’d hear him calling for us.  And if we were outside, unless we were mowing, he was right over to see what was up and keep us company.

I love hard work, I could watch it all day



The only time I’ve ever sat in the hammock, he came by for quality control


I insisted that J email our next door neighbor about him on Saturday, August 4.  We got an answer within an hour – he hadn’t checked in at home with our neighbor since Monday morning, and Max was as regular as clockwork at checking in with our neighbor.  Max has never not shown up every day since he came to live with A.  Our neighbor suspects something – a fisher cat or a fox – got him.  There is so much undeveloped land around us – 450 acres of conservation land abuts our property, and much of it is wooded – it provides good habitat for predators.  Our neighbor’s other cat, Lily, has been crying and looking for Max – she even came up onto our deck last Sunday, looking for him.  We were on the sunporch, and she crept around, looking, and sniffed at the water dish we always leave out for him.

I cannot even tell you how much time Max spent at our house.  It was like he was our cat, without any of the vet bills.  There wasn’t anyone who met him who didn’t think he was fantastic.  We were no exception.  We will miss him.

Radishes

Fourth of July has come and gone, and with it my first attempt to make something with the radishes.
I made the Delectable Radish Dip as directed by The Hungry Hippo.  She was right, it was delectable.  I stole a page from Stella Caroline and put the radishes in my food processor.  I think she has a much better food processor than I do, with multiple blades that chop vegetables better than mine does, but I will say pitching whole radishes into a mini food processor and pressing “high” makes a terrifically fun racket.
There were more radishes ready this weekend, so I went online to the Food Network website to see what I could find, and found a recipe by Rachael Ray called Red Radish Salad that we liked even better than the DRD from The Hippo.  (Sorry Hippo.) 

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 8 red radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 Delicious apples, quartered cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 European seedless cucmber, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • Salt and black pepper


Directions

Combine sugar, lemon juice & sour cream in a medium bowl with a fork. Add radishes, apple, and cucumber.  Turn vegetables and fruit in dressing to coat. Season with dill, salt, and pepper, toss again; serve.
I know a lot of people don’t like Rachael Ray but I’ve been a subscriber to her magazine for a couple of years and I really like her because she uses prepared ingredients in a lot of her recipes which is totally necessary when you want to make dinner on a weeknight and you don’t get home until almost 7 PM.  Anyway, we really liked the salad.  I made a substitution by using Granny Smith apples instead of Delicious apples, based on some of the comments from people who had made the salad.  I will definitely make this again.
I also chopped up the cucumber, apples and radishes more than she suggests, just to make sure that we didn’t end up with a forkful of radish for a bite.
Our very first summer squash has been picked, and will be used in tonight’s dinner.  J suggested I look for a recipe that involved both radishes and summer squash but I don’t think those are two items that have been very popular combinations.

Oh, and do you see that small red thing at the front of the photo?  That would be a strawberry.  Yes, really.  I got one the chipmunk missed.  I brought it in, washed it off and decided I would eat it after dinner.  It tasted terrible.  Really and truly terrible.  I can’t even describe the flavor.  So maybe the chipmunk is doing me a favor?

Speaking of someone who isn’t doing me any favors, here he is napping in my purple bush beans.  Literally on one of the plants:

I know, you’ve missed him.  He’s still around, and still napping.
He came into the main garden with me to “help” me weed.  Despite having about 15 pounds of cat on top of them, the beans are doing really well, and flowering like crazy.  Soon I’ll be hunting up bean recipes.  Stay tuned.

Good Morning!

This is the sight that greeted me as I came downstairs just after 5 AM this morning:

I did come thumping down the stairs this morning – I am always delighted to reach the first floor in one piece without having any coffee – which caused him to turn around and try and see in the windows next to the door.  Fortunately I managed to avoid being seen; when I am spotted there is lots of meowing and a lot of sad looks.

Many of the seedlings have been brought upstairs and put on a rack.  It started raining so we couldn’t put them outside earlier this week, but they’re going out today:

J has also planted the hops in pots outside below this sun porch:

We are growing three types (and by “we” I mean, of course, J and I am just taking associated credit.)  The vines grow 18 feet high, on average, so they’re on the ground underneath the highest wall of the sun porch so we have a spot we can string trelises from the top to pull them up.  (I also hope that it will provide a little bit of shade on a room that is hard to sit in during the height of summer, even with all the windows and doors open.)

The area around the hops is pretty much empty since they go up rather than out, so J decided on Monday to plant more herb seeds – cilantro, basil and dill.  He of course had help:

He said it would have gone much faster without a cat climbing into his lap.  I’m still trying to figure out when exactly I turned into a cat lady without actually owning a cat.

And Now for Something Completely Different

A few months ago, J came onto our sunporch from outside and announced that the screen over one of the basement windows had a big hole in it.  I went out to look, and sure enough, the screen was mostly shredded and all over the ground by the window.  We determined that it was cat sized, and we made mild accusatory statements about our favorite assistant gardener:

He has been making an active attempt to come live with us, so we thought it made sense – at his house, he can get in and out through an open screenless basement window.  Why not try and remove the screen and see if that works here?

You are disturbing my nap

J repaired the window screen with wire mesh to prevent the hole from occuring again, we continued to accuse our favorite feline, and life went on.

Several mornings later J was getting ready to leave for work when he heard what sounded like banging on the house.  He realized it was coming from the basement, so he went downstairs without turning on the lights.  There, in the window where the screen had been torn out, was a crow.  Pecking on the window.

Now, J has a thing against crows.  He says they always look like they’re up to something.  Supposedly they’re very smart birds, but I fail to see the wisdom of ripping out a window screen and then leaving the mesh on the ground.  It’s like it was done just to be destructive.  (J says they tore out the window screen to distract us, because they’re always up to something. I will only be impressed if they do something really sneaky, like steal my car.)  J’s response to the birds was to put up a sign letting them know they were not welcome:

I laugh every time I walk past that window.  We don’t see crows on that side of the house anymore, either.

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of…..

This past Sunday J started the pepper plants – all except the jalepeno, which he started this week.  They are down on the new rack and we’re waiting for them to germinate:

Before filling them with new seed starter, he washed all of them out, just in case there was any residual fungus or bacteria in the cells.  Of course, he had help:

It was windy, and our favorite assistant gardener helpfully watched the empty cells blow off the deck.  I like this photo, because it looks like he’s laughing at us.  Which he probably is – after all, we’re working hard and he’s napping in the sun.

Irene 1, tomatoes -1

So, the hurricane has come and gone, and we appear to have gotten off with a few downed small branches, a ton of leaves, and a semi-flooded garden.  Irene did get a tomato, though.


Right there in the middle, on the left of the fence post

Which is not a terrible thing, frankly.  Stella Caroline has a tree down on her deck.  Midway through the storm J went out to look at the corn – apparently about a dozen stalks were down at that point.  We expected heavy losses from the garden, so we picked anything that looked vaguely ripe on Saturday.  There was a lot of stuff:

We picked two huge bowls of early girl and brandywine tomatoes, three boxes of sungolds, peas, eggplants, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, summer squash, strawberries (take that, chipmunk!) and parsley and basil.  Then I spent an hour washing produce.  Because so many of the tomatoes aren’t ripe, we put them in a single layer in cardboard boxes with a banana in each box to help ripen them.  (Fruit gives off a gas that causes produce to ripen faster, which is why you should never keep the two together in the veggie drawer in your fridge.  J found the banana trick on the internet, and we thought, why not?  What do we have to lose, other than a lot of underripe tomatoes?)  We dragged everything out of our yard, off our deck and front porch, and tied the tomato cages to each other and the fence.  We staked the eggplants and peppers (which are producing nicely) and crossed our fingers. 

That evening, our favorite garden supervisor came to visit us, but we thought he went home (he has 24-hour access to the basement through a window at his house) until we looked out the front windows Sunday morning and saw him huddled on our front porch in the rain, yowling.  Because we’re saps, we let him in, and he happily snoozed on our sunporch most of Sunday, after being toweled off and given a lap to sit in and an ear scratch for the indignities of Irene:

Basil makes me sleepy.

He is totally trying to move in.  We’re resisting, particularly since he doesn’t do anything to pull his weight.

How does your garden grow?

Well, a lot has changed in the garden in the last few weeks.  Back on May 31, I posted this picture:

Looked pretty sad, didn’t it?

This was last night’s photo:

We’ve had a string of hot days lately, so that’s helped enormously.  (Also enormously helpful?  The Cocktail Farmers were in the Caribbean for my cousin’s wedding, partaking of tropical frozen drinks at the 2-for-1 Happy Hour.  One of the best was called a Tropical Breeze featuring mango puree, strawberry puree, and Midori.  When we figure out how to duplicate it, expect to see it here.)

There have been some casualties along the way:

Just before we left I noticed several of the Brandywine tomato plants had some sort of yellowing blight near the stems.  Because they came from a nursery and previous tomato blight infestations have been linked to nursery plants, I ruthlessly ripped them out before we left.  Nothing, NOTHING must interfere with the Sungold tomatoes, further down the row.   I’ll sacrifice everything else in the garden for those.  The bonus in ripping out the plants was that I discovered the subterranean watering system J put in the garden is working, and the roots are reaching down into the soil rather than spreading out along the surface.  So that was a decent consolation prize.

So far everything else is hanging in there.  We have lots of zucchini coming in – in fact, we harvested the first one before we left and gave it to our neighbor, and picked three more on Wednesday.  But they keep coming:

As do the summer squash:

                                         This one has my dad’s name written all over it

And we’re starting to see tomatoes, too:

                                          Early Girl

                                         Sungold flower buds, soon to be crack…I mean, tomatoes.

And beans!  Last year we put in about a half dozen plants, transplanted from the seed starting trays, and got enough for one meal for the two of us.  This year?  Directly into the ground, 1 inch apart and I planted 40 of them.  36 came up:

We’re going to have bushels of beans this year, if things continue as they have been.  I can’t wait.  Last year nobody else got any, because there simply weren’t enough to share.  I’m sure my friend Stella Caroline will come up with some fantastic side dish for them.  (She is both a fabulous cook and a tremendous baker.  Seriously – when she brings me something there is the internal struggle to listen to the angels of my better nature and share with J.  I do, but boy, I really, really don’t want to share her yummy treats.  I didn’t know her when I married J, because if I did the marriage vows probably would have included a line about sharing pastry.  Instead we recited a Navajo Wedding Blessing, which does not include a reference to caramel chocolate matzo.  That alone entitles her to one of my kidneys.  And one of J’s.)

Our experiment with peas is so-so.  They look a little feeble, and we put them in kind of late:

We do have one ENORMOUS pea pod, however.

We’re just not sure there are any peas in it.  There are buds on the plants, though, so hope springs eternal….like death, taxes, and the neighbor’s cat needing to nap right in the way:

How do you know he’s a king?

So part of our weekend was very much like the first 9 seconds of this video:

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

(I resisted the urge to shout, “Help!  Help!  I’m bein’ repressed!” while planting.  After all, I was there of my own free will.  And there was no sign of a king, although Max thinks he’s pretty important.)

It’s been a very rainy and wet spring.  J was finally able to get the tilling done out back on Friday night, and when he was finished, it looked like this:

Once that was done, we could think about planting the pumpkins and watermelons.  We created mounds to plant the seeds in:

Put the seeds in……

And covered them up:

It was really muddy.  Really, really muddy:

It was a great excuse to wear my frog boots, however!  (They’re left over from my days as a Conservation Commissioner.  So yes, I’ve worn them out in public.  I’m not known for my fashion sense, but I am known for my practical footwear.)  The whole thing felt a little like a, well, Monty Python movie.  At least I was laughing as I squished through the mud with my hoe.

We planted Jack-Be-Little, Lumina, Howden and Orange Dream pumpkins, and planted Sugar Baby watermelons.  We have hope that we will get both plants and pumpkins.  Watermelons would be great too, but we’re mostly interested in the pumpkins, because of our love of Halloween:

Of course, in the end, they all meet a fiery death:

This is what passes for entertainment in the suburbs – flaming produce.