Category Archives: friends

More than just vegetables

In addition to our vegetables, this year we attempted to start our flowers from seed.  Longtime readers will remember that I managed to avoid planting many of the flower seeds and instead left it for J.  They have done remarkably well, as you can see:

This front basket was a gift from a friend

We did not grow the hanging baskets – they were purchased Memorial Day weekend from a nearby nursery.  I need to find out what the large green leaf plant is – it fills in the basket nicely as petunias get pretty leggy by August and the baskets still look great.
Originally we had planned to have hanging baskets of snapdragons, but the type of snapdragons – Lantern – really did not look anywhere close to good by Memorial Day, so we made the substitution with the nursery baskets.
The extremely tall flowers are dahlias.  I have never seen dahlias get quite so tall.  I was forced to tie all of them up with stakes due to their weight and the fact they were tipping over and covering the cosmos, geraniums, double petunias and aquilivia that I also put in the pots.
My front steps have never looked better.  Now if only I could grow a decent hanging basket.  Maybe if I plant seeds now, for next spring…..

I say potato, you say get me a magnifying glass

When I put the potatoes and shallots in this year (totally an impulse buy) I had no real sense about how to grow them.  I was marginally concerned that I had no idea what I was doing, nor did I know anyone who was growing potatoes. Well, except the parents of my Crazy Russian Friend (CRF) who grow potatoes in….Russia. (Imagine that.)  CRF insists that the climate in his hometown is the same as here, so I asked some advice about how to grow them. 

You plant them in the ground,” he told me, stirring his tea.  (Er, thanks dude, figured that part out.) 

“What about mounding the soil around the plants, like I’ve read?”

Yes, you should do that to keep the potatoes from popping out of the ground.  How many acres of potatoes do you have?

“I have six plants.”

You will not get very many potatoes.”

“Any potatoes at all, really, will be a victory.”

It is good that you have low standards for potato production.

So other than being an entertaining lunch companion, CRF was not particularly enlightening with tips for growing potatoes.  (And those of you who know CRF are no doubt laughing, knowing exactly the tone of voice he used and the fact that I always tell his parts of stories with a thick Russian accent.)  By that point, they were already in the ground so I had lost nothing in the venture. 

A few weeks ago the plants developed what looked like potato beetles.  Internet research taught me that you can’t actually chemically eradicate potato beetles because they’re immune to all but the most hazardous pesticides.  Since we’re pretty much an organic garden anyway, the preferred method of removal, by hand, seemed like a great alternative.  (A recent Facebook post also taught me that you can sprinkle bran around the potatoes, which potato beetles will eat.  They then drink water, which causes the bran to expand and the beetles to allegedly explode.  I have no independed verification of bran-consuming exploding beetles, but the idea of it delights me, as does imaging what exploding beetles sound like.  Guess who raided her husband’s cereal this morning to go sprinkle around the potatoes?)

The hand removal of the beetles has been going well, as you can see below:

I check the plants every few days.  While out poking around in the garden, I noticed what looked like a very brown rock poking out from under one of the plants.  Upon closer inspection, I discovered it was actually a potato:

So there are apparently potatoes growing under all that leafy beetle-infested plant life after all.  Hopefully they will be considerably larger by harvest, or I won’t be sharing.  Not even with CRF.

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:

Which came first…..the chicken or the joke?

I have been meaning to post for more than a month now about the anniversary gift our friend Aideen gave us.  (We celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary at the end of April.)  Since Christmas, Aideen has been going on and on about how she was going to get us chickens as an anniversary gift.  I was not amused.  (See also:  March 7th post.)  I really don’t want to own chickens, for all the reasons listed in that rant.  But Aideen was insistent – we were getting chickens for our anniversary!  We would love it!  There is no stopping Aideen once she gets an idea in her head.  You just have to roll with it.

I made contingency plans – I would post them on Freecycle and claim that the cats next door ate them; I would try giving them to people I already knew had chickens; I would drive them to Drumlin Farm and leave them in a box with a note: “Orphans.  Please adopt or eat.”  I was prepared.  I was ready

Aideen showed up with a 7-pound Perdue oven-stuffer roaster and a dozen eggs.  She is endlessly pleased with herself that she had me riled up for months over this.  I have never laughed harder after opening a gift.  Or been more relieved.  Because really, when it comes to Aideen, you can never be certain.