Summer Evening Ramble.

Gardening is a tricky hobby. This is my sixth year in the business of vegetable gardening. It almost feels like the word “hobby” is an understatement. Gardening is a part of my life, and has been for years. I spend winters reading, designing, preparing, and ordering seeds. Spring is a mad rush to start seedlings indoors, amend my soil, direct sow cold crops, and wait impatiently. Summer is supposed to be when all of that pays off. I water and water and water, I weed and weed and weed. And I wait, and wait, and wait.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from six years of tending to a tiny garden, it’s that it is quite impossible to supply enough for my family of four. We can maybe have a salad once a week from my lettuce. And my herbs are always available for seasoning. But most of it is a waiting game. I probably have around ten tomato plants, all of them with plentiful flowers. In the spring I had several rows of beets and carrots. Now I have one of each, because the devil in the form of a rabbit has been helping himself to the buffet that is my vegetable garden.

It’s a lot of frustration, but I can’t possibly expect anything more. I can hardly compare my yields to the growers at the farmer’s market- they have acres and acres, they use fertilizer and pesticides. I have only 64 square feet of vegetable growing space, and my go-to amendment is compost! But every year I do it again, because I love it, because it is a part of my life. I love the excitement and promise of a new spring, I love the hot summer afternoons of hauling watering cans. I love serving my family a bowl of delicious salad from lettuce I grew myself, even if it is only an occasional salad.

This summer I’m taking a course at my local community college. I’m still in high school, but my school doesn’t have anything remotely resembling an agriculture program. This class is three times a week, and lasts for three and a half hours. My friends wince when I tell them this- but they don’t get it. Every single minute of those three and a half hours is useful and interesting. I’m learning about conventional versus sustainable, I’m learning about crop rotation and sub tillage, cover crops and fertilizer. I’m learning things I never even dreamed of learning until college, and the best part is that the course is completely free (thanks Obama!).

I am sitting right now, overlooking my backyard. You could call it a back garden, since the summer flowers are so abundant. Colorful and blooming coreopsis, mandevilla, sedum, day lily, black-eyed susan, calibrachoa, and hibiscus line the stone walls. This scene is my favorite part about summer. It reminds me of cookouts, family, warmth, and life.

As I type away at my laptop, Boris the Pug attempts to wolf down the crushed walnuts he finds underneath the butterfly bush. I attempt to catch him and he runs behind the tall ornamental grass. I can see his glittering, mischievous eyes from behind the fronds even now. He unabashedly crunches on what must be a particularly satisfying shell, and then drops it on the bark mulch to find more.

It feels like the clouds are holding their breath. They completely coat the sky in milky white, with purple undertones in places. They seem heavy with moisture, and have brought a cool breeze all afternoon. On the radar an angry red splotch is racing in my direction, and should be here within the hour.

 

 

Advertisements

Seedlings

I started some seedlings earlier this week! These past few years I have utterly and completely failed at getting my little plants to thrive. I’ve had an especially frustrating time with the heirloom peppers I’ve tried over the years. On Monday I filled a flat with four Asters, four peppers, and eight lettuce plants. Or maybe it was eight pepper plants and four lettuce plants… perhaps this is why I’ve been failing at this…

But not to fear! I have a chart with the information somewhere around here. I followed the directions carefully, filling up the bottom tray with warm water, soaking  the black, absorbent mat that goes underneath the flat itself in more warm water, expanded the little soil pellets, sowed the tiny seeds, and covered it all with a thin “germination sheet”. Then I quickly cleaned up the layer of dirt on the kitchen counter before my family laid their horrified eyes on it. They just don’t get it sometimes 🙂

I probably could have easily done all this without the silly Burpee seed kit, but took advantage of it as it was left over from last year. Hopefully they sprout.

Photo Mar 09, 1 47 00 PM

If anyone asks, those crumbs are brownies…

Photo Mar 09, 1 51 16 PM

And if they don’t, I shall try again. After all, I’ve got to have something to distract me from the idea of chicks that I can’t have, and my rooster troubles.

Veggie of the Week

Photo Aug 24, 5 15 32 PM

The Purple Pear tomato is underneath that bright red one. It has a green tinge towards the top.

This week, for vegetable of the week, I have chosen the Purple Pear tomato. Like all of my plants, I ordered my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., but these ones are special. Because I ordered these seeds about four years ago, when I began my heirloom vegetable garden. My first year, I didn’t even know what “heirloom” was. But when I stumbled upon heirloom tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, swiss chard, kale, etc.. at the farmers’ market, I fell in love. I had to grow them. So that year, instead of buying tomato starts from the garden center, I bought a few paper packets of seeds that came in the mail encased in bubble wrap. And one of these glossy packages was the Purple Pear tomato. They had excellent production the first year they grew. I got countless amounts of these reddish-greenish fruits.

But Fall came, as it often does, putting an end to my garden’s harvest. The left over, frost kissed, and very withered tomatoes soon fell off their vine, into the soil. The soil got covered in three feet of snow for a few months, and then turned over once more in the spring. In late May, I noticed green tomato plants poking their heads up through the ground. I never thought they’d flourish, but they did.

Next year, the cycle continued.

And again.

And again.

It took four years for this little tomato to slow down in production. Some disease took all of my tomato crops, making the stems wither and die, and rotting unripened fruit. And I STILL got a pretty good harvest. Two baskets worth.

I think this vegetable certainly deserves the title of Vegetable of the Week. But I won’t be letting the fifth generation grow next year. I need to get rid of that disease!

A New Lonely Lifestyle

You’re probably wondering what the heck I mean by that post title. Lonely? New lifestyle? Huh?

Don’t worry, it’s just me being a little dramatic again. Two days ago we dropped my sister off at college for her first semester. She and I are very close, especially because we shared a room from the moment I was born. I told her most of my problems, and she listened and gave me advice. I’d bake her cookies, or muffins, and she’d drive me to a coffee shop. We always watched different shows together, binge watching them over our frozen pizza and iced tea. This summer we spent just about every day together, and suddenly she is ripped from my life completely. Gone, meeting new people in a strange environment, sharing a room with someone else. Everyone tells me “She’ll be a different person when she gets back, it’s amazing the changes that happen!” as if it’s a good thing. As if I would want her to be anything other than what I know her to be.

So when I’m sad about her leaving for college, I’m sad for myself. Because no one is going to bring me to the coffee shop anymore. No one is going to listen to me the way she does. No one is going to bicker with me about who has to turn the lights off at night. No one is going to share the cult TV shows on Netflix with me. When I look across the room, her bed sheets are stripped off, leaving an exposed mattress. Empty, forlorn.

I resolved myself as we drove away from her that afternoon that I would bury myself in whatever I could. Gardening. Work. Perhaps I’d take up jogging. Yoga? Anything to keep my mind off of that fact that she isn’t here. My voice is rusty from not talking all day.

On the topic of work, I trained with the animals on Wednesday. I got there, and the person training me showed me to the wheel barrow, shovel, and rake. He told me to clean up the straw in each of the stalls. I did, and I’m pretty sure I have never seen so much feces in my entire life. In one pen, the alpacas (two shaggy, spitting beasts) live with three friendly little horned goats. In another, a mother goat lives with her kid. In another pen, three Nigerian Dwarf does live together. A third pen has a doe and two adorable twin kids with black fur. Another contains multiple hens and a rooster. Another has ducks. The list continues, but I assume you’re probably done hearing about it.

Anyways, everything went swimmingly until I reached a pen with two brown, huge, Nubian does. I walked in, like I had countless times before, and rolled the wheel barrow to their little hut. The two goats bounded away from me, and only came close enough to sniff my hand. That was okay with me, as I was extremely tired, and to the point of gagging with the smell of goat urine in my nose. I continued shoveling the spoiled hay into the wheel barrow, every once in a while spotting a mischievous goat head peering around the corner at me. A few minutes later, I heard a rattling noise. Familiar with antics of goats, I dropped my rake and ran outside to see a flash of brown fur pass by outside of the fence. Swearing, I undid the gate, accidentally letting the other goat out. They trotted around me, running away whenever I walked near them. Their amber goat eyes gleaming with amusement. I told the person who was training me what happened, and we managed to herd them back into their pen after 40 minutes of stressful scrambling. Not the best first day.

I also had another day of ice cream training as well. Thursday was my final day of training, and I do the real thing tomorrow. I got the text for my hours as I made muffins this morning (they were blueberry lime and absolutely delicious). I’m extremely nervous for various reasons.

  • I can’t make an ice cream cone to save my life
  • I don’t really remember anything I learned because it was so much to process
  • I don’t know who I’ll be working with- I’m not really good at meeting new people

I’m sure there’s more, I just can’t think of it. You may have noticed, I have a terrible memory.

Veggie of the Week!!

I think I’m going to start something new- 

VEGGIE OF THE WEEK!

Every week, I believe I will feature a vegetable, or fruit, from my garden. I know you’re holding your breath, so I won’t keep you in suspense a moment longer…

 

This weeks veggie is………..

BEANS! 

This particular variety is a bush bean called Dragon Tongue. I ordered the seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company this Spring, and direct sowed them into the ground, two plants for every 1 ft x 1 ft square. Apparently they are Dutch, and have gorgeous purple streaks on top of a light green. The purple disappears when they are cooked, leaving plain old greenish-yellow instead, but they are a true beauty beforehand. They’re quite productive too! They began producing about two weeks ago, and every week I get a whole bag full of them. On top of all this, they are absolutely delicious with some butter and garlic.