Of Gardens, Kitchens, and Books…

Flowers are taking over my garden. They were smothering my little eggplants, which really couldn’t take much more after the flea beetles got at them. They were hovering over the pepper plants, too and shading some squash in the back. The thing is, though, I think they may be good for the tomatoes: camouflage. Birds and other thieving creatures won’t get to the fruits before I do because there are other red and colored things all over close by that can’t be eaten. Is this sowing chaos?

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The garden after weeding, mulching, watering…have I mentioned it’s dry?

Yesterday, I went to the garden to cull flowers, weed and check out what was there. One tomato plant was in trouble from blossom rot and my hope for zucchini had also rotted on the vine. I worked away happily (I am on vacation this week, partly to get the kitchen in order and partly to do other things I can’t seem to get to while working, getting the garden to fabulous being one) for more than four hours and liked the result.

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A few tiny cucumbers coming on give me hope of bread and butter pickles…

Today I went back and added composted leaf mulch. But before that, I threw down some bone meal on the tomatoes and squash and some organic fertilizer for good measure. The bone meal could take care of the blossom rot, if that’s the correct diagnosis.

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This is the plant with blossom rot. It may be getting over it if this batch is any indication.

I also transplanted some of the zinnias I removed from the garden and put them outside the fence for our sidewalk border. I hope they survive.

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The bees love the zinnias.

The small Plot Against Hunger garden has some massive tomatoes coming on, as does the large plot. There was also a summer squash in the large plot and a perfect zucchini in the small plot. Obviously, these plots have a better mineral balance than mine. We’ve given a lot of produce to AFAC this year so far. Jane did a lot of succession planting and interplanting with the early crops, and all the chicken manure we put down in February or March seems to have done its magic.

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Other tomatoes are mixed with zinnias and hiding near winter squash.

Over the weekend I painted the kitchen something called shore house green, which looks more like robin’s egg blue to me. There was some bad language at the edges where cutting in or masking is necessary. The edges aren’t perfect, but it’s okay. I painted the wall where I currently have a desk something called suntan yellow, and I really like the combination with the blue.

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When I opened the can of paint for this, I started laughing, I liked it so well.

After the garden today, I went up to the Container Store, where I had a counter and shelves designed last week with their Elfa system. I took pictures of the kitchen (being me, I had already taken precise measurements, but forgot, for instance, the HVAC vent up close to the ceiling) and we made some adjustments to the design. I’m paying for delivery and installation, having already used up my bad language quota during the painting. Suffice it to say, it’s a bar height counter I can use for work or breakfast, with some shelving above. I’ll show it when it’s installed.

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This is where the bar/shelving will be installed. I use my metal fuse box cover as a place to post notes.

Since all work and no play would be bad, I’m also reading and recently finished a book I enjoyed immensely. It is called Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney. Holy smokes. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a book so much. I’m following it up with Julia Glass’s A House Among the Trees and will let you know how that is when I’m done.

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I really like the way this blue makes the window pop.

But Lillian Boxfish. She’s an 85 year old woman who takes a purposeful walk through Manhattan on new year’s eve in 1985. She was at one time the most highly paid woman in advertising as well as a poet and writer of self help books. She takes the reader through the New York of the twenties (Prohibition did not stop cocktails), the thirties–yes something from most decades. She is witty, astringent, clear-eyed, and open and her walk takes her past landmarks that all resonate with an event. The narrative moves easily between past and present and the writing is solid. Lillian has some insights about life, some surprising, and if she were my neighbor, I’d be dropping in on her.

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My banana peppers are loaded. I think Lillian would like banana peppers.

Tomorrow, I’m having lunch with a friend (did I mention we’re having some spectacular weather? Low eighties, no humidity, sun) and may take a kayak onto the river. Vacation at home is heavenly, even with chores…

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Soon, I hope to stop buying beans from the grocery. Though I’ve been picking these young and putting them in omelets…

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Summer Comes On

I am certainly eating from the garden these days, which is a great pleasure. This weekend I harvested carrots, beets, lettuces, radishes and onions.

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From what I could see, there are at least three zucchini that will be ready later this week,

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tomatoes small and large on all the plants,

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some lovely bell peppers, which seem early,

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and what looks to be the potential for a lot of cucumbers. Bread and butter pickles, here I come!!!

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The pole beans are blossoming, so I hope to have those as well.

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And there are flowers galore, especially bee balm,

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And zinnias, whose artful buds I had not taken much notice of before. There is always something new in the garden.

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I brought home a bouquet of course.

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Later this week, I will need to get some bone meal onto the tomatoes, as at least one plant appears to have some blossom rot. In the meantime, I’ll be watching the squash so I can pick them at a reasonable size!

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Much More To Do

Well, the kitchen is in!  I do like it a lot. Goodness, even though this contractor was quite clean, what a mess that dust is, even getting into the back reaches of my place.  I cleaned Friday night and all day yesterday, along with putting things in the cupboards.  In spite of my good intentions, I did no culling.  Over the next few months as I settle in and rearrange, I will doubtless get rid of a few things.  But on to the pictures:

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This is the view from the doorway. If you look closely, you’ll see the paint swatches taped to the walls.

It took twelve hours to unpack, put things where I thought they might work, haul out the trash, and paint the woodwork in preparation for putting the curtains back up and moving more furniture.  It’s been 28 years since I moved, and it’s all coming back to me…but a friend is coming over today to help with the last of it, at which point I will move back in.  Then think about the painting, which shouldn’t take long, but for drop cloths and taping…

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Fridge and sink to the left as you walk in the door. I had wanted the door handles on the right, but I wouldn’t have had access to one of the crisper compartments had we stuck with that. It’s a tight space, and we thought we had allowed, but…this will work.

The tall storage cabinet is really nice, and I have just about filled it.

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I was able to put all my canning equipment and jars in the top compartment. Whew, now it’s out of my closet.

So other than a few pieces of furniture being moved and more trash taken out, I have only to think about paint.  I’m looking at a tropical sea color or an Italian villa color.  As I stare at the paint chips, I’ll undoubtedly decide.

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Long view from the window. Next week: back to the garden!

If you’re local, the folks who did it are Cameo Kitchens in Falls Church.  All this in 18 working days!  With a Tuesday start and a Monday holiday it was 3 1/2 weeks on the calendar.  I only wish they painted, too!

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A Weekend of Sun!

We finally had a lovely late spring weekend with sun and temperatures in the low eighties. Everyone’s garden is flourishing from all the rain (and we’re expected to have three days more of it this week).

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By clearing out some of the early crops I made a little space for some okra.

I harvested lettuces, spinach, carrots, beets, and radishes and left some kale to get a bit bigger. I also have abundant herbs, which is nice. I cut up cutting celery, parsley, and some basil into a pasta dish tonight, adding some store bought tomatoes.

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Alex gave me two garlic bulbs. I will find a way to use them with some of this produce!

The Plot Against Hunger gardens are also flourishing and we harvested carrots, beets and lettuces from them this week and I added more carrots, some turnips and some lettuce to the tally. Alex will be taking those to AFAC tomorrow.

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Larkspur, interspersed with poppies on a busy corner…

One of the amazing things in the garden is the profusion of flowers. We have a lot of larkspur, the remains of love in a mist, zinnias coming on, yarrow, poppies, and some sort of primrose whose name I can never remember.

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These are some sort of primrose, but possibly not primula anything. The foliage turns red in the fall.

I brought home a bouquet which pleases me immensely. As for the kitchen, work has been done, but it doesn’t look a lot different. I am told the countertops, floor, and appliances will all go in this week, in which case, I will be very busy next weekend!

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Ah, flowers for the house again. Using one of my host’s vases!

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Seizing the Sun

We’ve become trapped in a weather pattern with rain most days. While this has been good for the drought, and is undoubtedly good for all green things and the bees, I would welcome less rain. I was in the garden working away on Sunday afternoon and it started to mist a bit. I ignored it. I was wearing a straw hat and a wool sweater (yes, in May) and wasn’t feeling wet. Kept working, looked up at a certain point and realized it was full out raining and I needed to stop working.

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My hosts’ updated kitchen has cupboards such as have been ripped out from mine.

I ate a sandwich I had brought to eat in the garden amidst the distinct scent of wet wool in the shelter of my car and repaired home to my borrowed apartment, where I settled in reading a jewel of a mystery by Michael Innes (aka J.I.M. Stewart). I thought I had read everything he wrote, but found on my hosts’ bookshelves The Seven Suspects. I don’t know about you, but there are writers whose new books I wait for. And it is always unfortunate when I find an author who will be writing no more and whose works I read completely over the course of time. Stewart was very much alive and writing when I first discovered him, but it was a treat to find an unread Sir John Appleby mystery. I have yet to finish it, but am very near the end.

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The chaise is a very commodious reading spot, and these shelves are only a smidgeon of what’s in the apartment…

Today dawned gray and chilly, but turned out beautifully. I had arranged for a little urban hike with my friend Carolyn. We set off from my place, downhill to the river, across Key Bridge. We had decided to walk the C&O Canal towpath, but went east toward town, thinking to find the old water gate of the canal. Yes, the infamous hotel of the same name is called after the entry from the river to that canal.

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Key Bridge from the water steps.

We got sidetracked by a lovely vista of riverfront park and we followed it, because, really, who can resist a river? The day had cleared and turned out beautiful, drawing vast numbers of people who had been holed up in their homes contemplating the art of boat building.

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Some boats moored on the river walk. At left above the boats is the Watergate; at right, the Kennedy Center.

People were out on the river in boats and on paddle boards and in canoes all coexisting relatively peacefully with larger craft. If you look closely, there were also a lot of ducks and geese.

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Walking across the Key Bridge, we spotted a Great Blue Heron in flight, probably heading for calmer fishing waters. We stopped to eat at a restaurant on the river called Tony & Joe’s, where we could eat outside under an umbrella. It was fabulous.

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I also showed Carolyn my kitchen cupboards, and will now show you as well!

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Fridge on the left, sink and cupboards without, as yet, hardware.

Stove and microwave (my first ever) will fit in here.

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Tall pantry has five pull out drawers inside.

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I’m thinking this week maybe the floors and the countertops will go in, as well as under counter lighting, the sink, disposal, and other stuff. I’m hoping to reclaim my space by June 9th, but we’ll see.

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Back to the river for a view of a construction barge under Key Bridge.

On our walk back across Key Bridge, we paused to inspect a construction barge. There are repairs going on to one of the bridge arches. There’s also a large dock loaded with more scaffolding. So, while it feels as though my apartment is filled with all the construction in the surrounding area, it just isn’t so.

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A Surfeit of Greens

Salad days are here! I’m eating greens like crazy–spinach, chard, lettuce, kale–and some of the other lovely things that grow along side them in the spring, such as carrots, peas, radishes, and the occasional turnip.

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I roasted this with last night’s dinner.

The Plot Against Hunger gardens are both thriving and planted completely. The large garden has already yielded quite a lot and the small garden will be turning out lettuces and peas soon. Later, there will be carrots, tomatoes, and sweet and hot peppers.

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These lettuces have been harvested several times. I expect they’ll be bolting soon, but in the meantime, it’s all going to AFAC.

One of the pleasures of this time of year is the flowers. Roses show up in any photograph down the length of my garden.

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I’ve protected the beans from the depredations of the rabbits, but I think some wily voles munched quite a few of my beets. They must have a sweet tooth.

Some are spectacular, like these yellow ones.

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These are in a neighboring garden.

And of course, there is love-in-a-mist (Nigella something or other). I love the pink, blue and white of this and the different forms of the flowers.

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There’s something very endearing about these flowers. Jerusalem artichokes are encroaching on the right.

The kitchen, should you be interested, has been gutted. Electrical wiring has been upgraded and the plumbing inspected. It’s not pretty. Sometime this week, I expect cabinets will start to go up. The following week, let’s hope we have the floor and appliances in, but that will remain to be seen. I’m awfully grateful to be staying in another place for the duration, where I can cook my greens and relax in peace.

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I’m so grateful not to be living with this, but to be close enough to drop in and see progress.

Cheers and good wishes for the coming week!

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I’ve had the loveliest crop of radishes this spring.

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Catching Up

I can’t believe I haven’t written for more than a month. It isn’t as though the garden isn’t in full swing. I forgot the camera a number of times and then when I took it, I didn’t find time to write. So here is the update.

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It’s pretty lush in my garden right now. We’ve had a lovely amount of rain and things are growing wildly.

Jane’s fabulous Plot Against Hunger garden has already given about 15 pounds of produce to the food assistance center. And that’s poundage in lettuce and kale and greens! Okay, some carrots and radishes, too. More will be going tomorrow from the small garden–Tom Thumb lettuces and some carrots, as well as more spinach from the large garden.

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This garden is very productive. It’s given lots of lettuces, kale, and spinach and soon it will give beets and carrots. Later: squash and tomatoes.

So the season is in full swing. I had help today from Mike. He and his wife Gerda are neighbors in the garden and signed on to help in the Plots Against Hunger, which needed a weeding. Gerda will harvest early tomorrow so Mike can take the goods into AFAC.

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These Tom Thumb lettuces are the first thing to go to AFAC from the small Plot Against Hunger garden. Cheers!

My own garden is now fully planted. The spring crops, especially the greens, are coming faster than I can eat them, and all my salad and cooked greens recipes are starting to come back to me.

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I brought home kale, arugula, spinach, and beet greens from thinning. Salad days!

The flowers have been out–irises, columbine (aquilegea), now roses, and love in a mist (nigella).

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I love these! And they’re just getting started.

And mallow. It is such pretty stuff, but wildly invasive.

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I am the culprit who introduced this to the garden and now lots of people are having to pull it out!

Marcel, a gardener I hadn’t seen since last fall came today and when I wandered over to see him, he cut some of his peonies for me. I gave him a lettuce head from my garden. He said he was having a friend for dinner and would eat it tonight. Meanwhile, I have these lovely, amazing and fragrant flowers for as long as they last.

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There was no way to do these justice with the camera. Of course I had packed all my large vases, but the water glass was perfect.

I am in the midst of packing up my kitchen for the remodel. I have been quite apprehensive about it, but that’s because I like a calm, orderly home. Supposedly the whirlwind will hit on May 15th. Since I may not have internet access enough for blogging while the remodeling is going on, if I don’t write next weekend, I’ll probably be absent again until the end of the month. But don’t worry. I’ll most likely be gardening.

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