The Garden Thrives

I was in the garden last week getting some trumpet vine shoots out of the rosemary bush and saw a bird’s nest in there!  What a treat!  I never knew any young’uns were raised there.  They had a parent with nerves of steel, because nothing ever flew out when I brushed by on my way in.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a nest this close.

Both gardens—my own and Plot Against Hunger—are doing fairly well given the weird extremes of temperature and rainfall we’ve had.  In the large Plot garden, the blackberries are amazing and there has been—I continue to cross my fingers—very little bird feasting.  I will be taking several pints to the pantry on Monday.

These are some of the sweetest blackberries I’ve had.

My summer and winter squashes are doing well—with blossoms and tiny squash coming on.

This isn’t all of them–I have not taken the best photos of the garden lately.

The tomatoes seem to be thriving (they love the heat).

Three quite large tomatoes developing here, and some nice Italian pear tomatoes as well coming on. I’m visualizing some lovely salads and tasty pasta sauce.

The basil is doing well and the oregano is blooming (yes, I should have been trimming it, but…) and serving the bees.

I’m looking forward to getting melons from this—the Edisto Mystery melon, which along with my cucumbers, also seems to be spreading its shoots.

I’m hoping this melon is mysteriously good, but I will be ordering some covers for the fruits to keep away the critters.

Tuesday, I’ll be taking my new car on its first long road trip—all the way to Illinois to see my family—whom I’ve not seen for 18 months.  It’s good to be breaking out and going places and ditching the masks.  Still, I’ve been watching our brethren in the southern hemisphere, hoping things go well there, because what happens in their winter is likely to be predictive for us.

The car looks fierce and sturdy in this picture.

To end on a better note—I’m expecting zinnias soon, and currently have the crazy seed pods of Nigella damascenes to enjoy.

I love these things and am happy to see that bits of yarrow are holding their own among the Nigella.

Have a fabulous week!

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Gardens, Cicadas, and Evil Lagomorphs

It has been so long since I wrote that I feel a bit sheepish, but I want to start again.  Something happened at the height of the pandemic here that translated to just too much screen time and I dropped out for the most part, but missed the community and visited sporadically.  Now I want to start writing again—there’s still a lot to write about—and periodic cicadas are one of them!

Depending on where you live, you may or may not have heard of these.  There are a number of them, separated into broods and the brood where I live in northern Virginia is Brood X, which appears every 17 years.  The adult cicadas 17 years ago flew up into the trees where they bred and laid eggs; their larvae dropped to the ground and burrowed down to the tree roots, where they suckled for 17 years before digging their way back up to transform again.  This can make it look as though your lawn has been aerated.

They molt, leaving these empty shells all over the place and they make an amazing sound.

Those big adults are a bit like WWII bombers.  They fly, but really slow and they don’t have maneuvers, so it’s best to get out of the way if one flies at you. There are apparently three species of Brood X, but I have only seen one in my area.

The cicadas are good for the garden.  The birds are so full of them, they haven’t eaten the mulberries, cherries, and blackberries they normally gobble down, meaning…I have gotten mulberries and hope to get blackberries.

I’ve been gardening this year both for myself and for the Plot Against Hunger.  My Plot volunteer, Holly, had the idea to plant the three sisters this year—corn, with beans growing up the corn, and squash underneath.  Because of evil rabbits, we had to fence the three sisters in.

We also had to replant okra, cover it with chicken wire (rabbits love okra sprouts), and cover the blueberry plants as well.  Not only did the rabbit eat the blueberries, it also ate the leaves off the bush.  Then it started on the pepper plant and the eggplants.  Luckily we’re getting an infusion of eggplants in a week or so.  I’ll fence those.

My fellow gardener Mike and I took 8.3 pounds of lettuce to the food pantry last week using lettuce from my garden and a couple other gardeners who had a glut.  

My own garden has had rabbit depredation as well, but I think things will recover as time goes on.  I have summer and winter squashes, tomatoes, peppers, okra (covered for now), a melon, cucumber, and flowers and herbs.  I’m looking forward to what the growing season may bring (likely more fences) and to telling you about it. 

Have a good week!

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Walktober in the Marsh

Well, I wanted to post a walk for Robin over at Breezes At Dawn, who runs Walktober for us here in WordPress-land.  I’m a day late for her deadline, but still in October, so thought I just MIGHT get in on her round up if I was fast this morning.  My friend Jane and I wanted to go kayaking, but it had turned kind of brisk, so we decided on a walk instead.

One of the first stops was a little cove where waterbirds feed.

We wanted to go to Dumbarton Oaks, but the gardens are closed through at least December.  I knew Great Falls would be crowded on such a beautiful day, but the night before the walk, I remembered Dyke Marsh.  I wrote about the marsh earlier this year when my friend Carolyn and I took a walk on New Year’s day.  Seems like a million years ago.

The marsh was very much itself and beautiful as ever on the lovely day we had.  It’s next to a park along the Potomac and adjacent to Belle Haven Marina, where I rent a kayak when I want to paddle through the marsh.  One of the things you notice if you walk river paths is that the movement of the water scours out little beaches.  They tend only to last a season and then there are new ones made at the next flood.

Plenty of nice places to sit and hear the water lapping…

It’s not a long walk, and one that Jane and I are used to seeing from the water, but both of us stopped periodically to search out the source of a scent or try to identify a bit of flora.  Often the flora doesn’t belong in the marsh, brought there by flood and tide, but much of the time it’s nice to see jewel weed, cattails, and other bottomland plants. 

We saw a lot of asters and the yellow flowers are a type of biden that grows in the marsh. I can’t remember it’s common name.

When you live in a city or suburb, if you grew up in the country, one of the things you miss is seeing a horizon.  One of the things I like about living here is that it doesn’t take too long to get somewhere where a horizon is in view.  And a long path is always a nice thing to see as well.

Ahh, exhale…

There’s also a boardwalk that gives views of the marsh.

Jane gazes at what we dubbed crow island.

From there, we saw some kayakers and both thought simultaneously, “That could have been us.”

We also saw a type of rose off to the side of the walkway that was growing where it would be subject to the tide.  It had made hips for the fall.  As I was looking at it, I saw this northern water snake resting after a meal.  It had likely eaten a frog…

Look at that bulge…

We went on to have a look at the island across the way from the end of the walkway.  As we stood there, crows seemed to be gathering for the evening.

The rose hips that led to the snake spotting…

Have a good week.  My next post will be on Geoff Le Pard’s book of poetry, including an interview on just how he writes on so much different stuff.

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Fall Arrives in the Garden

I can’t seem to find the time to write a blog this year. It’s nothing like my regular once a week post I used to do. I have to admit the new block editor has complicated things. I need a lot more time to learn it. Last weekend I did look at some videos, but none of them answered my questions and relatively few were even doing the sort of blog I do. But this is my attempt at putting my learning into practice.

I thought of doing a video to show the hundreds of busy bees, but didn’t…

The garden is looking beautiful, if a bit end of season. The asters have been in their glory, giving bees a last few bits of pollen before they have to hunker down for the winter. Other creatures have been out and about as well.

I’m enjoying the last of the basil as well…

I have done a bit of fall planting in my garden, even though I still have a lot of peppers and some tomatoes coming on. I’ve planted kale, which does well in the fall, arugula, which likes cool weather as well, some carrots, and beets. I also brought the cold frame back to the garden and planted lettuces in it. I haven’t covered it yet, because temperatures are still in the upper 60s and I don’t want to cook the seeds.

This is truly on its last season, I think…

I’m also looking forward to harvesting this eggplant. There’s another close to this size below it, making this the best year for eggplant I had in years. I doubt the blossoms will get very far, given the lateness of the year.

This will be my third large eggplant this year, with another on the way…

In the donation garden, Holly and I harvested the last of the okra and beans and the last of the large crooknecks, then cleaned the garden out and prepped it for fall. Along with donations from fellow gardeners, we were able to send 577 pounds of fresh produce to food pantries so far. With the discovery of two more crooknecks, not yet ripe, a resurgence of tomatoes, and a second crop of cucumbers, I hope to tip 600 pounds, but we’ll see.

The three crooknecks weighed 22 pounds. The okra, beans, tomatoes and peppers weighed three.

Holly did an amazing job creating rows for the fall plantings. Here in Virginia, if the weather cooperates, you can grow pretty well in the fall, if you stick to root crops and cold weather plantings.

We put the spinach, lettuce and most of the carrots and beets in the enclosure to foil evil lagomorphs…

Holly put in spinach, beets, various kinds of radishes, carrots, lettuce, and turnips, some of which were volunteering. In previous years, I’ve had really good luck with broccoli and cauliflower. The bonus is that if they get bitten by frost or freezing rain, the early spring garden is pre-planted.

What a job she did, while I weeded the small garden, where the asparagus bed is. Those sad little pepper plants in the cans had a rough year.

Next year, we’ll also be able to harvest from our asparagus, which this year was harvested by the rabbits, for the most part. Next year, I’ll be much greedier.

One of the last roses, in Mike and Gerda’s garden. I can report that the block editor is seeming easier now…

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Fall and Other Sadnesses

The seasons are changing, summer running toward fall.  It’s been cool here, cooler than I’d expect for September.  I will miss the Contented Crafter in the coming months.  Pauline, as many of you may have read in Alys’s lovely memorial piece, died on September 5th.  I first met her when she came to DC as a member of the “blogging babes” and was privileged to show her, Alys and Kelly around DC.  Since, we wrote, skyped, visited each other’s blogs and grew in friendship.  I wish her spirit Godspeed and her daughters, Danella and Joanna strength and comfort in the times to come.

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In the garden, I’ve been planting for fall as I clear space.  If it’s a mild winter, I hope to have lettuces, beets, parsley and a few other things.  I’ve had eggplants, peppers and green beans galore this year, along with a lot more tomatoes than I usually get.  We’ve had a lot of rain, which may have helped.

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In my garden, there is a mystery squash.  I have no clue what it is, but I think it’s a winter squash and I have quite a few of them.   If you know what it is, leave a comment.

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Not an acorn squash, not an overgrown pattypan…

More to come soon on final donation weights and fall plantings.  Take care all!

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The Garden Produces

Boy the summer crops are coming fast and plentiful.  I have more tomatoes than I’ve had for years–I think because I stopped trying to grow heirlooms.  We have so much fungal disease in our soils, that the only way to get a good crop is through hybrids.  The ones I have this year are tasty, so I can’t complain.  One year I made the mistake of buying Early Girls and I was so angry that I had allotted space in my garden to those horrible, perfectly round, hard, tasteless tomatoes they sell all winter in the store.  Even perfectly ripe from the vine, those things weren’t worth eating.

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These have been tasty.

But I have summer and winter squash,

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Okra in abundance,

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the hope of an eggplant or two by season’s end,

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and beans coming on, finally!  Yes!

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The longnecks we planted in the dedicated garden are coming on crazily and have weighed 6, 8, 8 and more than 9 pounds!  As several people have said–that squash is the size of a baby!

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I’ve got basil and I’ve planted more for fall.  I’ve also put in some other crops–more parsley, arugula and some kale.  I harvested all my carrots today, so that frees up some fall gardening space as well.  We’ll see how it goes.

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The peppers took a break for a while, but I have 5 large ones now and more blossoms.

Sorry to be so out of touch both writing and visiting people’s blogs.  It seems like there’s always just a bit too much to do.  But I’ll be catching up on the fly.  Have a good week!

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Growing and Donating

I have mentioned donating produce before, but haven’t shown what I do for the food pantry pick ups yet.  There are three every week: one to an elementary school and two to churches.  The other community garden, Four-Mile Run, chose these because they thought their food would make a difference at each one.  I have not gone to any of the pantries yet, though I’m familiar with both churches.  Four Mile Run garden has a really active group of volunteer donors and drivers to get the food to the pantries.  So far they have been happy to pick up from us and I have been grateful.

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Packing food….

Our garden, known as 10 Barton Gardens, has two small plots dedicated to food production for donation. Previously, they were for the Plot Against Hunger, but since AFAC has stopped taking fresh produce during the pandemic, I just refer to them as the dedicated gardens.

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These are growing in the small plot against hunger garden.

One of these is small, about 3 feet by 20 feet and I have planted asparagus in it, hoping to develop a good crop for spring that comes back every year.  The other plot has really enriched soil from a previous gardener who added a lot of organic material from manure to crab shells.  It currently is planted in squashes (winter and summer), okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, blackberries and blueberries, and pole beans.  It has a few lingering carrots and beets from the spring.  We’ve donated about 70 pounds so far in combination with my friend Paul, whose garden I’m caring for while he’s away, and other gardeners at 10 Barton.

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This is the large dedicated garden, with okra showing its best face and lots of squash and tomatoes behind it.

The pick ups happen in the middle of the day on weekdays and are tied to when food is distributed by the pantries.  We want it to be as fresh as possible.  I usually go in the evening of the day before the pick up and harvest and wash the produce, then I pack it in coolers.  My fellow gardener, Mike, has been a loyal volunteer to come on the day of the pick up and bag the produce to give to the volunteer driver.  It’s worked well so far and I’m glad to be giving good food to people in need.

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Coolers, packed up and ready for bagging, nestled in the small plot against hunger for the evening.

My friend Paul’s garden has added to our poundage, primarily in kale and chard, but lately in basil, which I’m glad to share with people as well.  I confess I have eaten all the green beans, though.  I also planted cantaloupe and some winter squash for him to have when he returns.

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One of the planters of kale in Paul’s garden…

After I met the pick up today (because I’m taking a little time off, even though I can’t go anywhere), I worked in my own garden.  I ripped out some zucchini that were producing only male flowers (for weeks) and replanted in another spot.  In recent days, space has freed up, and I was able to plant more parsley, including some of that Hamburg parsley that makes a root; rainbow chard; basil; and the two squash plants, a cocozelle and a black beauty.

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The golden squash are really coming on. I harvested one of them today, but the others are still quite small.

My bean plants are blooming like crazy, but I have yet to get any beans.  Another gardener said hers had just begun to come on, so I will keep looking.

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Sometime in the next week or so, I’ll likely plant some more cucumbers and start thinking more carefully about fall crops for the dedicated plots.

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I harvest the kale and chard into a cooler bag, then usually bring it home to wash and package.

Have I mentioned it’s been hot?  Really hot.  Upper 90’s and humidity that makes it feel hotter.  One day I was out just harvesting in Paul’s garden (which isn’t much work; it’s raised beds in a driveway).  And when I got home, I realized it was way too hot to be out.  It isn’t often that it’s too hot for me, but whooooeee!  After a series of violent thunderstorms, it’s cooled back down to the upper 80s and lower 90s.  Feels great again.

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I hope you have a lovely weekend and a great week to come.

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Early Summer Lushness

The garden is at that point where spring crops are mostly out, summer crops have gotten big and are beginning to bear, and everything looks lovely and lush.

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I just love this time with the seedlings coming up,

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Basil. I thought it wasn’t going to sprout.

the flowers blooming,

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squash plants thriving,

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beans climbing, and tomatoes looking happy

and producing fruit.

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We gave our first couple donations to different food pantries in the past week, mostly beets and carrots from the dedicated garden, which is doing well, thanks to help from my volunteer Holly, who weeds like a Champ and my neighboring gardener Mike, who keeps an eye on the water needs of all the plants.

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This garden has beets and carrots, summer and winter squashes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, blueberries, tomatoes, okra, and some stray turnips, as well as chard.

The work is pretty much under control, so some evenings after work, I’ve just been walking over there for the exercise, to check on things and to enjoy it.  Sometimes I see evil lagomorphs.

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It was eating grass, and far from my garden, so I left it unmolested.

Other times there’s a flock of song sparrows.  I tried to get pictures of them, but gave up and did a video instead.  Excuse me whistling under my breath on it; it was the chorus to Stan Rogers’ Tiny Fish for Japan, but unrecognizable as half the notes were in my head.  That was brought on by talk of smelt over lunch with friends on Saturday.  But back to the sparrows–They would perch on trellises and the fence and sing like crazy.  And they are cute.

It’s so lovely to see the trumpet vine blooming.

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And the rabbits did not eat my okra seedlings as they emerged this year.

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All in all, I can say so far, so good.

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Updates with Old Pictures

Once again, I went to the garden without my camera.  It’s a pattern these days.  I have some old photos to share and will try to do better with the camera next time.

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Things are looking good for the summer.

I’m really pleased with where the garden is at this point.  Some spinach bolted, but it still made fabulous salad, and now the summer seeds have all been planted, though not all of them appear to be coming up.

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there have been blueberries since this picture…

Okra is up and some of the pole beans have come up.  The peppers and the tomatoes are doing well.  It could be a good tomato year, if only because there are so many of them, between what I purchased, was given, and what has volunteered.  We’ll see what transpires.

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Sweet peas, bee balm, and seeding Nigella…

I also have winter squash planted for the first time in years.  It tends to be sweet, so various garden pests gnaw on it.  That, combined with the long growing time and the large amount of space it needs makes me avoid it.  We have planted it in the Plot Against Hunger garden, as well, hoping to extend the season.  There is more space there, though it won’t look like it once all that stuff gets growing.

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I sat in the courtyard after the bike ride today.

The Plot garden has some nice beets that are ready to harvest, and some carrots that will be ready soon as well.  I’m in the process of talking with another garden about combining produce deliveries to some pantries.  They talked to all the distributors and figured out the ones that actually needed the produce.  A lot of places distributing have already got a good supply, either through grants, or the USDA (there’s a big farm nearby in Maryland that does research), or big donations.

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This picture is from a couple weeks ago, so the beets are well and truly ready to be pulled.

I was in the garden yesterday and did a lot of weeding and trimming and nosing around.  Then I watered.  Today, I went on my first bicycle ride of the year and discovered I was not nearly as out of condition as I thought and replacement of the tires last fall really messed up the gears.  I’ll be working on those for a while on each bike ride, trying to get in better shape than I’m in and in a reliably better state of mind.  So much is going on in the world.  We have to take care of ourselves and each other.

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The Constant Gardener?

Goodness what a week.  It started with a white woman threatening a black man with police for asking her to leash her dog in an area of Central Park reserved for birds and wild things.  It ended with riots.  In between, a white police officer knelt on a black man’s neck until he strangled him.  As I write, demonstrators are in Lafayette park across from the White House.  Tear gas has been deployed.  It’s like 1968.

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Bees in the birdbath, drinking…

I remember 1968.  I was a child, but I remember Martin Luther King being assassinated in April and Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June.  In April I was over at my friend Karen’s and my mother had come to pick me up, but the adults were discussing the murder.  In June, I was on a lake in Wisconsin where I turned 11 and every day I rowed out in a boat onto Loon Lake and caught and released little bullheads.  It was an idyll of family and friends, in the midst of which the adults talked about the murder.  Then there was the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  Holy Toledo.

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I should have harvested this rapini before it blossomed, but they were delicious anyway.

Back in the 90’s I was visiting a friend in Chicago and saw signs welcoming me to the city signed by Richard Daly and had flashbacks. (For those who don’t know the politics of American cities, Richard J. Daly was mayor in the 60’s and Richard M. Daly, his son, was mayor in the 90s.  Another son was a Senator.)  “All the news just repeats itself/like some forgotten dream/that we’ve both seen.”  No wonder I keep listening to old John Prine songs.  The kindling for this night has been stacking for a long time.

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Foreground: bee balm; the rest is a fence of love-in-a-mist, something we could use instead of teargas.

I am disgusted and I fear for my country and its democracy.  I am afraid our lunatic President will declare martial law.  I am afraid the election will be cancelled and we won’t be able to get rid of him.  I am afraid the election won’t be cancelled and my fellow citizens will re-elect him.  Note that all the other news of the week, like more attacks on the free press and Twitter’s attempt to tell people to look further at the President’s assertions, as well as reaching a death toll of 100,000 from COVID-19 went unmentioned in my little ramble.  It’s been a hell of a week.

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Thank God for flowers.

I baked cheese scones this morning,  the recipe from  Ellen Hawley’s Notes from the UK.

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And delicious they were.

I did my laundry and cleaned the house.  I went to the garden.  The garden helped.  There were peas.

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Find the pea pods. Yes, that’s mint in there…

There were flowers.

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Larkspur, Nigella, Sweet Pea, Lavender, and that yellow bit–bolted mustard greens…and a bit of parsley I’m letting blossom for seeds.

Last week, I did some work, too.  I had been going to save seeds from the chard.  Looking at the wall of it, I wondered how much chard seed I actually needed, decided, and then pulled out all but what would supply enough.  Then I put in a new bean enclosure, since the peas are currently occupying the only other one.

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The new bean enclosure with the old one in the background holding the peas…surrounded by mint and oregano.

I’ll be in the garden again tomorrow to plant the Plot Against Hunger garden for summer.  We’re working with a variety of pantries and organizations and the PTA President and I have a call with the Arlington Public School nutritionist on Monday to talk about the possibility of distributing vegetables through them.

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Nigella that haven’t opened fully yet and a few poppy pods.

So there’s some hope.  Let’s do what we can, raise hell if we have to, and not waste time looking for an easier world.

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