A Little Respite

My niece came to visit on Saturday. We went to a party at some friends on Saturday evening and then headed to my cousin’s on Sunday. Aaaahhhh, such relaxation…

DSCN4384

Chancellorsville battlefield, Monday morning.

My cousin and her husband live in Fredericksburg, Virginia near the Chancellorsville battlefield. Bob and I took a long walk on the field on Monday morning. It was brisk and got our heart rates up and turned out to be a little over three and a quarter miles.

DSCN4380

Notice the hay dotting the field to the left of the tree…

There are signs on the field explaining what happened on what day and whose farmhouse was destroyed by a cannonball. History is all over the place here. Now the battlefield grows hay for local livestock and gives a habitat to rabbits and foxes and coyotes, not to mention all manner of birds from hawks to swallows. Still, the peace of it holds reminders, such as of the McGee family, who were divided between loyalties to north and south.

DSCN4382

The graveyard of the McGee family. The last member died in 1925.

Since my niece is interested in wine professionally and since the rest of us are just plain interested, we did some touring around. Virginia has many wineries, some of them well-established, with international awards to their name.

DSCN4409

This map, posted at Early Mountain Vineyards, doesn’t even include all the wineries, but gives you an idea of the concentration around Charlottesville and in Orange County.

We began with Horton, which I had never visited, but whose wine I had enjoyed. They brought the viogner grape to Virginia a number of years ago and now it’s the state grape. Their vintner also brought Norton back to Virginia. The Norton grape cannot be used for anything but wine making, and as a result, it was largely destroyed during Prohibition Apparently Mr. Horton found it in Missouri and brought back some vines for planting.

IMG_0247 4

My niece among the vines at Horton.

From Horton, we went to Barboursville, which was much more pleasant on a weekday than the weekend, when it’s crowded beyond my enjoyment levels. We got some very good information from the pourers, who had time to talk to us.

DSCN4404

Bill, who poured for us, knew a lot about the grapes, how they were processed, how long they were aged and in what kind of kegs, residual sugar, and acidity.

Then we went on to Early Mountain, which has a nice eatery attached, and had lunch. We recuperated there from all the tasting.

DSCN4410

Really, touring around locally can be the best!

Finally we circled back to Old House, which is one of my favorites as well. There is a nice chess set outside, a lovely pond, and lots of grapevines to walk through.

DSCN4413

We didn’t stop for a chess game, but isn’t it nice to see it?

We made it back to Allison and Bob’s in time to go swimming and then eat a very nice spaghetti dinner whipped up by Bob (we ladies collaborated on the salad, which included some veggies from my garden). I came back with a lot of wine, but it was nice to be able to taste it all, not to mention have help from my niece in unloading it. She took off back to New York Tuesday night, having thoroughly enjoyed her escape from the city.

IMG_0250 4

Here we are, walking among the vines at Old House. Bob caught this, of course!

Posted in Local Food, Local Pleasures | Tagged , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Have I Mentioned It’s Hot?

Today Jane and Dani showed up at 8:00 am to weed the gardens and it was steamy even by then. It has only been dropping into the mid and upper seventies overnight, so you can get some idea of the heat during the day. The air is so hot, it reminds me of standing near a bonfire.  We were able to harvest squash and tomatoes and cucumbers and Ben came by just in time to take them to the farmer’s market for AFAC pick up.

DSCN4361

Three little cucumbers hiding in the shade…Note the lemon cucumber on the left (it’s yellow).

The small garden has lots of tomatoes and the large garden has squash and cucumbers. The rabbits have been eating the bean plants so that has been one of the many failures of the garden this year.

DSCN4360

At least we have some flowers to cheer us!

Honestly, I am pretty discouraged. I can’t remember a worse year in the garden, though one is lurking deep in my repressed memory bank. Something ate the Butternut squash I have been documenting in the past few weeks.

DSCN4365

Ack. A squashicide. So disappointing.

And something got under the bird netting to eat both Brandywines I had hoped to harvest.

DSCN4364

Rat criminals!!!!

And something is attacking the peppers already.

DSCN4367

Pepper eaters!!! Grrrrr…

I have learned it may very well be rats. When the fencing was replaced (another nightmare) many of the rat traps were apparently taken away. In addition, a new construction site a few blocks away has run the rats from their homes and they seem to have decided our community garden is Shangri-la. I think our County extension agent knows about it and is working to get us some more rat traps (those black plastic things which are apparently full of deadly food).

DSCN4368

Is anyone here doing well? It looks green…

I do have more squash coming on, but if they’re all going to be eaten, well, ugh. In desperation I started looking around the garden for something to make me feel better about feeding the wildlife rather than myself.

DSCN4371

Now she looks cool, but I can assure you neither of us was.

I saw Mary in her garden watering. Because of her location, she has a bit of early morning shade and it was nice over there.

DSCN4372

She had also picked flowers, herbs and tomatoes.

DSCN4370

Yum!

Last year, she planted rye grass as a winter cover crop and really liked the result. This year, she is trying buckwheat. I took some pictures of her sprouts.

DSCN4374

I’ve never seen buckwheat sprouts. These are looking pretty sturdy.

And I admired one of the two fig trees we have in the garden, loaded with tiny fruits, and then left, feeling a little bit better.

DSCN4373

This tree is loaded with figs.

Posted in Community, Local Food | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 45 Comments

The Heat Continues

Yesterday was another scorcher. I went to the garden in the early morning to harvest and see what needed to be done. I was able to harvest quite a few Juliet tomatoes from the small Plot Against Hunger garden. The large garden has some squash and cucumbers coming on that will probably need harvesting midweek. Joanne, another gardener who has gone on a trip, asked me to harvest her garden and I got some nice squash and tomatoes from it. Just the harvesting left me dripping in the heat.

DSCN4358

Tomatoes from Joanne’s plot.

I went back in the evening and weeded the small garden, worked the soil, which had cracked in the heat, and gave it a good watering. The small eggplants are doing well, but the large tomatoes need bird netting or we will never harvest any for AFAC. I’ll run by the hardware store today for that.  I had a go at my own garden as well, where there are more winter squash coming on, but no summer squash, a problem for a few gardeners this year. My San Marzanos are snug under the bird netting and ripening away.

DSCN4331

I’m so glad to be getting these now.

The Cherokee Purples are also safe, though some bird netting opened up during the week and nearly a whole Brandywine tomato was consumed, probably by a marauding squirrel. I sealed up that hole.

DSCN4329

I won’t show what’s left of the Brandywine…

I’m getting fruits on all three eggplant varieties.

DSCN4332

The plants are all much smaller than I’ve had in the past, but still seem to be producing.

The arugula I planted last week has come up. It’s under the chicken wire cloche as I’m not sure whether its seedling form is tasty to rabbits.

DSCN4333

Just try to get at this, Peter!

I also picked flowers while I was there, taking advantage of Joanne’s offer of her sunflowers while she was away. Mostly I have zinnias in the mix, with a bit of Black-eyed Susan.

DSCN4357

No competition with Eliza Waters, here! Check out In a Vase on Monday and you’ll know what I mean.

And I have a nice little bouquet on the bedroom bookshelf as well. Next year I hope to have a nice wildflower border and a larger mix, though I have to say those zinnias are a reliable and varied bouquet over the summer months.

DSCN4338

It’s always nice to wake up to a little bouquet!

And have a look at that sunflower close up.

DSCN4346

Posted in Community, Local Food | Tagged , , , , , | 53 Comments

Heat and Lushness

Last weekend I weeded the small and large Plot Against Hunger gardens and then I weeded our newly lent garden, which is full of tomatoes, onions and squash, not to mention basil. I harvested some things for AFAC, including a lot of red onions.

DSCN4321

This was empty when I started weeding our loaner garden!

After laboring for AFAC, I labored for myself. Last week, I dropped a drapery of bird netting over my tomatoes, and lo! this week, I had some ripe tomatoes that had not been pierced by bird beaks or half eaten by squirrels. Hurray!

DSCN4322

The San Marzanos are coming on nicely.

There are some big green tomatoes too. I’m waiting for these babies to ripen. One plant is Brandywine, a big favorite, and the other is Cherokee Purple. Both are sweet tomatoes and excellent on a BLT sandwich. Or eaten out of hand, if you can stand all the dripping.

DSCN4324

This will be one big, luscious tomato eventually.

I also have peppers and eggplant coming on.

DSCN4326

This small plant looks to be prolific. Stuffed peppers, anyone?

The mystery squash is definitely a Butternut, and growing by leaps and bounds!

DSCN4323

Quite a change from last week, huh?

And in a triumph of bee stalking (or the attractiveness of zinnias to said bees), I got not just one of the busy creatures with my camera,

DSCN4320

Here’s bee #1, packing in the pollen…

But two! I hope your week is going swimmingly…

DSCN4318

Bee #2 on a pink zinnia…I have a long way to go to achieve Derrick’s huggable looking bees…

Posted in Community, Local Food | Tagged , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

It’s Too Darn Hot (now hum that)

Because we’re having a weekend of 100 degree weather and high humidity, I asked the Plot Against Hunger volunteers if they would start our weekly maintenance push earlier than usual. Dani was happy to oblige, and boy were we both hot by the time we finished!

DSCN4308

zucchini hiding in the shade of leaves.

Right before I left home this morning, I found that we might have acquired another garden for the summer since someone is going to have to be out of town until the end of the season. We went to take a look at it right away. It’s got raised beds and it’s really thriving. Its paths are a bit weedy, but its tomatoes and squash contributed to AFAC this morning.

DSCN4305

Lots going on here; basil lower left, lots of squash and tomato plants.

It also has a lot of basil in it, which I’m sure AFAC clients and fellow gardeners will enjoy.

DSCN4306

Yep, enough basil for the whole garden…

Dani tied up two problematic tomato plants in the small garden and we weeded the large garden.

DSCN4303

Dani and Jane are my tomato experts. Today Dani did the necessary wrangling.

All the gardens got a nice drink of water before we were done.

DSCN4312

Dani watered while I picked our “new” garden.

My own garden needs a little weeding, but seems to be doing fairly well except for the defunct beans. Not sure what’s wrong back there–may need to test the soil. Luckily the tomatoes and quash are thriving and the eggplants are blooming.

DSCN4314

Not bad for something that looked a perfect disaster a few weeks ago…

I also have some winter squash coming on (could it be that time???). I have “acorn” squash…

DSCN4316

Funny how in this heat, they manage to look cool in pictures!

And something that I’ll need to go back to my seed packets to identify.* Ah, well, the mysteries of the garden are continuous. Stay cool if you’re in a hot place–and warm if you’re not!

DSCN4315

*The mystery squash…is a Butterbush, a variety of Butternut with smaller plants that could be grown in containers.  I chose it because they can get large and take over the garden.

Posted in Community, Local Food | Tagged , , , , | 45 Comments

The Work Continues

This morning, garden volunteers Sarah, Jane and Ben helped weed the large and small Plot Against Hunger gardens. The small garden has turned into Jane’s baby this year as she takes care of the eight tomatoes planted there, five of which started at her house as seedlings. We also have peppers and eggplants in the small garden as well as thyme and oregano.

DSCN4297

Those lovely white flowers are from carrots we neglected to harvest…

The large garden has had a bit more trampling, this time from maintenance people working on the light pole. I concentrated on weeding our outside border and deadheading flowers. Sarah and Ben weeded out the inside, where we were also able to harvest a nice bunch of golden beets to take to AFAC.

DSCN4301

An intact part of the border has tansy, calendula and whatever those daisy-like, prolifically seeding plants are…

In my own garden, things are still in relatively good order. Tomatoes are coming on.

DSCN4293

These are Cherokee purples, and are not even close to ripe yet, but it’s nice to see them growing.

The squash seem to be doing well and I harvested some more kale this week. Soon I’ll have chard to harvest, too. Tomorrow I’m off to the Illinois farmlands to visit family, so if I’m not visiting blogs as often as usual, it’s because I’m visiting elsewhere in person! I hope you all have a great week.

DSCN4292

I planted squash late to avoid the bore worm, and of course am shamed by the gigantic plants other gardeners have…

Posted in Community, Local Food | Tagged , , , , , , , | 45 Comments

The Garden Begins to Recover

What a difference a week makes! I’m getting my mojo back in the garden. I went a couple times this week and weeded. I kept running into these guys. I like the one in green boots.

DSCN4272

The one with the flower pot looks helpful. The other one looks like he might have been tippling.

I had wanted to get the inside of the garden in shape before I worked on the outside border. Today, I got it mulched and composted. I don’t know how the plants feel, but I feel much better.

DSCN4284

A lot of weeding, a lot of compost…

Contributing to that are the little tomatoes coming on,

DSCN4274

and the zinnias that started to blossom.

DSCN4275

My garlic are drying in the kitchen

DSCN4281

and I had kale and beet greens with dinner tonight.

DSCN4276

The big job today was the outside border. Fellow gardener Joanne had offered me some of her zinnias, which she had not thinned yet. I took a couple dozen after weeding the border and planted them, gave them a good dose of water, and piled on some leaf compost. Then I threw down some wildflower seed. Things are looking up, especially with a rainy Fourth predicted.  What’s bad for a national celebration is good for the garden.

DSCN4286

Posted in Community, Local Food | Tagged , , , | 57 Comments