Ah, Summer…

It’s not that I haven’t been in the garden.  I keep forgetting my camera when I go.  It’s been a good garden year.  I was able to pickle cucumbers and this morning, I’m putting up a second batch of tomato sauce.

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I had to use the tomatoes I wouldn’t be eating in the next four days. These will be okay while I’m gone.

I work in pretty small batches of three to four pint jars at a time.  It works with the way I seem to get tomatoes and I can whip up a batch of sauce or whatever I’m making in a short time instead of making a whole day of it. Also, since I’m only one person, I don’t need lots of great big jars stored away.

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Other than pesto, there’s just nothing like opening a jar of home canned tomatoes in the winter.

It’s now late summer and the cicadas are singing and evenings are cooling down.  We had the most extraordinary few days of weather only about 80 degrees and very low humidity.  I’ve had my windows open, enjoying all the outdoor grassy smells and the cicada singing–and of course, I’ve heard the birds in the morning and evening as well.

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Heating the lids…

It’s turning warmer again in the next few days, though, which is fine by me, as I’m heading off to the beach with a friend and it must be hot at the beach, as far as I’m concerned. That way I can lie around in the sun, soaking up rays like a little lizard, run into the water to cool off as necessary, and of course, shelter under a beach umbrella and read a good mystery.

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A few filled jars, with a leaf of basil tucked in each…

Other than gardening, this summer, I have also been reading.  Most recently, some essays by Richard Russo, The Destiny Thief, which have some interesting discussions of creativity and the writing life from the perspective of someone whose professors did not expect him to be a novelist.  The title essay is about a conversation he had in middle age with a former classmate their professors expected to be a successful novelist–who went on to be a professor instead. I also read Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel, and I have to say it was pretty terrible.  I kept reading, expecting it to get better, but I can’t remember a worse novel in recent years.  It managed to be both tedious and horrifying.  Like Our Souls at Night, I wanted to throw it at the wall when I was done, but unlike that novel, whose story arc I just disliked, this one was both frustrating and pointless.

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Tomato sauces take a 35 minute hot water bath because without pressure cooking them it takes that long to kill off the spores of evil organisms.

I also just finished Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.  I must confess to having read much of his output (except the poetry; and that’s because I read less poetry than prose) and liked it all. He has moved back and forth in time and geography in his novels, showing deftness and imagination of the best fiction writers.  His prose can also be the sort that makes me, a greedy reader, slow down and stop at the end of a chapter to absorb imagery and layers of possible meaning.  Warlight is narrated by a child looking back on events, with all the acknowledgement of misunderstanding, acceptance of the puzzling as normal, and ultimately revelations in adulthood.  It’s worth a read if you want to sink your teeth into something layered and mysterious.

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I also got this eggplant from the garden. I’ll be fixing it today, since it won’t last the week.

I’ll be heading to the bookstore for something I can take to the beach with me.  I’m currently reading Good Omens by Neil Gaiman.  It’s not my usual thing, but it’s rippingly funny.  Unfortunately, it’s on my iPad, which I won’t be dropping into a beach bag. It tends to heat up in the sun.

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Some finished jars cooling…

So have a good week, all! I’ll be slathering myself with sunscreen and walking the beach, wearing the calluses off my feet.  And I’ll try to drop by some of your virtual porches to say hello.

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I wish I could share my bounteous crop of basil with you…it’s getting that end of summer look to it. More pesto!

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World of Wonders

This week, I had a lot of goodies from the garden–and I am eating them.  In the case of flowers, I’m still picking bouquets for the house every week and enjoying them greatly.

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Since nothing much is different in the garden from my last post (well, the tomatoes are riper), I thought you didn’t need more pictures of the progress of my bounty.  I had been thinking about children and the things they see in the world and how they can be terrible and wondrous and awe-inspiring. It comes from a certain closeness to things (in the case of pinching bugs, that would be the ground) and attentiveness.  So I was noticing the bees on my flowers (even the ones I had picked).

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Look at those wings.

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And who knew zinnias had so much lovely pollen?  Well, the bees did.

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And this sparrow was looking for nesting material, trying to get some of last year’s vines off the trellis, no doubt for a second hatch. I was only able to get a picture when it paused for a rest.  Look at the way those feathers lie (or just enjoy the “cute little fluffy bottom” as Sid the Cussy Bunny would have said).

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I was looking for blue flowers to cool down my bouquet, and was blithely deciding which stem had more incipient blooms on it, when I noticed this:

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Good grief, look at the forearms.

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Finally the mantis decided to crawl over to some zinnia leaves.  Probably trying to get away from the paparazzi.

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Enjoy your week and watch for the wonders.

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The Pleasures of Staycation

I took vacation this week and stayed home.  This is lovely to do if you don’t have a travel bug, love your home, and feel you don’t get to enjoy it as much as you’d like.  That’s me.  I like seeing new places, but I also like staying home.  I had a list of things to do.  I didn’t get to all of them and it rained Saturday through Wednesday, so I was pretty much confined to doing things inside.

I repainted the bathroom, which had crackling peeling paint in it.  I did the whole mess one is supposed to do:  scraped, spackled, sanded, primed, and finally laid on a coat of paint.  This

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turned into this.

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And this

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turned into this.

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I chose a new color, which makes the bathroom much brighter and warmer.  With all the work, I hope it waits at least 6 years before it starts to peel again…

The rain has helped the garden keep bearing crazily.  AFAC is benefiting, particularly where tomatoes are concerned, even given the number of tomatoes that split from the rain.

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The second bag had zucchini, cucumbers, and eggplants in it as well as Swiss chard, not shown here, as it was in the fridge.

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I met a friend I hadn’t seen for some time for coffee and it was lovely to reconnect.  I had some garden friends for dinner, and in general had a lovely time in spite of the heavy weather.  We had Friday, Saturday and today relatively rain free.  I got myself back into the garden today as it is supposed to start raining again tomorrow.

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I have a lot of flowers, some of which get cut every week for the house.

The basil is yielding enough for drying.

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Cucumbers are continuing to blossom.

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Squash are very happy.

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The large tomatoes are beginning to blush.

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And I planted arugula and some hot weather lettuces today for fall consumption.  So far, so good!

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The Garden Booms

It’s full swing in the garden, and I haven’t written for so long that I really have at least three blogs to write.  The last time I wrote it wouldn’t stop raining, but now it seems unable to start again.  All that rain was a miracle for the cucumbers, which are normally hard to grow.  They usually die of early onset powdery mildew, which comes on in dry seasons, and is partly attributable to my lackadaisical watering habits.  But this year!!!  This year, I will be making pickles!!!!  I have already made cucumber salad (slice half moons of cucumbers, thinly slice some red onion, halve some cherry tomatoes, add salt pepper, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and a little olive oil).  So here are the cucumbers I currently have on hand after donating to AFAC.

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Some of these are cut up and draining for pickles. The larger ones I peeled, seeded and put in the cucumber salad I mentioned.

The zucchinis are also thriving and I have enough to freeze some for winter breads.  The trouble is I don’t usually have the patience to drain it properly after shredding.  I’ve been eating a variety of zucchinis and summer squash, as all the seeds I planted survived and appear to be fruiting.  With zucchini  plants you need to visit and search at least every other day; if it’s raining, every day, or you suffer the consequences of the stuffing-sized zucchini…

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View of one of the thriving zucchini plants from the back of the garden.

Tomatoes have yet to come on, except for the salad varieties.  But I’m going to have a boatload if birds, rats, squirrels or others don’t eat them.  I have lots of green ones now ready to ripen and I’m looking forward to some good tomato eating as well as some sauce canning.

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I do have a little bit of blossom rot on some of the San Marzano tomatoes, but not these.

I’ve already made pesto once and am using fresh basil in salads and  sauteed vegetables.  Today, I’ll be making more pesto in small jars for freezing.  What’s better than a fresh sliced tomato on good bread that’s been spread with pesto?  Nothing!

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Basil lower left, more zucchini and tomato plants center.

I enjoy laboring in the garden. Yesterday I set out in the morning, slathered with sunscreen, and took a quinoa salad and a peach with me for lunch.  And lots of water and decaf iced tea…When I was ready for lunch, with soaking wet hair from the heat, I headed for the shade where we have a table, took off my hat…and found I had forgotten the fork.  So I washed my hands again and scooped the salad up with my hand of preference.  Then along comes our beekeeper with all his wares and there I am, sweaty, with matted hair, sitting on an overturned milk crate, eating with my hands, looking feral. He may not have noticed even, so I headed over to watch him check to see if there was a queen yet in the hive, and he did indeed find her, so with luck there will be eggs and the hive will grow.

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So far, the hive is small, but the beekeeper plans to bring more.

I inter-planted my eggplants with marigolds this year and it seemed to help.  They are doing well.  There are also peppers and okra in this area of the garden and they seem to be doing well, too.  I have only one good sized okra plant fruiting because the rabbit seems to find the plants delectable.  Pretty soon my garden will be a collection of cages to keep out various types of critters. A fellow gardener gave me two more plants, but they are small yet, and under cover of the chicken wire cloche. I’m not sure how big they have to be before the rabbit loses interest.

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I think I’ll be planting marigolds again. With luck, I’ll get some nice eggplants.

I’ve also had lots of flowers again this year, but not so many as last when they took over and smothered my vegetables!  This photo, earlier in the season, shows an Eastern Tailed Blue butterfly camouflaged by the yarrow it’s landed on.

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Oddly, it was the orange mark that caught my attention. It never did open its wings to show the blue while I was watching.

And…some of you may remember my kitchen remodeling saga last year and that Kelly over at Boomdeeadda offered to make me a window treatment.  I took her up on it!  Several people had asked what I was going to do with the curtains there and I had always liked those curtains (hand-blocked with fruits) and hadn’t realized how… tired … they looked.  I found fabric on Spoonflower, which has more designs than you can even look through and prints the fabric to order.  I bought some fabric for the bathroom window, where I had been using a pareo for a curtain for years.  I’m thinking of sprucing the bathroom up and thought that a Roman shade there would be just the ticket.  Kelly offered to do that one too!!  Anyhow, trips to New Zealand and Australia and access delays to a superdooper serger sewing machine later, I got the shades in the mail!!!  So I had a little work to do with sewing on the rings for the cording and fixing the hardware.  I also wound up a little frustrated with my power screwdriver, which seems to be designed to work primarily with drywall, certainly not wood.

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Are these not beautiful? I have yet to get the curtain rod hardware taken down, but will…sometime.

I hung them on July 3rd and was mightily pleased.  You aren’t getting a picture of the bathroom one because Kelly is not happy with it, and craftspeople do not want work they are unhappy with shown around (though I like it).  Kudos and many thanks to Boomdee for labor and craftsmanship.  Now nobody’s going to ask what I’m going to do about that kitchen window.

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And here they are raised!! They’re such a nice finishing touch for the kitchen.

So, I said at least three blogs, and I think you got that!  I thought I might show how the Roman blinds get fixed and mounted, but there are lots of demonstrations of that on YouTube and frankly, it’s a blog for the winter!  And of course, I could show you my pickling, but that can wait for another blog! It’s good to be back.

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One okra plant is not nearly enough.  When I don’t have enough pods, I just throw them in with whatever other vegetable I’m cooking. Enjoy the week!

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The Rain It Raineth Every Day

It has been raining or threatening to rain almost every day for several weeks:  Most of May and now starting with June.  Needless to say, I did not go to the garden this weekend–or even in the week, since it rained almost every evening.  Today, I’ve had the lights on all day, it’s been so dark.  There are flash flood warnings, where a few months ago we were on the edge of drought.

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This is what it looked like at 3:00 PM.

Still, I kept myself busy this weekend.  I got my sorry little self to the gym for the first time in ages.  After that, I took a wander through a couple local stores, bought some books, and picked up a table runner that I knew would be too long for my table.  But what a lovely thing!  I’ve been trying to add some blues back into my decor and this seemed one way to do it and seasonal.

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Normally I can pass by something that will have to be altered, but these flowers…

I draped the runner across my table and laughed. It was close to twice the length it should be.  So I cut it to length and sewed it up.

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Now it fits nicely with just a little drape over each edge, which of course doesn’t show in this photo.

Then I cut  the remnant into three placemats.  That’s not necessarily an Ideal number, but I can see myself using them with the runner. So, while the rain kept me in, I was not idle, though I plan to be later this evening, if reading equates with idleness. I hope you have a good week!

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This is the first placemat finished. The others are ironed and ready to stitch up.

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Now for Some Growth

I have been working in the garden since my last post, but I keep forgetting to take the camera.  Today I went to harvest lettuce, and remembered.

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Not only was there some nice lettuce, but quite a lot of kale, to which I added some chard. It will make a nice saute.

My visits to other blogs have not been very regular–for which I apologize.  I miss you all when I am not checking out your posts, but alas, sometimes I just don’t get over to the virtual front porch.

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Some marigolds and on the right, a little stonecrop.

My garden is completely planted now.  There is one surviving okra plant (now sheltered from the rabbit by chicken wire), eggplants, pepper plants, various kinds of zucchini, three kinds of tomatoes (San Marzano, Brandywine, and Celebrity), basil, parsley, cucumbers, lettuces, pole beans, and flowers.  There are also two kinds of kale and some chard (silver beet to those of you in the UK and NZ–thanks to Bruce for the correction).

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Love-in-a-mist, with some incursions of yarrow, and upper left you can glimpse the garlic and two cucumber plants

Flowers have been coming along nicely and I have had my first bouquet from the garden this week.

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I have been transplanting zinnias out to the sidewalk border and have inter-planted my eggplants with marigolds, hoping to ward off flea beetles.  I think the rabbits are eating some of the marigolds, though.  I planted more this week just to see whether the depredation will continue.  I would rather rabbits eat the marigolds than flea beetles eat the eggplant leaves!

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Basil, parsley and lettuce…I am hoping for some good pesto this summer.

The large outside garden is full of larkspur, which have started to bloom.  I also planted winter squash in there and those have come up.  The blackberries are coming along marvelously, loaded with berries and sprouting out branches. The blueberry bushes may require a better clearing or transplanting as there is too much vegetation around them.  I’ll think on that.

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The beans are thus far unmolested in their enclosure, which may be why the rabbit is nibbling marigolds and okra!

The asparagus I planted earlier has finally sprouted up, which makes me feel better.  So it may be that in a couple years, there will be a nice berry, asparagus and flower garden going out there.  Right now it’s a bit jungle-like, but once the larkspur go, it will thin a bit.

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I am ready for summer squash. Bring it on!

The garlic have shot out their scapes, so I will cut those soon and wait for the garlic to mature.  Garlic, basil and tomatoes are in my future, I hope.  Mother nature and my own diligence will help things along, I hope.

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Not one bouquet, but two this week!

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The Garden Grows

It’s an overcast cool weekend after a week of summer temperatures and I went back to the garden this weekend to continue Jerusalem artichoke eradication and plant a few more flowers.  I worked on the border between the fence and sidewalk, my garden, the small Plot Against Hunger garden, and the large outside garden.  I was there for a few hours.

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The irises have come out in their full glory.

The nice thing is I’m getting all sorts of greens–lettuce, spinach, arugula–for meals.  The oregano is also going crazy, and overwintered kale is providing leaves and florets as well.  Tonight I had a lovely pasta dish with oregano, kale, spring onions, arugula, tomatoes, and some Romano cheese.  Yum!  I love it when I can put together a dinner from the garden.  I didn’t grow the tomatoes, but…

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It’s so nice not to buy salad greens! More arugula in that line of green behind.

In my garden the squash and cucumbers are coming up.

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I put these in last weekend.

The irises are magnificent.

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The beans are coming up in their enclosure. Radishes are maturing, if being shared with sow bugs.

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Each year I share radishes with the roly-polys.

I took some more Jerusalem artichoke roots home to put into a saute.

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Not very appealing now, but very nice washed, sliced and sauted.

It was starting to rain when I put in some marigolds, hoping to protect my eggplant when I transplant it in later this month.

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This showcases the bean enclosure and the oregano as well as some irises. If you look closely, you’ll also see roses coming out.

The rain was just a sprinkle and short-lived, so I went out to the big garden and planted wildflower seed in one bed where the asparagus hasn’t come up, and winter squash in the other. I noticed the blackberries are blossoming.  We may have some berries this year.  The poor blueberry bushes are a bit stunted by the cold, I think.  Meanwhile the rest of the large garden is positively overtaken with larkspur and will be glorious in the near future.  I can also see other flowers coming up and hope for a glorious flowering this summer.

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