January 01, 2011
Here's to a New Year
I wonder how many neglected blogs get restarted New Year’s Day. And for the same reason! Ah well, here’s to inspiration. I haven’t yet ventured into truly handmade soap. I just melt and pour. For my mom, it’s the ultimate gift. Ever since my brother told me my mom loves glycerin soap, I knew I just had to give it a try. Unlike my brother’s care packages, mine have always received a lukewarm reception. I’ve tried hand sewn, knitted and quilted lovelies, but nothing was ever received with a bang until I sent her “handmade” soap from “my garden.” For this batch, I added lavender I bought at the Farmer’s market (it dried beautifully in a zip lock plastic bag), spearmint I propagated in the greenhouse and seven drops of lavender essential oil. She’ll have four bars to take with her tomorrow on her flight home. I’ve just got to find a way to propagate lavender in the greenhouse this coming semester. I love the connections, however tenuous, between the gifts I make and the garden I grow.
That and seed catalogs drove me to Borders where I found this lovely. Soil Mates: Companion Plants for Your Vegetable Garden by Sara Alway.
It never occurred to me that I could pair companion plants in several combinations throughout the garden. I always tried to create the perfect master companion garden, even though I don’t like puzzles and I have more garden space than I know what to do with.
I'm still knitting, of course, and spinning and weaving and sewing, even. But my interests have gotten rather tangled. So instead of jacquie knits, this year it will be more like jacquie putters. Jacquie putters ALOT!Posted by Jacqueline at 07:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
August 04, 2010
While we were away
While we were away the garden exploded. I didn't make any arrangements to have it watered. Besides harvesting ripe and near ripe tomatoes, pulling onions, lettuces, herbs, anything in fact that looked near ready, I left it to nature. A little worried perhaps about rain or lack thereof. I didn't recognize the garden when we drove up.
The sunflowers I planted and replanted and replanted again thanks to our chipmunk friends grew several feet. The 10 inch plants I thought I would never see blossom reached the top of our 4 foot fence.
The paths are no more. Everything that was growing up and supported fell down and kept growing. There must have been a storm while we were away because the tomato cages are diagonal and the pean boles are hidden from view. Both the tomato and bean plants are now shrubs. Before I left, I harvested everything that was ready or near ready. I came home to tubs of tomatoes that I literally had to crawl on my hands and knees to reach.
I was making tomato sauce at midnight and I still have more to put by. My herb garden, my sweet little herb garden, is a willful beast of flowering plants. The dill is prehistoric and the lemon verbena, that I wish I had planted more of, needs to be slashed. I can't even see the lavender. Next year forget about the dwarf lavandula and go big!
And the interplantings of herbs in the other two boxes? The mint has flowered. It shows every sign of being as invasive as everyone said it would. The interplantings of basil are lost in the tomatoes. I never knew nasturiums could grow that big and lush. And the corn! The corn has tassels.
Anything I had second thoughts about ("I planted too late", "it will never mature", "I should have started seedlings") is laughing at me right now. I ran to Farm and Fleet and bought a dehydrator and my first set of canning jars. The preservation strategies I was contemplating for the end of August have to start NOW! Ripening fruit waits for no one. I need to learn how to cook, not by recipe but by harvest. And next year, I need some serious structures. Upward, huge and sturdy. No matter how insignificant my seedlings look.
As for the Northwoods, they seriously beckon. If and when we do make the move, you can bet I'm taking my square foot methods with me. That and electric fencing for the bear. My favorite pasttime? Photographing plants.
Posted by Jacqueline at 04:23 AM | Permalink
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July 16, 2010
Just a little knitting
The way to accomplishment is to have at least half a dozen projects on the go and switch as the mood strikes. This is why I finish so many things. It is also why I'm always surrounded by clutter. It took me over three decades to acknowledge that THIS is the way my brain works. Any other approach, especially one that involves sequential thinking, is a complete waste of time. The clutter, though an essential part of the process, is a problem. More on that later!
Anyway, this is Elijah, a wonderful pattern by Ysolda S. Teague. Pretty fiddly, especially when it comes to the arms and legs but overall, very well constructed. No seams! Not a one. And the ears have a mind of their own, just like real elephants. Made with Llama Luxury by SWTC.
Posted by Jacqueline at 06:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
July 15, 2010
Where living things are concerned, one must take great care not to proclaim success too loudly. I bought three heavy duty cages to support the overflowing jungle fury of the Black Cherry tomato. What a joke. I ended up slashing the poor thing and in the process, horror of all horrors, cutting off branches laden with fruit and flowers. All the tomatoes benefitted from a trim but the Black Cherry's branches are like lianas with flowers and fruit emerging at the very TIP. Necessitating the construction of a massive 12 foot structure to support its incredible productivity. When you first plant this itty bitty plant in its 12" x 12" x 6" soil home, constructing such a structure feels like hubris of the worst kind. And yet the branches grow incredibly thick and do not like to bend. They want to grow up and out. And it's not just leafy growth. Given the right upward support, this plant can produce amazing amounts of fruit. However, when the weight of the vine forces, or I force, a bend the curve shows cracks. It still fruits but it wants to tumble downward.
Again prune or not prune. As I was cutting masses and masses of non producing branches (no sign of flowers or fruit) I wondered, how is the plant to photosynthesize? The persistence of suckers also seems to provide a really solid interlocking support structure. I need to read 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden by Carolyn J. Male for guidance. I'm not sure if the Black Cherry is an heirloom but I remember her descriptions of heirloom specific growth patterns, and prunning in general, to be very detailed.
I did find a new varmint. I know I should be horrified but it is quite beautiful. I'm not sure if this is the mouth or the business end. Its eye spots run the length of it so it's hard to know where it begins or ends. Didn't do much damage that I can tell. So soft to the touch. I dumped it with all the prunnings in the compost bin. I didn't have the heart to dissect it.
First tomatoes of the season came from Tiny Tim although the Black Cherry is very, very close.
Huddled alongside were nasturium blossoms. They're supposed to be tasty in salads but I haven't tried them yet.
Posted by Jacqueline at 12:00 PM | Permalink
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July 14, 2010
I was a bit overzealous in the locavore department yesterday. I bought organic new potatoes and two grassfed steaks at the Woodstock Farmer's market. Along with lettuce and peas harvested, very proudly I might add, from my own garden and a few cherry tomatoes pilfered from the back garden, I made the best potato salad ever. Chief additive? Chives, and a couple of sprigs of parsley and dill, also harvested by my hand. With ingredients like this who can fail?
Except of course the carrots. A week ago I bought some carrots at the farmers market only to toss them in the frig. They didn't look so good so I tossed them in the compost pile. The guilt was terrible. So I tried harvesting my own carrots. The leaves were tall, the carrots tiny, but the flavour was intense. We used them as toothpicks.
Eating this way really requires new habits, which I fully expected when I started this project. To get the full benefit of good fresh produce, you need to eat it, cook it, preserve it immediately. Not when you feel like it. It also requires that you actually cook, not nuke, the ingredients you have on hand. That really requires a repertoire of cooking techniques and recipes, which I'm learning. It also requires a whole new approach to time, which I'm also learning. I'm open to it because I suspect the time saving approach to food (procuring, preparation, consuming) is flawed. What I've been saving in food time I've been losing in family time. Jim and I really enjoyed yesterday's meal. He's a wonderful cook of course but coming together, in the preparation and then enjoyment of it, was really special.Posted by Jacqueline at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
July 12, 2010
I know. So soon! I swear it was only a week. Okay a little over a week and the garden exploded. The tomato plants are so huge the cages can no longer support them. I'm loathe to prune beyond the base because there is so much fruit and the new growth is sporting flowers everywhere. The black cherry especially, has overgrown its square and I need to prop up its wandering branches on another cage alongside the box! Again prune or not to prune? Its hard to change my approach when the growth is this lush.
All this in six inches of soil, no fertilizer and crammed with companion plants. There are other miracles of course. The onion turrets have blossomed.
This is one of those pictures that makes me really glad I'm new to all this. Had I grown up around vegetable gardens I might have taken blossoms like this for granted. Soon after a bumblebee sampled the flowers on this blossom. They smell like onions to me but maybe nectar is nectar. Although, the flowers bees visit do affect the flavor of the honey. There's lavender honey, clover, even woodsy honey. What flavor would fields of alliums impart? I thought the smell was supposed to deter insects. Maybe not all?
Which reminds me, I have varmints. Very few I must say. A couple of japanese beetles AND a mystery villain that has been eating my sunflower seeds as fast as I can plant them. I suspect two resident chipmunks. The amount of insects that visit the garden is overwhelming. I don't know what this is but the color is amazing.
Next are preserving strategies. I've started drying and freezing basil but my repertoire needs to expand fast because that's not the only thing that's ready.
Posted by Jacqueline at 07:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
June 30, 2010
Early morning pruning
Looks like my onion turrets are flower buds. I'm looking forward to seeing them grow. I'm not so sure about these mushrooms.
For the first time I'm pruning my tomatoes severely. I'm trying to keep the gap between the soil and the square foot strips clear of vegetation so there's good air circulation around the base of the tomatoes. Everything is just so lush it seems I'm pruning my tomatoes at least twice a week.
Pruning is also supposed to promote more fruit. Right now my goal is to avoid fungal diseases, which my mature plants are prone to in the Fall. This is the first time though I've actually seen mushrooms, cup mushrooms to be exact, form under my tomatoes. Not all mind you. Just the Black Cherry tomatoes.
I need to identify them and research their effect, if any, on tomatoes. I'm also ambivalent about severe pruning on ALL of my tomato plants. I planted a variety so their growth habits are really different. I wonder if different varieities call for different approaches? The only exception is Tiny Tim which is so compact and well mannered, it doesn't appear to need anything at all from me. At the very least, the pruning helped the sun loving interplantings of basil. I've got four varieties so far. Pictures will follow along with an attempt at pesto.
Which reminds me, I need to find a really good way to start preserving my herbs. This weekend I made melt and pour glycerin soaps with spearmint. I just chopped some spearmint, freshly picked of course, and blended it in with the glycerin. The soap turned a lovely green, saponfies nicely and releases the mildest of scents. Next time I think I'll add some essential oil.
Posted by Jacqueline at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)