Good Intentions & Container Gardening

I had good intentions of sharing indoor and outdoor (mostly outdoor) progress day by day. Those good intentions evaporated with the puddles on a windy day. One accomplishment was filling the crocks with plants. So far, none have been over watered – intentionally or from the rain. I must have given them enough drainage before I filled them with soil.

The Crock Garden

Just a few feet away sits the Rock Garden. In the rock garden is a large bucket filled with mint.

Mint – confined to a container

The irony here comes in the fact that I established a rock garden in the first place to take the place of the out-of-control mint. Using cardboard barriers, a lot of 20 mule team borax, and patience, I managed to get rid of the wild mint and build up a decorative and fun rock garden. That’s Amigo’s alter ego on the left: the frog playing cello.

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Goals – inside, outside

It’s summertime – the approximate ten week period that passes for a “break” in our oddly outdated agrarian school calendar. In the old, old bygone days, students would help at home on the farm in spring, summer, and then harvest season in the fall. School terms might be limited to winter or some of the town and city kids might come in early fall while the farm families kept their children home to work the land.

But I digress.

It’s summertime, and the living is relatively easy. I can sleep in, but I don’t. My body clock is set firmly between 6 and 7 A.M. I’m up and at ’em, coffee cup in hand. Up and at what? That’s where the goals come in.

I’ve decided to make one indoor goal and one outdoor goal. Daily tasks such as loading, running, and emptying the dishwasher don’t count. Watering the garden and the containers doesn’t count, either. It’s a necessity.

Yesterday the outdoor goal was to fix up the rock garden. That entailed getting rocks and sculptures and misc. from the garage and placing it strategically in the rock garden. Inside? Clean the bunny cage & replace used litter box with clean box.

The goals are a minimum. I don’t stop there. Having definite goals, no matter how small, keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. “I must get more done! Must accomplish! Must do, go, achieve!” Nope. It’s a long break, and it’s a break. Setting and meeting goals is good for my mental health. Meeting goals allows me to let go of the gotta-get-it-done attitude and relax.

That said, here are today’s main goals. Indoors: laundry. Outdoors: lift pallet garden to a steeper angle. Chuck helped with that one.

And now, while I wait for the first load of laundry to rinse and spin, I can relax.

Readers, do you set goals? Give yourself permission to take care of yourself? Leave comments. I’d like to know.

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Cleaning the Classroom – Encore

I attended a graduation party for a former student, a girl I’d taught in fourth grade. She had just graduated from high school (my alma mater, no less), and was preparing to head off to college. I reminisced on the way home. 

One year my fourth grade class decorated the chalkboard with flowers during the last few weeks of school. I liked it so much that this year, I assigned them the task. We were gearing up for a field trip to see a play based on the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. I helped prepare them for the story by reading about urban gardens, learning about plants, planting their own tomato plants in little pots made from toilet paper rolls, and more. One day I presented them with several shades and lengths of green construction paper, told them these were their stems, and challenged them to create flowers using our bin of paper scraps.

They outdid themselves.

The flowers were lovely, each as original as its creator. My young students (ages 9-10) decided to write their names on the board to claim their work. They wrote and drew and made more flowers, and I was glad to say Yes to saving their work from the cleaning staff. I knew Di, the cleaner who keeps my room spotless, would love the classroom flower garden as much as I did and would be glad to leave it untouched by rag or vinegar cleaning spray.


When a student moved the week before school let out, she made sure to pick her flower from the board. On the last full day of school, plucking the flowers was a high priority for the young paper gardeners. By then the chalk was getting dusty, but the paper work was as unique as ever. High art? Nope. Just right? Absolutely.

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The Twenty Minute (Vegetable) Gardener

I was gifted with the book The 20 Minute Gardener a while back, and I finally found the time to read it. Despite being more about flower gardening than my forte, growing vegetables, I’m thoroughly enjoying the stories and the advice. It’s a little like Click and Clack Grow a Garden, if you’re a Car Talk fan.

I spent much more than 20 minutes a day over the weekend. I came indoors Saturday night tired and sore, very sore. Sore legs, sore feet, sore back, sore thumbs – you name it, it hurt. A tall gin and tonic eased some of the pain and provided some much needed rehydration, and a Harry Potter marathon let my mind settle.

Sunday, silly me, I did a lot of the same. It’s been crazy busy and crazy cold in the past two weeks, so I grabbed hold of the weekend sunshine while I could.

Monday I did a lot of walking, but not so much bending and twisting. I joined La Petite and her friends in a visit to Hippie Tom’s Serendipity Farm. We had lots of fun and found (surprise, surprise) lots of crocks! Anyway, Monday was a short day (or evening) in the garden. After a 2 hour drive home and a short break for supper (Chuck’s German potato salad – Yum!), I finished planting the tomatoes and spent some time watering.

Back to the book title: The 20 Minute Gardener’s philosophy is that a lovely garden is potentially possible with an investment of only 20 minutes a day. It’s the end of the school year, and that means that 20 minutes is all I have most nights. In Tuesday’s twenty minutes I planted herbs in some of the smaller crocks. Thyme and two kinds of basil took up the 20 minutes between arriving home and starting to cook.

Tomorrow I may have more than 20 minutes (no barbershop rehearsal on Wednesdays). Watering everything, turning a little more soil, planting lettuce and root crops, spreading mulch (a.k.a. pine bedding that the rabbit no longer needs) – that plan sounds like more than 20 minutes.

The main reasoning behind the 20 Minute attitude is to lessen the stress. If I can commit 20 minutes a day, I don’t have to feel guilty about not spending more time at it. I can feel good about what I do, rather than feeling down about what I didn’t get done. If I only get the mulch spread and the tomatoes watered, that’s enough.

The side benefit? Simple: I’m away from the computer and the television news for at least 29 minutes every evening. That’s stress relief right there.

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Stalking the “Wild” Asparagus

I’m a forager wannabe, as my regular readers know well. I’ve been known to pick dandelions for the rabbit and to incorporate into salads, pesto – you name it. When Chuck and I take walks, we’ve learned the location of raspberry bushes that no one harvests.

I have my perennial rhubarb and a raspberry patch that is slowly but surely recovering from its near-destruction in the building of the new garage. I have my annual garden patch with tomatoes, peppers, and whatever decides to bloom where I plant it. So far, that includes potential for zucchini, spinach, parsley, peas, and perhaps butterfly garden flowers. Maybe.

I bought the butterfly garden seed-infused mat from a recent online auction. My main objective in this auction was a 10 inch cast iron skillet, and as long as I was bidding, I dropped a minimum bid of $2 on the butterfly garden. Now, I have no idea how old this batch of seeds might be, or how many of those seeds were stolen by the cardinal family in the backyard. I tore the mat apart to spread it out to fill the space, and it fell to pieces. Is that good or bad? No, don’t answer that. Here’s the result.

Lovely? Not yet. I planted peas in the spaces in between the mats.

But I’m off on a tangent. I didn’t start out to talk about the potential butterfly garden. I actually started out talking about foraging in the great urban-slash-suburban cityscape. I was at a most unlikely place when I saw asparagus growing. The airport, my friends, it was the airport. While waiting for Petunia’s plane to arrive, I kept myself busy playing Pokemon Go. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a gravel landscape between the parking and the pick-up areas had a speck of green in it.

The wind was blowing hard and blowing cold, so I did not get out of the minivan to take a close-up. The signs that said “No Unoccupied Vehicles” might have had something to do with that, too.

Well, there you have it, people. I found asparagus growing in the gravel at the local airport. Foraging now is simply fun. If it ever becomes a necessity, you’ll want to be with me. No matter where we are, we’ll stalk something edible.

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Rhubarb Season!

It’s that time again. I hadn’t been able to get to the rhubarb patch due to illness followed by bad weather followed by the siding project. By the time I got to it, harvesting and weeding were all happening at the same time. I ended up with about 5 – 6 cups of the delicious tart fruit, and I searched my cookbooks for an easy way to use it.

Daisy’s Rhubarb Compote

  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, cleaned and finely diced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Rhubarb should be soft and sauce thick. Serve either warm or cold, but my recommendation is to serve it warm with a dollop (you choose the size) of whipped cream. I suppose vanilla ice cream would do, too.

This compote, like a thick applesauce, had a nice tasty kick to it. I might try adding orange zest or ground ginger to my rhubarb barbecue sauce next time I make it.

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Spring Memories

 

A few years ago, and not so far away, I had a papasan chair that masqueraded as a large pot for plants. We’d noticed it tipping, leaning to the right, and it needed help to get upright again. Nobody leans to the right for long in Daisy’s household. Trust me. 

It looked like this from the sidewalk.

It looked like this from the sidewalk.

Close up, it looked even worse.

Close up, it looked even worse.

I wrestled, pulled, pushed, and eventually slid the top off its base. Then I reached for the camera – and I laughed out loud. Any neighbors lucky enough to witness the event surely think…trust me, I probably don’t want to know.

It's all about that base.

It’s all about that base. Whoa.

I tipped and balanced the planter part until it seemed stable, and then added a cinder block to help keep it in place. The base went out to the curb for Excess Garbage Day. Convenient timing, wasn’t it?

That papasan bit the dust the following fall, but I got lucky. Chuck sent me a text one night on his way home from work. There’s a papasan out on the curb a few blocks from home. Do you want it?

Of course! I tell you, folks, the man’s a keeper. He saws holes in old chairs just the right size for pots of flowers. He picks up an aging papasan chair for the same purpose. When the planting is done, I’ll share photos.

Readers, can you suggest a few unusual planters? Chairs, buckets – the sky’s the limit.

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Priorities, Priorities.

Where to start? That’s the question. Here are a few choices.

  • Clean up the weeds near the deck where the black-eyed Susans are supposed to grow.
  • Split rhubarb plants to better fill their tiny plot.
  • Break up soil in sections of big garden.
  • Spread compost on sections of big garden.
  • Finish clearing weeds around rhubarb.
  • Turn soil behind garage. Weed around garlic.
  • Clear an area behind garage suitable for spinach. Plant spinach seeds.
  • Pull up creeping ivy around bushes.
  • Put cushions back on porch swing (Amigo would put this at the top of the list).
  • Weed around transplanted peonies.
  • Go to Fleet Farm and buy new rain barrel.
  • Find something to plant in the papasan-turned-planter.
  • Measure sections of big garden for square-food planning.

Then again, I could relax and watch the Milwaukee Brewers game with Amigo. I think I’ve found a solution.

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We can’t make this stuff up.

I knew the minute I read the first line of the email that it would be — well, I’ll let you see it.

Actual parent email opening: I just seen “Molly’s” grade, and…

Oh, dear. I seen? No, dear parent, you saw. Or you have seen. Frankly, “I seen” is a dead giveaway that you ain’t seen nothing yet.

She argued I shouldn’t have taken off points for her use of Pinterest as a resource for her research. The mother’s reasoning?

Also I know that one of the picture was from Pinterest, and that is not a credible source. They have alot (sic) of pictures on the official (insert topic here) website but they also have this posted “All images and photographs of the interior and exterior of the theatre on this website are under the copyright of the (insert organization name here), Inc. Reproduction of any images or photographs whether electronically or otherwise is not permitted without the prior written consent of (insert organization name) Friends.”    So we didn’t know if we could use them for a report or not without permission.  Could we use them for a report?  

It was late Friday when this appeared in my inbox. I haven’t answered yet. This was a definite Wait ‘Til Monday type of event. Any advice, readers?

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Teacher Appreciation Week

I was taking advantage of a teacher discount last night. Papa Murphy’s Take and Bake Pizza offered 50% off to teachers for Teacher Appreciation Day. Chipotle had offered a Buy one Get one (BOGO) the day before. Once a year, a handful of businesses let us know we’re valuable.

So back to the story. I was sitting down, feeling fatigued from this nasty virus that hit my family this week, and a teacher pal came in. After we greeted each other, I had a flashback. This incident happened when Teacher Pal and I (and three others in our building) were in the midst of our graduate program. I needed to send a fax to the university’s registrar, so I was in the school office asking the secretary for help. Principal overheard me telling Secretary to let me know what the cost would be. At this, she called out loudly, “There ain’t many perks in this job, Daisy! Send the damn fax!”

That, um, “conversation” took place more than ten years ago, and the memory surfaces all too often. When I’m pulling out my school ID to get 50% off on pizza and cheesy bread, when I picked apples from the tree in front of our office, when I planted milkweed from pods I salvaged when our office landscaping was dug up – I’m always hearing that comment in my mind. “There ain’t many perks in this job!” And even thought it’s true and it’s not a good thought, remembering that moment makes me smile.

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