The Saga of the Soaked Seeds

in which Daisy decides she has nothing to lose and gets reckless in her planting

It was a wonderful night in June – good weather, nice breeze, rain in the forecast. The rain barrels were ready, and most of the garden was planted. I’d been filling in a few spots here and there, just to see how the combinations would work. Carrots, turnips, parsnips alongside the tomatoes; a few more peas near the flowers; beans galore. The sun was going down as Amigo and I went inside.

It was a good night for sleeping. Cool, a steady rain, nice breezes. I woke up refreshed and ready to check on my garden plots and pallet experiment. But when I looked outside, I saw something ominous on the picnic table: my basket of seed packets, soaked through. AAAAAUGH!!!

My first reaction was to try to fix it. Dry them out! Use the oven on super-low setting! Try the grow lights! Dry the seeds before they germinate all at once! Well, they dried, but I’m still not sure they’re viable.

Since some of my seed packets were more than a year or two old, I decided that this will be the year I throw them all away in the fall. I’ll start fresh with new seeds and no more hoarding. Well, maybe no more hoarding. Seeds don’t take up much space. In the meantime, I’ll play around with what’s left. There’s nothing to lose, after all. There are large sections of my garden that are only growing weeds, anyway. I might as well toss a few seeds here and a few more there.

So, readers, I’ll share the results with you soon. So far, parsnips are going nowhere, dill is hibernating (and the dill seeds didn’t get soaked with the rest, either). Lettuce looks promising, if the chipmunk will stay out of the way.

Predictions, anyone? Will the damaged seed stock be any good? What kind of results do you expect?

Skillet Green Beans

It’s transition time at the Farm Markets in my region – the transition between pea season and green bean season. I suppose I should include yellow beans and purple beans, too, but mainly I buy the green. This recipe turned up in my employer’s wellness newsletter. I wonder if it would work for the purple, without losing the color?

Simple Skillet Green Beans

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake, or to taste

1.5 pounds green beans, trimmed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 tablespoons water

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper flakes and stir to coat the pepper in the oil. Add green beans and cook, stirring often until the beans are blistering and browning in areas, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and salt and cook, stirring constantly until the garlic is fragrant and browning, about 30 seconds. Add water and immediately cover. Cook covered until the beans are right green and crisp tender, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.

With fresh green beans from the market, this sounds awesome. Readers, how about those yellow and purple beans? Any opinions?

Why Doesn’t my Garden Grow?

Three major section of my raised beds are growing nothing but weeds. I have a few theories, but I’m not entirely sure. I’m hoping to narrow down the possibilities so I can figure out what to do about the problem.

Suspect number one: poor seeds

  • The basket of seeds got soaked when I left it out overnight. I successfully dried the packages, but did I manage to destroy their viability?
  • I like to stock up during late season clearance sales. The seeds I used could have been old.

Suspect number two: feathered and furry creatures

  • Birds! I suspect cardinals in the demise of my butterfly garden seed mat.
  • Chipmunks! Or chipmunk! Darn thing slips through the tiniest gaps in the fencing, and I find holes all over.
  • Rabbits? Not likely this time. The wire fencing is pretty good.

Suspect number three: random environmental influences

  • Seeds planted too late
  • Weather – too hot
  • Weather – too cold
  • Weather – too wet
  • Poor soil – doubtful. Treating my soil with compost, etc., would take a number of posts. The green “walking” onions around the edges are growing beautifully, too.

Incidentally, the pallet garden and the various containers are doing very well. Herbs, mainly, along with a few leafy edibles and flowers, all thriving. The rest? I’ll keep trying to make it work. Promote growth. Plant something that comes up, already.

Readers, suggestions? I have a gauge for testing soil pH. I might try that. What else do you recommend?

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.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Slab Pie

Taste of Home called it raspberry, not strawberry. In my part of this world, the rhubarb is usually in season with strawberries, less so with raspberries. I pulled both strawberries and raspberries out of the freezer to make this. Rhubarb? I had plenty. In fact, I had enough rhubarb leftover to freeze for later.

The pie was big, too. We took some to Petunia, some to Chuck’s mom, and I gave three pieces to the next door neighbors.

Berry-Rhubarb Slab Pie

based on a recipe from Taste of Home

Ingredients:

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (or my favorite, whole wheat pastry flour)

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

2 cups sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

8 cups fruit: rhubarb, strawberries or raspberries

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. Whisk milk and egg; gradually add to flour mixture. Mix with fork until dough forms a ball. Divide dough into two portions, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out larger portion of dough in a rectangle about 18 by 13 inches. Press dough into a 15x10x1 inch baking pan. In a large bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add berries and rhubarb; toss to coat. Spread on pastry.

Roll out remaining dough; place over filling. Pull up edges of lower crust and press them together. Poke top crust with a fork in several places.

Bake 45 – 55 minutes until crust is golden brown. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

If you have a large enough family, you won’t have to give any away.

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.

Last Week of School – encore

Years ago, when I was still teaching in a traditional classroom, the chalkboard provided all kinds of opportunities. My fourth graders loved to create their own drawings with this simple medium of chalk on chalkboard. This one went up on a muggy, drizzly day. The blurry writing in the middle states, “Rain, rain, go away!” Earlier in the day it said, “Rian, rian, go away!” until someone more astute took eraser in hand and played editor.

 Over the weekend, La Petite came with me while I cleaned up my classroom. This was the work of La Petite, age 21, art minor, in colored chalk. 

In truth, the wild bunnies eat my vegetables more than they do the flowers – with the exception of the coneflowers last year. The flowers in this picture lasted longer than the coneflowers did.

Note: the plethora of encores may be due to the fact that it’s the last week of school and any creativity of my own is getting poured into progress report comments. 

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.

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.

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.