Drought?

You may have heard how to recognize a happy gardener: they’re the ones who see the rain barrels as half full instead of half empty.

Mine, all three of them, are empty. Empty. Chuck is in charge of watering everything right now, and he told me not to even ask until we have another storm. There is no more rain water left.

My little valley in the Midwest has been part of a trend for a few years now. The “severe” weather, major rain or snow, veers around us. We’ll look at the forecast and the radar and say, “Oh! Oh! We might get some of that!” and then Nope. All the precipitation will sweep to the north or the south, and we’ll be standing outside next to our empty rain barrels looking at the sky and pleading for a few drops.

I guess it really is drought weather.

Fortunately, we’re city dwellers, so we have city water. It’s treated and it’ll cost a few pennies, but we’re not limited in the amount we use. Here in the Great Lakes basin, water is plentiful and costs very little. Dry period or not, we’ll be okay.

Readers, let me know. How is your water situation? Are you flooded? Evacuating from wildfires? I hope everyone is safe and has enough to drink.

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My Garden Misses Me.

Chuck, dear sweet husband that he is, came in the other day and told me, “Your garden misses you.”

Back story: I’m recovering from surgery to straighten a big toe. Bunionectomy, it’s called. The stitches came out two days ago, and now I can focus on letting the bone heal. I’ll see the doctor again in a month. Until then, I’m stuck wearing the Incredible Protective Boot, a.k.a. Stupid Boot.

Back to the garden conversation. I only planted half of the garden last May because I knew I wouldn’t be able to work it very much. Chuck said, bravely, “I’ll plant the rest.” And he did.

He might not have realized at the time that he’d also be responsible for maintaining “my” sections as well. When he told me the garden missed me, he mentioned long branches on the tomato plants that I would certainly have tied up or guided into the spiral tomato supports. There are weeds, too. I put down barriers of corrugated cardboard and shredded paper, but a few brave stalks have found ways to sneak in. The clover, for example, stands almost as tall as the dill. A few dill plants are approaching sunflower height.

I cut him some slack in the watering task. He’s using a sprinkler to water the main patch, and using the rain barrel water to water container like the citronella and lemongrass.

I stood outside the chicken wire yesterday and threaded some tomatoes through the supports or through other branches for support. My garden misses me, and I miss it, too. Meanwhile, I’ll sit outside on the deck and watch it grow while my foot heals.

 

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Drumroll – Canning Begins!

It’s not a typical canning season – or a purely typical farmers’ market season – or even a typical garden season here at the O.K. Chorale. I’m in the middle of a Foot Surgery Summer, and that makes a difference everywhere.

I decided not to plant the whole garden plot, so Chuck decided he would put in a three sisters garden in the places I left open. Then he decided we usually have more than enough beans, so his part of the garden became two sisters: corn and squash.

I worry about being out of commission when the major tomato season arrives, so I actually started early. I made and canned barbecue sauce this week, and Chuck applied it to grilled chicken right away.

I also canned three bean salad. We still had yellow and green beans in the freezer, and fresh beans will show up at the market soon, so I pulled out my recipe file and made three bean salad, enough to last months. That’s the goal of summer canning, right? Make enough to feed the family for a length of time.

With Chuck’s help, I prepared some incredibly delicious strawberries for the freezer. That’s another task that may fall through the cracks as my foot puts me down: filling the freezer.

Then again, Chuck is stepping up to the plate, er, the counter and putting in time on the canning front. Footwork or not, we’ll feed the family. The pantry will be filled.

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Restless

I’m supposed to be sitting still, off my feet, elevating the left foot, and doing little or nothing. It’s not working. I’m restless. Very restless.

I should offer the back story. I’m approaching surgery on the big toe of my left foot. I had bunion repair done on this toe 22 years ago, with mixed but mostly good results. The toe eventually started leaning again, and I visited the podiatrist. Long story shortened: in order to redo the bunion repair, she first had to remove the hardware (one tiny screw!) placed in the bone 22 years ago.

The hardware removal took place last week. Since then, I’ve been limiting motion, elevating the foot, wearing a massive bandage and a post-surgical “boot”. I detest these boots, by the way. This is a small one, ankle height, so it’s a little less irritating than the bigger version I dubbed Stupid Boot a few years ago. I’ll take that as a positive.

Tomorrow I see the doctor for a post-op appointment. She’ll look over the incision, take out the stitches, and hopefully tell me all is well. Given 6-8 weeks for healing, I’ll head back into surgery to fix the toe. Hopefully, it will last at least another 22 years.

Meanwhile, Chuck has taken over the kitchen. He’s handled cooking, dishes, clean-up, and the works. If I try to help, he tells me to sit down.

Meanwhile, I can’t work in the garden. Doctor Feet is also a gardener, and she pointed out a few cautions for this year. No root crops, she said. While the toe heals, you won’t want to squat. I managed to get the tomatoes planted pre-surgery, and now I just need to keep them watered. Chuck has to help with that, too.

Meanwhile, I’m stuck on the couch much of the day. And I’m restless. I hope that’s a sign of healing. I want to get the garden watered and can some more broth, but it’s not likely in the next few days. I guess I’ll wait until I heal enough for shoes.

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The Garden Begins – again

Around 2008, I wrote about the Recession Garden trend. I’d been gardening a long time before it became trendy, so my backyard just looked the same as it always did.

Now the Covid19 pandemic is inspiring people to dig up their lawns and plant vegetables or place large containers full of potting soil and tomato plants on their apartment balconies. I heard from at least two seed catalogs that they were running low on basics (like tomatoes) and encouraging their regular customers to order ASAP.

Frankly, I bought seeds in advance. That’s my routine. When it’s time to start my seedlings in February or March, I have what I need. Despite that time being super busy for teachers, I know I’ll be able to take breaks from grading and planning and get my hands dirty.

This year was one of the best for starting plants from seed. My tomatoes needed supports (chopsticks!) before the soil was ready and the weather was ready to transplant them into the garden plot. Were the plants growing well because the sun was strong? I didn’t use grow lights – or the small greenhouse covers from IKEA, either. Did the seedlings do well because I took care of them? It’s hard to neglect these seedlings when they sat next to my “quarantine office” in the corner of the main room.

Whatever the reason, I’m planting outside now. I’m not planting a garden because of the pandemic or the economic results from the spread of Covid19. I’m planting because it’s what I do. I’m looking forward to the results – the fresh tomatoes, beans, peas, spinach, lettuce – all of the above.

Readers, I know many of you are kindred spirits in the gardening way. Has your garden changed this season? If so, how? Let us know.

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Oh, deer.

It hasn’t been the best garden season. Some of the pallet plants died from neglect, pure and simple – not enough watering on my part. Hanging flowers suffered the same fate. Herbs are okay. When I’ve watered, they’re on the top of my list.

Approximately one third of the raised bed actually grew. The rest is weeds, pure and simple. I’ve done a little weeding of the actual vegetable successes,

And then the beans – the replacement beans! – were attacked. This was obviously a critter much taller than a rabbit. It looks like it climbed or jumped over the chicken wire fencing and was not deterred by the layer of green onions around the edges. In fact, it may have knocked over a few monster onions (if the hail and hard rain last week didn’t).

Readers, I don’t know why the pictures rotated left on me. WordPress isn’t playing nice with me here. Anyway, you can see where something nibbled about five feet off the ground and then left its mark on what little lawn we have left. Grrr.

I’m pretty sure I know what kind of critter visited, but I welcome your input. Anyone? Smaller than a moose, bigger than a rabbit, not a dog or cat. What do you think?

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Cooking without a Kitchen – still

Monday was a Planned-overs type of day. Planned overs are like leftovers, but cooked on purpose. In this Era of No Kitchen, we are cooking planned overs at least once a week so we have something decent that can be reheated in the microwave.

So, Monday. Burgers were on the menu. Side dishes, cooked on the coals in foil, were potatoes – diced reds and fingerlings with Scarborough Fair seasoning (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme) and green & yellow zucchini squash with onion, salt, and pepper. These turned out very well.

Ah, the planned overs. We had a pound of French Onion bratwurst from the local meat market, and brats are always better on the grill, so I jabbed them with a fork and cooked them on the top rack. Someone recently suggested cooking bacon on the grill, so I tried it. As I pushed the burgers out of the flames so they wouldn’t get charred, I wondered if Someone had cooked bacon on a gas grill, not charcoal. The bacon smelled good, as bacon does, but it had a definite char look to it. I tried a piece on a BLT, and it tasted like bacon. Okay, it was okay, but I don’t think I’ll try that trick again.

Monday, as you see, was an adventure. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy moving bacon around to prevent total burn-to-a-crisp status. The veggies were a hit, the burgers were delicious (Amigo had two), and the bacon and brats went into the meat drawer for later.

Tuesday, I learned how to bake a pot pie in the toaster oven. Here I am, in my 50s, and I’ve never used a toaster oven. Now I can cross “Toaster Oven Use” off my bucket list.

Tuesday night I decided to do an experiment with the multitude of green onions in my garden. I pulled up several. Okay, if I’m honest about it, I pulled up a lot. I cleaned them up in the bathtub – no sink, remember – and packed the green tops into a crock pot set on low. I left it on Keep Warm overnight. In the morning, I removed the green tops, added the white bulbs sliced small, and seasoned the onion broth with a little salt and pepper and garlic.

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Summertime, and the living is…is..

Last Friday was the all-important, all-consuming, why did it take SO LONG to arrive Last Day of School!!

We spent the weekend shuttling Amigo to his reunion at the school for the blind and then to Lions Camp. Monday, I finally took a deep breath and felt summer settle around me.

I spent most of the morning taking care of various garden chores. There’s nothing better than starting summer with dirt under my fingernails! Buttercup the bunny came out, too. She nibbled on the lawn and rested in the shade. A little weeding, a little watering, transplanting two tomato plants that were too crowded to another big pot. Did I really use two, too, and to in the same sentence? Maybe my mind is still in school, after all.

And that brings me to the rest of the week, this first week that so many think of as a teacher’s summer “off.” All day Tuesday and Wednesday and then a half day Thursday will be spent in staff development learning more about the technology I use to teach online, but mostly, putting in the hours. Next week I’ll have two commitments: a book study (I’m leading it, so I’d better be ready) and a formal three day training in an intervention reading program.

Without driving the details, I’ll just say that June is a full, full month. I did my best to leave July more free. August isn’t bad, either. None of summer, at least this year, will be a full summer off.

So anyway, my point? I’m not sure I have one. I’m happy to have more time to dig in the dirt. In a few weeks, I might even try Sleeping In. Meanwhile, it’s summertime, the good old summertime.

 

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It’s a Garden. Period.

During WWI and WWII, people grew Victory Gardens. It was a good PR move, helping people feel like they could ease the burden of feeding the country by growing food of their own.

In 2008, the term Recession Garden came about. Planting a garden in the backyard, on the apartment balcony, or anywhere there was room for a container helped provide fresh food for the family, even if the country’s economy was shaky.

And now, just when I thought I’d heard every trendy excuse to grow your own tomatoes, there’s a new term: a Climate Victory Garden. By tilling – or not tilling – a small plot, gardeners have a chance to use their efforts as a force for change.

It isn’t my original idea; the concept comes from Green America by way of Mother Nature Network. I like their philosophy; they encourage composting, planting perennials (does my rhubarb count?), avoiding chemicals, and covering soil with mulch to maintain temperature and moisture.

As I said, it isn’t my idea. In fact, I hesitate to put another trendy label on my containers and the approximately 32 square feet with mostly vegetables growing there. Victory Garden, Recession Garden, or Gardening for Climate Change, it’s a garden. It’s not dirt, it’s soil. It’s tilled, compost added, watered, mulched (well, when I get time). But don’t call my little backyard effort anything trendy. It grows vegetables. It’s a garden. Period.

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Progress – on a lot of fronts

Tomatoes are in their containers.

Computer desk and matching bookshelf and computer are in the guest room/office/La Petite’s former bedroom.

I have plants for the pallet garden.

Laundry is started.

All of these took more effort than we expected.

Tomatoes: I started the tomatoes from seed in March. Not all came up; I was a bit concerned. I did get six Roma plants, four beefsteak, and three large (and very tasty) cherry. Friday I was worried; the tallest tomato seedlings were showing some odd color on their leaves. I wondered if they were under watered – or over watered, for that matter. I came to the conclusion that they needed bigger containers, room to grow. They’re now transplanted to containers near the main raised bed garden – all but the one lone yellow pear tomato plant that’s in a basket between two rhubarb plants.

Computer desk and matching bookshelf took two weekends and time during the week to empty, clean, and move. Darn, those pieces were heavy! They’re all in place now, and everything works. Chuck had a challenge getting the AT&T tower up and running again, and it runs the landline, Internet, and television. He finished Saturday, just in time to pick up Chinese food and bring it home for supper.

Plants for the pallet garden: I have strawberries for the top sections, marigolds for the base, but the Home Depot garden center didn’t have the cabbage or kale I wanted for the large place in the middle. I watered them all, but they’ll have to wait until tomorrow night to get transplanted into the actual pallet.

Laundry. Darn it all, I almost forgot this weekly chore. After I cleaned up outside, collapsed on the couch with my laptop and a bowl of trail mix, I realized that unless I didn’t throw clothes in the washer and dryer, we might not have enough drawers in our drawers as the week goes on.

Laundry isn’t as glamorous or fun as planting the garden, but it has to be done. Now I’m relaxing on the couch next to Chuck, who plans to cook supper tonight. No take-out this time.

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