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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

It’s been kinda hectic at the new/old homestead.  (It’s hard to believe we’ve been here two years, but we have!)

Almost immediately after Swimmer Girl’s graduation, Mr. Official decided we needed a sprinkler system for my plants, so the past few okay several weekends have been devoted to various phases of this project: trenching, assembling, covering, testing, tweaking, sodding, mulching….you get the picture. In addition, I’ve managed to lug home something like 25 new trees and shrubs to plant, in addition to not-counting-not-telling how many hostas and other perennials.  Garden beds are like church pews: there’s always room for more if everyone will just squeeze together a little.

Our fourth All-Summer Bible Vacation series kicked off the first Sunday in June and it looks like we’re going to have another fabulous summer of arts, crafts, games, stories, singing and silliness that goes with kids and summers.

Last week, Swimmer Girl had her mandatory college orientation, and so did her mama. Two days of being reassured that our little fledglings are ready to fly the coop was a bit much, but it seems my generation’s parenting style is way more “hands-on” than our parents’ was. And that’s the polite term for our hovering.

At any rate, we can now check that activity off our summer to-do list, which also means we’ve started the countdown clock to moving date.  Just six short weeks to finish this particular chapter in our parent/child story. And make sure she has all the necessities and niceties that an apartment-style dorm needs. It’s so beyond the old-school new bedspread, lamp and the towels-that-you-don’t-care-if-they-come-back-or-not. We’re talking about outfitting a four bedroom, two bath apartment with a full kitchen and living room. It should be interesting to see what four girls can do to decorate their little corner of the campus.

I’ve updated our “What’s for dinner” in the sidebar, and if any of the new-fangled recipes work out, I’ll post them later this week, as I try to get back in the routine of actual cooking (what???  really???) and cleaning.

Happy Monday!
Terry

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GOD-MADE-RAINY-DAYS-001

With all the rain we’ve had over the past three weeks, you’d think my house would be squeaky clean.
Alas, not so much.

Happy Monday!
Terry

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The love of gardening that is.

Any gardener will tell you that the honeymoon phase of gardening doesn’t last long.   Once the plants are in, there’s weeding, watering and nurturing to do, year in and out. Unless you have a cadre of gardeners to tend to your flowers and plants, you don gloves and sunscreen and spend a lot more time on hands and knees than you do standing back admiring your handiwork.

Speaking from a “few” (cough) decades of personal experience, there’s nothing romantic about gardening in Southern soil.  In fact, I would argue it’s not even soil; it’s just nasty, heavy, slick red and gray clay. Almost greasy when it’s wet and forms rock-hard clods or bone-dry silt when it dries, depending on what you did to it when it was wet. My garden beds have a voracious appetite for organic matter and they seem to devour it almost as fast as I can apply it. I hear-tell that Southern sandy soil is nearly as nasty and twice as hungry and thirsty.

I carefully applied a dozen bags of pine fines and mushroom compost around each perennial last week, and I’m happy to report that most of my transplant/refugee plants are taking off and growing like gangbusters.

IMG_3432

After I finished with all those bags, I realized I need a lot more than that to get the beds topped off this year.  So I talked Mr. Official into getting a load of bulk compost over the weekend.  And by load, I mean 1 1/2 cubic yards.  That’s a lot of ummmm, “stuff” if you catch my drift.  And speaking of drift…

Oh my word.

As I pitch forkful after forkful of this steaming stuff, from big trailer to small trailer to garden beds, my mind conjures up all sorts of obscure adjectives.  Words you just don’t hear every day.

Redolent.

Pungent

Effluvius.

Odoriferant.

Miasmic.

Putrid.

The list goes on.

I’m just glad plants can’t smell, because this would be an intolerable situation to grow in if they could.  And if you visit my garden in the next few weeks, I probably won’t encourage you to lean in close to sniff the flowers.  But it did put me in mind of the old poem penned by Frank Lebby Stanton, a Charleston SC native and longtime journalist for the Atlanta Constitution:

“This old world we’re livin’ in

            Is mighty hard to beat

We get a thorn with every rose

            But ain’t the roses sweet?”

Happy Monday,
Terry

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Life interrupted (?)

If life is like a river, then I’ve been furiously paddling some rapids for the past several weeks.  Yes, I consciously chose the rapids, so I have no one to blame but myself.  But Summer 2012 was definitely not a “lazy river” float trip.  Whew.

A week or so ago, a friend of mine pinned this on her board, and I repinned it to mine.  It keeps running through my head – am I busier than God intended me to be?  Part of me loves living at a pace that is non-stop, with every day crammed chock-full of generating good ideas and executing projects to completion.

Case in point:

  • Our summer-long SBV is winding down and wrapping up in the next few days.
  • Our fourth annual school supply giveaway started out with a goal of helping 300 children and when we closed our doors a few minutes after noon on August 4, we had equipped over 400 children with supplies to head back to school.
  • I’ve been working with our church staff  one day a week, in addition to my normal work schedule.

In the midst of all that, Swimmer Girl had her last first day of school. She turned 17 without much fanfare or hoopla.

Our beloved pooch – a lazy beast to begin with – became more lethargic day by day this summer. Finally the symptoms worsened  and I took her to the vet last week, to find out she had colitis; an inflamed colon typically caused by a) dietary change, b) eating something that made her ill, or c) stress.  With her history, we’re gonna go with “c” on that one.  Things seem to have righted themselves in her world, thanks to a hefty round of anti-inflammatory meds. She’s perkier and more active than she has been in a while.  I wish I had noticed the onset of symptoms earlier but in my hustle and bustle, I chalked it up to her age and the “dog days” of summer.  Bad me.

For better or worse, my life’s pace has quickened, at least for now.  I am ever mindful of the pitfalls of “busy-ness” and so I’m determined to balance things to make sure I’m running my life and not the other way around.   My family will be relieved when I demonstrate that I do remember how to cook and clean better than the “lick and a promise” approach I’ve employed during the past couple months.

The good news is fall seems to be coming early:  we’ve slept with windows open the past several nights – unheard of in August in the south.  Maybe this is nature’s way of apologizing for jumping the gun on summer back in April.  Whether it means an extra-long fall or an extra-long winter, who knows? But at this point I’ll take either one.

Here’s to a life full of good things, including time to be still in the midst of it all.

Happy Thursday,
Terry

P.S. Watch for a recipe-of-the-week to appear next week; some things ARE returning to  normal!

 

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Transplanting in July.

Our old house was once again empty as of June 30.  After our tenants moved out, I found I not only needed to touch up the painted walls inside, but a stroll through the back gardens showed that my left-behind plants were seriously suffering from neglect. And realistically, that was not surprising – not everyone loves gardening as much as I do, and even an avid gardener isn’t necessarily going to appreciate my plant choices, or understand all the quirks that come with gardening beneath greedy, thirsty maple trees in thin clay soil and very hard, high pH water.  It took me several years of trial-and-error to figure out what worked, and my plant ranks suffered many casualties along the way.

I reluctantly made the decision to move some of the plants while we were between renters and give the beds a fresh coat of mulch for the new tenants. Moving plants is always stressful on them, but conventional wisdom says the best time to transplant is in the spring or fall…either before the plant breaks dormancy or as it is drifting off for a long winter’s nap.

Obviously, July is neither spring nor fall.  In fact, it is quite possibly the worst possible time to uproot and move plants around – they need all their strength just to withstand the rigors of high heat and dry conditions that July is notorious for.  But it was a “now or never” window of opportunity: No matter what arrangements we made at lease signing, I wouldn’t have felt right expecting new tenants to welcome me and my trusty shovel in September, and at the rate the plants were declining, I wasn’t sure they could hold on that long even if I did.  As it turned out, we had it rented just two weeks after it was vacated.

And so, in the middle of the month that is in the middle of summer and in the midst of extreme heat and drought, I spent an overcast but extremely humid Saturday morning digging up dozens of plants: hydrangeas, peonies, hellebores, hostas, heucheras, a prized Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ and some pulmonarias and even a bag full of variegated Solomon’s seal roots (the plants had gone completely deciduous due to the extreme temperatures and dry spell.)

I tagged and bagged and hauled them all home, set them in the shade and began the process of putting them into new surroundings with as much rich, moist amended soil as I could muster.  Since I was digging and moving, I thought I’d bite the bullet and move three randomly planted peonies from this property, and create double borders along eastern fence, with hydrangeas on one side of the gate, and a double-row of peonies along the other.  The photo gallery shows the ugly truth about moving plants under these conditions.  These were taken yesterday, two weeks after the plants were moved. They will not win any beauty prizes this year, but if I can keep them hydrated and we have a typical fall and winter, I’m hopeful of their chances for survival.

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You may see them as lost causes, but when I look at them, I see the potential for them flourishing once again under the watchful eye of the one who hand-chose nearly all of them for her garden, once upon a time.

After all, I moved these plants earlier this year:

and see how they are growing and filling in, just a couple months later:


If a fellow gardener or homeowner asked me for advice, I would tell them to do as I say and not as I did, unless they were in similarly dire straits.  Even with a lot of TLC, I’m sure these plants are going to take a few years to fully recover from this ill-timed move and I may lose a few of them.  But fortunately for us, plants are resilient and forgiving, so take courage and transplant your plants, but preferably in months that have R’s in them.

Happy gardening,
Terry

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It’s hard to believe we’re already at the threshhold of “late summer” – WHERE has the time gone!  My garden was a tangled jungle this week, after a couple weeks of letting Mother Nature take care of things. (At least she watered.)

This week, I managed to get everything untangled and I tossed the rain-rotten tomatoes to the emus across the fence.  It nearly caused a food fight between the cows and emus…guess they ALL like tomatoes and not everyone was in a sharing mood.

Everything is coming along nicely, except the zucchini plant – it appears to be two zucchinis and done.  (I may be the only gardener who cannot seem to harvest more than a couple zucchinis off a plant…most people have them running out the wazoo.)

The yellow cheese peppers are putting on. Cheese peppers are intended to be dried and made into paprika but their squatty shape makes them good for stuffing, too.yellow cheese pepper

Not to be outdone, the purple jalapenos have put on a flush of new flowers and fruit – which is good, considering our heat wave did in the first wave of fruit.
purple jalapeno
Jimmy Nardello appears to be a frying pepper, and we’re going to invite him for dinner soon.

Jimmy Nardello pepper

Over in the pumpkin patch, I’ve got two of these cute ‘Cotton Candy’ white pumpkins growing like weeds

Cotton Candy pumpkin

And the ‘Sweet Dumpling’ squash are also coming along nicely.

sweet dumpling squash

Tomato-wise, by the time I snapped these pics I had harvested most of the ripe tomatoes, but I found several ‘Hazelfield Farm’ ‘maters waiting for me and the camera.  One is wedged in tight..it took some doing to ease it out without mangling the fruit or the plant:hazelfield farm tomato
Don’t tell her, but ‘Eva Ball Purple’ is umm, not purple.  But her fruit are pretty…the old-fashioned juicy kind of slicing tomato we love on a BLT.
eva ball purple tomato
Here’s this week’s haul. It’s not enough to make salsa, so later today I’ll roast all but a few of them, leaving some for sandwiches this weekend.

tomatoes
No pics this week, but the potatoes are ready to be forked up – I’m excited to see how much of a crop I got from the “potato tower” this year.

The lettuce has finally gone to head, so I shared the pulled-out plants with the emus. They liked it, but not as much as they do tomatoes.

I hope your garden is putting on a show for you, too!

Happy gardening!
Terry

 

 

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I usually take my weekly pics on Thursday evening but last Thursday I was watching it rain.  (Yay!!!!)  And for several other reasons, that meant I didn’t get a chance to take pictures until this morning.  Up before 6, I was shooting pictures and then hurrying to get Swimmer Girl on our church bus for a week-long mission campaign trip.

Then Mr. Official and I spent quality time at our old house, getting the landscaping shaped up so we can rent it again. (Another long story.)

So I’m just now sitting down and editing this week’s photos.

It’s a “that’s good, that’s bad” kind of story.  Our record-breaking temperatures have taken a toll on the “first fruits” and caused a few problems.

Like this pepper – it’s supposed to be orange

but it’s not supposed to have a soft rotten spot on the bottom.


The same for this tomato which looks perfect from up top,

but not so attractive when you flip it over.


Here’s my one okra (the rabbits continue to nosh.)  Mr. Official contends it’s poor soil also taking a toll, so I think I’ll plant a cover crop along this area, and look for okra to pickle at the farmers’ market.


The cucumbers

and squash are plugging along, although I’m on guard against beetle and borer problems with them.

The radishes never really took off – the spring temperatures were too high. 

But the onions and carrots are doing okay.

And there have been some bright spots – the Black Krims are almost ripe

And Jimmy Nardello

is a funny fellow

The Sugar Sweeties are proving prolific:

So how is your garden doing?  I’m afraid some of my earliest ripening tomatoes will suffer from blossom-end-rot;  a combination of clay soil and our strange spring and heatwave.  But we’ll keep plugging along – and enjoying the fruits of our labors!

Happy gardening,
Terry

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