Friday, February 26, 2010

Summer Beckons

This past weekend, as I was walking through the grocery store, an enticing, overwhelming aroma toyed with my senses. The fragrance of summer stimulated every olfactory gland in my nose while simultaneously filling my brain with thoughts of tomatoes and pasta and French bread. But I couldn't place it - we were smack in the middle of the cruel month of February and this Essence of Sunshine and Warmth was unmistakably out of place. As I searched in a desperate attempt to match the aroma to it's producer, I glanced to my right and discovered rows and rows of fresh, organic basil, root balls still attached. I quickly grabbed a bouquet, burried my nose in it's leaves, and inhaled one of the sweetest scents nature can produce. Without further contemplation, I placed the little treasure in my cart and proceeded home as quickly as possible. For the low price of $2.49, that basil was going to adorn sandwiches and spaghetti and anything else I could imagine. What I really craved, however, was Granny's little tomato, a slice of fresh mozzerella, and heaps of that basil piled on a slice of just-baked french bread. With, perhaps, just a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

But, alas, it just wasn't meant to be. I couldn't bring myself to purchase the tomatoes from the grocery store - I knew they'd only disappoint. They simply weren't worthy of my prized basil.. which, sadly, also ended up disappointing. The basil made it to a few delicious sandwiches, but it faded fast despite the care I took to wrap it in damp paper towels to store in my refrigerator. My spaghetti dream evaporated quickly, and it will be months before my home-grown basil and tomatoes will be ready to harvest.

On the bright side, I have 5 baby basil seedlings that are ready to be transplanted this weekend. I'm beginning to doubt whether or not that will be enough to feed my voracious appetite for this lovely herb. I'll need enough for pesto and sauces, and I'd like to try drying my own this year. Perhaps I'll go ahead and start some more seedlings this weekend - I suppose it's better to have too many than not enough.. Does that phrase get you in trouble as often as it gets me in trouble? ;-)

"Spare" time this weekend will also be used to transplant looseleaf lettuce, more buttercrunch, pak choi, and carrots. I'll also direct sow more of the same, as well as a few more peas. I guess it's about time to start some bell pepper and tomato seeds, so my goal (and I use the term loosely) will be to start a new flat of seeds after I've completing transplanting the current seedlings. I'm also expecting the arrival of a new set of pasta attachments for my Beloved Kitchenaid Mixer today. Hopefully I can postpone the distraction it's certain to provide long enough to complete my garden chores - wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Surprise!!

After I was done with the lettuce and pea transplants last weekend, I thought I'd amend my sole veggie bed with some compost and blood meal. I plan to use the bed for several different varieties of squash this summer. This is what my sad, sad bed looks like:








Gotta love the abandoned watering can... I actually think that was used as a snow toy. Yes, we southerners are deprived of proper cold-weather toys.

But what's that? Something caught my eye:




Let's get a closer look..




And another...





More?




Upon realizing what I had witnessed, I ran into the house screaming like a madwoman for my family to come view my discovery. I don't think they appreciated the interruption.. But I bet you get it!! See, last year I planted some red onion bulbs that never did anything.. I thought I'd dug them all up. However, in the same spot, I'd also planted some scallions from seed. Do you think these are scallions? Or red onions?


And what should I do with them? I have a few options, but space is running at a premium:

1) Dig up the mysterious sprouts now and proceed with my plans to till and amend the bed.

2) Let them grow until it's time to plant the squash, then harvest what's there, and fill their places with more squash.

3) Leave the onions alone, then fertilize and plant squash around them. Maybe I'll be able to add a few onions to my harvest this fall..


Cast your vote (on the right) and let me know!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Long Overdue

Yes, last week I really did dedicate an entire post to the fact that I took a nap. Is that evidence that my life lacks excitement? Please accept my sincerest apologies.

A few more things:


1) It's probably at the top of the list of Blogger Don'ts: Don't promise a post - especially by a certain date - because things (like Thing Number 2) will always get in the way.

2) It has been ridiculously, uncharacteristically cold around here. Just to give you an idea, our electric bill for 1/15/09 - 2/15/09 was $130. The electric bill for last month (1/15/10 - 2/15/10) was $330. I think our usual highs for this time of year are in the 50's.. Our recent high has been hanging around the 20's. Which brings me to Thing Number 3.

3) I attempted to do some potting last weekend. I did get some potting mix into a few pots, but then the temperature dropped like "it's hot" only it was cold. Very cold. And then I ran inside, shut the door, and never looked back. Until today. And this is what I had waiting for me:


The porch:



Almost lost this one to the wind:



The Ingredients:



4) I do not suggest chugging a large iced coffee right before inverting yourself over flower pots for the 2 hours following said chugging. I only have two words for you: acid reflux. Ugh.

5) I am significantly lacking in self control. I went to Home Depot today just to pick up a few more containers and a trellis. I couldn't resist the enticingly lush plants that were all ready for a new home. The selection was surprisingly good, but I dug deep and limited myself to 1 9-pack of romaine lettuce and 2 9-packs of buttercrunch lettuce. I can't promise I won't go back for more..

6) Everything has a home, so far:


Buttercrunch:



Cilantro:



Romaine:



Everything in it's temporary spot on the very messy patio:



7) The peas are the only seedlings I've repotted so far. The roots were matted at the bottom of the seedling tray, so I had to rip them apart to get them out. I don't have high hopes - the pea transplants will probably be dead in the morning. But that's okay - I have more seeds and I'll know better next year!

One pot of peas:



And the other:




7) I found a surprise in the garden bed today. I'll tell you about it tomorrow. Or maybe the next day, or the day after that. Definitely before Christmas. I promise.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day! Night!

And am I celebrating this day of amorous romance right! I spent the afternoon giving in to the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. My loving husband didn't mind one bit that I shrugged off a list of chores and errands at least 18 items long simply to indulge in hours of luxurious gluttony. Afterwards, I stumbled into the gym at 5:00pm for my 4:30 class. Embarrassed by the pillow lines still on my cheeks, I crept into the gym, furtively tiptoed by my class, and went straight to the elliptical machine, where I proceeded to skulk, head lowered and cheeks blushing, for the next hour. Sure, I didn't get to Zumba, but the three hour nap was certainly worth it. ;-)

Tomorrow is repotting day - I am rested and ready, but I'm not sure how my plants will do, as they're predicting more snow. Fortunately everything will be going into containers, so I can bring them inside if the weather man is actually right (again) and we get that predicted 1-2 inches.

Until tomorrow, my friends - sleep tight!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Why bother? A manifesto..

It's been a while since my last post because, well, last week sucked. It was wrought with a-lot-more-than-normal workplace stress, the usual list of household chores, and this nagging cold that is trying it's best to drag me down. It's like running a marathon with a 30lb toddler clinging to each thigh and there are days when I feel like the race is futile. And why, on top of everything else in life, should I include the "burden" of growing food for my family when there are three perfectly good grocery stores and two fruit and vegetable stands within a one mile radius of my house?

I'll be honest - that thought found its way into my head several times over the last week (each time that I checked on the seedlings that desperately need to be repotted - nope, still not done). And I'm sure my husband wonders why I bother - each time I buy another pot or more soil ammendments and definitely throughout all six hours it took us to replace our garbage disposer yesterday (totally not an easy fix for the inexperienced plumber / electrician, fyi).

So why subject myself to more responsibilities? Well, anytime I get discouraged about something, I find it helps to write about it. Sometimes it's just getting my feelings on paper, sometimes it's a list of pros and cons. And what better place to keep a record of my gardening motivations, right? So, in case you were wondering, this is why (in no particular order):

1) Quality food for my family - I guess this is probably the main driver for most vegetable gardeners. I like knowing what is in my food. What chemicals it's been treated with. Where it's from. I'm not a big fan of eating "the idea of a tomato" from the grocery store. You know what I mean - tomatoes that are genetically engineered to withstand shipping with all regard for flavor out the window. And to make matters worse, they're picked green then forced to blush when doused with ethylene gas. No thank you, I'll grow my own. Plus - are you ever going to find patty pan squash in the grocery store? Or tangerine tomatoes? Or lemon cucumbers? No - at least not where I come from.

2) Where does our food come from? I remember a few years ago I asked my son if he knew where eggs come from. His answer? The store. I really think that was the pivitol moment for me. Sure, I didn't start gardening until years later, but I've always had that memory nagging at me. We should know where our food comes from, and I think we respect it more if we help put it on the table (whether that means growing your own food, or at least cooking from scratch every now and then). And let's face it - knowing how to grow your own food is really a basic survival skill. I don't think armageddon is around the corner, but my goodness, it's nice to know I have that skill just in case it's ever needed. And I want my son to have that skill as well. And if it means we get some quality time together, outdoors, working towards a common goal? Well, I'll take it.

3) Being a good steward - You know, God has really given me a lot to be thankful for. I have a wonderful family, food on the table, a roof over our heads, and I live in America, for crying out loud. Life isn't perfect, but I really am blessed. And for me, part of being blessed is respecting what I've been given and making the most out of it. I don't live in the "perfect" place for a garden. But you know what? I've got a little space. And my health. And some pots. I can't think of a better way to make the most out of what I've been given. And you know what else? My little garden is also my little way of being a good steward of the earth. My produce isn't flown in from the far side of the planet and grown under heaven-only-knows what kinds of conditions.. There is always more I can do to preserve our planet, but I do believe that every little bit helps.

5) And did I mention therapy? - It's nice to be outdoors, in the peace and harmony of the garden (unless it's under attack by beetles or rabbits or hornworms). Most of my life is run at a break-neck pace. There is always something urgent that needs my attention NOW! The garden, however, is patient and forgiving.. at least a little more than most of life's other demands... it doesn't need to eat RIGHT NOW, and it certainly doesn't need clean clothes. Sorry to sound like a bubble bath commercial, but a few minutes working in my garden and I literally feel the day's stresses melt away. Maybe my garden hasn't "turned a profit" yet, but I bet if we were to add up the savings from the psycho-therapists I haven't had to go to yet, we'd be in the black.

5) Why not? Maybe because I don't know what I'm doing. But heck - that hasn't stopped me before. I taught myself how to drive a standard transmission. How to can and preserve. How to knit. How to speak Chinese (just kidding - but don't put it past me). Surely, I can learn how to work with nature to provide safe, healthy food for my family.

Call it what you want - a passion or a hobby - gardening is good and I don't know of anyone who can argue that fact.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oh, dear...

I had a busy day today (surprise, surprise) and I thought I'd hit the sack early tonight. Before I headed upstairs, I went to check on my seedlings - maybe give them a little drink and turn off their light (you know, tuck them in good and proper). I was amazed at the growth in one day. Check out my amazonian peas:





Aren't they beautiful? Well.. don't look now, but I don't think they're going to make it. I still need to get my planters ready - I was NOT ready for this:





Oh, dear. I'm new at seed starting, but something tells me they won't survive the transplant - and our temperatures haven't warmed up as fast as they normally do. I might be restarting (or just direct sowing) my peas this year. I won't give up on these babies yet, though..

I took the dome off the top of the tray for the night (for the first time). The heat mat is still on - hopefully they'll still be happy!