I love my garden!

Today we had our first big harvest from our summer garden.

We had a bowlful of sweet basil. I wish you could smell this right through your browser–it was intense and WONDERFUL:

Basil

We had a lovely panful of green beans just calling for a little ham and onion:

Beans

We had broccoli tops and green peppers:

We had full size tomatoes in a variety of colors, practically dripping with juice:

But best of all, we had a bowl of yellow cherry tomatoes, sweet and del…hey.  HEY.  What happened here?

Dang it. Not fast enough.

Happy summer, everyone!

It’s the year for change, right?

Before you go–yes, you’re in the right place.

I just changed the decor a bit.

After 18 months, I felt that it was time to be a little crisper, a little clearer, and so I sought out a new theme. It’s the season of green around our territory at the moment, so this felt right.

Meantime, I’m probably out in the garden weeding, AGAIN, so I’ll be back to post when it rains.  Happy summer, everyone!

Spring on the horizon

Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.       __ Alfred Austin

Despite the recent turmoil, life goes on. In this neck of the woods, of course, one of the most exciting things is life! Finally, after all those frozen brown and gray months, we’ve got crocuses, green tulip leaves peeking out of the soil and at least the hope of warmth.

Last week, during a long, drawn-out meeting that didn’t really require my input, I sketched out the 2009 garden, realizing as I’ve said in months past, that we need to be able to grow as much food as possible. I’ve just now come to the end of last summer’s tomatoes I canned (without chemicals, additives or high fructose corn syrup, which has to be better for our autistic kiddos). We want to get a small chest freezer this year so we can freeze broccoli, beans and so on this year too.

In order to accomplish that goal, we’ve decided to nearly double the size of the current garden, making about 150 square feet more of growing room. Most of this garden will be new to cultivation, so we’re stirring the compost pile and importing manure to enrich the soil. (Persuading Little Miss that yes, it really is okay to put cow poop on your food… priceless.)

The oldest part of the garden has been worked for at least ten years. It developed some sort of fungus that attacks tomatoes about four years ago, so we’ve cycled the tomato plants to new sections. This year we’ll put in onions  in that space and also start a strawberry bed to carry on into the future– a fresh start, which always seems to be a blessing.

The Cabana Boy and I have also considered the realities of our work life and our therapeutic investment of time for the children, and realized that more than twice the garden space requires more than twice the time to maintain. Consequently, I suggested to my father, who lives in a seniors reduced-rent apartment building downtown, that I’d like to make this a community garden. We would provide the space and plant the plants, etc., and in exchange for maintenance work such as weeding, etc., a few senior volunteers could have weekly fresh vegetables and herbs.

He took the proposal to his tenants’ board and they agreed to post a notice. So we’ll see what happens. I guess I’d better read up on how to set this up legally, and what to do with difficult people since I always think things will go more smoothly than they do. Ideally, I’d love to meet some folk who enjoy working the soil and don’t have space to do it, and we can have potluck dinners and visit. We’ll see how it goes.

Meantime, our family spent an hour together yesterday afternoon digging up the row nearest the fence, adding nutrients, and getting a forty-foot row of peas planted. Sure, it’s not St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s close. The 2009 garden of goodness is on its way.

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I’m jealous of an adventure taking place this week in sunnier climes– see my garden maven sister’s blog on her trip to the jungles of Mexico. She has contests, as well as amazing video!

Getting through hard times

My father is in his 70s, and moved to our town about 15 years ago, having retired at the age of 45. He had some investments and has been very frugal for years, making it possible for him to live on a very modest income. Of course, he lived through the Great Depression– he knows what tough times are.

When he stopped by last Sunday for the weekly pinochle battle, he asked whether I thought we’d be all right, financially. He didn’t just mean did we need a $200 loan, or whether we’d be able to see my daughter through her last two months of culinary school. He meant, would we survive? The fact he asked made me start to worry.

There’s no question that he and I disagree about spending habits. He hasn’t bought a new shirt in probably 20 years. He buys the bare minimum of groceries; I supplement him with fresh fruit, nice cheeses and meats, upper shelf tea, things he’d never buy for himself but I think he deserves. He decries spending money on the children for toys and things he doesn’t think they need, but they’re my children, so I’ll do what I want. (You don’t even want to know what he said about the Disney vacation. But in my opinion, when I looked at how fast the bad economy was spending my IRA, I figured if I was going to lose it all, I’d rather have it be on something of MY choosing.)

But his question wasn’t about my spending, but about how we would live. The Cabana Boy is in the process of changing jobs, but he has the new one for sure. Not likely they’d hire someone just to lay him off, particularly if he’s the only one in a department they intend to grow. As  someone who’s self-employed, I don’t have a regular paycheck to count on, but now that we’ve moved the office into the house, my expenses are really minimal, and we can create a cushion to carry us through.

So yeah, I think we’ll be okay. It may be awhile till our next big vacation. We won’t buy a new car this year. We’ve decided to work on paying down our credit and trying to work as debt-free as possible by year’s end.  We intend to expand our garden and grow more of our own food this year, saving money as well as giving us a health boost. We’ll do what thousands of other families are doing across the country, and we hope we’ll all get through it.

But headlines all over the news and the ‘Net point out that we haven’t hit bottom yet. We’ve just gotten bad enough that some of the big guys have taken a serious hit that, frankly, they had coming. This 10-minute video puts the whole mess in an extremely digestible form and shows why the fallout will come for many months to follow.

Watching it will remind you once again that for years all the Big Boys have been sticking together and making each other rich; now it’s time for all us little guys and gals to make sure we stick together and survive. Whether it’s pulling together as a Cul-de-Sac Commune, making your neighborhood a caring place, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, or making sure your local food bank has enough to give away (and helping box those donations up!), everyone can pitch in. Freecycle. Even CNN says it’s chic to be cheap, so check out the local Salvation Army store. We will be.

Summer, we love thee

Greetings Ye Lords and Ladies, Ye gentles and Peasants, and Welcome to Ye Olde Ode to Summer!

Still recovering from the Medieval Faire, as you might note. That was a delight except for the 46 minute thunderstorm right in the middle. But we met some charming people very close up, as we huddled inside the faire sales tents and thronged around the glassblower’s 1000-degree ovens, which kept us warm. Our favorite performing band from last year, E Muzeki, had broken up, but the main members were there in a new configuration called Elysium, so that was a huge plus.

But on to the subject of our muse, i.e. Summer. We picked with great delight our own home-grown vegetables this week, peas, spring mix, black raspberries and squash, with the green bean and broccoli crop coming on close behind. I expanded the herb garden this year, so we have a wide assortment of smells and tastes that I will be picking to dry soon for the winter.

little beans

little beans

The Cabana Boy and I have been weeding and trimming for a few days now, and I can finally sit back and admire. The flower beds are a burst of luscious colors surrounded by the deep green of the trees. In summer, our yard is truly beautiful. This season is what lured me from the tropics, the leafy verdant glades and woods of my childhood.

flower bed

flower bed

The warmth is an additional delight this year because though my fibromyalgia ramped up to phase 2, my doctor has prescribed the new medicine Lyrica for the pain–and it’s been a miracle. Within 24 hours the pain I’d carried for months faded, and the tense muscles with it. I’m not depressed, my energy level is high, and I can move again! Lyrica doesn’t work for everyone, I know, but I’m grateful for its help.

Our bean teepee

Our bean teepee

And finally, six months into this blog adventure, I crossed the 10,000 hit mark last night. I have made so many nice connections through this small window into the world, and I wish warm days, fresh delights, bright flowers and good health to you all! Come back again soon!

red flowers

red flowers