taller than me and still not blooming

Two days ago, this mammoth sunflower was shorter than me, and now:
 This is one of my babies, grown from seed, the only one to survive with numerous buds on one stalk, reaching close to six feet tall. My friends have been instructed to take photos to send to me immediately upon blooming.
Another baby, still not in bloom, is my hollyhock, which I started from seed in February and is now, also, on the cusp of blooming in my front bee-friendly garden. Again, cell phone pics have been requested.
And I leave my fattest, juiciest tomatoes in this state:
But all's well. I'm going to swim with the dolphins and sting rays and waves! I can miss a tomato and sunflower or two! Right? Right?!



Someone in my life recently said, "American eggs don't have the color that French eggs do." Has this man never seen farm-fresh, organic eggs? These are from our chickens. Look at the double yolk on the left, and observe how freaking orange all of the yolks are! Amazing, rich, delicious. Yesterday, I made a quiche with fresh eggs, fresh thyme, caramelized shallots, organic whole milk, freshly ground nutmeg, and Brian's marvelous crust. Tomorrow, oven-baked German pancakes with organic blueberries that we picked yesterday on Sauvie Island.
We're now getting approximately two eggs per day, one a solid, light brown and the other a speckled brown like our first egg, which means that the speckled sussex and plymouth barred rock are both laying. Miss Americauna, aka Kentucky, is not yet laying, as her eggs should be a light blue. One more week of this bullshit, and off with her head! Just kidding.


sexy garlic and other fruiting fantasies

Today, I harvested early Italian garlic bulbs from garlic that I planted in October. I took the bulbs, cut off their yellow stalk, and put them, one at a time, into a black, knee-high nylon with 3 inches of sexy black lace at the top, tied a knot around each bulb, and placed in another until it was full. Then, I hung it in the basement. Is this a sign of middle-aged complacency around matters of sex because I'm using lingerie to store my stinky bulbs? No! If anything, it's an out-with-the-old attitude. Who wears nylons anymore anyways? Give me sandals or funky socks and buckled boots.
I have so many things popping in the garden, (I don't want to give away the surprises), and it drives me crazy that I feel resentment over having to leave for two weeks now of all times. Every day, I find another tomato plant bearing fruit. Every day, I run to see if this or that has bloomed yet. I'm starting to get squash flowers, at long last! But I must sever myself from both my garden and my notion that they are my sprouting children. Maternal instincts for vegetables and flowers be damned! I'm going to swim in the salty sea and not worry that I'm missing my first red tomato or my first zucchini. As long as certain other things bloom before I leave, I will be satisfied (stay tuned...any guesses?).

Besides which, friends who are on the verge of leaving the country will be living here while I'm gone, watering and harvesting and feasting on kale, garlic, a few possible ripe tomatoes, and whatever else. Good to know that friends are enjoying what I can't enjoy myself.


garden friday fail!

Today's fail is one of my topsy turvy tomatoes. Although they're great for saving space, I'm still not a convert to this method. Perhaps I'm not fussing with them enough. Maybe they're not quite getting enough sun. I'm not sure. But while one of them looks okay (not wonderful), the other one, an Amish Paste, is done for.
The leaves are crisp with spots that are brown in the center and yellow on the outside. The nasturtium is doing well, but the other plants that I attempted to grow from seed never made it. So it's just a funny looking contraption, and sort of a double fail.
But, I have 16 tomato plants still alive, many of which are starting to fruit!
Top photo courtesy of Emily.


"your heart is in the verb"

Summer is rushing by me, like I'm riding down a white river. Is it really nearly August? Have I not written in almost two weeks? Needless to say, I have been busy: the lovely Alicia, my youngest sister, was here for several days; Brian and I were reunited after his 10-day climbing trip; I've organized my resume and paper work for teaching jobs; I continue waiting tables almost every day; I'm cultivating my garden and several promising friendships; and when possible, I venture into the woods.

I'm also trying to get some reading done. I'm currently reading Michael Pollan's Second Nature: A Gardener's Education. I love it. I love his courage and honesty and humor. I love that he has the balls to criticize Thoreau. I love that he writes about how perverse and simultaneously natural it is that we associate roses with sex. I love that he writes so openly about his failures as a gardener, but without the failures, how would we learn? How would we grow? As he points out, our failures, more than our successes, teach us about our gardens, our soil and our plants needs.

Here's a passage:
"The garden is an unhappy place for the perfectionist. Too much stands beyond our control here, and the only thing we can absolutely count on is eventual catastrophe. Success in the garden is the moment in time, that week in June when the perennials unanimously bloom and the border jells, or those clarion days in September when the reds riot in the tomato patch--just before the black frost hits. It's easy to get discouraged, unless, like the green thumb, you are happier to garden in time than in space; unless, that is, your heart is in the verb. For the garden is never done--the weeds you pull today will return tomorrow, a new generation of aphids will step forward to avenge the ones you've slain, and everything you plant--everything--sooner or later will die. Among the many many things the green thumb knows is the consolation of the compost pile, where nature, ever obliging, redeems this seasons deaths and disasters in the fresh promise of next spring." (Pollan, 132)

In this essay, "Green Thumb," Pollan tries to define what it means to have a "green thumb." Is it merely a term used by the novice or those disinterested in gardening for those with experience and relative success? Is it divinity? Is it a natural, latent talent, or is it the product of hard work and study? Here, the title of his book starts to become clear: the green thumb is the gardener with the experience, the imagination, the creativity, and the love for gardening that makes gardening (after perhaps many seasons during which this might not be the case) second nature. A person with a green thumb can move through her garden in almost a meditative state, a state of peace and love, while she dead heads flowers, prunes suckers from tomatoes, weeds strawberry patches, and squashes aphids. He points out that this state of mind is not a constant: there will always be frustrations and confusion: "So simple: grace in the garden but a form of puttering" (134). I laugh at this line: that's me, sometimes with grace, often puttering! Still a novice, with enough fails to fill up a year of Garden Friday Fails, but still, I love being out in my garden, and I'm not afraid of trial and error.

What is a green thumb? Do I have one? Who cares as long as "insnared with flowers, I fall on grass"?


garden friday fail!

Over at Your Apples are My Oranges, Emily (who took the above photo) started "Garden Friday Fail" with the hope that other gardeners would join in with their foibles and black thumb moments, so here's my first installment of Garden Friday Fail!
My dream was to hide this ugly ugly fence with a wall of sunflowers, tall ones and short ones and medium sized ones. Yellow ones and orange ones and red ones. The bees would buzz around, the cats would sleep below, and everyone would be happy.
Well, here it is. Ugly fence still quite visible, with only one of all of the seeds I planted at various times successfully growing. The rest of the seeds, eaten by thieves? rotting in the ground? not fans of cold wet soggy springs?
I don't know. All I know is, fail!


her labor is a chant

Curious behavior from my bees today. Apparently, they are bearding. Here's what the entrance to the hive looks like today:
The top photograph is a close up of the bees fanning the entrance of the hive with their wings, which they are also doing inside of the hive in order to keep cool. It's possible that the hive doesn't have enough ventilation, although most likely I need not worry as this behavior is common when temperatures are close to 100 (which is the high today, according to the forecast).
It's imperative that the bees have access to water, or they will dehydrate. They also use the water to cool the hive, carrying in the droplets and then fanning them with their wings. When collecting water, the bees need something to stand on so that they won't drown.
These glass pieces work, as do wine corks, stones, branches, oyster shells, pea stones, etc. Bees will return to the same place for water, so it's important to water your bees as regularly as you water your other animals.
Despite the heat, many foragers are about, collecting pollen and water. It's bloom time--perhaps near the end of bloom time, as mid-summer often brings a dearth--and the foragers are currently in love with the flowering trees in my front yard. Any one recognize it? I have yet to identify these trees, but now that they're flowering, my curiosity has spiked.


A chicken retrospective

It's July. That means that the little peepers are now big squawkers. They've gone from being chased (or at least stalked) by kitties to chasing the kitties and each other around the yard or yelling at me when I won't let them out of their coop.
They've gone from being a closely knit threesome to three distinct chickens with varying personalities. The sussex usually minds her own business. The general (the barred rock) is happy when eating the tastiest morsel, and the americauna is curious, even going so far as to peek into the kitchen to explore.

And yesterday, July 6, 2010, I found the very first, beautiful, perfect, brindled little egg. Hoorah! I believe it's from the sussex or the general, because americauna's eggs are generally blue. Any educated guesses or thoughts?


strange fruit

Here's what I decided to do after learning I had the night off:
Months ago, Brian built shelves for the bathroom. This wood panel was the original top shelf, but since he rounded one corner, the shelf seemed a bit precarious: I was nervous someone might sit or lean on it and break it. So today, I decided to paint it. The background was already painted the same color as the bathroom walls. I grabbed my acrylics and painted the tree.
Then, I gathered materials: scraps of fabric, colored glass, broken jewelry, broken glass, paper doilies, cool paper, Modge Podge, and my hot glue gun.
And I started to glue and collage and decoupage and what have you. Then we hung it up in the bathroom, on the big blank blue wall. It looks pretty rad in there, I must say.

In your face!

While General Tsao attacks the local paparazzi all Bjork style, the fierce Leno roars like a lion.
The ladies' coop door was closed this evening, so they decided to perch on the dome. I had to lift them off; they flapped their wings in my face and hair, infuriated that I dared to interrupt their slumber. Eventually, they made their semi-blind way into their coop.
I have a love-hate relationship with these mothers. Sometimes I stroke their feathers and cluck at them, and some days, I can't wait to put them in the pot. Seriously. But today, I clucked and stroked, and didn't threaten them with the ax once.


blackberry bramble and other delights

Apart from savoring some backyard blackberry honey, we will again, like many Portlanders, be trying to come up with creative, delicious ways to enjoy the fecundity of blackberries that are everywhere, including the back corner of my backyard, the one place I don't battle them, and a current pollen and nectar sanctuary for my bees.

Here are some lovely recipes that Modish posted today for your berry surplus. I can't wait to try the sorbet and possibly the pie, since our apple tree is also brimming. The cocktail also sounds like a sip of summer loveliness, and here are some other suggestions:
*Try crushing sage into your lemonade. Perhaps add a splash of vodka, if you're so inclined.
*Muddle cherries, mint, and club soda.
*Muddle some rosemary and limes into your gin and tonic.
I imagine a bit of lavender would taste lovely with any of these as well.

Side note: Heartbreakingly, we're having a helluva time getting our sour cherries out of our cherry tree. A tall ladder doesn't get you out on the branches. Any suggestions?

Anyway, here are the recipes. Bon berry appetit!