Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Weeds. No not that kind!

I swear, I am always a few days late when I finally get around to posting these musings... 

A couple days ago it was actually... temperate!  Hardy weeds at this point seem to consider it to be rather spring-like and have sprung up EVERYWHERE and I have been not so diligent in the elimination of them.  Main weed issues is new grass (either from floating around seeds or from grass clippings that didn't compost down enough I suppose that I use as mulch/amend the garden/husband grass hogging like mad and not seeing where his seedy clippings went >_<.

I am curious as to popular opinion on this:
When I weed, I toss to the side OUT of the garden anything with noticeable seeds/going to seed and simply pull/lay roots side up those that are not in seed like some grasses and keep those in the garden because I am pretty darn sure they aren't going to survive at that point and I don't mind their little nutrient sucking selves to just return to the soil.

I probably such just get a bucket and toss them in there for total compost-ation but my weeding is the type where I go out to look at the garden with the intent to simply "check things out," until I see a weed.  Then I'm on my knees, out there for an hour spying a million little inappropriate sprouts that I must  nullify, so I come out in the first place improperly equipped for weeding.

I've done this in nice clothes before too, luckily not in the heels, but when it comes to gardening and especially weeding I am impulsive and sort of like Pringles, once I start pulling, I just can't stop.

Probably answering my question, I should just have a bucket that is next to the door of the garden that has painted on it:  DON'T WALK THROUGH THIS DOOR WITHOUT ME. (in fine print under it: even if it's to just 'look' at the garden, take a breath of fresh air, have a little stroll... TAKE ME)

Hmm.  I think I should have that tattooed on me so my husband can see this every morning before he walks out the door. Just kidding.  Maybe?

This also sounds like something puppies at a shelter would have on them. 


With all of the relatively nicer weather I begin to have stupid impulses thinking that maybe I could plant things outside... with milk jug/soda pop liter bottle cloches... no real work like seed starting (which I still need to do >_<)   The thought of this: things really growing outside again and little seedlings not needing to be transferred gets me salivating, but I have jumped the gun WAY too many times before in my early planting exuberance and I know, because the calender tells me so, that it's only freaking January and it would be total folly to plant anything other than MORE mustards and leafy greens now.

Plus it's forecasted to sleet/snow again in a couple days.  Seriously winter, who needs it?  (ok, maybe the citrus trees who need a good cold spell to flower and fruit nicely and the greens and roots that sweeten up during a frost/when it gets cold, & etc. Bah. I still hate the cold)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Caitlin Flanagan Hoe-down

So the recent skewering of Caitlin Flanagan for her The Atlantic article "Cultivating Failure" on nearly every garden blog, including Garden Rant got me looking more into this lady and here is further info on the woman if you are interested in where she comes from.

I'm not a fan of anything in excess or overzealousness of any sort if it involves the lives of people and their futures, this including centering an education COMPLETELY around a garden (which I can only assume Ms. Flanagan is dramatising in her article), but she sounds like a bit of a ninny to me.

I always wished for a school garden growing up, when I lived with my parents' at their house and was thrilled to have one when I got my own property.
You can't force parents to have a garden,  but you can legitimately call gardens an educational tool, if not in the best subject: health, I think gardens are a great tool to combat obesity in America's children and an excellent way to allow kids to know how your food works and damn, it really makes vegetables more fun to eat to see how it grows.
But as I am a little flighty here, I was struck by Garden Rant emphasizing Flangan saying "let them eat tarte tatin" and then Garden Rant exclaiming, "Let the kids eat tarte tatin!  Make sure to let all the kids have a bite!"

I  thought to myself,"What is tarte tatin?"

Because, if it involves the delicious, I am there. 

This is where things get a little stupid(er) and soon thereafter I was flipping through my super awesome Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book  (thankyouthankyouthankyou Mother Earth News for alerting me to this publication and for posting the recipes online for so long until I caved in and bough the book!) and saw an Aubergine Tartine recipe.

Husband and I just bought a boatload of cheap eggplant recently from our Jungle Jim's expedition earlier and had to use it like mad, so I thought, tarte tatin =tartine...?

And made this lovely creation:

Homemade baguette with hand roasted aubergine (eggplant), hand roasted red peppers, home grown garlic still leftover from mid last year roasted to nutty perfection, winter garden mustard greens, manager special Kroger Camembert cheese ($2!), and a few unrolled anchovies from a can (78 cents, hey, we needed to use them!)

Mwah! C'est Magnifique!

But yeah, later further investigation shows that Tarte Tatin is not Tartine

Whoops.  Tricksy French.

Ah well, I'm sure the kids would rather eat tarte tatin than tartine and tarte tatin will just be another food adventure for another day for me.

Viva la jardin!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mystery Seed update: Telephone Conversation with Mom

So as I said, I needed to call my mom about the seeds she gave me that were supposed to be swiss chard, except weren't.

(Note: my mom speak to me in what we call, "Chinglish" Chinese-English, so I've italicized her dialogue for your imagination)

(Also, this dialogue gives you an idea of what I dealt with growing up)

ME: Hey mom, the seeds that you sent me... I don't think they're swiss chard.  Is there any way you can talk to the auntie who gave them to me about what they are exactly?

MOM: They're Chinese chard--- I think... 

ME:  Chinese chard? What the heck is Chinese chard?  What does it look like? Taste like?  Have I had this??

MOM:  I think it's something called xian cai.  You've had it before! You like it! 

ME:  Uh.. ok.  I have no clue what this is still... are you sure?  Maybe you should give auntie a call.

MOM:  Ok. I give auntie a call and find out for certain.

MINUTES LATER... *ring ring*

MOM:  I was wrong.  It's a different vegetable.

ME: So what is it?

MOM:  It's a different vegetable.  I can't pronounce or spell it... Auntie speaks a different dialect and all these asian vegetables have different names anyways.

ME:  Wha-?  Can you at least tell me what it's like? 

MOM: It's green.

ME: ..............................................

MOM:  Ok, lots of vegetables are green.  You can put it on rice! In soup! with noodles!

ME:  But how do I plant it?  What temperature or environment does it like?   How big does it get? What kind of light does it need? What does it even look like???  AIIE?!?

MOM:  It's green with darker green on top!!!  About the size of.... arugula?!!
(*This is the only vegetable comparison my mom really knows of... I have no idea why)
*MOM getting huffy*  LOOK, if you don't want the seed, YOU CAN THROW IT AWAY.

ME: Ack, I'm not going to throw it away... that would be a waste.  I just like to know what I'm growing!

MOM:  THROW IT AWAY if you don't want it.  I don't know what to tell you about it.

ME: *sighing*  I'll just test it in one of my beds... and see what happens... *groan*  THANK YOU for the seed...


So, the lessons here are:
1) My mother is an unreliable source for seed
2) LABEL-LABEL-LABEL! (unless it's in Chinese characters, then I'm useless) 
3)  Gardeners need to be adventurous?

I'll tell you how this mystery seed/plant goes/grows, what it tastes like and take plenty of picks this season!  I am excited/scared about its prospects.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Spoiled (oh, the simple things)

Went up to visit family in Ohio just over the weekend (thus no post-age) to pick up an old car that I was VERY grateful to get from my dad as my old mini-van crapped out.  My parents are very generous with giving us any old stuff they have around, and as they take care of things very well, I'll accept a '94 Toyota with 120,000 miles just fine if it doesn't mean spending thousands on fixing this stupid engine issue on my Sienna.

ANYWAYS, on top of that spoilage (I suppose that can be in the "me being spoiled sense" and the booty/bounty kind), my dad gave me a slightly better digital camera than my current one which has been crapping out and the lens got weird and not focus-y (3 years old, but like I've said, I'm not picky) and my mom gave me some Swiss chard seeds that a friend of hers harvest (red and white chards, but no specific variety name.. oh well).

(seeds my mom gave me)

The only thing about the Swiss chard seeds she gave me is that the seeds don't look like swiss chard seeds that I've dealt with before... and luckily had a few leftover as reference.  I had heard that chard and beet seeds are actually a large seed head with many teeny tiny seeds inside, so I crushed up one chard seed to see if there were any seeds within that looked like the ones my mom gave me.

(leftover chard seed I had, w/crushed up one on bottom)


Oy.  MooOOoOOoooom!!!!!!!!!

So, may I also explain that my mom is NOT a gardener and after 10 years of owning herb plants that I planted years ago she still cannot recognize what is what?

I'mma gonna call my mom and get her to find out what seeds I have been given before I plant them because I just had a near garden blow-up experience!  (It's still too cold to have planted them but knowing me, I might have "experimented" planting some anyways as "chard" is a cool weather crop, but THIS is definitely not chard.)

I think it looks more like salad/lettuce seed of some sort or maybe even black eyed susan seed.  Sheesh.

On another spoilage note, husband and I went to my favorite store of all time, a grocery store by the name of Jungle Jim's.  If you live in the Cincy region or even around the tri-state of Kentucky/Indiana/Ohio, Jungle Jim's is your go-to destination for food.  I could literally spend the entire day there in bliss checking out all the exotic foods, vegetables, teas, honeys, international this and thats. Mmmmm.  Their okra still isn't as fresh as mine, but whatever, they had reduced red peppers at $1.59/lb (we got about 5 flats of them)!  I can't find that ANYWHERE in Memphis.

(Woot! Red peppers!)

What really excited me is when I saw SUNCHOKE roots:



there, when gave me hope because I wanted to grow these fun things this coming season as I 1) couldn't find the seed for these anywhere without resorting to going online and paying shipping which I am trying to avoid as much as I can to save costs, and 2) I like the idea of seed saving and growing from the grocery store.  Plus, now I can give them a little tasty-taste :)

My only nervousness about the sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes is that they can be invasive (not always a bad thing when it comes to food... "oh no! I have too much deliciousness!) and I've heard that sunchokes can give a person massive gas.  Pleasant, I know.  The description of it in the wiki link is sort of frightening, but as I am sort of vegetarian and eat lots of beans already, well... 

Finally, my being spoiled and gratitude towards others went through the roof when a very nice fellow local gardener gave me some tomato and other plant seeds earlier last week to help me out.

He had some great varieties and I only need about 5 seeds of each kind because I have yet to find a non-viable/hardy tomato seed.  I find that I tend to grow more tomatoes than I need so this is a great way to keep my garden from becoming overgrown.  Plus, now we can see who can grow a meaner tomato as that we have the same type and live in the same climate! (I'm sure he'll blow me out of the water on this one :P)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

O Spring, where art thou?

I poked my head out today.  Poking head out for reals meaning, not just walking the dog or needing to go to the car.

I walked the garden and looked at Mother Nature's wasteland.  Is it possible to separate Mama Nature and the Arctic Cold that blew past here?  Can we say "it wasn't so" and it was an evil doppelganger of her or that the two are enemies locked in eternal battle?  Sorry, dramatizing.  Just need a little action here in my little brain.

So, walking the garden I noted the victims and survivors.

The kale was looking pretty dried out and sad, but I think it should recover or deal.  Some corn salad/mache nearby it was doing well as promised on the seed packet I got it from but proved to be a YEA slow grower.  Luckily its perennial and I will just let it spread in that small raised bed for year round deliciousness (unless it gets bitter in the summer and I will act similarly back at it).

The pak choy/bok choi/whatevers is one tough lady and has held up with no issues.  I love her so much.  Stir fries and soups for me!

(NOTE: Everything I am looking at has been uncovered during this entire arctic freeze, so I am "experimenting" by laziness to see what is good to grow in the cold for everyone's benefit, hurrah!)

Regular Indian mustards suffered a bit like the kale and will hopefully recover as it's always been hardy.  Tatsoi has no damage in the least and lookin' pretty and rosette-y.

Peas kicked it as I expected and the randomly broccoli plants are slightly wilty but we'll see what becomes of them with some upcoming warmth and sunshine.

Parsley seedlings looks like a cold and sun scalded mess, but the cilantro is fine and the dill said "forget this" and has flopped over and looks sad.

Amongst these items is a mystery plant that looks like it could be a parsley, but has tiny hairs on its leaves and grows in a bit of rosette/crown.... anyone have any ideas?

FINALLY, the crown jewel of the garden is some damn fine rambling patches of CHICKWEED.  It had the audacity to still have some lovely frost on it in the shadier parts of the garden (I am not growing this on purpose mind you) and still looked magnificent and in bud. 

A real tart of plant.  Little does she know I have plans for her.  BWAHAHAHA!  I took a nibble of a leaf earlier and found it to be quite sweet with a bit of an interesting aftertaste when you chewed for a while.  Still good, so I can't wait to try this with the Costco frozen sashimi grade salmon I've had in the fridge for too long. 

Other than my little jog, things are looking warmer, the sun feels like its out longer and my sanity level is slowly returning. Huzzah!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Seed starting.... ROIGHT.

.The dog and I have been making the best of the cold by taking luxurious sunbathing occasions together by the only large south facing window.

It's been hard really :)

Of course, my husband has to be the practical one and seduces me out of the warm sun by saying "It's 10am on the weekend, you just woke up! You don't want to fall asleep again already!"


So I am attempting to be good (but not being very good) by blogging about my lack of seed starting so far.  I'm trying to be a little more financially savvy about my gardening (garden start up costs can always been a shock, but as start up is past already for me I just need to focus on plants/seeds).

As I've been stupidly whining about finances as of late, I've been taking a hard look at what I really need and thinking about putting the Soil Blocker thing on hold until maybe next year's gardening. 

I will be attempting as well to limit my seed purchases to my local mom and pop b/c they're cheaper, will save me in shipping and handling and generally have a good idea as to what is good to grow in the area.  As I have seed saved a good number of varieties from last year (though I still need to check viability levels), I hope this will work out well.

A few things that I might purchase outside of the mom and pop are particular tomato seeds because this is a matter of true garden happiness!  I want me some delicious tomatoes and mom and pop doesn't always have luscious heirloom varieties, so I might need go out investigate those further elsewhere.

A couple of other things I really want to grow would be tomatillas and luffa, but the luffa might need to be put on hold LIKE MY OTHER STUPID SQUASH (*note the annoyance here?) I probably would just be attracting vine borers AGAIN.  Damn, when will I be able to grow my own bath supplies?  Can you imagine how cool if would be to have a bubble bath bush? (Would that be like soapberry?)

The tomatillas I will hope I have no problems though and I am excited about salsa verde and tomato-y like things with their own wrappers and can keep relatively well.  It's like they're tomato candy :)  Think the kids will like that on Halloween?

A couple of plants I generally don't seed start are peppers and eggplant because they take so darn long to get going and I don't generally use much of.  I can usually get $1 or $2 plants started already at the mom and pop (and as much as I'd get more plants to seeds if I bought a packet, I don't think I'd use them fast enough), so I'll just tend to few plants of each and be happy.

Another plan to keep me mostly sane this year (gardening is all experimental, I'm just trying to figure out if this will be what's best for me for now or in the future) is to direct plant more, rather than seed start as much as I have in the past.

I've found that my okra, peas, beans, cucumbers (which I really shouldn't plant this year...), mustards and others do MUCH better direct planted and as I am in limbo about a million things now it would be hella better to not have to tend to these all winter to get them going.  Seed starting is tough as I have very limited lighting and can't afford kick-ass grow lights (I hear you can use fluorescent or Christmas lights though) or or heat mats or etc. so I'm going to rid myself of the usual pain, sadness and drama of taking care of little seedlings during the cold wee winter months in the awful indoor conditions of my home and focus on maybe a nice little tray of a dozen tomato plants to prepare for the outdoors. (and maybe a few tomatilla plants)


No fuss gardening for spring is the plan (and hope).  A little tomato and tomatillo preparation soon and a week or two of crazy planting in the spring and hopefully I can sit back, weed a bit and not go nuts and work on my writing and get that GAN (Great American Novel) out and make some money to afford fun plants again :P


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Down South my ----

Yep, still cold.

I finally got my butt over to stare at my plants.  Slightly frozen-ish looking, frosty, wilty looking plants.

*Glint of optimism* Hopefully full of protective delicious sugars!

(Admission: I only went to the backyard today because I really had to empty a couple of WAY overdue compost pails.  These things can make a person much more motivated to exit the house.  That, and a whiny dog.)

All the houseplants are keeping me company but I think I may have lost my 2 year old jalapeno and Tricolore peppers as they got aphids and I may have been a wee bit aggressive in combating the suckers.  It was the third time I had to mess with them aphids and I got really frustrated as they migrated to the other peppers.  Result: leaves falling off and shriveled all over the place...

Maybe they'll grow back? (BTW, anyone have any success in growing jalapenos from grocery store jalapenos?)

Mystery begonia is relatively happy though will need to be repotted in the spring.  Kohlerias still blooming and the pops of orange they're producing lessens the annoyances of the weather. 

Other than that, I've got literally 7 layers of clothing on, 2 of those sweaters, a pair of leggings under my jeans, a scarf and have declared it to be miso soup and oatmeal (cinnamon/brown sugar and banana!) weather.

It's going to snow, and unless it dumps a foot of it here where I can build a snow fort, I ain't coming out.

Monday, January 4, 2010

COLD. I hates it.

What is that Mr. Weather Forecaster Guy from NPR?  Did you just say it's going to get colder?  And stay like this all week?!

It's been pretty cold here in Memphis the past couple of days and like a bad winter gardener I have not been checking the weather forecast because I'm being an AVOIDER.  The Great Avoider to be precise.  Running... running away from the weather sites. 

Well, to be honest, slightly frozen (not in fear) but in actual frozen-ness due to my house being set at 62 degrees (because I am cheap and trying to stick it to the energy companies in my own pathetic way).   So I'm feeling a GREAT dislike at the idea of even stepping outside.  This makes things difficult for the dog and she has to really work on me to get up and get dressed and take her out on her walk to do the biz of the day.

Haven't looked at the plants.  Terrible, I  know.  Too cold and too scared to see if the babies can survive the crazy 16 degrees F predicted for tonight.  I should probably cover them.   Only the strong can survive?  Here at my place, we're akin to Spartans.  Shiver it out and deal or you will be mercilessly taunted.  Actually we both hate it and wear sweaters like mad. 

I lived in Chicago for a while and survived their winters of WIND and SNOW and negative degree temperatures! How does the body forget so easily? 

Even the dog has found a blanket and makes a point to curl herself around it all day.  Is this animal cruelty?

Speaking of which, the joys of home ownership and living by a park has combined and we have squirrels.  AGAIN.  Which this time better not have babies because last time we had a squirrel in the attic and we evicted it we only realized later that it had a baby and I almost fainted when I found out what it takes to take care of a squirrel baby.  Let's just say, the literal stroking of its genitals to get it to do its biz (seriously, it says this!) was not what I had in mind and an animal rescuer/relocator was quickly found.  This current batch of critters has yet to be seen, but has been heard and leafy evidence is evident in the attic insulation.

I think I get cranky in the cold and this affects my writing.

On a happier note, I think my indoor citrus may be going to bud by being stimulated by the cold temps in here. 

I always find it so interesting how flowers go into fruit and the differing stages and appearance in closeness from flower to fruit form.

If you click on the pics and look close the flower buds almost look like little oranges w/segments even though it's a lemon tree really.