Tag Archives: garden update

Finding my Feet in the Garden Again

lagerfeld roseYesterday I had a major anxiety meltdown.  It made everyone miserable.  Today I have a huge emotional hangover.  The best thing I know of to cure it is to hang out with plants.

P1010317So before I go get some bean seeds and squash plants from the nursery I am sharing some pictures of how the front garden is coming along.  Many things are settling in and just now starting to make new growth.  These pictures are from a week ago.

P1010319Those tomatoes are in.  I didn’t start my own seeds this year so I’m at the mercy of the local nurseries choice of toms.  So far we’ve got: Sungold, Japanese Trifele, Pineapple, Cherokee Purple, Ethiopian Black, and Anasas Black.  (Wishing I could have found Caspian Pink and Aunt Ruby’s German Green)

P1010321Sharon gave me a bit of comfrey root and I wasn’t sure it was going to make it – but it did!  I’m pretty excited about this.  Don’t you dare tell me how it “takes over” as though that’s a bad thing.  Comfrey is one of the best medicinal herbs there is so bring it the hell on!

P1010318The border against the porch is really coming along well.  All the roses, having been fed a couple of months ago, are thriving and are covered in blooms and buds.  We cut our first bouquets of the season and for days I’ve been enjoying the heavenly rose scent next to my laptop in my office. iceberg budIceberg is a workhorse.  We’ve missed having it in our garden.  Beautiful small blushed blooms with a medium honey-scent.  Wonderful for filling in bouquets.

People stop and stare at our garden now every day all day long.  And not as though they were wondering how such a trash heap was allowed to flourish.  They LOVE it! They tell us how much they love it all the time.  A UPS man slowed down to tell me the garden was looking great.  A group of hoodie and skinny pants -wearing teens walked by and I heard one of the guys say “I can’t wait to see what they do with this next!” pointing at the raised beds.  Seriously.  Teens love our garden as much as the older set do.

It’s childish of me but it makes me giddy to say I designed and built them every time someone asks.  I’m that proud.

On earth day I was writing but I stopped to go plant my Abraham D’Arby rose and do a little weeding.  Perfect day.  Perfect moment.  Everyone knows I’m not a fan of sunshine but I will say that when it’s mild enough even I can enjoy the feel of it on my back.  The alyssum smells strong when the sun is out so the yard smelled like honey.  I picked my mom and I each a little vase of roses.  That is a chief pleasure in life of mine.  Deadheading roses and picking bouquets to bring in the house.  My therapist said I needed to do that as often as possible because I mentioned it as one of the few activities that I find truly calming.  Anxiety is an insidious bitch and she took me the hell down yesterday.

Today is gorgeous out and so I believe the best way I can push the lingering threads of stress from my head and body is to put my hands in that soil out there and open packets of seeds and play that game where you put them in the soil and hope something comes of them.  You never know with seeds.  I’ve got some Alpine strawberry seeds I’ve been meaning to plant.  I’ve been hesitant because I don’t want them to fail.  Today I’m going to sprinkle them out in different areas and just let nature decide what to do about it.  There isn’t enough time in life to sit on seeds when you can throw them out into the world and watch for the tough suckers that pop up.

On my day out Friday I spent about an hour at a bus stop waiting for buses that didn’t come.  I picked up trash and I enjoyed the scattering of chamomile.  I don’t know what kind it was – no petals on them – the scent was more pale than on the Roman or German kind you grow in your garden but had the unmistakable smell of chamomile.  I’m not sure if chamomile has a wild cousin or not, I will find out another day.  I just enjoyed that a carpet of it was thriving in the hardscrabble behind the bench at the stop.  I feel like I’m one of those scrappy little buggers, just hanging on through drought and flood.  Popping back up after being walked on carelessly.  Multiplying its universe against all odds.  And for the desperate traveler they offer succor to an aching head.  If only the traveler would bother to know what’s right there under his feet.

I hope your garden is breaking out of its winter shell now.  I hope you’re able to get out in it.  I’ll be connected to you all today when I’m out there blackening my nails. xo

A New Monastery Garden

garden book biasOne of the worst things that happened in 2013 was my mom’s sister deciding she had to sell this house which would have meant we’d have to move.  One of the best things that happened this year was that our good friend bought her out and now owns half of it with my mom.  I can finally plan a garden here.  So on New Year’s Eve I pulled out all of my garden books for inspiration and took pictures of the front yard.  Then I measured the dimensions and graphed it out.

My garden bias is totally obvious.  It’s all about the herbs, the vegetables, and the – oh – I didn’t pull my rose books out but it’s also all about the roses.

useless shrubThis is what our front yard looked like on the last day of the year.  Remember when I took out the other spider condo?  There has been some major spider trafficking going on in the remaining one.  Check it out:

P1000435This is just a small sample of the vast collection of spider egg sacks in the undergrowth of this most useless bush.  But back to the before pictures.  There was still one more agapanthus clump on this side of the front garden.  It fell to Philip to destroy it.

view from drivewayLook at it just sitting there mocking us.  It knows, and we know, that that appearance of winter weakness is a sham.  Just a little rain and this thing will get BIGGER.  So yesterday, on the first day of the year, we set to work.

cleaned upAnd cleared that damn space!  I even swept the sidewalk.  Now we have to figure out what to do with all the stuff we pulled out.  Yard waste filled up very fast and there’s still such a big pile that Philip can’t get the car out of the driveway.  I feel so relieved to see those awful institutional plants eradicated.  Once they were gone I made a wonderful realization.  Remember the monastery garden I built at my last house?  Here, have a look:

monastery garden blue chairAnd from my office:

view from officeIt turns out that I can recreate this garden in my new one on a slightly smaller scale.  I can only allow 2′ for pathways which means no wheelbarrows.  But once these beds are filled up there won’t be any need for that.  Some of the beds will have to be smaller but I can totally do it.

graphed planThat weeping cherry tree will be getting removed once we can find someone to give it to who will dig it up.  I am so excited I’ve been spazzing out all day about it.  So, it’s time I get off the computer and do some other yard work.  Philip is going to go tackle the agapanthus on the other side of the walkway.


Garden Update: one agapanthus down and tomatoes in!

symetrical pathMuch progress has been made on the front garden.  First of all – those red flowers are ones that Max picked out for me on a trip to Harmony Farms with his Aunt Tara.  I put them in the walk so everyone can see them as they walk up the path.  Those two containers have bay laurels in them.  It’s considered (by pagans and maybe ancient Romans) good luck to plant bay laurel at the entrance to your house.  It keeps bad luck and witches from coming in.

I honestly don’t think it’s working that well.  But I still like the way it looks and the bay is great in soup.

another view of spider condoLet’s revisit the before.  Spider condo, aggressively evil agapanthus, lots of pea gravel in the soil.

kind of winningSpider condo went first, then I started hacking away at the evil.  In the end it was hurting my feet (I have very delicate flowers for feet) and after I got 2/3 the way through that clump I had to get Philip to finish it off.

agapanthus is my bitchAhhhh!  Look how much room there is for good stuff.  I do have plans to get rid of that other sprawling bush.  But not right this minute.

new garden canvasFirst I needed to get some fresh soil.  We really could use a couple of yards of soil but we aren’t committing to such purchases until the house situation is resolved.  So I just spread a few bags of soil.  It will have to do for now.

new soil and tomatoesNext up I planted Max’s flowers, situated the bay laurels for maximum dramatic and witch-deterring effect, and planted my tomatoes.  I can’t tell you how tempted I am to stuff a few more in there.  I have a tendency to cram things tightly in my garden.  I’m resisting the urge pretty fiercely.

the path to happinessUp close shot of the pretty Max flowers.

More Max flowersSome more of them.  That little bunch of daisies were also chosen by Max for me.

Max picksCause you know you want to be flogged with pictures of flowers my son chose for me.  Next up I have to plant more flowers.  I have rudbeckia, red valerian, echinacea, two different penstemon plants, chard, sage, chives, and lettuce.

Hopefully I’ll find the time to get all that in soon.  I can’t wait to see this space fill out.  Oh – the bare patch near the lion is still in need of much digging – the agapanthus roots are thick in there.  My poor feet are finally recovering from their many ridiculous problems so I’m hesitant to get out there and abuse them some more.  One thought I had was to cover the area with thick cardboard and then top with dirt but then it will make planting more difficult unless done with seeds only.

What are you doing in your gardens right now?

Around the Farmhouse: A Not So Leisurely Sunday

I have my mother to thank for all these tomatoes.  She has been making sure they get water frequently resulting in the best tomato crop my garden has had in years.  It’s so exciting.  In the area it’s been known to be a mild/cool summer with heat spells only showing up the late in August and I know some people are not having great tomato harvests like we are – so I think they must be in a great spot and I also think my mother has some magic.  We grew about 12 plants.  I think I should go count them to be sure and for the record next year.  The varieties we’re growing whose names I know are: Black Krim, Striped German, Sungold (2), Jaune Flamme (2), Yellow Brandywine, and a few others whose names I can’t remember and will be revealed when we rip out the plants and gather the plastic plant tags.  I think there is a Pineapple variety and possibly a Japanese Trifele.

My mom also planted some snow peas around our flimsy garden fence and we’ve been getting quite a good crop of them.   We have some lush lettuce and some beets that look like they might be getting big.  We harvested and dried some kale and have been getting a slow but steady stream of cucumbers and zucchinis.  Again- why does everyone have a “problem” with prolific zucchinis and I just have a trickle?

One of my favorite things to eat this summer has been a simple Greek-inspired salad.  Just cucumbers, tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, feta cheese and vinaigrette.  The Sungold tomatoes are unbelievably good in this and I could eat this for every meal.  I would do it except for the fact that there’s a lot of other produce to use up too.

45 quarts of dill pickles.  About 17 half pint jars of blackberry jam.  15 half pints of strawberry jam.  11 quarts of marinara sauce.  22 quarts of diced tomatoes.  4 pints of tomatillo salsa (my mom did that one on her own).  5 half pints of peach chutney.  5 pints of peaches in light syrup.  That’s what’s been going on in my kitchen this past few weeks.  I’m hoping to pick up some damson plums tomorrow to make jam with.  A close friend has some Italian prune plums and I’m wondering what I could make with those.  She has a lot of them.  I do like prunes and I’d be interested in drying a few but what else are they good for?

Any ideas?  Please share.  Would they make a good savory plum sauce?  Do they make a good jam?  How about pickled plums?  (I’ve never had those).

Today we got our first fall rain.  It’s lovely.  It means I need to go pick as many of the tomatoes that might be ripe out in the garden that I can because they’ll start splitting.  Today I will be slow roasting a bunch of tomatoes and then freeze them.  I also got 10 ears of corn for $3 at Harvest Fresh and will be making a spicy corn chowder with them.  If the corn is good I will go and get more corn and make some chowder to freeze.

I also have pesto to make.  As I’m writing this all out I suddenly feel serious pressure to finish my paid job so I can jump into the kitchen and get cracking on all those food projects.  Food has a habit of going bad when left around.  I wasn’t even going to make pesto but my friend Laurie and my mom talked me into it.  I still have 10 batches in the freezer.  Still, in case you didn’t know it- people love pesto and that makes pesto a great bribe or a much appreciated thank you to friends and family.  Pesto in winter is one of life’s greatest indulgences.  Mine, which my close friend Chelsea and I perfected together, is one of the best recipes out there.  (According to Laurie and my mom) (I like it a lot too)  So I bought supplies to make more and there are four beautiful bunches of fresh basic waiting for me to process them.  I’m tired.  Is it beer-O-clock yet?

You can make corn chowder too-here’s my recipe.

If you don’t know how to slow roast tomatoes and you want to try it you can follow my instructions for making slow oven roasted tomatoes.

This pesto recipe is fantastic.  Making it always reminds me of Chelsea.

August 2011 Garden Update


Thanks to my mother our garden is doing great.  She’s the one who’s been watering every other day (manually) and mulching and planting.  While I’ve been working and writing and preparing for my trip she’s been out there working hard.  These are Romano beans (Helda) and they’ve become my favorite now.  They can get quite big and still not be tough or develop beans inside too fast and they taste wonderful.  I’m done growing Blue Lake or Kentucky Wonder, both of which have performed poorly for me in the last few years.

I actually know a few people who don’t like tomatoes.  I’d be devastated if I became allergic to them.  I look forward to them every year with the same fervor some teens look forward to seeing Justin Bieber in concert.  (I know all about Justin Bieber because my ten year old son mocks him at every opportunity)  Everyone in my area keeps saying this summer is even colder than last summer but I don’t believe it.  I have lots of tomatoes and there’s plenty of time still for them to ripen.

Bee balm.  It’s such an outlandish flower.  We already had quite a lot of flowers to attract beneficial insects but my mom has added a lot more.

I don’t care what Oregon says*, Buddleia is gorgeous and definitely brings the butterflies and hummingbirds around.  I didn’t buy my  buddleia, I got it as a volunteer from the neighbors.  I will concede that it’s a bit pesty the way I keep finding more sprouts which get woody and dug in really fast if I don’t rip them up at first sight.

Squash!  Everyone jokes about it but for us it isn’t growing so valiantly that we must share it with anyone at this point.  The two crookneck squash plants died.  One of our zucchini plants is a little yellow and small and that leaves just one trooper that is giving us some promise but the delivery has been nothing to brag about yet.

Thank you mom!

*Buddleia is considered a noxious weed in Oregon and it is illegal to buy it.  One of those ridiculous laws that defy sense since nurseries are allowed to sell it.  Maybe the law is that you’re not allowed to grow it.  You can buy it but not grow it?  In the Master gardening program I asked some very keen questions about it but naturally the answers just went in circles.

First Days of Summer

The Apothecary’s Rose is supposed to have a strong scent.  For me it has never had more than a mild sweet scent.  Even so, I am completely taken with it’s history as one of the earliest cultivated roses and its well known medicinal uses.  When it comes to getting the best medicine from roses you want to get as close to wild roses as you can.  The absolute best rose variety for use in medicine is the dog rose (Rosa Canina) (but good luck finding a nursery that carries this one and if you do, for god’s sake- tell me where you found it!) but this rose is the next  best thing to species roses.  I am not generally a fan of the single roses but this is one of the exceptions.

Borage is charming.  It has uses.  It’s edible.  It’s medicinal.  I confess I like it because it has starry spikey blue flowers that look like they were designed by a ten year old into science fiction.  I haven’t had any in my garden for a long time.  So many things blooming right now are old friends.

You are dying to ask me if my hands are freakishly small, aren’t you?  (What would you say if I said YES?!)  These strawberry leaves were normal sized when I planted them last year.  My secret fear is that someone (poison-man from next door) dumped some toxic waste on my garden and now these plants have superpowers.  Do other people have such enormous strawberry leaves lurking in your garden?  Please share, cause I’m a little freaked out.

In contrast to the leaves, the berries are normal sized.  There are lots of them!  In a couple of days we’ll be able to pick our first bowlful.  One of the things I love about living in Oregon are all the berries.  I realize that California has them too.  But they’re not as good.  I kid you not.  Especially if you like to grow them yourself.  I could never get any strawberries to thrive in my California garden.  I couldn’t keep the ground moist enough to get anything but tiny little berries.  Here, all I have to do is plant them and wait.  They ripen just as the summer sun comes out (there’s little spring sunshine here) and so I don’t even have to water them to get fruit.  The blueberries here are phenomenal and prolific as well.  So are the blackberries and the -

Speaking of berries coloring up- the red currents are turning too!  I’ll have enough of them to make about a quarter cup of sauce.  Maybe.  I’m so excited about them, even if I just had one bunch to eat raw, I couldn’t be more pleased.  I love tart food!

This is my most beautiful kitchen utensil.  Mitch made it from black walnut wood.  From a walnut tree that grew here in my county.  I never knew a spoon could make me so happy.

Philip has submitted our HAMP loan papers, this time to actually be looked at by an underwriter with the bank.  We should know in a month if we get to stay here.  If we do, we’re going to be really broke again.  I think it will be worth getting to stay right here.  Looking down from my eyrie of an office on my monastery garden full of California poppies, lupines, calendula, columbines, nasturtiums, vegetables, and feverfew.

There is such a chaos of beautiful, edible, and healing things planted all around me here.  I want to be here.