Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer starts with a sizzling hot yarrow

Yarrow "Paprika"

You gotta love Yarrow, it blooms long and re-blooms if you cut it back.  This new variety Paprika is especially nice, it starts out a hot red with yellow centers and then fades slowly to an orangey-pink and finishes an antique pale apricot color. It does better with some support, we've got it growing up through a piece of fencing and that helps hold it upright so it doesn't flop over.  Its only been open for a week or so and should continue on for at least 3 weeks more.  As it fades the daylilies will fill in in front of it.

It's Memorial Day, what I consider to be the political start of summer, as opposed to the summer solstice which would be the astronomical, and for me, true start of summer.  I reckon I should have tried to throw myself into a body of water somewhere but didn't want to leave the place.  So instead I stuck my head under the hose after I finished mowing the grass in preparation for croquet tonight.  I contemplated shucking down and playing in the chilly well water for a bit but opted to come on inside and take a cool shower.

Our best buds are coming over to drink gin and tonics and knock the croquet balls around the yard. We'll be firing up the grill for some pork tenderloin and I slow cooked some baked beans last night that I'll reheat.  A big green salad with fresh beets, the last of the sugar snap peas and some baby carrots and fennel all fromt he garden will round out the meal.  I'm looking forward to it. 

This brings May to a close, I only managed 8 posts instead of a post a day, but hey, 8 is better than none. 

Here's where I pledge to more writing in June, we'll see what happens.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Free Time

Here is an example of what can happen when a person has some extra time again.  Lemon-blueberry muffins from the last of last years blues, making room in the freezer for the new crop.  It'll be coming along soon now.  The berries are beginning to have a blueish cast to their greenness, I can hardly wait.

I have to admit I've been reveling in a bit of freedom for the first time in a while, doing things like swimming laps and walking and going to yoga class again.  Cooking, reading, hanging out with my honey.

I finally got some more beans planted this week, about a month later than normal, yellow Roc D'or and flat italian Pension and borlotto beans for shelling.   I also put in a row of okra and planted a row of purple hull peas on either side, we'll see how that works out but I think they should be able to co-exist in the wide bed I put them in.  I don't plant okra every year as it takes a lot of space.  You need a fairly long row to have enough to actually "make a mess'" as they say here in the south, since they only put on one okra per plant at a time and don't store well at all in the fridge.  My favorite thing to do is pick them small, about 3 inches long and saute them up whole, quickly in a hot skillet in olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper, just till they are bright green, still a little crunch left and not getting too slippery.  If there is a surplus I will pickle them.

It's Memorial Day weekend, the political start of summer, and even though the longest day is still 3 weeks off, it's feeling pretty summery around here, both weather wise and mood wise.  Let me just say, I am ready.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nest in Pocket

Beware of leaving your clothes hanging on the line too long

Wrens are notorious for building nests anywhere, anytime.  We believe it is compulsive behavior on their part.  The other day I noticed movement behind a fitted sheet I had hung to dry.  They were bringing leaves and putting them in the elastic pocket formed in the edge of the sheet.   We have found nests in plastic bags, under towels draped over chairs, in large pots on the patio, in the sleeve of a jacket.  This one was in the pocket of some shorts that were left on the line over night. 

The nest removed, a fair piece of work for 24 hours

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Adolescent Fruit

Now that the strawberries are finished I’m looking forward to the next fruit crops, it will be a few weeks before the first blueberries are ripe enough to eat, happily we have 5 varieties so the blueberry season continues for a couple of months.

Then the blackberries will come along in July and make me want to bake pies.

The highest hope for the season are our first peaches and apples. We had a few peaches on the tree last year but the pesky squirrels ate them all when they were still green. That was the act that made us take up arms and eliminate 9 squirrels from the yard last summer. They are re-infiltrating of course, but maybe they haven’t discovered the fruit trees yet? That’s doubtful so we’ve already started taking a few shots at them as they graze on bird seed below the feeders, but either our aims went bad over the winter or our scope has gone out of calibration, perhaps a bit of both. We haven’t killed one yet this season but not for lack of trying.

The apples are particularly exciting. We planted five heirloom varieties nearly 4 years ago, they were bare root sticks and we’ve been patiently waiting. This is the first year they have bloomed and set fruit so we are filled with anticipation for their ripening, even if we only get a handful from each tree it will be a thrill.
I check from day to day on the various fruit, since the big rain earlier in the week things have really plumped up and I think we’ll see a decent crop on most things. The pubescent fuzz of the peaches and sheen on the apples fill me with expectancy, give me something to look forward to. Having fruit really lets you know you’ve been in the same place for a while and plan to stay.

We joke about planting pecan trees, but don’t believe we would ever see a nut, and besides, we don’t really have space for those giants. My brother Jonny and his wife Candy just put in fruit at their new house, he said they've been chanting "blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, fig". To that ditty I would add "bake me a pie and dance me a jig!"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Veggie Patch Update

A couple of recent views of the veg garden reveal plenty to eat and lots still to come.  Here looking to the southwest strawberries in the foreground have just played out but this tiny patch yielded well over a gallon including the grand finale of strawberry shortcake for a dinner party of ten. Lots of onions are growing along, they should start to swell soon as the days approach their longest in June. To the right is the garlic, 60 heads to be harvested in about 6 weeks. I'm down to 4 of the 60 heads from last year so I think that worked out pretty well.  Towards the back of the photo stellar stands of black kale, beets, turnips, carrots and peas on the fences, all of whch we've been eating recently.
Looking from the west end of the garden east.  Near the wooden fence are 13 hills of summer and winter squash and canteloupes. On the trellis are just sprouting cucumbers and Garden of Eden pole beans.  Beyond that a shade structure protecting the salad mix from the heat and sun.  To the left of that a second planting of beets and carrots and swiss chard to take us through the summer. In the far distance, the asparagus rows are going to fern after 6 weeks of harvest and past them out of site are the tomatoes and peppers.  Still have some summer stuff to plant, purple hull peas, okra and more beans including snap and shelling.  But I'm getting close to having the garden tucked in for the next seasons round of harvesting, eating and preserving.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Glorious Rain!

Look close and you can see a ruby-throated hummingbird taking a sip from the pale yellow foxglove.  The grand total this morning after 36 hours of rain was 5 and 2/10ths of an inch.  Amen.

Spent my day of freedom puttering around the house, baked bread, went for a swim, made a nice supper that included lettuce, beets, radish, sugar snap peas, asparagus, dill and shitake mushrooms all from the garden and eggs from next door.  Now that's livin'.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ask and you shall receive?!

Yesterday I said I hoped the dry spell of writing and weather were coming to an end and at the last check of the rain gauge we had received 4 inches since yesterday afternoon and its still coming down with verve out there.  This is more rain than we've had in the past two or three months combined!  The creeks will be out of their banks for sure.  I'm very relieved, we had reached a critical point of dry in our garden here at home and all three of the community gardens were almost out of water with no source other than rainwater to rely on.  This deluge will definitely be filling up the cisterns and rainbarrels and hopefully carry all the gardens forward for a while now.

In respect to my reference yesterday to creating more time for myself, I gave my notice today at Camellia Forest.  After over 3 years of off an on work there, mainly during the busy shipping seasons of spring and fall, I made the decision it was time for me to move on and focus on other priorities, like writing and taking care of my own garden.  It's been an interesting chapter in my life, being able to walk to work through the woods, doing physical work outdoors, and learning more than I ever imagined about camellias.  I also added lots of exceptional new plants to my garden including some very special trees and shrubs.  I made some good new friends with my co-workers there and will miss seeing them on a regular basis.  I appreciated the flexibility I was given to take extended leaves to travel, but I won't miss working outside when its 95 and humid or 45 and raining!  Another work life chapter draws to a close.

On the home front I'm featuring some peonies today, I'm sure this rain will put the few remaining flowers in the mud but they are my favorite and so I have to share some pics from a bit earlier in the season.  At the top is a lovely the name of which I cannot remember.  Just above is a new addition called Moonstone. This photo does not do justice to the tranluscent quality of the outer petals upon first opening, the palest of pinks and almost transparent, like vellum.  I see where they got the name.

And last up another new variety, Raspberry Sunday. A bit gaudy and well, thats one of the reasons to grow peonies, is it not?  This one has an ethereal fragrance; a cross between rose and lemon, scrumptious.  My only regret about peonies is the shortness of their bloom season.  For about 3 weeks we crowd the house with vases of their giant fragrant pompoms, piles of silky petals fall to the tables and countertops, and we are sad when the last one nods its head for the season.  It seems the most fragrant flowers come in springtime; roses, peonies, dianthes, lilies of the valley, bearded iris.  The hedgerows have been heavy lately with the scent of honeysuckle, so seductive but sadly, so invasive.  If you can recommend any flowers with fragrance that bloom in the heat of a Carolina summer, please send your ideas my way. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I was hoping to break the long dry spell of writing that I’ve been suffering from lately. I had challenged myself to blog “Everyday in May”. Here it is the 16th and this is my first May post. Oy. Maybe from here on out I can try for everyday? It feels like I’ve been working 7 days a week. So when I do have a bit of free time, I’m feeling pressured to get the veggie garden in, typical for mid-April to mid-May in our region when most of the summer garden needs to be started, it seems there’s no time left for writing.

This must change.

I’m planning some cutbacks in the work department and all but the high summer crops of sweet potatoes, okra, purple hull peas and some assorted beans are now in the ground. I’ve got hope that there will be more hours in the day to ponder the world around me, to seek and find my muse again.

Wish me luck.

Meantime- I want to share the delicious roses that have been decorating our yard the past couple of weeks. I’ve never been much on growing roses but these old fashioned varieties seem quite easy and this pink one in particular is lusciously fragrant.

The way this apricot rose is spilling along the top of the garden fence, only in its second year, is just as I had hoped it would be.
The Jackmanii clematis mixed in with the New Dawn rose is a pairing I’ve envisioned ever sense seeing it in the White Flower Farm catalog some years back.
So- look for more writing from me in the very near future, tomorrow if life goes according to plan.  I’m off to grab some lunch before heading in to a workday at the community garden.  Here's hoping that both my writing dry spell and the dry spell of weather that's been over us for more than a month will break in the next 24 hours!