Thursday, July 2, 2015

Crafting and gardening...

Last night I made a new quilt block in one of LisAnn's fun classes at Country Sewing Center. This one was from the modern block party group that meets monthly. We have 2 blocks to chose from and I made the Tula Pink City Sampler book one here:


And last week I got together with a couple of other gals from the quilt groups and we channeled our inner 60s with tie dyed tshirts!




And come outside now into the garden...

Here is the harvest from my garden just this morning:


The peppers in the pan with the tomatoes are hot (salsa and jalapenos) and the other dish has the mild ones (Italian sweet, gypsy, and bells). This squash was hiding from yesterday -- I have been getting on average a squash a day from my zucchini and yellow squash plants. And yes that is an eggplant -- the first of my Japanese ones that are supposed to be small and longish although this one is sort of fat. And the tomatoes are mostly cherry (yellow grape, currant red and black krim) and a couple of San Marzanos that I toss into the bag in the freezer until I have enough for a sauce. And a few strawberries to round out the plates. My plants are not producing as much as I had hoped but it has been really really hot and I don't think strawbs like it quite so toasty.

I have been enjoying the fruits of my garden a lot these last weeks, and apparently so has another critter:



What do you think it might be? I suspect a rat! We have started putting out bait and traps... gotta have patience with an animal who likes tomatoes and when you have around 10 tomato plants! What irks me is that those were my heirloom Brandywines! Apparently I have a gourmet rat!

And a couple of weeks ago I took up one of the potato plants because I thought it was ready to check and ended up with this motley small group of taters. It is more potatoes than I have ever grown before but really, it is barely a couple of bites! The other plant is starting to really die off now so I will check it in a few days and hope I got more!  I started them both rather late this time (in April) and I think they needed some of the cooler months before to get started. Oh well, I will try again next year after the beginning of the year and then see what happens!



Oh and I almost forgot -- this was my blueberry harvest this year:   (ok stop laughing)


What they were actually we from a couple of new plants I got this year for a crop next year and they happened to have a few berries on them. My old plants out did not fare well and so this year I got a couple more, replanted everyone into more of a boggy soil environment and will hope for the best for next year!



Sunday, June 21, 2015

Attracting pollinators...

Not only did I plant a ton of vegetables this year, but I also added a lot of flowers to my edible landscape. After all, we need the bees and butterflies to come and pollinate all those lovely fruits and veggies!

In the Spring, the sweet peas and nasturtiums were in bloom.




There were also foxgloves which had reseeded themselves from last year.


And there is always some sort of lavender in the garden.


And then the squashes started to flower. Bees galore on these!


This year I planted some milkweed, both the golden and the red. Since I decided to plant them a little later than normal, I bought started plants from the garden shop. Now I have some seeds for next year too. I have not yet seen any monarchs but there are other butterflies fluttering by in the garden now and then.



My digiplexis (cross between foxglove/digitalis and isoplexis) also came back this year. I thought it had died off for sure last year but I guess it also reseeded itself. At least I have one nice plant of it still.


And I planted some borage, which is supposed to be a major bee attractor. My garden has a lot of bees so maybe it worked!


If you haven't taken a look at these three of my favorite You Tube garden channels, head over to:  

Late Bloomer Urban Organic Garden Show with Kaye Kittrell
CaliKim29 Garden and Home DIY
and then fix a cup of tea and sit back to have a look at my one of my favorite British gardeners, Alys Fowler:
Edible Garden

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A quiet anniversary passed...

The other day marked the anniversary of my retirement. One whole year already! Where did the time go?

And now time to start thinking about my second year of retirement... a few new things happening, some same old stuff happening and the wish -- or dream -- of some other things happening finally. Lemme 'splain...

I'll start with the old stuff cause it is easier to list (and yet apparently harder to do):
1. My house is still a mess. I thought by now it would be decluttered and more organized and cleaned up. Still working on that one.
2. My garden is growing great, although now with the more severe watering restrictions it is going to be harder to keep things growing. But we have been eating from it already so that is a good thing!
Some of the things we are eating lately...

Beans:


Beet greens:


Radishes:


And several zucchini and yellow squashes. The tomatoes are starting to get bigger and the little ones are starting to turn red. One of these days I need to go out and take some updated photos of everything that is surviving the awful heat that has come upon us in a rush.

For the new, I guess the biggest is the decision to take yoga to the next level. I signed up for teacher training at It's All Yoga. Not primarily to teach but to expand yoga for myself and see where this journey leads me. I have heard it changes you... I look forward to seeing how. I will write more of this decision later and through the process which starts on August 1.

For the wish/dream of other things happening... I am still trying to figure out what I am meant to be doing in my retirement. I read a lot of blogs and most people said it might take a year or two (or more) to figure it all out and that is fine with me.  I am finding my days pretty full as it is doing stuff out in the garden, catching up on a ton of blogs and other online stuff I had been neglecting, visiting with friends (retired teacher friends and others -- love to go out to lunch!), reading, and actually for a while doing nothing. I know the doing nothing part will wear off but it is fun for a while. I do a little volunteer work at the Food Bank and will be doing some with Women's Wisdom Art, and I had been talking to my local librarian about working with a "reading to seniors" program similar to one I used to do in San Francisco probably 35 years ago and there isn't one here. She said I should start one. I don't think I want that much responsibility.

Some things I am still thinking about doing:

  • I think I still want to learn to play a musical instrument like the ukulele or fiddle. Or maybe just relearn how to play my guitar.
  • I want to start folk dancing again. I just have to get off my butt and go. I tend towards the lazy especially at night.
  • I want to get back to doing some art and quilting. I still have a mountain of fabrics to work my way through!
  • I want to learn more about preserving and fermenting foods. I have gotten some books and will take a workshop here and there. Mostly I want all my fruits and veggies to be so plentiful I can start! Maybe I will practice on store-bought for now to get the processes down.
  • And generally I want to be more self-reliant on my own resources for food and living. That includes growing, preserving, making foods that I don't make these days but know how to and love (like my own pasta and breads). That means sewing my own clothing and finally settling into my own more free-form style now that I don't have to dress for anyone else's benefit. And writing more, about all this and anything that crosses my mind.


I may have some busy days ahead!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I thought this was a crafter's blog...

Or a painter's blog... or a quilter's blog...?

(And then I look at my sewing table which is covered with gardening items)

Uhhhh... yeah, it is... sort of.... but I seem to have this new love... of gardening. And that has taken over my life lately. I go out into the garden, I go to garden shops, I watch gardening videos on YouTube, I go to bed thinking of what I want to do out in the garden the next day... I think I am smitten.

I am sure I will find time for art and sewing soon enough, but for now, I am basking in the deliciousness of fresh strawberries and veg for a morning egg scramble, or greens for my salad, zucchini and yellow squash for my dinners, herbs for my cooking or tea...





The tomatoes are green yet and peppers are barely a whisper, but they are coming.



As are beans and kale...

But my flowers seem to be lacking attention and I do want to attract bees and butterflies into the garden so aside from some very young attractor plants I have going in a wine barrel, I realized I needed something that is already flowering... so off to the garden center this morning to find more flowers.



Here are my favorite gardening YouTube channels these days:

Alys Fowler's Edible Garden (British)
CaliKim29
Kaye Kittrell
One Yard Revolution
Praxxus55712
Gary Pilarchik
MIgardener
Growing Your Greens

If you have a favorite organic gardening channel you would like to share with me, please leave it in the comments below. Thanks!

Friday, May 8, 2015

It's the journey, not the destination...

Not a new thought, but has come to mind recently as I think about my gardening journey this year. Sure it is cheaper to run down to the market and buy some big agribiz veggies that may or may not be healthy for me, but the fact is -- I love just being out there with my plants and making them into my own health food store as the months go by. If you have not ever tasted a tomato right off the plant in the height of summer ripeness, then in my opinion, you have not lived!

So now that I am back from a week away from my garden (small Oregon trip,family visit and fabric buying), I am excited about how it is progressing and what I still want to do in it.

First though, we put a new hummingbird feeder right outside the new kitchen door and it is such a pleasure to watch those little guys every day. In fact (wish I had my camera but I didn't want to move to get it) the other day Andy had a few of them taking nectar out of a little piece of the feeder in his hand! They were so trusting!

They just love this feeder. Now the ones hanging from the front porch are hardly used.


And then in the front yard I am making a small 4' x 4' square garden to house some extra veggies and flowers. I just ran out of room on the side garden!

Last week I made the raised bed from a kit I wanted to try (verdict: make your own, this is sort of flimsey) and started collecting cardboard to put down on the bottom.


Then it rained for a day and I got busy so just today I got the rest of the cardboard in, put wood chips along the edges at the bottom to try to help keep more weeds out and added 2 large bales of organic raised bed potting soil. Man were those things heavy! Then I added some worm castings and now it is ready to plant. I will plant some things in it tonight when it is cooler and in the next few days. I mainly want it to have food and herb plants and some flowers. I am hoping it will look ok in the front yard. I wish more people in our neighborhood had an edible garden in the front of their homes, then mine wouldn't stand out so much.


The more I work on the garden the more eager I am for things to grow so we can start eating from it! I know, in a few months I will have way too many zucchini and tomatoes but isn't that always the way?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Here is why the rocks didn't work...

SLUGS!!

Squirmy ugly slugs!



I found one munching on a ripe berry the other day after I had put up bird netting, still thinking it was birds eating the strawberries! This is how much it ate!


So we have edged everything (the bales, individual plants, house vents, etc) with organic Sluggo and diatomaceous earth in hope that it helps. I have gone out a couple of nights and looked for slugs and salted them (sorry vegan readers but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to save a strawberry!)... but of course they are probably hiding out in the straw bales in the day time so it might be a futile chase.

I am now thinking of moving the strawberries to another place in the garden in pots that I can put on tables or hang to keep the nasty slugs at bay.

Meanwhile in the front yard...


My first foxglove of the year is in bloom! These things reseed themselves like crazy every year and are so pretty in full bloom! You can see the wayward sweet peas still trying to make a showing and my future apricots!

Just a little slice of the garden to leave you with before I head off for a mini-vacation week to see my sister in Oregon and maybe possibly some fabric shopping at some of Portland area's amazing quilt shops!



Monday, April 13, 2015

Rock Strawberries... will it work?

My strawberries are starting to show fruit and I decided this year I wanted to harvest more strawberries than the birds! So I looked online and found a lot of references to rocks painted to look like strawberries then placed around the strawberry patch to fool the birds. I decided to give this a try...

So I found a bunch of rocks...


Brought them last weekend when I went to visit my arty friend Leslie and we painted rocks...



then I put them into my garden...



and now I wait. Will the new little berries stay uneaten?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hail!

Wow, we had a flash storm pass through yesterday bringing some much needed rain and then towards the afternoon, hail! We get hail maybe a couple times a year at best, mostly in the winter. But this was a cold storm with thunder and lightening in the afternoon, and the hail soon followed.

I probably should have covered my planting area but I was too busy watching the hail. Poor plants!


The front of the house managed fine, but the side garden got pretty pounded...




Monday, March 30, 2015

Getting serious about the side garden...

I had to make a decision:  would I be traveling a lot this spring and summer or would I have a garden? I decided I would travel in the Fall and do a big vegetable and herb garden this Spring and summer. I haven't done a large food garden for a few years and I thought it would be fun and interesting.

Plus, now that we have our new side door from our kitchen, it is so easy to step outside to water or tend the garden. No excuses! And I can admire the new blue and white paint job while I work out there!

north side of the house
new side door
So we left the straw bales from last year although they are starting to fall apart. They will last one more year once they are retied. The one which had totally fallen down was dug up and is being used to add organic material to the bottom of new grow pots I am trying out this year. 

Straw bale that fell apart

There were some strawberries that came back even though we basically ignored them all winter. I am hoping if I am a little more watchful this time around we might have a better harvest. Also I plan to fertilize more to increase the fruit growth. Last summer the birds mostly got the berries.

strawberries

strawberries

I have planted 4 tomatoes so far: 1 each of a grape cherry size, a San Marzano (for cooking), an Amish paste (also for cooking) and a beefsteak for slicing. And so far I have planted a jalapeno and a green bell pepper. I need to do a lot more maintenance on the rest of the bales before I plant more. I think the chard that came back is ok for now although I may pull it out since the plants are rather spread out and bolting already. It is also a comeback from last year.

tomato plants
chard

I am planting things like carrots and lettuces in the grow bags at the moment. I still have many more plants to decide where I will put them and whether I will start from seeds I have or get already started seedlings. 
Grow bags with carrots and lettuce seeds planted

Most of the herbs are in the front at the moment, although I am planting more Italian parsley and cilantro in this side garden.

As you can see however, the mint that was planted last year is still there and taking over the bale. I trimmed a lot of it back and may have to go in and cut more out. This time I also want to clip it and dry it for tea!


Further along the garden area is a blueberry from last year and a lime tree we planted last year. No limes yet but it is still young. Along the back of the house is our lemon tree. We planted another satsuma mandarin too but I am not sure it gets enough sun to be successful.

lime tree

blueberry plant

More garden news and photos to come as I get it planted and rearranged over the next few weeks.