Thursday, May 29, 2014

Of course since I put all my tomatoes out, the weather turned chilly again. I hope they're okay back there, getting bullied around by too much wind and not getting the heat and sunshine they were hoping for. On the bright side, I pulled a few out of their pots to thin before planting, and the pulled ones were almost as nice as the winners, so I stuck them in the dirt on their own, with a decent length of stem underground to see if they'd root from it, and so far they're not wilting! Ugh, I want summer, though. And enough nice warm weather to make me feel like putting the rest of the warm-season seeds in.

The cotton experiment is going well so far (inside, of course); all twelve of the seeds I planted have germinated, with big fat cotyledons that look almost succulent. It's going to be a huge gamble to try to bring them all the way to the end of their season before our cold-and-rainy one comes back, but gosh darn it I'm excited to try. Especially if the blue ones do well.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Name this plant

My best guess is that this is a calendula, but I'm really not sure. It's about 8-10 inches high, one of several that have volunteered in the front garden this spring and just started to bloom. My other not-so-educated guess was a zinnia, but I don't think it has densely-layered enough petals for that, and the yellow-orange range seems to be the calendula groove. Can anybody confirm or deny?

Friday, May 23, 2014

cultivating my zen

(Mom warning: this is a fussy post. Don't worry, I'm ok. I'm just whining.)

Given the amount of yard I want to turn into garden, the idea of tearing up, turning, and amending all that soil by hand is daunting. Which is why clever humans who came before me invented tillers, right?

Earlier this year I rented a gas-powered monster of a tiller for a day, and used it to tear up the spot that now houses (most of) my strawberries. And I hated using it. It was noisy, stinky, and honestly pretty terrifying -- I'm not a very large person, and the tiller probably weighed at least a third as much as I do, so when the throttle was open and the thing got into gear it would just...drag me along behind it, bumping alarmingly, until I remembered that letting go of the handles would make it stop. Ugh.

It was also hideously expensive to rent, so much so that buying a smaller electric tiller-cultivator plus a 100-foot outdoor extension cord was barely more expensive than having the gas tiller around for a day. Surely, I thought, if I had a more manageable tiller on hand, I could use it whenever the occasion arose! Whenever I needed to work more amendments into existing beds, or expand what I was working on! So I bought one. And got it assembled. And wheeled it out to the starting line.

And it wouldn't turn on.

Last night I was working on a deadline, trying to get things out of the side of the kitchen bed that I'm about to lose to heat pump installation, so I just fussed for a few minutes, then put it back in the tool shed and changed my plans, moving the refugee plants into different spots in already-workable ground. It's the worst possible time to be transplanting things, I'm pretty sure; there were strawberry plants with flowers and immature berries on them, wobbly bits of mostly-established chard, and a struggling iris being bullied hideously by a pack of dahlias. I don't know if any of them will survive -- but they'll have a better chance than they would have under the heat pump installation, at least.

On the bright side, while doing the transplanting, I dug up a good dozen plum-sized dahlia bulbs that were choking that lone iris, and they are apparently edible, so I just might peel them and roast them along with the golden beets I have on hand right now.

I was complaining about machinery, wasn't I?

Anyway, I know the next step here is troubleshooting, once I have the time to do it: I hadn't used the outdoor outlet before, so I'll need to test that first, then the extension cord, to see if the problem is there instead of with the tiller itself. Wasn't I just talking about how important it is to give myself permission to fail as part of the learning process? Somehow it's easier when it's not in an area (operation of machinery, a "manly" pursuit) where I'm already self-conscious about not having skills or experience. Hfff. This too shall pass.

This too shall pass, and I'll get enough ground turned to put in corn before the summer really gets going, and maybe we'll get a crop of it. And I'll learn from this. It's a process.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

morning Ren

Why would I do such a cruel and unjust thing as go to work. He just doesn't know.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


We seem to be moving into the warm-ish and dry season -- temperatures in the high 70s in the daytime, clear weather, lots of sun. I was out of town for a few days and came back to all sorts of things enjoying the weather: my fruit trees have finished blooming and are thinking about fruit; the tiny blueberry bushes are putting out some blossoms; the strawberries are blossoming and starting to set fruit; the lilies in the kitchen bed are approaching waist-high and budding. And the tomatoes, which have been living inside, are growing like mad.

Monday I was home from my trip but had taken the day off work, planning to use it for recovery time. Only I also scheduled the electrician to come out and do the panel replacement work I'd need before I got the heat pump in, so they had to turn the power off for a considerable fraction of the day. Which means no internet! No video games! Time to go outside and work on things!

I ripped a lot of weeds out of the front garden beds, enough to make them actually look like garden beds instead of mysterious tangles of non-grass foliage. Then I stirred a bit of compost into the cleared spots and planted some feverfew, borage, and bee balm seeds. We'll see how they do! It's not the sunniest spot on the property but actually gets a decent amount of light when the sun isn't directly south (i.e., mornings and late afternoons). I neglected to take any pictures of that bit, but I did take a gratuitous bee photo since there were several cute little fuzzbees hanging around the azaleas while I worked next to them:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Repotted the sturdiest of my tomato starts yesterday!
Here you see some of the valiant little things. The ones started in coir pots seem to be, on average, doing better than the ones in makeshift newspaper pots -- I think I'd put that down to the coir retaining moisture a little better.

Also planted some bergamot (bee balm) at the edge of the shade-garden area. My capable assistant included for a size comparison.

In addition to my own tomatoes, I am now the proud owner of two gallon-potted beauties who were started in February at the nursery; the plants stand a foot tall and are lush with leaves, thick-stemmed and sturdy. I want to be able to make mine do that! I suspect they were using a lot of artificial light to accomplish it, though, since the amount of sun we get in the spring is not remotely conducive to getting tomatoes excited. Early tomatoes vs. lower-energy impact systems: a dilemma.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Peace is only for the dead and the dying

When I was a teenager I had a creepy boyfriend (okay, several, but one relevant to this post) who, among his other self-aggrandizing habits, used to insist that the apocalypse was coming, that he would go down fighting in a heroic last stand against The Encroaching Darkness. (We lived in the middle of nowhere, okay. It was grand fantasies or hanging out in the Taco Bell parking lot, as far as entertainment options went.) He had a date set and everything. The date was fourteen years ago today.

So it feels somehow appropriate that my feed reader handed me a great post this morning on the apocalypse NOT coming, and the things that underlie all the dire prophecies. I'm still not optimistic about the large-scale future, but these days I'm a lot more on board with a vision like Kelly Coyne's definition of the Crappening. It doesn't have the bombast and melodrama that appeal to you if you're a teenager or a Hollywood executive, but it does have a higher survivability rate (at least as long as we're using a shorter timeline than Tyler Durden's).

And Coyne's heavy-laden burro is a comforting image for me today, in the same way that the refrain titling this post is a comforting mantra. Peace is only for the dead and the dying. You're carrying something heavy; sometimes things are rough; sometimes you have a long hill to climb. But it's okay: that's life. There are hard bits. It's going to shake you up. But you can still keep going, because that's what you do. The point is not the end of the road. The point is that you're walking.