Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Update

Jessamine Gardens will be moving sometime between now and the spring. Preparations are being made, loans are being arranged, and properties are being sought! The biggest trick will be finding the right property that is acceptable to the bank, big enough to do what I want with it (goats, chickens, gardens, and maybe possibly horses), that is still in a great school district.

Now, what have I been up to? Aside from being a mom and geologist..

Field work at work has shot up through the roof, which is great. Not so great for my blogging however, I get home exhausted and just crash at night.

I have been at the gym 3 nights a week. My ankle FINALLY healed properly, so I am back at the Y, trying to get healthy. I have actually been losing only a little weight, but the baby belly (yes, I know he's three!) is slowly disappearing. I am also getting much more strength in my upper body and the flabby arms are slowly developing some muscle.

I am also tutoring in math three nights a week (on a not-so-volunteer basis). Of course, they are also the same nights I go to Tae Bo and Zumba classes. So I go and wear my body out and then try to teach someone algebra and wear my brain out.

The fall garden is in. Quinoa, cabbages, cabbages, pumpkins, and broccoli all got put in a few weeks ago. They appreciated all the rain that we got over the last couple of days. I also purchased some interesting herbs such as comfrey, St. Johns wort, roman chamomile, and winter savory. I couldn't resist a black pepper vine either. We'll see how it does!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Upcoming Product Review!

I think we are going to try something new here on Jessamine Gardens.  CSN Stores has offered me the chance to review a kitchen product available on their site! They have 200+ stores selling everything from children’s luggage to chef's knives or even some amazing pots. They also have great prices on some very nice things.  I will be perusing the kitchen section of CSN and deciding what item to review in the next few days. I am leaning toward trying a santoku chef's knife, since I am constantly chopping veggies, etc for meals. A low sodium, low fat diet means I can't use a lot of prepared foods. So I am working on freezing a bunch of meals for the days when I go to the gym, etc and don't have a lot of time to get dinner ready.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Because I Don't Have Enough Plants Already...

Of course, I'm eyeballing more.... I really, really shouldn't be.

I can't help it. It's a sickness.

I don't even have a place for them...except in pots...I have plenty of room then!

Oh wait, then I have to remember to water them...

And we all know how that goes, don't we?

BUT...HGC is having a 70% off sale.

They will be selling gardenias and yellow bells esperenza, both of which are on my must haves for my landscape for the new house (yes, I realize that I haven't bought the house yet!). Both of which are pretty expensive when not on-sale.

And obviously, I don't have enough plants to take care of as-is.

But, how can you resist these pretty faces? I have settled on a yellow, red, and white theme for the gardens. Especially since it will incorporate Carolina Jessamine, which is the namesake for this blog and the current gardens.

The players in the new garden:


Knockout Roses-Single Red

Yellow Bells Esperenza


Carolina Jessamine

Confederate Jasmine
The fun thing about this is that I have TIME. All of the plants are drought-tolerant, which means that they will survive me and my landscape watering habits. Some are even Texas natives. And I can arrange, re-arrange, and dream all I want. And take care of plants in pots until my dream becomes reality.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I Did This Weekend...

I got busy and cleaned out the veggie beds. I have been a bad gardener lately and it was an awful summer. Hot, mosquito-infested, and humid. Not conditions that make you want to go out and work. However, I stepped out of the house on Sunday morning and realized that I could actually stand outside for more than 5 minutes without getting a) chewed to death or b) fainting from the heat. Getting the garden cleaned up shot straight to the top of my priority list. Somewhere below feeding/playing with the kiddo, but definately above dishes and laundry.

As soon as the kiddo went down for a nap, I made a bee line for the garden, grabbing gloves and shears along the way. For two hours, I weeded, trimmed, cleaned, and moved. I pulled approximately 10 volunteer Thai basil plants and a few non-producing okra plants. I had a weed/plant pile the size of my 3 year old when I was done. And the garden looked like this:

And my legs looked like this:

I apologize for posting pictures of my pasty white legs...but mosquitos find me tasty and I am somewhat allergic to grass.

However, thanks to the sacrifice of my legs, my garden is clean, weed-free, and ready for its fall planting.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Harvest Monday- 27 September 2010

After weeks of long, hot summer, I have a harvest again!

Apparently, my okra is psychic. I had put it on the list of things to be cleared out of the garden in order to make room for my fall planting. It must have heard my thoughts. Because when I went out on Friday to finalize the culling list, I noticed a huge crop of nice looking, good sized okra. So I picked it. And let the ones producing okra live for another week. That is the stay of execution, because the weather just turned cool. Which means what measly production I had is going to peter out to nothing. I got about 1 lb of okra over the weekend.

I also harvested sweet potatoes. They look great. A lot of them are on the small side, but that doesn't affect how they taste! There are about 2 lbs of those with more to harvest. I don't need the space, so I will probably leave the other two tubs of them alone until we eat up all the ones in the house.

I will probably have a lull again. The weather has finally cooled off enough for tomatoes and peppers to set fruit, so it will be a bit before we have more harvest, especially since the okra plants have their number.

Monday, September 20, 2010

One of These Days...

I might actually get back to blogging about the garden. The last few weeks have been a blur of long nights, long days, an unhappy kiddo, rain, and everything being out of sync. Even the felines were having bad fur days.

What passes for normal here at Jessamine Gardens is finally reasserting itself. Minus the rain, which God has every bit of control over and I have none. Anthony went back to school this morning. I have not had to give him pain meds in the last 24hours which is a relief for both of us. Have you ever tried to give a 3-year old medicine that he hates? Its an experience that I won't choose to repeat any time soon. He gets to eat a more normal diet soon and that will be a relief as well.

As for the garden...Let's just say that I am producing a successful crop of weeds at the moment. That's not entirely true. But suffice it to say, I have a big job ahead of me this weekend, assuming that it is not raining. I will be pulling the okra plants, pulling the Thai basil that has volunteered, cleaning up the tomatoes, and planting carrot, radish, parsnip, collard greens, mustard greens, and spinach seeds. I will also be harvesting the sweet potatoes that I planted back in May. I am very excited and meant to do it a week or so ago, but things got in the way.

So as you can tell, things are coming full circle. It will be an interesting season as always!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Owning it...

I am not talking about physical objects. I'm talking about owning who you are. In the biz, we talk a lot about project ownership. It basically means that you take responsibility for keeping the project on track, on budget, and having a personal investment in its success or failure. It also means dealing with failures in those above things and taking responsibility for fixing them.

I realized recently that I have been failing miserably at owning my life, who I am, and who God created me to be.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm an odd one. I have a deep southern drawl and a clipped Montana/North Dakota accent (regardless of the fact that I have lived in that area less than 6 months of my entire life) and frequently switch between the two in the same sentance. Then later in the same week, I will be accused of having no accent at all. I hate to shop, but if I can drag someone willing or unwilling, as the case may be, I'm all for it. I hate buying new shoes, but regularly drool over them.

As most of you who regularly read are aware, we went to North Dakota and Montana this summer for a long overdue vacation. At times, there was no tv, no internet, and no phone. Perfectly fine with me. It was time for reflection and peacefulness. Well, as much as you can get with your 3 year old around. But I did catch those moments. And in those moments, I discovered a few things in addition to what I already know and do:

1. I can be myself. I don't always have to be the stressed-out, take on the world, overachieving mom and geologist.

2. I still know how to really laugh.

3. I can still take on the world.

4. I am a cowgirl deep in my soul. I have spent a lot of time denying that part of myself because I was afraid of being labeled as a drugstore cowgirl (since I grew up in the 'burbs), but truth be told, its there. I just had to release it. But don't look for me in full on western dress any time soon. Its a mindset more than anything, and the gear to go with it only happens if its super-cute and I can't resist.

5. That part of me CAN happily exist with the professional geologist, who occasionally has to wear suits to work and probably should more often. Currently, I spend most of the work week in jeans. I do need to professionalize for the office.

6. I have to do things for me. While I get wonderful pleasure doing things for my son and spending time with him. I have to stop and enjoy my life too. After all, even as a mother, you have to live for yourself.

And finally, I have figured out that I will be loved no matter who I am or what I do by my family and God. Sometimes, I think that is the hardest thing to figure out. And all these things, my friends, are what I am going to own from this point on..

A rare picture of me!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


is bliss, isn't it? Anthony had a tonsillectomy last week. He also had his frenulum clipped to correct being tongue tied, his adenoids re-shaved (they were removed last year), and his ear tubes replaced. We were to spend a night in the hospital for observation since he was little and then go home to recover.

While I didn't think that it was going to be a walk in the park, I was wholly unprepared for the level of work that it is to get a 3 year old back up on his feet after that kind of surgery. I did think that we were going to sleep overnight at the hospital, then go home and have a week-long icecream/pudding/yogurt/mashed potato fest (and I might get some neglected garden work done).

Then, reality hit. I have not slept an entire night since September 7th. It has been a very long time (2 years or so!) since I have had to deal with this level of sleep deprivation. Between round the clock medications, a bout with some bleeding when a scab pulled off too early, and tummy aches as a result of the bleeding, I have not gotten a whole lot of sleep.

Then, Anthony decided that ice cream is not his thing and he wanted chicken nuggets and fries or bread. And begged for it. After a week of it, it is about to break my heart. Apparently, you can have too much of a good thing. Thankfully, now that he is past the first week, he can have soft sandwiches. His eyes lit up when I put the first PB&J in front of him.

Then there is the light activity thing. Have you ever tried to keep a 3 year old quiet and still so his body can concentrate on healing? It is damn near impossible. Books, videos, and puzzles are great to a point, but at some point, a little guy just needs to run. I did finally relent and started taking him outside for 10-15 minutes, but goodness!

Thankfully, all of this has had a major positive result. His voice, which used to be a little rough and gravelly, has now become clear as a bell. I used to be able to hear him snore/breathe all the way in my room. I now have to get up darn close to his mouth to hear him breathe. Speech therapy is the next step. I have a feeling he is going to blossom over the next few months and I can't wait to see it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Storm Story (ND/MT Trip)

I have always been a great fan of weather. I love a good thunderstorm and have been known to stare dumbfounded at the force of a hurricane (don't worry, I was about as protected as I could get). But my favorite storm of all time happened while we were in North Dakota. And even better than that, it got caught on film.

We were up at the new shooting range doing target practice. While I was waiting for my turn, I decided to photograph Buckhorn Butte from the range.

Pretty, no? Lots of nice, fluffy clouds, great lighting.

We went on with shooting. Bullets, not pictures. When I needed another break, I picked up the camera again. And took another picture of Buckhorn Butte. But I noticed through the camera lens, that it had changed dramatically in 15 minutes.

"Uh, Dad," I said, "Don't those clouds look a little worrisome?" Dad is the native here after all. "Don't worry," he said, "We'll get a warning." Being the trusting daughter I am, I continued shooting bullets. After all, private range, chance to work out any remaining agressions, time away from the kiddo, I'm totally going to soak up all possible time. But just to be sure, I did pick up the stray pistols and ammo, so we just had out what we were actually shooting.

About 5 minutes after that, a huge rush of wind carrying dirt and debris came through the draw. "Was that the warning?" I asked Dad. "Yup, that was it. Let's go," he said. And because I am crazy, I stopped for a second to catch another picture as we were picking up the last equipment to head to headquarters.

We got up to the headquarters just as the clouds started circling

Photo by RLB because I was far too chicken to stand out there. I'm crazy, not stupid.

That night, we were treated to an amazing lightning show, dime sized hail, and almost an inch of rain in an hour. I watched the lightning off in the distance for another half hour after the storm had cleared the ranch and it was apparent that no one was going to need to hide in the well vault!

Hail does not photograph well!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fall Has Begun

And whew is it going to be a busy season. Anthony is moving up in preschool since he is finally showing real potty training progress. He is also scheduled for surgery to remove his tonsils since they have become a real problem. He is also getting his frenulum clipped during the tonsilectomy, which should help with his speech issues. Then there is my birthday...and it all snowballs from there into winter.

I transferred all of my seedlings to their peat pots yesterday. I started them in a sunny, eastern facing window (which also happens to be Pixel the cat's favorite napping spot) and she is delighted that they have graduated to the front porch. I am currently debating about starting some rhubarb seeds. I would like to run a trial on them since I am pretty seed-rich. I think I will start 5 of them and keep two on the porch in a semi-shady area. However, I want to wait until the weather is just a bit cooler. The Gulf Coast got a hint of fall and it was so nice this weekend that you could almost be fooled that its here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sweet Success!

Did you know...
That sweet potatoes are one of the best and easiest vegetables you can grow? It only takes some time and dedication. Then you have one of the best self sustaining crops in the world. Sweet potatoes can reproduce themselves with little or no trouble after a long period of time. And, in the proper conditions, sweet potatoes store amazingly well. Believe it or not, I had one sitting on the counter for several months before I got around to doing anything with it. When I cut it open after getting all the slips I wanted, it still looked just fine.

Sweet potatoes are also great sources of vitamin C, beta carotene, and vitamin A. Here's the breakdown for one medium sweet potato:

Calories: 130
Calories from fat: 0.39 g
Protein: 2.15 g
Carbohydrate: 31.56 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.9 g
Sodium: 16.9 mg
Potassium: 265.2 mg
Calcium: 28.6 mg
Folate: 18.2 mcg
Vitamin C: 29.51 mg
Vitamin A: 26081.9 IU
Source: National Agricultural Library (NAL), part of the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture.

Looks like a pretty good deal, right? Add yourself some beans or high protein grain and you have a nutritionally complete meal straight out of the garden.

For 1 square foot of gardening space (in my case, a 5 gallon bucket), I should get 2-3 lbs of food, based on the checking I did yesterday. Pretty good, right? It gets better.

For the cost of 1 sweet potato ($0.89) at the grocery store, I got seven plants. I could have had more, but ran out of space. I had potting soil and hay on-hand. The buckets were a gift from a friend, but can easily be obtained for free from restaurants.

When you do the math, for $0.89, some time, energy, and water, I will be getting approximately 14 lbs of food and have assured myself of as many slips of sweet potatoes as I need for as long as I can keep a potato or two hanging around.

Plus, sweet potatoes are easy to prepare (boil 'em, microwave them, bake them, etc.) and delicious to eat. With news reports of tainted foods and food prices going sky high, can you afford not to grow them?

For instructions on how to propagate sweet potatoes, check out this post:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fall Gardening

It's here. The subtle change in the air. The way the shadows are casting. The not quite so oppressive heat. And the almost imperceptable changes in the colors of the leaves. It was with all these thoughts in mind that I got busy and started making the fall plans. Fall means cole crops in Southeast Texas. Cabbages, broccoli, greens...Yum! And because it would be zero fun to be a gardener without some experimentation....rhubarb and quinoa.

This past Saturday, I started:
Quinoa (from seed obtained at the HEB bulk grains aisle)
Romaine Lettuce
Black Seeded Simpson lettuce
Red Cabbage
Green Cabbage
Bush Beans

I got all of these started early so that I could have optimum growth by the time the really cold weather hit. I didn't do well with these last year because I got them in far too late and we had a cold winter hit very quickly. They never really did amount to much. So just like all gardeners, I have promised that this year will be different.

My okra is still not producing very well and I am not happy with the Clemson Spineless variety. I don't miss getting my hands prickered up from the other variety, but by this time last year, I was sticking okra in people's pockets in an attempt to get rid of it. I think I'll be switching back. I am looking forward to fall tomatoes. I nursed my current plants through the worst of the summer and am hoping to be paid back for the water and time I put into them. As long as the dreaded horn worms don't attack...but that's more for another post.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Revamping a Flower Bed

Like every other gardener, I've had my share of successes and failures. I am always very attentive to my vegetable beds, but I tend to expect my flowers to survive on my own. I have been spoiled by my lantana in my front beds which, now established, needs little extra water, blooms during the hottest weather, and thrives on neglect. These plants live in the front flower beds so if they look distressed, I pay attention to them.

The back flowerbed, however, has been a challenge since I built it. I originally built a bed there because the area was low, always wet, and shady from both the house and the trees. I have tried wildflowers in the bed, which never really grew. Then I tried plumbago from a friend's garden, which failed to establish itself before the first freeze hit. After those died over the winter, I didn't know what to do with the bed. It got hot, rained, and the weeds grew. I quit wanting to deal with it.

Then when I got home from vacation, I looked at it with fresh eyes. I could see exactly what to do with it.

So I got down to business....

I pulled all the weeds.

Anthony's tricycle is for scale.

Then I put down landscape fabric to control future weeds and placed my new plumbago plants. Finally, I added a mailbox as part of the garden art in the bed. I'll also add a Purex laundry bottle from the 1940s in there.

Not sure why the color is odd. My house is actually a dusty green color.

My next step is to plant the newly purchased plumbago and add mulch. Then finally, in the space where the landscape fabric is missing, I will be planting spinach.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Montana/North Dakota Trip Part III

Sorry its taken me so long to post again. I had a major snafu with my pictures and wound up having to get copies. I've got them now and can continue posting.

The first thing we did at the ranch was go 4-wheeling. I figured that Anthony could use some fun after being cooped up in the motorhome for 3.5 days. So off he went with his Papa. For the next week and a half, anytime that anyone said the word 4- wheeler, Anthony felt it was his duty to get a ride. They took the trash to the pit, we took it down to go swimming, we took it to go work on the ranch. And everywhere we went on it, he was there too with his hat and glasses, waiting for a ride.

Anthony also considered himself an integral part of the workings of the ranch.

He helped work on the truck.

Acted as a safety supervisor.

Worked as the foreman.

Made sure that in light of the fun being had, that we all knew it was serious work.

He even pitched in to help with the new gun range we built.

Hard work for a little guy, huh?

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Montana/North Dakota Trip-Part II

Back to our regularly scheduled post...

We spent the next morning playing at my uncle's house. And by we, I mean, Anthony was playing, and I was taking pictures of Anthony playing...and other things.

Like the barn...

Anthony playing with Tommy

Anthony was playing so intently with the truck that he didn't notice me sneaking up behind him.

Anthony chasing the butterflies.

After we were done playing, we loaded up into the motorhome and went on our merry way up to the ranch. We stopped to restock our supplies before leaving civilization. And after a quick lunch at Painted Canyon in the Southern Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we were off onto the backroads to the ranch.

Anthony at Painted Canyon

After an hour on the roads, we were finally there. We stepped out of the motorhome to birds chirping, the breeze blowing, and no other sounds but the greetings of my (other)aunt and uncle.

Ahhh, serenity at last.

To be continued...

Garden Update

I'm taking time out from the trip photos (which I swear I was going to write about again last night...however, a husband, a bum laptop, two episodes of Drop Dead Diva, and several fridge pickles got in the way) to post a garden update.

While I was gone, it rained for a week solid, and then temperatures shot up sky high. Needless to say, the garden is in a little bit of distress. The cukes have pretty well fizzled out, the carrots are a memory, my biennial herbs are a fried memory, and the tomatoes are struggling. The corn, the squash, and the pole beans are history.

However, the two million Thai basil plants that seeded themselves all over the garden are trucking along. My pepper plants are hanging in there and the sweet potatoes are coming along. They should be ready next month. I also finally harvested my first okra of the season and am looking forward to fresh fried okra.

I am also starting to get ready for the fall planting season. Out with the old, weeds, and yuckiness. In with the fresh and new! I am going to start a bunch of brascissas this weekend to get a jump on the growing season. Now to figure out where to put it all!

Monday, August 9, 2010

ND/MT Trip-The First Leg

On a bright Saturday morning, my parents, my son, and I loaded everything that we would need into a rented motorhome and left Houston on a two week road trip to see our family in Montana and visit the family ranch in North Dakota. We packed food, clothing, and essential survival gear (otherwise known as a tv with dvd player and a million kid videos. It would take three days to drive to North Dakota. Our first night, we made it to the middle of Oklahoma. We rolled in late, put down the beds, and crashed for the night. Here is the RV on the first cedar scented morning of the trip.

We had breakfast, loaded up, and went on down the highway. Our next night's stop was in Grand Island, NE. I took a picture of Anthony at the KOA Kampground which in between two cornfields. Which is, by the way, most of the scenery from Guthrie, OK to Grand Island, NE.

Anthony was half the size of the corn there.

And the clouds and corn were just to pretty to miss. Did I mention I like photography too?

We were especially careful to stop and let Anthony play whenever it seemed like he was getting antsy.

One of our city park stops in small town Nebraska:

Please ignore the puffiness. Bum ankle, remember? Photo taken by RLB, the original photographer in the family

And finally, late on the third day, we trundled into my uncle's house in southern North Dakota. And met these characters:

Buttons, who loves to lick

Dusty, who is 1/4 bobcat and sweet as pie

Lightning, my aunt's horse

Tommy the Barn Cat (You'll see more of him)

There were many other four footed friends there too that I didn't manage to capture on film. We stayed at my aunt and uncle's house where we had great food, fun conversation, and where my aunt completely spoiled my son.

To Be Continued...

She's Baaacccckkkk!

After two weeks of refreshment in the heartland of America, I come back enlightened, relaxed, and with a new perspective on life. The one I had beforehand was getting a little jaded. I now know exactly what I want to do/achieve and how to get there. Some intervention from God and a little luck will help it along the way and I'll do the rest. I will write about our adventures in North Dakota tonight and over the next few days, but for now I'll leave you with this...

Crested wheat growing on the family ranch in North Dakota.

Friday, July 23, 2010

On the Road Again

Dear Friends and Readers,
Today marks the last day that I will be posting for two weeks. I know that you are all going to miss me. I am going to a land where cell phones and internet either don't exist or are on dial up which makes posting very slow. When I return, I will have lots of pictures of Big Sky Country, the kiddo, and animals, plus lots of stories about the trip.

Until then!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

That's Hot

My poor, poor garden. Summers in Texas are no good for anyone. It has been alternating between sizzling hot and drenching rain. Days like these make one yearn for the relative niceness of oh, say October. Even my very hardy herbs are taking a beating. I feel bad for them. But here at Jessamine Gardens, if you can't take the heat, get outta the garden. Only the strong survive. There are several plants that are the stars of the garden this summer. They are taking a licking and still going.

1. Sweet potatoes-They love the combination of rain and heat. I have seen more growth in the last couple of weeks than I have since I planted them.

2. Lemon grass- A passalong plant from a plant exchange. When I planted it, it was about 6" high. It is about 3' tall now. It could probably eat my preschooler if I let it. I can't wait to cut it and use it to cook with.

4. Bell Peppers-Still producing. When I checked them yesterday, there was one small ripe one, but two more showing promise. I'm going to leave them until Friday afternoon to see how big they'll get.

5. Cucumbers-Growing, making potential pickles like crazy. I picked a giant one yesterday to save for seed and there were two more growing.

6. Okra-A summer staple. Mine have been slow to take off, but I think all the rain finally jumpstarted them.

These guys will probably keep churning until the weather gets cold. And that makes me happy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Scientific Approach to Gardening

As most of you know, or figured out, I'm a scientist. Not your stereotypical white lab coat, thick glasses, and pocket protector type. But the hipper, spends-her-days-outdoors, wears jeans, and walks around in sturdy (steel-toed) hiking boots kind of scientist. Oh, and occasionally, they let me play with heavy machinery, which makes me very, very happy (but you knew that). This also involves careful observations of my surroundings, drill cuttings, etc. I fill up pages and pages in my field notebook with them so I don't have to remember. Which is why I need to transfer this habit to my gardening.

I was standing in the kitchen yesterday, looking out at my waterlogged garden. Thankfully, a little insight and fast draining soil spared my garden from the worst of the pitfalls. I was also trying to remember when the corn was planted. I finally came up with the date, but it could have been easily avoided by WRITING it down. I am just not organized enough to be able to make it into the computer and type it. Although the blog helps. :)

So here is my plan. This fall, I am going to buy a Rite in the Rain notebook and pen. I am going to take it out to the garden and write down what is going on out there! Lets see how I do...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rain, Rain Go AWAY!

Well, at least my water bill will thank me. My tomatoes, on the other hand, have been exploding like fireworks all weekend. There is only so much water they will hold. They certainly were not expecting the 8" of rain we got in three days. Nor the 5" that we are predicted to get over the next two days. I guess it begs the old adage "when it rains, it pours." The Houston area made up its entire rainfall defiect in four days.

This is also the reason, along with the holiday, that the blog has been quiet for a few days. One does not traipse out to the garden in the midst of a downpour. One's three year old does not play outside when it is wet and muddy. And one's family has had a serious case of cabin fever. The rain stopped for two days. Long enough to run outside, grab a zucchini or two, and dash back in. We did get to watch fireworks. They were fantastic and Anthony loved them. And then this morning, it started raining again. Yay.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rain! (And other updates)

Its really, really raining. The gardener in me is dancing with delight. Its been such a long, hot summer so far. Admittedly, the rains we're getting are a direct result of the hurricane in the Gulf, but I couldn't be happier. I've been tracking the storm all morning.

I have been remiss in my gardening lately because I resprained my ankle. Which meant that I was back on crutches for another week. This week, I am off of them again and pretty determined to stay off them.

The pickles I made were delicious. We broke into them on day 10 and were rewarded with sweet, spicy, and garlicky dill pickles. Couldn't. Be. Happier. Will be doing that again with the next batch of cukes out of the garden.

The zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and corn are all still producing. Haven't seen much from the pole beans that I planted, but if nothing else, they grew. The herbs have decided to take over the world along with the butternut squashes.

The sweet potatoes are still growing after giving me a pretty good scare. I went out there one afternoon and noticed that 75% of the leaves had been eaten off. After a frantic search for hornworms, I discovered that it was the squirrels. The vines recovered nicely and are still going.

And finally after stumbling last week trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do with the garden this fall, I have a plan. Even better, I have a plan for the garden at the new house. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Friday, June 25, 2010


Last winter, I was pouring over the seed catalogs in eager anticipation of warmer days and bountiful harvests. This summer, I am having a little more trouble getting worked up about the fall crop. Why you ask? Because last winter I could predict what was going to happen for the next 8 months and be through the full season without major worries or upsets. Minor ones such as what is going to be eating my plants other than me just go with the territory. The upcoming season does not have that surety.

Most of that insecurity has to do with the purchase of a new home. And a move into that home. I am on track to buy a new home between October 2010 and February 2011. August and September are typical planting times for many crops in the Houston area. Those crops should be finished by first frost. I am hoping that the home purchase will be completed a little closer to February when my lease ends. However, the ones that I am most concerned about planting are the allium crops and carrots. Both take a very long time to mature and both refuse to transplant well at all. I may just have to suck it up and plant my garlic in a movable container and skip the onions this year. Or talk my mom into planting them in her garden.

For the most part however, I am planning on planting broccoli, spinach, carrots (still iffy on this), cabbage, lettuces, getting a fall crop of tomatoes from existing plants, pumpkins, another round of squashes, and keeping my perennial herbs going.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Harvest Monday 6/21

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne's Dandelions
This was not a banner week for the harvest. All in all totaled about 1.5 lbs. My vegetable plants all seem to have decided to take a little break. Not really, but my squash plants took a little while to recover from an SVB infestation and I am working on a second crop from all of the tomato plants. I'm hoping next week's crop is much better. Especially since the carrots seem to think its getting a little bit hot for their liking. Since it was Father's Day weekend, I also didn't get much time in the garden. Blazing hot also doesn't tend to lend itself to wanting to stay outside very long. Now if I could only find a portable air conditioner and mosquito eradicator...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cool As A Cucumber

Now that I am finally back up on my feet unaided, I got to one of those items on my list. Partially. Mostly because I was afraid that they were going to rot before I got to them.


I decided to try to grow them this year because I knew that they liked hot weather (always a bonus in SE Texas) and mostly because I like pickles. I especially like the Claussen ones that I don't buy because it makes me ill to spend more on a jar of pickles than a pound of meat. For the price of $1 and some space in my garden, I have harvested 3 nice sized cucumbers, with the promise of more. I actually didn't know that cucumbers have little spines on them. Or at least I didn't until I tried to pull it off on a whim and needed to go get an ice pack and a pair of gloves.

Here are the first two off the vine. I've harvested one more since then. You can see the little white spines in the darker green one

Since I have been jonesing for pickles since I saw the first flower, that's what I did with them. has fantastic recipes for just about everything. Including those refridgerator pickles. So off I went. Water, vinegar, fresh dill (from the garden of course!), pickling spice (recipe from Allrecipes too), salt, sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes all went into the bowl. Then in went the cucumbers. They sat for two hours to get happy with each other and then off into the jars and the fridge, where they will sit for 10 days.

I'll let you know how they turn out.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Big To-Do

Every mom knows that you make it through each day, week, month, and year with a series of things to do. Get the kids up, dressed, out the door, activities/school/work, come home, eat dinner, family time, and finally bedtime. For which most of us, means we start onto the second to-dos. You know, the ones that cannot get accomplished with kid, husband, and cats all demanding your attention at the same time. Okay, at least its this way in my house. More than likely, there is some variation of this in yours. But I digress.

I always have a running list of things I want/need to do. Current unfinished projects in my house:

1. New Miniblind/Curtian for Anthony's room since the little bugger has decided that if it is light in his room, it is time to play. Since it is summer, that means until 9pm, when bedtime is 8pm and he is incredibly overtired. No bueno in Mommy's world.

2. Put up tomatoes and cucumbers. Tomatoes are going to be blanched and frozen. Cucumbers are going to be turned into Claussen-like refridgerator pickes. There will be a post on this when its done. (Another item for the list!)

3. Weed the %$*$%^# flowerbeds in the front yard. Rain+Sun=Overflowing Weeds EVERYWHERE. Weedeat everywhere else.

4. Mow! Rain+grass=overgrown yard even though I mowed it last week!

5. Paint train picture for Anthony's room for some new decorations.

6. Replant the okra. My excuse for this is that the mosquitos will chew me to death if I attempt to spend more than two seconds out in the yard. However, it must be done or I won't have any this summer. I have five plants that actually germinated out of the 40 or so I planted. I blame this on the seed company. No way that it could have been my spotty aerial watering...nope, not that at all.

These are the major items. There are always the small "Oh by the way, Anthony needs cookies for school tomorrow, and no, you have to buy them, not bake them." I expect to finish this list before I die.

I think.


Maybe I'll just bequeath my to-do list to my kid(s).

Gratuitious adorable picture of Anthony whilst out running errands

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Healthy Living

Aside from needing to spend time digging in clean dirt versus dirty dirt, I garden because I wanted to provide safe, pesticide-free veggies and fruits for my family. Plus, I like pretty flowers, although I spend much more time messing around in the vegetable garden.

A healthy lifestyle became much more important when my husband was diagnosed with heart failure earlier this year at 40 years old. It was treated in time, but it opened my eyes a lot. We started changing our diet quickly. Out went hot dogs and hamburgers, in came whole grains and lean meats. It also gelled me into action. I knew I needed more exercise. I am genetically pre-disposed to diabetes because it runs in my dad's family and heart disease because it runs in my mom's family. (Yes, I make doctors faint when they read my medical history!) One of the preventatives for both diseases is to stay at a healthy weight. I was not. I didn't look too bad, but I knew I wasn't where I needed to be. So with Tom's(hubby) recent heart problems, I got moving. We joined the Y and since I am not motivated to exercise by myself, I joined a Zumba class. Zumba is fun. Its dance and exercise. And by the end of the class, you're exhausted, sweaty, and feel great. When work isn't running my life for me, I am there three times a week. I have definately lost weight and look much better.

There are pitfalls to every great plan however. I wasn't able to go to Zumba for about a month and so last night, I got up the motivation to go again. I was having a great time until about 3/4 of the way through the class. We were doing a great lunge exercise and *boom* I landed on my ankle wrong. The verdict-a nasty sprain. It'll be several weeks before I am fit to dance again.

See, you can even harm yourself trying to live healthy.

The proof that no good deed goes unpunished.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Shared Interests

Now that I have had some moderate success in the garden...meaning that occasionally I get to eat something that grew in it and did not cause me all sorts of headaches in the process.. I have discovered something just about as good.


It is one thing to take a hostess gift of a bottle of wine, etc., but when invited to dinner the other night on short notice, I quickly looked around to see if I had anything stashed. No such luck...and then I looked out the window. Inspired, I grabbed tomatoes, peppers, and carrots and presented those to my hostess. She was thrilled and I immensely enjoyed giving away what I had lovingly grown.

Now I get it. I am lucky enough to live in a family where putting in a garden is the thing to do when you buy your house and I grew up on homegrown beans, tomatoes, carrots, oranges, lemons, etc. from my grandparents garden. And EVERYTHING is shared. There have been very few trips to a relative's house where I didn't wind up with a grocery sack full of homegrown food.

There is also a sharing of knowledge. Technically, between my mother, grandmother, and aunt, we garden in three different zones, although we live no more than about 60 miles apart from top to bottom. However, invariably the conversation turns to gardening and we wind up troubleshooting plant ailments or which variety did better. We are inadvertantly running tomato trials at the moment because we all chose a different variety and are comparing notes on taste, texture, etc.

I am hoping this year to continue sharing. My fingers are crossed for enough cucumbers and okra to pass along to unsuspecting relatives!

Blackberries from my Aunt's garden. They were in the process of becoming cobbler.

Friday, June 4, 2010

On Love

Recently, a good friend of mine went through an ugly breakup after giving his heart away. It was one of those realtionships where true colors were revealed in the end. They were not pretty and my heart aches for him.

That is why, every single day, I am thankful for the people in my life that I love and who love me unquestioningly in return. I am also thankful that I have my garden and I love it.

After a dramatic upheaval/fight/personal tragedy...and there have been some pretty good ones... that is where I am to be found. Yanking weeds out of the beds in an attempt to work out anger, sitting quietly reflecting on the wild peacefulness and intertwining relationships between the plants, or sorting out feelings while redirecting wayward cucumber vines. And there is always the thing that makes me stop and think. Like the suprise flowers on the lavender plant...or the pretty pinky purply ones on the soapwort plant. In these times where I have sought the love of the garden, despite the inevitable mosquito bites, I have never left it feeling worse than I went in.

And that, folks, is what love should be.

Mock Orange-Not mine, but one day, I will have one of these in my garden.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and the Downright Ugly

The good.
Got a great harvest out of the garden. Tomatoes, zucchini, jalepeno peppers, green peppers. Everything that is established is growing and growing well. I am especially interested to see how the heirloom tomatoes will turn out. I also saw females on the butternut squash! Much excitement reigns over Jessamine Gardens.

The bad.
Houston has been having a pretty good dry spell. My preschooler is having a good stubborn spell. This has not been good for getting work done out in the garden. As a result, the massive planting I did of okra has not had good germination. I am hoping to correct that here quickly and putting on Dora for a few minutes has allowed me to sneak out and water correctly, so I'm hoping bad will turn good and we are up to our ears in okra this summer. They are such pretty plants too. (If you didn't know, they are actually related to the hibiscus).

I knew I was taking a calculated risk growing squash. I knew the scourge known as the squash vine borer existed in the South. I thought what every gardener thinks...that I am above all pests...Sadly, this is not the case. The Three Sisters bed has become infested.

SVB damage

I did what every gardener/plant momma does. I grabbed the paring knife out of the kitchen, asked my summer squash plants to forgive me, and began to make a little slit in the stem near the damage. I increased the slit until I found the horrible nasty little grub then pulled it out with the tip of the paring knife and gave it a gruesome death. I did this with every plant in that bed and then sealed them back up with floral tape. But I am happy to report that the garden has rebounded and looked like this when I took the photo this afternoon.

Nobody eats my zucchini but me!