Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ant Eviction

I have ants in my plants. Normally, I respect ants as an enemy. They are conniving, crafty, abundant, and have a nasty bite. Mounds of them pop up overnight in areas where I didn't even think they would show up. 90% of my yard is St. Charles black clay. The only thing I actually attempt to grow in it is grass. All of the beds that I garden in are raised. They are also filled with good quality loamy garden soil. Perfect for growing just about everything...including ant mounds. I just cannot respect these ants. Why? Because they are lazy. Lazy ants who do not have to work to tunnel. Lazy ants who are only steps from a food source. I do not respect laziness. Normally the yard ants and I have an understanding. I'll let them be if they are in the far reaches of my yard, where we usually don't go. The ones in the play areas are goners. Victims of the nastiest ant killer money can buy. This is not the case in my vegetable gardens. My garden isn't considered classically organic because I have a weakness for Miracle Grow (which I am trying to wean off of), but it is pesticide-free and I intend to keep it that way.

When the ants popped up right where I wanted to plant my tomatoes, I decided that the time to wage war was upon us. I googled for answers. I read and read. I finally decided that the best and handiest weapons for the battle were right in my pantry and compost box. Coffee grounds and sugar. I was pretty skeptical that it would even work, but with needing to get plants in the ground and a tight schedule, I decided to try it, and it was no loss if I just gave the ants a good feeding of sugar. I went out to the garden fully armed and treated each mound that I came across with both. The next morning, I went out and checked. I was disappointed to find the ants still there. I chalked up the loss and went on my business trip. A few days later, I went back out to the garden to plant the tomatoes, ants or not. Much to my suprise, the ants were gone. Same with all the other areas that I treated. Success.

Guess now I get to use the same method on my trash can potatoes, because the same lazy ants have taken up residence in there.

One day, my enemy, I will be victorious!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bluebonnets from Austin to San Angelo

I have been remiss in writing lately. That's only because life took over and I didn't have time to sit down and write about it. As most of you know, I was in San Angelo last week and then once I got back, I had to run the millions of errands associated with getting a kid's birthday party up and running. More about it later.

As I drove from Houston to San Angelo, I cursed the lousy weather. I had my camera with me for the express purpose of taking bluebonnet pictures since I was going to be smack dab in the middle of the Hill Country. The more I drove, the madder I got at the overcast skies. Then, just like a miracle, the clouds broke just when I couldn't have asked for a better picture. Without further ado....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Happy Birthday to a Special Guy

My baby is turning three today. Most people dread Tax Day, but I never will.

On April 15, 2007, a day that I had planned to spend unpacking our stuff in our new two bedroom apartment, instead, I was in the hospital. Six hours proir to landing in the hospital, I was at home having a rough first night in a new home. I was 36 weeks pregnant, my back hurt, I couldn't get comfortable, and the cat was about to drive me crazy. Finally, I got up and laid on the couch. Since it was the middle of the night, I watched the clock. As I watched the clock, I realized that the annoying pain in my back had a rhythm to it. What?! I went to the bedroom, woke my husband up, and told him that I was in labor and that I needed him to help me time the contractions. We timed them and figured out that they were three minutes apart. We called the Doctor and were informed to just stay home for a little while since I was a first time mom and first time moms were always slow. We stayed for a little while longer. We called the doula and warned her that the baby was coming. She said to relax and she would get her kids settled and be ready soon. In the meantime, my best friend arrived to help. Soon was not soon enough. I was finally in enough pain that I needed to go. We called the doula and she said she would meet us at the hospital. We raced to the hospital and Anthony arrived at 9:44am, 45 minutes after we arrived. I fell in love for the second time that day. He was the most perfect little creature that I had laid eyes on and I knew that I would do anything in my power to protect him.

Newly born

First Birthday

Second Birthday

Third Birthday

Dear Anthony,
Happy Birthday to my Little Guy!
You're growing up too fast. I love you.

The Goings on at Jessamine

It has been a busy couple of days in the garden, even with the gardner absent. But before my abscence, I did have time to make my very first batch of....

Strawberry Jam!


A quick look at goings on in the garden.

Potates have topped their garbage cans.

Taters gone wild.

The paste tomatoes have little baby tomatoes on them.

I'm already having visions of spaghetti sauce

The garlic and peas are going gangbusters. In fact, I ate the peas out of the pod I showed you the other day this afternoon right out in the garden. They were delicious!

Fountains of garlic?!

The green beans in the Cedar Bed have lots of flowers, and the green beans, corn, and squashes are growing fast in the Three Sisters Bed.

And last but not least...Tahdah! My very first onion. I was pleasantly suprised. There are more that I think are almost ready, but I wanted the first one to be special.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Work, Not Play

Since I am in San Angelo for a few days, I thought I'd give you a day in the life of an environmental geologist. I've mentioned that my job usually involves nasty, disgusting dirt. Occasionally, its not quite that bad. Its almost relaxing in fact. Take today for instance.

Got up, left the hotel and drove for an hour to the job site.

Put on the most expensive shoes in my wardrobe and met the client at the site.

You spend $$$ on the things that keep your toes safe and your feet comfy

The drillers arrived and we got started. The mast was raised and the augers went into the ground.

Drill rig in the morning light

There is essential safety gear.

I make this look good!

All was not well this day, the well we drilled was dry. So we called it a day.

Same boots, more muddy

Friday, April 9, 2010

Peas, Please?!

The first thing I do after getting home from work is run out to the garden to check and see what is going on. Frequently, this is interrupted by chasing Anthony back into the backyard (note to self, new house must have fenced backyard!), hollering at him to stop digging in my veggie beds with my trowel, and hauling him into the house to wash his hands and kiss away all the fire ant bites that he got while digging in my garden (and if I wasn't his mommy, I'd say serves him right). I encourage his participation in gardening, I just don't appreciate when he tries to dig up my cucumber seedlings when there is a perfectly good sandbox to dig in. On the rare occasion that I get a few minutes peace out in the garden, I notice the new things that are happening. The tomatoes have lots of flowers and there are baby tomatoes on the paste variety that I am growing, there are new leaves everywhere, and what did my wandering eyes behold?


Giddiness is the best way I can describe it. I tried peas in the fall and was rewarded with one measly flower and a bunch of dead plants. So like any good gardener, I tried again. Lo and behold, it's working this time. The peas have not filled in yet, but it was all I could do not to eat the darn thing off the plant because it looked so tasty. I planted 10 seeds in January. All 10 have come up and are growing, with lots of pretty little pea flowers. I can't wait until pea pickin' time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Cup Runneth Over

I have been in a kind of blah mood all week. Negative upon negative seems to keep adding up, especially when I thought things were headed in the right direction. Negative thoughts=negative moods=negative results, right? So I am putting that to an end right now. I'm going to count my blessings.

1. I have a beautiful home, where I can garden to my heart's content.
2. I have a wonderful family that I can depend upon.
3. I have a beautiful son who grows bigger and more intelligent every day.
4. I have a job that pays the bills.
5. I have wonderful friends who give me a laugh when I need it, advice when I want it, encouragement when I'm down, a swift kick in the ass when necessary, and send me home with armloads of plants(Thanks Linda!!).
6. I have the strength and determination to keep moving when all I want to do is quit.
7. I have the energy that it requires to balance work, home, family, gardening, and a little blessed personal time.

Now, 7 doesn't seem like a big number, but I grouped them to save everyone's eyes and to not come off as a big sap. I'm only moderately sappy on occasion and probably a little too logical on most. There are definately worse things to be!

Now, the things that I am excited about:
1. The Dave's Garden Round Up on Saturday.
2. A very much needed 2-week vacation to Montana/North Dakota this summer.
3. A quick trip to see a friend.
4. Helping my dad build a "big boy" bed for Anthony (We don't buy beds, we build)
5. Anthony's third birthday
6. Buying a house this fall/winter
7. Eating all the things that are growing in the garden.
8. Zumba classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (even though they are kicking my ass right now).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You're Doing What?!

That is the response I most often get when I tell people that I am growing potatoes in my backyard. The funny looks start when I tell them HOW I am growing them. I'm growing my potatoes in trash cans. See?

Taters in a Trash Can

It is working fabulously! I have been filling the can with more and more straw as the potatoes grow to encourage them to grow more potatoes. They are now almost to the top of the can. It almost seems like they grow a couple of inches a day. Kinda like a certain kid I know. :D But I digress. As soon as the potatoes get to the top of the trash can, I'll quit adding straw and let them do their thing. Then, once the vines have died. I'll dump the can onto some trash bags and play find the potato. :D I can just taste fresh grown french fries!

In other notes, the Three Sisters Garden is growing like crazy! The assorted squash seedlings that I planted last Thursday are up and growing, and many of the seedlings have their true leaves. I am so excited.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Babies and Bluebonnets

It is almost the law in Texas, that when Springtime looms and the bluebonnets bloom, that you must place your child, dog, significant other, not-so-significant other, or a specially trained cat into said bluebonnets and snap a photo or hundred. In one of them, everyone will be smiling nicely and looking at the camera. In the other 99, someone will be making a goofy face, smiling a cheesy smile, staring at bees which are inevitably attracted to the flowers, or giving the classic bunny ears to someone else in the photo. I get Anthony's photo taken in the bluebonnets every year for his birthday photo. Lucky for me, he was born 4 weeks early and thus right in the middle of spring when the bluebonnets are best and not in the early summer when he was predicted to arrive. But then again, a photo is worth a million words.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Checking out the dirt

Anthony has gone down to Gramma and Papa's house for the day (and night) to spend some time with them since I have to work today and daycare is closed. Last weekend, Dad had a load of fill dirt delivered to his house to level out parts of the yard. I got a phone call a little while ago. "Did you know that little boys and dirt get along like ducks and junebugs?" I did, but it was funny anyway. Dad went on to say that Anthony had been playing in the dirt since he got there this morning and was covered from head to toe. He was only convinced to quit playing in it to come in an eat lunch. I'm sure he'll be back out there like a shot as soon as he's done eating.

He comes by this genetically. My plans for the evening actually involved picking up a bag of potting soil to finish off a flowerbed. Never mind that I have personally shoveled 3 or 4 yards of garden soil in the past couple of years. Or that I have overseen excavations of several thousand yards of dirty, nasty, stinky dirt. I love it. If I truly believed in elements, I think mine changed from water to earth. Because I am happiest when I am digging in it (the clean stuff, not the nasty stuff), smelling the smell of freshly exposed earth (again the clean stuff), and gently patting new plants into it.

It really should come as no suprise that my kid is following in my footsteps.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gardening Peer Pressure

It starts with "you must try this!" So you do. Then it becomes "you must do it this way." Then all of a sudden, you don't know your head from your tail and your garden has become a mish-mash of things that you don't really like or don't really eat. It is incredibly insidious. For instance, a friend of my husband's gardens in upstate New York. Totally different climate, soil, and varieties which work up there. He generously sent me a bunch of different seeds that he had saved. I sent him back seeds that I had saved. There weren't many at the time since I had not gone in feet first yet. I was still in the toe in the water phase. As I was talking to him last night, he said "Have you grown the yellow jelly tomato yet? It is fabulous." And then went on and on about how I should do it and "oh, you don't have space? Just put it in a bucket." Now, I have something to confess here. Wait for it, its a shocker.

I don't like cherry or grape type tomatoes.

There, I said it. You can all take time now and recover from the shock I just gave you.

Better now? Good. It's not that I haven't tried to like the darn things. I just don't. I like slicing tomatoes, especially on a turkey sandwich or a burger. Just not the darn little ones. I even grew them one year. So I know that I don't like them. I certianly don't want to grow things that I don't like. So after that, I got off the phone quick-like.

There was also the same debacle over what type of squash to put in the Three Sisters bed. NY friend said "use winter squash, that's what worked for me" to my husband. Husband said "Use winter squash, it'll make the corn work better. NY friend used summer and the corn was awful. He used winter squash and it worked better." See? Insidious.

I went and did a ton of research, concluded that the main function of the squash in the Three Sisters planting was to shade roots and proposed an experiment. Again, I am not a huge fan of winter squashes only having been introduced to them on very infrequent occasions. There are two butternut squashes in my fridge, waiting for me to figure out what the heck to do with them. But back on topic... I proposed an experiment to my husband. I would plant half of it with winter squash, and half of it with summer squash and see where the corn did better.

I strongly suspect that it will all do just fine.