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!