Filed under: home and hearth, In The Garden, In The Southland | Tags: Life in the South
I wish Summer would hurry up and get here. Philosophically it is already Summer in these parts. That happens when you have to close the windows and turn on the air conditioner. Which happened the first of May, a full month earlier than I like. Really, mid-June would be ideal, but 90F+ days in early May, and a husband who likes his creature comforts (and he deserves them, because he works hard), and a constitution softened by life as a Precious, Precious Princess demanded that the interior household climate be held steady at 75F and low humidity.
A friend told me this:
“The pioneers did not have air conditioning. They all died.”
He may have a point there.
I have picked several nice batches of snow peas, and they’re about done and ready to be pulled up and replaced with climbing green beans. Burgundy beans, actually. The English peas are just starting to produce, and I was able to throw a good handful of just-picked ones in the wheat pilaf for supper. Supper also involved a salad made entirely of stuff from the garden: romaine lettuce, arugula, beet greens, and a wayward head of oak leaf lettuce found growing out in the yard. I have no idea how *that* got there, but there it was, and lovely too. The tomatoes are growing nicely, as are the peppers, eggplant, basil, and poona kheera cucumbers. Lest you get all impressed with the size of the garden, I have maybe 2 or 3 plants of most things, not whole rows. Except for the snow peas, English peas, and beets. It’s purely a hobby garden, not an attempt at feeding the family in some money-saving fashion. I’d like to do that, but the size of the spot that is sunny enough t grow things simply isn’t conducive..unless I were to dig up the rose bed and plant foodstuffs in there. But that will only happen when the Great Economic Collapse happens and we have to resort to picking chicory from the side of the road.
School is out in 2 weeks. No more toting people back and forth twice a day, no more requirement to get up at 5:30am…tho I probably will because I cherish the early morning hours with Terry, but not having to be showered and dressed by 7:30 will be sweet.
There are so many things about Southern Summers that I love. Afternoon thunderstorms that cool things off…or make the air so thick with humidity it’s like a hot, wet blanket thrown over your head. The chorus of tree frogs that start barking at dusk. And no, they do not chirp sweetly. They bark like dogs, answering each other back and forth so loudly it can interrupt a mint-julep enhanced conversation on the patio.
As a child, our house had an attic fan, and Summer nights meant open windows and the rhythmic thrum of the fan, forcing a breeze through an open bedroom window, cooling the house enough that a light blanket (mine was a flannel sheet with purple pansies printed on it, and bound in lavender satin tape) was sometimes needed.
What I wonder now, is what will Summers feel like once there are no children in the house, and it will no longer mean a change in routine? Will there still be a relaxed sensibility? Or will it just mean “same old thing, only hot”?
It’s February, folks (in case you haven’t noticed). According to the weather widget, right now at 2:36pm it is 81F degrees (or do I say 81 degrees F or do I just say 81F?) and that translates into 27C degrees (or 27 degrees C or 27C) and breezy. Windows open, all of them. Curtains flapping a little and dogs yapping at every single thing they hear, not being used to hearing much because the windows are generally closed this time of year. Also usually closed in the Summer due to heat.
Nice, right? Yes indeed. This is why I love living in the South. Winter is a couple of weeks in January when I am required to wear maybe a sweater, possibly a couple of shirts and a pair of socks. The rest of the time flipflops and a polo shirt do nicely. This is what makes the Summers, with the 95-100F temps and 95-100% humidity, worth enduring. This is why all my life I wanted a convertible, and why Terry with his inability to deny me anything I want, got me one. We needed another car anyway, so why not?
The weather causes the garden to beckon. My seed order from Pinetree Garden Seeds arrived a couple of days ago and I’m-a itching to get planting, but first need to make sure there won’t be any arctic blasts to do in tender snow peas and salad greens. The cold frame is assembled and ready to plant stuff under. Terry has made noises about getting stuff to put together a small greenhousy type thing on the patio, so I can start tomatoes, peppers and such-like. Oh yes, I am excited about gardening!
We’re supposed to get rain and a little cooler the next several days, which means I should be planting snow peas right now instead of writing about planting snow peas. The seeds are an experiment this year. I bought only heirloom varieties, those old plants that are pre-hybrid. I want to see how they grow. The snow peas are a variety from India with big purple flowers and gold colored pods. Never tired those before, and I like purple flowers. Also, the theory is that being from India, they might do well in this climate. I’m planting poona kheera cucumbers, also Indian, and quite different from the “normal” green cukes we’re used to here in the USof A. I’m growing other stuff, too…Crosby beets (I LOVE a green smoothie made with beet tops and pineapple!), garlic chives, salad burnett, and tall telephone peas. I haven’t decided on tomatoes yet, but I am pretty sure I’ll want Brandywines, because they are delicious and meaty and make great sandwiches, and Sweet 100′s, because I can eat them like candy, and some sort of paste-making thing like a roma variety.
You know, there is no optimist like a gardener in the early Spring.
I have a miniature orange tree on my patio. It’s in a large pot and I use it to (ineffectually) hide the heat pump, which the peron who built this house chose to put on the patio, instead of around the side where it wouldn’t be seen or heard by the people attempting to use the patio. It’s a nice patio, with brick pavers that heave up crooked from the pine tree roots, and crumbling mortar (I’ve learned that you aren’t supposed to mortar patio bricks due to the way pine tree roots can heave them, but it was made in 1967 and I was only 2 then, so did not have a say in it’s construction), and a lovely brick latticework wall that is coming apart, due to pine tree roots heaving up it’s foundation. I am attempting to cover the cracks with wisteria, which
growls grows like Godzilla on steroids around here.
Ok, so there’s this orange tree. Mom grew it from a seed off of the orange tree she has. She sprouted the seed when I got pregnant with Will, and when he was born, she gave it to us in a little pot, and here 23 years later I have this lovely tree in a big pot.
The tree is also right outside the kitchen window,and the other day I noticed a bit of activity in it. I watched a pair of mockingbirds come and go, then upon closer inspection noticed that they were building a nest in it! Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean anything special, as mockingbirds will build several nests in a yard, and let the lady bird choose the one she likes. “Here, baby, I’ve got a house on the east side, another one in mountains and a big boat in Key West, see, I’m a good catch!”
Well, I kind of figured, since the patio is fairly active with constant comings and goings of people and dogs (but not cats anymore, because a month ago I decided the owls in the neighborhood made me nervous and am keeping the cats in the house, much to their disgust) that the lady mockingbird would veto the patio nest in favor of something more secluded. This morning as I was watering all the potted plants on the patio, and turned my attention to the orange tree, I felt the prickle of a venomous hairy eyeball on the top of my my head. Looking up a little, I noticed the lady mockingbird on the nest! Glaring at me! She said nary a word (uncommon for this vociferous creature), just glared with the hatred of a thousand disturbed mothers. I responded with an apology and the quiet cessation of watering, then I got the camera.
Filed under: In The Garden
I’m a little sore, that good kind where your body says “hey creampuff, you didn’t move around much this winter, didja.” Yesterday saw alot of garden work done. Most noteably, the Sally Holmes rose was pruned. “ppht” you say, “you pruned a rose, how exciting.” Not just any rose, Sally Holmes is a monster. A beautiful monster,but one nonetheless. 10 foot vines (this thing is only 2 years old!!) with curved
claw thorns that grab and snag and are as long as cat’s claws.
Last night as we were getting ready for bed, Terry caught sight of my arms and politely requested that I wear long sleeves to church today, because not only are there scratches, there are small dime sized bruises where the
“Why do you keep such a thing?” You may ask. Because it’s beautiful, it vines and I can train it along the fence,
it reaches out and scratches the paint on Terry’s truck when he drives by, the flowers are enormous and fragrant, and it’s so dense and vigourous it makes a good screen around the vegetable beds.
Anyway, yesterday involved getting that monster pruned, a solid 2 hour job fraught with peril. Then I moved a nearby Zephirine Drouhine rose (a lovely thornless variety) that wasn’t doing as well as it could due to the proximity of the Sally Holmes, and a purple lantana what, while lovely,was too large for the spot it was in. All that digging and heaving was satisfying,but now my arms and back are a little sore. but it’s a good sore!
Today will see,hopefully, getting the gallica moved. If I can do that I’ll be satisfied. However, it’s looking cloudy, and if it rains then I do it later in the week.
You know what? It feels amazing to be talking about the garden,instead of griping about my kids or Terry’s job.
Filed under: In The Garden
I wonder if I should take before and after pictures of the gardens. I have 2, one is a mix of herbs and flowers,and the other is vegetables with a few flowers for color. since I don’t use pesticides, I am comfortable mixing things up. The flower/herb garden is about to get a big makeover. I may move some of the herbs into the vegetable garden, and I am probably moving the largest rose into an area all it’s own because it’s really BIG and really AGGRESSIVE and kinda SPREADY-OUTY. It’s beautiful,yes (see the rosa gallica photograph in the previous post) and very fragrant. When it’s in full bloom, it’s like…200 flowers and you can smell it from 50 feet away. An individual bloom will smell up an entire room. I whacked it way back last week, knowing full well that doing so would mean no flowers this year, but that’s ok. There is no way I could move it otherwise.
The herb/flower garden has daylilies,which I am content with the location of (english teachers may wince at the structure of that sentence)…let me rephrase that. The herb/flower garden has daylilies that….um…I am content with the location of the daylilies in the herb/flower garden. (that’s better). However, the irises could be better situated for clearer viewing. I have white ones (orris) and a beautiful peachy colored one with ruffledy edges. Last year it bloomed the same time as the gallica rose, and being parked right in front of that rose, was completely hidden by it. Not gonna let that happen.
The lantana was perfect, but vigorous. however, the red/orange flowers looked beautiful with the blue salvia (WAR EAGLE) and the soft cream of the Comte duChampagne rose. A formerly unknown patch of amaryllis has been discovered, and I am loathe to get rid of anything that blooms and comes in easy-to-move bulb form, so those will need up-digging and perhaps put along the outside of the garden fence.
I think today, since it’s supposed to be PERFECT gardening weather and everything is still dormant but won’t be for long if this weather keeps up, Things Will Be Moved. First up, the gallica rose to the backside of the wall. Then, iris shuffling. One bit at a time until the back says NO MORE.
I raked as much pinestraw and pinecones as my left rotator cuff would allow.
The house is open to the warm breeze and I did a little aesthetic work on the garden…got a birdfeeder unsatisfactorily hung. I’ll need to go get a post for it, or figure out how to hang it from the tree. And I’ve got to decide other things…do I take the amaryllis bulbs out of their pot and put them along the fence? Do I put herbs in the other pots, or flowers? Do I want to take the Emma Hamilton rose out of it’s pot and put it in the ground next to the Honey Delight rose? When do I dig up that huge gallica and move it behind the wall? It’s taking up far too much space in the herb garden and I need that room for something else. The Siberian irises need to be moved too. While they’re pretty coming up amongst the Tuscany rose, it’s visually not very pleasing…messy looking. O the hard decisions and dilemnas of a middle aged Southern housewife.
The coldframe is assembled and on the bed planted with mesclun mix and arugula. The anticipation of delicious salads in a month or so is causing a bit of internal giddiness. I take such delight in going out at 11:30 and picking a basketful of baby greens and a few english peas to assemble a beautiful salad and a warm homemade vinagrette dressing. Peas have been plantes, and the bed laid over with fallen branches to discourage the cats from using it as a litterbox. So far it seems to be working, but that may be because they are busy using the herb garden. A trip to Lowes is in order, for a roll of hogwire (excellent as a cat deterrent) and a post for the birdfeeder.
I cannot decide what to put in the pots. I love petunias, their lighty spicy scent and bright colors, but they’re a pain in the butt to keep watered and deadheaded adequately. Morning Glories are a must-have, but they go on the fence. Zinnias perhaps, always cheerful, easy to care for and all, but I had zinnias all the time growing up and want something different. Marigolds don’t excite me, as I prefer the pink and purple flowers. I may wind up putting vegetables in the pots. One big pot could hold a tomato plant, a couple of the smaller ones are good for peppers, and herbs could go in the others. Tarragon, chives, maybe even chamomile (tho it’s better planted en masse in a bed than one little plant in the pot) Oh I don’t know. Probably the thing to do would be to go to the plant store and peruse the seeds and bedding plants, and just see wot’s wot.
We have this wall on the south side of our patio. It’s about 7 feet high and latticework brick. Sounds posh, right? It’s a nice wall, but the nearby pinetrees are heaving it with roots and it’s cracking and threatening to fall over. However, we’re just leaving it alone. When it actually falls over we’ll deal it. For now I am weaving the vines of an aggressive wisteria (which is like something out of a Godzilla movie in this part of the world) through the holes in the brickwork. I figure it will at least be pretty when it blooms, and actually isn’t half bad looking when it’s not. Terry violently hates wisteria, and I am sure eventually (when the wall falls down) we’ll attempt to eradicate it. Until then we’ll try to make the most of it.
Anyway…this, days like today, is why we live here. Mid February and it’s 70 and sunny. Things are blooming and growing and people are wearing shorts.
Filed under: *whinge*, Dewicate feewings, In The Garden, Rest and Relaxation
(scuze me while I put a piece of a post-it note over the Jillian Michaels ad in the sidebar…she’s glaring at me for the potato soup i had for lunch. Piss off ya hipless witch. And for God’s sake stop wearing those pants that look like they’re about to slide off and expose your cooch. You look like a tart.)
Ok where was I…oh I hadn’t even started yet. Ok so…enforced inactivity is ANNOYING. So in an attempt at livelyness I set up a Vince Guaraldi channel on Pandora and now I’ll all finger-snappy and got some energy! Awesome piano jazz! He’s the guy who wrote all the Peanuts jazz in the Charlie Brown specials and I flamin LOVE this stuff!
And of course, I could be doing mild activities around the house, feminine things like removing dust bunnies from bookcases and perhaps alphabetizing the spice rack. I could even be painting a watercolor picture of a bird and lifting nothing heavier than a coffee cup. However this morning I read (finally) the post-procedure instructions from the doctor, and it said something about ‘resume daily activities as able’ and I totally took that to mean it was FINE to go outside and dig a hole. Now JerseyChick, before you plotz, I had #4 help. He did the heavy lifting. And now my lovely, lovely Golden Celebration rose is in the ground, watered and mulched and ready to start makin’ me some big, fat, fragrant gold roses. Like this:
See, my father had this philosophy about infirmity when I was growing up. That is, you’re allowed to be sick one day. 24 hours, and that’s it. Anything more is malingering and Unacceptable. He was able to enforce this until I came down with mononucleosis in the 8th grade, and was put on 1 month bed rest. boy that killed him,nearly. Me, looking perfectly fine to his eyes, no spots or raging fever, nothing tangible that he could look at and say “it’s sick” with conviction. Just my 13 year old self,feeling puny (punyness was definitely frowned on) and sipping hot tea for my (apparently but he was unable to confirm beyond my admonitions)sore throat. He could have handled it much better if I was wearing a cast on my leg or something. Every day he’d walk by and grump something about how I didn’t look that sick. Mom protected me tho,by waving the paper with the Dr’s orders on it and putting her foot down. “Backoff Arvle! do you want her sick for the rest of her life?” This was right about the time the correlation between mono and Epstein-Barr was coming out.
I inherited that philosophy. I try hard to rein it in. I think with the rest of the family I do a pretty good job, but with myself I have a very hard time tolerating inactivity, and I do NOT like being told I can’t do anything I want. And what I want, when I can’t, is exactly what I am not supposed to be doing. When I had my hip replaced 3 year ago,I wanted nothing more than to be able to cross my legs and climb stairs. Now, after this most recent procedure, I want to lift and carry heavy things, dig holes,plant stuff. I could go 6 months and never lift a heavy thing and not care one bit. But now, when I’m not really supposed to, that’s what I want to do the most.
And it’s even worse when I’m here at the house by myself, with no friend to say “Sit DOWN.” Or husband to ductape me to a chair. It’s just me, going “I feel ok. That rose isn’t going to plant itself you know. It’s not a huge hole I need, and that bag of manure isn’t that heavy. it’s not like I’m digging a trench or anything. And it’s sandy soil,easy and soft.” and then I imagine Terry’s reaction when he gets home and sees that the rose has been planted. He’ll sigh, call me Arvleina, and tell me he’s not going to listen to any complaining if something hurts.
But at least the rose is planted.
Filed under: Dewicate feewings, Disease and infirmity, friends IRL, home and hearth, In The Garden
After a few days off. I had a D&C Monday and have been feeling wan and precious, plus a friend was here to help and commiserate, which is always lovely. she even rearranged the inside of my fridge…and before you gasp and say something about her temerity…now I can find everything in it! I love that she did that because I am always doing stuff like that and turnabout’s fair play. AND I CAN FIND EVERYTHING. She said “you have 3 half bags of mozzerella cheese. If you kept your fridge organized you wouldn’t have stuff like this” and she’s absolutely right. See, this is the kind of friend I need. One who can say “look here…” and I know where her heart is.
Anyway, we had breakfast yesterday at Waffle House. (Do you know what she does? She gets a waffle, no syrup, and bacon, and makes a sandwich of it. I am totally doing that next time. It looked delicious.) She asked me “how often do you clean your baseboards.” and I answered “I think I’ve done them twice since we moved here.” (We’ve been here 5-1/2 years) and she said “Good. My mother would do them every week and I think that’s excessive.” and I replied “I do them when I notice that they’re covered with crud.” That’s my entire cleaning philosophy. I do it when it bothers me.
I will vacuum the floors once a week or so. With pets comes hair and with boys comes dirt tracked in. Once a week there. I’ll mop when I notice splatters or maybe when someone is coming over. Once a week, at the most, usually less. I’ll clean the toilets and sinks weekly (I’m not completely gross),and the tubs less often but at least 2 or 3 times a month. I mean…I don’t HATE cleaning, but it’s not my favorite. I’d rather be
playing solitaire on the computer learning how to use my new camera and editing software or working in the yard.
I got a new rose to plant. I love me some roses, and my favorite are the David Austin variety. I ordered it a week ago, with a request that they go ahead and ship it because even though we are technically Zone 8 we are closer to a zone 9 due to the coastal influence, and they didn’t say “oh no! we can’t do that! We never ship to Georgia until February!” because there’s Georgia Athens/Atlanta mountain foothills which needs February, and there’s Deep South Statesboro flat, coastal which is nearly a completely different climate. And I wanted my rose. The customer service person wrote right backand said “Sure thing!” and less than a week later, here it is, in a bucket out back, waiting to be planted this afternoon! (with #4 digging the hole for me, as D&C preciousness will not permit heavy lifting on part).
I love to plant a rose, you have what looks like a bundle of green sticks with a cluster of brown roots, plain and dull and not very attractive. Stick it in the ground with some manure and love, water it good and in a couple of months it turns into something that produces lovely, fragrant flowers for years and years. The David Austin roses are particularly satisfying,as they tend to be extremely healthy and generous bloomers. *AND* they don’t look like your hybrid florist roses. I have several, and I highly recommend them, particularly if you like roses that smell amazing.
What do you like to plant?
What defines faith better that a gardener in early Spring? You plow up the dirt and drop in a tiny seed, the whole time in your head dances pictures of lush greenery and baskets of fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables. You just KNOW those lovely little tomato plants are going to produce so much you’ll have stuff to give to neighbors, and the lovely vines of cucumbers crawling up the fence will give enough to have a crisp cool salad every day.
Reality, not so much. The tomatoes are…feeble at best. Those lovely raised beds, the same ones I compost every fall and fertilize every 3 months have given me a grand total of 3 tomatoes. Small ones. Yes, they tasted better than the grocery store, but c’mon…6 plants? 3 tomatoes? When there’s a fantastic produce market with locally grown largess right there kitty-corner across from the Progressive Primitive Baptist Church (worthy of another post, the name of that church is) one begins to wonder if it’s worth the effort. The only thing really growing well are the peppers and the herbs. SO…
I’ve become a realist. I should grow herbs. Fresh herbs are hard to find, particularly in quantity. I have some already, the basics of oregano, thyme, rosemary and parsley. Basil, tarragon and dill would not go unloved. Sage is nice, too. Therefore a decision, based in reality and not optimism, has been reached. The tomatoes are leaving. Getting ripped out and thrown away. Not in the compost because tomato plants are VERY high in nicotine and that is not healthy for a compost heap. The bed they currently live in will get churned up and planted in tarragon (a lovely perennial with pretty yellow flowers) and dill (I’ve never had too much dill. Love the dill) for both green and seed.
The cucumbers are on probation. The plants are lovely and green, lush and growing everywhere. They are volunteer plants, coming up from a bit that was composted in February. At first I didn’t know if they were cukes or cantalope, but decided they’re lemon cucumbers (fantastic things!!) and FINALLY there appears to be something more than just flowers. If you have never tried a lemon cucumber I highly recommend them, particularly if you live in an area with a short growing season, because they ripen fast. They also grow with great enthusiasm here in the hot Deep South. The hardest part about growing them is knowing when to pick them, because they aren’t like a normal green cuke…so you pick them small. The skin is tough, and they require peeling to eat, but the flesh is sweeter than a green cuke…they are quite wonderful. I had about decided to pull them up beccause all they were doing was bloom bloom like mad but just the male flowers thus no fruits, and there’s quite enough menfolk in my household thank you…I don’t need the plants doing it too…making messes and hogging all the space…hmph. Anyway, it appears they might be making a fruit or two now, but the jury remains out.
So the tide is turning away from the veggies and toward the herbs. At least where tomatoes are concerned. The Kentucky Wonder beans, planted WAAAY late, are coming up and looking healthy. The green peas also WAAAY late, are starting up as well. Thank Goodness we live in a region with a growing season that lasts into December, so planting things in June gets a pass. The school #4 will be going to have a Farmers Market fundraiser every Saturday. They get a booth at the local downtown Farmer’s Market and sell herbs. Perhaps if the ones I plant do well enough I can contribute. That would be nice because the funds go to help pay for the High School kids’ European Tours. Hopefully, if #4 goes to the High School there (as yet undecided but we’re leaning in that direction, given the academic records of the students) he’ll be able to make The Tour and it would be nice to have contributed etc etc…
Anyway, for the annual herbs like dill and basil, I’ll harvest as I can, and freeze it for use in the off season. In the past, 8 basil plants have produced enough for freezing that there is just enough to use until the next summer when it’s ready to harvest again. Frozen herbs are just like fresh only maybe not as pretty, but the flavor is spot on. It’s comfortable and satisfying to open the freezer and have a shelf of gallon bags lined up like happy books, and I can just open one up and break off a handful of something fragrant to throw in the pot.
Thats realism, AND optimism.
Filed under: food, home and hearth, In The Garden, In The Southland, Uncategorized
My mother always had a garden. And she always, ALWAYS grew tomatoes. Lots of them, enough to can for the rest of the year. I love tomato season. When I was a kid, I’d go pick one in the afternoon and make a sandwich. Or sometimes, if she had cherry tomatoes, go out and just eat them like…well…cherries.
The neighborhood we lived in when I was growing up had a local swimming pool. I would walk to it (it was about a mile, half of the walk was down a shady road, the other half through a weedy field, in the blazing sun) about 10 am many mornings (if I was up that early), and stay until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. After messing around there, and the mile walk home, I would be famished. There would be a swing through the garden, to pick a fat ripe tomato. It would find itself sliced thick and laid on a sandwich of Roman Meal bread, a slice of cheap cotto salami (the kind with the peppercorns in it) and a generous slathering of mayonnaise. Sometimes the tomato would be big enough for 2 sandwiches, and since I didn’t want to waste it, I’d have to make 2. If my brother wanted one, he’d have to get his own tomato.
I remember when Terry and I were just married. We’d moved away from Auburn to Tennille, Ga, and were renting a house. I used a shovel to plow up a bit of ground in the backyard, and planted some tomatoes, squash and peppers. For supper now and then, I’d pick a tomato or two, a couple of peppers (cubanelles), and chop them all together with a sweet vidalia onion to make a salad. Add a drizzle of oil and a splash of vinegar, a bit of black pepper…with a grilled chicken breast it made for a delicious summer supper.
Now I have a little garden in the back yard, and my fun involves heirloom tomatoes. They aren’t as big or impressive as the standard Southern Big Boys that people grow for sandwiches, but they’re interesting. I have grown Queen of Prussia (awesome, they produced until late September, longer than any other variety), Mr. Stripey (a yellow with red stripes, lower acid than standard ones) and this year it’s Black Prince- a dark purple one that I have no idea how to tell when it’s ripe or rotten. I always plant Brandywines, they have fantastic flavor even if they’re kind of small, and Sweet 100′s because they’re like little candies to pick and eat when weeding. And, for Terry, a Parks Big Boy to make BLTs.
But the best memory, the finest use of a tomato, is still that big warm one at 2pm, sliced thick with a bit of salami and a slather of mayo. It is the best use of a tomato.