Growing Crispy

After a wet spring and early summer, Evansville has dried up. Despite my watering, my garden is getting crispy.

whole garden in October

It feels like everything is ready for the cold weather to come so it can stop wasting away, go into dormancy, and start fresh next spring. It’s difficult to fight my garden on that.

There’s not too much to eat from my garden. My tomato plants are struggling onward with a few green knobs growing on them. There’s a little basil and a mass of lima beans. Dreaming of my friends’ bright stands of zinnias and sunflowers, I’d planted a couple sections of them but only ended up with a couple spindly pops of color.

a couple tomatoes


Then the other day I glanced out the kitchen window and saw a crazy orange orb suspended at least ten feet above the ground in my neighbor’s tree. It was like an alien egg pod or a giant, mutant butterfly chrysalis. Then I realized it was one of my super overgrown cucumbers. It was pretty impressive. I later saw it had fallen to the ground and had a few small bite marks in it. Apparently the squirrels didn’t find it as delicious as my tomatoes.

alien egg

mutant butterfly

Now that the downtown farmer’s market is over for the year, I’m sadly without local produce. In September, I’d snagged some purple plums that turned into a fantastic fruit platz. I finished my sole bag of local apples today and have squirreled away some winter squashes (But, ha-ha Squirrels, didn’t take a bite out of them first.). I’m sad not to have better access to fresh, local autumnal produce.


Maybe part of my problem is that I need to plant a few more autumn-blooming plants. My toad lilies are happy and beautiful in the face of other plants’ crispy brownness. I’m glad to report that all three varieties have returned. I was afraid I’d lost at least one to the city’s herbicide. They’re much diminished because of it, but they’re there.

toad lily


toad lily

toad lily

I also love the horny seed pods of the moonflower. They’re great at accentuating my garden shed and garden art.


moonflower and art

And today I was surprised by the beauty of the flowers turning to seed pods on my hearty begonias. I’ve never noticed it before, but it’s very wonderful. The flowers slowly stretch and extend and fade from pink to a beautiful green. They’re quite elegant.

begonia flowers


And finally, my good, old cat turned 19! For his birthday, I let Shamoo wander around outside and tried my best to let him stay out for as long as he wanted. It’s pretty dull supervising his outdoor time because he doesn’t do much, so I tried taking so photos. Eventually I made him go back inside, but I gave him some fishy treats as a consolation.

He still seems content with life, although I hate to tell him that the time of coldness will soon be upon us again. He’s moved back into his heated cat bed already.

Garden Update and…SQUIRRELS!

The rain has slowed down and things are getting crispy. My plants have lots of greenery but not too much to show for it. In my vegetable garden, the lima beans are growing like mad. I think there are some beans in there, but it’s really hard to find them in the mass. The cucumbers are also spreading like mad but with few results. They all started out so sweetly, too:


getting bigger

little cuke

lots of green

Meanwhile, it’s been a strange year for tomatoes in my garden. I decided to move them to a new spot, although in my garden there’s not much distance between the old and new spots. This year, my tomatoes have been going badly since the seed starts. The timing was bad and I didn’t get them in a greenhouse for the usual boost. After the transplant to my garden they grew slowly.

The best producing tomato is actually a variety that originated here in Evansville with one of the great Evansville founding families. The variety was contributed to Seed Savers as an exemplary specimen and was chosen from over a thousand new seed varieties as one to highlight in this year’s seed catalog. I thought it was a nice connection, so I got a packet. The tomato clearly knows it is home, because it’s growing and producing very well. It has nice, little, yellow grape tomatoes.

My other tomato plants have not. I got a couple big green-when-ripe tomatoes off one plant earlier this summer. I always enjoy trying new varieties, but unfortunately this one will not be a new favorite. I’ve gotten a couple smaller, pink tomatoes off of a volunteer plant from last year, and that’s been about it.

tomato crop

tomatoes and basil

A couple other plants have green tomatoes on them that are taking forever to ripen. They’re new ones with exotic names that I’ve been curious to taste: Dragon’s Eye, Cosmic Eclipse, and Lucky Tiger.

Dragon's Eye

Yesterday evening, I noticed that one Dragon’s Eye tomato was starting to change color. At last! Soon I would behold the tomato billed as, “Very pretty pink-rose colored with green stripes that turn gold.  They look shiny and almost fake.”

It crossed my mind: should I pick it so it could safely ripen inside? No, I thought. Vine ripened is the best. After all, what could happen?

Someone just the other day had asked me whether the squirrels were messing up my tomatoes. I’d responded that I haven’t really had any problems with them for a long time. So long, in fact, that I’d considered changing the name of my blog from “Squirrels and Tomatoes” to “Raccoons are Sneaky Jerks”.

Well. This noon I went outside to pick some basil for my lunch and I realized that that marginally ripe tomato was gone. Was it hidden by a leaf? NO. Had it fallen onto the ground under the plant? NO. IT WAS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN! Had I dreamed it?

I went back inside and was fixing my lunch when John said, “Hey, there’s a bunny right over here in the lawn! It’s right next to the house.”

“Weird,” I thought. I looked out the window and there was a big, adorable rabbit right next to the house…strangely close to the house. What was that thing it was hopping toward?


I ran out to view the carnage.


I know that bunny didn’t climb up into the tomato cage to pull this down.

Stupid squirrels. [Grumble. Grumble.] It wasn’t even ripe.


garlic pile

Right now I’m attempting to ferment garlic in honey. It is the first use of this year’s garlic from my garden. I read about fermenting it on a gardening blog that I follow and it sounded intriguing. I found the instructions here. The honey takes on some of the garlic flavor. John eats raw garlic medicinally to ward off colds, so this sounds like it will be even better.

There was a whole lot of peeling involved which was time consuming, but the finished product looks really neat in the jar. It’s supposed to be ready in about a month.

lots of peeling

fermenting garlic

One final plant happening to note: I got a bloom from the third and final orchid that I own that I’d never seen bloom before. All three mystery orchids came from plant sales without any indication of what the bloom would be like. All three have been gorgeous. This one is miltassia Dark Star ‘Darth Vader’.

Darth Vader

Up North

John and I are recently returned from an absolutely fantastic, picture perfect vacation with family in Northern Michigan. The weather was stunning, and I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect time with my family. No one was missing, not even my cat.

Above is a series of my nature photos taken during the vacation. Each is labeled with the location, if you’re curious. You can click on any one to get a closer look and a slideshow. We went fishing, we swam in the lake near my family’s cottage, we swam in Lake Michigan, we toured a family-owned sugar bush, we went hiking, we saw an artful garden, we went to Tahquamenon Falls, and we saw other sights.

My cat wasn’t excited about having to share a cottage with children, but he was happy to be on vacation with his people and didn’t mind the road trip.

me and my cat

Less than a week after we left Michigan my aunt died suddenly and unexpectedly. She had the cottage next to ours, and this summer there had been a lot of traffic across the peaceful space between the two cottages. The morning that we left for home, it had struck me how beautiful that little space was and I made a photo of it. I’m thankful for that glimpse of a memory of that time and place.

my aunt's cottage


Hither and Yon

I’m sitting here listening to roofers tear all the shingles off my roof during a heat wave and hoping they don’t do any damage to my garden. So far so good. My garden also needs a drink, but I’ll just get hit in the head with falling debris. Hopefully all the plants can hold out till this evening. It’s the end of a three-month saga of trees and storms and critters.

In the last couple weeks I’ve harvested my beets and carrots. They did much better than I expected and were tasty with a grilled steak dinner. The wild side garden continues to bloom with another fancy coneflower adding itself to the mix. And the caladiums are growing big and colorful and look great against the chartreuse “Sun and Substance” hosta.

It’s green apple season, so I made a batch of apple sauce. I should have gotten twice as many apples. There is only one orchard in town that grows the super tart, early varieties and by the time I decided I wanted more apples I couldn’t catch the grower at any farmer’s market. That makes my two bags of applesauce all the more precious.

Meanwhile, the hydrangeas have faded beautifully, I managed to get one sweet nasturtium bloom, and the blackberries are changing to purple.

We continue to fight the critters. I believe they have been investigating our wounded roof, so we don’t want them around. A few weeks ago we got another raccoon that we released at sunset at the nearby fish and wildlife area. John and I got to enjoy the view as consolation for our ongoing troubles.

Last weekend John and I trekked up to my hometown of Archbold, OH for its grand sesquicentennial celebration. There was a parade and a party in the park and a historical play. It was great fun! John and I drove by the farm where I grew up, and I enjoyed being back in the Northwest Ohio landscape.


While driving through Northwest Ohio, an amazing yard caught my eye.

“Wow, John! Did you see that amazing place?” I said.

“Can you cram any more stuff into one yard?” said my brother-in-law in the car behind us.

Both statements were true.

What a yard!

We were running late for the parade at the time, so we couldn’t stop, but John and I made a detour on the way home so I could get a closer look. A guy was in the driveway grilling out.

“Hmm,” I thought. “How can I casually take a couple pictures. I’m not sure how he’ll feel about strangers gawking at his house.”

John stopped in the street and I hopped out of the car and started casually taking a couple pictures from the sidewalk. Then I heard someone greeting me warmly and telling me I could go inside the garden and walk around.

The woman who lived there had apparently been out front and had seen me. She was very nice, but had to go in to finish making supper, which was just fine with me. I wandered through their great garden in peace.

There were several kinds of bottle trees in styles I hadn’t seen before. And I loved the blue bottles suspended from the real tree on chains. There was also a kind of palm tree made from a 6 ft dead stump with kind of a chandelier on top (unfortunately I didn’t get a good photo of it. Plus there were bowling balls and all kinds of other chotchkies, both handmade and found. It was fantastic!

Click on any photo below for a closer look and a slide show.

RAWR!! It’s a Bobcat! Critters in the Garden.

I’ve gotten behind in my garden postings…or summer is flying ahead of me.

My harvests have moved into the early summer sorts of things. I dug up my garlic a couple weeks ago and planted a variety of beans and cow peas in its place. The seeds are beautiful in their variations. The plants sprang out of the ground with just a little extra water.

I also harvested some carrots.  They haven’t done well for me in the past, so I’d given up on them, but then I got a pack for Christmas and the promise of multi-colored carrots was too much for me. I thought they hadn’t amounted to much, but on closer examination there were a few there. The pinkish-orangey one was particularly tasty.

My own tomatoes are still in the early stages, so I’ve had to get some from the farmer’s market. Still they taste great in a sandwich. Today’s lunch was a fried egg, fresh mozzarella, and tomatoes on locally-made cheddar broccoli bread with an avocado/cilantro sauce.

I followed that with several handfuls of blueberries. I’ve been picking them for the past three weekends. Maybe I’ve got enough in the freezer now to get me through next winter.

Elsewhere around the garden, the hostas are blooming and things are generally looking good. Suddenly my elderly cat Shamoo has (for some reason) gotten it into his head that he needs to go outside and walk around, not just observe from a perch in the back door. Someone has to stay with him because, let’s face it, he has no survival skills. He’s happy, though.

And speaking of critters, we’ve had even more in our live traps. We’ve been concerned that they have a renewed interest in possibly living in our house, so we’ve been motivated to move them along. Unfortunately that has included a whole adorable family of raccoons.

I found an old, beat-up marble in my garden, so I gave it to my concrete raccoon. I also dried my alum blooms and then spray painted them. I liked the way that they made the concrete raccoon look like he’d been to a wild party. I also like the way the ugly garden gnome behind him looks aggravated and irritated by his presence.

Also sort of related to little critters, I’ve got the coolest plant blooming indoors. It’s an orchid that I picked up at a Master Gardener Plant Sale a couple years ago. It’s name was listed as “Bobcat” from the Wildcat series.

Huh, I wondered. How does this resemble a bobcat?

Now I’ve got my answer and it’s really neat.

The flowers look like they have little cat muzzles at their hearts, complete with rows of white teeth and little cat noses. Every time I walk by it makes me smile.

And in other generally pretty blooms, the garden I started last year at the side of the house is happily blooming with abandon. I’d filled it with plants I knew would spread, so it’s not really a surprise that things over there are kind of wild. There are a couple things (like the black hollyhock that fell over in the wind) that really are too big, but I’ll let it go for a little more before I pull anything out.

The Tastiness Continues and the Critter Count Goes Up

Lots of things are blooming and growing in my garden. I tried alums this year and I like them so much I’ll add more next year. They add some nice sparkle among the other plants. For anyone unaware, they are the globes of purple flowers set on long stems that are in the first two photos in the slide show below.

I’d always resisted them because they were something I always thought was cool when I was 5. I’d look through the seed catalogs my family got in the mail and cut out my favorite plants and alums were always among them. So, I’ve been avoiding them as an adult as being too gimmicky (along with with rainbow ponies and magic talking cats). It turns out that they’re great!

They bloomed along with plenty of other things including the Asian greens that we couldn’t eat fast enough (yellow flowers below) and hydrangeas everywhere including my pink one and my neighbor’s blue ones. My cone flowers out front are blooming. The cilantro grew into a forest before I cut it to turn it into cilantro pesto. And the garlic has grown scapes. They are beautiful when cut.

I also added some new garden art which is an original painting by Billy Hedel that I found in the alley behind his gallery one day. It’s not a spot I frequent, so I guess it was meant to be. I confirmed that the art was really available for the taking. It goes great with my yellow wall.


We’ve had many recent meals that celebrated produce from my garden and from nearby farms. They’ve included tuna with black garlic sauce, tomatoes, cilantro and a side of asparagus; strawberry tart; salad with strawberries, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds; and fresh cherries.

While I was photographing my neighbor’s beautiful hydrangeas, I happened to notice…evidence…of critters. We got the trap loaded and in position and caught two possums and a raccoon last week. Blech. It was evening by the time we could transport the raccoon elsewhere, so because of it we did get to see a beautiful sunset over Bluegrass FWA.

And here’s a cute, non-invasive critter for you: Shamoo continues to live out his happy little life with me as his person and John as his staff. He has arthritis and we recently started him on new medication and that may be why he’s been a little perkier as of late.