Songs of Summer


The summer is winding down. It’s a time of corn and tomatoes. There’s still plenty of heat and humidity weighing down the air, but somehow there’s a touch of fall now, too, hovering just above the treetops.

My garden continues to be a green oasis that’s still full of summer goodness. Whether I’m weeding, watering, clipping, or buried in my blackberries, The Garden Song will pop into my head from time to time. It’s a great accompaniment to all garden work.

A few weeks ago, a big group of old friends was in town, and we sang many favorite songs including The Garden Song. I was happy to record it in the version I first learned and have sung many, many times at Patchwork Central.

The Garden Song

 

A friend named Randy Pease adds another great song to the soundtrack of late summer.

This is usually the time of year when John and I look at each other and realize that if we don’t get to an Evansville Otters baseball game soon, they’ll be over for the year, so we rearrange our schedules and go.

The Otters are part of the Frontier League and play at Bosse Field, which is the third oldest ballpark in the U.S., behind only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. It turned 100 this year.

It’s a great location, and the games can be interesting, too. You might see odd errors, triple plays, stealing home, or a great performance by someone who is a few games from getting called up to the major leagues. For $5 you can sit 30 feet from the action, and there are goofy crowd participation games on the field or in the stands between each inning.

John and I went to an Otters game last week. We got our burgers, fries, and beer and settled in for the first game of a doubleheader. It was a Wednesday and a school night, so the crowd was thin, with only a couple hundred in attendance. There were a few good plays, but it was a pretty unremarkable game until the bottom of the seventh inning.

The Otters were behind by one.

The sky darkened.

They summoned “all interns to the tarps immediately.”

Rain started to fall.

The Otters were at bat and were two outs away from losing.

Rain fell harder.

Another out.

The rain was falling in sheets, and still the pitcher kept pitching. The interns waited at the tarp. Why not roll it out now?

And then a cheer went up (a much greater cheer than you’d imagine for so small a crowd).

The ball was hit out of the park, and two players crossed home in the pouring rain. The game was over. The Otters won.

I Love This Game

Great Guerrilla Art

Two or three weeks ago, odd items began appearing in an empty lot I pass on my walk to work. A smiling face on a post. A bamboo pole anchored in concrete.

They weren’t just appearing randomly. No. They were appearing on the concrete sculpture pads that had been poured a few years ago for sculptures competing for $25,000 prizes (mentioned previously).

Then things started getting REALLY interesting. The odd post and bits of driftwood coalesced into a full blown sculpture. A wonderful, quirky sculpture that I loved.

A 12

A 13

And then a second full sculpture appeared.

B 11

B 07

And the next time I passed by, the parts had moved around and multiplied.

B 19

And looked amazing against the sky.

B 17

And a third sculpture appeared.

C 01

And rearranged itself within a few hours.

C 56

I heard through the grapevine that people were asking the organizer of the big fancy sculpture competition if she knew who was making these sculptures.

But she had no idea.

Someone asked the Arts Council if they knew who was making the sculptures, but no one there knew, either.

I went out to take photos because they’re awesome and because I wanted to make note of their construction. (You know, something like this would look FANTASTIC in my garden!)

I looked further down the block where I knew another sculpture pad is located, and there was another fun sculpture. This one had been augmented by the cicadas.

D 26

And on the way home there was another sculpture. It photographed beautifully.

E 02

A few days later, another sculpture popped up by sculpture #3.

F 01

F 02

F 05

And then there was only one sculpture pad left.

A concrete barrel appeared.

It sat alone for two days.

It wasn’t very interesting.

And then a new sculpture blossomed from it.

G 01

With a note.

G 03

 

Yikes! I’ve been busy…

…And I haven’t been busy gardening (mostly).

I was out of town for work, then in town for several intense weeks of work, then a weekend of many friends and little sleep. In between all of that, I dashed around my garden doing some maintenance but mostly working on my new painting project.

You’ll hopefully see more of that project soon.

My life right now feel like this section of the garden: a bit of an explosion in all directions. It’s more than a little unruly.

Green blob

A lot has happened in the last month in my garden (as always, click on any photo for a larger view and a slide show)…

My harvests have been mixed this summer. I didn’t get into the berry bush often to pick berries, so the birds got most of them. My corn set ears but the kernels didn’t fill in well. And the tomatoes took a long, long time to get ripe. I’m not fond of many of my selections this year (choosing seeds is an adventure!), and the one variety that I really do like is getting devoured by baby grasshoppers. They’re apparently the squirrels of the insect world: taking a few bites from each fruit and leaving the rest.

bug bitesOn the plus side, my basil is finally taking off, the okra is doing well, and I have finally discovered the perfect melon for my space. It’s a little cantaloupe that’s the size of a baseball yet is packed with sweet melon goodness. I’ll definitely grow more.

this melon is greatAnd I had a fun adventure in my new garden out front. Soon after planting it, I noticed two tiny squash plants sprout. Now, I’ve given up on squash in my main garden because the squash vine borers have killed them reliably every time before they can fruit.

“Maybe my secret squashes will outsmart the borers!” I thought. “They won’t think to look for squashes out here!”

But what kind of squash would these become? Where had the seeds come from? I’d mulched the bed using leaves from our yard, and there’s a compost bin in the yard, but no seeds should have escaped.

I waited.

squash plants growing

Tiny squashes formed. Would they be tasty?

tiny squash

I waited (and saw a squash vine borer fly by one morning–drat!).

The vines became monstrous. My friend Jane reminded me that the only viney things that ever grow as volunteers are the stuff you don’t want to eat.

bigger vines

And then the answer was revealed:

baby pumpkin

Right…those baby pumpkins that the squirrels stole from me last fall. I’d discovered the squashes’ skeletons among the leaves months later…the leaves that I used as mulch.

Stupid squirrels.

The insects were having a wonderful time in all the squash blossoms, so I was a little sorry to kill the plants. But once I knew that it wasn’t going to be a particularly tasty variety, I decided I’d better sacrifice it before it annihilated all the plants I’d actually planted there.

bee in the blossomsThough I saved the few mini pumpkins that there were to eat for supper.

mini pumpkin

And finally, the caladium are particularly happy this year and add some nice color to my turning-to-late-summer garden. They make great photos:

Torrents in Summer

Finally it has stopped raining and maybe I can get further into my garden tomorrow for a little maintenance. We’ve had over 12″ of rain in the last 4 weeks. I’ve got gangly, overgrown masses of tomatoes in one place and dead tomato plants in another. I’ve got vines and weedy plants growing unchecked. I’ve got questionable corn and kohlrabi that never really formed good bulbs. I’ve got great sunflowers that are crowding my peppers. I jumped into my kinda-still-damp garden as soon as I got home from my art residency, so I’ve just barely gotten my garlic harvested and my beans planted.

That’s the definition of summer in my garden.

TOMATOES!

cornsplosion

perennials

Meanwhile here are a bunch of bees and flower blooms (click on any photo to enlarge it)…

And other things from around my garden…

My favorite fruits are ripening so fast I can’t keep up. I picked almost 50 pounds of blueberries a couple weekends ago. I’ve got a giant bag of ripening plums to cut and freeze. And I haven’t even gotten to the peaches yet.

My big disappointment was buying two bags of what I thought were lodi apples to turn into sauce. They weren’t. All I got was some sad non-sauce. Boo.

clearly these were not lodi

And then there’s my new ugly raccoon art object from my friend Jane. It’s truly hideous. Maybe hideous enough to scare actual raccoons away.

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I put it in the kitchen next to the adorable raccoons I was given by other friends last summer. Maybe enough raccoon talismans and the real raccoons will stay away…

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Or maybe not…

BUSTED!

 

 

Happy Trails to Me

I’m recently back home after a two week art residency spent working with seniors in Granville, Ohio with funding from the Ohio Arts Council and its Artful Aging Ohio program. You can see more about it on my artist website.

On most days, I was finished teaching by mid afternoon. What to do then? I challenged myself to find interesting places to visit and to explore the area. I found lots of nice places to walk outdoors, and that’s what I enjoyed most. It was a beautiful part of the country, and it was a beautiful time of year to be visiting (though the weather was a little too warm for me).

Granville, itself, was a beautiful town. There was so much beautiful landscaping everywhere. One nice spot was the Robbins Hunter Museum. I particularly liked the plant shown flowering below. It’s taken me a while, but I finally identified it: a calycanthus.

Calycanthus

I spent one afternoon walking around Inniswood Metro Park and enjoyed the gardens there. (Remember, you can click on any of the photos in the following galleries to get a bigger image.)

On a couple other afternoons/evenings I walked around the Dawes Arboretum. I didn’t discover it until my second week or I would have spent even more time there. Of course there were some amazing trees, but there were also plenty of wonderful paths through a variety of gardens and ecosystems. The following photo gallery gives a hint at it all, but there was so much more. There were so many birds singing and flitting around that I wished I had my binoculars. I also discovered how much insects love common milkweed and how sweetly it smells.

I was near my alma mater, Kenyon College, so I also spent one afternoon/evening visiting it. Again, I wished I hadn’t waited until the second week to do so. Even though it was a 45 minute drive, I would have gone back a second time.

I began my visit in one of my favorite places: the Kokosing Gap Trail. I love the old railway bridge across the river and the views of the countryside. At the bridge, I was surprised to find that there is now a whole system of hiking trails around the campus and I had a great time exploring some of them. I could have easily spent another evening or two exploring more.

After enjoying the wooded River Trail, I went up to campus and did a quick walk around to see the old buildings and new construction. Unfortunately, since it was an evening in the summer everything was closed and no one was around. Before I left, I stopped at the Brown Family Environmental Center to see the gardens there and to try a few more trails. I’m glad the late-setting sun allowed me extra time to explore.

I’d never realized how many Native American earthworks were in the area. There are a large number in Newark, near Granville. I drove by them often as I traveled from place to place for my residency. They were interesting to explore.

earthworks wall

photogenic tree

My lodging for the two weeks was at the beautiful Orchard House Bed and Breakfast. I enjoyed my stay and appreciated the scenic, rural location. I enjoyed going to sleep while watching lightning bugs glitter in the treetops outside my window. I enjoyed watching the swallows, wrens, chickadees, cardinals, chipmunks, and pet cat every morning from the breakfast room. The new owners Dean and Jody are committed to local foods, so my breakfasts ranged from deliciously simple (as in: eggs from the owners’ chickens, local sausage from free range hogs, herbs from the owners’ garden, locally baked bread, and locally roasted coffee purchased directly from Central American farmers by the coffee shop owner) to berry-filled bread pudding, quiche, sausage and sweet potato scramble, and cinnamon roll pancakes. I even got to watch the sun set on the summer solstice while sitting next to a campfire near grazing goats, sheep, a llama, chickens, and peacocks.

 

The Season’s Feast Begins

I have a very small garden, but it can still pump out way more produce than John and I can possibly eat. Already this summer I’ve treated my friends to salad after salad at potlucks and gatherings. I’ve made pots and pots of spring soup with sausage, cream, and any kind of green that was growing in excess. And yet the arugula, cilantro, and greens are still growing so fast they’re going to seed. The garlic is almost ready and the first tomatoes aren’t far off.

Meanwhile, my favorite fruits will be coming into season in quick succession. Cherries are ripe now, blueberries are imminent, and then there will be lodi apples and peaches. I’ll be traveling for the next couple weeks, so I’m worried I won’t be able to get enough of the good stuff stored up in my freezer for the winter! There is so much to harvest, so much to cook, and so much to eat!

cherries so fresh they haven't lost their shine

strawberry cherry pie

I’ve created a new piece of garden art. It’s inspired by some that I’ve seen online. I love the piles of kitsch and glitter. I realized that I could make my own and decided to put it in a corner of the garden where it can add color all year long. It’s made from odds and ends, a metal vegetable steamer, Mardi Gras beads, rally bells from an Evansville Otters baseball game, and a suet feeder that the woodpeckers didn’t seem to like.

new garden art

I’ve discovered some tiny leaves unfurling from the fig trees that I thought were dead, and that the tunnel of blackberry leaves is inviting.

tiny fig

green blackberry tunnel

My cat has enjoyed watching it all and even got to feel the earth under his paws when he “escaped” for some supervised time in the great big outdoors.

Shamoo enjoying the view

Shamoo outdoors

And I’ve begun on a new and ambitious garden art piece that will probably take me all summer. Can you see what’s different in the photo below?

the new color

I’ve been eyeing the back yard for a few years and wondering what additional art I could add. I thought perhaps a mural on the little shed, but I like the way its dark brown is a nice canvas on which to showcase the plants. Finally I realized that I’ve been pretending that the ugly grey of the metal fence doesn’t exist. I knew it would be perfect for some art. Phase one is to paint it all yellow (after sanding and priming–argh!). Phase two will be to add some more colors. I love it already!

yellow wall

paint spatter on the hostas

My newest plants are blooming at the front of the house. I’m enjoying seeing them for the first time. As an added bonus, they should do a good job attracting butterflies, which is the theme for the summer at Patchwork where I work.

There is yarrow:

yarrow

Coneflower:

coneflower "Julia"

Veronica:

Veronica

And coreopsis:

coreopsis

And that’s not all! Here’s just a sampling of the other things happening around my garden in the last couple weeks:

 

 

Welcome to the AMAZING WALL OF SCENT

It’s a wonderful time of year for my garden. The honeysuckle that forms a green fence around the garden is in full bloom and the scent is amazing. It’s a massive, enchanting scent. I’ll miss it when the blossoms are over.

honeysuckle wall

new honeysuckle bloom

yellowed honeysuckle bloom

The honeysuckle in the front looks stunning, but doesn’t smell at all. Luckily for it, the scent in the back often is strong enough to make its way up front, giving the illusion of scented flowers.

these blooms do not smell

close up

I’ve had the pleasure of hosting a couple groups of friends in my garden in the last week. It’s always fun to get to show it off in person, and I’m grateful for their interest and for the fact that they humor me and all my plant talk. Several people were interested to see my garden but weren’t able to come in person, so here’s a virtual garden tour.

Looking East

looking east

Looking West

looking west

Looking North

looking north

The Vegetable Garden

vegetables

The New Garden

just starting out

And here’s a new garden space that I just planted. It looks pretty sparse, but the plants should all spread. I’m interested to see how it develops and which plants will thrive. Since it’s in an exposed area at the front of the house, I was concerned that the neighbors would give me a hard time for spending time and money on silly plants, but everyone I talked to was nice, interested in what I was doing, and adding their own two cents. So, it was a great get-to-know-your-neighbor event.

One of my big accomplishments for the year is getting a black iris bloom. My friend and neighbor Alan has a nice little patch of them in his garden. I transferred one of them to my garden 5-6 years ago, but no bloom. So I transferred a second one in case the first had died, but no bloom. But finally this year…

black iris

In other news of the extraordinary, early one morning I awoke to birds’ alarm calls and looked outside to see a hawk perched on the alley streetlight while holding a dying dove. It was pretty interesting. The hawk sat there for a while before flying away.

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And an interesting bird skull I discovered while mulching the new garden in the front…

bird skull

And a sampling of other photos from around my garden (remember, click any one for a slide show with captions):