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.

Home

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.

Fields of Green

I’m about to be overrun with garden produce! Yes, this produce will be measured by the cup-full and not the bushel, but who’s counting when you can’t eat it fast enough.

Here’s my little lettuce field.

the field

I love all the variations of green and all the variations in flavor. Can you identify the produce? Match the following photos with the plants:

A. Tatsoi

B. Salad Mix

C. Carrots

D. Cilantro

E. Asian Greens Mix

F. Mache

G. Arugula

H. Beets

 

1. 

P1400245

2.

P1400328

 

3.

P1400277

4.

P1400375

5.

P1400309

6.

P1400265

7.

P1400306

8.

P1400324

 

Answers…

 

1 G, 2 B, 3 F, 4 E, 5 C, 6 A, 7 H, 8 D

Up Late with the Raccoons

I’m awake and it’s late. I’m waiting for them to come back with their little squeaks to each other. I’ll be laying in bed half asleep and hear them with my semi-conscious mind and then I can’t sleep. They’re coming to rip up my plants. They’re raccoons.

They invaded last summer when it got really dry. The condensation exhaust pipe from our air conditioner provided them with some water.  I’d be willing to live and let live, except they didn’t. They ripped up my plants so much that some plants are still recovering.

Then a week or so ago I saw the evidence again. The birdbath on the ground full of greenery had been pawed through and the turtle toppled from all the rooting around, garden markers bent in odd directions, and a few plants trampled:

I’ve tried cayenne pepper. I’ve tried fox and coyote urine granules. I’ve tried guard flamingos. This year I’m trying country music and a dog dish for them to drink from. Nothing seems to keep them from wrecking things. It’s pretty frustrating.

On the plus side, I found a great plan B for the next time I can’t get enough blackberries from Patchwork. I decided that it just wouldn’t be right not to have blackberries in my freezer, so I followed someone’s recommendation and went to Fairview Orchard near Wadesville.

Wow!

Their blackberries were as big as my thumb! And tasty too!

My garden is feeling the heat and is experiencing its annual contraction. It seems like the perennials aren’t as vibrant as they were in June (even factoring out the racoons).

I am getting some pretty produce from the vegetable garden, though. I enjoy the beauty of things I grew myself like these:

With food looking this good, it was a pleasure to fix something nice last weekend. I cut up the multi-colored carrots from my garden, summer squash from Patchwork, two varieties beets from my garden and Patchwork, and onions then roasted it all with rosemary from my garden.

That turned out well but was completely overshadowed by the tasty pasta bake I made up. I took a box of pasta and cooked it, added it to a baking dish, then covered it in:

  • several fresh tomatoes from the farmers market chopped
  • sausage from the River City Food Co-op
  • about 5 cloves of garlic from my garden, onions, and summer squash from Patchwork that were all sauteed with the sausage
  • lots of fresh basil from my garden
  • homemade ricotta cheese that I’d made earlier that day
  • 2 cans of tomato sauce
  • extra shredded Italian cheese on top of it all

We baked it for about 20 minutes until it looked done and it was amazing. The ricotta was particularly wonderful along with all the other freshness. Here it all is while being prepared…

And there are other small bits of beauty in my garden. There are more of the photogenic cucumber curls…

And a little gift from the garden to me. A fern that appeared all on its own growing on the side of one of the bricks piled in my yard.

Garden Art: the Postscript

I finished one final artful addition to my garden this weekend. Again inspired by the art in Patchwork’s garden, I decided to add some color to my blackberry trellis. It adds a little pop to the vegetable garden. I’m curious what it will be like during the fall and winter when there won’t be so much color everywhere.

If any of you have seen the color options John and I have been considering for our office, the colors on the trellis should look familiar.

As I’ve spent many hours quietly working on all of this garden art, I’ve gotten to know much more of the lives of the birds in my back yard.  About a month ago when I started working on my birdbath mosaic, I realized that there was a cardinal’s nest up in a mass of dead vines near that corner of the yard. The mother and father cardinal would periodically zip in to feed the two baby birds or sit and guard the nest. It was fun knowing the secret life in the corner of my garden.

Then tragedy struck. It was about a week later and I was out working on the mosaics when there was an explosion of shrieking and tweeting all around the nest. I looked over and saw a squirrel up in the tree by the nest and the two parent cardinals flying around it ferociously. The drama continued and I heard the fast cheeping of a baby close to the ground. I tried to see what was happening, but when I went to look through the honeysuckle to the yard next door, the mother cardinal flew at my face.

One of the babies had fallen out of the nest/been attacked by a squirrel and was so young it could barely fly. The cardinal parents split up. The father stayed with the baby in the nest while the mother desperately chirped to the fallen baby to try to fly to a perch further from the ground. I thought for sure that the neighbor’s cat Nala was going to have an easy kill, but somehow by nightfall the baby bird had flown in short bursts across my yard and into my other neighbor’s.

Since then, I’ve listened for the baby’s fast and excited chirps to its parents for food and from those sounds I’ve deduced that the little bird continues to thrive. It’s getting big by now, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a girl.

The other baby stayed in the nest with the father cardinal, but then the nest went silent. I thought for a little that the baby might also have left the nest to move across the yard, but I haven’t seen it, so I think maybe the squirrel came back for dinner. The squirrels have been much more active lately and I wouldn’t put it past them.

Meanwhile, I’ve fed a family of downy woodpeckers all summer. They’re fun to see on the suet. Last week I had a wren and I thought I heard the red bellied woodpeckers again after starlings forced them out of their nest this spring. This weekend a brown thrasher was back. I haven’t seen them since early spring.

Meanwhile this is happening:

And what tasty food am I making? I harvested some beets from my garden:

And sauteed them plus some red beets and summer squash from Patchwork’s garden plus some onions. Then I added all that to some pasta and pesto that I’d frozen from last year. It was tasty and the beets gave the pasta a pleasant and unique pink glow.

Tastes Like Summer

My garden’s in a slow spot right now. My beans, kohlrabi, carrots, beats, basil, cilantro, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes are all growing fine but there’s not much promise of produce any time soon.  The blackberries are juuuust about ripe, but the birds and squirrels are already helping themselves.

Lucky for me I’ve got access to other gardens where plenty of things are ready to eat. After seeing several friends’ Facebook posts that they were picking blueberries last weekend, I decided to find more myself–and I was successful!

Patchwork’s garden is also growing well, so on Saturday I ventured over to pick a few things including red beets, purple beans, sage, and blackberries. They all look so good together…

I also picked some summer squash at Patchwork. I’m surprised, but last summer won me over on summer squash. Before then I wouldn’t particularly have chosen to eat it, but then John and I shared a CSA share with Jane Vickers. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many vegetables in my life.

It started out fine. Each week it was so exciting to pull open our box of vegetables to see what treats had been growing for us. I felt pretty in-tune with the seasonality of the particular produce as the lettuces transitioned to potatoes and summer squash that then changed to melons and winter squashes. But, by the end of the summer we all started thinking, “Please, please make the vegetables stop!” But then yet another box of vegetables would arrive for us.

Summer squash featured heavily into the blessings and curses of the CSA share. Not having had a fondness for it, I didn’t really have any recipes ready for it. Then we got squash after squash after squash. By the time they disappeared from our weekly CSA share, we had gotten plenty creative with it. A lot of ideas came from Simply in Season. I highly recommend the cookbook, by the way. With all the produce during the Summer of the CSA, my copy got quite the workout.

This year we opted not to be part of a CSA, but I miss the summer squash–just a little. I’m glad I can pick a couple over at Patchwork. They’re great sauteed with onions and added to pesto and pasta.

John and I have been making other tasty things recently. On the Fourth of July we grilled Honey Glazed Chicken, Peach, Sweet Potato, and Onion skewers. They were incredibly good. We added a bottle of some Argentinian white wine and it was perfect.

Last night we grilled burgers and brats. The burgers were dressed with some of the last of my lettuce, local tomatoes, and some fresh mozzarella. We also had roasted new potatoes from the River City Food Co-op and some of the beans from Patchwork’s garden. For dessert? Homemade caramel and toasted almond ice cream with blueberries!