Thursday, May 29, 2008

Weekend Update

So, I've been scurrying around at work trying to finish up a few things to hand along before I take off for a long weekend. I'll be up in Maine in Acadia Nat'l Park, hiking with my buddy Chiquitita until Tuesday, so you won't hear from me until Wednesday at least. The "Duchess of 78A" has kindly offered to water my plants while I'm away, and Lunabelle's and Stella's Mom has offered to feed and water George. (thank you everyone!)

GardenPunks - Thank you again for your good wishes - I'm remaining optimistic about motorists' attitudes. And yes, I'm afraid my commute by bike is indeed 14.2 miles each way. Oh well. I have two bike shops and several snippets of bike path along the way. And like I said, killing two birds with one stone: cardio + less gasoline purchases in my budget and my footprint.

Thanks to everyone who's been commenting - more updates (and probably lots of photos from the hikes) to follow next week (or, more realistically, next weekend). Crossing my fingers for decent weather...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mad dogs and Englishmen...

So that was me, this weekend - I slept in as many mornings as I could. Why? Because weekends are for resting. And then heading out in the hottest part of the day to first walk your bike up a big , steep hill, so as to reach the garden on the other side of said hill, and hoe and dig in the garden during the hottest possible part of the day.

I must be mad...

All this while keeping an eye out for sneaky wood ticks. Ick! Unfortunately, ticks seem to be the one negative point to my otherwise very nice community garden. *shudders* I do hate ticks, I really do.

Still, it was a good weekend in the garden. I hauled some rocks of the right size into the middle of two of the beds, so that I could stand in the middle of the raised bed and weed or thin any plantings easily within reach, without losing as much growing space as I'd lose if I'd put a plank down instead. Still have to get going on the top part of the fence - our anti-woodchuck measures.

Asian seed varieties...

As recommended by a friend: we were talking about growing Asian varieties of vegetables, and I hadn't found any yet in my local Asian grocery markets, so she referred me to Kitazawa Seed company - looks good so far, and I've ordered a catalog. Hooray! Now, if I could just find someplace that offers that variety of spinach (?) that I used to eat in China, it was called 空心菜 "kong xin cai" or "hollow hearted vegetable" - it resembled spinach, but was long and tendrilly like pea shoots (also yummy in season) and I had it with garlic all the time.

I had found a few places that sold seeds, but they are in Canada, and bear the warning that apparently this member of the Convolvulus family (!), Ipomoea aquatica, although I know it's edible!, is considered a noxious, invasive species, and apparently is generally banned from importation without a license from the USDA. I know I've seen it at the Asian grocery markets, so I wondered what was going on.

Then I met another of my community garden neighbors, and she is in fact growing a bunch of asian varieties of veggies (yay!), as well as originally hailing from China herself. So, she explained that kongxincai is really difficult to grow from a seed anyway, and that I should do as she's doing, and grow it from a cutting, having first - not unlike bamboo - cultivated its roots in some water first. Also, it will need a lot of water (it prefers very wet soil - after all, it is 'water spinach'). So, clearly this is going to be a little while before I can grow I haven't seen any at the market recently. Patience, patience...

Oh well. For the moment I'll have to settle for making 土豆丝 tudousi - peppery julienned potatoes - with my new slicer gadget from Kotobukiya market.

Unexpected Hazards of Bike Commuting

This was not one of the perils I expected to encounter while commuting by bike.

When I decided to get launched back on the bike-commute thing, I had been more concerned with the relatively hostile mood of morning commuter motorists (a significant factor here in Mass.), as well as the condition of the roads along the way (major potholes as well as nifty storm-drains that aren't always 'grid' patterned but are instead horizontal slots - sometimes running in the direction of travel).

I was hoping to use more of the bike paths, but my route runs cross-wise to the general direction of most of the bike paths near me. Still, I have a couple routes chosen that at least use more 'secondary' or less-trafficked roads, with some shade, and it's working out alright. So far.

This morning though...
So, I'm riding along, and encounter two bumblebees having some kind of dogfight - right at eye-level for me, and I couldn't just go around: cars beside me, naturally.

What else to do?
and hope they don't end up *thwacking* down the back of my shirt, just to add to my difficulties.

I escaped unscathed, this time.
As one friend put it, can you imagine trying to explain this one at the emergency room?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

one little, two little, three little goslings...

Not that this has anything to do with gardening...well, no: I was walking in Boston's Fenway Community Gardens - and saw these guys with their veritable herd (not just a gaggle, a herd, okay?) of other goslings being minded by two obvious babysitters (since they couldn't *all* be from one set of parents).

These guys were wandering around, eating and making little funny wheezy whistly noises, and then abruptly all started crossing the dirt road. Then these three fools decided abruptly to sit down and groom. Clearly they weren't afraid of being shooed away or anything. They were cute, and I had to throw the photos up online.

radish seedlings

radish seedlings, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

Voila! the seedlings I thinned - why waste good seedlings? See the baby radish roots?

Bed #1 seedlings

Bed #1 seedlings, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

Yes, those are my gardening gloves - one pair at least - hung up to air out and rinse the dirt off. I'm so excited the seedlings are coming right up! From left: peas (two rows of sugar snap), then arugula, spinach, lettuce, radish (french breakfast variety), and mesclun greens. I thinned the radish row a little and got some yummy greens from it for dinner, I was so excited! Now I'm hoping that by Monday or so I'll have fresh salad greens.

Bed #2 seedlings

Bed #2 seedlings, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

Finally! Over the past few days, things have sprung up! I am pleased to report that in fact, the package and books don't lie - borage leaves do indeed smell like cucumber. Yummy! Sadly the sage in the center row is just struggling along behind all the others, but I still have hope. Borage on the outside looks strongest, radish rows on the next rows inward are looking health, as are the beet rows (next rows, moving inward).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

And on the eve of Bay State Bike Week,

...with the price of gas not quite $4/gallon, please take a peek at this recent article by the folks over at EcoGeek: 6 Stupidly Simple Steps to Saving Billions of Gallons of Gas
all the more reason to hit the road on a bike. Speaking of which, if you're in the Boston area (or curious about why we're so nuts about our roads) you may want to check out Bicycle Driving.

Mr. Toad: Quick Update

In haste, after a tiring but good weekend in the garden. Mr. Toad actually stayed on, and I found him once again while I was rearranging the garden mini-greenhouse made of storm windows. Apparently he likes my little makeshift stone walls that I've been building for the purpose of thermal mass. I made some extra stone walls, and hopefully he'll stay on and live in my garden! I was also told that you can encourage a toad to take up habitation by taking a cracked old clay pot that you've got (i.e., the crack should serve as a little doorway for him) and turn it upside down and leave it in a corner of your garden. I can always try. We'll see which he prefers: the stone walls or the clay pot!

Update: my co-workers and I have decided that if he stays, his name shall be Theo. :)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mr. Toad's formal portrait

Here he is, whether he was ready for his close-up or not. Poor thing, he was probably scared, but he took it very well. Afterwards, because I was afraid I would step on him while I was putting things away, I put him inside the little mini-greenhouse: when he made his way out, it would steer him into the corner of my plot rather in the center where he'd been.

Mr. Toad visits the Community Garden

EEEEEEP! I love frogs and toads, and I've missed seeing the tiny ones in particular. So today, as my mother was visiting the garden and I was digging up some of the many stray raspberry (or blackberry?) canes for her to take home, suddenly she says "Oh No! Be careful! A little hop toad! Right there!"
This is the part where I turn into an instant five-year-old, I love toads, and I was so excited.
So, naturally, this little update superseded any other updates I ought to be posting to this blog! but I can't help it.

Here is Mr. Toad in his natural element - and in scale. I managed to get a couple close-up shots of him (see next 'post'). Tiny little guy, I was afraid as I was cleaning up for the day I'd step on him, and he's a good little guy to have in your garden - some people say they're good luck, but they're just plain good: they eat bugs and beetles!!! So he's welcome in my garden patch any time.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Busy week...

It will probably be Saturday Tuesday before I'm able to catch up on posting. I've been very busy with work deadlines and other commitments this week. Sorry, and thanks to everyone who's been reading and commenting. I'll re-emerge soon!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Herb/rock garden, so far

Herb/rock garden, so far, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

So this was the trouble I got up to today. After breakfast with another gardening pal, we enabled each other at one of the local gardening stores. ("Hm, I thought it'd be nice to stop at the nursery today. Are you up for that?" "Oh please. Twist my arm." "Cool!") They had lots of spring perennials and herbs out, so in we went, or rather out, as most of their goods are outside in the rain.

I brought home two tri-color sages, a pineapple mint, an orange mint, an (ornamental, 'Dyers') chamomile, a dill ('fernleaf'), a thyme ('pink chintz'), rosemary ('pink flowering'), and an oriental poppy (Papaver orientale 'turkenlouis'). I'm saving room for some promised gift-strawberries, spearmint and I don't know what else. (Thanks mum! ) I was also warned by my mother on the phone that that poppy wants to be planted where I intend to keep it, as they don't take well to transplanting. Hm, good thing I already want to keep it at the back, stopping the tide of invading raspberry canes...

I also bought a set of red onions (*sigh* - 110 days to harvest? ) and a couple garlic shoots. While I was planting those (onino and garlic) in a separate bed, I found a number of leftover/orphaned potatoes from the gardener of several years ago (the plot had remained unworked for a couple years, apparently). They were sprouting, so I organized a row for them and made the onions, garlic and potatoes all neighbors. I have a faint feeling that I'm breaking some kind of companion planting rule there, but... well the potatoes were free, so if they fail, I won't cry about it. It's an experiment.

The Progress of the Rake

The Progress of the Rake, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

...but of course, as time passed, the Rake got a little tipsy, and lived up to his name. Nevertheless, in spite of the rain, a good time was had by all at the Hoedown. In fact, they were off-duty today, as I only had to use the trowel and the "dutch cultivator' (?) - a hand-hoe type tool, in order to put my new acquisitions into their new beds. The rain was pretty gentle today, instead of the pelting stuff we got the other day, so the going was easy. Picture of the new (and as yet unfinished) herb garden/rock garden to follow.

Hoe, Rake, and Fork

Hoe, Rake, and Fork, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

This is my 'formal' entry photo for the May Dreams Gardens May Hoedown - my hoe and her escorts, the Fork and the Rake, were behaving themselves. For the moment...but as with all hoedowns, things tend to get a little the worse for wear as time passes...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Now THAT is BRASS... my mother would say.

Or maybe I should entitle this post "Oh no, not another learning experience!"

So, I was perusing my flickr site, looking over my stats, and seeing what interesting sites had referred to my photos. Sometimes it's interesting: one week the municipal government of the city of Saltillo, Mexico referred to me. Another day it was a Laotian website. Always in the past, my photos have *not* appeared on any other site, they have merely been linked or referred. Today was interesting.

My post talking about my garden fork and new shovel, along with a photo of same, wasn't just linked to - it was copied wholesale. As far as I can tell, the only reason the photo was credited (oddly enough) was that the whole post was copied - meaning, if I hadn't posted the photo directly from flickr as a "blog this" function, thereby automatically putting a footer at the bottom with a link to my flickr identity, I wouldn't have been credited at all. I checked their "blog" and found that there were a number of other obviously-lifted personal blog posts as well. There is no human being, seemingly, behind this commercial blog - no email contact, no profile, nor even a pretend author that is backed by, say, the marketing department.

While I like the tool, I am distinctly annoyed that they didn't take five minutes to post a comment and make an attempt to contact me and say "hey, it was nice of you to say good things about our tools. Mind if we re-print over on our blog?"
Sadly for them, and by them I mean the Fiskars company, it appears they are either using software that searches for a keyword and autocompiles their "blog posts" and I guess they don't think it's necessary to ask, or they don't care if they offend the very people who are saying "gee, what a good product." Which, I'm now thinking, can work both ways.

I'm curious to see if this post, which is not so glowing, will shortly be put up on their little marketing blog. I have learned two take-home lessons from this experience: one, it looks like it's worth it to pay the $4.95 / month for that CopyScape 'sentry' service, and anyway I don't recall having been hired as a copywriter for their company, so I don't feel obligated to keep my mouth shut. Two, in future I won't be mentioning any commercial or brand names. Suddenly I see why people use pseudonyms for corporations on their blogposts. I should have realized! >< *kicks self* In the end, I decided to comfort myself with a comment on "their post" (actually mine, which - *ahem* now neatly has a permalink [ ] to THEIR BLOG ) as the only means of communicating my annoyance. I may well be talking to myself, or the ether. But at least I've made my token objection. After I re-read and previewed my comment, I clicked the "post" button, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the message that I have copied and pasted below for your viewing pleasure. As for me, I'm now speechless.

This test is used to prevent automated robots from posting comments.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bay State Bike Week

In other states, it's a month, but here in the Bay State, it's only a week, May 12 - 18. Still, in the interest of supporting the idea that people should spend more time on a bike or at least not in a car, because I miss bicycling to work, and just generally voting with my feet; I plan on commuting by bike at least a few days per week throughout the warm months here. Thanks to Katie for motivating me to get involved in my state and be counted.

I also "registered" as an individual participant in Bay State Bike Week, after which the website assured me that they'd be in touch soon. I'm really not sure what they think they're going to be in touch with me about - I know my way to work, I know how to ride a bike, I already spent 7 years commuting by bike (and not owning a car during that time), I know what route I'll be taking, and I'm even going to go out of my way to use as many portions of bike-trail (such as there are) as possible, in order to reduce my risk of traffic-induced injury. Not to mention those post-winter frost-heave induced canyons we blithely call "potholes" - they're often a foot deep. Wheee!

Still, if any of you are local to me and want to register as a "buddy" - regardless of whether we really are going to commute together, it would be great to increase the sheer visibility of the event. I may also finally join MassBike as well... At any rate, drop me a comment and let me know.

And if my family are reading this, yes, I will indeed be wearing a helmet. (Now I feel like Red Green).