Thursday, August 14, 2008

In spite of weeds, some vegetables survived!

Seriously, I brought the secateurs, warned by the humor with which my friend the Duchess of 78A had queried just *how long* it had been since I'd succeeded in getting some garden time...I should have brought a machete. I kid you not, the weeds - in particular the 'fat hen,' milkweed, and yellow foxtail grass were as tall as I am. Sadly, I am not one of the more diminutive examples of my gender, so those grasses were tall. I should have taken photos, but I was on a mission {"...Must. Clear. Weeds..."}, and honestly although I am willing to admit that the sad state to which my garden has fallen is due solely to my neglect, I don't particularly wish to immortalize the image. It's just rather sad. Daunting, actually.

So, I hacked at quite a bit for quite a while, first to just clear a path to the compost bin, hoping to dump my compost, at least, before the purple-grey rumbling cloud of doom looming over the treeline let loose its load of rain and lightning. I managed to drop off the compost, at last, and then did an inventory of the remaining, surviving plants that had at least tolerated the unfair competition from the weeds. The herb garden soldiered on, bravely, considering their relative size. I got a nice bouquet garni from there to take home. The raspberries? "Weeds? What weeds. We have thorns and big canes and big leaves. Pah!" So I ate a few raspberries and moved on.

The potato plants presented a mystery: where'd those beautiful plants go? Damrosch talks about "beautiful flowers" - clearly I had not only missed the blooming (must have happened pretty quickly) but the entire bloom and fade cycle, as not only were there no flowers, there were indeed no remaining plants. Really. A meticulous search of the two beds where in the spring I had gathered them revealed not a trace - not even a leant-over faded corpse of a plant. Nothing. In fact there weren't even any obvious places where the stump of, say, an eaten plant had been, leaving a small hole to the root structure.

Puzzled, I got out the gardening fork. I started digging, tentatively at first, to loosen the soil and explore what might have gone on down there. Finally I gave in and started pawing through the earth with my hands. I discovered 3 reassuring things: 1, that the soil is and remains a good velvety black, and loose (not packed); 2, that big fat earthworms have been happily maintaining things under ground (thanks Loly Worm!) and 3, that in spite of the distinct absence of above-ground plants, I have beautiful, glorious purple potatoes. I harvested a bunch from one section, and will go in search of more this weekend. Hooray! They're so shiny and purple, I'll have to include a photo. Later.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I feel famous!

tiny handknit gift stockings, originally uploaded by fOllyfOliO.

I feel famous! Follyfolio decided to use the little pollinator-bee house I gave her as a prop in a recent photo of her creations.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In spite of the rain...

Well, in spite of all the rain and lightning-storms we had while we were up camping at Acadia National Park in Maine, I must report that we did have a restful vacation. Maybe more restful since we simply couldn't attempt any hikes (again, the lightning...).

So, instead, we discovered a lot of little local fun: a local farmer's market in Southwest Harbor, where we picked up yummy local eggs, bacon, sausages, bread, chevre cheese with chipotle and herbs, raspberry jam, an assortment of edible flowers (mostly nasturtium) and a handful of fresh get the idea.

My hiking buddy also adopted a begonia, which I imagine has flourished in its new home. I discovered and bought a friend a little wooden "house" for pollinating bees. This was all part of a local weekend-long "Quietside Flamingo Festival" that raises funds for a community center in the town, the Harbor House.

We tended to have some sunshine mixed in with the cloud banks during the day, so we developed a regular routine: while it was briefly sunny before returning to its overcast preface to the evening-thunderstorms, we would find a good spot to cook over a campfire. The national park nicely provides a number of places with fire-rings that have built in grills. Handy, that: we'd make a late brunch with our food-schwag, and maybe drink some of the wine (had to pick up some more of the local blackberry wine, *yum* - thank you Bartlett Maine Estate Winery).

Then we'd catch maybe a couple sunny hours with rough surf conditions at the one sand beach on the island (can you say riptide? never mind. We had fun diving into the waves.) Then we'd cook again, and if it rained we'd head into town: there were a couple movie theatres, one of which serves fresh-baked pizza and wine. (You notice the recurring theme here?)

Normally, when I go hiking/camping, it's all about the outdoors. This time around, though, the weather really dictated what we could and couldn't do. So why be miserable? We got our first real taste of what the sky had in store on the first night: we discovered the hard way that our tents had been located precisely in the middle of a slight low spot in the campsite pad: in the deluge, which was sudden and heavy enough to have drowned our roaring fire, we realized if we didn't rescue our things from the tents quickly, we'd end up in a flood. We raced our things to the refuge of the car, and hung our sleeping bags up by the internal "clotheslines" we'd each set up - originally intended for our washcloths. It worked well enough, as we didn't end up with wet bedding. Still, if we hadn't acted fast, we would have been drenched: there was between 1 and 2 inches of water in/under the front two feet of each of our tents.

We knew we weren't going to be able to make a fire to cook, so we headed off in search of a Mexican place we'd seen and been curious to try: XYZ (Xalapa, Yucatan, Zacatecas) in Manset. Dinner was delicious, and the panic of the flood was eased by a nice pitcher of sangria. Their mole sauce is fantastic, the fresh bread and spicy sauces (it wasn't your usual salsa verde, it was two different sauces, herbal, spicy, tangy...), and everything was really fresh and unbelievably good.

Not such a bad vacation.

Camp food: We also figured out that we really liked having yogurt with granola in the morning. One morning we forgot to pick ourselves up some yogurt, so I realized I could make custard over the fire. Very exciting moment - which probably sounds foolish, but of course when you cook over a wood fire, you often have a teensy weensy temperature problem. That is, it tends to get very hot, very fast. I took more care with the coals, and fed the fire with small twigs to keep the heat under control, and managed not to singe the custard. I was so psyched that it came out perfectly, no lumps or anything, and it was dee-lish.

Now I have to face the overgrown garden. I'm somewhat in denial about dealing with it. I think my solution is just to plan the cold-weather crops, and see what I can salvage from what's survived in spite of the rains down here in Mass. I'll let you know.

Solutions for the Urban Gardener: Hothouse on Wheels

hothouse on wheels, originally uploaded by fOllyfOliO.

Now why didn't I think of this?

A local farm, the Codman Community Farm, owns (and presumably constructed) this rolling greenhouse. Now if I had one, not only could I safely park it in my apartment parking lot, but move it according to the sun as it moves around during the year!

Thanks to follyfolio for bringing this to my attention.