Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mountain lions, mold, and snow storms

At last, an update. It's been far too long, I know, but this summer's monsoon and plague of mold on our tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants - along with everything else - was just too discouraging. Then, I had a lengthy business trip that took me out of state during a critical period at the garden when I would otherwise have tried planting for an optimistic fall crop. Such is life.

I'm working on setting up some window boxes for a potential winter crop, using the little white fairy lights - if, that is, my feline buddy allows it. As always - we'll see. Speaking of whom, we had an adventure last week that thoroughly messed up my holiday-card writing, among other things. As my cousin put it, it was a mountain lion attack. Sort of.

the story...
Yes, that's him. Drugged to the gills in that photo, by the way. But I'm getting ahead of myself. See the windowsill behind him? He was up there, with a (now moved to the floor) strawberry pot. He got into a hissing, poofy-tailed snit about a neighbor cat wandering by outdoors, and did the usual feline flip-out. I ignored him. A few minutes pass while I'm still sitting below the window, reading & knitting. Given that I had my back against that wall there, I didn't see what set off the next chain of events, but I think he was still hopping around, hissing at the leaves twitching in the gusty wind.

Normally, I ignore him when he gets twitchy.

He must have bumped into that clay pot, thought it was something attacking him, and whipped around to "attack" it - at any rate both of them tumbled out of the window, and onto me. In the process, he sunk his teeth & claws into my right hand & arm, probably trying to stop his fall, but clearly he had no idea what he was doing. He then retreated under the computer desk, hissing and yowling as if I had bitten him. In the mean time, I had to head to the ER: the punctures from his teeth were pretty deep (they hit tendons). Happily, I am fine, and after a week of antibiotics and a splint on my arm to protect further injury to my tendons/give them a chance to rest, I am newly appreciative of being able to use both hands. I don't do well as an obligate lefty, or so I learned.

George, on the other hand, is still healing from his part of the adventure: apparently he managed to break/twist one of his claws and part of another on the way down. At first, I thought the blood was mine, and he wouldn't let me near him for the rest of the day, and I was in no position to argue. Later, it was clear that it wasn't only my blood on his paw. To the vet we went, and what a pair we were. It shows how injured he was that he was even willing to walk into his pet-carrier without a fight. Surgery and drugs for him, a splint for me. Good times! We're both on the mend now, and I'm looking forward to planting and digging in the spring. I hope everyone's having a wonderful holiday season, and staying warm in spite of the snow. Just remember, the old farmer's almanack always used to call snow "poor man's fertilizer" - so hopefully our gardens will be a little less stressed out this spring. Expect some photo-posts once I get the little seedlings started in my windowboxes.

Now, I'm going to go listen to some carols ~

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Whut?, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

This is what I get when I try to do simple domestic things, like, laundry (these are actually bathmats trying to dry hung over the laundry basket). He gives me that funny look, but honestly I only knew he was in there because I saw the basket moving around on its own. You'd wonder what was going on too, wouldn't you?

Life with cat.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

snoot prints!

snoot prints!, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

Tuesday morning I came out to check on the containers outside my window, only to find everything tipped over, dug through, and generally in disarray. Some nocturnal visitors tipped over all my container plants, deciding apparently that the dirt smelled like it might have something good to eat hidden/buried therein. Nope! Just seeds! But the visitor vandals left their funny little noseprints in the mud for me to find in the morning. Critters! I'm pretty sure it's the family of skunks, though; mumma and two babies, that have a den about ten feet away under a hosta plant by the channelized brook. I was able to put things in some order after work, so the damage was more superficial than I'd expected, given how it appeared at first. All is well.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

bean bed

bean bed, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

at least the beans are tolerating all the rain... so far.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A return to the humble container garden

So, as apparently the rest of the country endures a heat wave, my part of the country has had a month straight of rain. No, seriously: I can count the days of non-rain (note that I do not say 'sun!') on one hand. So, in desperation, after the weeks straight of rain, mist, and outright pelting downpours, I'm giving myself a backup container garden. We'll see... but I'm hoping the pots will at least be above the flood and drain away a little of all the rain. I've already broken out the little white fairy lights in order to give them a boost of sunshine in spite of rainy days (hooray for outdoor xmas lights from the local maulgreens...)

So, the big bag up in the corner isn't mine - it simply appeared mysteriously one day. The mingy air conditioner is mine (not by choice; it was there when I moved in, and you can see it's installed into the wall from the days when people that that was a great idea). From the left is a tiny pot of cat-grass re-growing after himself chewed it down; then some beans (tricolor variety pack of goodness); then some radicchio, and in the same pot in case they don't sprout, a few radish seeds; then a batch of spinach; then in the lower green container I put some swiss chard (a colored variety pack); in the larger pot are "carnival colors" carrots, and in the difficult-to-see clear plastic container a hopeful planting of hot peppers. over to the right in the blue container are some rosemary, pineapple mint and thai basil; I planted some nasturtium seeds just to see if they'll fill out the pot. In the green pot above is a volunteer cucumber from the garden. In the 'strawberry pot' is a combination of basil and some chioggia beet seeds that I'm hoping will be friends.

And now, I have to go back to praying for a moderate amount of sunshine. Just a little from time to time to keep the plants from rotting, y'know?

Friday, June 12, 2009

a nestful of cute

a nestful, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

Last weekend I got a wonderful surprise outside my window - literally a few feet outside my window, hidden in the upper branches of a large rhododendron shrub: a nestful of baby robins was fledging, and were being encouraged out of the nest by the parent robins. Terribly cute, and funny - one by one they leaped out to land on a too-thin branch, wobbled and fluttered, and plopped to the ground before fluttering their way upward into a more stable branch, to catch their breath I suppose.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

gratuitous purple

purple, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

After a grey spring, it was a real refresher to see these in a garden at the Smithsonian. It'll be another week though, before my oriental poppy deigns to bloom...


Veronica, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

and then shortly thereafter, I headed out of town for a long weekend. I visited DC on my way south; stopping in to visit a few favorite museums - the Sackler /Freer Gallery of Asian Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the gardens surrounding the Smithsonian castle complex. In spite of foggy, overcast weather, I had a nice visit to the capitol. Lots of flower macro photos up on my flickr site. I eventually wound up at a spring festival down in South Carolina. Lovely, quiet, restful. Enough said. Driving back north was nothing but rain, unfortunately, so it wasn't much of a scenic trip. So much for the Shenandoahs...another time I'll have to make a trip down there to camp and hike the AT on that stretch.

...after much digging

after much digging, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

this is how the first bed looked. I planted my early stuff here on April 15: lettuces and greens, radishes, beets, and nasturtium, peas and cilantro. As you can see, it was dark before I was finished.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Overheard while weeding...

So, I arrived in the cooler, later part of the day to do some much-needed weeding now that we aren't living with rain all the time (although a t-storm was supposedly imminent, and I did have several things to plant)... guess what I overheard while weeding? Being gardeners you'll appreciate this one.

So, we're at more than capacity at our community garden. Opening day we had 130 plots free, and volunteer clearing efforts on that day freed up an additional 5 plots that hadn't been in use in decades. (Woot! Woot! especially to those wielding heavy tools to clear; I was just cutting & pulling the smaller stuff.) Happy increases aside, that still apparently left 15 wait-list folks wanting. Hopefully we'll be able to accommodate a few more folks as plots get cleared out. I'm just glad people are jumping in and gardening.

So, there had been a much-neglected plot next to ours, and it was just a rock bed. Hardpan and rocks. In the interim while I was away, apparently a woman had adopted said plot, and I may say, had done a miraculous clearing job - possibly working solo, too, according to the Duchess. At least that's how it's appeared. We could just have missed the appearance of helpers. At any rate a herculean clearing job in order to make the plot workable, set up raised beds, and a fence, and (!) a gate with a nice lock (always advisable - gardeners aren't the only ones who visit the plots. Sad, but true.) At any rate, an astounding amount of work considering; when I arrived today I could see several beds well-established and they were working a couple more, with husband and kids at work too. Now, this is the funny part: so I'm busy weeding, and appropos of nothing, a piping 5 or 6 year old voice, in exasperated tones, declaims "Mummy! Do you even realize how much work this is???"

...wait for it...there's more...

Proving herself the truly patient soul this woman must be, she actually responded kindly - "Mmm, yes, dear, I certainly do." What an understatement. My back hurts in sympathy just thinking about all the digging and rock cultivating.

I really tried to stifle my guffaw, for mom's sake, but all I could think was how truly exhausting it must be sometimes to be mom.

Then again, I was the odd child who actually enjoyed weeding because it meant i could pick a snack while I worked. No, seriously. Odd, I know. I've said other memorably ridiculous things that I still have to live down. My personal favorite has to be a toss-up between "I can't eat that, it's DEAD!" and "He hit me back first!!!"

Nonetheless, it provided my evening chuckle, and that's all I needed. Just sharing.

And on that note, it's time for me to do the post-garden tick-check, and hit the shower. Photos to follow later...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

the Cute Patrol

0502091106, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

...or, how I'm continuing to postpone putting up a decent catch-up post...

I was down in SC for a festival over the weekend. We lucked out with great weather, and I chatted with someone who was carrying around the cutest little kittens - maybe 10 weeks old? These little guys were looking for a home (which each of them found by the end of the weekend. I don't know who adopted them, I just remember the girl carrying them around updated me.) The festival was relaxed; a nice event. My cabin was cozy - a small wooden structure with a porch, that was originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the early 30s. Sadly, the interior had been graffiti'ed to death by decades of teenagers attending summer camp there. Some of them, amazingly, left behind their snail mail address (?!) - it's a little baffling to me but what can I say. I'm still sorting out the photos, and will update from the beginning once I get straightened out.

...more later...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And now...

later, seedlings up, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

...and now the seedlings are up.

carrots (ok, they're not up just yet, but imminently)
arugula, spinach, lettuce, and mesclun greens

I put some scrap fencing loosely over the top to discourage the local robins from landing in there and eating the seeds before they'd had a chance to germinate properly.

opening day at the Community Gardens...

a little photo catch-up, although I don't yet have the oomph to do a text catch up. Much has been going on.

Here's how the garden looked on the 4th (garden opening day); lots of soil turning and planning until we started to get rained on. No complaints there!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Three bean plants

beans growing, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

So we had some of our strange winter weather this weekend: abruptly sunny and warm (for us, at any rate: 50 - 60 degrees F). I took advantage of the warm weather to meet up with the Duchess of 78A to set up some higher fencing in preparation for the coming growing season. I'll be doing a little excavating in order to improve our gate/door situation as well. Happily I found some adequate lumber at the local Dome Hepot. At $1.15 per 1x3x8, it serves our purposes just fine. Add a staple gun and some deer-fencing mesh (the sturdy kind, not the wussy thin kind) and we're in business. Happily the weather held during our project, and then each of us scurried off for other plans that day.

In the indoor containers for seedling starters, the peas and peppers are up, and the beans seem to be pretty happy growing in the cola bottle. I'll be snipping an extra hole for that third plant to emerge; not quite enough room now for it to squeeze between the stems of the two others already coming up through the sprout.

I planted some of the potatoes I'd had leftover that sprung eyes before I could use them; they've gone into a pot outside my window that was going begging. I have some more containers to fill with starters, when I find the time.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shameless silliness.

What, as if I need a reason?
LL Kat J
more animals

Comic relief is my reasonbig fat justification: plus the fact that some of my online friends commented that they didn't picture me as a kickboxer (hey, I'm only just learning kickboxing, but it's fun!) -- I should say, my online friends who are gardeners and in the season traipse around flailing large, heavy metal weapons implements of weed destruction like hoes, rakes and shovels.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I ordered some seeds...

So, I ordered some seeds from Johnny's... I like Johnny's because they have so many heirloom varieties. The short & sweet: I'm looking forward to figuring out where to put a few of each of these plants. I ordered one packet each of these nifty neeto things:

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme), 60 days to maturity
...I love cherry tomatoes, and mine died last year due to my unintended neglect...hey, it happens. So this year I'm trying again. I promise not to neglect them this time...

Chioggia "candy-striped" beet (Beta vulgaris) 55 days to maturity
...because I'm curious - it looks like a radish but will taste like a beet? How can I go wrong?

New York Early Onion (Allium cepa), approximately 98 days to maturity
I just like growing onions.

Pepper "Pretty in Purple" (Capsicum annum) - apparently this pepper goes purple in 60 days, then in 85 it finally goes "red ripe"? I'm curious. This is the photo they show:
Can be used for edible landscaping.

Cutting Celery (Apium graveolens) ~80 - 85 days to harvest

Bee Balm Panorama Mix (Monarda didyma)

Alpine strawberries "Alexandria" (Fragaria vesca) ~120 days to fruit.
I've had good luck with Alpine strawberries, and I want more; maybe a whole bed of them outside my window.
Strawberries "Tarpan (F1)" (Fragaria X ananassa) ~100 to 120 days to fruit.
New last year! Beauty with function.

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) I love the smell of wormwood, and want a patch in my herb garden. In my mind, it's part of the smell of summer.

Flax "Omega (OG)" (Linum usitatissimum) - approximately 95 - 100 days to maturity

Good source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bush Bean Trio: progress

tri-color bean mix, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

So, I came home tonight to find this is how far the little green babies had pushed out of the soil. I can't wait: string beans! In my apartment! And they're the pretty combination pack too: green, yellow, and purple beans. Yum.

The great seed experiment...part 1

tri-color bean mix, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

...part 1 of several, apparently. So, as mentioned in a previous post, I was inspired by someone else's work with little tiny spare holiday lights. I came up with my own spin on things, though: I like that flavored seltzer water (mmm, lime/raspberry), but hate that I have to "throw away" (recycle) the bottles all the time. I found a good use for some of these bottles at least: I realized that the "collar" next to the cap would allow me to hang them with a string from some kind of a hook. From there I could wrap the lights and move them around as necessary, without interfering with the tender seedlings. Also the clear bottle would insulate it from temperature vagaries and curious little paws.

I wasn't sure if it would work...but it worked better than I'd expected: beans I wasn't expecting to see for at least 10 days came up in...5 to 7 days. The peas and peppers are only now just starting to peek out...but all in all, I"m psyched that I may have something going on here. The next post is of today's progress on the bean-front...

I realize it isn't terribly attractive, what with the soda bottle, but hey - for those of us with space constraints...I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Not exactly "bunday monday" but...

Thought everyone would appreciate this wonderful horse. I logged on to find something else on creative commons and instead found this little horse, randomly. I think he's even wearing a mardi gras scarf and beads??? Ilex, it's true, they've got nothing on your rabbits, but still. Since this horse was only slightly taller than the bunnies...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

You know you have spring fever when...

...when garden and seed catalogs and planning out your plot aren't enough to distract you. You swing by the garden plot and traipse through the pock-marked and ice-ridden paths all the way to the back of the community gardens JUST TO LOOK at your own plot. Not, mind you, to accomplish any purpose; nor even to photograph it to document the change of seasons. Nope, just to look. Little wooden work-table, check. Miscellanea safely ensconced, check. Random scraps of wood and the spare wooden chairs that the Duchess salvaged last season, check. Raspberry canes need further trimming in spite of my late season pruning, check. Then, I turned around and...returned to my car.

Yeah, it's bad. And for the record, I'm a native of this region, and never required a groundhog to tell me "whether or not" on February 2nd we'd have 8 more weeks of winter. There is no doubt. We WILL have 8+ more weeks of winter, and possibly a surprise snowstorm in May, thank you very much, just enough to keep you on your toes.


Where are my easter eggs?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Squid Ceviche for lunch

Squid Ceviche for lunch, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

Who says comfort food can't be healthy?

I found squid on sale at my local co-op; local and wild caught. I particularly favor the little tentacles, what can I say.

I marinated them overnight in lime juice (2 limes), chili flakes, salt & sugar. Quick braise over medium heat. Serve over wild rice mix with shallots and peppers (also from the co-op: tiny little sweet red / orange / yellow peppers).

Sorry, but the food was cooked early this morning (can you say quick-prep?) so only a cell-phone photo is available. Next time I'll remember my camera, but ... I thought this was a personal early-morning victory to get healthy fast food!

Looking forward to spring lettuces...but more on that later.

Friday, January 30, 2009

bad, bad thoughts about LED and seeds

Thanks to someone from ravelry who's also in my local fiber guild, I have been shown this gardening post...and I am now thinking bad, bad thoughts about using LED lights and so forth to start my seeds this year. Plus it has the added bonus of keeping the little green babies safe from the curious paws (and occasional outright clueless flumping) of George, aka attitude-boy. If I succeed (i.e., if I manage to summon up the necessary ambition to create this crazy item...) I'll be sure to post photographic evidence of it up here. I promise.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tis the season for soup

onion soup, originally uploaded by Margo and George.

Foiled in my attempts to grow a winter crop of radishes, carrots and other root vegetables, I am at least still taking comfort in soup with root vegetables (note how this onion soup became rather carrot-heavy).

In other news, I have learned that our community gardens will open a little earlier this year, on April 4th (Yay!!!!) so I now feel I have some planning to do. Also, the Duchess of 78A may yet return to the plot (the logistics were, for her, an understandable challenge, given her lengthy commute from the office...) so I may still have a gardening-buddy over in the wilds of the garden plots. If not, it'll be me and the woodchucks, the pheasants and the bluebirds. And hopefully Theo the toad (I hope!).

Until spring arrives, though, I have to contend with the constant of snow, or 'poor man's fertilizer' as well as the basic urge to curl up under the covers and go into hibernation like any other sensible small animal (and even large animals) at this time of year. No dice on that though; what would my employers say?! So instead I knit furiously, attend a reading from time to time, and read gardening books. My fundamental re-read is of course Dame Damrosch's Garden Primer; but I have some nifty books on weeds, such as All About Weeds and Common Weeds of the U.S.; as last season demonstrated that there are a number of native 'weeds' growing in my plot that are edible. Nom nom!

Also I've acquired a couple of fun reads, that I guess are simply inspiring rather than practical, but then again I am an urban gardener, so...maybe more practical than I'm giving credit... On Guerrilla Gardening, (not to be mistaken for the similarly titled Guerrilla Gardening: a Manualfesto), and Fresh Food from Small Spaces, as well as Kurlansky's The Last Fish Tale (I'm a big fan of Salt as well).

If I had more room in my little apt., yes, I would indeed have set up a grow-light arrangement. Sadly, no can do. *sigh*

...back to planning the garden. Only 3 more months...