I’ve Learned My Lesson

I’ve always loved gardening, planting plants and seeds then watching them grow. Playing in the dirt is relaxing and hard work at the same time. Dirt and plants don’t talk out loud to you, don’t ask questions or care how you look and are just content to have you pay attention to them. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest from the Midwest, I’ve learned a lot about the way plants grow here. I’ve read books and talked to Master Gardeners. I’ve paid attention to the weather patterns, discovering that while everyone believes it rains every day here, it doesn’t. Our late falls, winters and springs are wet and rainy, but come summer and the tap turns off, this year with a vengeance. At present counting, we are at fifty-six days with no rain, a new record. I decided to plant a huge raised bed garden for vegetables and fruits.

I drew up plan for a large garden area with eight raised beds, four – five foot by ten foot raised beds and four – five-foot square raised beds and Mitch built them. Pretty ambitious I know, but I hadn’t had a garden in two years and was itching to play in the dirt. Well I got my wish and boy did I ever get things to grow. I was warned by experienced gardeners to be very careful when planting, because everything grows well here.

I planted one of the small beds with cucumber seeds and at first, I was disappointed at the small spindly little plants. Silly me, I just needed to be patient. The raised bed is overflowing with a tangled web of cucumber vines, hiding cucumbers that seem to grow over night.

I planted one of the large beds with strawberry plants, almost all came from my neighbor, and now I must go out every day and stick the runners back in the bed, because they’ve covered the bed and are trying to colonize my other beds. I planted three rows of green bean seeds and have already picked four buckets full of green beans and more are growing.

I bought a seed packet of zucchini seeds and a packet of summer squash seeds. Growing success is a gross understatement, because I have one five foot by ten foot raised bed covered from end to end with three and a half foot tall plants and am picking five and six zucchini a day, that doesn’t include the six to eight squash I find hiding under the giant leaves every day.

I have been scouring Pinterest and Facebook for zucchini recipes. I have been thinking of writing a cookbook and now I can write a whole chapter on just zucchini and squash recipes. I’ve frozen six bags of zucchini and squash, have learned to make zucchini spaghetti, zucchini tots and zucchini fries. I swear my hair is getting a green tint to it.

I’ve given so much zucchini and squash away to my neighbors that now if they see me coming with or without anything in my hands, they run inside and close the curtains, until I go by.

I’ve learned my lesson, next year I will buy two zucchini plants and maybe one squash plant. You don’t have to hit me over the head with a zucchini.

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Sacred Ground

I’ve come to the conclusion we live on sacred ground. For real, our house is on hallowed ground. I’m surprised the builder was even allowed to build here and it must have been a real challenge to lay the foundation and not disturb the buried. Our house sits on an ancient rock burial ground. That has to be the only explanation. Our property is where they brought the rocks, large and small when they died to be buried for thousands of years.

Sounds goofy right, but that has to be it, because no matter where I try to dig a hole, I dig more rock than dirt. Smooth glacier rocks that come in all sizes, from the size of a quarter to the size of a football. Imagine putting the shovel point in the dirt and stepping down on the edge of the shovel to slice into the dirt and the shovel slams into a rock or group of rocks, the shovel twists, the handle follows the twist and whacks you in the chin, then your foot slips off of the shovel, scrapes your foot and you twist your knee. This is followed by a very descriptive diatribe that sends the birds flying. Now imagine doing this over and over again to fish out a multitude of rocks, so you can get a hole wide enough and deep enough to plant something, anything. It’s a good thing I bought a truck load of dirt earlier in the spring, just to fill in the holes.

All of our neighbors have these really nice landscaped yards and we have rocks. Lots and lots of rocks, hidden just under surface of our yard. Maybe that’s why there was no landscaping done when we bought the house. Either they knew it was sacred land and didn’t want to disturb the rock spirits or all of the other builders dumped their rocks here and left us to deal with the little buggers. I would like to think our land is special, that sounds more fun, but in reality, it’s probably the latter. We got dumped on, literally.

Could it Be?

Dare I say the words?  I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t even think it.   I’m not a superstitious person, not usually anyway, but sometimes it just seems that from my mouth to Mother Nature’s ear.  Last year everyone called it the “Winter that didn’t Happen” and this year it’s been the “Winter that won’t go Away”.  It’s now May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, and we’ve been beset with snow and cold miserable weather across a fair amount of the country since February.

I wanted to plant radishes and lettuce while the weather was still cool, that didn’t happen.  No cool weather, but lots of cold wet icky weather.  So no fresh radishes or lettuce this year.  Last week my son had to cover his beds with a cold frame to protect the young plant shoots of his onions, potatoes, lettuce, etc.  Next weekend is Mother’s Day, the official day to plant tomatoes and other warm weather plants.  But I don’t know, the highs have been only in the forties and fifties, so the ground hasn’t had a chance to warm up much.

Today, though the sky is brighter, there is still cloud cover but the temperatures are warmer.  The high today is supposed to get up in the sixties, woo hoo.  The forecast for the week is looking optimistic, highs in the seventies, okay I can live with that.  One of our fears is that we will go from winter to summer, boom with no transition.  Just one day it will go from cold to blazing hot.

Back to my original question, dare I say the words?  I guess I’ll take a chance, here goes, “Maybe it is finally Spring”.  There I said it, cross your fingers.

I’ve Been Acclimatized

I’ve been acclimatized!  It all started last winter.  We had a very mild dry winter, no complaints here.  That weather pattern carried on into spring, delivering a warmer, drier than normal spring, still very few complaints.  I was able to get my garden planted earlier, did a bunch of dividing and transplanting plants.  I even fertilized and spread weed killer on the yard.  That’s when the rain officially stopped here.  Finally we have had the summer from hell, literally.  This has been the driest year on record and one of the hottest in history.  Absolutely miserable.  We’ve had to water, water and water constantly, driving to me consider getting a second job just to pay the water bill.

Finally the sweltering heat dropped down from the hundreds to a more normal realm of the eighties and low nineties.  Yesterday I walked out of work to go to lunch and was greeted with eighty six degree temperatures and thought it felt very comfortable and mild.  Can you believe that, eighty six degrees and I thought it felt very comfortable and even a little cool with the wind blowing?  I had to look at the thermometer just to confirm the actual temperature.  This morning we took the dogs on their morning walk at 4:30 and it was sixty five degrees, where was my jacket?  This does not bode well for me when we revert back to our normal freezing winter. 

I may have to start wintering in Florida.

And The Heat Goes On

The heat and the drought just keeps coming.  It’s like a blast furnace each time you walk outside.   Taking the dogs on walks is short and slow.  They don’t want to be out in the heat anymore than we do.  Of course this is the year that we’ve added two raised beds to grow more vegetables.  Two more beds means two times more watering, which translates to a much higher water bill.  This is a double edged sword for me.  I love the taste of home grown tomatoes, nothing like a big juicy home grown tomato.  With this drought we have to water almost every day just to keep the plants from withering. 

I’m also the utility police at home.  I walk around turning lights off, raising or lowering the thermostat and turning the faucet off in mid tooth brushing.  I am just plain cheap when it comes to wasting electricity, gas and water.  I rant on about saving energy, conserving water and recycling everything we can possibly recycle.  Mitch made and installed three rain barrels around the house so I can water the gardens with rainwater.  This year all of the rain barrels are bone dry, no water to even dribble out. 

We decided to use soaker hoses to accomplish watering more efficiently.  The problem was that the three raised beds were too far apart so we were wasting a lot of water in between.  Mitch solved this by cutting up the seventy five foot hose into three sections which he snaked through each bed then connected the spaces in between with regular hose pieces.  This has worked out very well for us.  Now we’re only watering the vegetable beds and not everything in between.  Of course the yard has gone dormant and I’m hoping will recover next spring. 

Whether you believe in global warming or not, this weather pattern sucks and I’m ready for it to be over.

Flashcards

I think I’ve come up with the perfect solution to our groundskeeper’s good plant vs weed recognition problem.  Flashcards.  Very simple yet elegant as a solution.  Flashcards work for kids in school.  Math and alphabet flashcards have been used for decades.  So maybe plant flashcards would work.  I would take pictures of all the different plants growing around the lake and laminate the photos to plastic cards.  I can draw a circle with a slash through the middle of photo of a weed and even type a description below the photo.  Something like, “kill on sight” or maybe “wanted dead and decimated” for a weed and “diplomatic immunity” or “endangered species” for a keeper plant.  This may slow down the weed eating process around here, but eventually hopefully the groundskeeper will get it and maybe some poor plant souls will be spared the weapon of plant destruction.   Especially the ones I’ve paid money to put in the ground.

The flashcards could be put on a ring and hang from his belt for easy plant recognition access.  The groundskeeper would walk along flip up and peruse the flashcard to scan the photos searching to determine if the plants are public enemy #1 or keepers.  Who knows maybe flashcards will catch on for gardeners everywhere.  I wonder if I should apply for a patent.

Definitely Not A Botanist

Sunday the temperature was around ninety nine degrees and it felt like stepping into a blast furnace when you walked outside.  A great day to sit inside a dark movie theater, munching popcorn and watching the latest movie, or visiting a museum, anything indoors out of the heat. 

But the heat didn’t deter one man, our local groundskeeper.  A very nice man that works hard to mow and maintain the city grounds.  One of his tasks is to weed whack the weeds along the road edge to keep the weeds from growing too tall.  I couldn’t believe he was out in the middle of the day wielding his weed eater attacking the straggly weeds on the other side of the road.  He either doesn’t feel the heat like the rest of us or he has a death wish.  Or maybe I’m just a sissy.

I walked outside to get the burgers off the grill and saw him walking up the road away from my boulder, weed eater in hand and thought surely he didn’t use the weed eater on my ornamental grass that I had just planted a month ago.  Surely not.  Just to be sure I walked down the yard, burgers in tow to check on my grasses.  Sure enough he cut the grasses down all the way to the nubs.  I wanted to chase him down, rip the weed eater out of his hands and club him with it.  All I could think of was the hard work I’d done, digging up the grasses to replant, digging holes in the gravelly ground and replanting the grasses.  Not to mention having to listen to the diatribe from the neighbor, that I placed the granite boulder in the wrong spot.  I carefully watered the grasses until they were growing and looked like they would take hold.  Now the grasses were mere stubs in the ground. 

How could anyone mistake the tall graceful clumps of ornamental grass to common everyday weeds?  Was he blind, using the weed eater as a seeing cane to clear his path?  No, he just has no clue between the difference of a keeper plant and a noxious weed.  The only reason our local groundskeeper is still walking without the need of a cane, was the look of horror and regret on his face, and his comment of “Oh s***” when I explained to him I planted the grasses on purpose that he just mowed down with his weapon of plant destruction.

He’s definitely not a botanist.

Just My Luck

After two weekends of back breaking work (literally), unloading 2 cubic yards of dirt by shovel and sweat from the bed of my son’s pickup truck then shoveling unloaded dirt into countless wheelbarrow loads pushed carefully downhill to the two raised beds Mitch built for me, I finished planting ten tomato plants, four cantaloupe plants and three cucumber plants.  There is still room for more in one of the beds.  I was so excited about getting more vegetable planting space after we had a tree cut down and realized it opened up a larger area of sunlight to the ground.  Perfect for tomatoes.  Did I also mention two trips so far to the chiropractor and more in sight?

We already have a small raised bed that has ten pepper plants and three tomato plants that we’ve been planting in for three years.  But I wanted more and this year I got it.  Tonight after dinner I took the dogs out with me to water the new plants and while I was watering the small bed, Charlie was walking in one of the new beds and promptly stepped on one of my tomato plants and snapped it right off at the base.  I couldn’t believe it.  Not even two days had gone by, I haven’t even had a chance to get to Lowe’s and buy some tomato cages to protect them from just this calamity.   Imagine my frustration.

I love my dogs, but lord there are times when I speculate on a dog less day.  I would never wish for them gone, but…