Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Do you ever worry when things are too good? ( I sure do....  actually I'm a chronic worrier so that's my normal state.)  Case in point....  Here's a picture of my several of my veggie beds. 

 Yellow squash and zucchini.

 16 tomato plants and 8 eggplants.

Cucumbers, bell peppers, and bush beans.

Yes they look wonderful.  No signs of disease and not a bug within sight.  So what's the problem?  Well that is my problem - they look too good.  The growth is incredible for this time of year.  Everything has blossoms and small fruit - I've harvested lots of spring veggies and the summer veggies aren't too far off from picking.  I've got tons of tomatoes - actually some are quite large, and even a sizable green bell pepper is about 1 week away from harvesting (which never happens this early in the season for me in New England).  And, I'm not even spraying (organically of course).  The only real problem I've had is that my squash got top heavy because of their growth and snapped off at the base (and believe it or not this isn't from vine borers - I checked - just weight!).  And.... I took the snapped off top piece of the vine and buried in the soil and 'lo and behold.... the darn thing survived and took root! I never would have guessed it.... you have no idea how many times I've tried to do that in the past after many battles with vine borers in order to save my squash crop and I've never had luck with it.  *sigh* 

 Reflecting on what may be different this year I can't come up with much except incredibly warm weather early in the season and just the right amount of rain.  The soil may be slightly more improved, but I've done nothing drastically different.  It just goes to show you that when it comes to gardening Mother Nature really is in control.  We can try to tame her and nourish her along, but when push comes to shove the best soil, preventative measures, and praying are no comparison to plain ole really good weather (which is incredibly rare in New England).

Beets...lots of them poking through soil.  It won't be long now 'til harvesting them.

Fingerling potatoes growing in 3 containers.

Well I hope this post has jinxed it all.  I'm sure those evil little vine borers are ready to hatch, the leaf loopers hiding beneath the cabbage leaves, and the chipmunks ready to pounce as the southern breeze carries month-long rainy weather filled with blight just waiting to wreak havoc on my picturesque raised bed! UGGHH...  maybe it's time for a tranquilizer!  Darn gorgeous garden!

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Admit it....

.... I'm a Martha Stewart fan.  Yes, sad but true.  I guess it's the perfectionist in me (and let me preface that by saying I'm no where near as bad as she is! Thank God Andy would say!).  Any way, her daughter Alexis has inherited many of her mother's qualities and is an accomplished baker.  When I saw this garden cake that she recently posted on her blog I thought how cool is that!  I would never have the patience or skill to make one of these myself, but I would love to have one for a special event.

Check this out!

There's even a stone wall!  I bet it's delicious.  Now excuse me while I go whip up that box cake I have sitting in my cupboard.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Yummy Swiss Chard

We've had a bumper crop of swiss chard this year.  I hope it keeps up because it's delicious and the plants are so beautiful.

I've never tried freezing swiss chard but I guess I could since it's similar to spinach and collard greens that freeze well after blanching and draining.  In the meantime I'm enjoying this nutritious green sauteed or with a little crushed tomatoes and some kielbasi.

First clean the greens really well and chop them into bite sizes.  I remove the stems and cook them first since they take a little longer.  You can cook the stems with the greens but by they time the stems cook the greens will get really mushy.

One of my favorite ways to cook them is by using an old Italian recipe that my grandmother and mother taught me.  You start by sauteing diced onions and garlic in olive oil.

Add some stewed tomatoes, sausage (or in this case I used kielbasa but you can eliminate the meat entirely), and the stems of the swiss chard.  Cook on low heat until the sausage is almost done and the stems are tender.  Throw in the leaves of the chard.  You will notice that greens cook down a lot so I always use more than I think I'll need.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and then add in a can of drained and rinsed white or red pinto beans (to stretch this meal add in 2 cans of beans - one red and one white).  Continue cooking until the greens are soft and sausage is completely done.

Before serving top with a little Parmesan cheese and grated mozzella.  Serve with garlic bread.  This one dish meal has a rustic taste that pairs deliciously with a robust red wine.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Little Red Wagon

A few weeks ago there was a knock at my door at 7:30 in the morning.  My love was home and getting ready to leave for work for the day.  He answered the door and quietly brought a very large package into the house.  I was upstairs and stopped at the landing overlooking our great room as I saw Andy standing there holding a large box and wearing the biggest grim imaginable.  He was grinning because the surprise gift he bought me had been delivered and he knew it was something that I'd been wanting for a long, long, time. 

So I went barreling down the stairs like a child on Christmas morning and ran to him practically knocking him over so I could get to the box he was holding.  You see he had my little red wagon!  My Radio Flyer Wagon!!! The wagon that has been on my wish list for eons!!  What a great guy he is and what a wonderful unexpected surprise to wake up to in the morning!

I must say I'm lucky to have such a thoughtful man.  He always does little thoughtful things like this... writes me notes, always tells me I'm beautiful even when I look like something the cat dragged in.  Ellie of course loves the wagon too!  She actually jumps in it to go for a ride!

I've already used this baby for so many gardening tasks.  I use it to carry my plants, gardening tools, soil amendments, etc.  It's nice and shinny now and I clean it faithfully.  I'll always cherish it because every time I look at it I'll remember Andy holding it as he grinned from ear to ear, and the warm feeling I felt all day long after receiving such an unexpectedly wonderful morning surprise!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tick Tock Time

They say as you get older time seems to fly by quicker.  Well sometimes that's true, but other times it seems to creep by... hmmmm.... that's how I feel all winter long!  It's been well over a month since I last posted, but I have been doing lots of work in the garden, and when I'm not doing that I've been lurking and enjoying all of your posts. 

This spring has been a blur for me in terms of the garden.  Mostly because the weather has been so unseasonably warm hot that I haven't had a chance to really enjoy it. Spring is my favorite season and I always enjoy relishing it as though I'm sipping slowly on a nice hot cup of tea after a walk on a rainy spring day.

The early heat has been a challenge for this New England gardener as the peonies (one of my favorite flowers) bloomed a full 3 weeks early.  So early in fact that I didn't have time to stake them (nothing new) and when they did finally bloom we got nothing but a week of rain and summer-like torrential thunderstorms that made most of my beautiful blooms either fall off or kiss the ground.  By the time the weather cleared up the peonies were done for the season .... *snap* ....just like that.... gone until next year.  No pictures taken, no blooms brought inside to enjoy.... *sigh*  I keep telling myself at least it's better than snow!

Here is a pic taken right before the peonies bloomed....

The pansies which usually don't fade until mid-June in my area are way past their prime.  So out they will go over the next few days to be replaced by summer petunias and zinnias.  The spring veggies have bolted quicker than lightening.  I'd normally be picking leaves all through June, but I had to pull out the spinach out yesterday (I blanched and froze what was left) to make room for something else (probably a late planting of carrots).  The lettuce is soon to follow as it is bolting too, but I'll sow some more seeds with a summer variety.

Bolting spinach...  a few days later they were twice this size!  Off to the far left of the picture is some broccoli and purple cabbage which are doing nicely and won't be ready to harvest until July probably.

On the plus side, the summer veggies are taking off much earlier than usual.  Below are the 3 summer veggie beds I planted on Memorial Day weekend.  These little babies are already much bigger so maybe this year we'll actually get some early tomatoes!  Planted in these are:  yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, bush beans, and cucumbers.

Also on the plus side, beside the small stretch of really wet weather (of course when the peonies were blooming .... always when they bloom), we've had dryer than usual weather.  This has been a wonderful change from last year where it rained almost non-stop from May - September (no kidding!).

Apart from the veggie gardening, I've reworked my shade garden and added lots of coral bells.  These are my new favorite plant and I think I have at least 6 different varieties.  I'll post about them in the future.  This bed also has some yellow deadnettle, irises (done for the season), toad lilies, yellow primroses, lamium, several varieties of hostas, astilbe, and brunnera macrophylla.

And, I've added a butterfly garden (this is a work in progress.... I intend to add more, but it's a good start I think).  Here's the before picture (just a clemantis). 

And, the after picture - here's what's been added:  A cobalt blue glass bird bath, shasta daisies, cone flowers, bee balm (still stalky babies), dinner plate dahlias - I started indoors (they should grow as tall as the fence, but right now they are shorter than the bee balm), balloon flowers, yellow coreopsis (didn't make this picture), lavender, mixed asylum, pink gaura, and, blue salvia.  There's also a tall butterfly bush (out of the picture below but you can see it in the "before" pic above) that I had to trim back considerably.  I've had it for years and it was just way too large. 

Besides the butterfly garden Andy and I also built a small shade garden next to our hot tub.  This area gets only dappled sun all day (so it's not easy to get a picture with the right light).  The only thing that grew here before was moss, but now there are several varieties of hostas, begonias, lilithrope, coleus, and impatience.  I'd like to add some more perennials in the fall to replace the impatience, but for now I think it's a good start.  We've dedicated the garden to Andy's dad who passed last fall.  This little red shed was on his back patio near the stairs and he put some handles on the roof of it so he could use it for leverage to go down the stairs that didn't have a railing at the time.  We have named this garden "JP's Garden" after him.  I want to make a small sign to put on the shed with his name.

Well that about wraps up this post.  In closing here are some more sights from around our garden.  These pictures were taken in May of this year.  .... now if we could only freeze time for a bit so I can enjoy the garden a little longer...  but, like life it's always changing!