Showing posts from September, 2011

Peas, Louise!

Earlier this week we harvested our first peas:

If you're thinking this doesn't look like much, you're right. Even though these pods barely fill a soup bowl, they had to be picked and eaten before they got too big and dried out. If you don't pick them, the vine dies back because it thinks it's done its job producing seeds and can quit. Anyway, once shelled, this is what we got for our first meal:

Everyone did an admirable job sharing their single spoonful of peas, but methinks we need to plant a LOT more next year. According to Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills (an awesome back-to-the-land, Reader's-Digest-goes-hippie book from the 70s that you should buy immediately), a self-sufficient gardener should allow 10 row feet of peas per person. That mean we need 40 rows of peas for our family. We planted about 25 this year, but half are snap peas. This is what 25 feet of peas look like:

So next year, I think we should quadruple this …

The World According to Triscuit

Family from Pennsylvania visited last weekend, and they came bearing gifts. In addition to two lip-smackingly delicious bags of Grandma Utz's potato chips (cooked in lard!), there was also this piece of cardboard clipped from the back of a Triscuit box:

I guess in Pennsylvania, crackers come with seed cards. I have never seen this before. I'm not sure exactly what kind of movement Triscuit is seeking to foment, but I decided to give it a go. The seeds are for dill, and ours didn't germinate this summer (likely because the seeds were labeled as having been gathered in 2008 from our old garden). At this point it's probably too late to get much out of it, but I figured seeds encased in cardboard were already an experiment anyway, so we might as well get them in the ground and see what happens.

Here are the directions from the box:

After the soaking in Step 1, Step 2 looked like this:

I have to say, I was expecting more seeds than that.

I went off-book in Step 3 and "…

Rainy Day Riddle: The Reveal

I am a spirit of no common rate;
The summer still doth tend upon my state;
And I do love thee: therefore, go with me;
I'll give thee fairies to attend on thee,
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep;
And I will purge thy mortal grossness so
That thou shalt like an airy spirit go.
Peaseblossom! Cobweb! Moth! and Mustardseed!




Where shall we go?TITANIA
Be kind and courteous to this gentleman;
Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes;
Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries;
The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees,
And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs
And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes,
To have my love to bed and to arise;
And pluck the wings from Painted butterflies
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes:
Nod to him, elves, and do him courtes…

Rainy Day Riddle: Now with Hints!

I posed this riddle in my previous post. While there have been a bunch of hits, there weren't too many guesses (but a shout out to a few intrepid blogger and facebook commenters!).

So, here are three hints:
1. I used to be an English teacher.
2. The answer doesn't require much gardening expertise beyond plant recognition.
3. If the whole plant recognition thing is tripping you up, see the nice new captions I added below each photo.
How are these four items in our garden connected?


mustard greens


cabbage moth
Answer in the comments section, and the first person who gets it wins a prize. I'm thinking a jar of sauerkraut if our cabbages keep doing well. I've got a strong Pennsylvania Dutch strain in my veins, so we're talking the real deal. C'mon, give it a try!

Rainy Day Riddle

How are these four items in our garden connected?

Answer in the comments section, and the first person who gets it wins a prize. I'm thinking a jar of sauerkraut if our cabbages keep doing well. I've got a strong Pennsylvania Dutch strain in my veins, so we're talking the real deal. Have fun!

End of Summer Blossoms: Perennial Edition

Last time I showed you what was blooming in the vegetable garden. Of course, they are many other flowers around our house that are unrelated to eventual eating. Here's what's opened up in the perennial border:

The Dublin Bay climbing roses I put in early in the summer are still way too small to require a trellis, but they have put out some fall blooms.

This is a bloom of the hardy geraniums I got at half off at the beginning of August. They managed to survive their root-bound state and less-than-optimal planting time. The leaves are supposed to be brilliant red in the fall, so that is another thing to look forward to.

Echinacea blooms. These are also doing well for having been planted in August, and for having been purchased from the Home Depot, of all places. I'm not deadheading these as the blooms fade so I can see if the seed heads last in an interesting way through the fall and winter. These are along the driveway, and that's a spot where winter interest could act…

End of Summer Blossoms: Vegetable Edition

When we planted the peas seven weeks ago, we put in one trellis-length (12-ish feet) of regular peas and one trellis-length of snap peas. We figured this would let us snack on the snap peas while we waited for the regular peas to come in for harvests aimed at preparing or preserving for meals.

Well, that didn't work. The regular peas blossomed about three weeks ago and are still going strong:

These guys are about as tall as I am as they make their way up the trellis, and we've got a bunch of pods ready to go:

The snap peas, though … oy. Hurricane rain and cooler temps have helped out everything else, and those stubborn bastards still didn't blossom. This weekend marks 7 weeks since we planted them, and...

Finally! And look how gorgeous it is!  I wasn't expecting purple at all. Usually our pea blossoms are white, maybe tinged pink. But these were definitely worth the wait. I'm so excited about it, I'm posting an extra photo:

We've got lots of them now, and …

Success Story: Bok Choy

All that cabbage looper squishing paid off: our bok choy is ready!

In the old garden we were never successful with bok choy, so this fully fleshed-out head is very exciting. As you can see if you look closely, I had just finished watering it when Kirk called out for some for the stir fry. Two knife slices later:

It occurred to me that for the past few months I haven't been in any of these photos, and I don't want you to think that Kirk does all the work. So here is me harvesting.

Instead of pulling the bok choy, I cut it off at the stem. With regular cabbage, this will cause it to grow back in the form of several mini-cabbages. I'm not sure exactly what will happen with bok choy, but one that Kirk cut last week already has some new shoots:

I'll keep you posted on how the re-growth goes.

As for dinner, Kirk made a stir fry with those two heads of bok choy and some chicken. Also in the mix were ginger, garlic, mirin, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Oh, and a pinch of brown…

Up to Our Ears

This weekend was the first time in over a month that we've been able to get back to prepping the garden beds. August definitely got away from us, with going to Pennsylvania, hosting visitors, and getting our summer fun in before the start of school. Remember that crabgrass that got a foothold in July while we were at the beach? Here's what that looks like now:

So we spent this weekend clearing the weeds out of two more quadrants of the garden. This went more easily than we expected because the weeds are starting to die back now that they've gone to seed. I'm sure all the seed that got dropped will plague us for seasons to come, but if we're lucky most of it will be buried too deep in the beds to ever germinate.

After the weeding we covered one quadrant in black plastic.

This will protect it from any more weeds taking root until we can get to it again. This quadrant is pretty empty of any soil at all, so we will need to order more loam at some point. We may or may …


This is my third day of work and our third day of rain, so I haven't spent much time outside in the garden this week. We've all been stuck inside, but apparently that big old garden is never far from our thoughts. To wit, check out Tiegan's first homework assignment of fourth grade:

To get to know each other, the kids need to fill a bag with items that represent their personalities (based on the bulleted prompts at the bottom of the page). What's that in the ziploc baggie?

A radish she went out and picked from the garden to take in to school. She chose it because it's a "non-leaf vegetable."

Below is a close-up of the prompts. See if you can guess which one the radish is in response to.

It could be almost any of them, but if you guessed "something special about your family," you win the prize.

Your prize can be the radish. Mine is a great kid.

Last Labors of Summer

This morning we spent some time downtown for the Labor Day festival in Newburyport. We watched Jonas' karate demo team and ate some fried food for lunch. After a nice bike ride back home, there were some last tasks to complete before calling it a summer. I have to go back to work tomorrow, you see, and we'll be officially in fall mode with the garden because of that.

Last weekend we finally finished pulling out all the giant crabgrass from the back lawn. That gave us just a week to relax and enjoy some croquet on it before having to overseed it for the fall.

As you can see, this half has a lot of bare dirt left after removing the crabgrass. These patches got extra love with some raking, extra seeding, and sprinkling of more compost to cover the seed.

The rest of the lawn just got a regular old overseeding. This is a great example of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. This section is where we started pulling the crabgrass, so we got it out before it…