Tag Archives: gardening

O Gardening, How I Love/Hate Thee…

So we used to have a really awesome vegetable garden.  We grew all kinds of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, beans, and even tried corn and carrots.  The carrots were sad, twisted, and bitter, much like some people I encounter on a daily basis, so we decided it’s better to buy them.  The corn was fun to watch grow, and even more fun to watch my Hubby HAND POLLINATING the suckers to make sure everything would come out hunky dory.  The resultant sexy corn had lots of missing kernels and looked a bit knobby, but tasted very sweet, unlike any people I encounter on a daily basis.  We decided that was also better to trust our local farmer’s market for future corn.

We took a pass on a veggie garden for the last few years because of time, weather, and general “ugh, do I really want to dig this all over again?”  But two years ago we built a lovely sturdy raised garden, and put all sorts of good soil in it.  I ordered plants online and lots of seeds, too, and lovingly started our garden.  I had not factored in the resident groundhog, Fred, or the voracious bunnies, or our newly adopted beagle Nellie.  It was an….interesting garden season.  So this year we armed ourselves with chicken wire fencing and garden stakes and whatnot, and felt sure we were all good to go.


There is something so sweet about blind faith, isn’t there?


We didn’t mail order our plants this year.  In fact, May was such crappy weather we didn’t plant until the beginning of June and used well-established plants from (forgive me, here, because it’s just so shameful to admit) Home Depot.  *shudder*  I try to be a good steward of the earth and take care to note where my food comes from and just who I support with my grocery dollars, but time was short and they were right there….

Here’s the rub:  We have gorgeous beefsteak tomatoes, although I find the flavor not as intense as a true Jersey tomato.  We have plum tomatoes that are great but they like to lay down on the ground as if they’re too exhausted to show up anymore and make it difficult for me to find them.  We have cherry tomatoes that are cheerfully determined to wrestle the plum tomatoes to the ground because they’re showoffs and they want to grab all the glory and attention.

We have cucumbers that grew astonishingly fast, wrapping themselves happily around the fencing and the strings we tied up, blossomed beautiful flowers, gave us three outstanding cucumbers, then promptly died back like something out of a body-snatcher movie.  Three. Lousy. Cucumbers.  Didn’t even get one of those hidden canoe-sized ones.

We have the tallest, strongest, most wide-leafed zucchini plants I’ve ever seen in my life, dripping with gorgeous blossoms (that I really want to fry up) and NOT A SINGLE FRUIT.  I’ve never seen anything like this.  Not one.  Ginormous leaves, incredibly thick stalks, proud blossoms…..and then nothing.  Not one sweet little squash to make bread or frittata or saute with garlic and mushrooms.


And that’s it.  That’s the whole garden this year.  It’s now August 29, so I don’t think I’m getting anything else this year, and I have to wonder if I count this year as a success because of the tomato bounty or a failure because of cukes and zukes.



This is what I was hoping for…



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Breathe, and Breathe Again

It’s a gorgeous Wednesday afternoon, about 2:00 EDT.  I actually sat down at my desk at 11:45 and fell down several rabbit holes of bill paying, checkbook wrangling, list making, and calendar updating, while simultaneously answering emails and phone calls.  And I’m not even a busy person!  I actually sat down to draw, but now I’m writing so instead I’ll show you the thing I drew last week:

2016-05-27 15.28.25

I have no idea what those lines are all around it, because they’re not on the photo I’m looking at!  Ah, well…..they say imperfection is its own kind of perfection.

And I’ve also completed the shawl that I’m just tickled with, and she’s here right now being America’s next top shawl:

It’s interesting to me how much weather plays a factor in my mood.  I like rainy days, I like the cool weather, I hate humidity (which I’m sure comes as a shock to you, gentle reader, as I’ve certainly never mentioned it before) and glaring sun, but give me a sunny day with the gentlest of breezes and I feel like SuperWoman.  I actually pulled some weeds and threw down some mulch!  Never mind that I’ll need a few hours to recuperate from that, it feels darn good.

I remember how much my mother enjoyed sitting outside, looking at her very small plot of garden and dreaming of what she could accomplish with more time and more energy.  She had some lovely roses that didn’t resemble any kind of prize-winner being as tall and spindly as they were, but the aroma was beyond heavenly and when she brought one into the house to sit in a tiny glass vase, she carried it like the precious treasure it was.  When she died I planted a rose bush, and I was devastated when it, too, died.  What has lived on, however, is a cutting from her philodendron plant (which she bought about 30 years ago) which is now four transplanted pots and three cuttings in water.  That’s kind of how I stay connected to her.  That, and watching old movies.

I think I hear a cup of tea calling my name…..


steve sentence

Steve is my spirit animal.



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Well, Crap.

Today is Friday, June 5.  I’m supposed to be at a wedding right now on Long Island.  Instead I’m at home in New Jersey with my head bandaged up like I suddenly took Holy Orders and everybody is calling me a nun.

I took a shower this morning.  That’ll teach me.  Dirty is the way to go, my friends!  I slipped in the shower (something I haven’t done since I was a teenager forcryingoutloud) and I hit my head on the corner of our marble sink and my thigh smack onto the rim of the tub.  I waited a second to see if I was going to pass out (good, no dark tunnels, no harps playing) and slowly stood up.  That’s when I noticed all the blood running down my shoulder.  I was actually able to shut off the water, wrap a towel around half of my head, get another towel wrapped around me, opened the door and called out to my beloved who was snoring peacefully in the bedroom.  (Later he told me “Well, yes, honey, I heard something but I thought you were getting some clothes out of the closet.”)  The first words he said were “What did you do?” and that’s when I knew I was going to be okay.  If he had recoiled in horror or passed out from the sight of blood then my goose would have been cooked.  We ascertained the blood wasn’t coming from inside the ear and went to the local walk-in-if-you’re-injured place.
Not only am I darn tootin’ lucky, I’m apparently also quite talented in the falling department.  I have ripped up the cartilage on the rim of my ear pretty well and I have a gash about two inches long in back of the ear.  Once they finished stitching me up and wrapping my head, I figured we weren’t going to a wedding, even though everyone tried to convince me that it didn’t look too bad and maybe I could put a nice scarf over it?  Seriously.  I’m wearing a wimple and you think people won’t notice?  Besides, the bandage is white and it would have competed with the bride.
In other crap news, remember the lovely photos of my garden I showed you?  The very next day the cucumbers, snap peas, hollyhocks and nasturtiums were gone and in their place are three very happy and very fat bunnies hopping around my yard and wondering when the next buffet is served.  Apparently they’re not Italian bunnies because they’re staying far away from the tomatoes and zucchini and basil.  We never had a rabbit problem before, but we figured out that the last time we had a garden we also had a dog.  Now we just have marauding rabbits, greedy groundhogs, maniac squirrels, bipolar chipmunks, and very confused mourning doves.
Tomorrow we go into Manhattan to see a show.  I actually think I’ll blend right in.
Oh, sure, you're cute when you fall down.  YOU'RE PROBABLY WEIGHTED DOWN WITH VEGETABLES.

Oh, sure, you’re cute when you fall down. YOU’RE PROBABLY WEIGHTED DOWN WITH VEGETABLES.

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It’s Actually Growing!


Iris Garden in Front


Patio Tomato Flowers


Garden Tomatoes, Beans, Snap Peas, Zucchini


Bean Rows


Snap Peas


Cukes in various stages of survival


The last bleeding heart blossom


When they grow up, they will be hollyhocks and nasturtiums and zinnias


Patio Planter


Herbs and birdhouse

So some things were eaten (and not by us, sad to say) and some things look a bit straggly and some things I don’t even remember what I planted, but there it is!  It’s been in the ground for almost a month and it’s working!

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Inch by Inch, Row by Row…

The birds are going absolutely nuts this morning! Me, too, because after a few days of “hello, I guess we’re moving directly into July!” weather, it is a crisp morning with dazzlingly crystal blue skies. I’ve been out to water the vegetables and the flowers and I planted my Mother’s Day pink azalea bush, and now it’s second cup of tea time.

Our flowering plum tree.  No plums, just flowers and purple leaves.

Our flowering plum tree. No plums, just flowers and purple leaves.


Close up of said flowers. And an artistic branch.


Also purple flowers. On the ground. I like them, but Hubby thinks they’re a weed.

My thoughts are much lighter these days, and it’s true that time is the best friend of a broken heart. I had to go through my period of grief and mourning, anger, sadness, and acceptance, and now that I am on the other side I feel as if I’m moving forward. I was teaching in a toxic situation and now that I’m far removed I can honestly wonder how I lasted as long as I did; it’s certainly a shame that it ended the way it did (nervous breakdowns are scary, yo) but it IS ended and after two years I am no longer chasing those negative squirrels in my brain. I am making plans for travel and volunteering and making art and knitting more complicated things and reading more biographies (they’re like potato chips to me, can’t get enough) and being more in the moment.

Perhaps that’s why I felt determined to go back to a vegetable garden this year. For the last three years we’d been half-heartedly saying “so, about a garden…” and then pointedly ignoring the passing of time until it was too late. This year I even ordered plants and seeds in time instead of running to the big home store to desperately grab what they had left, planned out a raised bed that Wonderful Hubby built, and loaded it up with sugar snap peas, beans, tomatoes (because it’s against the law in New Jersey NOT to put tomatoes in your garden), cucumbers, zucchini, basil, chives, parsley, oregano and thyme. The new flower bed will have zinnias and nasturtiums (the first flowers my mother ever planted with me) and two other kinds I’ve already forgotten and hollyhocks. I still have to sow the marigolds around the tomatoes and plant the butternut squash and the pumpkins.

Of course, when I start whining in July that everything is overgrown and weedy and the cucumbers are the size of boats and it’s all fried to a crisp, you’ll be kind and not remind me how determined I was on this lovely May day, won’t you? Please?

Why, yes.  Yes, it is special.

Why, yes. Yes, it is special.


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I Really Was Sincere at the Time…

It’s Saturday morning, and I’ve just returned from the Farmer’s Market. While I bought the requisite grape tomatoes (even though it’s not nearly close to tomato season yet), yellow peppers (same season-wise), blueberries (from North Carolina, so not “Jersey Fresh!” as the market signs proclaim), and red-skin potatoes (don’t care when it’s available, just get it in mah mouf), we also bought the definitely not farm-related whole-grain bread and breakfast empanadas.

And because of this visit, I have come to the conclusion that my brain loves to visit fantasy land. Earlier in the blog I did go into detail about how we’d do a garden this year, and how I would have the luxury of time to plan it properly and get the soil prepped and order plants ahead of time instead of the last-minute desperate rush to Home Depot. Every Monday or Tuesday we’d plan to “get the stuff and get started this weekend” and every weekend we realized there were a myriad of reasons why we couldn’t: it was raining; it was graduation weekend and we’d be tremendously busy; Hubby would be out all day Saturday (which, as the whole universe knows, is the Mandated Do Things in the Backyard Day) at a meeting; guests were coming for Memorial Day and we couldn’t have naked lumber just laying about.

Which brings us to this morning. It’s a beautiful day, perfect for finally getting stuff started and we chattered a bit as we pulled into the Farmer’s Market. (Well, Hubby did most of the chattering; I have a miserable cold and cough so my end of the conversation was a lot of waving hands and inscrutable face-making.) Before we got out, I stopped him so I could croak at him.

“Why are we going to make a huge garden when we have a garden literally down the street every Saturday?”

Hubby got that look of resigned patience.

“I mean, I really want to support these local farmers with our business, so doesn’t it make sense to just come here for our needs?”

Hubby explained that growing our own is cheaper.

“Is it really, though? After buying the materials for the raised beds, having dirt delivered, buying mulch and fertilizer and then the plants, and watering and weeding, are we really saving money? To mention nothing of the doctor’s bills for our sprained backs and deconstructed knees.”

I thought I saw a small smile.

“But, I mean, if you want the garden, I don’t want to stop you…” Then I coughed, a little more pitifully than I intended.

Hubby opened the car door and said cheerfully, “Right. No garden this year.”

Next year, however, I am going to make some big plans and get started much earlier. I even made a new bookmark tab labeled “gardening” so I have to mean business, right?



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