Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Making Salsa Out Of Ant Hills

I see from my friend Heather's blog that she's also mulching. It's definitely that time of year: the weather is getting hot, the garden is getting dry. Mulching is the way to go if you want to keep the garden moist without constant watering. I use straw: it decomposes into the garden and saves me having to find other things (weeds, grass clippings, etc). It's also relatively cheap, considering. A bale of straw is ten bucks. I don't have a lot of grass in the yard anymore. Besides, the snakes like the straw. I have to think of the snakes, right?
Today I went to work tucking it into all the dry spots of the garden. Here we have the tomatillo border. Tomatilloes = good salsa.


I also laid it near the border of my Neighbour Who Never Weeds' garden. They have lots of quack grass and dandelions and while I do like dandelions, I do not like quack grass. Tragically, quack grass likes me. Sigh.

(In the oak barrel: cantaloupe and ornamental gourds)

It wasn't until I was mulching the plants in the greenhouse that I noticed all the leftover plants, sitting forlornly on the shelves. I had 4 eggplants, 26 tomatoes, 3 hot chilies, 9 cucumber starts, some pots of carrots and lettuce, and a couple dozen sunflowers. If I didn't plant them then and there I knew I'd leave them to languish to death. I might be a stalwart Jane Austen Heroine but I am also constitutionally unable to leave a plant to strangle in its roots in a pot too small for normal life. So I did what I could: I planted the eggplants in pots of compost against the heat of the house wall, planted the cucumbers around my new arbour, planted the sunflowers where they are likely to be noticed when the twins have their birthday party (we always have sunflowers for their birthday), then stared uneasily at the tomatoes. Twenty-six tomatoes is a lot of tomatoes when you have a garden like mine. I live in a city: my yard is big for a city lot (it's a quarter of an acre) but truly, it's not big enough to handle hundreds and hundreds of plants. At the moment I'm pushing it...

Luckily that's when I remembered my crumbling old compost bin. The one the ants have sequestered. It's at the end of the garden, all by itself (which is probably why the ants have taken it over). It's one of those black plastic ones the city gives out for a nominal fee. I like them well enough but they aren't useful for a big yard. They fill up too quickly but don't rot quickly at all.

So I lifted the entire container off the pile. It was seething with a zillion equally seething ants. Discomfited ants. Irritable ants. Worried ants. Annoyed ants. Ants with no place to go all of a sudden. Ants who made their immediate way to my arms and ankles. I felt a moment's pang ("Poor Ants!") then grabbed the garden fork and smashed the pile into a relatively sedate oval, well, as sedate as one could given all those ants. Then I plonked all 26 tomato plants on top. I swathed it with straw. Then I got FDPG, who had been standing by (quite gripped by the spectacle of zillions of ants not to mention all those baby snakes when we dug up the garlic) to aim the water wand on the entire lot then and there and give it a good long soak. Just in case the ants were thinking we might be going away and leaving them to their ant-like activities (which involves who knows what). And here's how it looked after we did that:
Then I went and gazed at all my roses, which are looking quite spectacular right about now. They were the perfect balm after all those ants. This is my Crown Princess Margarita. At Mother's Day this rose was but a shrub of stumps. It didn't look very impressive at all, despite all my grand plans. Now it's covered in little budlings. It's very beautiful and I love it. I can see myself reclining grandly under it after all.

Looking West

Yesterday morning our view to the west looked like this:

See that big View-Choking Tree there? It's a chestnut. A tree that is meant to spread its glorious canopy over a vast expanse of field. The previous owners of this house planted this tree themselves, a long time ago. So long ago that they didn't stop to think that it might be just a leeetle bit too close to the house. To the drains. To the concrete sidewalk going around the
back of the house. Needless to say, there isn't much canopying going on with this tree in this position.

So, it's been trimmed a few times since we moved in, once by a team of Wild & Crazy Tree Trimming Guys and once or twice by Richard the Man Who Can Climb Anything. And each time it grows back faster and more vigorous than before. Eventually it will have to entirely disappear, because it is now in all the drains of every house within a 50 mile radius

On Sunday Richard came back from a conference. He'd been away for five days. And right after breakfast the first thing he said was "That tree needs trimming."

I think I might have gulped. I don't like watching him climb that high, especially as he usually has a chainsaw or a large hand saw slung over his shoulder. I know this is one of your typical Manly Images but it gives me the willies. Images of wheelchairs and life insurance policies run through my head.

See, there he is. High up in that tree.







And here is that same western view after Richard the Man Who Can Climb Anything did his thing. It's hard to describe just how much more we see from that side of the house. It's a big sky view. A really big sky view. We might even see the moon set now.
Right after he'd come down from the tree and we were cutting it up into firewood, I asked him if we could make an arbour from the longer poles. I'm sure I've mentioned this before but I am rather challenged in the Building Things From Wood department. I suffer much ridicule for this within my family, because even though I am terrible at building things, I still persist, in the hopes that one day I might get good at it. My Hopeful Evidence is all over the place, still causing much glee after a couple of years. Richard, who had just spent the past 3.5 hours climbing, sawing, felling, cutting, and splitting, looked at me from under a brow drenched with sweat.

"Arbour? Now? How about next Saturday?" he managed to blurt out, much more nicely than would have. He didn't even give me an Are You Nuts I Nearly Killed Myself Up There And Now You Want Me To Build You A $#@**$&@&$ Arbour? look, which I know I would have if I'd been in his place.

I did something then, something so unusual that I apparently stunned all present: I smiled reasonably and said "Sounds great." I thought I was doing a particularly stellar version of my patented Jane Austen Heroine routine but Richard obviously thought I'd been hit by a stray branch, because he peered at me closely a few times before returning to his stacking and splitting. Then he went over to the long lengths of chestnut and said "Okay, sure, why not. Let's do it now while the wood is still wet and bendy."

And so we did. It's a little rickety, because we never did find any straight branches, and it almost looks like something I'd build, but it's big and strange looking and should be perfect holding up all the plants I have destined for it. It's got a Cabernet Sauvignon grape on one side, and a David Austen The Fairy climbing rose on the other.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Fit of Strawberries

Richard helped me pick strawberries yesterday. We filled these bowls and finally gave up, leaving the rest for another day. In the spring my thoughts were along the lines of "Because I didn't thin out the plants this year's harvest is going to be pretty skimpy" and though I duly kelped and fish emulsioned the strawberry bed I didn't hold much hope that they'd prove me wrong.

But they did. We are swimming, albeit thickly and rather awkwardly (hard to swim in a sea of strawberries), in them. Those two larger bowls are 16" in diameter if that helps you imagine the size of this haul.

Strawberry tea, anyone?
FDPG after she saw the bowls of strawberries. In a dead faint on the floor. She's nothing if not dramatic, our FDPG.

Random Twits

# Don't pick more strawberries than you can actually DEAL with in a few hours. Trust me on this one.

# When picking husband up at airport, go directly to Arrivals gate. Don't get side-tracked by the Argentina vs. Mexico game in the lounge. He will take this somewhat personally.

# Snakes like straw. It's a fact. Deal with it.

# When people give you tips on pruning fig trees, write them down. Do not trust these things to your memory.

# Try not to let the fact that eldest son walks around randomly punctuating every comment anyone makes with the word "LOL" (pronounced "loll") drive you insane.

# If you wake up at 6am to watch a World Cup game, you will be tired by lunch. You might also be slightly irritable.

# Remember that your children will repeat amusing phrases they hear on the BBC's Horrible Histories. Phrases like "I'm so random!" will follow you where ever you go. Tip: earplugs.



Thursday, June 17, 2010

Garden Thursday


This is pretty much what's going on around here right now: strawberries. Strawberries and World Cup madness. Yes, I admit, I scorn every other sport but soccer. Why, you ask? Do you really need to ask? Good looking, trim, fit, lithe, long-haired men in shorts and tight t-shirts running around looking all Mediterranean and intense and sporty?

Say no more.

Other than that of course we're picking strawberries. And eating them. And making jam. I made 15 pints tonight. I used to experiment with strawberry recipes (Eton Mess, tortes, pies, tartes) but my kids are still young enough that all they really like is a) jam, and b) fresh berries, and c) strawberry shortcake. And maybe some more jam. So that's pretty much all we do with them. Every so often I go a little nutty and make a cobbler.

This is definitely the time of the year when Garden Tableaux are worth bothering about: the growth is lush, everything is fresh and new, and any old pot looks atmospheric shoved up against an old stump.

Witness this tableau. Le Tableau Vert. (that means This looks really cool, don't you think? in French)

Does your garlic look like this? Well, then, that's a good sign. It means that it's doing what it should be doing: ripening. The first time I grew garlic and it did this my initial thought was "$#&@! What the h$** did I do wrong?" I even dug up half of it, to see what was going on under the ground. That's when I belatedly realized that everything was going as it should be. I might have tried to bury it again, foolishly. I know I felt pretty dorky.

Now I can nod sagely and say, in response to my friends' "ACK! THAT PLANT IS DYING!" "Have you never seen garlic grow from beginning to end? This is, my friend, the circle of life."

Ha. No, of course I don't say this. Well, not usually. I'm a little more circumspect. Dignified. Usually.




A new lewisia. Orange! Rare! (oops, I'm sounding like the LEGO maniacs in this house, now, aren't I? "this is a really rare piece!") It fell off the back of a lorry. Couldn't very well leave it there, now, could I?





Here is Sandy's clematis. I'd link you to her blog but she hardly ever blogs anymore.

Ahem.








I've got big plans right now to fell some tree tops and make myself a 4-legged arbour, like one I saw in a garden magazine the other day. I've got a Cabernet Sauvignon grape that I plan to grow up one side of it, and I'm going to move my David Austen The Fairy rose over to the other side, because it was languishing a bit against the pine tree. Actually, I lie: I forgot about it as it languished against the pine until the other day when I was repositioning my soaker hoses and discovered it languishing rather sadly. It was not pleased with me. So I hauled it out of that spot and stuck it where my new arbour will eventually be. As soon as I get Richard to help me, that is. Don't tell him - I need to break these things to him slowly. He has this bizarre idea that his weekends are for relaxing. Ha! Who does that?





By the way, if you're looking for a pretty little creeper for your paths, try this Blue Star Creeper. It's not quite as robust as the usual Irish and Scots mosses, but it's extraordinarily charming. I would have had significantly more if I hadn't though it was a weed a few months ago, and tugged most of it away from these pavers.

Yes, just call me Gardeneri Lame-olei.










Oh, and my lovely little Rosamundi is in full bloom. It's low growing and slow growing, but the bloom is quite arresting. At least, it arrests me. And that bumble bee stuck in the middle there looks rather arrested, too, don't you think? Must have been Pink Flower Day.

Or White Flower Day...?




Finally, a shot of a planter with some petunias in it. Petunias, especially these little multifloras, are quite the workhorse and they usually have some pretty crazy colours on them. That tall spiky thing is a Dracaena. They say they are perennial but I've never had one to overwinter so I'll let you know just HOW perennial they really are another day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

May The Cookies Be With You

It all started here. I saw Bakerella's post about these new products at Williams-Sonoma (the horrendously expensive but way cool kitchen store) and immediately started madly obsessing musing about how I was going to get a package of these into my Cookie Cutter Collection. Yes, I do have a cookie cutter collection and yes, it is insanely large and involves way too many obscure designs but I am completely irrational about it fairly extensive.

But the reason I was prepared to pay $20 for 4 little Star Wars cookie cutters was this: my kids love the entire Star Wars oeuvre: movies, LEGO, light sabres, Halloween costumes (please don't ask if I made two brown Jedi robes with matching undercoats and wide belts for the boys for Halloween because I won't admit to it). And the idea of making a batch of cookies, a batch of royal icing in shades of green, brown, black, white, and red, then spending several hours hunched over the counter with way too many bags of icing decorating those little cookies so that they exactly resembled...

Wait.

Did I really just say that?

Anyhow, I saw that box, gnashed my teeth when I saw that it was too late to enter the draw for a free set (but let's face it, I never win those blog contests), and immediately phoned my mum, aka the Cross Border Shopping Queen, to tell her that we needed to drive down to Seattle, where the nearest American Williams-Sonoma was, so I could buy a box of Star Wars cookie cutters.

After listening to her guffaw loudly for a few minutes, I hung up and decided on another tactic. I would subtly encourage Richard to consider another trip down to Seattle. So what if we'd just been there? Surely there would be an academic conference or something nearby that he could go to why I quickly dashed to this store? Sadly, that didn't work either. "What do you want from that ridiculously expensive store now?" was his response. "We are not going down there for a box of silly cookie cutters." He might have accompanied those words with a withering look or three but I didn't let that stop me. Silly cookie cutters indeed. We'll see who gets a Darth Vader cookie, won't we? And then, wonder of wonders, my friend announced a trip. A trip to Seattle. It was fate. So what if she didn't live anywhere near me. She would have to drive right by a Williams-Sonoma store at some point in that trip, right? Sure she would! And we have Canada Post to connect us, right? So what if it sometimes take a month within the same city? Anyhow, I gave her some links to really fun places to take her kids, all of which involved a huge and totally out of the way detour past the Williams-Sonoma store.

Of, for goodness sakes, I am just kidding. I would never be so crass.

Of course not. Never. Not me. No way.

(Sheila coughs self-consciously then looks away)

Fortunately she is an extremely reasonable and kind to irrational people who pester her about cookie cutters person. She agreed to mail me a box. Look! Darth Vader! Boba Fett! Stormtrooper! Yoda! There they are, reclining enticingly on my counter, along with a batch of sugar cookie dough. To heighten the experience I even used the recipe that came with the cookie cutters. It was enough to make one giddy.



Here is the cookie dough after I'd rolled it out and pressed the cutters into it. These are actually quite sensible cutters: if you dust them with flour they don't stick a bit.

Luke, I am your father.

Cookie dough, I am.

Look, sir, droid cookies!

In the interests of not ending up with a mass of smooshy Darth Vaders and Stormtroopers, I put each tray of cookies into the freezer for 5 minutes before baking. I don't know if this made a difference or not, but look...

Here's how they turned out.

And there's FDPG's hand, snaking in to steal the first Boba Fett. Our friends came over shortly afterward. Thankfully they came before I was forced to consider the aspect of royal icing.

And all the cookies disappeared.












Cookie, I am.
Good, I am.
Earless, I am.





Getting deaf, I am.
Disappearing, I am.
Delicious, I am.






Silly, I am.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Foundling In The Garden

Okay, someone, identify this for me. What the heck is it? It was sitting in the blackberry bushes, looking ready to pupate.

And if you're wondering what is behind it (as Richard the Non-Gardener was) - it's my gardening glove. It was our Spinal Tap moment...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good On You K'naan

World Cup anthem, anyone? Here's a rendition that was featured on Jian Gomeshi's radio show Q a while back. It still remains my favourite version.

It's perfect. Really really perfect.

Now get out there and score some goals...


Garden Thursday

Some people like to build snowmen; I like to build rockmen. Here is one from my black and white spotted stone phase. Eventually the moss will grow so rough and thick that these rocks will be fused together.

This week in the garden saw us picking raspberries and strawberries, of all things. I'm going to have to lay out more slug bait, though, because Snake isn't keeping up her end of things in the strawberry bed. She seems to hang out closer to the side of the garden, where the slugs are large and brown, leaving the teeny tiny black slugs to feast on my strawberries. When I was out picking them this morning I found a few that were just a shell. A shell. The entire inside had been chewed methodically away, leaving the outside intact and fresh-looking. I was annoyed. I am so not a slug fan. I see no redeeming features in them at all.
I tried to get Toffee to chew on some slugs but he's too fastidious.

He prefers to sit decoratively on the paths.









When he's not acting as a model for me. Here he is showing you how big the mullein is. It's taller than the kids. Almost as tall as me. It looks alive, it's so big and sturdy and stiff. It glows in the night. Mullein turns up in all the medieval herbals, with various names: Hag's Taper; Clown's Lungwort; Jupiter's Staff; Clot. I plan on turning the flowers into oil later on.

Toffee plans on playing with the spiders that congregate under its leaves.









Lots of purple in the garden. I'm always struck by how much purple I've planted. These are balloon flowers.


This is a mallow called Braveheart. Not after Mel, but after its rich, deep, dark brave heart.






The petunias are almost overpowering the lettuce in the window boxes. These are right outside the living room window, and I've removed the screens so anyone can open the window and pick the lettuce. Lettuce tends to bolt if it gets too hot, but I get around this by planting it on the north side of the house, where it's always quite cool.





Another David Austen rose: Evelyn. This one is named for the store Crabtree & Evelyn. They sell a perfume that supposedly smells like this rose. This rose is most peculiar: it never opens up into a typical bloom like the others. Instead it stay like this - a little bud. It smells very delicate and fruity.













This is a garlic relative: ostrakownium or something like that. I can't find the tag and I don't think that's how it's spelled but I also can't find it by googling the word, so we'll all just have to remain mystified. It smells like sweet garlic if you can imagine it. Which is, contrary to what you might think, rather pleasant.







Silly Garden Sculpture #89

My mother threw out this teapot and because it was in such good condition I took it when she wasn't looking. At the time I thought I'd use it for mosaics but it ended up in the garden. Now it has a teacup as its companion. Everyone should have a companion, right?

It's sitting in a pot of cannas, which grow well here although you can't overwinter them outside. I forget which variety this one is but it's very unusual-looking: gold striped leaves and hot orange flowers. According to my garden book its closest living relatives are the gingers and bananas. Now if only I had some gingers and bananas in my garden!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Real Movies & Marmite

Roger Ebert wants to start a campaign for real movies. I'm in. It's fun seeing cheesy big-screen action flicks with the kids, and thank the heavens for the brilliance of kid-friendly Pixar, but I spent most of my early adulthood going to see obscure films made by people with little allegiance to the Cult of Personality that seems to reign today (witness Catherine Keener in Percy Jackson and think back to Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall). I'm sure I'm venturing into Old Codger territory but for the most part movies are booooring and too expensive.

Curious about the effect of plastic in your life? Read this article in the New Yorker.

Finally, yesterday I featured a new campaign involving Marmite and Horrid Henry. It seems that some of my friends are unacquainted with Marmite. Someone (I won't mention names) almost conflated it with Vegemite. The horror!

So in an effort to convince you of the sheer wonderfulness of Marmite, let me feature a picture from my very own house. See, I've even labelled it in case of Potential Loss of Memory down the road. I'll always know what's behind this door.


(what about that obscure font? it might be hard to read. have you thought of that?)









Look! Marmite jars! It's a Marmite spice rack. If you look really closely you can even see the mini-heart Marmite singles from the Marmite Valentine's day campaign they had a while ago.

Big jars, little jars, medium sized jars. It's a Goldilocks cupboard, where everything is just right.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Look Who's Reading!

Horrid Henry. Of all the unlikely people to pick up a book. At least, that was the initial reaction from all three of my kids, all of whom are fervent Horrid Henry fans. "He never reads!" shouted Dominic gleefully. "Only comic books!" giggled FDPG. "I don't think he'd ever read willingly," said Max, rather ruefully, from the depths of his Write With The Best assignment.

But Henry likes Marmite. Or rather, Marmite likes him. They know a good advertising campaign when they see one, which is why they have the Marmite is Horrid (for Henry fans) and Marmite is Perfect (in case you swing with Perfect Peter) jars for sale at the moment. Go here, then click on your preference. Just for fun, go back and click on the other choice too; we found recipes for Battered Bogey Baps rather intriguing, even though we all LOVE Marmite here.
And at the back of each jar, you'll find a link to a free Horrid Henry audio download.

Look! There's Henry, reading reluctantly. Ruefully. Resentfully. Recalcitrantly. Resistingly. Reservedly.

All thanks to Marmite.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

But Wait! There's More!


We've been watching this series on DVD, which is easier on the eye, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube YouToo can watch them. Click on these links and you'll find more.

Try this Emperometer. It's brilliant. A mini history of Rome in under 2 minutes.

Viking Poetry. Or this soft rock classic from that crazy quartet: The Vicious Vikings.

This segment of the show is our particular favourite. Watch that skeleton dance!

Then there's the Shouty Man. I tried to find Inca Child but this one is almost as funny.




Odds & Ends

Heard in the house on the weekend:

"We learn a lot of stuff on The Simpsons." (spoken by one of the kids; suddenly I feel uneasy)

"Why is the smoke coming out of his chimney green & blue? And why does it smell so bad?" (spoken by another one of the kids; I forget what the kids might be learning from Homer and worry about this instead)

"I painted that? That's really nice!" (spoken by one of the kids - the one who forgets easily, obviously; I am too busy rolling my eyes to worry about this)

Interesting article by the indefatigable Stanley Fish. Reiterates why we do what we do in our homeschool world.

New additions:

Gladiators in Britain?

For those of us on the Wobbly West Coast, a little something to make you even more uneasy about The Big One.

Great gardening listening. You can podcast this as well.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garden Thursday

All things going as they should have gone, this post would have been up last night, but our big homeschool track meet was today and somehow I forgot all about Garden Thursday (luckily I'm not on some payroll somewhere, isn't it). As it was, it's a good thing this is a written column and not a spoken one, because I am hoarse from shrieking "GO! GO! GO!" and "RUN! RUN! RUN!" over and over and over again. Pretty exciting stuff. Nothing like watching your kids run like the wind.

But we were talking gardening, weren't we?

I've had a few people mention the lack of bees in their gardens right now. If you're noticing this make sure you have enough enticing plants for them. Here are a few of the things attracting the bees in my garden: Jupiter's Beard, roses, rhodos, coreopsis, digitalis, asters, balloon flowers, clematis, strawberries, clover, sage, lupins, foamflower, marigolds (I'd include the usual fruit trees but mine have already flowered so I'm focusing mostly on what is flowering at the moment). Don't forget habitat: solitary bees need places to live, whether it's simple holes in the ground or brushy, rocky areas for them to burrow into. I've been noticing a lot of paper wasps and already I have two little 'starter' nests that I had to turf out of the greenhouse. Sadly, one was in the roof beam (where it would have posed a hazard to anyone entering it) and the other was nestled inside a pot, and I only noticed it when I dug out the pot's contents: an overwintered agapanthus. Here's a link to paper wasps, which are good for your garden, if their nest is somewhere that everyone can co-exist with, of course.

It's incredibly green here right now. We've been having a lot of rainy warm weather, which raises the spectre of blight, about which I have little experience (knock on wood) or I'd give you some ideas. The up side to this kind of weather is that it causes the plants to grow like stink. In the top photo you can see the spotted pulmonaria that I cut down to the ground 2 weeks ago. It will be blooming again by August. Surrounding it is the mint that we've been eating every day: in sandwiches, in cous cous, puréed in salad dressings (1/2 cucumber, a good fistful of mint, some seasonings, oil and vinegar and you have a really amazing dressing). I'm also making mint syrups. This is best done with new mint - the stalks are still soft and the taste is fresh. I freeze it in little sandwich freezer bags, to be brought out when it's the middle of winter and we're longing for something fresh in our lemonade or Christmas party punches.

Another project I'm working on is this. You can't see it all that well in the photo but I'm laying PVC pipe across lawns and walkways where the soaker hoses usually run. This way the slaves kids can mow the lawn without me worrying about them mowing the hoses as well. Last year I buried the hoses, which worked well enough although the paths were a bit on the sodden side. This year I am going to thread the hoses through the pipe so the water can run one way or another into a bed and not pool in the ground under the path. I can then leave the pipe in the ground permanently and haul the hose out without worrying about it having been sitting under sod all summer.

Firsts: artichokes are coming up, as are the new potatoes. We've also been eating the first strawberries and honeyberries (from a fruiting honeysuckle). The green onions are everywhere, as is the lettuce (I've got a speckled red and green Romaine called Freckles that is quite unique) and the first raspberries are starting to ripen. Makes up for all those bloody green caterpillars decimating the young apple trees.








I discovered a snake in the garden the other day. She looked very fat, which is what led me to believe that it might be a she soon to be a they. Sigh. I also had snake nightmares that night. I am so not a snake person.

Here's a new garden experiment: we're using chicken wire to grow potatoes in. This particular cage is called Experiment #2. This is Dominic's garden, and you can see the wire in it surrounding a rather large patch of potatoes from last year's Lost & Forgotten Crop. We're adding soil as the plant grows. I am hoping that this will keep the potatoes and their hills from spreading into everything else, as they did last year. I'm what you call a Cram Gardener: I cram what I can into what space I have. You'd be surprised what you can grow vertically if you try.
Here are some more potato cages. They are Experiment #1. I've sawn the bottoms off random plastic pots. Experiment #3 involves more chicken wire and taller cages.

Yes, the fun never ends around here.






Here is Clever Idea #286. Well, I like to think of it as a Clever Idea. We'll see how clever it is come August, when I hope to be harvesting a crop of English cucumbers from the horizontal stick attached at right angles to this cedar stake. At the bottom of the cedar stake is a little cucumber plant (in the clump of white). Four feet to the left of this stake is another stake (with another cucumber plant), and that long horizontal stick is attached to both stakes. The idea is that these cucumber plants will grow up and across, fruiting cleverly and oh-so-handily along that stick. I will flounce along and pick pick pick. This idea came about because we just finished all the cucumber relish I made last year, in my never-ending quest to avoid high fructose corn syrup (condiments being a favourite dwelling place of HFCS). It was good relish. So I will make more, providing this clever idea holds up.

What's the "clump of white" you ask? Ground eggshells. I have a large container of them and I surround all the new starts with a good sprinkling. Keeps the slugs away. Of course, it might actually be the snake keeping the slugs away...
Gratuitous Garden photo.

People always seem surprised when they see my garden in real life, but that's because they don't realize what a tricky photographer I am. On the other side of this tree is a 4 lane freeway, 3 grocery stores, and 5 apartment buildings.