Dear Gentle Reader,

I am still here.  It seems that I have busy with life, work, finances, and avoiding the hot weather.  But, now that it is cool, I need to get back into the garden.  So, tomorrow, I am going to get back out there and do a little Fall clean up and plant shallots.  Since I didn’t have much luck with garlic (it was puny), I decided to try shallots.  I like them better than garlic, and shallots are expensive.  So it might be worth the effort.  I am going to read up on them tomorrow morning.  I want to make sure I do a good job this time.

I have decided that my grow boxes aren’t what I want.  They seriously limit your space.  I suppose that if you didn’t have much space to begin with, they would be a good thing.  But otherwise, maybe not.  I am definitely not going to grow tomatoes in self watering containers.  Next year, those are going to have only herbs in them.

In any case, I am getting back into the garden.  I will take pictures and post how things go tomorrow.

Dear Gentle Reader,

Wow! I think the post on this blog explains how my thining of myself, and hiring a personal trainer, has changed. I am definately motivated by what kind of old lady I will be (plus not wanting to feel like crap now because I am too out of shape). Here here to all the FASTTs!

Is sixty the new thirty? I had a sad realisation the other day: my parents, who both turned 60 this year, are physically fitter than me. I run, I go to the gym (occasionally) yet I couldn't keep up with them on an hour-long bike ride. I am 25, I have three and a half decades on them. They should be slowing down, donning the slippers and doing nothing more … Read More

via Sally Newall

Dear Gentle Reader,

This may seem silly or stupid, but this is something that has been going on in my life the last few months.  You may be aware that DD is sixteen and wants to have a career in fashion design.  For her, this means that she is very concerned about what she wears, her hair and makeup

Since I am the mom, and I happen to be a girly girl, it has fallen to me to take DD shopping, to the hairdresser, to Sephora, etc.  DD didn’t really know how to apply makeup correctly, so we had a little family Mary Kay party.  We have watched (and discussed) countless miscellaneous Youtube, Makeup Geek, and Michele Phan videos on makeup techniques.  We had the hairdresser wax her eyebrows for the first time.  We purchased pumps (she’s super short).  We coordinated her wardrobe.  We got rid of all of the stained T-shirts from the past few years and repaced them with a few new, non-stained ones.  And so on. 

I have actually had a good time.  I have enjoyed spending this time with DD.  Though, from my perspective, a lot of this has been humerous.  (Very serious for her.  Don’t Laugh!)

I used to wear makeup all of the time.  That is until my life was over-run with stress from graduate school, living and working in San Diego, being layed off in San Diego (2X), and my husband’s continuing illness.  But, now that we have moved to KC and are living with family, my life is not so stressful any more.  I feel better about myself and my life, and I feel like doing some of those things again. 

So, I started wearing makeup again.  And you know what happened between then and now?  I got WRINKLES!  Where did those come from?  I mean, I’m only almost 50….

Actually, I don’t mind the wrinkles themselves.  But I do mind the makeup going into them.  It looks hideous.  Now I am on a quest for makeup that doesn’t go into my wrinkles (and pores) and also does not give me zits.  It’s not too nice having flesh and/or brightly colored lines and dots on your face.

I have recently learned that HD makeup (High-Definition) is THE thing these days.  I guess if your TV is HD, your face had better be too, so you can look good on it.  HD makeup looks lovely, just like on a professional model.  But, it containes a lot of silicones to seal up and fill your pores and lines.  Sort of like spackle.  In fact, certain kinds of HD makeup (like HD primer) is called spackle.  Bet you never thought to spackle your face so you would look good in photos.

For some people, this may be great.  But for me, every time I try it I have at least 10 little white zits by the end of the day.   I don’t really want to do this more than one day, needless to say.  (I don’t think one should have to endure hot flashes and zits at the same time.)   I have tried several organic products, but they often contain essential oils, especially rosemary and mint, to which I am allergic.  Next, I am trying TARTE’s silicone-free primer and a mineral foundation made by Pink Quartz Minerals (the owner makes it in her kitchen and sells it on Etsy).  I hope that it goes well, so I can quit worrying about this.  Lord knows there a plenty of better things to do with my time.  (Why the ?&*# am I doing this anyway?  I think my brain might be stuck.)

DH thinks all of this is rather humerous (which it is).  Also, he thinks this is because I am almost 50.  I don’t really think so, since I feel great.  But maybe a little bit.  Or maybe it’s just fun to be a girly girl again.

Dear Gentle Reader,

I still haven’t been in the garden too much.  We have fluctuated between too hot and not too hot, and on the days when it has been not too hot I have had too many other things that I had to do instead.  For example, the last several weekends have been taken up with (not in any particular order) taking my 16-year old DD shopping for new school clothes, supplies and Lord knows what else, clearing out all of our furniture and “stuff” from our self-storage unit, moving the furniture and stuff to our basement and/or my office, cleaning out and organizing the basement (this has taken several weekends and we are still not done), getting my car fixed, starting a fitness program with a personal trainer, grocery shopping and cooking when my DH is ill, and who knows what else.   The basement was full of about three families-worth of stuff, so our stuff wan’t going down there until a lot came out.  It was so full, you could hardly squeeze yourself between and/or around the stacks of boxes.  We got rid of so much furniture and all, that the neighbors across the street probably thought we were moving out.  But then we brought in more furniture.  So… were we moving in?  They have lived in that house only a few weeks, so it must have been confusing to watch.

Quite honestly, with so much going on in my life, I haven’t really felt like getting out there in the back yard, even though it might have been one of those not too hot days.

In any case, here are some good things that I have been doing:

I started working with a personal trainer.  It was either do this or get my stomach stapled.  Since I am not partial to re-routed plumbing, I went the trainer route.  It has been a month, and I have seen some important improvements.  For example, I can walk a really long way, my back is much better, my knees are better, my arms are stronger, and my clothes are not too tight.  I’m feeling like I won’t end up being a decrepit old lady who drives her family crazy with complaining (if I keep this good work up). 

Since we have cleaned out the basement, I have had room to set up my “sewing room,” which consists of a couple of tables and several sewing machines.  I still have a lot of work on that, but pretty soon I will be able to get back to sewing.  This is good because DD plans to go into fashion, and is taking a class in basic textiles and design this year.  She hasn’t needed the sewing machine yet, but she might in the next few weeks.

I am trying to figure out a routine so that I can do most of the cooking and shopping.  My DH is often ill and unable to do this, even through he is at home.  I recently picked up a book on freezer cooking, and am trying out the recipes.  The first thing I tried was chicken enchiladas, and boy were they good (easy too).  Of course, DD didn’t like them, which is usual with her.  It often seems that she has decided that it is her job to not like almost anything that I cook.  And if she happens to like what ever it is for a while, at some point she will decide that she doesn’t like it any more.  What a pain.  Well, that’s too bad for her.  She’s going to have to eat what I put on the table or be hungry.  This weekend, I want to make the chicken enchiladas again and put a couple of batches in the freezer.  And I will pick out a second recipe to taste (don’t want to make a 6X batch, only to find that we don’t like it).

There are a few things that I do want to get done in the garden this Fall.

  1. Clean out the garden on the side of the garage, but down a biodegradable weed block and mulch. 
  2. Hack back the jungle of weeds in the back half of the yard.
  3. Plant shallots.
  4. Mulch the veggie gardens.

This Fall and Winter, I hope to make fermented pickles, can LOTS of applesauce, get back to sourdough baking, do a little sewing, and even a little knitting, go to the gym at least 4-times a week, and hopefully get back to Zumba.  Also, I want to get myself and my family into a regular routine.  Summer was fun, but time to get back at it.

And that’s about it.  If you happen to have some good freezer recipes, please send them on.  It would be great to try them out.

I hope that all is well with you!

Dear Gentle Reader,

Sorry that I haven’t been about for a while.   But, I am back in the garden again.  Hooray!  Here is an update on what I have been doing.

It has been hotter than I’ll get out the past few weeks.  So, as a result, I haven’t been doing more than occasional watering and picking tomatoes and zukes.  The Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes are going berserk.  I don’t think I have ever seen a tomato produce so much, and they don’t seem bothered by disease, pests or the heat.  My four plants are producing so much that I am having to pawn them off on the neighbors, people at work, and any unsuspecting stranger that happens to stroll by the house. 

The Al Kufa tomatoes are great too.  They haven’t had any problems with disease or getting blown over.  They are very sturdy bushes that don’t really need any support at all.  Plus they are producing a lot.  These are a bit smaller than a tennis ball.  So, next year I would like to grow something with larger tomatoes.  Other than that, I have no complaints with the Al Kufa.  They are really great plants.

The Amish Paste tomatoes I have aren’t doing so well.  I think it is because I planted them in SWCs, and they are just too small for the plants.  The tomatoes that I am getting from them are wonderful.  But the plants are kind of straggly looking and run out of water frequently.  I might try them again next year, in the ground.   I think the Al Kuffa would have done better in the SWCs, as they are short, blocky plants.  I think I’ll plant herbs in the SWCs next year.  I’ve always had great success with herbs in the SWCs.

The corn was a bust.  Most of the ears were not fertilized at all.  A few had about 1/3 of the kernels fertilized, and only one ear was fully fertilized.  What a bummer.  I guess, if I want to grow corn in the future, I need to have a really big plot of it, not just a 4×6 growing box.  BTW, the pumpkins I planted grew but never produced pumpkins.  Eventually, they got ripped out.

The cukes haven’t been doing well.  The vines were growing like crazy, and I got tons of blooms, but the plants weren’t producing female flowers.  I really don’t know why.  Up until this past weekend, the plants were healthy.  But, when I went out Saturday to water, half of the plants had succumbed to bacterial wilt.  Boo hoo.  I need to read up on cukes to find out why they didn’t make female flowers.  This variety is supposed to be very prolific.

The Hubbard squash is going strong.  I have two beautiful fruits growing on them.  There were about 4 or 5 squash that got started but bit the dust.  Don’t know why that is.  In any case, I am keeping my fingers crossed that bacterial wilt doesn’t get this.  So far, it has been a very healthy, vigorous plant.  It doesn’t seem to be bothered by much.  But, boy is it BIG!  It is growing half way around the house.  It is planted in a garden on the side of the house and then wraps around to the back.  It is multi-branching.  And every few days I have to pick up a new branch that is starting out into the yard, and move it so that it will grow along the garden in the back of the house.  I would like to grow it again next year, but I’m not sure where I will do that.  Maybe I will start it just outside the gardens, and then wrap it around as it grows.  Then it won’t get mowed over.

The garlic was also a bust.  I waited too late to pick the hardneck garlic, and the papery skins had rotted away, leaving bare, mouldy, teeny tiny cloves.  They went into the composter.   The soft neck garlic was picked at the right time, and is hanging in the kitchen, but it also has tiny cloves.  In the grand scheme of things, I’m no so sure it is worth my time to grow garlic.  The leeks were awful too.  They were bulbing (making babies), so I obviously didn’t pick them at the right time.  I think I will try again with leeks, but try a variety where I know what it is.  I have no idea what these were.

One of the garden boxes is cleaned out, and I have planted Ecinacea, Rudbeckia and Shasta daisies that I started from seed a few weeks ago.  Next spring, I plan to move them to the garden on the side of the garage.  I would like it to be mostly “wild flowers.”  Tight now, it is overgrown with the Hubbard squash and crab grass.  Also, there is a fabulous swamp milkweed and some common milkweed.  The swam milkweed is a huge plant (about 4-feet high) and the bees and butterflies love it.  I think I would like some little blue stem grass there too.  It will be kind of wild, but we will get some pretty flowers during the summer.

And that’s all for now.  I’ll be back at the end of the week.  I want to plant some lettuces for Fall.  And it is time to get busy making pickles.  Before you know it, it will be time to make applesauce! )

Dear Gentle Reader,

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a long time.  My back has been out, again.  I have been spending a lot of time on the heating pad and doing physical therapy, so, I haven’t been able to do much in the garden. 

However, every few days I have been able to get out for a few minutes to harvest the zucchini and cherry tomatoes.  They are doing well.  The Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes are going nuts!  And they don’t seem to have a speck of disease .  I will definitely grow these again.  The Al Kufa tomatoes are finally starting to ripen up.  But it turns out that they are rather small tomatoes that tend to crack, though they aren’t getting blossom end rot or mildew.  I think that next year I would prefer to grow a beefsteak type of tomato instead.  The Amish paste tomatoes aren’t doing well at all, possibly because they are in the self-watering containers.  These have only 1 ft3 of dirt, and I just don’t think it is enough for them, even though they are determinant tomatoes.  But I had to take one out for wilt and blossom end rot several weeks ago, and the other two plants aren’t looking too good.  I have one Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato in one of the SWCs, and while it is much better than the Amish Pastes, it isn’t doing nearly as well as the ones in the dirt.

I harvested the Mexican Sour Gherkins, and they are good, but you would need an entire garden of them to get enough to pickle.  It seems that the plants produce only once, and that’s it.  The H-19 cukes are doing well, lots of flowers, but still no fruit.  Don’t know what that’s about.

The okra is doing well, finally starting to flower.  We’ll see if 5 plants is enough.

I harvested one container of potatoes.  They are fine, but there weren’t very many and most are Tiny.  I have seen on other blogs that potatoes seem to grow much better when they are in the ground, not a container (like the grow bags I used).

And the corn is a disaster.  It has been blown down by the wind so many times that I am going to have to pull it out. 

After this year, I think that to get a decent amount of anything, I need to plant a lot more of each plant.  And to do that, I have the wrong type of garden.  Instead of a few raised beds, I think I want to convert my garden to one very large bed with paths, sort of like very long 3- or 4-foot wide mounded up beds, with mulch walk-ways between them.  Hopefully, the beds would be at least 25-feet long.  And next year, I think I need to be a little more simple about the crops I select.  I have wanted to try all kinds of things, which all seem to be failing.  I need to pick five to eight crops and focus on those, so that I get good at them, and then branch out from there.  Also, I will only grow smaller things in the SWCs, such as herbs or flowers.  I have grown herbs in them in the past, and they did very well.

That’s all for now.  It might be another week or so, before I post again.  I am hoping that my back will shape up very soon, so I can get back at it.

Hope you all are doing very well.

Dear Gentle Reader,

Sorry that I have not been posting lately.  This past week, we have been busy with house guests.  It was nice to have them, but I haven’t had time to blog.  This coming weekend, we will be away at a family reunion, and I have to spend most of my free time working, to make up for lost work hours.  So, not too much blogging again. 

But, I did have time to check my garden.  And Finally, I was able to harvest something. 🙂  Here are the total:

Yellow Zucchini: two squashes totalling 0.80 lbs.  A lot more are coming on, so soon there will be a glut.  My neighbor dropped off two jalapenos, reminding me that I will be able to pawn zucchini off on them.  Also, I discovered that he has a crabapple tree in his back yard, and I have been welcomed to pick them when ever I want.  Better go over tonight, and put them in the fridge.  Our neighbor says that they are very ripe right now, and won’t be good for much longer.

Carrot: one tinny 1/8 oz carrot

Purple Italian Hardneck Garlic: 0.42 lbs  These had tiny cloves, and the papery covering was pretty much gone.  Some of the cloves were starting to grow.  I think I waited too long to harvest, though I did wait until the tops had dried up.  Also, I cut off the scapes, but the cloves were really small anyway.  I need to read up about growing garlic with large cloves.

Pink Music Hardneck Garlic: 0.30 lbs  Same as above.

Leeks: 1.20 lbs  These were not what I expected.  I think I should have probably cut off the scapes.  Oh well.  Almost all of the leeks were making one or two cloves on their sides.  In some cases, the cloves were starting to grow.  I had picked these up last year (at the nursery), as a single pot of generic leeks.  I think I need to start next year’s leeks from seed, so that I know what I am getting.  But, for now, I can plant my zinnias and have some summer blooms.

It wasn’t much of a harvest, so far, but I learned a lot.

The corn is growing really well.  Most of the plants have started growing a second ear.  Interestingly, the local gold finches love the corn.  There are usually several in the corn.  Maybe they like the bugs.  I don’t mind.  They are so beautiful.  We have lots of goldfinches, since I have a thistle feeder across the yard from the corn.

There are a couple of baby pumpkins on the vine.  I haven’t seen any Hubbards forming yet, but that should be soon.  The Mexican Sour Gherkins are growing like gangbusters, but I still haven’t seen any H-19 cukes yet (only male flowers). 

I need to harvest the potatoes, either tonight or tomorrow night. 

The cherry tomatoes are growing all over the garden (had to tie them up) and are just starting to ripen.  The Al Kuffa tomatoes are doing really well.  They are short, sturdy plants that haven’t been blown over.  And each plant has several clusters of slicing tomatoes.  I think they will take a week or so to start ripening up.

That’s all for now.  Hope that your garden is growing well.

Dear Gentle Reader, 

I took several photos before I left on my trip, and then more this morning.  So, I think I will compare before and after pictures. 

This was the corn the evening before I left.  As you can see it has grown over the PCP pipes I have for the winter cover.  The pipes seem to be helping to hold the corn up when it is super windy.  On this evening, the corn had begun to make tassels, though it is difficult to see here.  Also, some of the stalks were just beginning to show a little silk. 

Corn on June 24, 2010.

And here we are a week later, on the morning of July 1, 2010.  It is much taller, way over my 5’4″ head.  All of the corn has tassels, and most of them have tassels for an ear of corn.  How many ears of corn does a single plant get in any way?  One ear?  Two?  More?  Interestingly, some of the ears have white silk, and others have red silk.  The plants with the red silk also have some reddish coloring on their stalks and leaves.  Since this variety produces both gold and maroon ears, I am guessing that the white silk goes with the golden ears, and the red silks go with the maroon ears. 

Silk on a baby ear of corn.

Corn with red silks - a maroon-colored ear coming up? 

The cucumbers are all growing well.  First, lets take a look at the Mexican Sour Gherkins.  These plants are growing like gang-busters.  And they are covered with teeny tiny cucumbers.  The whole plant is kind of tiny (leaves, fruit, flowers) except that it grows many really long vines very quickly.  For those who aren’t familiar with Mexican Sour Gherkins, they are a bit sour (of course) and look like tiny watermelons (with the green and white stripes).  In the second photo, below, you can just begin to see the stripes on the little cuke.  They will make great pickles.  

Mexican Sour Gherkin Covered with Baby Cukes!

Baby Mexican Sour Gherkin

As far as the H-19 Little Leaf cukes, they are growing well, and covered with flowers.  But I have only seen male flowers so far.  Today, I actually planted three more H-19 Little Leaf starts, as I have only one vine on the trellis.  The others were munched by something.  Maybe Bambi? 

H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber on Trellis.

Is it a male or a female bud? We'll see soon.

I need to harvest the leeks this weekend.  They are looking kind of bad, as they were blown over in a storm a couple of weeks ago.  But, here you can see what the flowers look like.  It is kind of interesting, since they start out white and then turn pink. 

Old and new leek blooms.

The bees seemed to really like the leek blooms.  They were all over them.  I got a picture of this odd bee.  It was shiny metallic bottle green.  I thought that it might be a fly, but it didn’t have the fly eyes.  So I looked it up, and apparently it is of the genus Agapostemon virescens, a kind of sweat bee.  They are solitary bees, like mason bees.  I but up a mason bee house, but haven’t seen any activity there yet.

Agapostemon virescens having a leek lunch.

And finally, I wanted to show you the royal velvet okra.  It is a pretty plant, though the stem seems to be kind of spindly.  The leaves have lovely dark maroon spots, veins and stems. 

Royal Velvet Okra.

Dear Gentle Reader,

We returned home last night, just in time for me to run outside and water.  We had a wonderful, relaxing time visiting with relatives.  I look forward to another visit next year. 

When I went outside, I was amazed by how much my garden had grown.  I have to take more photos tonight and get busy blogging.  I had taken several photos, and had planned to blog while away, but I just never had the time.  So, I think I will be pretty busy catching up with a mammoth-sized entry (over the next few evenings).   I may not get too much done, however, as I have relatives coming in this weekend, and then the weekend after that we are going to a family reunion. 

I guess that’s all for today.  I hope that you all are having a great summer.

Dear Gentle Reader,

Tomorrow morning my family and I are off to visit one of my DH’s older sisters (and her family) up in Minneapolis Saint Paul.   Here is the general route.

We will be back early next week. While we are gone, I won’t be able to blog. So, I’ll see you next week. Hope you all have a good weekend! 🙂