Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Good Fences

After about 10 years of chain link, we have upgraded our fences (at least a few of them) to wood. This wasn't entirely - or even mostly - about aesthetics. It was about trying to be good neighbors on the one hand, and block the view into our yard from the kinda scary neighbors next door on the other.  On the being a good neighbor front, I have finally reconciled myself to the fact that the City of Laurel doesn't like my hydrangeas that line our property in the front.  Too wild and wooly.  So they have been tamed by a proper little picket fence, and they can peek demurely over the top but will no longer reach, strumpet like, for passersby on the sidewalk.  The tall fence and gate on the side will also make us better neighbors, we hope, by keeping Otis from barking at every single person, dog, cat, and squirrel that passes his domain, because he won't be able to see them.  I had forgotten that he will still be able to hear them (even the squirrel, it seems) and so the payoff on this one is dubious.

We finally decided to spring for the fence, though, after I unwisely watched a few episodes of The Wire.  Mixing motherhood with shows about drugs and horrific violence isn't a good idea, apparently, because I lay awake one night imagining that the poor broken-down old guy in his broken down old van, or the practically catatonic lady of the night (though she seems to provide services in the day, too), or one of the other four or so down-on-their-luck people who live jam packed into the single family house next door might actually be the kind of person who murders with a nail gun and stashes the bodies in Baltimore row houses.  All evidence to the contrary, because they seem to be the kind of people who will come over in the rain to tell you you left the lights on in your car.  But still, irrational fear is still fear, and so the credit card came out and the fence went up.

Did I mention that it looks a lot nicer than the chain link?  I have been dreaming of a nice fence as a backdrop to the fruit trees, and now I have it.  All it took was a nightmare about a nail gun.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Like a bull in a china shop...

What is more destructive in the garden than a 90 pound boxer?  
An 18 pound bulldog pup.  Meet Milo.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


My grapes are wearing rubbers to protect their sweet vulnerable flesh from the depraved ravages of the birds.
Standard plastic rubber
 Like the good public health nerd I am, I am testing two methods of prevention: the plastic bag and the paper bag.  Random gardeners on the internet claim good results with both methods, but I want data, people.
Risky paper rubber

Monday, July 16, 2012

When the Tree Falls

A derecho took out my tree.  No, I had never heard of a derecho, either, but apparently it is a counterpart to a tornado - a strong fast storm that (unlike a twister) moves straight ahead.  The storm knocked down half of the bradford pear tree, which fell perfectly between Noah's bedroom and Noah's pet sunflower.  After some excavation we found Noah's garden gnome unharmed beneath the wreckage.  My lucky boy.  I was not so lucky.  The storm took out the bradford pear, the bradford pear took out an apple tree, and the apple tree took out my raspberries.  All of that landed on my herb garden.  We sawed the branches up and piled them by the fence awaiting the tree service to take down the rest of the tree and chip the whole mess, but the entire back yard now looks quite woebegone and battle weary.  Too much heat, too much wind, not enough water.

On a happy note, the lilies and phlox have indeed bloomed.  The garden goes on.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

An Eggplant is Just an Eggplant

Although this photo makes you wonder, no?  I took the photo in the Cedar Ridge farm for a handout I was writing on "How to Harvest," to show people when a veggie was ready to be picked.  This eggplant, though, did not make it into the handout.  Too ripe for church.

My own garden is also a story of fertility, but of fertility enjoyed by others.  The birds got to the breba crop of figs and also ate almost all of the blueberries.  Something seems to be getting to the raspberries before I do.  But there was a decent crop of peas, and the cukes are coming along now.  I pulled all of the garlic, and they were enormous (I should have a photo of the bulbs along side yon eggplant).

It is now very hot and very dry and my interest in the garden has gone as dormant as the grass.  It will perk up, though, as the main crop of figs comes in and the oriental lilies bloom next month.  At that point the eggplants will no longer be so suggestive, and maybe I will titter less and work more.  Maybe.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012


The strawberries are in.  About a quart today.  I ate my share standing in the garden, ripping their green tops off with my teeth.  Noah ate his for dessert, tossed with sugar.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Baby Bird

If you look closely you can see a nest among the roses, and in that nest are four baby robins.  They hatched today.  Who can know, but I imagine this is the same family of robbins that nested in the spruce tree next to the porch last spring, and lost their entire brood when the nest fell from the branches.  I watch this nest nervously, because it has a serious list.  The tilt means I can sit on the couch in the living room and look into the nest and the gaping baby mouths...but I wish the babies were safer.

Today my friend is delivering her baby boy.  Her beloved baby girl died about 5 months ago.  I am breathless, seeing this hope: life is good, life is joyful, life is worth trying again.  The birds know it, my friends know it, and I try to know it, too.


I had to mark the moment: my garden looks tidy.  Not perfectly weeded or mowed, not bloomingly beautiful, but tidy.  As I am not by nature a tidy gardener this is no common thing.
Even the vegetable garden, that den of bindweed and blowing straw, is looking quite cleaned up.  Yes, yes, there are weeds in the paths.  There will always be weeds in the paths.  Today I am just glad that, from a distance, my garden has some order.

Monday, May 7, 2012

On High Spring and Tailoring

Peony from front bed
High spring, the time of peonies, irises, and roses.  The flower bed in the front yard is finally blooming, after a number of years of mulling and last year's work of weeding and planting.
Siberian iris
My two little clumps of Siberian iris are blooming, and I realize I love these guys - what have I been doing with those bearded irises all these years?  In this bed of buxom peonies the tailored Siberians perform the same function as a structured jacket does for a plump woman: they hold it all together.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Bestest Garden

Noah decided he wanted his own spot of earth.  His own garden to do with as he would.  He chose this spot under the butterfly bush, where there was water and stone and earth.

Noah chose the plants for his vegetable plot - strawberries and spinach, transplanted from the big garden.  He watered them well, and now Elfie the garden elf watches over Noah's own private paradise.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Growing up there was a shady corner in front of the shed, just outside of my bedroom window, that was full of lilies of the valley.  They bloomed in May in Rhode Island, I think, and I remember my mom insisting I look at them and smell them and appreciate them.  I'm not entirely sure I did appreciate them then, but I do now.  I don't have the right kind of damp shady corner these guys like, and so they are in a dry shady spot under the hydrangeas out front.  No matter - they bloomed.

Last night I sat on the couch and the living room smelled like perfume from the lilies of the valley and the lilac.  I closed my eyes and just sniffed, remembering the garden in Kingston and all the springs I have smelled.  Then I noticed a weird sour note as I sniffed, and opened my eyes to the pair of small stinky sweat socks on the couch beside me, and the small bare feet careening through the house.  I left the socks on the couch, but took the boy out to appreciate the lilies of the valley.  Or not.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sherwood Forest

My Robin Hood, at home in his Sherwood Forest.  I was reminded that this isn't only my garden, but also Noah's blank canvas for his adventures.  Somehow yesterday the backyard was a roiling sea, the land where Pokemon live, and the home of a superhero named Captain Asparagus, all at once.  Go figure.

The long-suffering fig tree has become the climbing tree. It is such soft, pliable wood that it bends and sways under the weight of the boys, but hasn't broken yet.  The yard doesn't offer a better climbing tree, so this is what they get, and for the time being it seems a satisfactory hide out.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Is there anything more beautiful than a camellia?  If so I haven't seen it.  Oh, my son's smile is more lovely to me, but we are talking flowers here.

Last year I told myself to plant daffodils underneath the camellias on the east side of the house, so that you would see their cooler color under the shower of pink camellias and even pinker ornamental plum blossoms.  For once, I did what I told myself to do:

It will take time for those daffodils to naturalize and make much of a show, but I feel great satisfaction in simply carrying through with a plan, because it is such a rare thing.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Green Shoots Regurgitated

The asparagus is up!  Yesterday was the day.  Snapped off the first spear and gave it to a hungry one-year-old boy (with his mother's permission).  He chomped it down, then threw it up.  Oh well.  Maybe it needed butter.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Little Surprises

Standing on the back porch yesterday I saw a flash of blue from the bed underneath the magnolia and went to pick up what I thought must be trash - I hadn't planted anything blue there!  And I found these little treasures: tiny irises (or what look like irises?) about four inches high growing among the daffodils.  I must have planted them last fall, but I have no recollection of it.  I should forget planting things more often, because the wonder of finding these little jewels was lovely.

All sorts of things are blooming: camellias, daffodils, lenten roses (appropriate, as it is lent), and the ornamental plum outside the kitchen window.  We ate out of the garden for the first time last night - chive pesto over our fish.

The Caroline raspberries planted last spring seem to have taken off, with very vigorous (and travelling) sprouts coming up throughout their bed.  I reworked the whole area on the south side of the house so that it now has boards to make it a slightly raised bed, and lined the inside edge with rosemary.  Am still mulling what to do with the inner bed - it has lilies and irises, but needs more.

My workout yesterday was hauling 6 large bags of mulch from store to car, from car to yard, and yard to beds.  My muscles are discouraged to note that the garden could use about 6 times that much mulch, but at least I am assured a consistent source of exercise.  Silver linings.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


A fortnight.  That is how far ahead we are this year, spring-wise.  The camellias are breaking bud, and there are daffodils blooming.  The chives are well up, and the peas went into the ground a few days ago.  Last year I noted these joyful happenings on March 15.

I am behind, however far ahead Mother Nature may be.  I have ordered no seeds, planted no trees, filled no little pots with compost.  It isn't that I am not looking forward to my garden, but that without a winter to endure this year I am left without the wild urge to celebrate spring.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Birthday bloom

A birthday gift, a blooming hellebore on January 15th.  I knew they were supposed to bloom in the depths of winter, but must admit I had no faith.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Taking Stock

Before I get too enthusiastic about the sexy things spread out before me in the seed catalogs, it is time to take stock of the year past.  Here is my seed order from Baker Creek last February:

Broccoli "Early Purple Sprouting"
Cucumber "Solly Beiler"
Cucumber "Marketmore"
Huckleberry "Chichiquelite"
Ground Cherry
Kale "Blue Curled Scotch"
Leek "Giant Musselburgh"
Pea "Lincoln"
Winter Squash "Red Kuri"
Cosmos "Sensation Mix"
Dahlia "Unwing Mix"
Nasturtium "Moonlight"
Nicotania "Fragrant Delight"
Yarrow "Parkers Variety"
Sunflower "Tarahumara White Seeded"

And how did they do?  Not well.  Of the above, I actually ate (or admired, in the case of the flowers):
- Cucumbers (but not very many)
- Ground cherry.  Ate one and pulled the three big plants out.  Yuck.
- Leeks.  Just ate them.  They made one leek tart.
 - Peas.  Hooray for peas!
- Cosmos.  They hung around forever, not blooming, but finally got on it in August.
- Dahlias.  Pretty!
- Nasturtium.  Eh.  They bloomed some, but didn't knock me out.

The sprouting broccoli never sprouted.  The huckleberries never took off.  I have no recollection of the kale.  Maybe I never planted it? The Red Kuri was gorgeous, until it was murdered by bugs before any harvest. The wormwood was to slow, and I too impatient. Nicotania, yarrow, and sunflowers didn't come up when direct seeded.

I resolve to focus my food growing on things that I can eat when the CSA is not feeding me.  And maybe I should just buy seedlings from Behnkes when it comes to the flowers.  But oh, those seed catalogs!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Following the Light

Noah went back to school on January 2nd, but I did not.  For one blessed day, the University was out but school was in, and I had an entire day to myself.  I spent it in garden construction, first making this little shelf over the kitchen sink where a few plants can sunbathe in the winter light.

For the rest of the day (or at least until my body protested loudly) I did serious heavy duty garden stuff.  I pulled out five year old weedblock that had become weedhold (infested with a rhyzomatic grass); moved rocks and stones; built raised beds out of old boards; and rolled a huge, ugly work table end over end into a less visible corner of the veggie garden.  It looks better back there, with more structure and straight lines.

The garden catalogs began to arrive yesterday, and now I am dreaming of beach plums and scupernogs...