Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Veggie Garden is planted

All the seeds have been planted in my veg garden. I'm trying lettuce and parsnips from seed for the first time. Today I bought a new rhubarb and two more asparagus crowns because two of the crowns I put in last year have not produced any green shoots this year. When I dug them up the roots looked alive, but there was no green. I don't know what to think. I have hardly any experience with asparagus. So I put them back in and planted the new ones nearby. The new ones are Jersey Knight. The old ones are Martha Washington. So I guess I can compare the two varieties and see what works best where we are.

In this picture, in back, l-r, are two rows of gladiolus, the six pepper seedlings. the various bean seedlings and a row of just-planted bean seeds.
In front, two rows of orange cosmos, a block of cut-and-come-again mixed lettuce, and the new rhubarb.

In this one you see the nine tomatoes and the raspberries. Then in front are two rows of parsnips, two rows of arugula, the asparagus, and the strawberries.

I'm excited to see how it goes this summer. It's fun to try new plants from seed. Even if some don't come up, I'll have learned something.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Stormy Weather

We had a stormy day yesterday. High winds, lightning, thunder, lots of rain. One lightning bolt was very close. I saw the flash, then the boom happened so soon after that it made me yell. And I like thunderstorms!

Anyway, the wind broke the stem of one of my bush beans right at ground level, so only two are left. And two of my soy beans have died for no apparent reason. Looks like I'll be starting more bean seeds this weekend. Hopefully in the increased sun and higher temps, they'll catch up fairly quickly. It'll spread out the harvest a bit, not a bad thing. The best part is this weather has put a temporary end to the 90F heat we were having.

The picture is my 'Margaret's BOP' (Back-of-Porch) penstemon, already in bloom. It's a great plant. It'll bloom all summer. The brown leaves are left from the crocus planted next to it.

I'm very glad I didn't plant my little pepper seedlings. They'd have been crushed. Maybe this weekend they'll be ready. We could have stormy weather the rest of the week.

Hubby and I found a new toy at Williams-Sonoma this past weekend. My sister gave us an espresso maker for Christmas, which was very generous of her. Unfortunately, it has not held up well. The cup that holds the coffee grounds doesn't seal into the machine very well, and water leaks out through the seams of the machine. So we've been on the lookout for another one. The good ones are sooooo expensive! And who's to say how well they work. We wanted something simple and long-lasting.

We like going into W-S to look at all the fun things, though we rarely buy. This little Bialetti "nine cup" stove-top espresso maker caught our eye. By nine cups they mean nine servings of espresso, not nine actual Cups :). We had a good look, took it apart, did a little comparison at another store, and decided we'd get it. It was very reasonable, less than $40, and larger than other stove-top makers we've seen.

It's a pretty nifty little thing. You put water in the bottom compartment, grounds in the middle, and the espresso moves up under pressure into the upper chamber. We put it on the smaller gas flame on our stove at a low setting, and in 10 minutes we have espresso! The only drawback is there's no milk steamer. So if you like your foamy milk, this isn't for you. We add milk to our cups and warm it up in the microwave. And this uses gas, which is cheaper than electricity.

Just this past Friday my sister-in-law had the same operation I recently had, but she didn't need to have the larger incision. So she was home the next day and feeling pretty frisky, considering. Hubby's family is talking about all of us going on an Alaskan cruise in Sept. That would be fun! He and I were planning to go to Glacier Nat'l Park that week, but I think I could give up Glacier for Alaska! So we'll see. The older family members aren't going to be around forever. Might as well do these things while we all still can.

I finally know what I'm going to do with the fabric I bought for a wedding dress back in 2005, but never made. It's a dress based on a Medieval Flemish gown in an illustrated manuscript from about 1500. My dress won't be strictly authentic, but it doesn't need to be. I'm hoping to have it finished in time for our St. Andrews dance in November. You might think that's plenty of time, but I am a notoriously slow seamstress.

In researching this period I made the unexpected discovery that I really prefer the simpler Medieval styles over the Tudor and Renaissance gowns I used to sew for Ren. Faire. The Medieval gowns seem much more graceful and (even better) more comfortable! Plus, right about then, late 1400's-early 1500's, women's hair styles changed from the hair being completely hidden under weird tall hats (like the cliche Princess cone) to just long hair hanging down the back with a small band or simple net over the head.

So now I have my pattern and I'm ready to get started on cutting out the bodice in muslin to get the fit right. It's exciting to be starting on a sewing project again.

Friday, May 16, 2008

More Iris!

Wow. Overnight more of the iris have opened. I guess that's what happens when the temps don't fall below 50F. The pictures are of the smaller bed in the Front Garden area. The purple-edged iris is the only one I knew the color of, the rest in the group haven't bloomed until this year. I'm really pleased with some of them. Two of them are shorter types, one a pale blue, the other a light golden-yellow with purple veining. Really different looking.

The other shot is the large bed, with the species iris just beginning to bloom, yellow columbine, purple sage and knautia macedonica. The short plant at the bottom left is a rudbeckia. It really sulked in dry weather last year, so I was surprised to see it come up again. We'll see if it's less fussy this season. I can see flower buds and stems forming on everything else. The helenium and echinacea are going to be spectacular. In the next few weeks things are going to look very different. It's always interesting to compare one year to the next. I think these beds were further along by this point last year.

This last picture is from mid-May 2007. You can see the iris, scabious and dianthus already in bloom, but the columbine is much smaller. As well as the cilantro on the left and the burgundy rose in the background. It's interesting to see the differences, but I am not the least bit disappointed. I was thrilled with all the water (snow) we had over the winter. It's been a dry Spring however, so it'll be interesting to see how the year plays out, weather-wise.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Planting Day

The forecast says it could reach 90F on Saturday, and the nights probably won't fall below 50F for the rest of the week, so I took a chance and planted out my tomatoes and beans today.

In the back you can see the raspberries coming up. Just in front of them are nine tomato plants, with a border of dark red marigolds along the path. I made sure to have cages for all of them this year. And I'll be cutting them back a bit more as needed, so the area doesn't get completely over-run.

Moving further towards the camera you can see a row of beans; one lima, three soybeans and three Blue Lake bush beans. I wanted more limas, but I'm the only one that likes them, so maybe one plant will be enough.

Right at the front edge of the bed are two rows of gladiolus bulbs, 24 of them that I bought at the Farmer's Market a few weeks ago. I have no idea what colors they'll be, and I've never grown glads before, so this is a new adventure. SW Idaho is good bulb country, so glads and iris do very well here.

Without really intending to, I seem to have accumulated a LOT of iris. The purple ones I brought from California are beautiful. The dwarf ones I ordered online are all putting out lots of leaf, but so far I haven't noticed any buds. Then there are a bunch of them in the Front Garden that I picked up at a farmer's market last year. I haven't seen most of those in bloom yet, but this year it looks like I will. Some of them have already bloomed, but there are lots of other flower stems with buds yet to open.

And then there are the iris that my parents helped me move a few weeks ago from the back garden, where they were in a very over-grown crowded bed, to the new cottage garden area. I didn't expect any of those to flower this year because of being moved, but three of them have flower stems! I think I know what color those will be, but since I've only ever seen a few of them bloom back there, they might surprise me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

First Iris

Two irises opened yesterday. These are the ones I brought home from my parents' house in March '07. Looks like they're going to do really well this year. In fact, all the iris in my garden are looking good. I just wish we'd get some rain. I'm already having to water regularly, and it's only early May.

The doctor said I could drive now, so I went to get my hair cut this afternoon. It was getting long enough to bug me. I don't have the patience for long hair anymore. I just end up putting it in a ponytail - and what's the point of long hair if you never see it?

I go back to work on May 19th. That's less than two weeks away. Suddenly it seems like I hardly have any time left. There's a sewing project I want to get started on, I need to switch out my summer and winter clothes, the veggie seedlings need planting out, there are still books I haven't read...darn.

The oak tree began to leaf out yesterday. In the morning it was all swelling buds, and by afternoon you could see leaves. Amazing how it happens so quickly. Before we know it, it'll be summer.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me

Wow. I turned 50 yesterday. Weird. It sounds incredibly vain for me to say this, even in a private blog, but the only way I can comfort myself is 1. It's better than the alternative. 2. I don't look "50", whatever that means. I still occasionally have people tell me I look like I'm in my early 40's, or even late 30's. Nice to hear, even if the ones who think 30's are so young they still don't have a good idea yet of what ages look like.

Anyway, it was a nice day. In the morning hubby and I went to the local Farmer's Market. Still early, so there wasn't a lot of produce. But there were a lot of veg plants for sale, as well as bread, cheese, meats, and wine! We bought two bottles from Snake River Winery. They have Malbec and Barbera grapes now. The vintner was there, and he said if he'd done more research beforehand, he wouldn't have planted the Barbera grapes, since they flower earlier and so are more prone to frost damage. Looks like so far he's done ok though. The wine is good.

I also bought a few bars of soap for Mom's Day presents, as well as some bread, and some gladiolus bulbs. Gotta get those in the ground soon, just not sure where to put them yet! I might have to chisel out a hole in the weeds first. We have an incredibly healthy crop of goat heads and other weeds where we rototilled last year. We've finally decided to get a roll of weed barrier and just cover the front lawn with it for a season. Kill everything we can, clear it off, and start again with low-water grasses. It'll take a while, but the other option is soaking it with Round-Up, or renting a bulldozer, scraping a layer of weed-infested topsoil off and bringing in clean soil. Kind of extreme solutions, nevermind expensive! So we'll go the slow way.

As for the new cottage garden area that was rototilled, I think we'll have to try the same thing there. What a mess.

Anyway, the Farmer's Market was nice. On the way back to our car we stopped into Java for a coffee and saw my step-daughter (working).

I took it easy for most of the afternoon, and then we all met at Epi's, a popular local Basque restaurant for dinner. Very good food. I had the baby squid in ink sauce. The black sauce looked a bit strange, but it tasted great. Hubby got leg of lamb. Yum. Everyone's food was very good. Then we went back to my sister's house for cake, ice cream and presents. I got a gardening book, a new CD, some hairbands, an emerald pendant, and a nice check from the folks. All just what I wanted.

I recently subscribed to Fine Gardening. As a reward for subscribing, I got a $25 credit from White Flower Farms nursery. So I had fun spending that on their website yesterday as well.

Today we went out to the Owyhee Front range to look for wildflowers for my step-son's botany class. He has to find 20 Idaho wildflowers. We managed to find quite a few in bloom, including arrow-leaved balsam root and larkspur. That's the picture.

Think I'm going out to look for a spot for those gladiolus...