All posts by Ms. A_

I’ll be home for Christmas…

…if you don’t mind moving it. :)

So, hey! I’m stranded in San Diego and posting from my phone because I’m not already generating enough content streams via Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. Would post to Cosmic Kitty, but I can’t remember the password and can’t be bothered to figure out what it is right now. Sad, considering my line of work.

So, hey! Portland! When I wished for (and was denied) a white Christmas for many years, what I didn’t ask for was the cumulative snow of those many years piled onto one Christmas and for me to be stranded in So. Cal. until it was over. Just sayin’. Make a note of it. I know you’ll do better next year.

Early Spring Garden Activities

Over the winter, the neglected remnants of our summer garden had come to resemble the setting of an H.R. Giger painting and, last weekend, C and I could stand it no more. Much cleaning and clearing happened on Sunday and — though the raised beds aren’t ready, yet — I’ve gotten a small start on Herbs 2007 by planting in a couple of reclaimed containers.

I can be tenderhearted to a fault and have let many a plant languish in our garden, being hesitant to seal even the weakest plant’s doom. No more! I have completely cleared the herb garden of slug bitten sage and sprawling, slimy oregano and emptied many a terracotta pot populated with half-hearted plant volunteers (strawberries that rarely fruited, twiggy lavender, etc., etc.). As I dug about, I was reminded that the herb garden had not been as deeply cultivated as the raised beds. I found significant amounts of clay not far below its surface — perhaps the reason for the underperforming herbs of the past?

Now that the once herb garden is clear, C and I are thinking that it might better be used as a tomato patch. I am also interested in seeing if I can create a viable herb garden with only containers (though basil will go into the garden proper when the time comes).

Yesterday, I sowed cilantro in a large green pot — hopefully roomy enough not to cramp the taproots. I’ve had little luck with cilantro in the herb garden up to this point. It is usually weak, leggy and swift to bolt. I hope it will do better in loose potting soil.

Tonight, I sowed parsley seed that had been soaked in water in a dark place for 24 hours. The folk wisdom on the inside of the Botanical Interests™ seed packet suggested soaking as well as watering in, once sown, with warm water. I dumped the entire packet of seed into a container a smidge smaller than the green one containing the cilantro. I followed all the folk advice save spacing the seeds. I figure that there is no need to be stingy — the seed “sell by” date is 12/06 so I’ll be happy if anything germinates. I’ll thin like crazy if it’s called for in the future.

August Garden

Grape ClusterAugust is a pretty exciting month in our garden. Grapes, peppers and early cascade tomatoes are ripening. We’ve had to pick green beans every other day or so for the last couple of weeks. The potato plants are lush and blooming thanks to some tweaking of the drip irrigation system. The lemon cucumbers are bountiful as are the zucchini and yellow squash.

Some disappointments: The eggplants are still weak looking and the yellow currant hasn’t produced as much ripe fruit as I would have expected by this point in the growing season — certainly not on par with our usual small tomato of choice, the sungold (which we, sadly, couldn’t track down this year).

The Black Krim tomatoes are still very green, I hope we get some ripe ones before the weather becomes unfavorable!

Ripe Figs

Ripe Figs
The Italian Honey Fig tree has set an abundance of fruit this year and it looks like the first figs of the season are ready for picking.

From my experience, figs aren’t really ripe until they appear a touch over-ripe and ready to fall off the tree. Look at the fig with brown spots in the lower right of this photo. That looks about right. :) Figs are very sensual fruits when they are mature, the ripe one appears to be weeping sticky fig juice onto its neighbor. Of course, it would figure that those first ripe specimens would be just out of my arm’s reach.

In all previous years, I’ve taken the presence of ants as a sign of ripeness. They seem to have a sixth-sense about ripe, oozy figs and can be seen running in and out of the fig’s pore when the fruit is at its peak. Strangely, I haven’t seen any ants on the tree this year. I wonder if there has been some trouble in the ant community.

I was going to mention the towering flowering beans, but C has already done so. Of all the plants in the garden, they seem to be the ones that most capture his attention. What can it mean?

All the watering we’ve employed to combat the recent 100+ degree temperatures has really made the weeds in the garden walk happy. They are knee high in spots. It’s a jungle out there.

My poor Correnta Hybrid Spinach. Most of the seedlings died in the last heat wave, and those that survived have now bolted before reaching a consumable, useful size. So much for my summer spinach experiment.

Garden, Mid-July

As I write this, C. is downstairs plunking away on his new bass and has been for at least an hour now. Since purchasing the amp, he has practiced playing everyday. It’s quite pleasant having live music in the house, I enjoy overhearing his practice sessions. :)

Anyhoo, the real point of this post is simply to note the progress of the garden in the clutch of bullet points listed below:

  • The Paprika Supreme and the Thai Hot peppers are doing quite nicely, despite being potted in containers. Both have put forth a nice batch of peppers — green for now.
  • The Lemon Cucumber has a few small cucumbers on it. The plant seems a bit wee to me, but healthy enough.
  • We have now harvested a couple batches of both Zucchini and Yellow Crookneck Squash. I think that thinning down to one plant per mound was a good idea. We seem to be getting just as many squashes out of each single plant as we have out of double planted mounds in the past. The plants are healthy and green.
  • The Correnta Hybrid Spinach is a bit of a disappointment. There are maybe 8-10 spinach plants surviving out of — oh, gosh — 50 some plantings? I think the summer sun was simply to harsh for the seedlings which came up during our 100 degree heat streak a couple weeks back. I’m thinking about starting some more seedlings in peat pots and keeping them in a sheltered spot until they are strong enough to stand the full sun.
  • Both eggplants, the Black Beauty and Asian Eggplant are blooming but seem a bit small. No eggplants have made an appearance, yet.
  • The Fortex Pole Beans are growing like k-razy. They have topped the trellis and extended into the empty air another 3 feet or so, I think they would climb another six feet if we gave them a taller support. The French Climbing Beans are also showing good progress, though they are overshadowed by their surpassingly dynamic neighbor.
  • Early Cascade Tomatoes are present, but still green.
  • A second batch of lovely orange Tiger Lilies are blooming. It looks like the pink (Stargazer? Sorbonne? I’m not sure) lilies are about to bloom, too. They are more fragrant than the tiger lilies, and I am greatly looking forward to them. They are purty. :)
  • The Yellow Banana Potato plants seem to be experiencing about a 60-75% success rate. I think they didn’t get enough water early on (the drip irrigation to the barrel in which they are planted was turned off, unbeknownst to me, but is now on again). The plants that haven’t withered and disappeared seem to be doing okay, though I’d feel more confident if they were leafier.
  • I picked what I thought was our first ripe Fig today, but it was just on the cusp. Soon, soon.

That’s really all that I’m prepared to report on. If anyone is reading this, I apologize that the “weekly report” has evolved into something more monthly, but them’s the breaks.

Weekly Garden Report

Success!
The beans emerged last weekend — the Fortex were followed by the Climbing French within a day. All the tomato plants are still small, but they are blooming and growing. The strawberries are still producing, but at a lesser rate than last week. Still, I had enough berries for my cereal this morning. The lettuce is still gorgeous and tasty. In honor of our lettuce crop, C and I dubbed last week The Week of Salads and managed to have dinner size salads last Sunday through Thursday. We’ve eaten two whole heads of the Romaine and now I must find some summer friendly lettuce starts or seeds to take their now empty places.

Concerns
The eggplants have a dusty, sickly look. I wish I had photographed them previously, then I would know for sure whether they have grown since they were planted. I’ll give ‘em a dose of fish emulsion and hope that helps. The brussel sprouts continue to be aphidy — we have yet to try anything to remedy it. We have no good excuse for this.

A Recipe
Inspired by the perfectly ripe local strawberries on the market right now, and the red speckled leaves of our lettuce, I concocted a super tasty salad of my own imagining. I’ve written out the recipe below. Feel free to swap any of the ingredients, but keep in mind that the strawberries must be perfectly ripe for the recipe to achieve super tastiness.

Ms. A_’s Strawberry-Balsamic Salad

  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 – 1 pint fresh strawberries, perfectly ripe, sliced
    Ripeness is important!
  • Balsamic Vinegar
    I used Lucini 10 year Gran Riserva Balsamico
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 head of Romaine lettuce
    Forellenschuss is tasty and its maroon speckled green leaves look beautiful with strawberries
  • 1 or 2 handfuls of sunflower seeds, toasted and salted
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
    We used Rogue Creamery’s “Smokey Blue
  • Coarse salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Rub the inside of a large salad bowl thoroughly with a halved garlic clove (my recommended first step for almost any green salad). Mince remaining garlic and add directly to the bowl. Using your own discretion regarding the amounts, add balsamic vinegar and olive oil in equal proportions directly to the bowl. I think I used about 2 tablespoons of each, but I just eyeballed it so I can’t say for certain. Add coarse salt, fresh-ground black pepper and sliced strawberries. Mix gently. Some of the strawberries will dissolve a bit, creating a strawberry vinaigrette. Wash and dry lettuce, then tear leaves into slightly larger than bite size pieces — we’re going for rusticity here. Toss ‘em in the bowl. Add sunflower seeds and blue cheese crumbles. Toss until every leaf is well coated. Serve and enjoy!

Rose City Rollers

C and I went to see the Rose City Rollers last night. It was the most fun I’ve had at a sporting event in recent memory. The Rose City Rollers are Portland’s own all-female roller derby league.

I was very loosely connected to one of the Breakneck Betties so C and I had a lot of fun rooting for “our team” with my coworker, Ms. J_, and her he-mate, A_. The Betties’ match with the undefeated Heartless Heathers was something to watch as the two teams were neck-n-neck until the finish. The Heartless Heathers vs. the Breakneck BettiesThe courage and sheer gutsiness of the ladies on skates was impressive as were the referees who skated the outer perimeter and therefore had to skate very fast to keep an eye on the race. There was no lack of irony or camp in the trappings of the event — it would have been enough fun with the costumes, mascots and half-time show, alone — but the dedication and go-get-em-ness of the players made it much more entertaining than I expected.

The game is played seriously, not staged like wrestling (as I have heard some folks make that comparison), so the physical risks to the roller derby players are real and injuries were a common occurrence. It all added up to a rousing show that brought the crowd to their feet many times. The Rose City Rollers are one more reason to love living in Portland.

Under the Hedge

On the subject of the hedge, I had a couple of plant ideas for the curvy bed that C has recently re-exposed. Perhaps we should investigate mosses? Scotch moss likes shade and even flowers part of the year.

Then again, nix mosses — an ornamental grass would be a more appropriate scale for the giant hedges. Japanese Forest Grass (otherwise known as Hakonechloa macra ) is perennial, likes shade, goes well with hostas, and comes in a a number of varieties (Albostriata, All Gold and Aureola, to name a few). I just read about a new variety “Beni Kaze” that turns bright red in the fall, but have not been able to find any pictures. From my cursory internet research, it seems highly sought after and probably a bit spendier than its cousins.