Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Raining And The Squash Are Growing!!

I've already used two large zucchini to make a "pizza" type casserole from my low carb days and Saturday I made a very large pot of ratatouille using up three very large zucchini, 2 eggplant (from store), two bell peppers and an onion.  It is very tasty just by itself or served with rice or pasta.

I'm sure, if I went out to the garden, between raindrops, I would find a few more yellow squash.  As soon as I have enough "poundage" I will be slicing and frying it down with butter and onions. The only thing keeping me in the house is the mosquitos.  Masses of them.  All wanting to bite me.

The cucumbers are starting to grow also.  I have two kinds.  Burpless and pickling.

I am working on my 1200 calorie diet.  Some days it's easy and other days (it's only been a week) I go over, not much, but closer to 1500.  I don't see any movement on the scale but...... I still have to try.   My knee doesn't hurt so much today but my face (around the eyes) is swollen.  Looks like I got punched.  Like last fall.  Only it's not red and itchy like last year.  Red itchy goggles is what it looked like last fall.  It's always something.  I'm getting very tired of it.

I worked on my 10 by 10 art today.  And started the second piece.  I stopped about 25% in, to hang it on the wall and decide what it needs.  That worked with the first piece, which is ready for the hand stitching part.  The "details" so to speak.  While I was threading and rethreading the machine (it doesn't like invisible thread) I noticed the maidenhair ferns have flowers on long arching stems (who knew they flowered?).  And the Carol Mackie Daphne is looking very good.  Not bad for a $5 yard sale shrub.  If I hadn't gone into my work room to sew--I would have missed seeing both of these things.

And the heather is flowering beautifully (in pink and white).  And it's gotten really big.  I may have planted too many of the small ones, too tightly, but I can always dig them up and move them.  But I had no idea they would grow so fast and so thick. It's really amazing. They were in small 3 inch pots in 2012.

I've found a few good perennials for my garden.  Or, more likely, eventually I moved them to places where they actually like growing.  The heather which is new to me, the Pig Squeak (bergenia) which is finally happy, and the maidenhair ferns.  Gardening looks easy but it's not.  You have to pay attention and move things if they aren't doing well.  And then move them again.  When it works you feel like a garden rock star--when it doesn't you feel, well, not so great.

I also discovered the flats of 9 dahlias that we have been selling for as long as I have worked at the greenhouse.  Who knew they got so full and bushy and covered in flowers?  Everyone but me.  Most of my window box customers got a few in each of their boxes.  I needed yellow and we were temporarily out of marigolds.  Next year, I am getting the pink ones.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bountiful Perennials & My Doctor's Rant

It's the season for flowering perennials.  The ones being delivered to me at work (to put out for sale) are very full, very tall and very interesting to bees.  Yes, we have bees.  Lots of them.

I like this border in front of the white picket fence.  Salvia, Lady's Mantle and climbing pink roses. Repeating a pattern along the length of the fence is very attractive and also very expensive.  Few regular customers are able to afford this, but the landscapers regularly purchase multiples for their clients. Why are we more likely to spend money if someone else is doing the work?

In personal garden news, I have more weeds than flowers.  Ugh.  This is due to a lack of ground covering mulch.  When I was at home (not working much), gardening, everything got mulch.  G doesn't mulch.  We have a huge pile of composting maple leaves--an excellent mulch-- but we aren't using it.  At times like this, I wonder if it would be better if he worked for a living and I stayed home to garden. Both of us at home isn't going to work for me. I like to be here alone some of the time.

The vegetable garden is finally getting ready for super production.  My basket, the last time I collected produce, contained zucchini, one yellow squash, four cucumbers, five tomatoes, 2 cups of blueberries and five raspberries.  I ate the raspberries right away.  Finally!  Produce.

I am planning to go to the supermarket and get an eggplant and make a baked ratatouille.  Not the stewed one.  More of a layered casserole.

My other "news" is that I returned to the doctor who drove me to tears (you are obese) and the 1200 calorie diet in 2007.   I expected the "my God, you have gained 50 pounds!!!" rant.  But I also was given orders to get my knee and hip X-rayed (done) and also to make an appointment with a foot doctor (done).  My doctor thinks all my leg and hip problems may just be caused by my feet.  "Awful" feet, in her opinion.  I won't disagree.   And she has told me to limit myself to 1200 calories and no salt.  I am supposed to have lost 2 to 4 pounds by Tuesday (not).  A week since I last darkened her exam room.  I don't need to express my opinion that she isn't wildly popular as a doctor around here.

I told her I didn't think it would work.  She just looked at me over her glasses.  This time around I am more inclined to eat products that have only 5 or less ingredients.  My Bran Flakes have 5.  The lower the calories on manufactured foods--the larger the ingredient list on the package.  Mostly chemicals. So, that leaves me with mostly fruit, vegetables, eggs and small amounts of meat.  Dairy is a problem as it is high calorie in it's simplest form.  Low fat or non fat isn't actually "food".  Read the side of the container if you don't believe me.  So, I have soy milk for my cereal but finding a soy yogurt here in my Town isn't easy.  I did find a plain nonfat organic yogurt with only 2 ingredients.  I haven't tasted it yet.

Well, I have to get going.  I have 30 minutes of cardio to do (planting some things in the street side plot), the grocery to visit and the garden to pick and weed.

Guess what?  Been a whole week and NOT A PEEP from the appliance repair people.  No part.  No guy to install part.  Nothing.  Not pleased.

Monday, July 21, 2014

And, it's Monday

I have wanted a cozy little kitchen like this one in many segments of my life.  I think a small, tiny space is safer when my life is out of control.  I once had a metal shelf unit with cream and red containers.  I sold it last September in the yard sale on my daughter's street.  At the time I was feeling like I was in control of my life--then it went off the rails and is still causing me panic.

It's Monday.  3:23.  The service tech never showed up to repair the fridge.  I didn't think he would.  G has replaced the first block of ice in the fridge with a second one.  We are getting used to going out on the porch for milk and butter.

I purchased two flats of very tall, overgrown annuals yesterday.  I had to cut the mat of roots off the bottom and then cut each flat into 12 blocks with a very big knife.  Each block contains one very tall ageratum or cream marigold.  The ageratum can possibly grow to 30 inches and the marigolds to 15.  I planted younger (June) marigolds in one of the parking lot containers at work.  I was impressed with how great they look.  Both flats cost me all of $3.84.  Perhaps they will impress me and look great here in my garden as well? I'm sure they are happy to be here in my garden and not in the dumpster at work.

I have harvested 6 nice heavy zucchini from my garden (one was shredded for a chocolate loaf and two went into a zucchini crust for a meat pie), 1.5 pounds of small yellow squash, all my heads of garlic (last year I waited too long and the cloves opened so I pulled early), one onion and the last of the peas. I also pulled up all the pea vines and added fertilizer and planted my pole beans.  Too many.  But I like the beans to look more like a carnival or circus climbing all over the pergola. Four of my tomatoes are changing color.  And they are big tomatoes.  I have not picked the large green peppers as I am waiting for them to turn to red as well.  My row of tomato plants is now nearly as tall as I am. Siberian Reds, Green Zebra, Abe Lincoln, Purple Cherokee, Sun Gold along with the shorter, Early Girls.

One single raspberry has ripened.  But it was very good.  The others are coming right along.  I can see future blackberries on my vines.  It will be weeks yet before I pick them and end up with bleeding ankles and arms.  I intend to make a blackberry pie this year.  I actually could make one now, as I have bags of blackberries in the freezer.  I haven't been able to make a dent in the fruit in the freezer, even eating fruit with yogurt for lunch 3 days a week.  And it's all from my garden.

The blueberry bushes are loaded with fruit.  Not ripe yet.  Still green.   My friend Patty has tons of grapes on her vines.  I am begging her to give them to me so I can make grape jelly again.  It was messy but the jelly was so good.  And we've run out.  I could also try making something out of the blueberries.  Preserves?  There is nothing quite as awful as cooking jelly on a hot August evening and then making a water bath and boiling the jars.  Then doing the dishes.

My fig tree has started to make figs.  I was worried that it wouldn't but a few weeks ago I started seeing little bumps above each leaf.  I think there are 20 or 30 of them.  I am watering and feeding the tree in hopes of them ripening this time.  G likes fig preserves.  Another set of hot jars.

Do you make jelly and preserves?  I tried tomato jam last summer and that stuff was amazing.  If I don't have enough tomatoes this year I will look for farm stand boxes for canning.

And then there's the Brandied Cranberry Sauce my neighbor gave us last Thanksgiving.  OMG. Which reminds me to add a bottle of brandy to the shopping list in November.

Update:  Repair guy showed up at 4pm.  Took all the shelving out of the fridge ( G and I just finished washing and drying it), used my hairdryer to melt the ice clogging a vent and then left.  He needs to order a part (a three way valve switch) and that will come in whenever it comes in.  So, we are making friends with the fridge on the porch which now has everything in it.  It may be days.  It may be weeks.  It could even be months.  The freezer and ice maker are still working.

Dinner out by the Atlantic Ocean.  The Dolphin.  Lobster.  But before that, a nice gin and tonic on Patty's deck, under the grapes.  I will take the camera and stun you with the sights here in Maine by the ocean.  This really is "the way life should be"  except for appliance repair.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mid-Summer, sigh.

I long for muted, cool places.  Out of the sun, humidity and grit.  I am sticky and gritty most of the days at work.  Cleaning petunias is just about the worst thing to be forced to do.

I collected this photo of a bath with shower for my carpenter.  I want the baths to be about nothing.  The absence of "stuff".

Now--to the meat of this post.  My refrigerator.  A RANT!!!  Naming names.

My fridge is less than 18 months old.  The fridge part has stopped "holding temperature" while the freezer part continues to work.  I got this phrase from G who was in the restaurant business for over 30 years.  He knows about failure to hold temp.  Food gets warm.

We called our service warranty provider.  It will be 5 days or more before they can sent a technician.  They tried calling the two providers that are local.  One no longer has any employees trained to fix anything and the second didn't answer their business phone.  Five days with a fridge that won't hold temperature is a bit too long.  In July.

G then asked to speak to a supervisor. After 40 minutes he got one. In Michigan.  That's when we got an appointment.  In 5 days. Because we live in a "rural" area.  And she also gave us a 6 month "free" extension to our warranty.  Now, from my point of view, that warranty is worth nothing.  More of it?  Less than nothing.

G then called Loews where we bought the fridge and the warranty.  By then we wanted to "return" the fridge and get a new replacement.  They said no but offered us a "loaner" fridge for the 5 days.  It would come the next day between 2 and 5 pm.

We waited.  5pm came and went.  Then, at 8:30, I saw the Lowes truck.  Two guys brought in a very nice utility fridge and strongly suggested we put it on the back porch and not the garage.  From experience, they knew we would be using the "loaner" far longer than 5 days.  Cause they can't get "parts".  They said "keep it" as LONG as you want.  Just call when your  fridge is fixed.

We were also told we are "lucky" to have bought a Whirlpool.  The "unlucky" are the folks who purchased Samsung fridges ( I almost did) because there are NO technicians who can service Samsung in the entire state of Maine.  Which means none of the ones that have failed to hold temperature are even waiting to be fixed.  They are just broken.  Period.

They guys who delivered the loaner had been out since 7 am and still had two loaner fridges on the truck to deliver.

The point of this post:  buy local from the guy in your Town or city who hires and pays a guy to service your purchases.  Whirlpool couldn't care less (from our perspective on a 45 minute wait to get to talk to someone about service and then another 40 minutes to wait to speak to a supervisor).  Lowes was at least nice enough to give us a way to have cold food while we waited.

It was very nice to have cold milk with my bran flakes this morning instead of room temp milk.

In Garden News.  I have four lovely, shiny, heavy zucchini in the loaner fridge and I am making chocolate zucchini bread tomorrow (day off) and a pan of zucchini brownies.  I didn't get any zukes last summer and I am very happy with my harvest so far.  I might have enough to make a few jars of zucchini bread and butter pickles.   The cucumber plants are climbing the trellis.  Yeah!!!  And my yellow onions are about 3 inches in diameter.  I also have two little turnips.  I had three but I ate one. Raw with salt.

Monday, July 14, 2014


I found this picture of Fennel and Snakeroot on one of the blogs I get in my "mail".  I believe the snakeroot is South African and therefore not grow-able in Maine.  But I like the "wispy-ness" of the orange flowers and will do research to see if there IS something like this that does grow in Maine. I have an abundance of nasturtiums in orange in the garden (safely fenced) which are lovely and taste peppery.  Good for a summer salad.  The garlic is nearly ready to pull.

Right now we are battling the DEER.  They have just birthed new babies--usually twins--and everyone is hungry.   They have finished off the hosta, eaten all the rose buds off the roses (we do have them circled in chicken wire cages) and are now munching on the flower buds of the day lilies.   No flowers makes Joanne a very sad girl, indeed.

A solution is to completely fence our four acres with chicken wire.  This has sounded like madness in years prior to this one.  Now, it is sounding like a very good idea.  G is spraying repellent every 4 days.  I am 5 to 10 minutes outside of Town.  And we are overrun with wild animals.

The humidity has risen.  So I will be happiest in the sewing room hemming pants.  Perhaps to work on my 10 by 10 art quilt.  Perhaps to string beads and bells on my "artistic" idea of a wind chime made from the frame of a lamp shade I found on the street one day.  I saved about 20 toothpaste caps in a pretty shade of sea blue which G has kindly drilled holes in.  I have a coupon for JoAnn's and will see if they have bells.  Nice bells that make a lot of jingle.

It seems sad to not be happiest outdoors on summer days.  It was quite lovely yesterday with a brisk sea breeze blowing thru the greenhouse at work.  But that same breeze was also blowing all the plants over and drying them out faster than we could water.  Yin and Yang.

We are barely eating.  Last night it was some fried potatoes and leftover sausages.  What is happening is--I am searching inside the freezer for things to thaw and eat.  I found two containers of chili which was nice.  Fruit from last summer for my yogurt lunches.  Last summer's frozen peppers with thawed chicken breasts.  I think there may be steaks hidden in the depths of the bottom drawer?  Who knows. G did buy himself a rack of lamb at Trader Joe's.  It's in the freezer.

 I made rhubarb syrup with the stringy stems of rhubarb in the garden.  G bought me limes.  I'm ready to try a Rhubarb lime Fizz.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I'm Dreaming Of A Clean Table Top

G cleaned out all the history and "cookies" and I was unable to find my picture file.  This picture popped up all by itself.  Good enough.  My actual table is full of clutter so I will enjoy looking at this table.  In all it's bare wood goodness.

My friend Trisha clears her tables after each and every meal.  Everything gets put away.  She does have a lidded box on the kitchen counter (the only thing on the counter) which she fills with anything she finds that doesn't have a "spot".  This is where we all (on vacation) look for keys and sunglasses and pill bottles.   We are all "a certain age".

Strawberry season is over.  Peas are coming in nicely.  My tomatoes and potatoes have never looked nicer--just in time for alerts of late blight.  Which will certainly kill everything.  It's really hard to be a gardener.  The line between success and utter despair is so thin, barely there.  And I don't like green tomatoes.  I have many small figs on my tree--like last year.  I am hoping these ripen.  I keep up with the watering and fertilizer.  I'm not sure I even like figs.  But G does love fig preserves. There may be enough for one small jar.

I am thinking of making Rhubarb Lime Fizz.  Rhubarb syrup, lime juice and soda water.  Perhaps some gin.  

We are in that particular summer "zone" when I lose any incentive to do anything but take showers, dress in loose clothing and recline on the couch.  I am fascinated with World Cup Soccer and have recorded the games to watch after work.  Only two more games.  It's like winter olympic curling.  Odd choices for me.  Unexplainable.  Even to myself.

Work.  Hot.  Depressing as the summer plants go "past" and it's not time for the autumn.  The perennials are blooming, needing deadheading, water and moving from back of store to front of parking lot.   The difference between the new stuff coming from the mother store and our stuff is astonishing.  We don't have fertilizer in our water.  Our stuff is short.  Theirs is so tall.  Hours are being cut.  Mosquitos.  Sunburn.  Temps of around 100 in the area of the potting bench--where I spend 80% of any day.  So many returning customers.  To see me.  It is gratifying.  It is also nice to be repotting a plant for the third time.  It's still alive, still growing, still bringing joy to the owner.

I have a pile of 20 cent pants (from last year) to cut and hem for G.  I stopped caring about the length and just looked for waist size.  Twenty cents!  Really, why be picky.  None of them are "dress" pants. Just work pants for a retired guy.  But before I can hem pants I need to clean space on the floor and cutting table in my sewing room.  It's all piled HIGH. 

I will be going out to pick (pull) rhubarb, check on my peas, pick parsley to wash, dry and roll for my freezer, pollinate squash, tie up tomatoes, check on the blueberries and blackberries, water the fig, check on the "jewels of opar" and water the hanging ferns on the front porch.  By then I should have enough mosquito bites to make me itch the rest of the day.  Then I will tackle the sewing room. Work on my 10 by 10 art.

Dream of ice cream later today.  And a Rhubarb Fizz.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

July Garden Report and The Peas Are Nearly Ready

These peas are from another year.  The ones this year are still small in the pods.  Not that that keeps me from picking and eating (right there in the garden).   All the Fava Bean plants are covered in pretty white flowers with black centers.  Future beans.  I must have planted at least 4 weeks later than I should have.  In Maine we eat peas on the 4th.

Yesterday.  Oh my.  I was supposed to work.  I woke at 6 am as usual and my head hurt so badly.  A migraine.  Nausea.  I tried waiting till 7:30 to call out at work--but instead took a pain pill and crawled back into bed.  Woke at 11.  Still feeling terrible but I called work.  They didn't seem to need me, so back to bed.  Woke when the phone rang at 2:30.

I am NOT a napper or daytime sleeper.  Ever.  So these long sleeps indicate better than words how badly I felt.  A big line of thunderstorms moved through at dinner time and overnight we seemed to have gotten rain.  Summer weather affects my head.

I did pretty much nothing for the rest of the day but managed to prepare a Caprese Salad of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves and good olive oil and vinegar.  I even toasted a small baguette to soak up the good juices.  The tomatoes, bread and basil were from Trader Joe's on Saturday.  I had a bowl of ice cold cherries later while watching television.

Today--another day off, scheduled this time.   I could get used to this not working thing as I had the 4th off, then Saturday, half a day work on Sunday, sick day Monday and now another day off.
G watered the garden, walked the dog and napped in his hammock.  Riley was in and out but mostly in as he is black and it is 84 degrees outside with 64% humidity.

 I replanted my Jewels of Opar seedlings.  They started out as a few little black specks.  Then they were tiny little stems with tiny little leaves.  Now they have secondary leaves and are about 2 inches in diameter (if looking down at the plant).   I have seen them on the 66 Square Feet blog and hers are tall with flowers.  I have many weeks to wait for that, I think.  But they look healthy and, in the way of things, I should be proud to have gotten them from specks to the size they are.  They are now in deeper pots with fertilizer.

My second planting of beets amounted to zero.  Again.  But the carrots we "seeded" on the toilet paper strips are up and looking positively carrot like.  I pollinated two zucchini flowers by hand.  Last year was the first year my squash plants failed to get pollinated (less bees).  So I had tons of leaves and flowers but only a few actual zucchini.  And no yellow squash so I made stuffed, fried blossoms.   The cucumber plants are attaching themselves to the trellis.  Yeah!!!  The potato plants are up and over the top of the black tubs I planted them in.  I need to "hill" them up with some soil.  Better soil and lots of fertilizer this year hopefully will mean more potatoes.

The Early Girl Bush tomatoes I transplanted in one of my April classes has an abundance of large tomatoes on each plant.  I think I might actually have garden tomatoes to eat by the end of the month. My fennel and parsley seedlings are looking good.  The garlic looks promising as do the yellow onions.  I have green peppers about 2 or 3 inches in size on all the plants.  They seem to be enjoying the sulfur I added to the fertilizer in each planting hole.   The tomatoes are enjoying the iron I added to their planting holes.  Now I wait to see if the taste is better.  The added sulfur and iron are this year's experiments.

Well, I have cucumbers to peel and slice thinly.  I also have Riley asleep on the cool wood floor next to my desk.  He has been staying close since I woke up feeling ill.  He slept under my bed yesterday and refused to go out until I was awake.  I can see his eyes are open--watching me.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Summer Is Moving Quickly

Peonies are a thing of the past.  Strawberries have a few more days and that will be done as well.  The garden has a few pea pods (it's early days for them) and fava bean blossoms.   I've cut all the flower scapes off the garlic and will harvest bulbs in a few weeks.  My friend says my garlic is short.  But, really, it's better than it has ever been in my garden.  No complaints.

It has rained for three full days.  July 4th and all the celebrations had to manage with a few cloudy intervals.  No fireworks.  I went to bed listening to the rain and woke to the same.  It's wet.  Dark. No sunshine.  The blessing is that rain is good for the garden, the earth and it's better than snow.

And I wasn't working.

The AC unit in our main room has stopped working.  It was working last night and now it isn't.  I think we bought it 10 years ago.  The August my dad was here, which I think was 2004.  He had pneumonia but we didn't know it.  By December he was in the emergency room and then intensive care and then rehab.  When he got out, I spent 5 weeks with him.

The AC unit brings all those memories back.

Update:  We are back from Trader Joe's (12 boxes of Bran Flakes) plus a trunk full of other stuff.  G pulled the Ac out to check it, plugged it in (to another socket) and it worked.  So we are back in the cooling business.  Lunch was Whole Foods pizza for G and Adoba bean and cheese enchilada for me. we are having sweet corn later for supper.  And I am having a bowl of strawberries with cream.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Fresh Produce

Not yet.  But soon.  My red onions are still tiny.

We are up to our ears in cucumbers.  And that's a very good thing as I love eating cucumber salad until it's time to eat tomato salad.  The tomato plants are looking robust.  Little tiny baby tomatoes. Big strong green stems.  I am feeding them epsom salts and iron.  This year's "experiment".

We have corn (from Georgia via the grocery) and cherries.  Strawberries from my friend's garden dropped off late at night.  I will be eating them with heavy cream tonight.  A thank you for finding a new home for her last chicken.  I am the "finder" of solutions.

I need sleeveless tops for work.  Loose, light clothing.  I wish I knew how to take the clothes I have and change them into the clothes I need. I should have paid more attention in 7th grade sewing class.
Being able to remake clothing is a real life changing skill.  Having exactly what you want.  Wow.

It's rained a bit the past two days.  Taking some of the "heat" out of two back to back sticky hot days at work.  I did manage to get some sun on the tops of my shoulders and the backs of my legs.  Shorts and a sleeveless top (which I stained with a blueberry from my lunch muffin).  My favorite time of day is still getting home and taking a good long shower.

My haircut today is shorter than usual.  But I like it.  I may even "punk" it up with product.  I ran my head under the sink faucet to get rid of all the short "haircut" bits after getting back to work.  That felt great.

Now, I am off to start cooking dinner.  I have the next two days off and intend to actually cook and feed the two of us.  How unusual.  Have a safe and happy holiday.  Fly the Flag!!!!