Monday, May 30, 2016

It's June in Maine--Lupine

Through the years I have had a rather uneven history with the lupine plants in my garden.  Some years they bloom and other years they forget to show up at all.  This year--surprise--I have a plant that is about four feet tall and wide and covered in tall blue flowers.  Gorgeous.  Awesome. And so unexpected. I am left wondering if the plants I planted are gone and these plants were seeded by birds.  Birds poop out seeds all the time.

A few days or weeks ago--nothing.  And that plant isn't the only one.  There are two or three more, in the wings, waiting to put on their show.  It would be nice if they are all a gorgeous blue.

I often tell customers to plant lupine where you don't want it.  Then it will grow and flower.  Plant it where you want it--and nothing happens.  I am hoping the aphids that love to chew the plant up--well, I'm hoping they are busy eating somewhere else this week.

I had a friend (so many years ago) who regularly stopped along roadsides and cut lupine to fill vases at the Ronald McDonald House in Portland.  Visitors to Maine love being surprised by roadside flowers---lots and lots of them along highways. People who live here like seeing them, too.

Well, I'm happy right now.

(There are little Spring bulbs called Muscari that you can plant that have the same triangular shaped blue flower, look for them in October with the daffodil bulbs on sale at greenhouses)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Dog Tired

I wish people could sleep like dogs do.  Riley looks so damned comfortable.  And he snores.  And the snores are even cute. And, yes, he is that shiny and black.  That's his toy, Spot, next to him on the bed.

I fell down at work.  Again.  This time in the annual house (annual flats of flowers and veggies) while walking a customer over to a plant he asked about.  The floor is slick, there was water and .....slip sliding, I went down on my butt.  My pants were covered in mud and water.  I was covered in mud. I am thankful the customer wasn't the one who fell down.

I walked directly to my boss and said "I asked you to cover that slick floor with gravel--you didn't, and I fell down"  He asked if I was hurt.  I said no.  I kept walking the rest of the day--did I mention this happened an hour into my day?  I, thankfully, had on quick drying pants.  I kept walking to keep my muscles flexible.  Now that I am home, cleaned up with a hot shower, dirty clothing in the washing machine--well, things are tightening up.  Aleve makes my eyes red and itchy.  Sigh.

There is more grass and weeds growing in the garden than beets or carrots.  I do have kale seedlings and arugula.  The fennel continues it's amazing growth.  Gigantic Fennel Destroys Earth.

My Tomatoes and Peppers are in the yellow wagon, rolling in and out of the shade from the big oak tree.  They even roll into the garage if it's too cold at night.  I also have been giving them drinks of kelp water and Starter solution.  Tomorrow I may give them some fish emulsion water.

Tomorrow I am buying 4 bales of straw to mulch my garden.  And taking the time to read a book.
I might even make supper.  Then more work all day Sunday and Monday.  No holidays for garden center workers.  None.  Ted did fill the freezer at work with ice cream cones.  We like Ted.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

In The Garden: May 2016

Not my garden in the picture but the fence is similar.  I have been out there watering my seeds.  Not much has sprouted as yet.  I see germinated seeds and G sees weeds.

As to the "not my picture", I am trying to get myself back into the picture taking mode.  It's been a long time.  I think the new operating system made me stop.  The old one was easy.  The new one--it looks so different and so many steps.  I just gave up.  As I told G--what was easy and fun is now torture.  I will try again. but not today.

I have planted arugula (G and I like it on bruschetta), Little Gem lettuce, dill, parsley, carrots and beets.   I have another 6 to 8 strawberry plants to set into the part of the bed that will now be "The Strawberry Bed".  A few of last year's plants have white strawberry flowers on them.  Not enough for anything but a berry for the gardener.  If I had a grandchild gardening with me--well, I would save them all for her or him to pick and eat.

Last year's failed fennel crop was left in the garden.  And it has returned.  Every plant is now 6 to 8 separate  clumps of stems with huge heads of frothy greens.  Perhaps this is the secret for growing fennel into bulbs???  A two year process.  I hope to achieve some fennel seed as well, later in the year.

I have started seeds on the back deck (and they are enjoying a cloudy wet day) for my summer crops of squash, zucchini, cucumbers.  The deck also holds a large crate filled with tomato and pepper seedlings.  Early Girl and Sweet 100 along with a new to me heirloom tomato called Hillbilly. The pepper is New Ace.  I like to let the peppers go until they start to turn red.  Then I cut them and let them fully ripen in the safety of the sun porch --away from squirrels.  I will buy eggplant as needed. I have no luck growing them.

I have been eating my way thru the many frozen containers of eggplant squash and tomato that I grew last year.  The variety of vegetables that I added to this "stew" is amazing.  I found white beans in one and carrots in another.  The tomato was always the canned marinara from Trader Joe's as my tomato crop was very sad last season.

G and I have been having kabobs from the grocery meat department along with 5 for $1.00 corn at least once a week.  Last week we had teriyaki sticks.  Delish.  I don't know where the corn is coming from but it is absolutely wonderful.  I usually have vegetable kabobs.  Not that I don't eat meat--I do--but it's very infrequent and I am selective.  I am thinking I could make the teriyaki sticks myself.  The teenager who sold me the sticks said they were made "here from a hunk of meat and some sauce". He also told me the marinated kabobs were made "somewhere else".  Interesting, huh?

Work is half doable/enjoyable and half more than I can handle.  It is a struggle.  Perhaps this is the way things will be for me as I grow older? It makes me sad.  But I will have to adjust.

Already I am making choices in the garden as to what is "worth" my time and trouble and what is not. I enjoy the berries and fruits.  I love the carrots and beets.  The lettuces get lost in the shuffle.  The cabbages, while delicious, end up slimy with cabbage worms.  The onions and garlic do very well--on their own.  Cucumbers--while once so easy--are now a trial.  I don't know where I failed them.  The zucchini takes a long time to get going--and I am always afraid they won't--but then I have a enough for several batches of pickles.  There is never enough yellow crookneck squash for the big pans of fried squash that we all LOVE to eat.  The tomatoes are always too slow and not enough for the caprese salads of July and August. Which is why, this year I switched to early and small tomatoes.
The basil had blight last summer and will have it again this summer but hopefully there will be "just enough" for our tomatoes and cheese.

As you can read--I grow only what we love to eat.  Now if the blackberries will co-operate and deliver enough for my daily yogurt lunches (last year they produced ONE berry--which was delicious).  We are eating the rhubarb from my friend Patty's garden as I let my own rhubarb grow a bit more mature--another season.  I need patience.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I have been trying to write a new post here for three days and Google (which must have purchased blogspot) has been working overtime to block me.  I just finished a long entering process to get into my own blog.

Plus, I was working outside and am covered in large swollen insect bites.  Some multiple bites on the same small section of skin.  Itches like crazy.

Also, I was very strongly reminded that I am allergic to dust.  A neighbor asked me to repair and tack her rather large, puffy quilt for her.  I said yes.  It hasn't been washed in 10 years.  DUST.  I now have a hacking cough, chest congestion and who knows what else.

G and I tried out the new Taco Truck in Town.  Good.  Not great.  But he sold out of the fish tacos so they must have been great.  Next time I am getting a taco.  Not a burrito.  Too big and too mushy. The chef/owner was born and raised in Santa Clara, CA--right where my son lived for over 20 years-- so we "bonded".

My garden is coming along.  Some of the seeds I planted have germinated and their baby leaves look so cute against the soil.  Arugula and kale.  I managed to get some sage and anise hyssop germinated and grown in the milk jug experiment.  Also some Batchelor Buttons.  I purchased a new thyme plant to replace the one that seems to have disappeared.  Plants do that.  Just--- gone.

I've dug up and taken to work a large box of ajuga ground cover, a box of Lady's Mantle and on Thursday, a box of Nepeta (cat mint).  The other employees are eager to take home free plants.  One has shared her large thistle divisions with me.  It's nice to share.  No one was interested in the iris clumps so I set them in the woods.  Sometimes they grow.

Well, I tired of coughing. So I think I will just get another cough drop and another glass of water and settle into the sofa and try not to itch my bites.  The Witch Hazel I rubbed on the bites seems to be helping.  Not the most interesting post.  Sorry.

Friday, May 13, 2016

May Flowers

We (at work) are almost to the saturation point in floral color right now.  We need more petunia hanging baskets--especially the Heavenly Blue ones.  I have been busy at home, in the garden, and at work potting up geraniums etc for customers.  I have even done my first set of window boxes.

My wardrobe changed overnight.  From corduroy pants and thermal undershirts to capri pants and short sleeved tees (with a men's long sleeved shirt in case of a chill).  In the blink of an eye.  I even opened windows.  Cleared out the dust and winter odors.

I have NOT had my daily potato.  But, I have eaten my way through two large containers of strawberries.  Imported.  Not Maine's delicious berries.  Which reminds me to stock the car with $5 bills so I can stop on the roadside and buy berries when I see them.  Cash only.  And I never have cash on me anymore.  Waiting for someone to start selling rhubarb.  Mine is too small to pull.  I bet Patty's is ready.  I should call and check.  Her land sits on an aquifer and the rhubarb starts early and gets enormous.

The new "asthma" is causing me to be more tired in warmer weather.  I asked G about it (as he has a long term lung condition) and he said the tired-ness doesn't go away.  I have to adjust to it.  I haven't had to use the rescue inhaler.  Yet.

No lack of bees at work.  I have already been stung by one.  Back of the neck under my shirt collar.
And two or more black fly bites already. No brown tail moth rash, yet. No ticks since I found that one running around in my hair.

My neighbor asked me to mend her bed "quilt"-- more of a poofy comforter.  The top is pieced and some of the blocks are unsewing themselves.  I'll do it by hand over time using an invisible appliqué stitch.  Then I may take the time to tack it so she can wash it.  Re-tack.  I think at one time it was tacked but not well.  Not tightly enough or with double knots ( I am going to Google how to do the job correctly).  I will need to clear off my table and set up a "work station".  The light green perle cotton ball I purchased at Goodwill for one dollar will come in quite handy for the tacks.  Funny how that worked out.  G asked what I needed it for--and I said I don't know but I seem to need it for a future something.  And I did.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Succulents: The New Geranium

We can't keep the succulent table stocked at work.  Easy to care for (just ignore them) and they don't care if it's sunny or shady.  I love the idea of this large flat topped pedestal container.  That thin wavy succulent at the top of the arrangement is wicked expensive.  And the whole thing would need to be moved into a "less than frozen" area for the colder winter months.  But right now--- Amazing.

My garden is full of weeds right now.  I did get all the red and yellow onions planted.  And the little tiny seedlings out of the Milk Jug experiment (sage and anise hyssop).  I have three kinds of tomatoes on the deck today (shielded from the direct sun by a lawn chair).  I am ready to get going but wanted a second cup of coffee and time to write to you Dear Readers.

Yesterday, after work, I went round to the library and found a mystery to read and an older copy of Permaculture magazine in the "share old magazines" racks.  Then the grocery for more Romaine lettuce for lunches.  I also noticed very large crates on the floor in the produce department with very large bags of "local potatoes".  Usually "local  Maine potatoes", while tasty are also very dirty.  These were exceptionally large Russets and they were clean.  And they were $3.99 for what looks like 10 pounds (but could be more).  G and I each had one potato, baked perfectly, with sour cream and fresh cut chives from my many, many chive plants.  One potato equals a complete meal.  Huge potatoes. I plan on having a nice hot baked potato every day until they are gone.  Use up those chives.

Yesterday, in our feeble attempt to downsize from 4 vehicles (for two people) to two vehicles--G purchased a new car.  Replacing one with another.  Not what I wanted.  My idea was that he would trade two vehicles for one new one.  But on the up side, it's a car not a truck.  He wanted a new truck. I did not want to ride into my golden years (70 to 80) in a truck.  So he traded an old Jeep for a new Jeep.

And, as I suggested, he totally cleaned the old Jeep with Simple Green.  Leather seats and all.  The guys at the dealership were totally gobsmacked at how good that Jeep looked.  How unused it looked.
We are pretty careful with our possessions.  Except for shoes and garden gloves (which we destroy), we are wearing and using some very vintage items.  And they look pretty darn fresh.

Now we need to get rid of (sell) the 1998 BMW Z3 Roadster that has been stored in the garage for over 8 years.  Only two years away from the 20 year "Vintage" label that is so worth waiting for.  (???)  Now the interior of that car is a dream come true.  The Rosewood steering wheel is a thing of beauty as is the custom leather and wood trim on all surfaces. Interested?  Oh, the car is a 6 cylinder, black with a rag top.  Easily gets past 100mph.  I think it has less than 25K in mileage. Owned by an old woman who doesn't drive much.  ROFL but it's true.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Fought The Cloud And Finally Won (I think)

I used to have over 700 pictures saved in the Cloud.  I didn't want them saved.  I deleted them time after time.  But the Cloud always put them back in my picture file.  I was about ready to take a hammer to the computer.

Then a customer (why are customers so nice?) mentioned the "setting" section of the Cloud.  I could choose to "NOT" save pictures.  So, we did that.  And I had to wait 30 days to see if it worked.  Each time I opened my computer I looked at the number of items in the picture file.  It's 86 and holding. I need to start finding more, new pictures.

Now I am going to try and get G to change the setting on addresses.  We can't delete the ones that need changing.  People move.  They change internet servers.  They go away and don't come back into my life.

Haven't been out in the garden all week.  It's been cold, windy and raining.  But tomorrow is the day. I will be weeding and trying out my "new to me" mulching method--guaranteed to smother weeds and grass.  Newspapers (thick) covered by wood chips.  The newspapers can be arranged around the stems of plants you do want to live and over things you no longer want to live.  Gardening is like that. Mean spirited at times. I also will be using my new Hori Hori gardening knife.  Wicked sharp and such fun to stab into weeds and dandelions.  The ajuga in the garden didn't stand a chance.

Last night's dinner was cold roasted beets with good olive oil and Balsamic vinegar.  Followed by popcorn.  Tonight was too much food on "dinner out" at an Italian spot in town.  G had the special of the day and I had my usual eggplant parm with a side of asparagus perfectly cooked.  Had too many little garlic knots with my salad.  Feel stuffed.  Tomorrow I will be having a smoothie and then working outside. Sort of a spa day.  My way.

Sunday back to work-- Mother's Day.  Thursday and today were nonstop with phone orders. As the boss says--everyone has one.  A Mother that is.  Now they will all have a hanging basket.  Petunia or Fushia.  Spell check says that is spelled wrong but the spelling they give me looks "wronger".

Monday, May 02, 2016

How To Make Compost And Other Spring GardenTasks

Now that the snow is over (oh, I hope so) the rain has begun.  Thankfully, I managed to get the garden beds fertilized yesterday and the (finally) carrot and beet seeds into the ground. A few lettuce seeds and arugula made it in as well.  The onion seedlings got clipped but they are on the deck waiting to be be planted.

The results of the Winter Milk Jug experiment are not so good.  A few things did germinate and start to grow but then, too much heat and sunshine, did them in, followed by below 32 nights and snow..  Batchelor Buttons are the best so far but they are growing in a plastic jar that once held restaurant cherries (not a milk jug).  In far stranger fashion, the perennial grass Elijah Blue has germinated and is growing little spikes in it's milk jug.  It will take years and years before those tiny spikes turn into plants, but I will give it a go.

My garden beds are looking quite charming with the white daffodils with yellow centers.  These daffodils were a house warming gift from G's brother when we moved here in 1991.  I have dug the original 20 bulbs up and divided them several times.  I think there are more than 100 now. They are everywhere.  There are also large yellow daffodils that I save from the dumpsters after open house. They are also everywhere and I try and give away as many bulbs as possible.  Some rebloom and others simply evolve into compost.

Yesterday, I also wanted to start emptying the compost bin that is "ready" to use ( I have three bins in various stages of composting).  Easier said than done.  But the compost is exceptionally lovely.  Deeply black brown.  Friable.  My tomato seedlings got repotted into straight, screened, compost and they seem quite jolly.  I also gave them a watering with Plant Starter.  A b-vitamin smelling product that helps transplants take up nutrients.  The rhubarb plants got a good weeding, a super large dose of fertilizer with a high middle number and I dug out around them since they seemed to have sunk into the ground.  I don't think they like being "low riders".

My compost is made up of all the coffee grounds we use plus the filters and tea bags.  All the Kleenex and paper towels we use.  Every scrap of peel and waste from salads, onions, carrots, eggs and fruit.  I also regularly add the flowers I like to have on the table.  They get old and in they go.  The lint from the clothes dryer also goes into the compost pot (I purchased an inexpensive soup pot at Big Lots--which has a lid).  I line the bottom of the pot with newspaper (to catch drips) and then insert a plastic grocery bag which can be carried out to the compost bin when filled--usually at least once or twice a week but daily in summer or when I am making pickles etc. In the bin I layer the "wet" compost with the "dry" compost---shredded junk mail and, at the end of the year, all the past years bills etc that I no longer need to keep filed.  I supplement with a bale of straw that sits next to the bin.  I also add pine chips which I have in abundance due to the removal of trees this year and last. Dry leaves also go in since we are raking them out of the garden beds.  After a year--free compost.

I even composted all the expired seed packages with the seeds. Riley's winter coat also gets added to the compost when he gets brushed. And I have been known to shred the daily newspapers in order to make more "dry" for the compost mix during the winter months.  Newsprint is soy based these days. No heavy metals and inks are being used anymore.  Magazines with glossy pictures--just say no. One famous composter actually adds his old worn out clothing to the mix.  Not polyester.  I scored a car trunk full of old used burlap bags and those are being composted this season as an experiment. Cardboard cereal and cracker boxes compost very quickly if torn into strips. The local Starbucks will save coffee grounds for you--ask and make an appointment for pickup.  If you don't pick up--they won't save for you.  The bags they give you are heavy and leak--so plan ahead.  But those bags are full (20 pounds or more) of great quality coffee grounds.  Compost the filters as well.

If it looks like it will "decompose" then in it goes.  Always----always---equal weights of wet and dry.
So many forget this and end up with a wet, and very stinky sewer instead of compost.  Dry weighs less so you need more of it by volume.

If we could all just start a little compost bin--what a wonderful, wonderful thing that would be for the Earth. Next month I talk about bees.