Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The State of the Garden (After Being Away for 10 Days)

I'm a day late on my post, largely because I was completely demolished by the trip home from England. I'll be rather brief this week.

All serious gardeners are anxious about leaving their gardens for more than a few days. After all, who loves your garden more than you? Who knows how to give it the love you do? You can give all the instructions you want, but if the garden caretaker you have selected doesn't really pay attention or just doesn't take your instructions seriously, well, you can come home to disaster. For example, last year I returned from England to find that my entire vegetable garden was dead. Gone were my hopes for eggplant. Gone my peppers. Gone my potatoes.

So, this year, I decided to leave Turfman in charge. This is largely because he has to worry about making me happy. I am quite pleased to report that he comported himself with great aptitude. He did forget to water one plant that I have in a birdcage in the secret garden, and I discovered today that it had completely frizzled. But otherwise, everything looks happy and healthy. In fact, some things are absolutely flourishing.

There are over 50 pomegranates growing on the little bush now

The New Dawn rose has its first flower and 4 other blooms

The Christmas Limas have taken over
one half of the bean arch

But what is up with these mutant Cosmos?

So I raise my radius-handled border fork to Turfman, for making sure that the garden didn't miss its owner too much. And thanks to yet another grand tour of English gardens, I've been inspired to make some changes to mine. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Catching Up

A few days have passed, but I've been regularly posting next door on Traveling Lightly. Time for you to catch up. I promise you'll see some good things.

A mere morsel of what you'll find on the travel blog

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Great Power of Hope

Sometimes life doesn't work out the way that we planned. I find it altogether too easy to become discouraged by that fact. But I wonder sometimes why I believe that I am so magnificent as to deserve that the world should work out exactly as I wish. I've been unwell for 10 months now, though, and sometimes I find myself despairing. Perhaps if I had been unwell to varying degrees for most of my life, this present trial would be easier to endure. But as it stands, I've never really been sick at all. I've never been sick until July 2012 when a wasp stung me on my right hand and set in motion a series of inexplicable health crises.

I am a firm believer that trials are introduced into our lives to teach us something, and so I try to remain open to the lessons of this particular trial. What I am beginning to understand more than anything else is the great restorative power of hope. I hope on a daily basis that I will come across someone who can discern the source of my persistent discomfort. I hope that I can return to the existence that I once knew. I am finding that answers are not so easy to come by, and so I occasionally succumb to thoughts of despair. But even on the edge of that, there is always hope.

And so it is that I turn to my garden for more life lessons. Each time I press a seed into the earth, it is an act of hope. It is not an act of faith, to be sure. Faith is believing that something specific will happen. Hope is knowing that something specific can happen, even while understanding that circumstances might intervene to change the possibilities. When I press a seed into the ground, I hope that it will reach its potential. Sometimes I am rewarded. Sometimes I am not.

A few weeks ago, I sang the praises of the magical fruit, the bean. I planted a shocking amount of beans, in the hopes of having a glut of them to eat and to freeze. Things haven't quite worked out that way, but I still find reason to hope.

The beans bearing the name of 'Lazy Housewife' were advertised as being ones that didn't require much attention, the kind of beans that even a lazy housewife could grow. Well, I consider myself neither lazy nor a housewife, but it's the beans themselves that are the lazy ones, if you ask me.

Yep, they're lazy, alright.

Next are the 'Christmas' Lima Beans. Last year, they seemed to be Olympic wrestlers, tackling the wigwam supports I had built for them and bringing them to the ground. But they produced lima beans. They produced a lot of them. This year, I've given them a different kind of support, and they're proving to be as strong as they were last year.

We could, in fact, have a bean Christmas in July
My Purple Podded Pole beans have become a puzzle to me. They germinated beautifully, seemed to be putting on reasonable growth, and then most of them just quit. They shriveled and died within a matter of two days. So I planted more seeds. And they germinated beautifully, seemed to be putting on reasonable growth...you get where I'm going. I have to admit that I sort of gave up on them. But here's where they stand today. They may just surprise me in the end.

Modest growth from the Purple Podded Pole beans
I had given up on the Sunset Runner Beans, as well. But, while they are not living up to their "runner" status, they are showing plenty of hopeful signs in the form of flowers, which are the precursors to beans.

There's beans on them there plants!
I had hoped to be propelled around the house, but it seems I might be simply propelled around the kitchen. The beans haven't quite reached their potential, but in other areas of the garden, I find not only reasons for hope but for rejoicing. When I lost my precious Wolfie, I can assure you that I felt deep despair. Cavernous, dark, deep, overwhelming despair. Spurred on by friends and family and little Miss Tippy, who was certainly despairing the loss of her brother, too, I went into the garden. My blog readers suggested ways of remembering him. One, in particular, suggested I plant something strikingly different, something that stood out from everything else. And so I planted a Gloriosa rothschildiana, a tuber that looked much like a sweet potato. And I waited. In a few weeks, it started putting on furious green growth. This weekend, it also put on a show.

Friday morning
Friday afternoon
Saturday morning
Saturday afternoon
Sunday morning
That, dear readers, is hope rewarded. I planted a tuber in the midst of my deep despair, and my hope for something brighter was repaid with this magnificent flower. It isn't terribly different from what Wolfie always was for me. He was persistent hope. I think this will carry me through troubles for quite a while.

For those of you who subscribe to updates, you may find yourselves with a fuller inbox within a week. You see, I'm headed to England with my mom and my sister-in-law. So the next post you'll see from me will be from there. I'll be posting more frequently, but most posts will be next door, on Traveling Lightly, my travel blog. Happy and hopeful gardening until then.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Fruits of My Labor

When I meet someone new who I think I might like to know a little better, I pose a specific question. I believe it gets to the heart of who a person is. Some have actually taken offense at my asking it. For others, it opens up a lively and long conversation. So what is this polarizing question?

If money were no concern and you could choose anything you wanted, what would your job be?

Of course, I'm asking what someone's avocation is, but as some have never heard of this word, I simply phrase it differently. I am always surprised by the people who have no answer or, worse, have gotten angry with me. One person shrieked, "Money is a concern, so who cares about such a stupid question?" I immediately felt sorry for her. I understand that most of us can't walk away from everything to take up some career that might not keep food on the table. What I cannot fathom is how we could find life pleasurable without even doing something in our spare time that feeds our spirit and, more importantly, knowing exactly what that is. I have enjoyed hearing that people would paint or write or coach or become a dentist. I like watching joy spread across people's faces when they talk about those things.

Could anyone guess what I would do? It would involve gardening, certainly. And if I could combine gardening and teaching, well, I think we'd hit the mark. Either of those activities causes me to bubble up with joy. I was reminded of this on Saturday. Not surprisingly, I had spent some time in the vegetable garden. As usual, I became completely absorbed with pulling weeds and checking on the productive plants. I must have been a little lost in thought because, as I turned the corner to head into the pool enclosure, I caught sight of Turfman, who had been looking for me. But I was perplexed to find him laughing at me.

"What's so funny?" I asked.

"I might ask you the same thing. Why do you have such a huge smile on your face?"

Embarrassed, I said, "Oh, well, I was just in the garden. And I really love it."

Turfman had witnessed my joy.

I can't begin to speculate on the number of hours I have worked on the gardens at this house. All that work is producing wonderful dividends at this point, though just working in them has its own rewards. I love walking or driving up to the house. Just as I turn onto the street, I can see the flashes of color from my front garden.

We enter through plants waist high, flanking the walk

The secret garden just causes me to exhale every time I walk into it. This weekend, I hauled out the ladder to get a different perspective of it. I went aerial.

The Secret Garden from above
In the vegetable garden, the beans continue to reach for the top of the archway. The zucchinis and yellow squashes are still giving us fruit, and this weekend, I picked my first bunch of jalapenos.

It looks like a small collection, but...
Within minutes, they became a pint jar of pickled jalapenos. Now here is my chance to combine gardening and teaching. One very serious word of caution for anyone embarking on their first jalapeno pickling session. You absolutely must wear gloves. I did not on my first attempt, and within an hour, my hands had swollen and turned a deep shade of pink. I washed my hands several times with soap, to no avail. And then I made the terrible mistake of rubbing my eyes. For a while, we thought we would have to go to the emergency room. It took more Advil than I care to divulge to reduce the pain (and the face and hand swelling). Here endeth the lesson.

If you just slice & pack the peppers into a sterlized jar &
pour pickling liquid over, they're ridiculously hot!
So, what makes the joy spread across your face?