Saturday, July 23, 2016

Redirecting Your Eye

After having done all I can to restore some sense of privacy to our backyard, only to have the neighbors cut more trees out, opening our previously wooded and secluded view to more and more homes and locations once hidden, I feel like giving up. At this point, since I can't make my trees and bushes grow faster, I need to redirect the focus from our back door and patio. Right now we look out and see the construction machinery and bare clay of the soon to be park. I guess our neighbors wanted us to share in their misery after the woods was clear cut so they cut their trees down as well. Who doesn't like a woods? You don't move onto a wooded property to cut it down.

Anyway, instead of continuing to be bitter, I need to divert attention from the barren ground to a new vista. There will be a number of stages to the project in that the height of the heat spell in mid-July is no time to be transplanting flowering perennials. What I can do is plot out a new garden focal point, plan the removal and transplanting of the 5 foot tall anemone that block the way, trim up some bushes and trees to allow a direct view but keep a bit of mystery and intrigue.

Straw Bale Check-in

As I pick the first tomatoes from my straw bales, I take a look around at my bales this year. Some vegetables have worked better than others. Fellow gardeners suggested root crops which I tried but with which I had little success. What have always done really well are tomatoes. Yum! 

A more compact plant might be ideal but a good long stake right through the bale solves the problem of a large leggy tomato plant. I tie right to the stake but a tomato cage also helps a little.
Wow, this one has really taken over and is covered with tomatoes!

The bales are starting to look a little ragged as they decompose. It's very important to keep the bales watered in this July heat. They can dry out quickly. These bales have peppers and a little basil planted amidst the tomatoes. Sounds like ready-made spaghetti sauce!

I have limited sunny spots and have found that no matter how much care you give your tomatoes there is no substitute for sunshine. I am definitely planning some strategic pruning of the surrounding branches.

One of the surprise successes in the straw bales this summer are the green beans. As I think about it, it makes so much sense. Beans and other legumes fix nitrogen from the air into nodules on their roots. Straw bales need nitrogen in order to break down the organic material into usable nutrients for plants. It's a perfect pairing, Chard and kale have done well but are being crowded by the very healthy green beans!

Straw bales have been the perfect solution to our poor clay soil and a great deterrent to soil born diseases. I hope you're having great success with your own straw bales, as well. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

All a Buzz

Prime time for bees

Pollen collection at its best.

If we were bees we'd barely have time to be on Facebook or Snapchat but we'd be getting a quick post out there.

 "OMG! What a day at the garden!"

"Even the little ones got in the act!"

 "The coneflowers we found."

"The best monarda on the block."

"Hangin' out at Sage. Come down and join me"

"Dinner at the garden, complete with food pics."


Water Responsibly!

“Man is a complex being: he makes deserts bloom - and lakes die.”― Gil Scott-Heron

Water- life essence if ever there was one. Love may make the world go round but water gives it life. There is just so much of it, no more and it is certainly not evenly distributed across the globe. Where I live we have plenty of it but I think about it because I live at a point on the continental divide of North America. Interestingly, a recent deal was made to allow a county west of the divide to receive water from the Great Lakes, east of the divide. This is after years of storm sewer water had been diverted from west to east so it only makes sense but it makes me wonder about the overall, long term effect of such decisions of which this is only one example, taking place across the world.

  The water cycle. 
 The seasons. 

 Sure, I water my vegetable garden often, as well as my potted plants. I water my flower gardens when it's pretty dry. But we rarely water our lawn; we let it go dormant in the heat of summer.

In the vegetable garden I water at the base of the plants early in the morning to avoid losing the water to evaporation. 

Straw under the plants will keep in the moisture, prevent splash back, keep the soil from caking and deter weeds

Watering leaves in the sun just results in cooking them.

In the flower gardens I have much more opportunity to water in the shade. I like to water by hand and contemplate the garden, gives me time to contemplate other things, as well.

When I find something that needs my attention I often just prop my hose rather than run for a sprinkler. It's best to water  from underneath but when that won't work I go ahead and broadcast over the top. This way I only water what needs to be watered and I can work in the area as well. 

Sometimes, you just need to wash off the dust of local construction of which we've had more than our fair share lately. 

I use whatever is handy. I like the old fashioned brass nozzle for this.

 It's July. We need to get the gardens through the worst of the summer heat. I live in a community where water is plentiful but that doesn't mean we need to waste it. It's a little like alcohol in that it may seem wonderful at the time but we're going to wake up to consequences. Water responsibly, people! Let's be reasonable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

O, What a Beautiful Morning!


I find myself getting up earlier in summer, not only because the sun in shining in the window, but because I'm anxious to get out there to enjoy some time before the heat makes it unbearable or the sun overtakes my shady sitting spots.

I water the vegetable garden so the droplets have a chance to dry before they become magnifying glasses to scorch the leaves.

 I weed a little in the comfort of cool breezes and most importantly, I take my coffee out and appreciate the garden. 

The coffee cup in my hand helps to allow me to stand back and look, rather than get involved with every little problem I see. It usually works, though I often put the coffee cup down and tackle a problem right then and there, on occasion getting dirt in my cup and ending the. act of being an onlooker, rather than a participant in this glorious green aspect of creation.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Extend Your Trip for the Price of Your Imagination

Traveling can be so expensive these days! The ticket prices; the hotels and BnB's; admission prices to the museums,  gardens and historic sights. It all adds up. They say that planning a trip is one of the most rewarding parts of the whole adventure. I agree but I also like to extend the trip by sharing the memories, looking at photos, placing your souvenirs where you'll see them each day and especially by recreating the scenes, the aromas, and the feel of the area you visited can make your trip even more enjoyable. 

Let's face it, sometimes traveling can be stressful. Driving in another country, hauling bags up flights of stairs, dealing with language barriers or just jet lag can put a damper on the fun. All of that can be easily forgotten when you focus on all of the wonderful parts afterwards.
This is the per liter price, not per gallon!

We recently took our son and daughter-in-law to Italy. It was spring time, beautiful, and so different from home in Wisconsin. Tuscany is like heaven.

The trip was great! Although, like I said, there were stressful moments, they're easily forgotten, especially when you get home and start recounting the stories and try to explain how beautiful it was.

So, as my senses are still tuned to Italy, I notice things I wouldn't have before. I saw this painting at a garage sale and snatched it up!
It captures the feeling of our place near Montecatini Terme

This little piece of rock was carved thousands of years ago and was just sitting along the walkway at the Forum in Rome. 
It reminds me of some chunks of an "old" broken cement planter I use as stepping stones. They're "relics" now!
I was amazed at the size of this Rosemary bush! It must have been 6 feet tall!
My little plant is about 4 years old and I bring it in the house every winter because it wouldn't survive the freezing temperatures we get. 

This sage just seemed to spill out into the courtyard. The owner encouraged us to use it in our cooking that evening. The Norwegian couple who were also staying at the bnb were similarly overjoyed and  eager to pinch off a few leaves.
My sage plant is tiny in comparison but it brings back such wonderful memories of our dinner out on the terrace in Tuscany.

 While I'm pretty sure we can't grow olives in the upper midwest I may consider planting a new Russian Olive the may be hardy here.

Outdoor dining spaces are not completely practical when taken to this extent but I'm sure we can imitate the feeling on our patio. Garage sales are great places to find furniture that has already seen better days, something I wouldn't cringe at leaving out in all conditions.

Garden statuary seems to have fallen out of favor here, lately, but for me, now is the time to pull out my small versions and remember the many, many, MANY statues we saw across Italy!
It even makes me see my once pretty mosaic bench in a new light, I found it at the recycling center, tossed aside after most of the tiles had fallen off. To me it now looks centuries old. I can  say, "Look, see how you can make out some of the mosaic that once adorned this ancient looking bench! Imagine the Roman patricians that would have sat here, had it been in Rome in 200 BC."
The same goes for vines of all kinds. Though I may not be able to grow jasmine or passion flower vines that hang heavily over trellises, walls and columns the clematis and honeysuckle that I can grow will have to suffice and remind me of the sights and scents we had all around us.


 Finally, as much as we enjoyed the wonderful wines we tasted all over Italy, I do not have the ambition to grow my own grapes and make my own wine at this time. This is something we can easily recreate with a bottle and a glass. Buonasera! 
Montalcino Rosso in Montalcino

and at our BnB