Sunday, June 27, 2010

bee on thyme

it’s been a wonderful few days. lazy, do-nothing days, spent almost entirely outdoors. today something out of the ordinary happened...a little bird perched on my finger:

these birds...i don’t know what they are, but there’s a lot of them in the back yard lately, and they’re not at all bothered by my presence. i can walk right up to them. i approached this one slowly then reached out my finger, and it hopped on, looked at me inquisitively for a few seconds then hopped off and continued eating. what wild bird does this? i wish i’d gotten a better, non-blurry picture, but maybe i’ll have another chance.

a lot of frog friends have been turning up in the garden. i’ve seen five (maybe six) individuals in the last three days.

this is what gardeners who use chemical pesticides miss out on...getting to observe all these cute little predators going out for a meal. (of course they probably also miss out on the aphids, earwigs, slugs, and other bugs whose interests conflict with mine, which are the big draw for said cute little predators.) the other day i watched a ladybug crawl along a carrot leaf consuming massive quantities of aphids. i think it was the most satisfied i’ve ever felt watching one creature eat another.

lots of swallowtails, lately, too. it seems like these used to be one of the rarer butterflies here in boise--when i was a kid i remember mostly seeing painted ladies and skippers and cabbage moths, and when a swallowtail or monarch came by it was a big deal. these are probably the most common now. i wonder what that means.

i was thinking about the pictures i post on here of my garden, and how selective they are...not intentionally, but i do mostly just take pictures of the stuff that looks good because, well, the other stuff is ugly, and i don’t usually want to look at it. but in a way it’s fun to examine what’s gone wrong and keep a record so i can avoid repeating mistakes, or maybe help others learn from my fuck-ups. here are a couple big ones.

failure #1:

the topsy-turvy chocolate cherry tomato had been doing fine until one day a strong wind gust broke the stem partially. i let it hang by a thread, leaves wilting while the stem festered, for a week or so, before finally calling time of death. overall i am just not impressed with this topsy-turvy business. it’s an eyesore, it leaked yucky brown water from unexpected places, and i don’t think it sped up growth at all. i think i’ll put a new plant in the top, set it on the ground and use it like a normal planter, somewhere out of the way so i don’t have to look at it. i still have the upside-down vodka bottle tomato growing happily, though, so this isn’t the end of my inverted tomato experiment this season.

failure #2:

apparently sunflowers need sun. here was my initial line of thought: there’s a giant bush in the middle of one of my planting beds. on the sunny, left side i planted corn, which is thriving. i wanted something else tall on the right side for symmetry. also, i had it in my head that sunflowers grow so tall so fast they would emerge out of their shady corner in no time, shooting up past the height of the bush to reach sunlight and bloom. yeah, no. they need sun.

i interplanted the sunflowers with peas, which were doing ok...until birds nibbled them to pieces. i then placed netting on top of the dismal mélange, which further weighted down the sad sunflowers and allowed surviving tendrils of the massacred peas to get tangled, stuck, and eventually yanked off. oh well.

i put all these poor creatures out of their dim misery after the photo. now i’m not sure what to do with that spot of truly does get almost no sun, but i hate having unused space, and it looks damned ugly...

that’s enough failure for now...maybe i’ll make this a weekly examination, though. i could start doing “garden fail fridays.”

yesterday i decided to do something new with the left side of the above-ground planter. i transplanted every kale, pulled every lettuce, amended the soil and planted three rows of bush beans. it’s bare now, contrasting markedly with the right side:

but in about a week it will be full of bean seedlings, rows of little green satellite dishes oscillating to face the sun. it amazes me how fast bean plants develop. tomatoes are this drawn-out test of patience, where you have tons of small milestones spaced out across weeks and months--first seedlings! first true leaves! first buds! first flowers! first fruit! first blush! first ripe!--beans are instant gratification comparatively. my other plantings of bush beans sprouted at the beginning of june and are already budding:

lettuce is quick, too. i never guessed that i would be fortunate enough to eat lunch fresh from the garden just about every day in late spring/early summer. my salads from the last two days:

and i picked yet another shit-ton of collards.

rather than cooking them i thought i’d try seasoning and dehydrating them like kale chips. it worked wonderfully--they tasted/behaved just like kale, i couldn’t tell the difference.

i ate all three full dehydrator trays worth in one sitting.

this afternoon i made a batch of lavender lemonade. recipe here. i halved the water for the finished lemonade (2 cups instead of 4--i like strong lemonade). also, instead of using a citrus juicer i used my centrifugal juicer, juicing the lemon skin, rind, flesh and all, which yields a creamy, more complex lemon juice. i drank it out of an old mason jar...but i forgot to kick off my shoes and put a flower in my hair. next time, for sure.

it gave me an excuse to finally try out this lovely yellow pitcher i picked up at a flea market last winter.

once i use up the remaining lavender simple syrup i’m going to try making dandelion lemonade, with my non-gelled dandy jelly. i love the idea of lemonade infused with flowers, and the result is delicious, but i must say, my usual recipe for lemonade (two apples and a lemon run through the juicer, nothing else) surpasses this lavender lemonade in both taste and nutritional value. i think i’m turned off by all the dissolved sugar. would it work if i tried to steep the lavender in boiling apple juice? worth a try, maybe...

yesterday’s sunset was phenomenal. the west half of the sky turned orange/pink with thick, creamy clouds:

the east went blue/purple with patchy clouds and a rainbow:

and peach ambient light glowed over everything:

i get one more day to frolic and play and bask in the beauty of everything, then jury duty. that’s going to be fucked up. in a way i don’t mind, but now i’m thinking about how i can’t stand to spend more than a few minutes inside during the daytime lately, and from what i understand the majority of jury duty is spent sitting around waiting, indoors i assume. i don’t think court is like school where you can convince the teacher to hold class outside when the weather’s nice. judges probably don’t go for that, right?


Tammi Thiele said...
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Tammi Thiele said...

Great pictures! I think your little bird is either a song sparrow or a savanah sparrow.

Shari said...

My topsy turvy isn't doing much either. :(

Katherine said...

I'm so impressed by your "fail" pictures. I think it's so revealing to show the whole garden; like showing the model without her makeup, I guess. I get so upset with how shabby mine looks, and then you come over and point out its beauty and I fall in love with it all over again. Thanks for being the best sort of friend I could ever ask for.

Emily said...

tammi--thanks! and thank you so much for the bird i.d. i looked up photos of those birds and think you're right, it looks like a savannah sparrow.

shari--that's too bad, i wonder if they're just a load of crap. i kind of wish i had just gone with a plastic bucket instead...certainly cheaper and maybe more effective.

katherine--awww <3. your gardens are always, always breathtakingly beautiful. i'm convinced that even the plants that look sort of puny have a special glow about them just because they were grown by you.

Holly said...

thank you for your recent kind comments! wish I had the patience and motivation you must possess in order to keep such a magnificent garden, "fails" and all.

GoneferalinID said...

Good luck with jury duty. We're growing borage and I've read that freezing the flowers in ice cube trays makes a nice garnish for lemonade. I'm still waiting for the nasties to bloom.

Emily said...

holly--motivation is really the key. i have patience for gardening the same way a donkey chasing a carrot held perpetually out of reach at the end of a fishing pole has patience. i get a nibble every once in a while and it's enough to keep me going, stubborn, happy and hopeful. and hungry.

goneferalinid--thanks, day one was lame and i have three more potential days of lameness, but it's fine. i'm growing borage too and i've read the same about freezing them in ice cubes! i'd like to try it but i need to find some ice cube trays first, otherwise i'll have to use vagina candy molds because that's the closest i've got. is your borage blooming yet? one of mine has buds that look like they're about to pop, but the other three are still just leaves.

Jessica said...


i've also been thinking about having a running series on things i've flubbed, as i pointed out in my last post. i hope that jury duty goes well. xo.

Jessica said...
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Emily said...

thanks jessica! so far my juror number hasn’t been called again--just two more days and i'm off the hook. i’m looking forward to doing this garden fail friday thing...just thinking about it has made me way more conscious of all the stuff i’ve messed up, but it’s also made me way more able to laugh about those things rather than feeling irritated/bad about them.