Friday, July 30, 2010

garden fail friday: an easy to grow fail.

i didn’t kill, maim, mutilate, injure, stunt, disfigure or otherwise destroy any plants this week, so instead of the usual, single-incident fail i thought i’d profile an ongoing fail that’s been plaguing me since march: “an easy to grow herb.” any time a seed packet or seed catalogue description suggests that an herb is easy to grow, i’m certain to have a hell of a time growing it. example one, borage:

this borage is obviously a win, but it took a whole lot of fails to get here. borage is “an easy to grow herb” that gave me about a 5% germination rate when i started seeds in early spring. i don’t know what i did wrong--i treated it the same way i treated every other seed, and the results frustrated me endlessly, taking over a month to get the first and only seedling (pictured above in adulthood). later on i direct-seeded half a dozen borage seeds, of which three came up, and even though 50% is still a pretty terrible germination rate it seemed like a huge victory.

example two, dill:

dill is “an easy to grow herb” that went alright when i grew it inside, but when i tried direct-seeding outside it was a disaster. multiple times i planted a bunch of seeds. one time only one seed sprouted, then after a few days it flopped over and died. another time, in a different location, five came up, grew incredibly slowly, languished with one or two true leaves for a couple weeks, then flopped over and died. a third time i saw the pattern repeating so i pulled them out and gave up.

there are numerous other examples, even extending beyond the realm of herbs--“love-in-a-mist” flower, for instance. the phrase “easy to grow” is an insult and a curse. it’s gotten to the point where i will seriously avoid buying seed packets that indicate their contents are easy to grow because i know i don’t have a chance. perpetual fail.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

ripeness 2x!

after what seems like a million decades...first two ripe tomatoes, a yellow pear and a white currant. delicious! it'll be quite a while before any of the large tomatoes mature, but the little ones are about to start rolling in like crazy so i'll be satisfied...i prefer smaller ones for eating. larger ones are better for photography, though.

Friday, July 23, 2010

garden fail friday: you win this round, gravity.

no more upside-down tomatoes for me. the main stem of the vodka tomato snapped under its own weight, just like the topsy-turvy tomato stem snapped in the wind. i don’t understand how this can not happen, really. also, just like before, this one was growing *slower* than the other tomato plants--it didn’t even have fruit yet, just a few sets of flowers. pretty sure this marks the end of my inverted tomato growing career, and the death of my naïve, blindly optimistic, fleeting faith in infomercials. faaail.

and it's a bad day for topsy-turvy tomatoes...jessica's poor plant met a similar fate.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

where my sunflower wishes to go

lots of garden excitement in the last two days! my first sunflower opened yesterday...

second sunflower really, but the first one was tiny and never fully opened. this one is medium-sized and has two more buds on the stalk waiting to open.

i found a site that may or may not offer free sunflower seeds. it’s part of an urban bee population study--they ask that you plant a certain variety of sunflower (“lemon queen” annual) and record data about the bees that visit. i can’t find any sort of order form where you request the seeds, so i think maybe they’re done sending them out this season (it is pretty late) but maybe they’ll offer them again next spring. also, i saw one page that mentioned something about collecting data from other plants, like bee balm and lavender. i’ll participate in the study without the sunflowers if i can figure out how.

first tigridia (or mexican shell flower) opened this morning.

it looks so exotic and tropical, like it doesn’t even belong here in boise. and really it doesn’t. (there are so many native flower gardeners around here who probably consider this an abomination...sorry.)

tiger lilies are bursting with flowers, and still so many buds to go.

first eggplant flower bud. i’m still not sure if these are going to produce at all.

the bell pepper flowers are looking promising, though. there’s one very healthy plant that has over a dozen buds, two open flowers and one tiny pepper. i wonder how many peppers one plant can produce/support at a time.

most of the corn stalks have the makings of tassels just starting to poke out.

gonzo bean pods are forming, despite the heat.

i waded around in the creek today and peeked under the fence...the neighbors' raspberries are ripe, which means i should expect ripe fruit on the volunteers around this time next year.

i found what i thought was a ripe tomato--a white currant, the first plant that flowered and one of the first to set fruit. in the bright sunlight i swear it looked ripe, but in the photos it’s obviously still mostly green...anyway, i ate it, and it tasted a bit bitter. nice texture, though.

i also ate a prickly caterpillar today. the taste was mild and reminiscent of grass, and the chewing on toothbrush bristles.

at the start of the season i had every intention of weighing every morsel my garden produced this year, recording it all meticulously...this is the first time i’ve bothered. a pound of zucchini...

and a third of a pound of beans. this was dinner yesterday.

i cooked them the same way i cooked the others, olive oil/S&P sauté, only this time i cooked the beans a few minutes before adding the squash. the squash turned out the same and the beans really benefitted from the extra cooking time.

another handful of peas yesterday, too. i thought i planted all edible-pod types, but the pods are a little tough, so i shelled them, munching as i went.

i’ve had good luck with asexual propagation this year. the chocolate mint runners i potted have developed into plants that look even healthier than their parent. that experiment inspired me to try growing basil from cuttings:

after about two weeks they have sizeable root balls.

i accidentally knocked a branch off of one of my cherry tomato plants, so i stuck it in some water. not only are roots forming along the stem, it’s even growing baby tomatoes thanks to the liquid kelp i added. at first i had it in plain water and the blossoms dropped, but when i added kelp it set fruit.

Monday, July 19, 2010

is it seriously mid-july already?

this summer’s going too fast, i don’t like it...somehow it doesn’t even feel like summer, i’m still waiting for it to start. it just occurred to me that maybe i feel this way because this is the first time in around two decades that i’ve transitioned to summer without school. add to that the cool temperatures in spring and early summer...easily enough to disorient me a bit.

yesterday i picked up the july issue of diversity, which has been out for over two weeks, i just never remember to grab one.

they used the cute picture of reed and his friend austin, and also the one of spoony (who just started a new blog) and her girlfriend. i would’ve done the collage layout a bit differently, but considering they only had one day to put this together (i turned in photos the day after pride, the day before the issue went to press) i think it’s pretty decent.

they also used the photos i took at les bois awards. the awards show differed vastly from last year. in 2009 they did this big production, with lots of sponsors, speakers and performers, and the show went on for a few hours--this year it was like nothing, they sped right through the awards, minerva sang a song and that was it. i had a hard time getting photos of all the winners because many of them didn’t even give acceptance speeches.

best of all i like what they did with the cover on this issue. unfortunately they’re not doing full-page cover images anymore, but this still looks good i think.

the other day i took photos of kids at the idaho writing camps, for use in promotional materials. i went to these camps when i was a kid--you go on field trips every day and an author does her/his best to prompt you to write, then you share and workshop and eventually get your work published in an anthology. fun stuff. getting to tag along for the photo shoot was like being a li’l camper again.

i faux pased pretty hard, though--there was this girl walking alone in the group, and she looked like maybe she hadn’t made any friends yet, so i went up to her and asked her if it was her first time at camp...she was the teacher’s aide. it was then that i realized the age group of the other campers was somewhere in the 7-9-year-old range. i felt like SUCH an ass. so i spent the next five minutes talking rapidly and trying to make her laugh and forget that i’m an ass, but i probably just made her more uncomfortable, i don’t know.

this september i’m shooting a wedding for the first time. i met up with the bride yesterday--she’s a really cool person, very easygoing, and it sounds like the ceremony will be nice and laid back, thank goodness. i was dreading the whole thing before, but now that i’ve met her and talked to her i’m looking forward to it. if all brides were like her i would even consider trying to make a go of it as a wedding photographer. but they’re not, i know they’re not.

this morning i went to the new sunday market at bown town. i got all excited when i heard about this, because bown town is only a couple minutes from my house by bike--one of the reasons i often miss the weekly saturday and thursday markets is because i’m too lazy to ride downtown (even though that’s not far either). sadly, though, the bown market is super lame. there were hardly any vendors and i didn’t find any of their booths interesting.

i hung my herb clock that reed and i got from the new thrift store in mccall. it was broken but i took it apart, fixed it, cleaned it and put it back together, now it’s good as new. i love that it’s so deep it creates a little shelf--i hung it very sturdily so it can even bear some weight if needed.

last week i harvested some fun things--the first round of carrots!

i pulled them all at once, even though i knew they’d be different sizes...i wanted a group photo, and the numbers were dwindling after pulling so many test carrots in the last few weeks.

the purple ones are tastiest. they’re orange inside with a yellow core.

i almost forgot about the peas i have growing behind the fence. rather than growing vertically on supports i allowed them to sprawl out across the tall grasses, so they blend in. this is the first time i picked any of them.

bush beans are starting to mature...

and so are some zucchinis. they go well together:

i sautéed them in olive oil with salt and pepper. extremely simple, but extremely tasty--this was honestly the most delicious squash i’ve ever eaten. it turned all buttery and melt-in-your-mouth. the beans were tasty too, and amusing to watch the purple ones turn green when exposed to heat.

these are stuffed collard greens, like stuffed grape leaves. for the filling i stir-fried bell pepper, mushrooms, sticky rice and soy curls, seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, cumin and fennel seed. the fennel seed was the magic ingredient, even though i’m not a huge fennel fan. these were delicious. the next night i made the same thing only i chopped up the collards and threw them in the stir-fry rather than stuffing them.

this afternoon i made raw cucumber-avocado “soup” for lunch (it ended up being a veggie dip, though, because it’s way too heavy and rich to eat as a soup). no cucumbers from the garden yet, so the only homegrown ingredients were the parsley and the borage garnish. here’s the recipe:

1 medium-sized cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, cubed
1 1/2 small avocados (or 1 large), cubed
3 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons water
handful of parsley
salt, pepper and cumin to taste
borage flowers for garnish

i basically just threw everything in the food processor and let it run until creamy. a blender would probably work better, but i prefer the food processor. thinning it out with a cup or so of raw nut milk would most likely make it more acceptable as a soup.

three more garden freaks this week! this carrot reminds me of the baby-shaped mandrake root from pan’s labyrinth. or the root baby from little otik. basically it’s a creepy possessed carrot freak root baby and i’m not eating it for fear of being impregnated by demons. not that that happens very often, just want to play it safe.

my first fused tomato is very underwhelming. it’s a currant tomato, so even though it might end up being twice the size of a normal currant tomato, that will still be smaller than any other tomato variety i’m growing.

double-bloom on a borage flower! the pink one eventually turned blue after being exposed to the light for a while. i’m glad i caught it just after opening because i like the contrast.

i’m crazy about this borage. i love watching bees freak out over it.

the prickly caterpillars are maturing, looking more and more like caterpillars:

more tiger lilies are opening:

some of the romaine lettuce stumps are unexpectedly sprouting again. i don’t think much will come of this, but it’s cute:

and, as always, my little garden helper is cutest of all: