Dear Friend and Gardener
Monthly Archives: August 2010
It is hard for me to stay excited at this time of year. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!
Wouldn’t it seem that this is just what I have been building toward all season!?
And, of course, you are right. So, what is with the August Angst?
I HATE when the garden starts to look like all my efforts are for naught – no weeding, watering, deadheading, harvesting, gathering, reseeding, tidying – YADA YADA YADA – will make a difference.
I sometimes give up – the real reason I am so bad a fall clean up.
I am a little sworn to not let this happen this year – afterall, I am blogging to be inspirational – to my own worst habits, if not for your better ones…
But, here is a little bit of truth I can’t "garden" around – my boys are scheduled to play in one football game, four (or five, depending) soccer games, and one (or two – or maybe none – still waiting on results) basketball games this weekend. And, we while we have not DIRECT conflicts, we will be driving to either the west side of Cincinnati, Dayton, or Lebanon – several times…
So, while, we love BLTs – thank goodness for yummy tomatoes to make them happen… I won’t be cooking for some time!!!
Okay, the Cincinnati joke (and I know it is repeated EVERYwhere) mentions one’s fondest for current conditions with the punchline being about sudden change. HA HA HA!
In reality, the sudden changes can happen – it is when we are WISHING for them, that the sense of humour vanishes….
Not counting, (ie. refusing to count – more on that later…), it has been ungodly HOT for at least 6 weeks: The Donny and I had his family over for Father’s Day to a pool party.
IN MID JUNE – we were trying to figure out how to cool the water to a refreshing degree. UNHEARD Of!
NOW, I may not have menitoned much about our beloved watering hole, but, shortly after moving onto 2 acres we realized the need of resucitiaton – IN and OUT – we soon found an appreciation for the included, (but not "included" in terms of the sale), aboveground pool: my many years on a swim team found no fondness.
Actually, I wanted to pull the mess down.
We were only on premise a few months before I planned a wedding (ours) and moved in – the Kudzo-vine circle awaited me another season. But that short time taught me the NEED to jump in while tending two acres in humid Zone 6… We really never looked back.
Never believeing it would be so, I actively resurrected that octagon+2 (meaning no manufacturer made these pools any more or their liners – read "custom" – we did it anyway: really, in the summer, do you need to swim after cutting 2 acres or do you need to sweat up a new COUCH? I still believe we chose wisely – we were young, unencumbered, and could give each other a couch for Christmas….
So, we bought a custom liner to a pool we did not love. I took a grill brush to the decking and with refreshments, we had some great friends over to help and a small tradition began.
Too soon, the clicking-clock years were (or seemed like they should have been…) upon us and we popped out 2 fearless boys in 22 months – both, made to roll in this dirt, eat tomatoes from the vine, and love a pool that was falling apart, regardless. While we distracted them with school, sports, and a newer, better pool. my gardern evolution slowed.
Still trying to catch up, but the pool is amazing.
The time has come where a few perfect things merge: Tomatoes and Basil.
In the past, I have always grown 2-4 different tomotoes to test timing, texture and flavour ,and I have some favorites: Burpee’s Big Boy is consistently the tomato of choice – it is the tomato shippers wish we would forget about so that we would eat their souless, pink, gassed, flavorless tomatoes the rest of the year.
Then, there are a few more: Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter (individual fruits sold for $1 each back in the depression and the grower sold enough to pull from hard times – thus, their name…), and this year, I am trying Burpee’s Early Girl, Black Russion and Old German. For reasons for which I will wax poetic during the non-growing season, I prefer to grow heirlooms but sometimes mix in reliables too.
So far, my Early Girls have delivered a few orbs while I watch their neighbors slowing gain color.
I have not grown EGs before and they do not seem to get as large as the Better Boys, but have proven to be a little earlier. Their flavor is certainly fine enough – we are not to the foodie snob stage at this point – we are just too thrilled to have a tomato! I held one back from this evening’s meal in order to have a BLT tomorrow – even have homemade mayo for that occasion.
Tonight’s tomatos were made exactly as last night’s:
Pool a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil into a deep bowl, add thinnly sliced garlic bulb, season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Cut several basil leaves (Genovese – the one of Pesto fame…), roll like a cigar and slice into chiffonade – sprinkle into EVOO dressing. Slice several room-temperatur tomotoes (REMEMBER: DO NOT put these tomotoes in the refridgerator – the cold temperature changes their cell wall and the result is a loss of precious flavor). Gently place in bowl along with either fresh Boccatini Mozzarella (not the shredded pizza topper in a bag) or freshly slivered Parmesan – use a vegetable peeler to a little wedge to get those cute curls.
Now, gently toss. Allow individual dinners to make their own decision about adding balsamic, white or red wine vinegar – I rarely need it. This is nice to serve with a Ciabatta slice to get all the juices or in a bowl with a spoon.
I have been growing okra for some time now – long enough that I first called it "star vegetable" for my young boys – just in case they had heard anything negative about Okra – while at daycare…
Truly, though, I have always romanced the veggies that come from BG in order to entice them and IT HAS WORKED! My kids eat their veggies and sometime ask for seconds!
When Logan was very little, he would not try many vegetables until one day, I made a Caesar Salad and he inhaled it – this was when he was under 2 years old. After that, he wanted to "visit" the romaine lettuce whenever we went to the grocery store – kind of like visiting the lobsters… We still joke about this, but I swear their early exposure to produce has created healthier eating!
So, back to the Okra – this plant is gorgeous and I didn’t get any last year due to the deer. SO, I am very pleased to see these plants looking so good! I also grow Clemson Spineless Okra – a more traditional green. Interesting factoid – the red okras are green inside and turn more green when cooked! Their flavor is not noticilby different but how fun to have a great looking plant in the garden. Okra is in the same family as hibiscus, which is evident when you see their flowers – beautiful but tucked under the leaves. While one tends to think of this as a southern crop, it grows very well in my hot and humid midwestern garden. I have always started the seeds directly in the soil in early June. Due to my issues with weeds this year, I MAY try to start them in my seed trays just to see how they transplant – would like to get them to table sooner too!
Okra pods are best when you pick them as they reach the size of your pinky finger – wait too long and they lose moisture and get woody – fine if you want to dry them and use them in crafts – this stage’s longer shape is very interesting. I have seen arrangements and wreathes made from the pods that have gone too long – even painted black or silver (think Halloween…) – so, they don’t need to go to waste.
I have found that I need to grow about 6-8 plants to have enough ready at one time to feed all four of us. I only stir fry them at this point – really need a good gumbo recipe. Please share!
Which reminds me of another funny little boy story: before I ever grew them, I took Jackson – then less than 2 to a restaurant in SC and he, in PJs, relaxing in his car seat tableside, sucked contentedly on an okra pod plucked from his Aunt’s dinner… YUMMO!
Seems I never really know which plants are going to provide a bumper crop. Tonight, I picked 36 cucumbers and had to leave 10-20 more on the ground as having gone past their prime. None of these were here when I left town 2 weeks ago! I am certain I placed 3-5 seeds in three spots in the 4′ x 9′ bed and only two of the spots germinated. I know I also thinned the seedlings to maybe two plants per spot. The vines relly have not gone too far out of bounds, but they have been more than a little prolific. On my garden plan, I have recorded that I intended to plant Burpee’s "Tasty Green Hybrid" – the picture shows them to look like seedless, English cucumbers. But, this is not what I have – must have planted Seeds of Changes’ "Early Russian, Heirloom" seeds instead – good thing: they are picklers and I will have to get started on that ASAP.
I have read for years about starting another batch of cool weather plants for the fall. I have never done this. I hate to admit another gardening character flaw (already shared my bad fall clean up habits), but I do sometimes get burned out. Guess I have never had the energy to see past the weeds and the overplanted beds to think of ripping out duds and reseeding.
But, the times, they are achangin’ – I am going to do it!
While I did not make it out to BG today (2 appts, 2 meetings, and a football practice had me running – and, oh, had to spend time calling HP about my kaput printer – lovely of them to replace it so easily: they have offered me some of the best customer service of about anyone other than Lands End…), last night’s inspection gave me a new resolve:
- I CAN finish the weeding
- I WILL deadhead the perrenials
- Tomatoes ARE loading up my vines,
- Corn IS late, but okay
- Deer HAVE been controlled
- (Did I mention it still looks like I overplanted, but not so badly – I can actually walk the paths)
- Cutting flowers are not too much but I can probably pick sunflowers at will
So, while the lettuce bed has bolted, I can imagine cutting it down and reseeding. I really want to do this and see what growing a cool crop is really like – we have been hot and humid for weeks so no wonder the lettuces are 3′ tall…
Home after 10 days vacation and I am ALWAYS amazed by how much the garden grows in that time. I must have 30 cucmbers on the vines, two spaghetti squash and four canteloups that simply were not there when I left. The corn is over my head and two of my four tomato plants are too! And, the deer have left things alone – Donny did spray the Liquid Fence for me while I was away and he did a bang up job of weeding. There is a bit to do still, but not nearly the mess I feared, I really owe him the first BLT! (Just don’t tell him about all the gazpacho I made in SC…)
On a side note, my mesclun bed is kaput – need to replant so I am off to visit Seeds of Change for a quick order of seeds. First frost date around here averages October 10th, so I should have plenty of time for some spinach, arugula and some other loose lettuces….
PS. The August calendar art is of lavender – the end of the summer doesn’t look so threatening when I see that!
In the category of lessons not yet learned, I must list proper canning techniques. This is some what of a goal for this season so I need to start my research soon. I am guessing that if I Google "Ball canning jars", I will quickly find just what I need..
Done and done: Ball Blue Book celebrated its 100th publishing anniversary last year and the book – a staple that is recommended for novices as well as seasoned canners alike. And, it will cost less than the multitiude of veggies you can replace by storing summer’s wonderous bounty. Think I will order it… (Have I mentioned by burgeoning cook book collection?!)
Okay, ordered – so easy: confirmation email received while still blogging. So fast, I haven’t even really thought what I will actually preserve!
Some years ago, Donny’s mother, Peg, gave me her canning supplies so I know I have some jars, lids, a deep pot, a thingee for pulling out hot jars and perhaps some other things. I never really knew what to do with all of the items – will have to pull out of storage and make sure all is in order.
Early in my gardening, I did try to can 3 jars of salsa, but was sure I had done it incorrectly and could never eat more than the first jar, which we opened immediately. While the remaining jars on the shelf always looked okay, all I could think of was the Serv Safe certification I had received through work. Food safety is serious business and I have been a little bit of a nut about it ever since.
As I learn more, I will be sure to share the experience – I am picturing diced tomatoes for pasta, icebox pickles for the kids, corn relish for Jackson, and maybe even some pickled okra – if I can find a recipe for this. I will have a ton of basil too so perhaps pesto?
But first, I really must learn how to do this correctly so my efforts and yummies aren’t wasted…
How can it be that I need to turn the calendar over to August already?! Won’t know what sweet gardening motif awaits me on the next page until I return to Cincinnati, but I have to say that I fear it will show stages of harvesting that I am not ready to see. Not that I don’t wish my babies to grow up to the stage of delicious eating…I just can’t bear the thought of the season wrapping up.
Sure, by mid Sept, I will be a little more ready and I will take corn stalks, pumpkins and try to make the best of the dead end, but I really hate to see the sun’s long angle start to slant just that way…
Okay, so I am not living in the moment but lamenting a future not yet here – what to do: hit the floor running on Tuesday and pull every weed, pick the basil with abandon, eat tomotoes straight from the vine (Donny put in a water supply, so it is possible to give them a quick rinse first), throw flowers into every vase – NOW is the time I have been growing for!
Let’s not miss it for fear of its temporary visit!