Our weekend out of town; The Story

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Our weekend;   The Story.  I have a peridontist appointment about every three months, in a town about 2 + hours from where we live.  So we have turned it into a weekend getaway, and a visit with my mother who lives in a nearby town to the town where my peridontist is located.

Had my peridontist appt Friday and the report was good – some small improvement actually.  Not much improvement, but far better than deterioration.    Then we went to my mother’s home, spent the weekend. and then came home to our animals.   Our cat and dog remain at home, and so our time away is limited to a safe duration for the cat and dog to fend for themselves.

Now that my cat bite is healing and the cat is healing, life is returning to normal.   (A couple weeks earlier the cat was bitten by an animal, and in not knowing she was bitten, I picked her up, more rather tugged her out of her hiding place and she bit me…not at all her usual behavior, she is a very loving cat.   We didn’t see her wound at the time, but knew something was wrong with her.  Arthur spotted her wound, and we took her to the vet, who gave her a vaccine, and told me was more concerned that I get myself to hospital to treat the cat bite.  I did, was vaccinated and given antibiotics, the incident reported to County Health, the cat quarantined at our home for 10 days and we are both mending without incident, the primary concern being exposure to rabies).

When we returned home, our dog Jake resumed eating again.  He misses us when we are gone and gets sad – depressed.  Dogs have feelings.  Oh, and our cat too, she has feelings, misses us and glad when we return home.

After my peridontist visit on Friday afternoon we drove to my mother’s home, picked her up and went out to eat.  We live in a rural town, and there aren’t a lot of restaurants or places to eat, so we enjoy the opportunity of eating out at different restaurants on the days of  my peridontist appointments.  It’s an eating out together date we look relish.  Choosing a restaurant in the town where my mother lives proved not to be as obvious as it might seem.  We kind of scoured what we knew to be restaurants in her neighborhood, opted to go further away, settled on Black Angus, since I was hankering for a nice steak lunch.  We got there and it no longer has lunch, open for dinner only.  Must be the economy.  The hour was growing late into the afternoon, I was hungry now, and we had not eaten breakfast that day,  or at all, so we wound up at (oh yuck!) Old Country Buffet.   My husband likes the many choices of buffet restaurants, and sometimes so do I, but Old Country Buffet is not one of my favorites.  We both really enjoy the buffet variety of primarily healthy choices at  Sweet Tomatoes restaurant, but there were none the town where my Mom lives.

Saturday husband spent the day home, defrosted Mom’s freezer for her because it had become so full of ice that the ice on all the shelves were touching each other, no room for food.   He took care of some other taskings for her, then spent the rest of the day fooling around with installing stuff in his old fashioned computer.  Not the laptop kind, the big bulky kind.  Some guy he knows had given him some Linus software to download or told him about it.  Anyway, it was a dead computer (not working) and when he finished the download it sprung back to life, installed Windows XP and is sort of functional again.  He was delighted.  Still needs an audio driver and something else that would permit it to link to internet.  He was just intrigued that it started working again…kind of like a guy tinkering in his garage with his power tools, only Arthur likes to tinker with puter.

Saturday I took Mom to Farmers Market in Proctor area of Tacoma.  It is a district that more resembles Portland or some Seattle districts; organic, green living, conscientious choices – that sort of thing, and an amazingly cool, fun grocery store with very upscale item choices.  For a mere $309.00 you can purchase a wheel of gourmet cheese!  An experience in itself.  (I’m being a bit snarky – it would be very unlikely we would ever spend that kind of  money on cheese.)  We visited a new consignment shop in her immediate neighborhood – delightful items, colorful, fun, upbeat, cheerful.  I liked it.   But I didn’t buy anything, because in truth, neither of us need another thing!

And more for the hunt of treasure than because either of us need anything more in our homes, we went to a few garage sales. What was being offered wasn’t the kind of garage sales we were looking for – more like junk sales.  We had fun anyway because we toured many of the University Place neighborhoods, the million + $$ homes with breathtaking views of the Narrows water, Narrows Bridge, the outlying island.  And alongside the million + $$ homes, are more modest ranch style homes.  You can be on a ‘house of dreams’ street and turn to go down the the next street which could well be a quiet and modest street of different ranch style homes.    University Place neighborhoods are in interesting mix of income levels.

After our tour of neighborhoods,  I took her to visit Charlie at cemetary where his ashes are placed.  It is a beautiful, peaceful cemetary, a place of quiet serenity amidst the hubbub of getting from here to there.  Nice place to quietly reflect on life.  I know, it may sound like a strange juxtaposition to reflect on life when at a cemetary where the dead are buried…..but that is how it works for me.

We went back to Proctor district that evening to have dinner at a niche Mexican restaurant (not a restaurant chain) because Mom said she heard good things about the food and atmosphere there.  Lively atmosphere with mix of old and young people dining.    I had a Taste Assault dish called Chicken Mole, although it would be better named Chicken in Mole (pronounced molay) Sauce, because the sauce was Outrageous –  6 ingredients, and I can remember plums, almonds, mole (an unsweetened chocolate), and some other ingredients.  It wakes up your taste buds like wowza!   Not hot or even spicy, flavorful would be the word I would use to describe it.  Flavorful with each bite.  My husband took a menu and will experiment at home with making the mole sauce because I liked it so well.

Sunday we took Mom to her church (St Andrews Episcopal Church).   A bit of history here; my mom lost half her sightedness recently and is vision impaired now.  Mom had been saying she felt she needed something inspirational amidst all the doctor appointments and bad news.  We are lay preachers at our local Episcopal church, and along the way, I decided to call the Priest at St Andrews to talk to him about Mom.  When she was a child, she attended Episcopal church in Spokane.  I explained to him her childhood church exposure, and her current medical condition with being sight impaired, being told by her doctors not to drive anymore. He agreed to visit Mom immediately and arranged for someone to pick her up and take her to church on Sundays.

She has been to St Andrews now, a few times, and wanted us to visit her church.  We wanted to visit it also, as I enjoyed the upbeat conversation with the Priest – he was energetically young, even though he isn’t young.    That Sunday they had special guests, a singing group who livened up the entire worship service with renditions of the hymns done to foot tapping music.  Guitars, tambourines, horns, and one of the gals playing guitar was barefoot!   Felt like we were at a campfire gathering!  Geesh!  But the worship service having a combination of traditional liturgy, the laying on of hands for healing, the Eucharist, and the lively music with a welcome invitation to all does reflect ‘The Emerging Church’.

We loved the church, it had accommodations our little church building isn’t equipped to have, and if we lived in that area, we would likely attend that church.   Afterwards we ate at a restaurant in her immediate neighborhood that she is fond of – an old fashioned restaurant left over from approximately the 1950’s era.     So lots of eating this weekend, way too many calories, and Mom had a nice weekend.  So did we.

Oh and at the Farmer’s Market I bought some snow peas that were priced below what is usually charged for snow peas, so I bought enough to freeze.  Bought a couple of tomato plants already bearing tomatoes, and a basil plant.   I didn’t plant a vegetable garden this year, and haven’t spent much time outside with the herb and flower gardens, so keeping it light this year.   Weather hasn’t been too cooperative where we live – cold, rainy, then unseasonably blistering hot, then cold again.   At the market, I found a growing salad bowl planter that I wanted and Mom bought it for me for my birthday gift.  The planter has growing  lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro plants  – salad ingredients, and that is the extent of my vegetable garden this year.   Except all the herbs I have been growing for a few years now.

And I was delighted to learn about a lovely tasty sauce called Chimchurri  – tasted some at the market, and just had to buy one – lime Chimichurri.  Great to use as braising sauce for grilled vegetables, on meats, or just straight on healthy chips or fresh veggies.   Taste delight!

It was a rather sweet weekend.  Last year around this time, we had visited Mom and she and I went to Lavender Festival on Vashon Island, ferry ride over and back, a beautiful, clear, sunny day, making the waters deep blue and picturesque. There was a Farmer’s Market there too, and we visited that Farmer’s Market.

Deersong

Summer Garden into Autumn garden

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Summer ends.  Autum leaves turn.  The garden valiantly lives on…the carrots are growing, the beets, newly planted lettuce varieties.  Parsnips planted (but  I think the visiting dog dug that section up).  I already know that parsnips, carrots and beets will be okay in the ground from my ‘accidental’ discoveries i previous years.  I had given up on the garden and was surprised to find these root vegetables were quite content to be in the ground, and entirely still viable.   Now I will more deliberately, not accidentally, have root crops growing this Fall and Winter.

Deersong

We’re trying raised bed gardening – the slugs you know ….

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He digs in, my husband, who has been diligent in helping me create our kitchen vegetable garden bed these past several years. He digs it and turns the soil by shovel each spring, and then I add seeds, water and watch it grow. Oh were it that simple! Not!

The first couple of years, vegetable garden grew well. When he first laid out the garden bed, I came in behind him, laid down newspaper to cover the soil, then added bags and bags of topsoil. Planted seeds and good garden that year, lots of varieties of produce. . The next year, he turned the soil for me. Fairly good garden that year. The following year, he turned the soil for me, and increased the size of the garden bed somewhat. I repeated the working formula of coming in behind him, laying down newspaper and bags and bags of topsoil. Ooops – garden wasn’t so good that year. And then last year, he turned the soil, and I planted and tended and the garden, and very little happened. No squash, no cucumbers, no tomatoes, squeaky little peppers, and pretty much everything planted didn’t produce.

Well there are the slugs – voracious and muchly increased since the first year we began the vegetable garden. My husband supplies the heavy labor, and I pretty much tend to the rest. My gardening knowledge is limited and I am in a continual learning cycle. I don’t think I’ve even reached my learning curve yet. So this year, I asked him if we could try something different. He agreed to build me some raised beds. He has built 4 so far, and I will want several more to contain all the little baby potted seedlings that I have been growing from seed.

Using combination of 1/2 compost, 1/2 topsoil in the raised beds, I am hoping we can get a clean start this year while I work aggressively to fight off the slug population that has grown in our yard since I first began the vegetable and flower gardens. Looks like I may have planted the kinds of things that attract the slugs and they have ungraciously repopulated themselves many times over.

Think I might add photos of the works in progress. Mostly though, wanted to add a post sharing that I am so pleased to have my husband working in our vegetable garden side by side with me when he is home on the weekends. This last weekend, he completed another raised bed for me, and I attempted The Three Sisters model of planting that bed. Corn, beans and squash. I’ve been doing my research over the winter months, and was determined to try the Native American way of using The Three Sisters principle in planting out this combination crop.

But — the weather in our region has been quite uncooperative, remaining unseasonably cold and chilly throughout most of the spring months, with even some hints of frost and snow way past the usual frost days. A trip to the local store in a nearby town helped me feel a bit better about the serious delay I’m experiencing in planting this year – their entire inventory was dead. Wow!
Rows and rows of dead and dying vegetables and flowers. Guess it was unseasonably cold. Good thing for greenhouses and nurseries, eh?

We paid a visit to the only greenhouse nursery close by, and she was having her end of the season, getting ready to close up for the season, so we got there just about in time. Were able to pick up a few vegetable starter plants – collards and swiss chard. Then a stop at our local public market (which is often short on plants and vegetables), I was able to pick up some more starter vegetables – primarily the squash varieties. Supplied to the public market by a nursery, I inquired where the nursery was, cause I didn’t know about it, and was advised it is wholesale only nursery. Ah, too bad.

So armed now with my newly purchased squash starters, the corn seed which I had planted earlier was just about the right height to be transplanted, and ditto on the bean seeds I had planted earlier, our purchased compost and topsoil and the newly built raised bed my husband made this weekend, I was ready to plant that bed in the manner of The Three Sisters. While this is not quite at all the instructions I copied in how to plant in the fashion of The Three Sisters method of planting, I’m hoping my hybrided version will still net me results — I mean produce.

The bed is in, and it remains to be seen now what kind of success I will have. The technique to The Three Sisters is planting the seeds in alignment with the growing season, so that the squash leaves don’t shade out the beans and corn, the bean vines don’t overtake and strangle the corn. Since I couldn’t plant the seeds in accordance to the plan, I fear the squash starter vegetables may already be too large for the smaller beans and corns seedlings. Hmm, we’ll see how it goes. Oh, and there was only room in the bed left for one sunflower – so that is more a symbolic gesture. Also, I’m thinking the container bed may be too shallow – not enough soil depth, but again, we’ll see what we get. And hopefully the slugs won’t have a feast before we do.

Deersong

Growing Sweet Potatoes – underneath those vines, there really are sweet potatoes

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I have a sweet potato vine growing in a container in my kitchen window, and I keep wondering if it would actually grown a sweet potato underneath the soil. Perhaps so. From a poster at one of the listservs I am subscribed to, she cites her experience with sweet potatoe vines…and it sounds like it was an unexpected surprise to her to find actual sweet potatoes growing.

I am put off a bit by learning the sweet potato is a cousin to the morning glory vines, and yes, the leaves of the vine do look much like the morning glory vines in my yard. Since I already ‘fight’ with the spreading morning glory vines that never really are eradicated, but I try to keep them from overtaking our intentional plantings, I’m not sure I would want to generate another aggressive vine spreader with sweet potatoes. So, I will think some about this, how I can grow and keep contained, because I do want sweet potatoes – Yes!

A shout out of thanks to Brenda for sharing her experience:

I just took pieces that were sprouting & put them against a chain link fence. The vines grew all over the fencing. Then they branched out all over my garden.. like weeds. When the leaves started to die a little, you could see the potatoes peeking up from the mound at the base of the plant. As I started pulling up the runners, I kept finding more.

They are a member of the morning glory family & the vines act like it… I had one potato that was the size of a coconut!! No special care. Didn’t water them any more than the normal grey water from the laundry & whatever water God gave me. No pesticides. A little mulch from the horse stable but nothing special. I harvested more today. Very hardy. Willing to take over the world if you let it.

Deersong

Growing Potatoes in Garbage Can or similar other container

Okay, I wanted to try this last year, and so another growing season, and I am doing it this year (2008).
From a poster on one of my listservs – the simple explanation and then the detailed explanation with link to site;

We have been growing potatoes in containers for years and it is really easy. You need to put drainage holes in the bottom and broken clay pot pieces to help drain water off the roots to prevent root rot. Add some rich soil (we compost all left over veggies from the kitchen) then plant your potato eyes. As the vines grow cover them with more loose compost and they will keep growing. Web site that explains the process in more detail.

Link (no longer works)  to detailed instructions;

How to Grow Potatoes in a Container (Ciscoe’s Secrets)

Get a clean garbage can or similar container. Plastic works great because it won’t rust out. Drainage is absolutely necessary. Drill several 1/2 inch holes in the bottom. It also helps to drill some holes in the side about half-inch up from the bottom of the container.

Fill the container with about 6 inches of good potting soil. Mix in about a handful of osmocote 14-14-14 fertilizer. Osmocote is a slow release fertilizer that will stay active for approximately 2 1/2 months. Organic fertilizers formulated for acid loving plants such as rhododendrons also works well. (Note: After 2 1/2 months with osmocote, or about 1 1/2 months with organic, fertilize with a good water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Grow about every two weeks according to directions on the label). Place whole seed potatoes in the soil. There should be about 5 inches between potatoes. Cover with an additional inch or so of soil. All potatoes should be completely covered with soil. Water the spuds in.

The potatoes will begin to grow. When the vines reach 4 inches, cover all but 1 inch with compost or straw. I like to use compost, because it is easy to reach in to pick potatoes. Every time the vines grow another 4 inches, keep covering all but the top inch. Eventually, the vines will grow out of the top of the container. It is a good idea to stake up the vines so they don’t fall over and brake. Place 4 bamboo or wood stakes (one in each corner) and tie the vines to the stakes with twine. By now the whole container will be filled with compost. Soon the vines will flower. Not long after that, the vines will begin to produce potatoes all along the vines that are covered with compost in the container. Once they have become big enough, you can reach in and pick a few for dinner any time you want. These spuds are called “new potatoes.” They won’t keep long in the fridge, so pick-em and eat em. After the vines die back at the end of summer, the potatoes remaining are storing potatoes. You can harvest and store them as you normally would. These will keep well as long as they are stored in a dark, cool, and relatively dry location.

One last note: take care to provide adequate water. You don’t want to drown the plants but it’s also important the soil at the bottom never dries out. In late summer spuds may need to be watered on a daily basis. Use a watering can to water to avoid wetting the foliage. I found that keeping the containers in an area with morning sun exposure prevents the soil from drying out too rapidly and still allows enough sun for a bumper crop.

This method of growing spuds is really fun. You get lots of them without using much space, and it amazes visitors to your yard. Last year I harvested 35 large Yukon Gold and 55 good sized Peruvian Blue potatoes. Great served with brussels sprouts!

Deersong

Front yard vegetable patches make food, but some gardens rile the neighbors

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One tomato plant at a time equates to one step at a time in a growing new movement of front yard vegetable patches. Yes, people are getting on board with the idea that one can actually grow food in their own yard and growing it in their front yard sends a message. Instead of all the work and chemicals to maintain a home and garden magazine type yard, one can grow their own food and still have a beautiful ‘growing’ front yard. What constitutes what is beautiful is in the eye of the beholder anyway, so who says that a perfect, green front lawn equates to the only kind of beauty a homeowner can share?

In this time of heightening awareness of sustainability, environmental concerns, global warming, ‘green’ living, I am pleased to see the return of something resembling the ‘Victory Garden’ of WW II era. Another time when this country was at ‘war’, although, I don’t subscribe to the invasion/occupation of Iraq as a ‘just war’, our troops are deployed in combat in wartime.

We chose to move away from urbania and don’t live in a cul de sac of well tended front lawns and landscaping, so I can appreciate that it is a courageous step for people who do live in those kind of ‘traditional’ neighborhoods to shift to planting vegetables in the front yard instead of trying to grow the perfect grass lawn edged by the perfect compliment of landscaped specimens.

The article mentions how neighbor concerns are met with compromise in growing vegetables in attractive ways that don’t detract. Fitting vegetables in among traditional landscaping can be done in such a way as to enhance both. I’m not sure it has to be one way or the other but a compliment of both ways. I saw a home where the front yard had been converted into raised bed gardening and it was quite attractive in a geometric kind of way.

I recently claimed a bit of our front yard to make a combination new flower and vegetable bed. I then claimed a piece along the side for more vegetables. This in addition to my actual kitchen vegetable garden which, btw, I plan to double or triple in size over the coming years. Now I will even plant a tomato plant or maybe a squash in the flower bed that faces the street as my own proud statement to the neighbors, although my neighbors where I live don’t require such a statement, they aren’t too likely to complain if I turn my entire yard into a vegetable garden and orchard.

Do it – make a statement, plant one vegetable in your front yard and then two and maybe you too will want to rip out your front lawn and grown vegetables instead.

Disappearing Apple Varieties – 1,400 to 200 – wow!

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The Genius of Apples; by Linda Burnham, Oct 2004

There’s a hearty band of hunters ransacking the South, says Lee Calhoun, hunting for old Southern apples. They are tracking down apple trees in the front yards of old country homes that may disappear tomorrow. Time is running out for these hunters. Of the 1,400 apple varieties known to have originated in the South, only about 200 are still known to exist. “The others are totally extinct,” says Calhoun, “and when that happens, you lose a whole apple. Most of these trees were planted in the early 1900s. I’d say we only have about five years left to find them.”

Creighton Lee Calhoun is a pomologist. Etymologically, that means he loves apples. On his land in the Saralyn community in the heart of old Chatham County, he is growing 450 kinds of heirloom apples. Calhoun’s Nursery on Blacktwig Road has become legendary among those who are trying to rescue a history that is slipping away. There he collects cuttings of old varieties, grafts them onto root stock and plants and sells the results, all in the name of preservation and propagation. Our own Johnny Appleseed.

One hundred years ago, apples were a staple of the Southern diet. Time was, says Calhoun, when every farmhouse in the largely rural South had apple trees in its yard. Apples provided fresh fruit from June to November, and were kept in the root cellar all winter. The varieties were myriad, providing fruit through the whole summer — early, midseason and late. Southerners dried the tart varieties, made applesauce and apple butter from the soft ones, and fashioned pies from the firmer fruit that held its shape during cooking.

Read more The Genius of Apples

Deersong