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Archive for September, 2012

2012 Fall Garden Update! Because You Care!

The freezer is filled with blanched beet greens, kale and rainbow chard, beets and roma tomatoes for this winter’s chili. I have some little onions in the pantry, and Spring’s garlic cloves are now planted in the garden. We ate a bunch of snow and snap peas, and I tried to save some out to plant for a Fall crop, but they never came up. In the Spring we enjoyed lots of mulberries, some nice handfuls of raspberries and a few little strawberries. Next season the raspberries should really take off, and will be joined by blackberries and black raspberries. I’ll know better next year how to keep the strawberries happy, so should get more.
I grew sunflowers this year for the first time! They were not the mammoth ones I was expecting (after all, the packet said “Mammoth”) but they were lovely and cheerful. I let the cilantro go to seed; did you know that it turns into coriander? My spice cabinet is filled with rosemary, basil, oregano, coriander and mint. I dried some raspberry leaves too, for tea. We’ve eaten plenty of pesto and the Sunny garden is filled with basil still to be harvested and dried. The parsley all goes to my mom-in-law Betty for tabouli, on the condition that she shares some with me. I just never have a use for dried parsley. If you want some, let me know. Just don’t tell Betty.

The vine borers were hard at work again this year. I grew one super-size zucchini (currently cut up in the freezer) but that was it- the vines all died. The borers also got my pumpkins again. I have one huge, long vine, maybe twenty feet long, that got big before the borers got into it, so it’s still alive. We’ll see how long it lives. I tried a spray this year that the guy said would be fine in an organic garden. It didn’t work, obviously. I’m about ready to give up on pumpkins and squash, which makes me sad, but I just don’t have time to sit out in the garden every day with a shish kebab skewer and tin foil. Don’t ask.

The squirrels were also hard at work this year. I’ve had problems with the back acre’s wild bunnies, Juicyflower and Nibbles, in the past, but somebody’s cat is one hell of a rabbit hunter – possibly Donut, belonging to Bob upstairs. Or it could be Balls the orange tomcat, terror of the neighborhood. In the good old days Bob (cat, not neighbor) would bring me bits and pieces of rabbits, squirrels, moles, you name it, but ever since he got ancient all he does is sleep in the driveway and make the cars go around him through the lawn.

Anyway. Squirrels. The cats get the rabbits, but don’t seem interested in squirrels. Two in particular I’ve named Roma and Better Boy, after the tomato varieties they prefer to steal. Mo had better boys growing in a side garden, which helped me a lot, because that kept the squirrels’ attention away from MY tomatoes. I don’t think Mo harvested even one red tomato off those plants. The day came, however, when I saw Roma scuttling up the honeysuckle tree carrying – damn her! – one of MY green romas! I scooped up a handful of driveway gravel and flung it (not hard, I just wanted to scare her), and of course only ended up hitting my car with gravel. She scurried out of my reach while I shook my fists at her and yelled, not realizing that Bob (the neighbor) was upstairs on his porch, probably wondering why the hell I was yelling at him. I stopped yelling at squirrels in public after that.

In fact, I’ve got so many roma plants out there in the tomato jungle that I realized I’ve got enough to share. They can have some too. I’ve made peace with Roma and Better Boy.

Today I planted a few beds of rainbow chard, romaine and garlic. That’s all, because that’s all the seeds/bulbs I have left. Anybody in Lebanucky have kale seeds I can borrow?

The cosmos, zinnias and dahlias are growing like crazy, though we’ll see how they do after tonight, if that light frost they’re predicting comes through. I’ve never seen flowers grow like cosmos. They spread like crabgrass, and really thought they were the boss of the garden this summer. They decided to spread fragrant orange cheer all over the lettuce beds. A bunch got pulled and the rest got moved into a well-established annuals bed today, and hopefully the zinnias will keep them in line til we get a hard frost.

My favorite part of the Fall garden is the vining plants section. I’ve got a long row of sweet potatoes, which I can now see have grown so large as to peek up through the soil. I’m very excited to dig them, later in the season; it’s like Christmas to see how many and what shapes and sizes have grown over the summer.

The gods did not, however, favor the rest of the vining plants. In the row next to the sweets I planted watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchinis and cukes. The cukes died quick, probably because the seeds were like 100 years old. I got one tiny cantaloupe that rolled off the vine and rotted and got eaten by bugs, then the vine died. All the little watermelons but one got the rot and their vines died. I have one watermelon left, small but growing, not rotting, and I’m all but praying for it to live, dammit, live! And we know what happened to the zucchinis. It’s a learning process. If I could spend all my days researching how to grow things, and then put that knowledge into practice, I’d have a stellar garden. Instead I’m learning by killing shit. I kill it, then I find out what I did to kill it, then I try not to do that thing next time around. That’s just how I roll.

And that concludes this garden report. Urban homesteaders rule!


Pirates’ Trip Home, Vermont Edition

For the Maine leg of the trip, go here: Pirates’ Trip Home, Part I and here: Pirates’ Trip Home, Part II  (don’t worry, it opens in a new window, no navigating away necessary).

I was conceived in Vermont.  In a place called Silly Village, the fateful night when my parents decided to turn down an offer for a partner swap.  What? It was the 70s.  I’ve traveled all through Vermont.  Vermont is my favorite state.  And, lest I forget to mention, I got chased by a moose in Vermont.

So how awesome is it that my sweet darling dear Vermont sister and her family live here, giving me a wonderful excuse to come and visit a beautiful state so rich in odd personal history?  Not to mention that Vermont is just wacky, all on its own.  The last time Vermont made national news it was because some dude drove his tractor on down to the station and used it to crush a row of police cars.

The last time I saw Sy and her partner Adam (and the first time I met their beautiful boy Xan), I wrote this:  Arrival, on my Blue Ox blog.  Give it a gander for background.
This is what Xan looked like when I met him.

This is what Xan looked like when I saw him next.

(Legend has it that there’s a beast with red fur roaming the Vermont wilderness, who answers to the call, “Xan Xan the Monkey Man”.)

Here they are, my Vermont family, on their sweet little wedge of woodsy land.

Where’s Rocky?  Oh, there she is up that tree.

… and that one.

Sy presented Ry with one of our family’s old treasures, a book from the 70s by an old family friend, Dahlov Ipcar.  This is one of my favorites: One Horse Farm.

Sy read to Ry …

Adam read to Ry …

Ry read to Xan …

and everybody read to each other.  We’re a family that reads, if you hadn’t noticed.

From there the visit descended to chaos, with hiding…

(spot the redheaded monkey)

…chainsaw art…

(I want a l’il plastic chainsaw…)

…and more hiding.

It was a short visit, but so, so sweet.  As we wandered away, heading back to Kentucky, I smiled through tears at the rolling Green mountains as they passed by. I felt full up on love and family, and more solid than I had in years. How incredibly lucky am I, despite the geographical distance, to have such a beautiful, colorful, extraordinary family to come home to every year?

January 11, 2010

In the tiny wooden dirt road cabin, negative a million just beyond the frosty window, Sy and I sip hot tea smelling of cigarettes and pine, black as squid ink and delicious to few.  We share a sense of comfort in the automated, eternally unchanging voice on the weather radio, enjoy Ira Glass and Science Friday on NPR, together detest Prairie Home Companion.  “Garrison Keillor is an arrogant fucking prick”.  Amen.  We are a church of two.

My hands hug my smelly warm mug, my knees up and stocking feet against her thigh, Sy with her nursing pillow, feeding that lovely red-hair baby. A sister and I, catty corner on the couch.  We’ve been right here, just like this, for two days, but who’s counting, in this Vermont-deep winter?

Leaning back, in the twinkle of her Jewish Christmas tree, Sy delights me with stories of her home state’s legal oddities.  Public nudity is legal, an occasional draw for Jersey perverts.  Gay marriage is legal, because well of course, WTF?  George Bush is illegal, that war-crimes hater, and Vermont will arrest him.  I fucking love Vermont.

Sy interprets biblical texts, reads sci-fi and eats raw philosophy on whole grain bread.  Also has a thing for breaded chicken patties.  In the event of chicken patty toxic apocalypse, eat a Christian Scientist – no one else is FDA approved.  We’ve claimed her, Mom and I, Mom who should be with us on this couch, but who may skip the cigarette tea; Mom grounded in far-away Philly, the weather indifferent to her desire to meet the baby, her grandson with sky eyes.  Mom says Sy is a misplaced zygote.  Who’s counting?  With us, love is thick as blood.

Rough around the edges, bare-plank-walled, heavy snow boot, crocheted, hand hewn, bare-bones poor, wind-chilled white, compost socialist Sy.

And now, Mama to a strawberry boy, in sweet shades of his gentle Papa, a Vermont maple-tapped snow boy with poplar legs and sky eyes.  Sy in her lovely, lovely life, watching the winter wind dance the cold bare branches of the outside.

Large and rolling, thick brown braid, solid legs strong hands big feet Sy.  She has traveled the world, learned the language of chili and saffron, seen the view from the psycho side of barred windows, built dwellings for her heart.  She has dipped her fingers into fragile serenity, plunged into midnights of wrenching grief and electric-shock body-bag loss, raised herself over and over and over.

Together on this couch with our dank drink and our new boy, it’s like there was never a time without this moment.  It will be hard to leave. Dust to ice, Appalachia to the Green Mountains, we are family.  I claim you, sister.