Saturday, May 16, 2009


Yeah. I'm drawing a blank here, y'all. It's Saturday morning and I got nothin'. I meant to take a picture of the puppies yesterday for you, but then, uh, I didn't. Whoopsy. There goes my plan for an easy post today.

So instead, here's a picture of the bigger puppies, the fluffy and the smooth, playing Mirror Images. Because they're cute, too.

Cute . . . and tired. Barking at squirrels is exhausting work.

Have a fantabulous Saturday, poppets!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Happiness Is . . .

We are beginning a very happy time of year for me: garden produce season. It's also a very strenuous time of year, of course, with all the planting and the weeding and the staking . . . but also easier, in a way. I LOVE not having to think about buying vegetables at the store, love just walking 50 feet to the garden and picking something for dinner, or lunch, or whatever. When the garden is producing, I have way more variety and options than I ever did buying stuff at the grocery store. This is especially true for the perishable things, like herbs and lettuce and spinach. I may buy some of that stuff, but then it has to be used right away, and I won't just have it on hand if I get the urge to make, say, tuna salad.

Not a hypothetical example.

You're green with envy, aren't you? Get it? GREEN? HAAA. Okay, sorry.

The day I was creating my bamboo masterpiece for the tomatoes, I was wandering around looking at the things growing in the garden. It occurred to me as I took note of the chives and chervil and dill and spinach that I had all the ingredients for really good tuna salad. So I gathered it all up, washed it, chopped it, and YUUUM. Now, the odds of me having this combination of things in my refrigerator from the store? Zero. But there it all was in the garden, just waiting to be harvested.

For me, happiness is a garden full of fresh herbs and vegetables.

What makes you happy, duckies?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tomato Masochist

I'm pretty sure I've invented a new phrase: tomato masochist. Someone who enjoys the pain associated with growing tomatoes. Because there is a lot of pain. The way I do it, anyway. And yet, I do it willingly, even happily.

I may be sick in the head.

Yesterday I put the first tomato plants actually in the ground. As is the case with so much of gardening, the actual planting took about 10 minutes. The prep before the planting could happen? Four hours.

First I had A. cut down some more bamboo from the bamboo forest for me. Then I trimmed all the bamboo, which involves using my pruning shears to clip off the top part and all the branches, so I end up with a stake. I needed 28 such stakes for 12 tomato plants. That's a lot of clipping. By the time I finished, my right hand was frozen in a claw and my forearm was screaming in protest.

No rest for the weary, though. Onward!

I dug up the two rows I was getting ready to plant, used the hoe to beat out the large clods of dirt, and then raked the area smooth. Then I measured out where the plants were to go and shoved in two bamboo stakes per plant, one on each side of the row, to correspond with the position of the (yet-to-be-planted) plants. After that, I tied the two stakes together at the top, forming a kind of teepee, after which I tied more stakes across the top of the teepees to create a really strong frame for tying the tomato plants up once they start producing and want to fall to the ground from their own weight.

You'd better be impressed by this, dammit.

See, last year, being a little slow on the uptake, I didn't put in stakes when I planted the tomatoes. I stupidly waited until they were actually starting to fall over a little, at which point the ground was as hard as iron and the stakes could only be pushed in about two inches. And I only put in one stake per plant. They weren't sturdy enough. I had a lot of toppling plants, which resulted in a lot of cussing and re-staking by me throughout the season. Something I was determined to avoid this year. That's why I ended up building the Golden Gate Bridge out of bamboo stakes in my garden to support my tomatoes.

Only after the framework was up did I actually put the plants in the ground. They look very small and insignificant underneath the great infrastructure that towers over them, but they'll grow into their new home. They should grow pretty fast now, as I put up some Walls o' Water for them (yet another exercise in pain, but I won't go into that at the moment) to keep them warmer and help them along.

I'm incredibly sore this morning, and in some weird places (apparently, the abdominal muscles are key when shoving stakes into the ground--who knew?), but at least half the tomatoes are planted. Only two more rows (and 28 stakes) to go. Bring on the tomato pain!

Yup, definitely sick in the head.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You Might Be a Woodchuck . . .

If a truck full of old wooden pallets seems like a big prize . . .

We are so totally woodchucks.

Those pallets came from an orchard up the road that had just tossed them on their burn pile. What could they have been thinking, burning perfectly good (old, half-broken) wooden pallets that way? Craziness! Luckily, A. noticed them, then the MiL saw one of the orchard owners at an event on Sunday and asked if we could have them. She said yes, so we drove over there last night and tossed 'em in the truck. We felt like the Joads driving home.

We stopped in the village on the way home to get beer and ice cream at the market (I'll let you guess which item was for which person), and parked the truck right in front of the local bar. By the time we came out of the market, A.'s sister and her friend Mack were coming out of the bar to circle the truck enviously, asking where we had gotten the pallets and trying to steal them out of the back of the truck.

Welcome to woodchuck America, where wooden pallets are coveted.

I think these pallets are destined to become a chute for the sheep. And maybe a cold frame, when combined with one of the many old windows we have in the shed. The possibilities are endless, really. You just have to have enough imagination to see the potential in old wooden pallets.

You just have to be a woodchuck.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Forgive You, Spring

I can forget all the mean things I said about spring yesterday as long as the sun is shining and the lilacs are in bloom.

And the lilacs are most definitely in bloom right now:

I would just like to note that I took these photos with the maimed camera. It soldiers on, despite its busted screen. A lesson in bravery and perseverance for us all.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ah, Spring--How You Taunt Us

Why do I keep believing in the mythical version of spring as a season of gentle rain showers; warm, sunny days; and smiling bunnies hopping about nibbling grass? Why, despite several years of bitter experience, am I still surprised that spring in upstate New York is more likely to involve gale-force winds; cold, raw days; and dead bunnies being eaten by our dogs?

Perhaps because the mythical version is more appealing? Yeah.

This weekend was a typical spring weekend. That is, unpredictable. The only constant was the wind, which blew furiously all weekend, accompanied sometimes by sun, sometimes by driving rain, most of the time with clouds. Yesterday was cold and cloudy and horribly windy all day. And where were WE during this wretched weather? Why, down on the beach, of course! Because the wind wasn't blowing hard enough up at the house--we felt we wanted to be MORE exposed to it.

Actually, we were down there all afternoon because SOMEONE got his truck totally stuck in the lake gravel damn near IN the lake, and we were employing various boards and winches in an attempt to save Big Red from the massive waves.

It was about as fun as surgery without anesthesia. A. got the worst of it, though, because he was the one groveling around in the water and doing all the shoveling and winching. I didn't feel bad about that, however, as it was a situation of his own making.

Anyway, he got Big Red out after about four hours of work, and then slogged his weary, cold way back to the house. Where he sat by the woodstove trying to ward off a chill and certain illness.

Oh yes, the woodstove was burning yesterday. I can't be sure, of course, but this could be the last fire of the season. Which means the woodstove season has lasted seven and a half months, because the first fire was on September 27. That's a lot of wood.

But I have faith that soon I can clean the woodstove out for the last time, black it, and then forget about it for at least three months. If I'm lucky. And if spring stops toying with us.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Of Potatoes and Puppies

Big day yesterday--the potatoes went in the garden. It was the easiest potato planting ever, due to the fact that A. wielded the shovel and dug all the holes for me so that all I had to do was drop the potatoes in and cover them with a couple of inches of dirt. Works for me.

We planted a bunch of varieties this year, as the MiL got a little carried away at the seed potato place when she went to pick up our potatoes. I understand potato excitement, so I can't judge her. We ended up with the two varieties we planted last year (Green Mountain and Bake King), along with Keuka Gold, Lehigh, Adirondack Red, and Chieftain. You will not find these varieties at your local nursery, because the MiL actually drives all the way to Cornell University's Potato Research Station (don't think I can't hear you laughing right now), where they develop varieties specific to New York State, for our seed potatoes. The MiL bought so many this year, we ended up giving away about half of them, thereby providing potatoes to half the county. They'll thank us when winter comes and they all have nine boxes of potatoes in the cellar.

Anyway, so the potatoes are in, leaving the transplanting of the tomato seedlings as the last big planting in the garden. I'll probably start working on that this week, though I'm sure we'll have a frost some night in the next couple of weeks that will have me running out to swath my defenseless seedlings in bed sheets to stave off death.

Gardening can be a nerve wracking thing.

And now! For all you mothers out there! And, um, everyone else, too. I realize that today is Mother's Day. Being as my own mother is in Greece with my dad and so is obviously in no need of anything from ME to make her day special, I can instead give all of YOU something special: the promised puppy picture.

Happy Mother's Day from all creatures great and small at Blackrock.