Saturday, May 21, 2011

Labryinth and the Barnyard

I've probably seen the movie Labyrinth a dozen times. Have you seen this movie? The one from the '80s with Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie in some really interesting costume choices (hello, codpiece! yikes)? I love it. It's sort of odd and very funny. Also surprisingly applicable to Blackrock. Specifically, the Bog of Eternal Stench.

If you are not familiar with the Bog of Eternal Stench, go here and watch this clip. Actually, watch it even if you ARE familiar with the Bog of Eternal Stench, just so you have the visual (and audio) fresh in your mind. Now imagine something similar every time I go to open or shut the chicken coop door and have to mince my way from board to board, trying my hardest not to lose my balance and slip into the sucking mud that surrounds the coop after all this rain.

Just about as fun as it sounds, yes.

Thankfully, the sun is out today and may actually stay out for a couple of days, so maybe the bog up there will get a chance to dry out. I should be so lucky.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A.P.D--Eat Your Vegetables

I seem to have been nattering on about the garden a lot this week. Mostly because things are actually starting to grow, despite the near-constant rain and lack of sun.

A quick update before we move on*: The snow peas I replanted after the first row mysteriously disappeared have germinated nicely, as have the kohlrabi seeds I planted awhile ago. I have no idea what a kohlrabi plant looks like in its natural state, so this should be a learning experience. I've spied with my little eye the tiny spinach plants beginning to appear, but everything else--carrots, turnips, chard, and parsnips--is sulking and refusing to germinate. I don't blame them; I'm getting a little sulky about the lack of sun too.

Okay! Now, staying on the vegetable topic, let's talk about vegetables. Specifically, your favorite vegetable. More specifically, your favorite way to eat your favorite vegetable. Generally speaking, I prefer cooked vegetables to raw. Picking a favorite is hard, but I suppose beets would have to be right there for me. I like them cooked, sliced, and then mixed with butter, vinegar, salt, and a little sugar. YUM. I hope I get LOTS of beets this year.

Okay duckies, your turn! What's your favorite vegetable and your favorite way to prepare it? And let's not be pedants: For purposes of this discussion, tomatoes count as a vegetable even though they're TECHNICALLY a fruit.

So tell me your favoritest favorite and how to eat it. If it's something I grow, I will be especially grateful for new methods of preparation.

* In truth, the garden updates are almost as much for me as for you, because I find it really interesting and helpful to see where I was at certain points in previous years. For instance, my archives tell me that the potatoes were planted on May 1 last year. This year? Still not planted. Stupid rain.

Oh, and P.S: A.P.D. stands for "Audience Participation Day." I made up the acronym myself and used to do these a lot more before I apparently got completely self-centered and not only stopped inviting participation but expected everyone to remember all the ridiculous acronyms I invent. I should really work on that.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Cubby and I took a field trip last week to the place where the MiL takes riding lessons every Thursday. Also, incidentally, the place where A. took riding lessons when he was a kid. We have a family history there. Also, Cubby had never seen a horse except for the two-inch plastic one that lives in his toy barn, so we decided it was time to show him what a real horse looks like.

Well, hello there, Real Horse!

This horse (his name was Cory) wanted a carrot. But we had already given another horse a carrot, so we had used up our carrot ration for the day. Sorry, Cory. Maybe next time.

I believe Cubby was shocked by the size of the Real Horse (this is Mocha, the horse the MiL rides).

And definitely skeptical of sitting on the back of a Real Horse (Mocha again). I'm standing on a mounting block to hold him on, so that's really high up for a tiny cowboy.

He didn't cry, though he was not entirely happy sitting in the saddle. I can't imagine why a three-foot-tall child would be worried sitting on a giant, definitely-not-two-inches-high horse. Ahem.

Not to worry, though. Give him a few more years (and a few more feet of growth) and I have no doubt that kid will be riding like a champion. Now to find him some tiny boots . . .

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Chain that Leads to Green Beans

It was a random chain of events yesterday that went like this: It rained all day, so Cubby and I went to a nearby hamlet to visit their library so we could get the hell out of the four rooms for a little while . . .

Then I realized I should go vote on the school budget while I'm there because I was almost across the street from the high school where the voting occurs . . .

Then I saw Andy the Plant Guy while I was waiting to vote . . .

Then he told me that I was welcome to go to the greenhouse and get some more plants . . .

Then I came home with basil, Roma tomatoes, thyme, and . . . wait. Sixteen green bean seedlings? How did that happen?

I had never heard of starting bean seeds indoors; we always direct-sow them after the ground is good and warmed up. But he said his students wanted to try starting the seeds in the greenhouse. Since they had them, and I was curious, I said sure, I would take a few and see what happened. A few, I said. But while I was distracted by Cubby and his determination to eat a rock he found on the floor of the greenhouse, Andy dropped MANY MORE than a "few" of those bean seedlings into the flat and loaded it all into my car.

Sneaky, Andy. Very sneaky.

While I was in the greenhouse, I noted that the seedlings I had given Andy a few weeks ago are about five times the size of the other tomato seedlings in the greenhouse (I WIN!) and about twice the size of the seedlings I kept here (DAMMIT). Okay, so Andy has a slight advantage due to his enormous greenhouse and continually glowing grow lights, but it was still sort of humbling. He asked me if I wanted to take some of them back, but I thought that would be in poor form, so I left them all there for their CSA customers to snap up when they arrive on Friday to choose their tomato plants.

Those people don't know how lucky they are.

My poor, now-stunted-looking tomato seedlings kind of took a beating in the cold frame when they got pounded by the rain pouring off the roof right there. They may be somewhat bedraggled looking now, but at least they're alive. As soon as the ground dries out again, I'll plant them and soon they'll look just as pretty as their greenhoused brethren. (I like to keep their spirits up, you see. Pep talks are important for seedlings; it's so easy for them to get discouraged.)

Now I just have to manufacture another excuse to go back to the high school in a couple of weeks so I can snag some peppers that are as yet too small to take from the greenhouse. Given the prime growing conditions there, it is obviously to my benefit to leave them in there as long as possible. And then I'll have all the plants I need for this year's garden.

Not a bad trade for all those unexpectedly fertile tomato seeds, right? The Tomato Crazy can be useful sometimes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homegrown or Bust

It is my sad duty to inform you, poppets, that grocery store food sucks.

Yes. I'm afraid this is so. The food at the grocery store--and here I am speaking of pretty much ALL food, but most especially produce--is definitely substandard. The good news is that it only sucks if you've grown or made that particular food yourself. So, for example, you may be perfectly happy with your potatoes from the store, as I was for many years, but the moment you taste a potato you grew yourself? Store potatoes suck. Just like that.

I have yet to find an exception to this rule--yogurt, crackers, meat, eggs, asparagus . . . you name it, the grocery store version is totally unsatisfying if you've ever tasted the real thing. Granted, there are things I can't grow myself, so it's entirely possible that, say, a grapefruit from the store tastes just like a grapefruit picked off a backyard tree in Florida, but I really doubt it.

We had a startling example of this truism last night in the form of salad. I'm not a huge salad eater. It's not something I would consider the tastiest part of a meal. I'll eat salad at a restaurant or made from store vegetables, but only in a perfunctory, I-must-eat-my-vegetables kind of way. Last night I made the season's first salad from all the things I scrounged from the garden, including baby Buttercrunch lettuce, arugula, radishes, raw asparagus, and chive flowers. It was so good that after one bite, I stopped eating and said to A.," Damn. That's a delicious salad."

Those are words that I do not utter often. Maybe ever. But it was delicious. And that is the power of homegrown food.

Incidentally, I have discovered this spring that Cubby is a huge fan of asparagus--both cooked and raw--and, oddly, very much enjoys radishes. Not that I am complaining, but radishes, of all things? Weird child. Those French Breakfast radishes are pretty good, though . . .

Monday, May 16, 2011

Good Timing

How fortuitous that I bought those hideous yet eminently practical gardening clogs on Saturday, since it rained all day yesterday and is still damp and misty and muddy this morning. I won't complain about the rain this time, though, because a week of high temperatures, dry air, and sun had dried everything out pretty thoroughly. Including the garden, which meant none of the seeds I had planted were germinating. I probably should have just watered them all by hand, but MAN do I hate having to water things with a watering can. I always put it off and put it off, just waiting for the rain to come and do it for me.

It did. YAY! My beet seeds are already sprouting, which makes me happy. I do love beets. I'll have to cover the teeny plants with row cover though, since they're near the gully fence this year and those damned rabbits have already snuck in under cover of darkness to eat most of my pea plants. Bastards. I should let the dogs into the garden, but I don't want them to trample the planted beds, so I'll just have to cover my plants up.

We've been eating lots of asparagus. I've also been noting lots of little asparagus beetle eggs on the asparagus. While we're still eating the spears, I can just wash them off as I cut the spears, but when I let the spears start to grow, I'll have to take more drastic action.

Since we seem to have a theme of Annoying Things that Want To Eat My Plants, I will also mention that the lettuce, arugula, and radishes are finally getting big enough to actually harvest, except the flea beetles have already discovered the arugula and radishes and made some of them into lacy little bundles of chewed-up leaves. More row cover.

And the MOST Annoying Things that Want To Eat My Plants were those wretched sheep. They escaped the paddock through the barn into the garden and ate some of my broccoli and cabbage plants before I chased them out and locked them in the upper pasture for the safety of my poor garden. Luckily, I have no shortage of broccoli and cabbage seedlings (thanks, Andy!), so I just replaced the ones that were eaten. We'll still have plenty of sauerkraut this winter, not to worry.

Sometimes gardening feels more like warfare than anything else.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I Caved

I have a confession to make: I bought gardening clogs. And not just ANY gardening clogs.

Ranger Women's Ladybug Waterproof Garden Clog
Yeah. Those are bright yellow clogs with little ladybugs all over them (image from here). Possibly the ugliest shoes on the planet. But you know what else they are? Totally waterproof and easy to slip on without using my hands.

I got them at the feed store yesterday. I felt guilty for buying them because I already have plenty of shoes: running shoes, hiking boots, suede slip-ons, my beloved Tingleys. But the running shoes and slip-ons aren't waterproof, the hiking boots have laces that must be laced up every time, and the Tingleys require some effort to pull on. All I wanted was something I could easily get in and out of when I have to run outside to chase sheep out of my garden or quickly harvest some chives for dinner.

The feed store also carries some kind of Crocs knock-off, but those have little holes all in them and also no actual back, so they're not waterproof. Which is why I went with the ladybugs.

I've already worn them about a dozen times. So insect pattern and all, I declare love for the new shoes.

The end.