A Bit of Mexican-American Gothic

•May 22, 2010 • 2 Comments

Our newly made gate

Looking at this photo of Mama and Papa in front of our newly constructed garden gate brought to mind the “American Gothic” painting by Grant Wood, which is apparently one of the most parodied images of our time.  I’ll have to get the garden pitchfork out of the shed, and re-pose them – really do a nicer job of it – this was just a quick snap with the iphone. Papa, of course would fit right into the painting, but Mama, is the more multi-cultural version.  Her Mexican heritage is reflected in some of our plants.  Hot peppers and several tomatillo bushes will (hopefully) provide us with some of our favorite flavors this summer.  The “Tomatillo de Milpa” which I chose, apparently grows almost as a weed on the edges of corn crops in Mexican towns.  I tried it a few years ago in our community garden in Charlestown, MA and was blessed with a bounty of tiny, tangy purple green tomatoes that were bursting with flavor, and froze beautifully.  We’ve reached the ever-important marker of Memorial Day Weekend – or, no more danger of frost (right?)!  Since the weather has been practically summer-like, we’ve gone ahead and slowly transplanted our newly hardened off seedlings this week.  I’m crossing my fingers that my delicate little seedlings will survive, without me around to protect them from the wind, and bring them into the house at night.  I truly experience separation anxiety today, after we transplanted the last of them, and I had to close the gate, and walk away, leaving them to fend for themselves. And those are just seedlings that I planted 3 weeks ago.  Thank goodness it’ll be at least another 12 years or so before I send Eeya off into the world.

“Then You’ll Hear All Summer Long Their Bubbly Chitter-Chattering Song”

•May 18, 2010 • 5 Comments

The House Wren

That’s a line from the “House Wren Poem” by Erica Stux, which is printed in her book ‘The Wonder of Wings’ – meant to get kids interested in birds.  I did not imagine that having a garden would get me more interested in songbirds, but it is difficult to resist when this tiny mouse-brown scamp meets me each time I go to the garden, and serenades me with a gorgeous, rolling twittering song.  He actually seems to come closer, and perch on a post or fence nearby, and watch us as he sings.  I lifted this image from a bird website so you could see how cute the House Wren is, but I’ll make certain to try to capture him with my own camera, perching jauntily on his rusty fence.  The variety of birds that is present near the garden is astounding, and has made me interested in trying to attract a wider variety of birds to our home. We’ve had cardinals, downy woodpeckers, finches and bluejays – but apparently the variety that exists even here in New England is beyond my limited knowledge, as represented in this garden near our home. Today’s garden visit was a quick one, and Eeya eagerly grabbed his watering can and raced around watering all the rows of newly planted seeds.  The pole beans are all coming up now, and our transplants are settling in well.  I’m placing lots of faith in the old adage “Good fences make good neighbors”.  I had never thought of it in terms of woodchucks and deer – but as more and  more time and labor is invested in our little patch of garden, the thought of those little animals feasting on my tender young shoots is pretty terrifying. I reminded Eeya that we’ll line the back of the garden with his sunflowers, and he stated with a satisfied smile “See mommy?  I have really good ideas.”

How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck if a Woodchuck Could Chuck Wood?

•May 17, 2010 • 2 Comments

Watering the plants

Well, your answer is really in the question isn’t it?  Woodchucks don’t actually do anything with wood – I looked it up anyway just to make sure, and discovered that “Woodchucks are groundhogs. The ‘wood’ in woodchuck has nothing to do with wood. It’s from the Algonquin name for the critter, ‘wuchak’.” (Thanks you, oh google oracle)  So there you go – another legend shattered.  We spotted our resident woodchuck for the first time today.  I saw something slowly moving along the fence, and went closer, thinking it was a large cat – much to my surprise it was him – an enormous woodchuck!  I thought they were cute little things the size of Guinea Pigs – no this guy was the size of a small bulldog.  I hope 1 1/2 feet was deep enough for our fence…  We’re quite enjoying the wildlife as we garden.  Today, Mama, Eeya and I planted some seeds, and watered some rows we had planted yesterday.  During the hour we were there we were visited by a bluejay, the woodchuck, a chipmunk, a monarch butterfly, and our dear little House Wren, to whom I am extremely attached.  A week ago he visited us for the first time, serenading us with his beautiful song from one of our fence posts, just a few feet above our heads.  Our presence doesn’t seem to disturb him in the least, and he seems to actually approach and visit each time we’re there.  Eeya was especially engaged in garden activity today, and was thrilled when I handed him a large watering can and gave him free reign with the spigot.  He happily filled it over and over again, watering all my little marigold seedlings around the perimeter of the garden, and also all the seeds we just planted.  I caught this nice shot of him in action, the watering can is almost as big as he is!

“Leggy” is Only Good When You’re Talking About a Woman

•May 10, 2010 • 3 Comments

6 days old

You know, I always had a positive feeling about the word “leggy”.  In my book, it fell into the category of “having long and attractive legs”.  Well, I can tell you, I’m a bit worried about my babies.  My seedlings, I mean.  I planted them, they started to slowly poke out of the dirt in about 2 days…then we were away for the weekend, and blam! – I came back to monsters that had pushed the lid off their little hothouse!  Now keep in mind, those are the pole beans.  To all you gardeners out there, are pole beans especially aggressive in their growth?  ‘Cause everything else is still, teensy, and cute and cuddly, but the pole beans, man – they’re like godzilla pole beans.  I hope that means they’ll be strong and prolific.  I made sure that they’re now getting some direct sun, to avoid more “legginess”, but to tell you the truth, I’m not even certain at which point you would qualify certain plants as “leggy”.  They’re still standing, and not just flopping about, so I think I’m still in safe territory.  Eeya was amazed that they had grown so much in one weekend, and is excited to get to the garden and earn more “rock picking” money…that’ll soon turn to “weed picking” methinks.

Planting a Few Seeds

•May 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Planting our seeds

So while we complete our anti-woodchuck, anti-deer enclosure around the garden, we have begun to go about the business of planting some seeds.  I know I said we’d keep it simple, but of course we haven’t.  We’ve planted 3 types of pole beans, okra, sunflowers, several different types of other flowers, carrots, beets, radishes, tomatillos, arugula, lettuce, sorrel….hmmmm, shall I go on?  We’re trying several different methods with our seedlings.  One tray has a little heating mat under it, which is supposed to be a tried and true method of keeping the temperature of the earth around 75 degrees, which helps the seedlings get started, and grow strong. The other trays we’ve set in a small shelf at the top of a staircase, which seems to stay quite warm once spring gets started.  Once the seedling are out, in about a month, we’ll begin to set them out a few hours a day to harden them, and then transplant them into the garden.  A few things like carrots, beets, and lettuce, we’ll try planting directly into the soil.  So scientific we are!  Now just to keep track of it all.  Eeya will have his own tray of sunflowers to manage -so far he’s ambivalent, but I think once the seedling appears, he’ll be more excited.

Having a Garden Means Homemade Pickles This Summer!

•May 3, 2010 • 2 Comments

My Favorite Pickle Book

One of the reasons we’re so excited about our own garden is that we all love homemade pickles!  My mother (mama) is Mexican, and so we’ve always been fans of the pickled jalapeños, which are usually mixed with crunchy carrots, onions and garlic.  A few years ago I picked up an interesting looking cookbook called “Quick Pickles”, and began to experiment with homemade pickles of different types.  It was easy to make the jump from pickled chiles to other pickled veggies, and we were soon feasting on Fuchsia Pickled Turnips, Crunchy Orange Pickled Red Onions with Chipotle, as well as some fruit pickles including pickled pineapple and Balsamic Vinegar Pickled Grapefruit (my personal fave). We look forward to having some tasty tomatoes to try out some of the tomato recipes. I’ll probably also try throwing some mini-cukes near my pole beans, so I can try dill pickles.  Pickling, of course, has now led me to the thought of making my own vinegar with leftover wine (which seems to abound from our dinners with friends).  I’ve found a site, and will be ordering my “starter” to get this process going as well. My thanks to the authors of the “Quick Pickle” book, staff at the Back Eddy restaurant in Westport, MA – where we actually ate one summer a few years ago, before I knew about their amazing forays into pickles!  Can’t wait to get back there.

Teach a boy to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime

•April 30, 2010 • 3 Comments

View thru the deer netting

This is much more challenging than it sounds.  Before I became a mother, I knew that my child would be excited about the things I’m excited about, and run with my suggestions, learn from my experience, you know?  Well, a week of going to the garden has made it, let’s say, less than exciting to Eeya. So today I pick him up from school, and drive over to the garden – first I have to entice him out of the car with a snack, then he just sits there on a stump, as mama and I begin to install the deer netting (all 7 feet tall of it).  After we’re about half way through the installation, and he’s done no more than throw a few shovel fulls of dirt into a wheelbarrow and whine about missing “Rescue Heroes”, I begin to put my mind to work on motivation.  I decide to try a small experiment in motivation – so I tell him that for every rock he takes out of the garden, I’ll give him a penny (he’s got his eye on a huge Playmobil set) – there are thousands of little rocks, so I have to be conservative in my offer of compensation, but make it enticing enough to motivate him. First he tells me that he just wants to dig, he doesn’t want to look for rocks.  I change my approach.  I tell him to imagine that every little rock in the garden is a penny – would he just leave them sitting there?  or would he pick them up?  I can see his little brain mulling over this, and he soon begins to pick up rocks.  Ok, so he wasn’t exactly the energizer-bunny-on-speed picking up rocks, but he did pick up close to 80 rocks…not bad for a first try.  Maybe jelly beans would be a better motivator.  Anyone have any experience with this? RE: the garden – the deer netting is up, thanks to mama’s hard work mostly, and I turned over the earth in about 1/4 of the garden. Plus, my seeds arrived in the mail today from Johnny’s Selected Seeds! We’ll be on to planting, as soon as we put our door up…