Tag Archives: Gardening

September Thoughts

October 2007

This must be a good year for toads. We have them all over the place, and the darn things eat mosquitoes, so I hate to step on them, but it is hard to avoid. They are quarter sized on up to prince-kissing size (maybe that was a frog). We probably have nearly one per square foot of lawn, well maybe less than that, but they are everywhere. Maybe we are low on garter snakes…Dad always said the coyote and rabbit populations were dependant on each other. I haven’t seen many snakes this year, but not because I was looking for them either.

I am ashamed to admit it, but we have had 17 extra inches of rain this year, timed pretty well. Our annual rainfall is around 22 or so. I feel bad for the people at the other end of the state with 5 inches so far this year, about half of what their average is. We did not water our lawn this year, until last weekend, and then just a few dry spots under the trees. The rest of it looks pretty healthy, but we aren’t expecting a Golden Spade Award any time soon.

It is a good thing we live in the country, otherwise our neighbors would be calling the city on us for not maintaining our property and causing adjacent property values to decline. We let our lawn get way too tall sometimes, then I have my homemade automatic mulcher, which involves a tarp strap holding the grass shooter up so the grass scatters. When the lawn gets too tall this leaves attractive windrows of dead grass in the lawn. I let it cure for a day or so then mow again, scattering the dry grass further. I have learned that if I don’t fertilize my lawn, I don’t have to mow it as often, same goes with watering. Our garden can become an eye-sore being right along the road and full of 6 foot weeds.

Somewhere in Nebraska there is a line, on the west side of the line, rural people just have a yard that looks ok, not especially nice. East of that line (where we live) rural people haven’t got the memo that they live in the country and they keep their lawns up like town folk do, but probably using stronger chemicals, available only to farmers. Our neighbors water their lawn pretty much every day, and mow it probably twice a week. Sounds like a waste of water and fuel to me, but their lawn looks great.

I lived on a farm in Wyoming where my boss actually ran the swather across my lawn a couple times a year, followed by the bailer. It doesn’t take long to mow when you have a 30 foot wide mower. The bales were pretty small though. We have too many trees for that to work here, otherwise I would be tempted…

Right now I am outside, and one-year-old Tommy has the hose. He is learning all about fluid dynamics, and how to spray himself in the mouth. He is having a blast. He is a mower man as well, climbing up on the lawn tractor every chance he gets. I turned my back the other day then when I looked back, all I could see was the soles of two feet disappearing on the far side of the mower. He has some sort of rolling head-first dismount figgered out, because he was not upset in any way and he landed on the concrete. We better keep it parked on the grass I guess.

I looked out on the deck the other day, and there was Ariel the Mermaid sunbathing in the nude. It seems her natural pigmentation would preclude such behavior. When Sarah went out to get her, she wasn’t even burned. Now I am jealous. Most of my ancestors came from England, so I didn’t develop the tanning gene. I don’t do much of anything, unless I burn, so I stay out of the sun. I guess it is probably safer that way. My husband never burns, he just gets darker and darker. Someday we will probably be visiting a dermatologist as a result of this, but he isn’t worried.

Tommy moves so fast these days, the other day he disappeared. He decided to walk around the corner of the house, and down the driveway to greet Daddy returning home from work in his huge pickup. We need to put a little fence thing in that part of the yard. He doesn’t come to his name yet, so if he wanders, you have to go searching. We have asked the county to put a Slow Children sign in front of our house, but they are not in a hurry to do that. Even if people don’t slow down, maybe they will keep an eye out, if only because they think my kids are slow.

The Deadbeat Gardner

September 2007

I tackled the garden last Friday. I would call my husband a deadbeat gardener, that is the nicest thing I called him as I pulled out 6’ tall weeds and piled them in a pile roughly the size and shape of a Volkswagon Beetle. Each spring we have the same conversation, I say, “let’s just do a little garden this summer, some tomatoes, maybe a zucchini.” To this my husband replies, “Huh” very loudly which means he doesn’t agree. A few years ago I had him put in a hydrant at the end of the garden so he couldn’t stretch it one more rototiller width each year, he has to stop at the hydrant or it would be pretty obvious. His mom raised 11 children on her garden produce and he seems to think I could do likewise. This right here is one reason I am not Amish.

As I am pregnant and still unaccustomed to the humidity and heat of central Nebraska summers after nine years, I told him it was up to him this year. He gamely planted three rows of potatoes (the cheapest and most reliable produce item to buy in a store) because we had some getting a little leggy around the house. He planted tomatoes, beans, watermelon, cantaloupe, beets, zucchini, and cucumbers. At least that is all I unearthed, he might have planted carrots too. Of course the cukes are all yellow chicken bombs by this time, and since he got the garden in late, the beans seem to be just coming on. It is just too doggone hot for me to be crawling around out in the garden picking beans during Tommy’s naptime (after lunch), and the mosquitoes are horrid after bedtime, so we haven’t had any.

He started the summer rototilling between the rows, but that ended when July started.  He had a pressing fencing project to complete, and a grain bin to take down, and a friend who needed help doing something and so on. It is not like he languishes on the couch watching TV or anything, but he hasn’t been gardening either.

My jungle expedition revealed a trazillion ripe grape tomatoes and lots of green tomatoes which are going to be ready soon. And the beans. We also seem to have one intrepid beet. I jostled the vines around enough to cause problems with both the cantaloupe and watermelon, two and one respectively, all small. We ate so many zucchini and cucumbers earlier this year that our skin looked like we were developing some sort of photosynthesis mechanism. Our green skin has faded though, and fall approaches. My pantry has one lonely quart of tomatoes awaiting its fate.

I ran out of canned tomatoes a few years ago, so I went to the store. Did you have any idea there were so many different kinds of canned tomatoes? Diced, whole, stewed, then you hit the value added market, diced with onions, basil, green peppers, and so on. I just go to the pantry and get a quart of tomatoes, two if I am making soup. What do you even use all this other stuff for? I am hoping the weather and the family cooperate so I can put some tomatoes up this year. I love to look at rows of home canned stuff on my shelf, and when I have the time and energy, I don’t even mind putting it up, but I don’t plan to survive on my garden produce.

The Garden

August 2007

My husband grew up in a house with not enough. For a growing boy, there was never enough food. He tells about fighting with his brothers for potato peelings in the sink. I think also there was not enough of a lot of other important things as well. This upbringing has affected how he reacts when he has the opportunity for free food.

Last year when our neighbor told us her raspberries were ripe, he drove over to pick some. He brought home several batches and I cooked them and froze them for making jelly later, which was what he wanted. This week I spent all day and half of a night preserving what ended up being 9 half gallon containers of raspberries. That made me 24 half pints of black raspberry jelly and 30 half pints of red raspberry jelly. This is probably three times what I put up last time I made jelly. The good news is that I have lots of freezer space now, although the jelly shelf is stuffed full, and my husband found another half gallon in the shop freezer. As Scarlet says, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Now raspberry season is upon us again and he has been tempted to pick more. Keep in mind that we have five half pints of jelly left over from 2005, when I last made it. I am hoping we can enjoy some fresh raspberries and forget preserving them this year. I hate to say this, but we really don’t eat jelly very often, although it makes a good gift. Fortunately a late frost kinda put a kink in the fruit production around here, and the crop was slim pickings indeed.

He is like that with our garden as well. I love fresh vegetables as much as the next person, but I don’t see eating tomatoes for every meal July 15th through October 10th. I also don’t see the need to preserve every single tomato and bean the garden produces. Enough is enough, I am not feeding 11 children like his mother was. Unfortunately he doesn’t see it that way. I have six cucumbers staring at me from across the room right now. I actually cut up three others for the chickens. We will probably get another six in the next two days. What does he expect me to do with them? There are only so many ways to eat cucumbers.

My kids don’t eat them on purpose, so I have to be sneaky. I found I can make tuna salad and add them for crunch. I probably need to look up a gazpacho recipe, but other than a salad here and there, what is a person to do? Ah, pickles. I make lousy homemade pickles. Apparently my mother-in-law makes wonderful refrigerator pickles. Great, now I have to live up to that. I imagine that is what my husband has in mind, although we eat pickles about as often as we eat jelly and refrigerator pickles probably don’t make great gifts, as they need to be refrigerated.

It has been a couple of weeks since anyone has ventured into the garden, so maybe the cukes bit the dust. I just hope the tomatoes are in good shape for canning, since I am about down to my last quart. My husband was kinda hoping I would grate some zucchini and freeze it for cakes and such. God planned well when he made the bugs that get into zucchini plants, they are great while they last, but they only last so long.