Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Prodigal Gardener

My son has recently spent some time camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina so we took a trip up to meet him, see some of the places he explored (albeit from the remote vantage point of the Parkway overlooks) and hear about his adventures. This photo is lovely, but doesn't adequately reflect the scope of the altitude, steepness and vastness of these mountains. Of course there are steeper mountains, but the Blue Ridge is way up there for this Georgia girl. My son told me geologists have determined that the Blue Ridge has been taller than the Alps three times in the known history of the earth. It is on a fault line and geologic events have thrust the mountains upward, only to be weathered and eroded to this relatively modest height over ages -- three separate times. Isn't that interesting? Standing atop this ridge, in the cool fresh air, closer to the sun and clouds, one would assume these rocks have always been here, from the beginning of time. Well, maybe they have been, but they are alive and changing like everything else, just in a slower time frame.

The next part of our North Carolina odyssey was to the Outer Banks to see my husband's parents. I was so busy visiting, I didn't even get a shot of the ocean this time, but as we were setting the table for dinner on the deck last Thursday this view of heaven got my attention. This is a cell phone photo. Less than 5 minutes later we were all scrambling to rush everything inside and turn the chairs and tables upside down so they wouldn't blow away. At that moment a front came in which brought powerful winds, driving rain and thunder and lightening. We actually saw a waterspout about 100 yards off the beach. This heavenly view quickly transformed into an eerie, deep pink-purple as the clouds roiled. Nature's fury is always so much more dramatic at the shore. It was quite a show. The deluge lasted all night, and my mother-in-law and I noticed the condo swayed with the winds.

Back home the weather that night was also violent, spawning a tornado, though there were no injuries that I know of. By the time we got back, ten days after we left, evidence of the storm we missed here was a downed tree in the woods, and the return of the water damage we just had fixed a couple of weeks prior. The wallboard under the fresh paint is bubbled anew, and the water stain on the ceiling is back. Ah, home ownership!

Yowza -- look at the garden! After ten days of neglect in this humid, moist, hot environment, the plot is a mess. Some type of opportunistic, ground-covering weed has had its way with the soil around all the plants I put in. I don't know what it is, but it kind of looks like a creeping thyme. At first I attempted to eradicate it, but quickly found that it would adapt any part of itself to form a new root and dig in -- in other words, if I left a piece I'd pulled, it would re-root itself instead of shrivelling. Also, the roots are deep and delicate, so when I thought I'd pulled the whole plant out, I'd left a tiny bit underground which would quickly make its way to the surface and be reborn. The weed doesn't really seem to bother the veggies, it just makes the whole garden confusing to me.

The onion arsenal is more unkempt than ever, long and tangled, but appears to be doing its job deterring pests. I've seen no nibbles, not even from this guy, who is just happy to live safely under the wooden frame, apparently in an allium-induced haze.

A recent harvest revealed the bush beans had matured before the Chinese long beans, and the radishes are all grown, very large and flavorful. I sliced this one thinly to savor with a nice glass of Pinot Gris as I prepared dinner. Then I ate it's spiny leaves, undressed so I could assess the flavor -- peppery! The beans were added whole to a veggie melange including yellow squash, zucchini, vidalia onion, mushrooms, tomatoes and several whole twigs of thyme. All the veggies were store bought except for the beans and thyme -- my nightshades aren't ready yet. Olive oil, salt and pepper and the whole bowlful was cooked in a grill pan by my husband. Delish!

I plan on surrendering to the garden's will at this point, and savoring it's un-nibbled bounty. Can't wait for the tomatoes!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


A blossom, caught just before it bears fruit -- common, ordinary, lovely. As I take a moment to really see this miracle once again, I am reminded of the blessing of rebirth. Like all of nature, we have a chance to begin again. Unlike the rest of nature, we sentient beings have a chance for a fresh start every day, every moment, in fact.

When the promise of a fresh start becomes all consuming, we begin to lead an examined life. Without judgement, with an open mind, we notice and acknowledge our proclivities. Those which feed our souls, we maintain and nurture. The others we shed, or temper. These blossoms, ripe with promise, breed hope for those times we will choose to change course.

The flowers above appear to be bean shoots. You can see a tiny bean beginning to emerge in the middle, in fact. At the end of my wonderful day planting a couple of months ago, it looks like I had fun putting a little of everything into this pot. I don't remember planting a bean here, but I obviously  did. I thought those leaves didn't look like cucumbers! Garden surprises -- bonus! Peppery, space-saucer-shaped nasturtiums appear to the right of the bean vine. Mom always planted plenty of these, and we'd eat the whole plant, leaves, stems and bright orange and yellow flowers. They were wonderful in salads. A zucchini is also in bloom in this pot, but it doesn't appear in the photo.

The patio grape tomato begins its process. Ellie observes.

Also around the patio, the nasturtiums pair with petunias

Back in the garden, at a later stage of the fresh start process, are the radishes -- see how they push themselves out of the ground?

I pulled a few, along with one of the larger onions. They became a delicious juice with some romaine, kale, ginger, cucumber and an apple. I shared the juice with my Dad, who's been visiting. We all love it when he comes!

Promise for the future is all around us. I'm grateful I took the time today to notice.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sometimes A Bean Needs Direction

Ever since my Chinese longbean plants sprouted, I've eagerly tended to them daily to find them sitting squat, three leaves close to the ground, and going nowhere. I skipped a couple of days during the painting/purging period, and then happily found the confused beans reaching out with tendrils to choke one another. Once those tendrils sprout, everything begins to happen quickly.

"Now now, kids, play nice," I murmured as I gently unwound them from each other's necks. I rearranged the tendrils so that they very lightly touched the trellis I had placed for their climb. The next day, they had tightened their grip and the progress was exponential. Wait 'til the beans sprout! They seem to grow inches per day, until they are about 3 feet long! They'd keep growing too, but I've found they get tougher as they get older.

In other gardening news, here's a mixed pot of zucchini, cucumber, nasturtium and microgreens. I don't really have a plan for the vines beyond guiding them to the trellis on the left and the garden fence on the right. These plants would dominate the whole garden footprint if I had planted them within it.

I have some very fat radishes pushing themselves out of the earth, but the photos didn't do them justice since they were hidden under my tangled onion arsenal. When I get a good shot of them I'll share. Any other garden shots out there? I'm always looking for inspiration!