This year we decided to simplify our garden and mostly just focus on tomatoes. No beans, no peppers, no eggplant. Just lots and lots of tomatoes.
However, we did put in two basil plants, and we had planted carrots and kale from seeds before we made this decision. Those seem to be going surprisingly well. I don’t think we’ve ever had so many carrots come up! Last year we had maybe 3 or 4 kale plants and they provided an amazingly endless amount of kale. This year we had about 10 plants come up! So we might be swimming in the stuff.
And of course, lets not forget the strawberries!
Okay, so maybe it’s a little more diversified than I realized.
I’m actually kind of excited about all the tomatoes. They seem to be the most versatile and consistently useful thing we grow. I really don’t think we could ever have too many tomatoes. Some things seem to be about the same from the garden or the store, but that is not the case for tomatoes; they are night and day better from the garden. Worst case scenario we just can lots of extra tomato sauce and salsa.
It looks like one of the tomatoes didn’t survive the planting, and one of the ones from the food swap is a teeny tiny baby, so I’m not sure it’s going to make it either. But it’s still early enough that we could probably sneak in a few replacements if we had to.
Here’s to another year of delicious fresh produce!
Unfortunately, our garden gnome Lloyd is no more.
Lloyd had been with me for just under 10 years or so, given as a gift to be a companion to my gargoyle Prince (short for Prince of Darkness of course). Usually we take Lloyd in for the winter, but this year we didn’t. Perhaps he got upset at being left out in the cold, but more likely, someone decided to appropriate our humble garden gnome. And something tells me I’m not going to get a bunch of cute pictures of his travels.
Evie has noticed that he’s not in the garden, but hasn’t caught on yet that he’s gone for good. So far, I haven’t had the heart to tell her. He was certainly a positive part of the garden, and our only protection against the shark (who unfortunately did not get stolen, and still menaces our plot from his lofty plastic perch).
Lloyd, we miss you buddy, and we wish you’d come back. The garden won’t be the same without you. But if you don’t, I can only hope you’ve moved on to greener pastures.
Remember how I bragged back in July about how our garden was growing like crazy, and we were harvesting a ton of lettuce and strawberries? Well, not a lot has happened since then.
Our tomato plants and beans grew and grew and grew like crazy, consuming our entire garden to the point where we have to hack our way in every time we go to water it. The bean plants in particular are constantly grabbing onto our tomatoes and the tomatoes in the garden next door, like some kind of hungry tentacled monster.
This seemed like a good sign, but where’s all the produce?
I believe 2 of our 12 tomato plants (8 planted tomato plants and another 4 or so naturally occurring) have actually made tomatoes. And even those are hardly producing. The beans have just offered up a handful of beans, but I’m hoping that’s because we started them late.
Why aren’t our tomatoes producing? We currently have 2 theories. The first is that it was just too hot at the wrong time. My sister said that the plants won’t produce flowers when the temperature is over 100. This could explain it, since we had a heat wave right at the time that the plants should have been blowing up. The other theory is that we seem to have some aphids this year. We also have ladybugs, so the situation seems to be controlling itself, but one gardener posited that perhaps the tomatoes were worried about growing defenses rather than fruit.
Luckily we got 13 pounds of tomatoes from my dad, so we spent 3 1/2 hours on Sara’s birthday canning 7 quarts of tomatoes.
The only things that seem to be going well in the garden right now are the peppers (and the eggplant). Specifically, our jalapeno plant is going like gangbusters. I picked 15 large jalapenos the other day, and there were still more coming. This was after we had already frozen about all that we would probably use (I have to admit, we don’t use a ton of jalapenos in a year, especially since we haven’t canned any salsa so far this year).
I’m still holding out a little hope that the tomatoes are just delayed, and we still may get some kind of tomato explosion. Then we can all look back on this post and have a good laugh together, as we try to give them away to anyone who will take them.
Okay everybody, check this one out. A woman in Michigan faces 93 days of jail time. Why? For planting a garden of course.
Long story short, the lady’s yard was destroyed for some sewer work, so she decided to build some raised-beds rather than re-do her grass. Seems very reasonable, and looks pretty nice to boot:
Unfortunately though, such gardens are apparently outlawed by city ordinance.
I know you’re probably thinking what I was thinking: there has to be more to this story. But there really doesn’t seem to be anything else (well, there is in the sense that she wouldn’t stand down, not that she should have, but you have to wonder what exactly her attitude was like). However, the weird thing is that gardens are not specifically outlawed (and why would they be?). The rule says only:
“suitable” plant material is allowed on the lawn area of residences. When local media asked city planner Kevin Rulkowski what that meant, he said suitable means “common:” lawn, nice shrubs, and flowers. However, the city ordinance does not specifically state that those are the only allowed plant materials.
So, even if she was being petty, the city was obviously being *more* petty.
This is so horrible, I don’t even know where to begin. However, I am not surprised in the least. I used to think that draconian property restrictions were the domain of fancy-pants subdivisions (where I wouldn’t want to live anyway), but I’ve recently discovered this is not the case. Who would have thought that it is nearly impossible to find vacant land in the middle of nowhere which allows you to build a tiny house? Through an endless supply of township regulations, such as minimum square footage, roof pitch angle, and land usage restrictions, such as no trailers, you have practically no say over what you do on your land.
The supposed justification for this is multi-faceted:
- We have to keep out the hordes of drifters.
- What you do on your property can bring the value of my property down. So you can’t do whatever you want on your land, because now its affecting me.
- You pay property tax based on what your property is worth, so if you have a crappy property but you still use the same amount of services, you’re somehow gaming the system.
- Drifters? What is this, the 1950′s? This only makes sense if drifters is a euphemism for poor people or certain targeted races, which is about as illegal as it gets.
- So what? You always run that risk. I can build a mansion and shoot holes in it or paint it puce, or put up signs saying, “This neighborhood is full of dog-rapists” and you don’t have laws against that (although that would be less oppressive than some of the “grass length” rules I’ve seen) (and now a bunch of townships are probably enacting these laws as we speak).
- This one has a little merit on the surface, but if that’s really the problem, then pass laws on property tax reform. Besides, if I have crappy property that isn’t worth anything, then my punishment comes when I try to sell it and I can’t.
We’re midway through the growing season, and its going pretty well. So far, we have had a good crop of strawberries, lettuce, and our eternal chive plant.
As we expected, year 2 of the strawberries was much more productive than year 1. We got somewhere around 100 strawberries, and it seemed like we never failed to find more every time we went over there. Unfortunately, the ants also learned of our wonderful strawberry bounty, so we had some stiff competition for those berries. It’s actually kind of interesting; the ants locate a ripe berry and then mound up dirt all around it and sort of suck it into their home, whole. It seemed like it was going to be disastrous, but actually, the ants didn’t really get all that many berries. So we didn’t really do anything to try to control them, but it worked out okay. Maybe next year we might put some straw down so they can’t suck the berries underground. Overall, it was a very successful crop!
A few years ago we planted lettuce, and we had more than we could ever possibly use. This year is the same, however, we have one major improvement: no slugs! Our last lettuce was so sluggy, that it discouraged us from planting lettuce after that. However, this year is totally different. I don’t know why that is exactly, but there are a number of things that are different: we’re in a different location now (the other lettuce was at the old garden), we’re picking more in the heat of the day, rather than dawn or dusk, we have a different variety of lettuce, and it’s just simply a different year. The year we had the slugs really bad we had heard that everybody was having a slug problem. Maybe it was just a little more damp, who knows. Anyway, this year’s crop of lettuce has been amazingly successful, and we’ve been chowing down on some awesome salads.
Our other plants are looking good. Our tomato plants are growing out of control, and our peppers and eggplant look like they’re going to do well. Unfortunately, we did lose one tomato plant (that Mortgage Lifter I was so excited about). I’m not really sure what happened there, it just never took off. Maybe we didn’t water it enough right after we planted it. I think we were gone for a few days around that time.
We hadn’t gotten around to planting the pole beans, even though we had the poles in place for them to climb. We lost the seeds somewhere and never did find them. Finally we bought some new seeds and planted them. We were worried we were planting them late, so we used my grandma’s trick of soaking them for a few days first to get them to sprout before planting them. They are just coming up now, so hopefully we weren’t too late on that.
The only thing that didn’t grow were the sunflower seeds we planted all over the place by the train tracks and the fence in the back. We figured it would be a cheap way to spruce the whole place up. We planted two packets of seeds worth, and I don’t think a single one came up. Certainly plenty of other enormous weeds came up, so it’s not like the area is infertile. I don’t know what happened there, but it doesn’t look any worse than it did before, so I guess we’re not out much.
So, with the exception of the sunflowers and one tomato plant, everything is going well!
(By the way, I know a garden post is a little lame without pictures, but I don’t actually have any! The garden pretty much looks the same as it has the past few years, so it’s not exactly inspiring me to take pictures. I could have gone over and taken some for the post, but it just didn’t get done in time. Sorry! Maybe I’ll post some later.)
I have been traveling a lot lately.
In the past few weeks, I have spent 3 days in Detroit, 1 day in Indianapolis, 4 days in D.C., and another day in Indy. Detroit and D.C. were for work, and they were a little rough. It was hard for me to be away from the kids, and (somewhat ironically) it was hard for Sara to be stuck with the kids (though Anna did come and help her get through the week when I was in D.C.).
On the weekend in between, I hit up a bachelor party (congrats Chad!) and played paintball at White River Paintball. It was definitely the coolest place I have ever played! They have some really awesome courses, including one with derelict cars and house trailers and two story buildings, and another that replicates Omaha Beach, including a shipping container “drop boat” that opens up into the teeth of bunker fire. The place was huge and busy, but very well run, and we never had to wait for a course.
Of course, the following weekend we were back to Indy again to see Rachael get her Masters’ degree (congrats Rachael!). We just went for the day, and we experienced some of the most inept parking garage management I have ever seen. An hour and a half sitting in the parking garage, unable to move! We almost spent more time stuck in the parking garage than the actual graduation ceremony! And at the end of it, there were actually cops directing traffic, and doing a terrible job. Oh well.
Sometime in there we also managed to plant the garden. It was super hot and sweaty the day before (85 degrees), but the temperature dropped precipitously in 24 hours, so we ended up doing it in a light drizzle, freezing our butts off in 46 degree weather! Evie and Oliver had to sit in the car because it was too cold.
Last year we had 6 tomato plants, so this year we decided to do 8. However, after we got them planted, we went to the farmer’s market and saw a Mortgage Lifter, which is our favorite variety. So we decided to squeeze *one more* tomato in, bringing us to 9. I should mention though, that really one of them is actually a tomatillo, not really a tomato.
In addition, we have lettuce, basil, strawberries, an eggplant (hopefully as good as the one last year), a jalapeno, and 3 red peppers. We have also constructed a pyramid over the strawberries for beans to climb. This will do double duty, saving us space in the garden by not having the beans taking up extra room, and also providing a little shade to the strawberries. Unfortunately we lost the bean seeds, so we haven’t actually planted them yet. The strawberries have around 20 flowers or so, so we’re looking forward to getting a slightly bigger crop this year!
I mentioned that we hit up the farmer’s market. It was the first weekend of the year, and the rain and cold temperatures didn’t leave anybody thrilled with the opening. I’m very excited that it’s back, and they’ve added some new booths for this year. Evie is excited too and is insisting on getting her basket moved from her tricycle to her balance bike.
So I think the traveling is over for a while. Hopefully we can get into more of a routine as the summer rolls along. Hopefully there will actually be a summer this year, considering it is the middle of may and it’s getting down in the mid-30′s tonight!
On Saturday we signed up for an Easter egg hunt over at the community garden. We thought Evie would have a good time. We had no idea.
So it turned out that only one other kid showed up for the Easter egg hunt, besides Evie. There were 50 eggs hidden around the neighborhood park. For those of you following around at home, that’s 25 eggs per kid. This is WAY more eggs than you usually get to grab at a thing like this. There were eggs everywhere, and Evie could hardly pick them up fast enough. And there was no competition for the eggs, no egg tug-of-wars, no big kids abusing little kids, more eggs than a 3 year old could imagine.
Another kid showed up about 30 minutes later, and I’m not sure if he was there for the egg hunt or not, but we felt bad for him watching Evie gloating over her hoard of colored eggs like a dragon over treasure. When Evie wasn’t looking, we would take them out of her basket and re-hide them for this other little boy to find. However, this boy was not prepared for the egg-finding force that was Evie. We would practically hide the egg in his pocket and he would miss it, but not Evie. Her usual focus and determination apparently applies to egg hunts as well. She would re-find them as fast as we re-hid them. So she probably found at least 40 eggs when all was said and done.
After this we had to play Easter egg hunt for the rest of the day at our house. Alternately either hiding eggs from her, or finding eggs that she hid. The eggs contained such treasures as rubber bands or candy that you weren’t allowed to eat. After playing this game with her for a while I discovered A) she’s better at finding eggs than I am, and B) she has a pretty sophisticated idea about where to hide eggs.
An interesting side note, the other kid that showed up for the egg hunt is actually going to be in her class at her new school next year. So that was interesting, and I’m glad to see they got along well.
You can contrast this with the other Easter egg hunt of the weekend, which I think was a pretty typical egg hunt experience. In other words, it was pretty crummy. This egg hunt was after church on Sunday, so first off, Evie is forced to sit through the entire service looking at eggs hiding all around her, but not able to touch them. Naturally, she spent the entire time cataloging every coordinate of every egg in range of our position.
Here’s where the trouble really starts.
Afterwards, the directions were for kids to come to the front and get instructions before looking for eggs. Poor Evie, who’s the most perfect, mature child on the planet who also has terribly mean parents that make her follow the rules, had to go to the front to get the instructions as the rest of the children raped and pillaged all of the eggs in the rest of the church. Second off, people can’t stop trying to hand her eggs during church, which she knows is wrong but is quite a temptation to offer a 3 year old. And might I add that the fun of getting the eggs is finding them, not having them handed to you by and adult.
I know this is something on me, because it’s one of my personal pet peeves, but FOLLOW THE RULES! Who are you that are so important that YOUR precious little monster doesn’t need to follow the rules? Go ahead little Timmy, you’ve waited long enough, you can start a little early. Here little girl, it’s just one egg, what could it hurt. Yes, I understand that it’s just an egg hunt and who really cares, but it is a series of these little things over the course of the lifetime of your child that teaches her that rules don’t matter because she is special and above the rules for some reason.
So naturally, Evie follows the rules and is devastated to find out that all of her carefully cataloged eggs are gone before she gets back (except for the one I was sitting on and another one I was defending through sheer intimidation). She ends up finding 3 eggs (so one other one that I wasn’t personally defending), even though they planned about a dozen per kid. And kids are walking by taunting her with their piles of 20+ eggs. Most of this stuff went over her head, and she was actually somewhat happy with the ones she found, but she was a little disappointed and it’s only going to get worse as she gets older and becomes more aware of what is going on.
You can see why I liked the first one much better.
As a side note, is there some kind of inflation of candy hidden in Easter eggs? Everywhere we went, the eggs had 2 or 3 pieces of candy in them, basically as much candy as could fit in the eggs. I only remember there being one piece of candy per egg! I had to sneakily go through Evie’s found eggs as quick as I could and remove a bunch of the candy, so she wouldn’t have candy overload (total she had something like 30 eggs with 2 or 3 pieces of candy per egg…I think that’s a little excessive for a kid her age).
Aw man, I just realized, the reason I only remember one piece of candy per egg was that MY parents probably dug through my eggs and removed extra pieces. Oh well, I guess I’m just part of the parenting circle of life.
Well, you can’t always eat healthy. In her defense, we just handed her something covered in chocolate. Who could blame her for getting a little over-zealous?
Part I is here.
Lloyd the gnome is currently guarding our garden, and doing a decent job at it. So far this year, no poachers. However, I think Lloyd is about to be superseded. Gnomes aren’t really that scary. But zombies are.
That’s right, a garden zombie from (who else?) ThinkGeek. It’s a little pricey at $90, but who hasn’t wanted to have their own garden zombie?
Yeesh, never mind, that thing’s too scary.
Now that the new garden is really getting into the swing of things, I have to say, I’m liking it a lot better than the old garden. Note that this is very specific to me, because my reasons are rather selfish ones. I believe I have put them here before, but I’ll reiterate:
- It is SO NICE having the garden across the street from our house. You’d be amazed at how much easier it is to keep up on it, even though it was only a few blocks away before.
- A garden is much nicer than an abandoned lot.
- We have met nice, friendly people. There were nice, friendly people at the old garden (some of the same nice, friendly people I might add), but for whatever reason, we never met them there. This is probably due to #1.
- We only gardened at the old place for a couple of years, so we weren’t unduly attached to it, the way we might have been if we were there longer.
Certainly, the new garden is looking a lot better than the old garden site is looking right now:
I should mention that it is actually a lot worse than that; I took this picture some time ago, before all of the construction equipment and temporary construction trailers moved in.
The new garden, meanwhile, is looking pretty stellar. Our gnome, Lloyd, finally has a garden to keep watch over.
People always have all kinds of things in the garden, so we felt a little left out. I wanted to gnome to face inward, but Evie insisted that he face directly toward the plot that has a plastic shark, to keep an eye on it. A laser wouldn’t have made a straighter line from Lloyd’s eyes to that shark than Evie did when she positioned him.
We got our first strawberries of the year! Three strawberries were ripe all at the same time, so Sara, Evie and I all got to try them simultaneously. We’ve gotten a few strawberries since then, but not more than a handful. The strawberries are sending out runners like crazy though, and it’s clear we’ll have 5 times as many strawberry plants next year. It’s very clear that the strawberry box was necessary, as the plants have already made several attempts to escape its confinement.
I don’t know if we have green thumbs or what, but at first our tomatoes always seems like they are a little smaller than everyone else’s. Walking around I’m always like, “Whoah, look at this guy’s tomatoes!” But then at some point I take another look and realize that ours are now as big or bigger than everyone else in the garden. I don’t know if there’s something we do particularly right, the variety of tomatoes we have, or what, but they look extremely large.
We didn’t plant quite as much this year, so there’s nothing that we’ve really been able to harvest yet, but I am already looking forward to some delicious veggies!
It’s that time of year again…garden time!
The fate of the old garden has been discussed before, so I will not belabor the point. The excellent people of the new garden have been working nonstop to get things ready to go. Evie and I put in a little work, but not nearly as much as some of the folks. And the result looks mighty fine, I might add:
Over the weekend we planted 6 tomato plants, peppers, an eggplant, carrots, chives, basil, and, new this year, some strawberries. I’m already anticipating some delicious produce.
Of course, this being a story involving me, it couldn’t go off without a hitch.
In order to plant our strawberries, we needed to build a box to put them in. Strawberries, left unchecked, will keep coming back every year and expanding, until they take over your garden. So you want to put them in something, so they are contained.
Me, being the handy man around town, went over to Home Depot to get some supplies. This turned out to be beyond me in several ways. It was immediately clear to everyone that I was way out of my element. Let me give you some examples:
Me: “I want to buy some wood to make a strawberry box. Do you guys cut the wood to specification?”
Guy: “You don’t want this wood!”
Me: “I don’t? Why not?”
Guy: “Are you going to eat these strawberries?”
Me, catching on very fast: “This is treated lumber, isn’t it.”
Me: “Is this untreated wood?”
Guy: “Yes. What size are you looking for.”
Me: “About this big?”
(Note that this conversation was repeated many, many times.”)
Finally I got a piece that looked good. We wanted each side of the box to be 3 feet, so I picked out a board that looked like it was about 12 feet.
Me: “Is this 12 feet?”
Guy: “That’s 10 feet.”
Me: “Let me go get another one.”
Guy: “How do you want this cut?”
Me: “We want 4 pieces.”
Guy: “So, how long?”
Me: “Well, if the board is 12 feet, so if we want 4 pieces, we’d need them to be 4 feet long.”
Now I would like to point out here, that this was really the critical error of the day. However, that guy had every opportunity to see that I was an idiot right there, and stop me. But he didn’t. He cut me 3 pieces 4 feet long. After some very tense conversation with Sara in which I explained what I had just done, we had to go get another board and cut it. We debated having them cut a foot off of each piece, but we were really pushing the limits on what the Home Depot guy was going to put up with from us. Plus we would have had to pay for all the extra cuts (to say nothing of the extra wood we were going to have to buy). Finally, in my mortal embarrassment, I managed to convince Sara to buy the wood as-is, without having the extra cuts, so I could just get out of there as fast as possible. And the Home Depot guy, seeing that I was as clueless as they come and in need of major help, decided not to charge me for the extra piece of wood. (Thank you!)
About this time, Oliver started wailing, which was not helping my stress level. So Sara took the kids out to the car, which should have signaled to me immediately that I had more humiliation in store.
Me: “I can’t find a bar code on the wood.”
Checkout guy, looking at all the boards and not finding a bar code: “What size is it?”
Me: “I think 1×8″
Checkout guy, sighing: “Can you [hold up the entire line and] run back and get a bar code from some other piece of wood?”
Guy behind us in line: “There is a bar code right there.”
Me: “He’s right!”
Checkout guy: “Oh, I was just taking your word for it that it wasn’t there.”
Okay jerk face, you looked at the wood too and didn’t see it! Man. We finally made our escape and the next morning I cut a foot off each board with a handsaw. Since we didn’t have to pay for the extra wood, and since it only took me about 30 minutes to saw up the wood and assemble the box, we weren’t really out anything. I would say the most embarrassment really could be traced back to this conversation:
Me: “Should I write a blog post about this?”
Sara: “Why not? You embarrass everybody else on there.”
Well, I’m nothing if not fair.
Evie and I picked out a Mother’s Day present and card for Sara last weekend (Some lovely Pyrex containers for keeping leftovers, in case you were wondering. Nothing says love like BPA-free food), so Evie had to keep the secret for the whole week. She was struggling a little bit, but she managed to do it…at least right up until Saturday night. I felt so bad for her, I was getting out some of the old containers to clean up some leftovers, and Evie was like, “Oh, we’re using the ones we bought for mommy at Target?” Like, she didn’t mean to spill the beans, she was just commenting on what she saw. In fact, I think she thought, “Oh shoot, we already gave them to her and I missed it!” I don’t even know how she remembered what we got; it wasn’t exactly the most exciting thing in the world. I felt bad for her, but it certainly did nothing to diminish the pure glee she had on her face when she gave her mommy the card and gift the next morning. She was jumping up and down, it was really great. As hard as it is to believe, I think that her excitement might have been a gift even better than left over containers.
After a trip to the grocery store, in which Evie, Uncle Nathan and I managed to get all the right things without any help (okay, that sounds funny, but this was a major restocking mission with a $200 price tag!). After dropping Uncle Nathan off at the bus station, we hit up Mother’s Day brunch in the new garden! The food was really good and we got to meet and talk to some extremely nice neighbors. I’m really hoping we can get to know them better. It was a beautiful day and it was really nice to have a place to go outside. As usual, Evie was a big hit, especially with her garden shoes. Afterwards I felt a little guilty, because everybody went to work on the garden, and I just played with Evie. So I felt a little guilty since I was the only adult not doing anything. But Evie and I helped a little bit, stomping down the wood chips on the path.
Evie had some trouble walking on the wood chips in her garden shoes, so it was most likely during one of her many spills that she got the splinter. It wasn’t until much later, after we were home, that she came over and said, “Something is on my finger.” It was a pretty bad one too, and completely inside, without any part sticking out. It took quite a while to dig it out, including using a sewing needle to dig out one end. And through it all, Evie made not one little peep. I was so proud of her! I thought she would get upset as soon as she saw us coming at her with tweezers. She did have one small request though. In order for us to dig out the splinter, she insisted that we make a cave for her out of pillows and blankets, so that she could thrust only her arm out, and the rest of her would be covered. This was very odd, but it was a small request and it seemed to work, so who am I to complain? I tried to keep her talking so she wouldn’t get upset, but I’m not sure even that was necessary.
I’ll have to think about other situations where “making a cave” could help out. Could we make a nap-taking cave? A vegetable-eating cave? Who knows. But a pain cave works for splinters, so that’s what counts.
I’m not sure how much of the garden saga was been here on the blog. Long story short, the University owned the land that the garden was on. Eventually, it was time to pay the piper and the University decided to pull the plug on the garden to use the land as a “construction staging area” for a building they were going to build next door.
Obviously this was hard on everybody. As much as we loved the garden, there were people who had been there for years and years. However, their pleas fell on deaf ears, and the University insisted that the garden had always been a temporary arrangement, and the time was up.
Every time we pass the site of the old garden, Evie offers some commentary. “I don’t want them to tear down the garden!” or ”Why are they going to tear down our garden, I love that garden!”
We went to a community meeting on the subject, and things got a little heated. After seeing how adamant the University was on the topic, my personal opinion was, let’s move on. It became obvious that continuing the argument about keeping the garden was beating your head against the wall. The University owned the land, and they were exercising that right. Although, I did agree that it was frustrating that the University was going to be using the land for something so temporary as construction staging, and that it was somewhat ironic that the garden was going to be destroyed to build a certified “green” building.
Some people, however, were not content to complain about the past, but instead took the Alderman up on his offer of space for new gardens, throughout the neighborhood. In a stroke that can only be described as fate, one of the locations selected for a new garden is the trash-filled abandoned lot almost directly across the street from our condo.
This is a win-win for us. Not only have we already secured a spot in the new garden which is literally across the street, we also get to get rid of an ugly eye sore. How much better is the neighborhood with a lush garden than an abandoned lot? Evie was pretty excited about it too:
Shane: “They are going to make a new garden here.”
Evie: “Thank you world!”
Evie: “I was saying thank you world because the world made a new garden. I still miss the old garden though.”
It was a good weekend. Evie really got into the Halloween experience. I wasn’t sure if she was going to be a little too young to understand or appreciate things, but I don’t think she was. She was a little shy with saying “Trick-or-treat!” and she often forgot to say, “Thank you!” or she would mumble it to Sara or I after she had already turned away. But she caught on really quick to holding her bucket up and getting a piece of candy.
We went to a certain street in our neighborhood that is known to be a little crazy about Halloween, drawing people from all over the city. Every story I heard about the place was totally true, and we were done by 5:30. I can only imagine how crazy it would be by 6:30 or 7. My mom kept saying, “This is like a movie!” It was pretty crazy, but it was a lot of fun to be around so many people who were really into the spirit of things. There were lots of displays in yards, people dressed up, and spooky decorations, but these people really took it to the next level. One of my favorite things was a giant spider rigged 20 feet overhead with a pulley system, so it could drop down on unsuspecting people. I also remember a giant plastic knife that was rigged out on a rope, so it could go flying across the street through the air as if possessed.
There were some houses that Evie thought were too scary to go to. There was a giant spider suspended over a door that Evie refused to walk under, even though she confided to Sara, “It’s not real.” Another person in a mask took her by surprise and she just froze in place, refusing to move until the person dangled some M&M’s for her. Sara and I agreed that M&Ms were probably the only thing that could have gotten her to go any closer.
But overall, Evie had a blast. My mom remarked that Evie would probably be playing “trick-or-treat” for quite some time to come. I think we didn’t do too bad either, considering we convinced her to stop in the middle and eat a banana. I doubt any of the other parents had such luck.
Other than that, it was a pretty quiet weekend. We dealt with the time change (though I never found a suitable hour to re-live) and we did some getting ready for the impeding winter, including packing our grill off to storage and removing the tomato cages from the garden. Yesterday was officially the last day for the garden, and I expect it will either be demolished immediately, or sit tantalizingly empty forever, just out of reach. It is possible that we could get another plot in some other garden elsewhere, but I am sort of drained about the whole garden thing, so we might just sit it out. We’ll see.
Finally, we found the time to hit up our favorite breakfast spot, Yolk. Everything was delicious, as usual. But the interesting thing was that my mom ordered the “South Beach” and it was something to see. People were literally turning their heads as it was carried through the restaurant. That might have been because it looked like perhaps my mom was the Don Corleone of the fruit mafia, and she had just ordered someone to bring her the head of the Chiquita Banana lady.
The South Beach consists of half of an entire pineapple, on its side, piled high with granola, strawberries, orange slices, and other fruit. This stuff is literally overflowing off the top and piling up on the surrounding plate. After my mom ate all she could, we cut off the top and bottom and still couldn’t fit it in the largest to-go box they had. It was worth ordering, just to see the thing.
Unfortunately, the picture I took on my camera phone doesn’t really do it justice, so you’ll just have to imagine it.
It has been a long time since I really gave an update on the garden (aside from the pickle canning of course). I guess the second year isn’t quite as exciting as the first year. In fact, the first time around we were snapping pictures of every new fruit or vegetable that poked it’s head out, but this year we don’t even bat an eye at massive, award winning, 20 pound zucchini. Actually though, the garden this year is head and shoulders above our garden from last year. There are a couple of big differences.
First off, we are doing a lot less weeding. I don’t know if it is because we got the garden sooner and thus were able to nip more weeds in the bud, if we were just smarter about our weeding, or if our garden is just laid out so well and so full, that the weeds are just crowded out. Or it could be that we just don’t care about having a weedy garden as much. Whatever the reason, this is saving us a lot of time and effort.
Second, our garden is planned out much better, in some cases because of the knowledge we gained last year. We are even rotating things out, for example, we had a huge crop of lettuce before it eventually made way for other things, since it is over quickly. We planted squash that is timed out such that the zucchini will be finished and ripped out in time to make room for the squash. We’re also working on our second crop of carrots.
The lettuce was out of control, we couldn’t give it away fast enough. Currently, we have more zucchini than we know what to do with. We’ve gotten tons of beans, most of which we’ve frozen. Now we are starting to enter tomato season. So far only our cherry tomatoes have been taking off, but we have some types of tomatoes which are all ready at the same time, like Roma, so we will be expecting a tomato avalanche shortly. We also have at least 8 good sized green peppers waiting for us and we’ve even gotten a few hot peppers.
So, even though I haven’t been posting as much as last year about the garden, rest assured it is going (and growing!) strong.
My grandma makes homemade pickles and they are to die for. I’ve always wanted to try to make the pickles myself so that I could rely on my own supply, instead waiting until she could sneak me a jar or two. I’m not saying she did sneak me jars and I’m not saying she didn’t, but I am saying that if she did sneak me jars and word got out (like on the Internet, for example), then I’d probably be in big trouble with the rest of my family.
So I planted some cucumbers this year on the porch figuring I’d get enough for a jar or two and we could give it a trial run. However, we had an opportunity to raid my grandma’s garden for cucumbers when she was on vacation, and we netted quite a few (and some dill).
We had never tried canning before, and we were a little nervous about it. We purchased a nice set in anticipation of doing some more canning this year, especially once the tomatoes start rolling in from the garden. Previously we had just frozen everything and that worked pretty well, but, with the uncertainty of the garden next year, we might need to lay more of a supply by this year.
So, we managed to can 7 quarts of pickles and even had some spare cukes left over. One of the jars didn’t seal the first time around, but we re-processed it and it sealed the second time. Now it is just a matter of waiting for 6 weeks until these beauts are ready to go!
Evie has been using numbers and concepts lately that are sort of surprising. She doesn’t use them correctly, but she uses them and that’s something:
“And what did you buy at the rummage sale?”
“Oh yeah, how much did he cost?”
“Did you have a good night’s sleep last night?”
“Yes, thirty hours.”
“How old are you?”
“Two months of five. And E starts with Evie.”
“What’s the opposite of up?”
“What’s the opposite of left?”
“What’s the opposite of sleeping?”
“If you’re not asleep, you’re a…”
She also said probably the most heartbreaking thing ever:
“Mommy loves me and Nala loves me.”
“And Daddy loves you.”
“No, Mommy is the only one. Daddy works.”
Just to show how things change as you get used to parenting, I forgot to mention on the blog that Evie fell down the stairs at my grandma’s last weekend! When she was little and she fell over, it was a big, big deal. Now she falls down like 10 stairs and I don’t even remember about it! She was fine, she just had some marks from where her sun glasses smashed into her face. But we knew she was okay because when Sara took off Evie’s glasses to see if she was alright, Evie was more upset about not wearing her glasses than she was about the fall. So I had forgotten all about this until Evie reminded me that it was “scary” to fall down the stairs. I asked her what else she was afraid of and she said, “Crocodiles.”
In totally other news, we got some beautiful lettuce from the garden, and it was delicious!
“What color is Evie’s hair?”
“What color is mommy’s hair?”
*Disclaimer, Sara is forcing me to write in here that she does not actually have any grey hair.
And P.S., it’s my blog and I can write grey with an ‘e’ on it like a filthy redcoat if I want to! Take that world!
Over the weekend we got our garden all set up. We bought our plants from the gardens of Gethsemane – no joke, that was the name. It’s not as good as the garden of eat’n’, but I was still chuckling over it for a long time. It took Sara and I about 3 hours in the garden and another hour or so on the back porch, but everything looks beautiful. Looks like we’re going to have even more stuff than last year, as every square inch of our garden is accounted for, including plans for what goes in when certain things are done.
Evie went on the potty for what I think can be counted as the first time. She has gone a few times before, when she was younger, but I think this was the first time where she did it consciously, knowing what she was doing and why. That’s a big step. We’re not really potty training her per say, but we do let her sit on it whenever she wants to. Usually she will sit forever, but never go. So hopefully she will start to do this more and more and then we can try to potty train her for real. It certainly would be nice to be able to leave the house without all the diapers, etc.!
Sara found an article that says morning sickness increases the chance your child will have a high IQ. She thinks that people are just saying that as a consolation prize for the people who have a rough time with morning sickness, but anecdotally I will say that Sara had really, really bad morning sickness and Evie is really, really smart. You be the judge.
Since I began with a funny story about Sara, I feel I should end the same way; bookend-like. The other night I was sleeping blissfully when Sara forcefully pressed her arm against mine and yelled triumphantly, “They’re finally together!” I woke up rather confused and looked at her, but she wasn’t awake. I guess I’ll always wonder what the heck she was dreaming about.
As reported in our local newspaper (I would post a link but they only have the latest issue, so the link would be inaccurate in a week) our Alderman suggested the empty lot that is more or less across the street (sort of kitty corner, but a little farther) from our house as a potential new location for the garden. This would be great for two reasons, 1) I didn’t think the garden could possibly be any closer, but across the street is pretty dang convenient, and 2) that lot is currently full of trash, broken bottles, etc. so it could only be improved. The downside is that the lot is much smaller than where the garden is now, so we could potentially be pushed out of a spot. However, with such a convenient location, I would think we could wait as long as it takes to get a spot.
So perhaps something that seemed so dire could actually be a benefit! Clouds with silver linings and all that.
In tasty hamburger news, CNN had 5 Tasty Burger Joints Worth Visiting and good ole Triple XXX and the Purvis burger made the list! For those of you not in the know, Triple XXX is a sort of hole in the wall, iconic Purdue restaurant and the Purvis burger has peanut butter on it. That sounds kind of gross but it is surprisingly good. I usually got something else, but Sara was fond of the Purvis burger. Still, I can’t deny it exceeded my expectations.
Just when I start hearing all this talk about “recession gardens”, we have to deal with the bittersweet-ness of working on our garden for the last season. Over the course of a few weekends, we managed to get the old junk all cleaned out and get phase 1 planted, which consists of some lettuce, spinach and carrots.
A couple of details have come out about the reasons for removing the garden, and two points really bother me.
- The building which is being built is not actually being built on the site of the garden. Instead, the garden will be the “staging area” for the construction crews working on the new building. This is kind of annoying because you are removing this nice fixture of the neighborhood for something that is inherently temporary. At least if they were putting the building on the site of the garden I could come to terms with the fact that they really just needed that space.
- There is quite a bit of irony in the fact that the new building will be designed as a “green” building. So they are destroying a unique urban environment so they can build an “environmentally friendly” building.
I even heard somewhere that the occupants of the new building were told it was a nice location due to the close proximity to a community garden, though I can’t prove that. Oh, the irony.
Anyway, here is a nice article about the garden, including a lot of history. Of particular note, check out the slideshow of garden pictures. These pictures remind me of how awesome the garden is in summertime and are what kept me going when I was standing in the cold, seeing my breath and breaking up dirt to get ready for planting.
Oh well, it is what it is. At least our garden will rock this year.
Just when I write a nice post about the garden, we hear word of its ultimate demise. I mentioned before that there was some doubt about its future and, according to the most recent transmission, the garden will be closed in the “fall of this year” to be used as “staging during construction” of a new building. The semi-good news is that the University “would be willing to help relocate the community garden to a new site”. This is only semi-good because A) there’s no where that could possibly be as convinient for us as where it is now, and B) who knows what that means in terms of our plot personally (i.e. the garden may be smaller and we may be bumped, the individual plots may be smaller, etc.)
On the other hand, someone made an absolutely awesome webpage for the garden! As a programmer, it does my very soul good to see such a beautiful, clean, focused, professional website. And it contains everything you could ever need. Including the wiki for gardening tips was a stroke of genius! I didn’t see anything to indicate the identity of the creator of the webpage, be it an individual or company, but I would certainly recommend them based on this web page alone.
Spring is in the air, quite literally since I woke up this morning with itchy eyes and a vague tingling in my allergy sense.
And with all this nice weather comes another attempt at gardening! Our garden received a stay of execution for another year. We still don’t know if they are planning to build a building on top of it, but I think with the economy as it is, it is safe to assume it will be some time before the University gets around to breaking ground on a multi-million dollar new building.
We were out on Sunday cleaning out the leftovers from last year and even a few new things that had already taken root. Last year we didn’t get our garden until pretty late since we were on the waiting list and everything, so hopefully getting started earlier on it this year will mean less weeding, etc. We even plan to plant some lettuce and other things that come up early to maximize the gardening potential. Did you know there is something called Grand Rapids Lettuce? Well, there is.
We haven’t got the layout planned yet, but we did buy all the seeds over the weekend. I am also going to attempt to grow cucumbers on the back porch to start my own pickle supply. I have my grandma’s recipie which I am on record as saying is the food of the gods. Hopefully they will grow better than the porch tomatoes did last year. Does anybody know if cucumbers need a lot of sun? I don’t need big ones. They are supposedly a kind that is conducive to growing in small spaces. Ah, who am I kidding I only bought them because they were called “Spacemaster Cucumbers” and I’m hoping they float or grow in the dark or something.
It’s Saturday and that means farmers’ market. There is a nice pictorial over on I Hate My Developer. It is accurate for us as well since she apparently walks the same route we do. Today’s bounty included some peaches and some hot peppers for some homemade salsa we are going to make. They let us try several peppers and find the ones that were the perfect heat. Unfortunately, many of the booths seem to be missing this time. I’m not sure what the deal with the inconsistency is, but I guess it is the first year after all. And we always find something to buy!
Of course that also means a trip to the garden. I think our garden is running out of steam a little bit, and none too soon! Oh the food we’ve gotten out of it this year! We have tomatoes like mad but we are busily eating them on everything from fresh salsa, to pizza, to sandwiches, to homemade marinara sauce. We got tons and tons of beans, so much so that we ended up throwing some away. We didn’t want to but we just couldn’t get to them in time. We also have 4 more squash to deal with, and another on the way. So the garden was an unqualified success! We are already plotting for next year (pun intended).
Finally, since it was my first free Saturday in like months, I finally tackled a problem that has plagued us since the dawn of time…a bad ceiling fan remote! The ceiling fan in our bedroom doesn’t have any strings, so if you want to turn the fan off and on, you have to use the remote. This usually means a 10 minute dance around the bedroom waving the remote around like a magic wand and mashing on the button a million times. The dance finally ends with me standing on the bed pressing the remote against the fan base and then trying to withdraw my hand fast before the blades start. Even this had been working less and less lately until we gave up on it altogether.
So today I decided to swap the receiving unit from the living room fan because it not only works, but we never use it and also the fan has strings making the remote unnecessary. Sara was not behind the project since it was an ordeal the first time, but I persisted. It actually went really well. I had the remote out of the old fan and had it rewired in like 10 minutes. Then on to our room which took a little longer only because I clipped off like 2 feet of extra wire, which is partially what made it take so long last time. It was tough fitting the remote sending unit and all of that wire up there before! But here’s the thing! I discovered that the remote receiving unit and the remote itself were set to different frequencies!! I don’t know why it worked at all, even though the codes were very similar. So, surprise surprise, when I put it on the right code, it seemed to work much better! So, consequently, I put it all back together without using the remote unit from the living room. I didn’t put it back in the other fan though, just in case. I can’t believe all of the headache that thing has caused me and all because I put the stupid switches in the wrong position.
Oh well, what’s done is done.
When you live in the country you have to worry about pests like rabbits and raccoons that ruin your garden. You have to assume you are going to lose X percent of your crops to these nuisances. In the city we also have rodents, but they walk on two legs.
We lost about half (~10 ears) of our corn and a decent number of tomatoes. It’s not that I didn’t expect there to be poachers, and its not like we don’t have tons of food from the garden, but it is a little disappointing to weed and water and watch a plant grow from a seed and see it fruiting and then finally after all of that go to enjoy the fruits of your labor (no pun intended) and find it missing.