Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Here's to you, Grandma Zada

Last night I raised a glass to Grandma Zada. Actually, I raised a bottle--a bottle of MGD, of course. There was a Mirror Pond in the fridge, but it just didn't seem right. So I ran to the store while the Boyfriend baked us some wonderful zucchini slices and wandered around the "domestic" section until I found those familiar looking bottles. I planned to drink my beer out on the patio, where she would have enjoyed it most, but instead we found ourselves rushed for time. We got to go visit our good friends' new baby last night. So instead, the Boyfriend and I made a toast in the kitchen. Sure, Grandma didn't love to cook, but I think she would have loved that we were cooking with vegetables from our own garden.

I wish Grandma could have seen our garden and our house, but I feel like she's really a part of it. There is no other explanation for my love of the garden except for Grandma. I think of her every time my hands are in the dirt, and I especially think of her every time I manage to grow a few pretty flowers. Each gladiola that I cut this summer made me think of her and our magnificent floral arrangements I made when I visited her and Grandpa in Nebraska. She had the most beautiful flowers. I'd love to show her our corn and ask her what she did to make those raspberries out by the alley so sweet and wonderful and abundant.

Here's to you, Grandma. Your legacy is in everything we've done to turn this space into our place, and in every summer evening we enjoy on our patio. Your granddaughters were thinking of you yesterday, especially about that time when beer thirty was rolling around . . .

Friday, August 20, 2010

What the carrots are saying

I've often heard about people who see Jesus in their food--in their Cheetos or pancakes or chicken nuggets--and previously these accounts had inspired nothing more than bewildered amusement and maybe a chuckle. But lately, I've been finding myself a tad bit jealous. They get Jesus, and I get this . . .

a hot-dog-shaped carrot.

This strange little guy (which is actually making me a bit hungry at the moment) came straight out of a bag of baby carrots from the store. So imagine my surprise when I dug this out of the ground this week . . .

I don't know what image you see in this carrot, but I see fat legs in tight pants.

What are the carrots trying to tell me? We have been eating a lot of hot dogs lately--the real kind, not the carrot impostors--so perhaps they're telling me that eating hot dogs makes you look fat in your stretchy pants and I should stick to carrots instead. Ugh, why couldn't I have just seen Jesus on one of my zucchini instead?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monday Update 8.16.10

The garden is looking quite good, if I do say so myself. We're enjoying huge bouquets of basil that are spinning and whirring themselves into wonderful pesto. I think we have enough green (well, purple) beans to harvest and have a small side dish. I know we have carrots that need to be eaten, but I've been neglecting them ever since we covered the garden with mulch and I don't see their orange tops poking out of the soil anymore.

Our first giant sunflower finally opened this past weekend. They were supposed to grow 10-feet-tall and I'd say they're about there. This particular variety, Arikara, is a North America native and is supposed to be good for its edible seeds. I love seeing that big happy flower out there high above our fence.
The cucumber that I direct seeded in the garden extremely late after my transplants officially died has started producing cute little cucumbers and is growing quite well. Speaking of growing quite well, I haven't been poking around in the garden as much as usual because our sprinklers have been coming on more often and I haven't had to water as much lately. So the Boyfriend came in Sunday and asked if I had seen our watermelon. I told him we didn't plant watermelon, at which point he took me outside to see it. The "watermelon" he was referring to was a giant zucchini. It might not have actually been as big and round as a watermelon, but it was definitely one of those giants that had somehow evaded us while it beefed up. It'll be perfect for zucchini patties . . . I can taste them already . . .

The corn is looking great! Most of the stalks have a couple of little ears on them and they're growing fast. I honestly can't believe our corn seems to be working out. I'm hoping we get between 15 and 20 ears. The Boyfriend asked if we were going to have people over and share our corn of if we would freeze some. How nice of him. The thought of sharing hadn't crossed my mind . . . not this year anyway! If it's as juicy and sweet as the ears of corn I remember from my great grandpa's garden in Nebraska when I was little, there will be no sharing. Maybe next year . . .

The Siletz tomato is finally pumping out some red tomatoes. They're such a nice smaller size. They don't crack and I haven't had a bad looking fruit yet. I wish some of our other tomatoes were producing, but I'm happy the Siletz in the container has been a success.

And finally, the endless summer of broccoli continues . . .

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Places and thermometers

About six weeks ago, the Boyfriend and I were in Tennessee. Although the occasion was a sad one, it was also, as the Boyfriend has said, a celebration of a great man's life. It was a time to embrace family and watch the world go by in one of the most beautiful settings I've ever seen. This is one of the Boyfriend's "places"--a place that holds so many memories that my mind struggled to keep up with the beautiful pictures he painted for me with the enthusiasm of the 10-year-old who explored this place so many years ago. I couldn't tell if it felt like a lifetime ago or a year ago, but he showed me this place like he had just been there in his childhood the week before.

The house we stayed in was a newer addition, an addition his grandfather built with his own hands just to give his grandchildren the type of wonderful memories the Boyfriend was describing to me. Behind the house was now a sloped field of green grass, but as we walked through it I could almost taste the homegrown vegetables the Boyfriend described to me. Knowing that he walked through rows of his grandmother's home garden made me understand his tendency to wander into our tiny garden each evening to see how everything can change in a single day. He comes from a family that knows what it's like to put down roots and get to know a place.

The Boyfriend's memories were vivid and detailed--the morning glories, the lightning bugs, and his grandmother's decorative peacock feathers brought his stories to life. This was where he spent some of his favorite summers as a child, and it made me think of Ogallala and my own family. Especially when we went into the kitchen one day and noticed the thermometers.

It might seem like a silly thing, but those thermometers--there were at least three hanging in the kitchen--rushed me back to my summers in Ogallala with my own grandparents. I loved to pull the bedroom curtains back and look outside at that thermometer. This was the BWC era: the before-weather-channel era. I don't remember why I looked at that thermometer so much, but I imagine it was to check the temperature before we went golfing, or cutting flowers in the back yard, or out on the patio for beer thirty. Beer thirty was my favorite part of the day because everyone sat outside and just talked--much like our evenings in Tennessee. I played in the grass and drank pop and we ate Cracker Barrel cheese. Good friends showed up unannounced and pulled up a chair. Life was slow, friendly, and in the moment. No one wanted to be, or thought about being, anywhere else. No one was watching reality TV, or any TV for that matter.

I realized these thermometers symbolized a different era for me. A time when people were at least connected enough to their place that they looked outside to see what the temperature was, rather than firing up the laptop or turning on the TV. I liked that. When we got back from Tennessee, we went on a mission to find a thermometer. I wanted one like those that I saw in the house in Tennessee--one that had the phone number for a local business on it or one that had blue jays and cardinals on it--but I settled for one of the few we found and it's just fine. Plain, low-tech, cheap, and easy to read.

I had one request--that I be able to see it from my office. So the Boyfriend mounted it on the east side of the house knowing full well that it would receive sunlight 8 hours of the day. Even though it's approximately 120 degrees from 9:30 to 4:00, I still love it. I look at it every morning and every night before I open up the house. I might mount it in a different spot to make it more usable other hours of the day, but it has been one of my favorite additions to our place this year.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Update 8.2.10

At the risk of giving people the false expectation that I may post my Monday Update every Monday, rather than every other, I still had to post today because at long last our first tomato is turning red. I was about to start investigating recipes for green tomatoes since the lycopene in our garden appeared to be on strike. But yesterday I finally noticed the light yellow hue that promised me garden-fresh tomatoes were finally in my future.

I also wanted to update with this picture because I couldn't believe looking back at last week's update how much our sunflowers have grown. They've reached the top of the fence, which makes it look like they must have grown almost a foot in the last week. The earwigs are still quite content, nestled in the top every morning. I tried to kill some yesterday, but it didn't go so well. They were too quick for me to grab and get them in the can of soapy water before they jumped for dear life off my trowel. I'm thinking tweezers might be my next approach. Maybe I'll actually get brave enough to use my hands, but cut me some slack. Earwigs are deeeesgusting!

I finally pulled out the leaning tower of pea plants on Saturday. The carrots seem to be enjoying their new-found head room. In place of the peas, I transplanted one of the yellow pear tomatoes that was in the container on the deck with another plant. They were crowded and the Boyfriend had the good suggestion to let them part ways and give it a go on their own. Fulfill your destinies little buddies!

We did harvest our first zucchini this week and more are on the way. I killed more squash bug eggs this weekend and attempted to kill one adult, but trying to stab him through his middle with kitchen shears didn't seem to be very effective (or humane, but that's clearly not my primary concern!). The plants still look good so I think we're staying on top of them. Too bad the earwigs don't eat the squash bugs and earn their room and board!

I just noticed the beginnings of tassels on our corn this weekend, at least I assume that's what it is. I'm not brave enough to let myself think of the absolutely unbeatable and unmistakable taste of homegrown sweet corn just yet, but I think we're getting one step closer!