Friday, June 28, 2013

Feeling the Heat

Summer is well and truly here, folks.  The highs have been in the 90's for the last several days and the humidity is just stupidly high.  Still, I can't seem to wipe this smile off my face.


Why do I love this weather?  It's hot, it makes my t-shirt stick to my back and the mosquitoes.  Oh my God the mosquitoes.  They don't usually like me, but I figure this year there must be so many of them that they take whoever they can find.

Lucky me.

But it also makes my garden grow like mad.  With the rain we've had and then the sun we've had, things are getting rather jungle like in the south 40.
Me and the insanely huge honeysuckle.
But I've been feeling the heat in other ways as well.  Work is ramping up to get super busy pretty soon.  The projects at home have more or less been on hold since we got back from vacation almost a month ago.  I'm so far behind on things in my life that I've taken a week off next week just to try to catch up. Here are  some of the things that I've been missing lately:

I found this little dragonfly resting on an onion.  He was there most of the day.  I'm hoping I get a chance to rest a bit as well.
I'm rather proud of my marigolds this year.  Here we find the French Dwarf marigolds in my backyard.  I like to plant marigolds in amongst my vegetable plants.  I hear they repel harmful insects.

This is a tiny hosta called 'Mouse Ears.'  I planted it near the new hardy kiwi plants in the 'wishing well' planter in the backyard.  They truly are tiny.  This plant is no more than 6 inches tall including the flowers.
I have developed quite a liking for clematis.  This purple one, the name of which escapes me at the moment, is gracing the new fence that my hubby built on the west side of the property.  Since I took this picture, I have added three others to this section of fence.  One is white and the other two are also different shades of purple.  They were supposed to be pink.  Dangit.  We still have a Sweet Autumn Clematis waiting impatiently in its pot for the fence on which it will grow to be built.  It is growing like mad in that little pot.

This little stunner is a gourd flower.  For some reason all of my gourd flowers are white this year.  The gourds I grew last year all had yellow flowers.  So, I turned to my little friend, Google.  Turns out that there are two different gourd genuses (genii?) one of which has yellow flowers and the other has white.  The ones with yellow flowers are all related to squash and melons which also have yellow flowers.  I have somehow managed to grow all of one genus last year and all of the other this year.  What a coincidence!

Onions and garlic and shallots, oh my!

Yep, that about covers it.

The first wave of onions has been harvested.  They came earlier than I thought they might.  I was surprised to go out yesterday and find the tops of many of the first batch lying over on the ground.  So I have a couple racks of onions drying on the patio.

Most of the shallots were dug today also.  I got A LOT of shallots from the 12 or so I planted in the spring.  They are also drying on the patio.

I got curious though.  As I was pulling out some onions that had gone to seed, I realized that many of the garlic plants had turned brown.  So I dug them up and found little, tiny garlic bulbs.  I don't know if they'll be useful or not, but they are also drying on the patio.

All this onion pulling left me with a nearly empty raised bed.  So, I decided to give green beans another shot.  I planted a bunch when we got back from vacation, but nothing happened.  Not a single one grew.  So, I'm shooting for a fall crop of beans.  We shall see.

Now I'm eyeing the place where the garlic was and wondering when I should plant more snap peas...hrm....

I love summer.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Finding My Way

I've been quiet lately.  But, that's just because I've been busy.  The garden is growing nicely, work is busy and I went to a really fun outdoors workshop a couple weeks ago with one of my besties.

The thing that has my attention the most lately is my health and fitness.  My latest obsession is finding acceptance in my life.

It's hard to explain.  So, I'll try anyway.

A few weeks ago, I ran across a blog and, honestly?  I think it changed my life.  No, really.

I have been on every diet there is.  Well, I haven't tried the one where they send you the food in the mail every week but that one kinda frightens me a little.  I did get to try some of their food and it left a lot to be desired.

But I digress.

The blog is a simple one.  It's basically the story of a woman in the UK who has lost a boatload of weight by not caring about losing weight anymore.  That's an oversimplification, of course.  I urge you to read her blog.  She shifted her focus from the scales to her health and happiness.  The weight loss was a by-product of shifting from processed, fast and junk foods to whole, more natural foods as well as a vast change in level of physical activity.

Finally!  Finally I found someone who made it work the way I wanted to make it work.  Sure it took her a longish time to lose the weight she lost, but it's real weight loss and unlikely to return with friends unlike the weight I lost on the last, pay-as-you-go website I tried.

I wonder how many steps it takes to burn these off?

I am sick to the back teeth of diets that work for awhile and then stop working because they are impossible to maintain.  Katie (the blog writer) is right.  A lifestyle change is in order.

So I've done it.  Again.  But there's a difference this time that I can't quite pin down.  I'm eating better.  I'm eating fewer calories.  I'm walking 10,000+ steps a day and riding my bike.  The real kicker is I have an appointment with a personal trainer on Friday.

Holy buckets!  This sounds serious.  I feel almost...confident.  Is that possible?

The best thing is, for the first time in a long time, I feel optimism.  I am no longer under the pressure of 'being good' or 'being strong' or 'having an iron will.'  I can feel good about trying.  I can feel good about making changes even if the scale doesn't move because I'm learning to listen to my body and pay attention to how it feels about the things I do to it. I like it when I eat well and my body feels, perhaps shockingly, good.  That makes me smile almost as much as this red columbine.

*At this point I feel I need to point out that fatgirlphd does not sell anything that I can tell.  I'm not endorsing a product nor have I been paid to write about this. It's just a cool blog.  So there.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Little Fear Factor

The weather is stunningly beautiful today.  The sun is shining brightly.  The grass could not be greener.  The flowers are blooming with an almost blinding fierceness after the rain last night.   
My honeysuckle in its glorious prime.
In fact, the Linden trees at work have more blossoms than I’ve ever seen them have before.  The fragrance is intoxicating and I place it among my top three favorite scents (see also: gardenia and lavender).  It’s one of my favorite late spring sights: deep green leaves with heavily perfumed, dense shade buzzing with the activity of a million pollinators from the moment the sun peeks over the horizon until full dark in the evening.
Gratuitous photo of my blue columbine.

Except this year, it isn’t buzzing much.  In fact, from my admittedly limited vantage point on the ground, the tree I examined this morning next to the parking lot at work had absolutely no honeybees, masonbees, orchard bees, bumblebees, hornets, wasps, houseflies, horseflies, hoverflies, butterflies or any other type of pollinator you can think of.  Nothing.  Nada.  No insect activity at all.
Last year's bees on stonecrop
I remember thinking, “Huh.  How strange!” as I walked from the parking lot to the building where I work thinking that maybe it was too early in the morning for the bees.  By the time I got to my desk, I’d had a few minutes for that realization to sink in to my early morning brain fog.

No bees.



I have been noticing over the last few weeks that we have fewer bees at the homestead this year.  I thought maybe it was due to the fact that a fantastically large population of bees had been found in an abandoned house last summer and removed by some brave soul.  Taking about a buzzillion (*cringe* sorry) bees out of circulation in my neighborhood would impact the numbers I see in my gardens.

The place where I work is out in the country…more out in the country than my home is.  The plant is located on several dozen acres of land brimming to the top with grasses and native plants…and some not so native plants.  Around the edges of the property, past the railroad tracks and the highway and the gravel road out back, is cultivated land.  It’s corn mostly but some soybeans and even less milo all very carefully tended, cultivated and sprayed to rid the fields of any errant ‘weed’ or potentially troublesome critter.

Still.  Being out in the countryside, I expected to see more bees, not less.  The realization left a rather familiar knot of unease in the pit of my stomach that has slowly morphed into full-fledged fear in the intervening hours.  Fear for the uncertainty of the future in the least. But also,  more fear for the certainty of the future without adequate pollinators.  Would I spend my Golden Years up a ladder pollinating my apple tree like some folks in China are forced to do?  Gosh I hope not.  Not only for my own sake but for the sake of the planet.

I’ve seen lots of press lately about the plight of the honeybees.  Honeybees are not native to America.  Someone, somewhere along the line brought some over the sea and started keeping them here where they either escaped into the wild and did what bees are meant to do, or were set free to do so on their own.  Honeybees have become a multi-billion dollar impact on our economy through food crop pollination.  Something like 70% of our food is pollinated by bees or their kin.

A world without bees is unthinkable.  It could mean famine on a massive scale.  It’s the stuff of nightmares.

I wanted this blog to be a call to action.  I wanted to rile someone up and make them want to do something about the bees.  The trouble is I’m having difficulty figuring out exactly what it is I could do myself.  The reasons cited for the disappearance of our bees are many and varied although most agree that pesticide use is at the bottom of it all.

So, there it is.  It’s come down to this:  this woman who has had a phobia about bees all her life is contemplating starting an apiary of her very own.

Do me a favor?  Grow your food organically. Or buy organic food at the market.  Let’s work together to make conventional farming less profitable. Let's make using pesticides of any kind less attractive to farmers.  Maybe then we can make a difference.  

Or we can learn how to pollinate apple trees with cotton swabs.  It's really our choice.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Planting is Done! I think....

Finally we have stable, reasonably warm weather.  What an odd spring!  I've been remiss in taking photos the last few weeks.  Life got busy.  I was out and about on vacation last week, so my pictures are more like this:

and this:

than this:

But here's an update on the garden goings-on.

  • The potatoes are officially dead.  I took the soil from the pots they were in and mixed it with peat moss and vermiculite and used it to fill my new...
  • Asparagus bed.  I may have mentioned my extreme love for asparagus before.  I planted 30 asparagus plants.  Pics as soon as the 15 I'm expecting to sprout show up.
  • The radishes and spinach have come and gone.  Tasty and wonderful!
  • The peas have finally flowered and I have a few tiny little pods forming.  Only about half the pea seeds I planted have sprouted so the harvest will be small.  It's okay, though.  They rarely make it to the kitchen anyway.
  • I'm impressed with the Brussels sprouts plants!  I gotta get some pics of those, too.  They are growing like crazy.  I guess the cool, damp weather is perfect for them.
  • The onions are also doing really, really well.
  • The new plantings include cucumbers, tiny pumpkins, zucchini, winter squash and yellow wax beans.
Lots more has happened and I'll get to it in time.  Right now, my bed is calling.  I'm still adjusting to getting up for work in the morning after my vacation.  It's painful.

But all is well.