Saturday, August 14, 2010

We Would Starve

My head is hung in shame.
My heart aches.
My thumb, once green, is withering on the vine.
Who am I?
Where did I stray?
Look away! I am not the farmer I hoped to be.

Yes, the four tomato plants are toppling over with lush, green, leafy branches, but alas, we have enjoyed five tomatoes this season. Five!? And four of them were the tiny yellow, pear tomatoes. Hardly a mouthful.

I was going to try canning. Ha!

I was going to make sauces, salsas, ketchup, pizzas, sundried tomatoes, tomato soup! I was going to share tomatoes with you, and you.


The beds were amended. I have added organic fertilizer. I hand plucked the aphids and caterpillars. I hand water, talking to the cucumbers, carrots, and beans with loving kindness, growing persuasion. Maybe I should shut up.

Not one pepper. Barely enough basil for two pesto dinners. An anemic sage.

We love Baba Ghanoush so we planted our first eggplants. They are tall, they flower... they will never satisfy our Baba Ghanoush appetite.

For all my tender, loving care, here is the fruit of my labors. I will be grateful if it grows and ripens, but honestly, this is the world's most expensive produce.

We enjoyed one single, solitary, delicious zucchini. The end.

Doesn't that seem impossible? Who ever plants zucchini and ends up with zero, zilch, nada? No endless platters of zucchini dishes, no bags full of giveaway zucchinis. No zucchini bread. No monster sized-overgrown-can't eat another-zucchini crisis. It's so sad.

No pictures of my stunted, withered, sorry zucchini plant. It's too pathetic.

I could cry.

This is a cucumber tragedy. It was sad enough that out of three plants, all my hopes were set on this one little fruit, who sadly will not be a crisp, cool, cuke. It is capoot.

The bees came. They buzz around still. The flowers on the bean vines see plenty of action, but I couldn't serve one plate of green beans. The corn is as high as an elephant's a gopher's eye.

I have kept some kind of garden since about 1977, when a friend and neighbor left me her seeds and cuttings. Genie. Of course my garden love goes back to all the beautiful gardens my mother kept. In a dozen or more homes, condos, apartments, I have tried to grow something. In pots, or barrels, in fields, along fences, in tight quarters, and wide beds... I have planted seeds. And I think of other people's gardens with awe and admiration... Grandma Nancy's flowers and veggies, her concord grapes, Grandma Eunice's geraniums, Abuela's lime tree, her fig tree, Anne's, Karen's, Janice's, Gary and Laura's garden. Time, passion, experience, reverence, books, love... it's all there.

The last six years have been my most challenging gardening years... no space at the TreeHouse, the careless Garage Mahal landlord, and so my eagerness to unleash all of my gardening dreams on this home have been quite potent and full bodied.

And because of all my garden love, garden experience, garden books, garden hopes, garden anticipation, it has been a bit embarrassing, kind of humbling, to finally have a decent opportunity at growing and harvesting, and come up with such sorry results. Even my smaller harvests of years ago, were satisfying and good. But five tomatoes, and three pumpkins are not measuring up to all my hopes, and expectations. Thank goodness we are not actually dependent on this harvest.


I have rarely, if ever, been able to plant more than two years in the same place, so every garden has been a new experience in soil, sun, and seasons. There is a definite disadvantage in this.

This summer has included a total of fourteen sunny days. Only fourteen. It is drizzling now. This is adding up to the greatest summer that never was. I cannot do much for that. Gardens need sun.

This is a new space, with new soil, and new atmospheric indicators to learn and adapt to. One bad growing season is a crushing disappointment, but so it goes, right? I think the beds will improve with more mulch and some help from chica sweepings (aka the "poop deck.") Certainly, we can hope next summer the sun comes out. For sure I would anticipate having a great cool season, when peas and lettuce will thrive, right?

What I am trying to say is: It can't be all my fault. I must have learned something about growing stuff. I have been successful in the past. And it's not that I ever bragged or considered myself a master gardener, but gee wiz... you know? I really would like to dispel my doubts and self disappointment. I would like to believe I wasn't fooling myself, posing as a capable gardener, only a wishful farmer.

That is all.
I return to contemplation.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Flora and Fun-a

Evidently Ikea napkins last through two flower power parties, and there's still enough for more! After Maria and I had our first flower making party, we knew we just had to share the fun.

The figs and napkins are abundant here at the Bird House.

Maria and I wiped down the big table outside, and put out our floral supplies.

Then she and I broke out a box of Trader Joe's pie crust, and some of their raspberry, and apricot jams. We are working on our technique, and the second batch was less explosive! Looks aside, cut out pie crust filled with jam = yummy treat. And as Maria noted, they were "very good for a flower party with ladies."

Of course gentlemen were more than welcome. But on this occasion we attracted only ladies... a fun bunch of artistic florist ladies. And may I add: Maria and I enjoyed this activity the first time, but shared with more friends, it was like a hundred times more awesome. We were laughing, and admiring, oohing and ahhing over every new variety and creation. And we kept getting wonderful ideas for where we should display our sweet skills and blossoms.

Suki created a garden bed's worth of blooms... all lovely and bodacious.

Every time someone tried a new color, or color combination, or cut, or size, we would get happy and excited all over again. Every variety was pretty and inspiring.

Inspiring glamorous humor, and whimsical play. Olivia made some of the smallest and most elaborate flowers. She's patient that way. But these big blooms beg to be worn like a hat. Sandy made flowers of every size, even orchids. I want to try my hand at the cut chrysanthemum she created.

We still have stacks of napkins! I bought only one package of each color...

Let's see... green, blue, burgundy, yellow, and white napkins for ten dollars +
laughter, creative play, friends, and flowers
Priceless pleasures

Yup, it all adds up.

Oh, but those mini pies didn't last as long as the napkins!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The News From Camp Bird House

Alternate title: Godzilla Rhymes With Vanilla
Katie is right!

And I had to wake Max up and ask him, "What are those two words you are always reminding me have no rhymes?"

And Max said, "Mmph wa, fernnmmph," and rolled over.

Then I nudged him, and said, "Max, what are those two words you are always reminding me have no rhymes?"

"Orange, and silver."

Why did I remember it as vanilla?
Vanilla ~ Godzilla ~ Manila ~ Gorilla ~ Chinchilla! duh

Alright Katie, what rhymes with silver?!

Our first night out was a success. Or, at least... it was fun. I don't think anyone was mosquito bitten, or cold, or harassed by wildlife, so that's pretty much a success.

I don't think anyone will ever call us "hard core" in regards to our camping style. We were in the backyard after all. And, yes, that is a memory foam mattress pad Geoff and I slept on, and I dragged about every other bedding comfort downstairs for the big night in nature. We never even bothered to build a fire, or roast anything on sticks. Instead, Geoff picked up pizza on his way home from work.

Was breakfast cooked on a camp stove?

No, not exactly. But I did make breakfast. It was delicious.

Now that we have acclimatized to our wilderness setting, tonight we will build a fire, and grill our dinner, and we'll track beasts through the woods, name the stars, and brush our teeth with creek water. We will be hard core.

Speaking of beasts... who remembers little Zoe? Yes, tiny, cute Zoe and this cocky-doodle-dude are the same bird.

I know he looks regal and statuesque in this picture, but he is quite small. He is a miniature rooster, all formed and able, but lacking a large aspect ratio. His crow is plenty large.

Here is Temple, one of the Polish sisters brothers. Temple towers over Zoltar. Temple and Zoltar chase each other, bump chests, and battle to be king of the dirt mound. Temple is bigger, but Zoltar is louder.

We don't know what to say about this.

If any of the Silkies are roosters, then the hens will be outnumbered. As it is we have one confirmed hen, Lady Betty, and we have three roosters, Zoltar, Temple, and Tesla, and we have three Silkies of unknown gender.

Puff. The world's most aptly named chica.
Puff, are you a hen?
Are you even a chicken?
Puff could be a free ranging dust bunny, a short beaked kiwi, or an escapee from some lab. Or all of the above.

Rois, thank you for asking about my apron. It is not vintage, but it is very special. It came to me from a dear blogging friend in Michigan. She is an amazing seamstress.

Miriam, that cupcake is so real it is unreal! A local bakery opened up shop in the nursery... imagine my dilemma as I shop for fertilizer and seeds and am confronted with the heavenly aroma of baking dainties and other confections. It is a dangerous retail zone. I have indulged the children's pleas only two or three times. Maria has never been able to eat an entire cupcake, and I think she takes more pleasure in choosing than actually consuming.

I am still tempted to have a tea party, and I suppose if I want pretty delectables, then I might have to visit that dangerous retail zone, since my own decorating skills are impaired. Sandy and Olivia are coming this afternoon for flower making fun. I cannot seem to resist the urge to add a little extra flare to the occasion

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Been Day Dreaming

Here I am. Daydreaming. It helps to put on lipstick, and wear pretty earrings when I want to have the very best of the fanciful daydreams.

Never mind what I "should" be doing.


I like to think of what I could be doing.

Maria and I invited two friends over for a little flower making session.

Wouldn't it be delightful if we just called it a tea?
Then invite more friends?

We could suggest they dress in hats and gloves, wear flowers, tutus, swirly skirts, bow ties, top hats...

We could dress fancy, fanciful, whimsical, terrifically splendiferous. And then we could twirl, and say, "I am a teeny bit peckish, have you any cake?"

And we might have cake.
Or berries, or tiny sandwiches with delectables.

Should we?
Could we?
Life is so busy-busy.
Perhaps not.
Maybe we should keep things simple.


What Color is Ferris?

Loudest purr box.
Fastest dash out the kitchen door.
Caught a lizard, would not let go.
Energetic, affectionate, fearless cat.
Kitty cat.
Fast cat.
Chase his tail cat.
Stop for tuna cat.
Never seen him sleep cat.
Almost slept in Patricia's lap.
Keeps us all amused.
Nearly pink, can make a stink.
He's not really orange.
And did you know, there is no rhyme for orange, or vanilla?
He could be the color of vanilla swirled in cream.
Ferris, Max's birthday cat.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sending Love While We Play

Today is the eighth day, of the eighth month, and eighty-eight years ago, a very special woman was born. Today she is visiting Crater Lake, in Oregon.

We wish we were there with you Grandma E, because you are a lot of fun to be with.

She enjoys life, and appreciates even the simplest pleasures. Every year I think: We should have a big party for her, like when she turned eighty. And it makes me sad to realize that time is passing and I have not been passing enough of it in her company. But this day is too good to dwell on regrets, and Grandmother has taught me enough to know that love can reach the furthest places. So from here to there, this post, and all of our love, is for you Grandmother.

When I am happy, when I am enjoying simple pleasures, I feel my Grandmother's love, and it is wonderful. Yesterday was such a day, when I thought about Eunice, my grandmother, and knew she would enjoy the fun we were having.

Maria and I were invited by friends, Olivia, Sandy, and Myron to visit the goats, turkeys, chicken, and dog they are caring for.

Do you think I could resist?!
And yes, I wore my boots, and my cowgirl shirt with the roses. And I felt giddy with anticipation.

Maria and I were the only ones up Saturday morning. Which was totally worthwhile, because early rising farm girls get to milk goats!

After watching Olivia get Clarabelle started, Maria was ready to give it a try too. Without hesitating or protesting, Maria went right to work. And she was good at it!

I was so proud to hear Maria say, "I want to try everything you are doing, so I can learn." She paid close attention to Olivia, and never let any of the jobs, or pushy goats, intimidate her.

Maria and I have agreed to be farmers together when we grow up,, and as our own little farm grows, Maria reminds me, "We don't have to get bigger to be farmers, because we are farmers right now."

This is Maria's friend and FRC buddy, aka "the silly guy." Myron and Sandy gave us a complete farm tour. It was so much fun to see all the animals and spend the morning with them.

I love goats. I love her "love me" expression. She's waiting to be nuzzled and adored. Those ears! Those lips!

Everyone was careful to warn us about this one, Hazel. Hazel has been around. She's done having kids, and she's done putting up with any nonsense. She is a cranky goat, and she doesn't care who she bullies to get her point across. And she has a little chin hair. I have a little chin hair. Just one. It makes me cranky too.

I thought Hazel was on her best behavior. I appreciate that.

Maria paid close attention to how Olivia managed Hazel and all the goats, because she wants to help take care of them, and also, because she did not want to get "butlered."

Butler: verb to shove or strike with the head or horns, to come into conflict.

And even though she did get butlered a little bit, Maria never lost her nerve or interest.

Grandma, they make soap with the goat's milk. I haven't tried it, but I am curious. I bet that's something you and Mom could find in Oregon.

We taught Maria to stand strong, which works most of the time, and probably only with friendlier goats.

Then when Maria saw Olivia brushing Hazel, she wanted to try it too.

Who could feel cranky while getting their hair brushed, right Hazel?

Sandy and I put gardenias in Maria's hair. We visited the big heirloom turkeys, and saw hollyhocks, and green pumpkin on a trailing vine. And Maria held the pullet. A lone chica lving with two young turkeys.

Young turkeys are far more manageable than grown-up turkeys.

And here is Gus. He is a good boy, and carries a slobbery tennis ball... just in case you want to throw it for him, which Maria was happy to do.

So, Grandmother, we wish you a happy birthday, and we hope you enjoy a beautiful day. Take lots of pictures. Be sure to let everyone indulge you and pamper you. We send our love, our best thoughts, our fullest hugs.