Autumn Appreciation

photography

IMG_5341

I am going to do my best to dwell on the parts of autumn that I like because even though I COULD write a book a post on how little I care for the abbreviated evenings, the encroaching darkness, the leafless trees, and the cold temperatures, there are some things that are nice about this season.

IMG_5505

I mean, there must be, right?

IMG_5422

“Right?” she whispers quietly into a vast, echoing chamber. 

IMG_5170

  • The quality of the light, while greatly diminished in quantity, is quite beautiful in the fall. Right before the sun sets there is the most fantastic golden glow over the whole earth, and I have photos to prove it!

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

 

  • Okay, hunting season, I’m glad you’re there to cull the deer and to perhaps make Lyme disease slow its treacherous spreading. I mean yeah, you make it tough to go into the woods or take a step off the road, but thanks to you I now have a great story about encountering some guy on a trail who was holding the severed head of a deer in one hand as he walked toward me.

IMG_5637

  • Oh, and also that time we were on a walk in the woods and someone said hello and then we looked up and there was a camouflaged bow-hunter sitting high up in a tree watching us.

IMG_5414

  • Thanksgiving (PIE) gets its own bullet point not only for the truly delicious food (AND PIE) but because it was really nice to have Thanksgiving in a country that celebrates Thanksgiving. There’s a whole different atmosphere when the entire country gets a long weekend and everyone is hoarding unsalted butter and eggs. Also, I enjoyed having (almost) the whole extended family together again for the first time in many a year. (PIE.)
  • While it lasted, the fall foliage was spectacular. 

IMG_5570

IMG_5877

  • I found an abandoned paper wasp nest which is pretty cool. Did you know that wasps’ nests are built as the wasps chew wood pulp and, when it is mixed with their saliva, it forms a papery substance that they can build with? THAT IS SO COOL.

IMG_6375

  • I have seen some really beautiful wildlife around here now that the fields of corn have been cut and the leaves are gone. A few red-tailed hawks, some bucks with big antlers, and a couple of circling bald eagles high up in the sky.

IMG_6332

  • I’ve been filling up my gardening-void by taking cuttings of lots of houseplants from just about anyone who will give me cuttings. My room is now full of little pots full of snake plants, jade, and christmas cactus. Sister gave me a card earlier this year which said Crazy Cat Lady, but she crossed out the cat part and wrote in plants and I am okay with that. My desk is covered with foraged leaves, dried flowers, a wasp nest, a few picture frames, more leaves, an air plant, some acorns, and some seeds I’ve collected.

IMG_5539

  • The warm weather lasted longer than usual this year which ended up being really pleasant.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

  • I’m really quite grateful for long country walks. I’ve made so many beautiful discoveries along those walks, and the sun on my face and breezes around me just feel healthy and good. Since the sun sets pretty early these days, I’m making a concerted effort to get out and go for a walk or head to an exercise class every day. The activity really makes me feel good both mentally and physically and I don’t want to brag but I can keep up with at least half of one of the Zumba dances.

IMG_5782

  • Finally, I am grateful for having this home to return to, and the beauty of seeing seasons change gradually from one to another, and for having family here to share it with 🙂

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Tomato Love

dirt on my face, friends, friendship, garden, gardening tips, photography

My garden is a sad sight right now, and looking through these gorgeous, green pictures has me really missing summer.

IMG_2116 2

At the beginning of this gardening adventure, I took us through the six varieties of tomatoes that Sister and I planted in our garden. They were: grapettes, yellow pear tomatoes, the mortgage lifter, brandywine, beefsteak and Ruth’s Perfect variety.

IMG_1199

LOOK AT THE BABY TOMATO PLANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brandywine was our absolute favorite. It was basically everything a tomato should be: firm, tart, sweet, tomatoey. We bought that and our other favorite (the grapette) at the Country Caretaker in Canaan, NY. I tried to take note of where we bought different plants to see if there was any kind of longterm trend about their health and productivity. We started the tomatoes with a handful of worm castings and some Neptune Fish Emulsion oil. It stank, but maybe helped?

IMG_3510

Our yellow pear variety completely took over a whole corner of the garden. We ended up using five or six stakes to hold it up and it sprawled all over everything, which was unfortunate because it just wasn’t that good.

IMG_3528

The yellow pears were beautiful, but quite pithy and relatively flavorless. I’m not sure why, but am open to any suggestions about why that would happen so I can avoid it in the future.

IMG_2620 2

The beefsteaks were yummy but never got to the really massive size I expected of beefsteaks and it didn’t produce very much, either. In fact, when we needed a great big slicing tomato, we usually went to a local farm stand to get one. Garden Goal for next year is to find some really good, juicy slicing tomatoes that produce consistently throughout the summer. Of course, I was a little late getting the plants in this year, but we still should have had more of a yield.

IMG_2296 2

The grapettes performed spectacularly, however. In fact, they rarely made it back into the house. SO tart, juicy, and with just the right amount of bite to them. The plant stayed pretty small (probably because it was seriously overshadowed by the yellow pear vines) but still produced gorgeous little red grape-sized bunches of tomatoes. My mouth is watering…I miss them…and summer…and heat…

IMG_2691 2

If I’ve discovered something about gardening though, it is that it is about far more than food production. There is so much that goes into the whole endeavor. Research, preparation, and care. I loved to watch things go from little baby plants full of so much promise and potential; I liked to find out what was harming the plants and then do battle with the disease or insects; I liked to watch them ripen into the exact thing they were meant to be.

IMG_3301

I love the sensations of gardening. The heat, the dirt, the connection to the earth and the food. The velvety feel of the tomato leaves. The smell of them when crushed between thumb and forefinger. The horror of the wasp-infested tomato hornworm.

IMG_2692 2

And, more than anything else in the garden, I enjoyed eating the tomatoes. Here is my favorite way to eat them (if they make it into the house). Chop up cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell pepper and sprinkle with crumbled, soft feta cheese. It is the best and simplest salad, and I could eat it every single day (and sometimes I DO!).

IMG_2636 2

I’m excited to start seeds in a few months, it’ll be my first time starting them myself and I know it will entail a lot of research and notes and hope and I am looking forward to the whole process. Let me know what you think about the first little tomato patch I ever grew and if you have any tips about starting seeds or growing healthier, more productive tomato plants feel free to share them in the comments!

I think I can confidently say that this is the year I became a gardener. It is going to be an activity and a joy that stays with me throughout my life, I am quite sure, and I’m thankful for the friends and family and the plot of land and the seeds, advice, and tools that made it possible.

Also that the groundhogs stayed away. It was a miracle.

Kale, Kale, Kale, Kale. Kale, Kale, Kale, Kale. Kale, Kale, Kale, Kale, Kale Kale Kale Kale.

dirt on my face, garden, gardening tips, recipes

I wrote all those ‘kales’ to a song in my head. CAN YOU HEAR IT?

IMG_3508

 

So. Kale. It is a miracle plant. It produces, and produces, and produces. It is a produce producer. Get it? Because it is produce?

Yeah, yeah, forgive me…I’m tired guys. As I write this I am struggling through some epic Whole30 cravings and I don’t WANT ANY MORE KALE EVEN THOUGH IT IS GOOD FOR ME I WANT A BOWL OF CEREAL AND SOME ICE CREAM AND SOME PIE.

Last night before I went to sleep I found myself watching short videos on the Food Network because GLUTEN-Y FOOD!

I miss gluten.

And dairy.

And sugar.

And carbs.

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME, LET’S GET TO THE KALE.

IMG_1548

Kale has been a workhorse in our house this summer, and Sister and I have thoroughly enjoyed going out to the garden and snipping off leaves and filling literally bags and bags with our haul.

Yes, Claire, I know, I know. YOU’RE the one who goes out and harvests it. In a future post I should discuss how I love to dig, plant, weed, grow, and photograph the plants…but for some reason I lose interest right around the time they’re ready to be eaten? Hmm.

IMG_2701 2This is our favorite recipe, which is loosely based on one over at Epicurious, but is also different because it has evolved over time and also because of our laziness. Now, I don’t like things with sausage with few exceptions: one being my mom’s spaghetti sauce (HI MOM) and another being THIS RECIPE SO MAKE IT, OK?

  • Boil water. Add pasta to water. Preferably shells or something that can hold onto the sausagey/kaley/cheesey yumminess coming your way.
  • Buy Italian Sausage–remove from casings, break it up, and brown it in a pan
  • Add a little bit of chicken broth to that pan.
  • Chop up the kale FINELY (or else it gets too clumpy later); add it to the browning sausage.
  • Drain the pasta, setting aside some of the starchy pasta water.
  • When everything is cooked, stir it all together and then add more grated parmesan cheese than you think you could possibly need (I miss cheese), and then ADD MORE.
  • Add some of that starchy pasta water and stir over high heat for like…a minute…

It should be saucy, delicious, fragrant, kale-y, cheese-y, and mmmmmmmm the best meal of summer. We have made it at least once a week!

IMG_2700 2

AND FINALLY: there have been a lot of capital letters in this post and, frankly, you can and SHOULD read it as if I am yelling at you. Know why? No carbs or sugar have entered my body in a few days and I’m currently at the place where I’m kind of internally rage-y about that. Whole30 for the win!!

IMG_2702 2

Now, MAKE THIS RECIPE AND EAT IT AND LET ME KNOW HOW IT GOES.

🙂

IMG_3506

PS: the video below is of a caterpillar on a kale leaf, don’t say I didn’t warn you

 

Root Vegetables: Beets, Turnips, Carrots

dirt on my face, family, garden, gardening tips

IMG_3239

Am I the only one that pronounces veg-ed-i-buls in my head every time I write it?

No?

Oh, wait, yes?

Oh, you did say no. Okay.

MOVING RIGHT ALONG

IMG_3237

IMG_3240After the Zucchini Disaster of 2017 I decided to plant BEETS. They grew rapidly, and I hardly had time to take a picture before it was time to yank them out of the ground, let them sit for a while on the porch (because, again, I’m more willing in growing things than actuallyIMG_3268harvesting and eating them), let them sit out there a little longer, listen to my family nag me to go get the beets off of the porch and do something with them Alex, for crying out loud!, and then take them inside, peel them, roast them, cube them, cover them in feta cheese and asqueeze of orange juice (TRY IT! SO GOOD! WHOLE30 MEANS I MISS FETA CHEESE SO MUCH! FETA EMOJI IF THERE IS ONE, AND IF THERE ISN’T ONE THERE SHOULD BE!) eat them and then a few weeks later write a blog post about it and NOW YOU’RE HERE!

(Hmm. I feel like I might have covered everything in that sentence. I hope I can think of more things to add to this post. Oh wait, I never run out of things to say. ONWARD!)

IMG_3182

CARROTS

Brother T brought some heirloom seeds from Baker Creek. In fact, they were these seeds: the Cosmic Purple Carrot. They grew and they grew and they grew…one thing I have grown to appreciate about root veggies is that they are willing to wait for you to be ready for them. Lots of veggies are READY WHEN THEY’RE READY (tomatoes, squash, beans etc.), but the root veggies can hang around a little while until you’re ready to use them. These were a big success and we even boxed up a few and mailed them out to Brother T and Sister KT in Portland so they could experience the sweet purple and yellow carrots for themselves.

IMG_2584

Stole this photo from Sister’s phone.

Turnips, turnips, turnips.

I love turnips, but these didn’t go as well as I hoped.

IMG_2689 2

I planted the turnip seeds between rows of potatoes, then transplanted them because the potatoes took up way more room than I thought they would, they actually survived the transplant and they THRIVED* but then I didn’t realize it was time to pluck them out of the ground and they got too big and kind of bitter and sort of woody. According to Uncle Gee they would taste better if they grew in colder weather. According to my Mom they would taste better if we bought them at the store, peeled them, boiled them, smothered them in butter and salt and pepper.

According to my dad they would taste better if they didn’t exist.

IMG_2688 2

That being said, I will never cease to be amazed that I can put a tiny seed in the ground and it will grow into exactly what it is supposed to be, if given enough time and the right circumstances. It is truly a miracle.

IMG_2105 2

I also thought this would be a good time to display one of the only Zucchinis that survived the Zucchini Disaster of 2017 as well as the ONLY CUCUMBER I GOT BEFORE THE BUGS RUINED MY CHANCES OF CUCUMBER HAPPINESS!!!

IMG_2098 2

I will have to make a separate post for the potatoes but (spoiler) they were good. I also have a few posts languishing in the drafts folder about tomatoes, peppers, furniture refinishing, art, raspberries, more photos of riding horses, July 4 (I know.), climbing a mountain, climbing a different mountain, kale, flowers, waterfalls, Norman Rockwell, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., the county fair, peaches, and MISCELLANEOUS.

Huh. I’d better get busy.

 

*throve?

 

 

Something About Lettuce

dirt on my face, family, garden, gardening tips, humor

Hello!

I found this post in my drafts folder with a somewhat cryptic note from Past Alex which said, “ALEX TURN THIS INTO A STORY OF THE LETTUCE”

I don’t know what Past Alex wanted! I know that the following pictures were included in the draft:

1. Lettuce Seeds

IMG_0793

2. Torn Packet of Lettuce Seeds

IMG_0804

3. This photo of Claire watching Trevor hurl a tree branch into the field

IMG_0790

4. A selfie of me looking skeptical with Baby Garden making an appearance just over my right shoulder. Unsurprisingly, there appears to be some dirt on my face.

IMG_0802

Perhaps Past Alex is thinking, “I don’t really like lettuce. Will I eat this lettuce?” and I can confidently say no. I still don’t like lettuce and I didn’t really eat enough of it. Which brings us full circle and technically makes this a story about lettuce. There was a plot (a garden plot, get it?), and some conflict (will she eat the lettuce?) and some resolution (this sentence is ending now).

 

 

A Local Farm Tour, Some Thoughts on City People & Beautiful Summer

family, personal essay, photography, small town life

Recently, we met some lovely people who live nearby and they offered to take us on a tour of their farm, where they primarily raise chickens, sheep, and pigs. It was a gorgeous day, and I am always up for tramping around outside and taking pictures of things. There were also a lot of City People on the tour, and that brings me to today’s post, which is a lot of opining about the effects of CPs on our small town.

Oh, and a lot of pictures of chickens.

DSC_6992

We live in Columbia County which is a 2.5 hour drive north of New York City. For years, City People have been renting or buying weekend homes up in our bucolic locale so that they can attain rest and relaxation for their weary selves. Their presence is an ongoing joke to locals, who affectionately (or not…) refer to the transplants as “Citiots” and happily share stories about the bewildered Manhattanites.

DSC_6869

It is hard to describe to the uninitiated just how strange City People are. It will sound like I’m being unfair or cruel or hyperbolic. BUT NO, I am not! They are so often…so very…weird. Let’s look at some of the common threads that unite typical CPs.

  • They almost uniformly wear clothes that they think “people in the country” wear. Layers of breezy white linens, floppy sun hats, expensive fleece, chic Sperrys, and sandblasted pre-worn denim. People in the country do not wear those things.
  • Ditto with the cars. What we actually drive (I look out the window at the 2005 Saturn VUE with 170,000 miles on it) is very different from the Hummers and huge shiny Jeeps that appear on Friday afternoons as the Northward Migration begins.
  • They like to say that this area has a lot of “really cool people here now” by which statement they are in fact referring to themselves. They also like to talk about how the locals should move away, and I once heard a lady from the city say that we needed to “clear the swamp” of locals. Ouch.
  • They aren’t very nice. (See above.) Now, that is a blanket statement for sure, but on the whole it holds up. New Yorkers are famously brusque, and that attitude is exacerbated when they are walking up and down Main Street not smiling or saying hello to anyone at all.

DSC_6926

A common theory around these parts as to why they are so uniformly odd is that they have too much money and it makes them go a leeetle bit crazy. I think this is a pretty good theory. For example, there is a lovely old farmhouse down the road and it was restored to original condition. A movie producer from NYC pays many thousands of dollars a month in rent to be able to have a country home, and she comes up here from Manhattan roughly three weekends a year.

 

IMG_2831

We sometimes like to play a game called “CITY or LOCAL?” It is best played on Friday evenings at the local grocery store parking lot. It goes like this:

Me: How about that guy? *points to a well-dressed man in loafers getting into his shiny, expensive new Jeep with a bag of artisanal cheese and a baguette*

Everyone: CITY

Me: How about that guy? *points to two men walking into the store with a small, brand-name dog-suitcase-carrier perched below the shopping cart, from which interior a small dog peers out helplessly into the world*

Everyone: CITY

Me: How about that guy? *points to a guy standing next to a beat-up old minivan and getting changed in the parking lot*

Everyone: THAT’S JOE!

DSC_7012

Okay…they’re not all weird, but it is fun to point out the spectacularly weird ones when we see them traipsing down Main Street wrapped in linen and fleece with their little tourist maps pointing out the architectural details of what we know used to be a run-down store but is now a gourmet cheese store run by a lady from Brooklyn.

DSC_6874

Main Street used to be full of businesses owned by locals, and catering to locals. Now, there is a Yoga studio, the aforementioned artisanal cheese shop, four art galleries, a bespoke linen goods store, a craft-beer brewery and a couple antique stores. Instead of the locally-owned one-screen movie theater with its syrupy soda and three-month-old blockbusters, the theater is now city-owned and renovated and primarily shows extremely artistic Indie films.

None of those things are bad in and of themselves, but there is no getting away from the fact that they all cater to weekenders and the town has changed so much that it would be unrecognizable to my grandparents.

IMG_2808

One good thing the CP’s have brought with them is the money which has gone toward revitalizing certain areas. Rural America is struggling right now, but up here we have had this influx of wealthy Manhattanites who buy some acreage and try their hand at small-time farming; who bring delicious new foods or locally-roasted coffee; who invest in local businesses to make sure they stay open.

The farm we visited is one such place; financed by some out-of-towners and run by some very kind people who open the farm up to tourists on the weekends. We tagged along. It was an extremely beautiful day and the animals were on their best, photogenic behavior.

DSC_7024

There were City People, of course. And they were suitably garbed in many layers of fleece and linen and prepared to be wowed by the agricultural happenings of a small farm.

  • “Oh look! The cow is peeing!”
  • “Do you have thistle growing here?”
  • “Is that a road or a lake over there?”
  • “What do you do with the chickens when they get bigger? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU KILL THEM? MOM I AM GOING TO BE A VEGETARIAN.”
  • “Ooooh look, the cows are just bunched together!” <–grown man in his fifties.
IMG_2814

Sister reacts to the cows being “bunched together”

I had a conversation that went like this:

City Lady: “So where are you guys visiting from?”

Me: “We live here.”

CL: “Where? HERE? What do you mean?”

Me: “I mean we are from here. We live here. My family has lived here for about 200 years.”

CL: “Wow. So you’re a local?”

Me: “Yes. And you’re a City Person. And never the two shall meet.”

CL: *brushing back her linen dress which was billowing in the breeze* “What? Really? But if you come up here a lot and then you buy a home, then you become a local right?”

Me: “No.”

 

IMG_2813

Please note the layers of clothing in the background.

It’s complicated though, because on a deeper level, their presence in our county has provided a lot of industry and work for all kinds of local businesses. Plus, they have brought certain establishments of art and culture with them that add a lot to our little town. Not to mention…there are a lot more restaurants, cafes, and good coffee available now that there is a bigger and broader audience for those places.

Still. It is hard to see the size of the incoming school class shrink more and more every year. As property values skyrocket, the local population is pushed out into neighboring counties and areas because they simply can’t afford to live here anymore. As a result, the incoming class at my old high school this year is somewhere around 60 kids, while my graduating class hovered just above 100. So, it is fun to laugh and make jokes with other locals, but it’s also true that the fabric of our small town is in the process of completely changing.

IMG_2829

It’s also hard to escape the feeling that the influx of moneyed New Yorkers would very much like the locals to clear out so they can have this place to themselves. Except, obviously, the ones that buy them groceries, stock their pantries, and clean up when they go back to the city.

And, you know, it’s a strange state of affairs for me because I have spent so much time living elsewhere that when I come back it’s kind of nice to see new and more sophisticated offerings until the owners aren’t very friendly and you realize the repercussions on all the people you grew up with.

The place has changed, there’s no getting away from it. One thing that hasn’t changed? To me, it is the most beautiful place in the world, and it is Home.

DSC_6884

Who wouldn’t want to live here, right?

What Devastation Hath Been Wrought

dirt on my face, family, garden, humor, photography, Uncategorized

OH HELLO THERE

Anyone ever heard of an eggplant flea beetle? A squash bug? A tomato hornworm? Or how about powdery mildew or infectious plant diseases?

Reader, I had not.

A warning: grisly plant death and mutilation images ahead.

IMG_3179

A picture of Sister in front of our booming tomato plants and next to the towering sunflowers. This picture is not representative of this blog post, I am just lulling you into a false sense of security.

The garden is producing lots of wonderful things: colorful zinnias, tissue-paper-thin cosmos, meaty and delicious tomatoes, endless kale…but not all is well in Alex’s Garden.

I’d like to say I purposefully went organic…and it’s true that I am resistant to the idea of spraying everything in my garden with harmful pesticides (have you noticed that those words always go together? It’s a collocation!) and I have also been resistant to using things like Miracle-Gro. I’ve mostly fertilized with fish emulsion and worm castings and have occasionally branched out into diatomaceous earth and some bug spray.

But, like I said, while I would like to say that was an intentional move, it was partly intentional and partly just lazy. I kind of figured everything would be mostly ok! And you know…so far things have been mostly ok! But there are a few things that haven’t worked out and this post is all about them!

FIRST UP: SQUASH

“You can’t kill a squash plant.” –Everyone

My squash plants looked AMAZING. They were big and leafy and taking over half of the garden; there were vibrant yellow squash blossoms and miniature little zucchinis.

IMG_2091

Deceptive! It looks like the bush beans and zucchini are thriving here, but UNSEEN plagues infect and squash bugs plot angrily.

But then, one day, I noticed there were horrific little alien creatures all over my plants. They mated! They laid eggs! They mated again! To be honest, there was a lot of mating and a lot of egg-laying going on.

IMG_2090

Motel Squash Bug visible on left.

I looked them up in my garden books and identified them as SQUASH BUGS. The advice of the book was to spray with an organic insecticide (I did that), to handpick them and drown them in soapy water (EW I DID THAT TOO UGH), to remove the parts of the leaves with eggs on them (UGHHHHHHH YES I DID IT READER, I DID IT!).

But it was to no avail. The squash bugs–carrying disease and a strong proclivity for reproduction–killed my plants.

IMG_2291

Death lurks.

NEXT UP: EGGPLANT (or aubergine for the elegant and European among us)

The eggplant plants were attacked early on by the eggplant flea bug. It is a very, very tiny black insect that almost looks like a speck of dirt. They crawl all over and chew the leaves. I don’t know if I had almost no fruit because of those little guys or because the blossoms weren’t pollinated or maybe some kind of disease got to them.

One way or another, the leaves looked like this:

IMG_3138

And the plants looked like this:

IMG_3136

Notably fewer eggplants than expected.

AND THEN: BUSH BEANS

Honestly, I don’t even know what happened with the bush beans. They grew some bean pods and then…they never grew. They never got bigger or smaller or more alive or more dead; they just froze.

IMG_3130

The equivalent to this picture is like if you had a teenage daughter and when you took your wallet out and proudly showed pictures of her to your friends, they were like, “But she looks like a newborn baby.” And then you would be kind of defensive but also embarrassed and then resentful of your own embarrassment because she’s your daughter whether she grew past baby clothing sizes or not. 

AND THEN: CUCUMBERS!

Yes! My cucumbers have perished.

IMG_3132

A sad, sad sight.

There were cucumber beetles buzzing around for weeks, with their little yellow and black, dotted and striped jackets. They are a good-looking insect, and you can tell that it has gone to their heads. I hope none of them are reading this right now because the last thing they need is for their ego to be more inflated than it already is and to go swarm someone else’s sweet, tender cucumber vines.

They aren’t that harmful in and of themselves, but they carry disease, and probably they carried powdery mildew right into my blossoms and the cucumbers ended up looking like sick yellow globes. No me gusta.

FINALLY: THE TOMATOES

I’ve saved the most horrifying for last. Meet the tomato hornworm.

IMG_3146

HELP ME

What does this even become? GODZILLA?* 

You know what is worse than the tomato hornworm? A tomato hornworm that has been inhabited by a predator wasp which has laid eggs inside its body and then those eggs burrow out through the segments while feeding on the still-living hornworm until such time as they hatch.

IMG_3141

You’re like, “Alex, why are you subjecting me to these pictures?” And then I’m like, “JUST LOOK AT THEM. LOOK. LOOK. LOOK AT THEM RIGHT NOW. LOOK. please look.” And then I start sobbing.

IMG_3144

LOATHSOME CREATURE BE GONE FROM MY PRESENCE

This is what it’s like to find one of these bad boys…you’re like, wandering through your fairy-like enchanted wonderland of a vegetable garden, flitting here, flitting there–when–LO–your head is suddenly mere inches from a FOUR INCH LONG FAT CATERPILLAR WITH WASP EGGS DANGLING FROM ITS BODY.

!!!

!!!

This is what my garden book helpfully pointed out. It is noticeably less horrifying in illustrated form than it is in person.

IMG_3145

See how it says “don’t destroy cocoon-covered hormworms”?

HAHAHAHAHA. GOOD JOKE GARDEN BOOK.**

And that is a catalog of the garden disasters, such as they were. The rest of the garden is going GREAT and I need to get my act together and post some pictures of the beautiful peppers and tomatoes and carrots and beets and kale SO MUCH KALE!

Until next time!

 

*UPDATE: I JUST LOOKED IT UP AND IT TURNS INTO SOMETHING CALLED A HAWK MOTH. DO NOT CLICK ON THIS IF YOU ARE AFRAID OF MOTHS. 

**I destroyed them.

 

A Photo & A Conversation

family, friends, garden, humor, Uncategorized

 

SUMAHHHHHHHHHH

Dear Summer, never leave. Not ever. Not ever, ever.

Here is a photo of some watermelon and some blue skies and some red nails. Isn’t it nice? I love summer.

 

 

IMG_3123

You know what comes after summer?* Fall!

I also love fall** because the days are crisp and lovely and the leaves change spectacularly–especially around here, where we get “Peepers” who come to drive slowly down our country roads and point at the leaves.

Chrysanthemums are the flower of fall, and that brings me to what I really wanted to say here:

SCENE: Garden Center, surrounded by potted mums.

Sister (points to a pot of mums): Hey Alex, I thought you said those were chrysanthemums?

Me: They are.

Sister: But it says they’re mums.

Me: Look Claire, I don’t want to have to tell you what I’m about to tell you, but they’re the same–

Sister: –Never mind. Never mind. I just got it. We don’t need to discuss it.

Me: –thing.

 

 

*Summer, do not take this as permission for you to leave, thank you.

** But not enough to wish that summer would leave. Do not leave.

Swiss Chard

dirt on my face, family, garden, gardening tips

I spent a few minutes trying to come up with a pun for the title. “Let’s Re-Chard Our Batteries!” or “How to be Elegant and Chard-ing” but titling things has just never been my forte. (It’s just too chard.)

(Haha?)

Well, I haven’t been very good about updating the blog in the last two weeks. They have been full and good weeks, and I’ve taken a ton of pictures with the intention of posting, but then time slips away and days are busy and I just don’t feel like opening my laptop. Then there is this dumb perfectionist streak in me which likes to do things THE RIGHT WAY, and THE RIGHT WAY means I need to write all of the posts that I’ve been intending to write, RIGHT? And that makes me reluctant to start writing at all…

Sister told me to stop being a doofus (I paraphrase…) and just to write a post about what I did and I can catch up later, or not at all, and who cares, and stop being a perfectionist already. (I’M TRYING!)

So, I bring you Swiss Chard.

IMG_1963

You guys, the garden is looking good. It makes me so happy! There are little baby veggies cropping up now…tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers, and the littlest, cutest, tiniest eggplant. IT’S SMALLER THAN MY THUMB! I will take pictures and post them soon, I (almost) promise!

IMG_1982

The greens section is looking particularly good. We told my little cousin that we were growing salad ingredients and he looked at us with a serious face and asked, “Are you guys growing croutons, too?”

He’s 17, he should know better.

JUST KIDDING, he’s 4, and it was super-cute.

IMG_1970

Yesterday, Sister and I decided it was time to harvest some Swiss Chard! We planted both red and yellow varieties and we bought them as tiny seedlings from the Country Caretaker. They’ve done really well and are mercifully insect-free. I read that Chard is the one thing that is better to harvest by snapping the leaves off rather than cut them, so while I got other parts of dinner ready, Claire went out to the garden and snapped a bunch off. Aren’t they GORGEOUS? C. thinks I should paint them, and maybe I will.

IMG_1988

I was also excited because I received Nigel Slater’s cookbook “Tender” for Christmas, which is overflowing with recipes based on whatever was in season that he picked from his backyard veggie-patch and last night I got to pick veggies from my own backyard patch and get some inspiration from Mr. Slater.

IMG_1996

The book is fantastic. It combines stories of gardening and poetic prose and delicious recipes. I will also point out that I think these photos look pretty nice, but just be aware that I carefully cropped out the clutter on the table, the rickety back porch, the unglamorous photos of dunking the leaves in water to get the dirt off of them, the kitchen floor that needs to be swept, etc.

IMG_2001

We were running low on supplies, so I didn’t have everything needed to make any specific recipe, but I cooked the stems first and a bit longer as per his suggestion, and then added the leaves to the sauté pan.

IMG_2012

I heated up some leftover BBQ chicken by cutting it up and adding it to the pan in the hopes of having reheated chicken that wasn’t rubbery and dry and it worked! Added some baked potatoes and slathered them with butter and ricotta cheese.

IMG_2014

Sister made some fresh lemonade and added mint from the garden which was amazing. Dinner was garlicky, lemony, BBQ-y, and delicious.

IMG_2019

There is a lot more to write. We went to Tanglewood again, and the Shaker Museum, and on a hike up a mountain. We had a birthday party for Brother T with a lot of sprinkles, and we started taking tennis lessons, the fireflies are out, the Tiger Lilies have EXPLODED and they line every country road, the cornfields are getting tall and ripply, I went on an impromptu tour of the big farmhouse where my dad grew up and almost cried at seeing the rooms and spaces that I’ve heard so many stories about. The first Cosmo bloomed, Brother T thinks I should start an online store for watercolor prints, we went to a crazy July 4th parade, and our Pilates teacher has started doing REALLY HARD PRIVATE WORKOUT SESSIONS WITH SISTER AND I and at this very moment I am kind of struggling to type because my arms are so sore. 

PLUS, I’ve battled eggplant flea beetles and the super-horrifying Squash Bug.

And yeah, I should share some photos of all of those things, but for now here is Swiss Chard, and another moment of me chipping away at that rock-hard block of perfectionism at my core.

Have a lovely day, all of you. (And take a look at that homemade blueberry-raspberry pie Claire whipped up for the 4th! Mmm.)

Alex

IMG_1977

Garden Progress Report: A Photo Essay

garden, gardening tips, photography

We had some extremely hot, sunny days last week, followed by cool, rainy days. The garden has seemed to love it, and is absolutely bursting with new growth and tiny leaves and–yes–even some miraculous little green tomatoes. Be still, my heart!

I’ll just pop some photos up and keep the words to a minimum…

IMG_1078

Bad news first: SOMETHING HAS ATTACKED THE ZUCCHINI PLANTS. Three of them have been taken down by something that chews around the bottom of the stems, and I think the yellow squash is next…

 

IMG_1080

This is a row of lettuce, popping up in a gorgeous green line.

 

IMG_1081

A potato sprout. In the few days since I took this picture, the potato sprouts have gone wild!

 

IMG_1082

Itty-bitty turnip leaves.

 

IMG_1088

Heirloom carrots looking like tiny blades of grass.

 

IMG_1143

I think these are cosmos. We’ll have to wait and see…

 

IMG_1141

Lemon verbena, smells delicious.

 

IMG_1138

Little grapette tomatoes…

 

IMG_1122

The cucumber vines are starting to spread out.

 

IMG_1221

An eggplant blossom, looks like tissue paper and appeared out of the blue!

 

IMG_1170

My flowers are doing well, too. These are dahlias.

 

IMG_1199

All the tomato plants bar one have yellow blossoms appearing from nowhere and multiplying overnight.

 

IMG_1219

A bell pepper blossom and, below, the bell pepper plant:

IMG_1120