Root Vegetables: Beets, Turnips, Carrots

dirt on my face, family, garden, gardening tips

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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

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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!)

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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.

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Stole this photo from Sister’s phone.

Turnips, turnips, turnips.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

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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?

 

 

Mish-Mash Catch Up

dirt on my face, garden, gardening tips, mish mash, photography, small town life

So, where did I leave off in recounting my garden exploits? This past week has been so busy with actually getting plants in the ground and trying to beat the impending four-day rain storms that I am pretty far behind. Here is what we have covered thus far:

  • Tilling the ground
  • A promised post about rototilling which I can sum up briefly like this: it’s like walking a giant, huge, slobbering dog that likes to throw rocks at you and is pulling at his leash for about three straight hours. It made me feel ACCOMPLISHED.
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Work gloves! Machinery! Ahh!

  • Hey, I started Pilates last week! It was hard! Apparently, I have something called a “core”?
  • This blog is nothing but a meandering stream-of-consciousness, isn’t it? Ah, well.
  • Fence posts and fencing. Update: Claire and I finished putting up the last “wall” of fencing and tidying it up, then a few days later I decided we needed another fence post and we used our newly-created post-hole digging skills to knock it out of the park. Also: ow. See above: “having a core”
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In preparing the soil, we removed approx. 7 tons loads of rocks. Insert emoji with the nervous smile and a lot of teeth that looks kind of like a grimace and kind of like it’s wearing braces.

After all that, I decided it was time to learn about soil additives. Now, that is a thing that really intimidates me about gardening because it involves words I haven’t heard since high school Chemistry and I didn’t really understand what they meant then, either.* In fact, the morning on which I said, “I need to learn about soil additives!” was also the morning that I woke up, brushed my teeth, went downstairs, poured a coffee, had something to eat, sat on the sofa, opened a crossword book, and then Claire woke me up three hours later.

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Yup, there is dirt on my face in this picture, too. Do you sense a theme?

Okay.

I am talking, of course, about:

  • nitrogen
  • phosphate
  • fish emulsion (?)
  • potassium
  • and other things

assume the correct way to get potassium in the ground is to mash up bananas and go scatter them around?

As we have previously discussed, gardeners are so excited and happy to share advice. One nice lady, after filling me in on why the local bagel cafe is now CLOSED*** also offered me the advice that Neptune’s Harvest Fish Oil was the way forward if I wanted the best plants ever. Obviously, I promptly bought it on Amazon. (Related tangent: In this best of countries, you can order ANYTHING on Amazon and it is delivered within 2 days for free!! Anything! Milky spore powder to kill grubs**** or a book on how to paint flowers or an entire bag of worm castings, which is a nice way to say the refuse that worms leave behind after gorging themselves on organic material.) (Which brings me to my next point.)

Worm leavings.

Evidently, they are magic for your garden.

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Yes, I have a gardening blog. Interested?

Anyway, this post is kind of not that useful for anyone else trying to figure this stuff out, because I have not figured it out. I am confused about fertilizer, also about worm castings, also about milky spore powder. In the end, I just used…a little bit of everything that was not a very harmful chemical substance.*****

And then there is the question of mulching, which I also don’t understand. It turns out that gardening involves a lot more than just sticking some seeds in the ground. And yet, it also mostly involves sticking some seeds in the ground and letting the rain and the sun do most of the work. It is a beautiful mystery.

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Back yard majesty.

Other mish-mash catch up:

Remember that fun game I invented about finding a home for the worms instead of mangling them until they are “beeding” is still super fun for the toddlers in my life.

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This girl loves worms.

And speaking of the toddlers in my life, this illustrated epic story tells the tale of a girl who held onto a rainbow even as a ‘rupting volcano shot rocks at her.

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And that is all for today’s post…not because I have run out of words, but because the country internet is so slow I can’t possibly stand to sit here another moment! Until next time!

* Nitrogen, for example. Yeah, yeah, it’s an “element” but what does it mean when one thing leaches nitrogen out of the soil, and another thing puts nitrogen in the soil, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out and FISH EMULSION is the way forward, a Knowledgeable and Wise Old Gardener at the Garden Center** wrinkles her nose at you and volunteers the information that she would never add nitrogen to her garden.

** Otherwise known as a KWOGGC

*** TAX EVASION, GUYS! CARBOHYDRATE-RELATED TAX EVASION!

**** I DON’T EVEN KNOW

***** How many asterisks are too many asterisks? But what this footnote is really about is that Sister and I went to the store to buy grub killer because grubs are bad, but all the grub killers said things like, “THIS KILLS GRUBS AND 150 OTHER CREATURES” and we looked at each other and thought, “How is that not going to kill us?” so the grubs stay for now. Until I figure out what milky spore powder is.

Picking Out Plants & the Mortgage Lifter

family, friends, friendship, garden, gardening tips, personal essay, personal growth, small town life
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AHHHHHHHHHH IT IS TOO BEAUTIFUL

Here is how last Saturday went:

 

I was trying to change my shoes while driving the car. That’s not the point of this story, though, it is just essential background information. Sister went into the local coffee roasting place* and when she came out, she had a free mug! So, I decided I would go in and get myself some organic dark-chocolate-covered cherries and a free mug of my own. I went inside and was glad to see the place had expanded and was full of people picking out coffees and nut butters.

But something felt weird.

I looked down.

And yes! I had two different shoes on!

Me: I have two different shoes on.

Lady behind the counter: You sure do!

Lady behind the counter: Would you like a free mug?

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Here is also how our Saturday went:

We were driving up to Target** and SUDDENLY it seemed there was a plastic bag floating up over the hood of the car.

Sister: Alex? Is that our headlight?

Me: Why yes Claire, I believe it is.

And INDEED IT WAS. So we bought duct tape and taped that sucker on, because we are nothing if not resourceful and also good at driving old cars.***

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Here is how our Saturday proceeded:

We went to Uncle Gee and Aunt T’s house and followed them over to the Country Caretaker, which is their favorite garden center. There are so many garden centers! I LOVE THEM ALL.

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I confessed total ignorance to the nice people that worked there and they helped me out by talking about different kinds of tomatoes. We bought: Grapettes, Beef Steak, Brandywine, and one called the Mortgage Lifter, so called because the guy who created this type of tomato apparently used the proceeds to pay off his mortgage! The garden center tomato person told me they will turn red, and then yellow, and then gold, and will be delicious. Can’t wait!!

We got some cucumber plants, peppers, flower seeds, snapdragons, arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, and yellow squash. I CANNOT WAIT TO EAT THEM.

Uncle Gee also lent us a bunch of garden implements and tools which have proven to be essential.

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Look! There’s no dirt on my face!

Following that, our Saturday continued thusly:

Sister and I went to what used to be a church and heard a solo piano concert by Ben Cosgrove, who composes beautiful instrumental pieces inspired by landscapes. It was an hour well spent. There were a few odd ducks there. And by “few” I mean everyone seemed to be wearing loose-fitting linen clothing? But the music! So, so beautiful. Here is a link, go listen to him and buy his new album:

https://bencosgrove.bandcamp.com/album/salt

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The plants are living here until the garden is ready. We figure if they’re up close to the house the deer will STAY AWAY FROM MY PLANTS, YOU HEAR ME, DEER?

Here is how our Saturday ended:

With a visit from Aunt K, who we were so happy to see, and a nice, fun chat in Aunt W’s living room, and a pizza. It was a good day.

*Whenever possible, I am trying not to go into stores. There are so many of them here. They are so full of THINGS and it’s overwhelming. The stores I like are Garden Centers, Produce Stands, and Hardware Stores. Those, I can handle. Everything else needs to get drones to drop things off at my front door.

** Hoo boy. There’s a place to send you into paroxysms of culture shock.

*** This seems like a good time to reference the little local news tidbit I read in the paper this week. It is called LIBERATE THE EARTH and involves a group called the Artichoke Dance Company. Here is the blurb: “There will be a Wearable Art/Costume Workshop on Friday, May 26 at 7pm…Participants will create beautiful wearable items from recycled plastic bags to serve as costumes for Saturday’s performance. Please bring plastic bags to the workshop.”****

****NO!

 

Fence Posts 

family, friends, friendship, garden, gardening tips, personal essay, personal growth, small town life, Uncategorized

I’m falling behind on my garden progress posts. But this morning it is RAINING and due to rototill-ing (coming to a post near you shortly!), I can’t move my arms, so I will catch up on my garden progress.

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Pre-Posts. Back when we thought there were only 10-13 rocks in the garden.

One thing is for sure: we could not be putting a garden in without friends and family helping us out! They’ve given us tools, time, and expertise, and I am so grateful for that.

The post holes that Bill helped us dig just weren’t deep enough, so I was trying to figure out a solution to the post hole problem, and it was looking like it would cost $150 to get someone to drill holes for us. No sooner did Cousin P hear about that than he sent me a text saying he’d be here the next morning to help us dig. Did he want me to rent an auger to make it easier? No. Apparently, we hadn’t earned the auger yet. Ha.

Actually, I just checked, and what he really said was:

Me: Maybe renting the auger is the way to go

Cousin P: Part of learning to dig holes is you have to dig several successfully before you are allowed to use an auger. Or you are a city person.

Obviously, being a city person is not an option. That is yet another post for yet another day. City people. Gross.

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Does this look like a city person to you?

Cousin P and A and their kids pulled in around 10 and by 12 we had fence posts in the ground! Wow, it is hard to dig post holes!! I kept thinking they were the requisite 27 inches deep, only to find out that they were closer to 18. Also: rocks. But that is another story.

The kids were so helpful 🙂 J, who is 4, brought his shovel and went to work immediately. R, who is 2, carried rocks back and forth, got totally covered in mud, and then took up temporary residence in a post hole.

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I love these kids!!

We also played a fun game called, “Alex, find this worm a home.” This was brought about due to the necessity of not having all the worms manhandled and bleeding to death*, so I told the kids the worms were homesick and we had to let them go home. “Going home” involved me digging a hole and J stomping on the dirt to really, really make sure the worms got home.

There were a lot of homesick worms out there.

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Not a city person.

Following our adventure of digging holes, Uncle M stopped by and he and Sister discussed lawn mowing, which is Sister’s favorite thing to do. He had to take it home with him, and take apart the carburetor** and put it back together. Sister says we could have done that if we knew what a carburetor was.

 

How right she is.

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All she wants to do is go mow the lawn.

Then we got to stapling up the six foot, vinyl-coated, really-heavy, galvanized steel, deer-proof fencing. (Did you know that we have so many deer here in Upstate New York that I see deer EVERY SINGLE DAY. And did you know that they carry TICKS which carry LYME DISEASE and that I had Lyme Disease when I was in fourth grade and I don’t want to have it again, people.) I WILL NOT HAVE DEER IN MY GARDEN. I WILL NOT.***

Okay, then we went and had bagels.

*BAGEL BREAK*

And then Sister saw a dead mouse and freaked out. And then we picked up a couple garden tools. And then we went to the local hardware store and got stakes for the tomatoes. All of this was to put off the inevitable: ROTOTILLING. It is hard work, people.

Look at me. That is the face of someone who is covered in dirt, and who takes her pet rototiller everywhere.

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Just me, a lot of dirt, and my Mantis.

Did you know gardening is really dirty work???

So, I rototilled and Sister mowed the front lawn, and then I ate pizza.

 

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Fried eggplant, artichoke hearts, tomatoes. AMERICA, I LOVE YOU.

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Intensive scrubbing took place shortly after this photo was taken.

Cousin P: How is garden project going?

Me (boastfully): I got blisters so it was authentic work. I had work gloves on. I used to have soft city hands.

Sister (scornfully): Now you have soft city hands with blisters.

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Yes, there is dirt on my face.

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*apparently giant, bleeding worms are interesting to two-year-olds 😉

**it took me seven tries to spell carburetor correctly

***I WILL NOT

Geraniums and Gravestones

family, personal essay, small town life, Uncategorized

In a freak accident, my spin-instructor aunt had her ankle bone broken in two spots about six weeks ago. It is appalling! Exactly the kind of thing I wouldn’t want to happen to ME. I assume, going forward, that it will be her Achilles Heel.

Anyway.

I have learned a couple things from her accident.

  • It would be easy to ask why it happened to her. It would be so easy to ask God why He didn’t just…stop it from happening. Why not move the lady that fell on her a couple inches to the right and PRESTO everyone is fine. Instead, my aunt’s attitude has been to try and find the good that has happened because of this accident, and to try and find where God has met her despite her circumstances. In the kindness of the staff at the hospital, in the visits from old friends, in the newfound pleasure in journaling, in the lack of pain.
  • I have also learned to stay away from women who seem to be physically unbalanced when on staircases in public venues.
  • Rest is critical when getting well. That kind of goes for anything.

Because of the big clunky boot she has on her leg now, her mobility is restricted for the time being. One of the results is that she can’t put flowers on her parents’ graves this Memorial Day, which is a thing she does every year. She just pulled into the driveway (I love that I live in a place where people pull into the driveway) (actually, her husband pulled into the driveway, as she has a broken ankle) and had a flat of geraniums on her lap. The cemetery is about 1/4 mile up the road and she asked if we’d put them in the ground later today when the drizzle stops and maybe the sun peeks out.

Of course. I’d love to. Do you know what a feeling it is for this transplanted geranium to be able to go do that? (I just called myself a geranium. Was it weird? It was, right? I won’t do it again. Maybe.)

It’s a really good feeling. It’s another one of the feelings that fills me up.

Later, IF THE DRIZZLE EVER STOPS DRIZZLING, Sister and I will go up to the cemetery and put the geraniums there in anticipation of Memorial Day on Monday. Someone from the VFW will come by and put a flag in the ground to mark my grandfather’s service on the Texas during the war. According to my aunt, some other people will make the rounds to make sure that the children and grandchildren have been appropriately respectful and have marked the graves with flowers and geraniums. Isn’t that funny?

Old Guy: “I noticed no one put geraniums on Harold’s plot this year.”

Old Guy’s Wife: “Well, his kids have been pretty busy. And that one daughter broke her ankle and can’t get around yet.”

Old Guy: “When I had two broken ankles and a bullet hole while snipers took aim at me, you didn’t see me not putting geraniums on the graves of my elders.”

Old Guy’s Wife: “Very true, dear. There’s really no excuse.”

Anyway, I’ll take a picture later and try not to be maudlin.

But it’s hard, because when you miss someone, there isn’t really anything you can do other than miss them, and wait for the feeling to pass.

 

Breaking Ground

friends, friendship, garden, gardening tips, personal essay, personal growth

The ground has been broken and that makes me happy!

I didn’t know what to expect when it came to getting the grass off the ground and the garden full of dirt. Options included the back-breaking pick-axe and shovel (sounded hard), hiring someone to rototill (sounded expensive), or finding a plow (sounded impossible).

Uncle G told us it would be easiest to find someone with a plow, though I don’t think he thought we could actually do it. Sister looked at me–I looked at Sister–and we knew that we knew someone who would have the answer.

So Sister texted Bill to ask if he knew anyone with a plow and he–being Bill–ended up in our yard the very next evening with a giant backhoe and a friend named Tom. They also bought a manual post-hole digger and an auger.

Earlier that day…

Me: Sister, we need to find something to dig holes with for fence posts

Sister: Like what?

Me: I don’t know. Google it?

Sister (after Googling): …is it…an auger?

Both of us: What IS an auger, anyway?

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This was in the driveway when we pulled in

Knowing that Bill was coming meant that I had to CHOOSE A LOCATION.

Look, on the best of days I might be able to make a decision quickly. On all other days, I find decision-making tough. I start to think, and over-think, and over-think the over-thinking and before you know it, a lot of time has passed and I have thought of many an eventuality–all increasingly farfetched–and have paralyzed myself. I worry about disappointing people, I worry mostly about making the WRONG choice, or somehow making a decision that is less than perfect. I have operated for a long time on the assumption that there is always one right choice and everything else is a mistake or wrong. I am working on changing that perspective, but Rome wasn’t built in a day (neither is this garden). I am working on thinking that if I put the garden in the back right corner where there is a little too much morning shade or the back left corner or on the side of the house or not…I am learning that there might not be ONE right answer.

Anyway.

I asked everyone for their thoughts because I was panicking a little bit.

I asked Aunt W and Uncle M, I asked their neighbor who I’d never met before, I asked Aunt S and Uncle G, I talked to Sister, Mom, Dad, Brother 1 and Brother 2, I asked Cousin A and and I asked and I asked and finally I arrived at a decision, which was mainly because there was a giant backhoe in the driveway when I got home. Ha.

I think part of this process is learning to trust my own judgment. Maybe my own decision making is just fine.

I am pretty happy with where the ground was broken.

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Onward:

  • We staked out a 15×20 foot plot
  • Bill brought the backhoe around to the side of the house and operated it like he does it every day of his life
  • The backhoe peeled the sod back kind of like an ice cream scoop and soft ice cream. It was so effortless.
  • Bill broke the sod up, patted it down, tore it apart, and scattered it. If Bill operated one of those toy-cranes at an arcade, I bet he’d get every stuffed animal in the case.

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Meanwhile, I continue to adjust to people who have a sense of humor. After more than a year in the Netherlands, where sarcasm is wasted, there has been more than one interaction like this:

Me: It was good to meet you, Tom. Thanks so much for coming over!

Tom: Actually, my name is William.

Me (flustered): Wait, seriously? That’s awful. I’m so sorry. I thought your name was Tom. Oh man. What a disaster. Unbelievable. This is so awkward. And Claire just asked me what your name was and I told her it was Tom. Oh gosh. Oh dear. Here, you know what? Take my wallet. Actually, just take the house.

Bill: His name is Tom. He was just joking.

Me: Oh.

As Bill operated the backhoe with a truly inspiring amount of dexterity, Tom chatted with me and Sister about his wife and how she died, how he came to know the Lord, and lots of little fun facts.

Tom: The round stones are called Cobbles. Or Cobs, if you’re in the stone business.

Me (points to big rock): Oh. What’s that one called?

Tom (looks at me out of the corner of his eye): That’s called a rock.

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Finally, they brought around the auger and got to work. First they thought they would drill 14 holes, but the auger is tough, and then it was 12 holes, but the auger is really tough, so then it was 10 holes.

Holes which ended up needing some work, but that’s a post for another day.

Basically, this particular experience taught me to continue to ask for help and also that everything is easier when you have community and some friends who are willing to hop on their backhoe with another buddy and drive it a few miles up the road and park it in your lawn and break up the sod for you.

I have also learned what an auger is.

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Sister jumping for joy