Friday, May 27, 2011

Okay, Sometimes Martha Has Some Good Ideas

Normally, I am not a Martha Stewart fan at all. She reminds me of a bossy older sibling with her insistence that she is sharing the "Perfect Way" to do everything, and her lists of daily and weekly cleaning tasks just make me laugh. But I do have to concede that she does have some good ideas once in a while. Like this:

Growing File - Martha Stewart Home & Garden

for keeping seeds organized and keeping track of what grows and what doesn't. Now in our 4th year of gardening, it finally occurred to me this year to pay attention to what types of plants I'm growing and whether or not they work. Apparently I've even gotten smart enough to not even ATTEMPT the traditional heirloom-tomato-that-sounds-fun-but-never-actually-gives-us-tomatoes experiment. I'm not saying I'm actually going to go running out there with index cards in hand because mine would be too filthy to read in about an hour, but I will admit that it might be helpful if I did..........

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

They're Back!

About a week ago, I found a small dark moth in the cupboard where we keep the coffee cups.  Being no moth expert, I couldn't tell for certain that it WAS a pantry moth (possibly because I smushed him too quickly), and if he was he was one of the dumber sort as he had moved into a cupboard containing glass and stoneware, so I washed up the moth guts and went on with my life.

Shortly thereafter, there was a small moth in the pantry.  Not in any food--just in the pantry.  Far more worrying, but I squashed him and checked all the containers yet again to make sure they were properly sealed.  This time a bit more unnerved but unable to find any further traces, I went on with life, but a bit more alert.

Yesterday, however, we unmistakably found two of the little demons.  No longer messing around, Andy squashed them both, we again checked everything in the pantry, replaced the old moth traps, and are now slightly loopy from the industrial moth killer Andy sprayed on the walls.

We are hoping that these guys are maybe ones that were in cocoon stage when we sprayed before, and maybe stayed in that stage all winter and are just now hatching, because otherwise we are at a complete loss.  EVERYTHING that goes into the pantry spends 5 days in the freezer first, and everything is in air-tight containers, and nothing shows any signs of worm babies.  Still, we are on high alert and are considering installing one of those pressurized airlock things outside the front door to screen anyone new entering our house.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Heaven Help Me, I Have Planted 18 Tomato Plants

In my defense, however, 9 are being "square foot gardened,"
which means one tomato plant is planted per square foot, and then I viciously trim them back enough that they can climb the wall of hog wire we'll put behind them.  While the square foot gardening guy has been doing this for almost as long as I've been alive, and it obviously works or else he wouldn't still be doing this, I just can't fathom this, so I have 9 plants that--even though I am sure he's not lying--I just can't really believe will produce many tomatoes.

We're also trying three Wall-of-Water tomatoes, and I took the W-O-Ws off two of them today, and they didn't look good
so I'm giving the third one another few days.  To fair, this scraggly looking thing does have flowers on it................but it also can't stand up without support.  So that's actually 12 plants that I'm unsure of, so really I might just have 6 tomato plants, which is far less than usual, so there is just the teensiest possibility that I will freak out about salsa shortages and go buy some tomato plants anyway.  Most of these are my own seedlings, and they've been enjoying regular backyard "outings" to get ready
though their pepper friends are probably going to wait until June to join them.  It might take me three years of killing peppers to learn such things, but even I will eventually notice that peppers need really warm nights to survive, and that typically isn't going to happen in May.

My buttercup squash seedling died, but the jug-greenhouse has worked really well for the zucchini

and since rogue cucumbers have been popping up, I decided it was time to free the zucchini before it outgrew the vinegar jug, and ta-da:
It's looking fabulous, and about how it would normally look in about late June?  I've never had good luck with transplanting any squash or cucumbers, but giving them a head-start with the jugs seems to work really well.  This guy has been on his own for a few days now, and is positively perky, so I think it's all good.  

We have the first sign of broccoli,
and everything else is pretty much just insane at this point:
About two weeks ago an elderly gent in the gardening section of Fred Meyer told me it was too early to be gardening yet, and I just didn't have the heart to tell him that we were already starting to harvest cooler crops, like the lettuces and spinach I planted on February 27:
I suppose as long as no one tells the plants it's too early, everything is good.  I suppose gardening is like anything--there are those who know very little but are willing to try anything (which, I think we can safely agree, is my method of gardening) and those who assume they know everything and won't try anything new.  And while I admit it's hard to get my mind around a whole new way of gardening,
it does seem to be working.  These are my new potato boxes Andy made this weekend.  According to the SFG book, you're supposed to dig way down in one square, plant 4 potatoes, then keep burying them as they grow.  I admit--this has been a real struggle for me, as 4 potatoes in one square foot seems quite insane to me, but he's been right on everything else, so I've decided to just have faith.  There's a tiny problem, in the fact that while I decided to believe him, I probably didn't believe that it would really work or that all the potatoes would sprout, so we have just a few more potato plants than would be reasonable, and....
they're all growing like weeds.  These have already been buried all the way back up to ground level, and are now filling their new boxes.  Every. Last. One.  Oops.  There's still no guarantee that all of them will produce as many potatoes as the plants we had two years ago did, so I have promised myself to not worry too much until we start seeing a few potatoes.  Or, perhaps, a truckload.

Speaking of problem plants,
remember me mentioning the mustard greens we were enjoying?  Since they sounded vaguely lettuce-like, I thought I'd plant them like Romaine--4 per square foot.  Well, they're nothing at all like Romaine.  We now have 4 very crowded monster plants, and they're flowering so we will be able to get mustard seeds from the darn things, but we're not exactly sure if they will continue to get even bigger.  Oops.  At least we still like the taste of the leaves....that's something. 

All 100 petunias are now planted: 
(including a lot that didn't get photographed), and the "vigorous reseeder,"
also known as Cosmos, are diligently trying to squeeze them out.  Now I like Cosmos, and had actually intended to plant them again, as they are quite lovely flowers, but last year by the end of the season, they had reached the top of this window:
 I'm pleased about the ones that came back in among the irises, since they can cover them up once they're done flowering, but they are determined to grow in the front of the flowerbed as well, and I am almost as determined to not be the first person in history to receive a complaint that my flowers have attacked the mailman, so they keep sprouting and I keep ripping them out.  It's a little game we play here. Along with "Which plant did Theo just dig up," "Where has the parsley moved to this year," and my personal favorite, "Whose stupid idea was it to plant mint in the first place?"

Ah, summer................

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's Not "Judgement Day" I'm Waiting For....

......It's the day the non-crazy Christians finally get fed up enough with all the errant nonsense floating around to set aside that whole "Brotherly Love" thing long enough to open a can of Whupass on the fringe-loonies giving them a bad name.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Things I Have Learned This Week

*  When Yahoo updates, I lose my calendar settings.  When Blogger updates, I lose my blog post complaining about the Yahoo updates.

*  A decorative thistle is still a thistle

*  Only an idiot tries to do all the spring planting in one day.

*  Just because a "flat" of petunias takes up about the same room that 20 petunia seedlings might take up, it does not therefore mean that a flat contains 20 petunias.  The number seems closer to 50.

*  100 petunias is a LOT of petunias.

*  100 petunias take up more space than one might think.

*  No matter how many times I verify it in the book, having 4 potato plants in one square foot is a bit frightening to me--especially now that the plants are growing at least an inch a day.

*  Strawberry plants can survive a lot of things, but apparently not my weeding attempts.

*  I'm less crabby about the moles eating our tulip bulbs now that the iris are starting to bloom

*  Finding out that a flower is a "heavy reseeder" before planting it might have been a bit more useful.

*  All directions on seed packets make plants sound fussy and hard to grow.  Even the ones that have started expanding and taking hostages.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dear Newly "Upgraded" Yahoo Mail:

Obviously, I now have your new version....mostly because you took away my old version.  I suppose it is now handy that I can see when I'm on line.  In case I ever decide to Instant Message myself, I'm sure this will be useful knowledge.  However, it might have been slightly more useful if you had kept my calendar settings, or notified me that you had changed them so my husband and I could no longer see each other's calendars.  Although, I must admit that in usual scheduling problems, at least one of us knows what is going on, so it was indeed a unique experience that neither of us had any clue.  I don't think we could have managed that without your help.  I suppose I should thank you for keeping our lives "interesting."

However, as summer is coming and lots and lots of garden bugs which will also be determined to make our lives interesting, perhaps you could just stop doing upgrades for a little while--at least until I relocate my contacts and my calendar.

With sincerest best wishes,


Friday, May 6, 2011

I'm Sure I'll Get Used To It......

...but right now my closet is looking like it was struck by some hideous Organizational Barbie.  Blame it on these:
which I found on clearance at Fred Meyer, because no one else wants a Barbie closet either. 

Note to self:  "frugality" might need to have some limits in the future............

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Whoo Hoo!

We can now harvest mustard greens, lettuce AND spinach!

And if we were trying to truly "live off the land," we'd be starving.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Back To Food History...

I haven't been writing about food research for a while, mostly because I'm up to the 1960s and 1970s in the 2 part Harvey Levenstein food history work, and it's complicated and sometimes downright weird.  On the one hand, Ralph Nader is making some justified attacks of the food industry, and some that were probably completely over-the-top.  On another hand, linked to the hippie movement are THE most bizarre food fads since pre-World War 1.  On yet another hand, the successful but completely manipulative method of attacking the messenger in order to taint the message was exploding, which to me is almost the most interesting part.  I had read another book that had attributed this technique to the tobacco industry and their fight to discredit all the reports that linked (quite correctly) smoking and lung cancer, but in the food wars, it seems to go back into the 1960s, and I thought the tobacco industry didn't start defending itself until the 1970s, but I could easily be wrong.  

I'm not sure what I had exactly expected to find when I started studying food history, but what I have discovered is that the history of American food is really the history of America itself.  It has everything:  racism, greed, optimism, idealism, complete quacks and loonies, patriotism, pomposity, humor, sensuality--in fact, the only thing I'd say it seems to be lacking is moderation and common sense.  No matter what time period I've studied, the wackier the claim, the more popular the diet.  The more outrageous the claim--especially if it was a claim that assigned blame for health problems to anyone BUT the individual behavior--the more likely it was to hang on even into today's climate.

This strikes a resounding note for me, because I spent three years working as the Director of the American Diabetes Association's Idaho office.  During that time, I was regularly assaulted by adherence of the Adkins diet (horrible diet in general and harmful if one has diabetes) and the Nutra-Sweet-causes-cancer brigade.  There were lots of other too, but those two were the regulars that could be counted on to badger me at every turn.  Adkins was almost always being hawked by a chiropractor who had read Adkin's book and felt qualified to dole out nutritional advice in spite of having no actual training in the subject whatsoever.  The Nutra-Sweet Brigade were 99.9999999% of the time affiliated with a "natural" nutritional substitute, and without fail their "proof" was a badly photocopied article written by an Asian doctor extolling all the studies done to prove that artificial sweeteners were almost guaranteed to cause cancer.  Now for one thing, if I am being given "facts" by someone with a financial interest in you being led to believe those facts, I am automatically highly suspicious.  For another, while I don't think artificial anything is actually good for us, there are currently almost 26 million Americans with diabetes.  You know who has been the most targeted market for artificial sweeteners ever since they came out?  People with diabetes.  Know what their increased rate of cancer is?  None.  Increased heart disease, depression, risk of death because of flu or pneumonia, and increased rates of stroke and heart attack.  26 million test subjects--I think they would have noticed an increased rate of cancer.  You can verify all this at the American Diabetes Association's website here:

So, the more I read, the more I wonder how much we really know about food.  The easy answers are so tempting--like in a recent article in a health magazine I was reading rated products that would add fiber to your diet.  I think the selling point of the things was that they were tasteless and so you wouldn't notice them.  And, by sheer coincidence I'm sure, the top-rated products also had placed advertisements in the magazine.  Gee, I wonder if there was a connection.......and in all honesty, I'll bet not a single one of them would work nearly as well as adding a little winter squash to one's diet.  But then again, I haven't heard of a winter squash lobby that can place ads................

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Shhh, Can You Hear All That Scrambling??

It's Fox News trying to make the death of Osama Bin Laden a negative for the Obama Administration.

Fall! Finally!

Even without extremely hot summers, I've always loved fall.  A little coolness in the air, leaves starting to turn, sweaters coming out-...