A whole ‘nother year

the sideyard with shed. It always looks extra cool in the snow. I’ve been wondering lately about the blog and my apparent abandonment of it. I like having it, at least in theory, as a sort of record of (a)musings about the garden. I just looked back at last year’s new years post and can say now with some certainty that my resolutions. as per usual, came to a fair amount of naught. But I like being able to look back on my intentions. It’s good to remember that I had intentions.

I have intentions this year too. Some of them are the very same. I still haven’t painted the shed. And I will. Probably. Sometime. I should. (I shed, even.) But I feel a shift this year to the front of the house. I don’t like what I see in front. Part of that is, when I walk or drive up to it, I see the house itself and it’s a “mid-century” ranch (I love that that’s the description given in the NY Times for ugly things built in the 50’s-60’s. “Mid-century” makes it seem so vintage-cool.), sheathed in white vinyl with red plastic shutters. So some of what’s got to change is a little beyond my ken. But we discovered a leak in the ol’ roof and since Z will have to take a week off in spring to re-roof, he agreed to also think about re-siding, starting with the front, around the same time. And I will think about paint colors if weathered shingles, à la Nantucket, are beyond our means. I’m leaning towards dark black-ish, but can anyone steer me in a more colorful direction?

As far as the front-yard garden goes, I intend to open it back up after having closed it with ginormous plants (remember the crazy-ass grass?). The Mimosa tree (which is, in fact, dead) will come down (hopefully soon) and I’ll make more garden in front that might include a sort of open area somewhere around the (tree) stump. I’m letting go of my front-porch desire. We just can’t do that yet. And I’m thinking of jumping on the veg bandwagon after all. The more I think about food, the more I want to grow it myself and if I do that – order seeds and everything (beets!) – the food will have to live cheek-by-jowl with the ornamentals, front and back.

It's not all black and whiteAs far as the blog goes, I’d like to keep doing it too. Part of my hang up is pictures. I love the pictures I take at work. I don’t always love the ones I take away from work and so I don’t post them. And then don’t post anything. Will it it be possible to have a garden blog without any pictures? Should I even attempt such a creature? I’m not sure yet. But it’s another whole year, I have a gin martini in my paw, and anything goes right now, so we’ll see. (And meanwhile we had snow, so I have some pictures.)

Are you giving everything an annual new year’s re-think too? Happy Happy, by the way! And thanks for keeping this little link on check list…

Comeuppance

I have to confess that in years past, whenever I read a blog or heard a story about someone who hadn’t yet planted bulbs before it snowed or was otherwise unpleasant and quite late, I felt a tiny bit smug – and a lot relieved – that I had managed to get my bulbs in earlier. (It wasn’t ever much earlier though and my tulips were usually thrown in quick pits at dusk right before a nor’ easter  or similarly soggy November weather event.) I’m not sure what happened this year but it seemed to come down forgetting that I even had bulbs to plant – mostly foster Allium ‘Hair’ from work, a handful of orphan King Alfred daffs and a found pocketful of October bridal-shower crocus in a coat I never wear. And last night, before we’ve even had a killing frost (what is up with the lateness of winter this year?), it snowed.

There’s nothing like the first wet snow to jazz this lazypants into action. Better-late-than-never I guess, today I finally threw cold uncoilable hoses into the shed with the last terracotta pots and porch chairs; harvested cabbage – miraculously non-rotten yet; and threw the bulbs, as usual, into quick pits. But like anyone else who has gone through this, I’ll just look forward to spring and chances are I’ll even get to feel slightly smug that plants grow despite my worst efforts.

Give it to me straight – how happy are you that you got your bulbs planted back when the weather was perfectly pleasant?

The fruits of my labor…

thornless blackberry in the frontgarden border…never taste as good to me as the fruits of someone else’s labor. I think there’s something sort of perverse about that. I have dutifully eaten a couple of my own tomatoes in the last week but am much more excited about the tomatoes we chose from the growers’ market. I also have an abundant crop of blackberries in the frontyard garden but remember the wild ones we picked at the cemetery last year tasting sweeter. Perhaps in the case of the blackberries, the wild ones in a dry year really were sweeter than my cultivated thornless variety in a wet year but with the tomatoes I think it has something to do with respect and pride. I have very little of either when it comes to the edibles under my jurisdiction and I’m working on figuring out why.

Everyone on the planet it seems is taking great pride in knowing exactly where their food comes from and is growing their own. According to the experts, nothing tastes better than something you’ve grown yourself. I suspect one of my issues might be that I know for certain that all I did was plunk a little something in the ground and move onto the next thing. Even the vegetables we grow at work are more appealing than my own because I at least witness the effort and love that goes into maintaining those plants. And professional local growers’ vegetables seem somehow miraculous and perfect too. My own seem like afterthoughts, wannabes and lucky guesses at best.

Rosa mutabilisThe professionals have obviously taken some trouble with their tomatoes to grow them (particularly this year), harvest them and bring them to market. I don’t take any trouble at all. It takes me all of 20 seconds to walk out the door and pluck a ripe tom from my surviving plant. I respect the market growers’ efforts but have no reason whatsoever to respect mine. On the other hand I take tremendous and overblown pride in some of my ornamental plants. These roses that I rescued from the compost heap at work haven’t ceased to amaze me and just like my tomatoes, I didn’t do anything more than plant them either. Ironically some of the ornamental plants I’m proud of are, in fact, vegetables…

Last night we ate Z’s mother’s soaked tomato salad (fresh tomato(es) cut into rounds and laid in a single layer in a shallow dish and drizzled with with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped raw garlic, basil – fresh or dried, oregano and Adobo seasoning and allowed to steep for a bit) and I was halfway through loving it as usual when Z mentioned that the tomato was from our garden. He seemed to take some pride in that and ate his share with gusto. I always think that food tastes better when it’s prepared with thought, love and care – by someone else – and I enjoyed the salad because Z made it. But maybe that’s just it with growing food too. I’ve always been willing and able to create something to look at (hell, I even have a degree or two in that) and take great pride in my successful efforts in visual loveliness even if I’m the only one that ever sees it. But food for me was never Art – and never particularly tasty – unless someone else made it. hmmmmmm… Food for thought! With my very own delicious blackberries for dessert.

blackberry perfection

Are you proud of the food you’ve grown? Is it the very tastiest? Or, like me, would you rather just look at it?

Garden to Table

-by Zeke-

The ocean breeze whistling through the naked shivering trees with the shrill note of winter, winding and twisting around me, searched out all the chinks in my well worn Carrhart armor. It whispered quietly in my ear with a deafening roar “YOU’VE GROWN SOFT OVER THE SUMMER”.  It is of course correct, but that like the weather will change. The sudden bitter cold makes the simple joy of bustling about the kitchen, next to an intoxicatingly warm stove, all the more delirious. Work boots swapped for the soft caress of slippers, tool apron packed away in favor of its culinary cousin, dish towel slung over my shoulder, I attempt to dirty every dish in the kitchen.

Tonight’s dinner was a wonderful bouquet of home grown rootieness; rutabaga and carrots, beets, and beet greens. These were presented to me in their purest form, barely plucked from the earth’s nurturing embrace and plopped down all greens and roots and dirt spilling and cascading over my cutting board. This was what we had on hand, and me being too lazy to run out to the store, was what we ate.  Perhaps next time I’ll add in a little sauteed chicken with a garlic and wild mushroom pan sauce…

Now what pray tell is a rutabaga, you may well ask.  I did – I mean I know what it is when it’s sitting in front of me – but what is it really? Truth be told, it is a turnip.  A yellow turnip in fact, or Swedish turnip or “Neep” to the Scottish – nothing all that exotic but it’s definitely tasty.  And now that we know what it is let’s cook it.

veg for dinnerFirst up is the carrot and turnip smash.  Peel and chop the turnip (or rutabaga, if you are so lucky) and boil until just starting to soften, then add the chopped carrots. There is something in the taste a home grown carrot that cannot be quantified beyond the nostalgic kick in the rear of running pants-less through my mother’s garden with a carrot, greens still attached, clutched in my paw. It was the 70’s, we were hippies, don’t judge… But I digress.

Once all are nice and soft, drain and smash with a potato masher, add in butter, cream, and salt and pepper to taste. It makes a wonderfully tasty and colorful side. The beets are just as easy. Trim the greens and roots, scrub and rub down with oil, wrap them up individually in foil and pop in the oven at 350° until soft – about an hour, or two martinis, but who’s counting?  When cooked and cooled enough to handle, the skins should slough off easily.  Dice them into random sized chunks and mix with butter and fresh chopped dill, mm-mm.

The beet greens, which are not green at all: Take the nice crisp little ones that Jack Frost has not nipped and cut the stems into one inch chunks and saute in a little oil, then toss in the leaves that have been cut into 1/4 inch ribbons (or chiffonade for you cookie types).  Stir in fresh minced garlic and dried oregano and basil and cook until just wilted.  Serve topped with crumbled blue cheese – I found a tasty cheese from nearby Marion, Mass made with raw milk.  Wine paring: Something red I should think, or another martini.  Hey it’s the weekend, I don’t have to drive, stop looking at me like that. Besides I still have to make an apple pie for tomorrow, but that is a story for another day.    Z-

Promises

Magnolia stellata in budThere are still summer (and spring!) blooms in my garden which is really inappropriate for a mid-November Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (Thank you, Carol for hosting).  But what really excites me are the buds revealed on my newly naked star magnolia (Magnolia stellata).  This was the first thing I planted after my Z and I bought our house two years one year, 8 months ago* and like our kids (Nino and the kittens) it was a rescue.

The magnolia was offered to me by a co-worker whose parents moved into a new home and rather than keep this stellar shrub, they preferred to junk it and plant a Rose of Sharon instead, no lie.  (The horror!)  Z and I drove over to Portsmouth to check it out – it was a good 5′ tall, 4′ wide, beautifully shaped and fully budded; we dug it up; tortured it by driving it unwrapped over the Mt. Hope bridge; planted it in terrible soil with little amendment and I proceeded to half forget about it during a drought year.  The poor thing.  Last year’s buds were pathetic and few and I hated myself for being a terrible gardener/plant slayer.  I really thought it was a goner.  But it survived.  Bloomed even.  And now it’s entirely budded up in a promise of spring splendor and I couldn’t be more relieved.

Here is further evidence that plants are forgiving of a lazy gardener:

opportunistic Tassel flower (Emilia) in a driveway cracksometimes Forsythia blooms again in the fallPurple love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis) - blooming when it should and going bya lonesome scuttle of peppers ('Fish' I believe)Salvia leucantha and protected Profusion zinnias

By sending this GBBD post off to May Dreams Gardens, I am also making a sort of promise to keep writing about my own garden.  And that means I’ll have to keep gardening (as if I could ever not have a garden) and maybe even follow through with all the promises I made to myself about the garden when we bought this place.  Do you find that blogging about your garden helps you keep your promises?

*time flies but not always as fast as it feels…  Hey, maybe I am still 28!