Sunday, January 8, 2017

Out of Hand

In my experience, January is the time when gardens are most likely to get out of hand.  Not June when the weeds grow faster than the vegetables or August when everything needs to be watered at once.  It's January.  Which is why it is best to make your future gardening plans in August when you have months of gardening under your belt and you might just be a bit more realistic about watering and pests and the size of the harvest.

So I make my detailed plan and if I want to alter it I save the "realistic" plan first so I can go back to it for a reality check.

All through the year I pin things I want or need so I don't forget that I need more earth staples and wire cloches and order more cucumber grids instead.  It also gives me a good reference to go back to files of previous years to see which varieties worked and where I got them.

Strawberry Blonde Marigold
Seed catalogs are flooding in.  I keep a stack by my bed to grow dreams on.  I begin marking varieties I've never heard of in catalogs I've never ordered from.  It takes time to consolidate into reasonable orders so you aren't ordering just one or two things from each supplier.  That's not postally efficient.

 You have to work the system.  For instance, Burpee is having a free shipping on $20 sale, so I ordered $20 of peas and beans knowing that when my order arrives it will have a coupon to use on a $50 order and then I and then I can get my pepper seeds and frivolous things like sunflowers.  And I try not to order Strawberry Blonde Marigolds just to see if they really look like that.  I don't need peach shades of marigolds.  I need yellow and orange ones... but the strawberry ones look so unique....

As the bitter winter wind blows outside my window and my garden beds sleep under mounds of soft snow, I flip through photos of warm, barefoot summer days with lush foliage and tidy rows and I lose all sense of perspective.

I think fondly of warm Saturday mornings with the sun on the rise and the dew fresh and clean on perfect leaves and I lose all control.

I remember picking bushels of fresh lettuce and baskets of peas and I dream of acres of plants and a harvest that will feed a small army.

I remember fondly the sweltering heat of summer and pickle day.

Pickle Day 2011
And these are the things that lead to over planning.  Before I know it I'm making lists of things like winter squash and fennel and artichokes.  None of which I eat or have room for.  I get wild ideas about growing enough pumpkins to line the length of the driveway or Indian corn or pop corn.  I begin to think it would be wise to have a medicinal herb garden.

The Jungle Garden 2008
Yes this is how gardens get out of hand.  It's January that does it.  It's probably best just to forget about gardening until March and then surprise yourself with the orderly lists you made last August.  And stay out of the seed catalogs!

Monday, December 26, 2016


Since the two comments I received on the Christmas decorating blog mentioned the Ball Jar Winterscapes, I thought I would share some of my inspiration from Pinterest.
Winter is not yet over, so we can still celebrate with winterscapes (I leave mine out for a month or two) and if you want to do something like this next year you have a whole year to collect the right kind of glassware to work with.  You may even find some great village decor (trees and lamp posts) on sale right now.

All shapes and sizes, upside down, right side up.

Big and Little



Lamp posts and animals

Mayonaise jars

Cookie Jars

I love this one!
Putz houses

Salt Shakers


Simple or Elaborate

Just a couple of tips to leave you with.  I used epsom salts for snow.  Collections of 3 similar jars look great.  Tie some ribbon or even just twine, around the neck of the jar.  Display them in front of a sunny window.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Longest Night of the Year

Tonight is the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice, where we have to rely on the greenery and lights we've brought into the house to remind us that spring will come and we can get back to our favorite outdoor pursuit:  gardening.

I love decorating for Christmas.  When I get an area decorated to perfection, I take all kinds of photos and make a bunch of lists and notes so I can duplicate it exactly next year.  Well after a few years, that get's boring.  So every year I try do do something a little bit different but at the same time avoid having to buy all new decorations or giving up my old favorites.  They may stay in the attic a few years in a row but I'm not parting with them!  There is a lot of money invested there.  And you know the biggest bane of Christmas decorators? Unwanted artificial trees.  They're expensive to buy and impossible to get rid of!  Unless you want to throw a winter garage sale.

The Christmas Tree 2015
Straw and Burlap.  Paper poinsettias.  Bleached pine cones.
This year I've revamped my storage system.  Instead of storing by room, I'm storing by color and type so I don't have to pull from three boxes for every new idea.  I'm also ditching as many of the deep tubs as I can because three under the bed size boxes take up the same amount of room as one deep tub, but you don't have to dig through two layers of empty packaging to get to the spare bulbs hiding at the bottom.  Shallow boxes are also easier to move around.

The Christmas Tree 2016
Stage 1
This year the big change is the Christmas Tree.  Instead of gold tones and natural decorations of blown out eggs, bleached pine cones, burlap and straw snowflakes befitting a gardener, it turned out contemporary, deep red and glittery.  That was sort of a surprise and not what I had planned, but I went with it.  

My husband has been frustrated with these two nice artificial Christmas trees we have been storing for years.  Especially since one of them was just too large to fit in this little house anymore without completely removing at least one piece of furniture. However, his mother's skinny little apartment sized tree is easy to tuck into a corner.  So on Thanksgiving morning he came hauling the big box in from the garage along with all the red decorations that went on it and soon I was hunting through all of my decor looking for anything red.  Glass bead garlands, red jingle bells, berries and velvet poinsettias.

With a natural tree, the beauty of it is the tree itself, and it shouldn't be covered up with too many embellishments.  But artificial trees - those are for holding ornaments.  The current style is to cover the poor thing up so you can barely tell there is a tree in there.  It is just a cone shaped mound of festivity.  I sort of split the difference.  But there is not much room for any more decorations.

All of the ornaments are the same shade of red with gold accents. I began to enjoy the glitteriness of it and rummaged through attic boxes to add snowflakes and icicles. The cat was excited to have a bush to hide under here in the house in the middle of winter.   She misses going out to the garden and watching the birds and the bugs.

So I picked up some little cardinals to put on the tree which she, of course, didn't notice but which made me ridiculously happy.

One of my Cardinals
Of course there are some old standby arrangements that I'm not tired of yet.

Nabisco Cracker Box with
burlap poinsettias, vintage sleigh bells, RR Lantern

My kitchen plate rack always has cranberries and this year
 I added dried orange slices with star anise centers
Kitchen Centerpiece
A friend of ours gave Tim a Christmas village service station (because he collects vintage gas station stuff). I haven't put it out for a few years because I don't have a Christmas village so I had merely set it out on a sheet of cotton and I wasn't satisfied with that. So this year I created a base on a tray for it with a gravel drive and a retaining wall and sprinkled snow everywhere which just looks so much better.

Christmas village service station
Mason Jar winterscapes

Tin Steamers full of cinnamon pine cones

Side Porch
Well that's it.  That is my Christmas house tour.
 Merry Christmas from our home to yours.
Next week the mail contents will change from sale catalogs and greeting cards to seed catalogs!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Greens Day

The gathering of holiday greens each year can be a bit of a hassle.  Despite promises to the contrary I have not yet planted any boxwood or holly here for this purpose.  And you cannot make much of an arrangement with all white pine or all spruce, both of which I can scrounge.  I even have some yellow juniper.  But no holly, and little variety.  So, this year, after ordering a box of fresh holly from an eBay seller, I began driving around with a pair of pruners and a plastic bag.

The gas station bordering my office parking lot has a couple of red pines behind it and they have very long course needles.  There are some small scotch pines in the ditch right around the corner here.  And then I was at Wegman's grocery looking through their cut greens when I met my friend Mickey who has a small greenhouse and produce stand.  I confessed to her that I was walking around town with pruning shears in my pocket and she said "oh just go out to the farm.  I cut a Colorado spruce tree for wreaths and I'm done with it.  The butt is laying on the lawn.  Take all you want."
So I ended up with three pine varieties and two spruce varieties, juniper and the mail-order American holly that is loaded with berries.

Over the past few weeks I had staged all the boxes and bowls, equipped them with the necessary oasis or foam blocks, and chosen which set of candles for each arrangement.  I'm telling you, they haven't come up with too many Christmas decorating inventions that can top remote control LED candles!  The funny part is that we discovered last year that every time Tim changes the TV channel, a set of candles turns on or off.

The fake rose hips above, I bought when the autumn florals were on clearance.  I prefer the more muted colors to the standard Christmas red or gold.  Not that I'm short on those.  I brought them in, stuck them in that cream can and I decided I liked it so much just the way it was that I was going to have to use something else for my centerpiece.  I did pull a few berry clumps off the wire stems but refuse to cut the bunches up as planned.  I'll have to remember to watch for more next year,

This year I have a thing for tin.  And I've always liked graters,  This little assortment is actually my favorite ensemble this year.  I have some LED tapers ordered that will fit inside them,  The base is the screen from a cheese mold.  The other part of the cheese mold is holding walnuts

Of course you don't have to use greens everywhere.  Sometimes pine cones do fine on their own,  These tin steamers dress up for the holidays every year.

This Jelke Oleomargarine crate from the 20s was here at this house when I moved in.  It usually stays in the garden shed doing dirty work, but this year I washed and oiled it and brought it in the house.

And of course, the Nabisco cracker box.  This box got fake spruce and juniper limbs that are so realistic I have to look twice to see which I'm using.  Assembling boxes of mixed greens is a surprising amount of work and I feel a bit mangled.  I am not done of course.  I have orange slices drying in the oven and cranberries to string.  And I do have a very nice assortment of greens left but I promised Tim that while I am not completely done decorating, I will refrain from jumping up in the middle of dinner to rearrange something.  For tonight anyway.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Lettuce is Still Going

We have had several night in the mid-20s but the lettuce is still surviving.  
It is not growing anymore so I am cutting entire plants.

Sunday we had our last round with the oak leaves.  The ones in the lawn will blow away by spring but the ones caught up in the garden fence refuse to move along and must be forcibly removed

And we're clean as a whistle again