Friday, June 28, 2013

What's Not Growing!

Just as many things flourish in our garden, there are always those plants that don't seem to do well no matter what I do.  Here's a glimpse at what's NOT growing in our garden.


I'm not surprised, it never does well; it's never warm enough here, at least it's never warm enough at the end of May or during June when the beautiful, flush plants from the nursery lure me in.  But I always buy a plant (or three!) A part of me hopes this will be the year they will adapt and grow into the kinds of plants I can pick from all summer and into the fall, plants that have so many healthy leaves I can make jars of homemade pesto to freeze for the winter.

I remember a few years ago when I was in Mexico and the resort used basil as one of their landscaping plants. Talk about amazing; they were so big, two and three feet tall and wide that I don't think I would have recognized them except the scent was like a perfume in the humid air every time I walked by one.

I'll probably never have very successful basil, but I'm still okay with buying a few plants every year, especially if I get to use the lovely fragrant leaves in a recipe or two before the plants completely conk out.


This one vexes me as we live in a climate PERFECT for blueberries.  We bought four bushes almost four years ago.  At the time they were two-year old bushes so they were a good size.  I bought them for the fruit as well as the brilliant red foliage the leaves display in the fall.  We amended the soil to make sure there was plenty of acid and we planted a few different kinds so they could cross-pollinate.  Last year and this year something really odd has happened to them.  All these precious white blossoms bloom and fall off like they are supposed to, but in addition to the blossoms falling off, the little stems that hold the blossom, and would grow the fruit, also fall off.  

I did some research and the closest I can gather is that they maybe have a blossom blight and that there is nothing I can do for them; they are doomed! Jasper's face pretty much sums up how we feel about not picking blueberries from our own plants! Did I mention it's one of the few foods that boy actually eats?!


If someone walked by and saw my peonies they might think, what is wrong with that poor gardener, she can't even get peonies to bloom in a place where most people's peonies are overflowing, literally, falling over with huge gorgeous blooms!  Last year, from five plants, (three of which were already in the yard when we bought this house, and have never bloomed since we've lived here) I got one bloom.  I would have had three, but Jasper bent one off before it could bloom and Dizzy destroyed the other.  So last year I moved several of the plants, put in lots of compost and made sure they weren't planted too deep as per all the tips I read about peonies liking a bit of winter chill in order to bloom in the spring.  The only one that bloomed is the one that bloomed last year, and it only produced two precious deep purple pinkish blooms. I kept one for myself and gave one to my good friend and awesome gardener/flower whisperer, Ingrid.

I drive or walk by all these houses in our neighborhood with overflowing blossoms just drooping off neglected peony after neglected peony and I just want to cry, or go cut them off and steal them!


A friend gave us precious twenty-year old Rhubarb crowns about three years ago, what a gift!  Not only does Rhubarb also grow really well around here, but I love pairing rhubarb with strawberries in spring recipes. Delish!  My rhubarb has done nothing but struggle.  I keep giving it compost, I water it, and although it starts off strong, it barely manages to cling to life by the time June comes around.  We all know it's not the heat that's killing it!  But it almost looks burnt.  

I think I might try to move it this fall, as maybe the location is the problem.  Most people I know out here who have rhubarb don't have to do anything to it and they still grow these huge bush like rhubarb plants. I'm stumped!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Garden Updates

Despite all the hoodlums, the police and the middle schoolers who leave their cigarette butts along our front fence, AND the 54 degree temperatures and rain we’ve had, our garden is flourishing. I always wish for more sun, more plants to tend to, more gardening time, but when I stop and look at how many things are growing, it makes me happy!

When we actually do have a sunshiny nice day, the kids and I - like everyone else in the PacNW - take advantage!! We dig in the dirt, play in the sprinkler, eat popsicles and SOAK UP THE RAYS!! 

Even Dizzy gets high from the sun, that dog loves him some sunshine!

Here’s a look at what’s growing in our garden right now during the end of June.




Sugar Snap Peas

Tons of herbs, including, Lemon Thyme - my favorite!!


More Berries!!

Beans and Dinosaurs!

We also have tons of flowers blooming now, begging for more sunshine, Please!!

Bachelor's Buttons


Globe Flower

Black Swan Poppy...AMAZING!


Day Lillies


The Beas, butterflies and other weird bugs are enjoying our garden too! I hope your garden is going bonkers like ours is!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

In The Hood: Police, Pit Bulls & Strawberries

These last few weeks have done nothing to endear me to Everett, to this neighborhood, to this block. I never thought of myself as someone who would live in the Hood. Ha! Growing up I didn’t even know what the Hood was, but over the years, since leaving college I’ve lived or worked in more than one, Downtown Los Angeles, East LA and now Everett.  Oh Everett, things like, police, Pit Bulls off leash (I mean come on people, really?? Pit Bulls Off Leash??), poor schools, and indoor furniture on the front porch are more common than Bush-Cheney signs in rural North Georgia during 2004.

Twice in the past few weeks, in the middle of the night, the police have set up camp outside our bedroom window with their lights flashing and siren going off every few minutes for more than an hour each time. Turns out, they are searching for a suspect. Several police park around the neighborhood to create a sort of perimeter, while more police with K-9s set out on foot to try to capture the criminal. Lovely. The flashing lights, the noise, the middle of the night, let me tell you how enjoyable that’s been!  Add our 80 pound hyperventilating dog to the mix and it all makes for fun times.

Last Sunday while cutting chives for our breakfast, a car of thugs spewed down our street, one of them hanging out the window yelling all kinds of B, F and C words at our neighbor two doors down and threatening to “SHOOT [his] A--!”

“Can you all just calm down for a minute while I cut some chives on this nice peaceful SUNDAY MORNING!” I wanted to say. Instead, the thugs drove by, yelling and throwing things out of their car a few more times, someone called the police, and eventually all was well with the neighborhood for a few minutes. 

This same two-doors-down-neighbor, who is probably my age, and lives there with his mom when he’s not doing time in prison has a Pit Bull puppy he keeps off leash in his unfenced front yard. When I say, "puppy" I'm talking a fully grown puppy. Picture me and the two kids walking Dizzy down the block when out of nowhere comes this rambunctious Pit Bull running towards us. “Oh, she’s friendly!” the neighbor calls as he tries to coerce her back into his yard. "She just loves kids!"

I bet she loves kids, I thought!  One day, about two weeks ago the Pit Bull ran down the block and pushed her way into our front yard through the gate with the neighbor's girlfriend chasing behind, while the Pit chased Lily and Jasper. Mad is a nice word to describe me at that point. I won’t elaborate on the conversation the girlfriend and I had; it was short and to the point. Several neighbors have called Animal Control; things have been quieter in the Hood, but let me tell you, it sure makes “hanging out” in the garden with the kids much less fun.

And, that’s not even the only Pit Bull dog experience we’ve had in Everett this month, but I won’t bore you. Something about June, it’s not a good month for me. 

Unless you want to talk Strawberries! In that case, I love the Hood! Hood Strawberries that is. Simply put, they are amazing!

Talk about the sweetest, juiciest, most delicious tasting thing ever in such a simple small bite of greatness picked from our own garden.  I’m certain these little jewels can’t solve all the world’s problems or even make my neighborhood less of a Hood, but a girl can dream, can’t she!  And the kids love them!  It took Jasper a few pickings and bowls full to warm up to the idea, but one morning recently he helped me pick them and eat them!!!  Yes, this is a food victory in our house, where, I swear to God, this stubborn boy can survive on goldfish and milk alone.

Lily’s become a bit paranoid about spiders and such so she’s much more skeptical about each bite of food she puts in her mouth from the garden, but even the sweet taste of a Hood can’t deter her.  I love the way she’s learning to talk about food, too. “Mmm, this one is so juicy! Or I think these are a bit tart for my taste, Mama.”  

We've been picking bowls full for the last two weeks and there's a ton more to come. If you're looking for that big brassy, show-offy kind of strawberry, Hood's not the girl for you. She's smaller, often oddly shaped and not very big, but oh the flavor!  Sugary sweet, almost, dare I say, like Kool-Aid. 

Our favorite ways to eat them are: alone and unadorned, dipped in bittersweet chocolate, or with Greek honey yogurt for Lily.  And today we are making homemade Hood strawberry ice cream, the only kind of strawberry ice cream one ever needs to eat! I hope you find some Hood to enjoy this summer.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Eggshell Seed Starters

We finally tried this fun idea I've been seeing everywhere! I've been saving up egg shells, waiting for a sunny day, and for us to be home from all our spring travels.  Last Friday the forces collided in our favor.

We had poor soil, lack of concentration and Legos battling it out, so, as usual, it didn't exactly turn out like I expected.  But it was hilarious, and Lily kept saying, "This is so cool. This is way more fun than I thought it was going to be." Which totally made up for the fact that I had to drag them kicking and screaming outside that afternoon.

We used paper egg cartons to hold the shells because I didn't have any plastic ones with the attached tops, (which I bet make really good homes for newly started seeds) but our paper ones will have to do.  Jasper and Lily used cups to fill the shells with dirt and I let them pick whatever seeds they wanted to plant. Then they watered them with sippy cups, (with the plastic spill-proof insert removed) which worked really well for watering just a little bit at a time.

Jasper planted beans and more beans; I think he just liked the way the seeds looked. Lily planted beans, zucchini and marigolds.  All of which can be started directly in the soil, but that's not the point, really, is it? The best part was when Lily said, "The marigold seeds look just like porcupine quills."