Saturday, November 21, 2009

Last of the summer vegetables

Gardening is like baseball in that both are associated with summer, but the season doesn't actually end until well into fall. We enjoyed some of the last of our summer veggies on this cool November night.

These funny looking zucchini aren't going to win any State Fair awards, but I couldn't be prouder of them. After languishing in containers all summer and producing no edible fruit, they went gangbusters after I plopped them in a raised bed and the rains of El Niño came.

I should have put a quarter on the placemat for reference; sorry! The one up top is about 5 inches long; the one on the bottom, about 9. I don't know what variety of zucchini these are. The seedlings were labeled Eight Ball Squash, which they certainly are not.

Sometimes if zucchini are left to grow too large, they get tough, stringy and woody with lots of big seeds. Not this grand girl; she was sweet and tender. I sliced her up and sauteéd her with the last of the Juliet tomatoes, olive and canola oil, chopped onions, chopped garlic, sea salt, fresh ground pepper and some fresh basil from the herb garden.

Then I put the lid on and let the medley stew until the veggies were soft and the flavors had mingled. (If I had been thinking, I would have picked the last tiny bell pepper and thrown that in, too. Oh well.)
Jack's not a huge fan of squash, but he liked this. Yay, another veggie to add to the weekly dinner rotation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hammer time! *can't touch this*

So last week, Michele Holt (a/k/a Poe, a/k/a MamaHolt to FinnigantheCurious and SO of Jackdaddy, otherwise known as the Curious Holts) of the awesome blog Wabi-Sabi Home and Garden honored my shameful wee garden blog with an Honest Scrap award. My First Blog Award! (sniff)

I was so astounded, I couldn't muster more than a lame 'dohhhh gimme time to work on that, K?" at the time; now that I've more than a week to compose myself, perhaps I can give a reasonably coherent response.

Here are the rules:
Rule 1. Brag about the award. Now I usually ain't much fer braggin, but the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw MamaHolt's post was this:

Sally says everything I wanted to say.

Rule 2. Include the name of the blogger who gave you the award and link back to that blogger. Done did it!

Rule 3. Choose a minimum of seven blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.

Rule 4. Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with this award.

Oh geez! There's just way too many brilliant blogs to list, particularly if we're talking Austin garden blogs, many of which I have listed to the right of this very page. Instead, I've listed seven blogs that aren't Austin garden blogs, in no particular order. (Later, I'll go to each website, one by one, and leave each blogger a little comment about the award I have bestowed upon them, which each blogger will probably delete, one by one, as they shake their heads in puzzlement cuz they don't know me from Eve, or so I imagine.)

My Milk Toof
features the adventures of ickle and Lardee, two oddly enchanting and strangely adorable milk teef, animated by Inhae Lee.

Coyote Crossing features writing and photography from the Mojave Desert and elsewhere by Chris Clarke. If anyone can tell me where I can find a copy of Clarke's The Irascible Gardener, I would be forever in that person's debt.

Hungersauce features "Organic Vegetable Gardening, Cooking, and Dining out in Austin, Texas" by Kate Thornberry, who is a staff food writer for The Austin Chronicle, a master organic gardener and The Pie Lady, among many, many other talents. (Honesty Alert: I flat out stole this entry from Iris's Honest Scrap post over at Society Garlic. And OK, so it is a bit of an Austin garden blog, although it really seems like more of a Austin foodie blog to me.)

Compost Confidential
is the blog of Joe Lamp’l, a nationally syndicated garden writer and host of the PBS series Garden Smart, and DIY Network’s Fresh from the Garden. I thoroughly enjoyed his series of posts on the $25 Organic Victory Garden Challenge -- proof positive that some people can indeed savor cheap good eats through home organic vegetable gardening (even if I'm not "some people"!). While we were dealing with an extreme drought in CTX, Joe was dealing with a monsoon. Everybody's got something to deal with, don't they?

(um ok, how many more blogs ima posta list?)

The Grumpy Gardener is written by Steve Bender of Southern Living, and there's few things I like better than a good solid grump of a gardener. With tags like "Don't Plant This", topics covering everything from crepe myrtle sex to "Why I Resent My Son", and posts covering such things as "Fresh Cat! The only all-natural rodent repellent made from 100% powdered housecats!", Steve's blog is guaranteed to make Dr Pepper shoot out your nose at least once every 5 posts. (Now you kids get off my lawn!)

May Dreams Gardens is a blog many gardeners know and love, including me. Written by Carol Michel, May Dreams Gardens features stories bout hoes, therapy sessions with Dr. Hortfreud, "You Might Be A Gardening Geek IF..."posts, posts from garden fairies, Hortense Hoelove's advice column to the plant-lorn, AND is host to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month -- what's not to love? (Plus I've managed to win two contests on the site -- bonus points!)

Anarchy in the Garden (formerly Victory Home & Garden) is written by Adriana Martinez, a "VEGAN! Wife to an omni husband, friend to all animals, farmer, Clash city rocker, tattoo enthusiast and a hell raiser." Adriana taught me the proper way to plant a strawberry jar. I like her blog a lot. I'd like it even better if she sold AITG t-shirts (hint hint).

Rule 5. List at least ten honest things about yourself.
Hoo boy. Key word here, I suppose, is honest, as in "things many people don't generally know about me that could prove to be somewhat embarrassing or cringeworthy if they did know, which are generally reflective of who I truly am as a person", yikes. Against my better judgment, I've included a few factoids fitting that description on my list, along with a couple of "Get OUT!"s, a "Too funny!", a "WTF?" and a "Whoa! Gross!", that is to say, namely and to wit:
  • I’ve never traveled outside the North American continent.
  • I get woozy at the sight of my own blood.
  • My parents did not give me a middle name.
  • When it comes to food, spirits, and coffee, I am a complete and utter elitist prick (“snob” does not even begin to describe it).
  • I was obsessed with the book and movie “Gone With the Wind” as a kid. Between February and March 1973, I saw the movie a dozen times on the big screen during a nationwide re-release.
  • In my 1979 high school yearbook (my junior year), my sister’s picture is above my name (she was a freshman), and above my sister’s name, there is a picture of a girl that neither of us can remember. (And they wonder why I dropped out, hmpfh. Woops - guess I let another honest thing slip!)
  • My earliest memory is watching JFK’s funeral on TV. I was 20 months old.
  • A fresh pear in my carry-on bag earned me an IonScan, courtesy of the TSA, at the Denver International Airport this past February. Or at least that’s what they told me triggered the scan, at the end of nine harrowing minutes starting with "step over here, ma'am" followed by the silent treatment as a soiled scrap of felt attached to an electronic wand thingy was rubbed inside, outside, over and around every crevice, nook and cranny of my bag by a scowling uniformed and latex-gloved individual, who finally decided to let me get on the dang plane already. After reading up on the IonScan on the Intertubes, I can't say I buy the 'pear' explanation, unless perhaps an inordinate number of unscrupulous individuals are smuggling explosives or drugs inside fresh fruit placed in carry-on bags? (on domestic flights with no connections, mind you)
  • I simply adore rude, crude and socially unacceptable music. If there’s a band with a rude name that sings crude songs that nearly everyone hates, I probably admire them beyond compare. Butt Trumpet, Legionaires Disease, Sex Pistols, Geto get the picture. What can I say? I have the musical tastes of a 12 year old boy.
  • I enjoy a well-prepared variety meat every now and then. About three times a year, I sit myself down to a heaping mess of piping hot fried chicken livers with cream gravy, and eat every doggone one of ‘em. Every Thanksgiving, I make giblet gravy - no part spared. And on occasion, perhaps once every year or two, I eat sweetbreads. Cafe Cenizo at the Gage Hotel in Marathon does sweetbreads up right. Little Texas Bistro did a fine job, too. (Where is Paul Petersen now?)
And now you know...(pregnant pause)...The Rest of The Story. *Thank you, Michele!*

Monday, November 16, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November

In the interest of time, I've created a GBBD Flickr slideshow. You can watch it by clicking on the big arrow on the screen below, or by going to my Flickr page. There, you can see the descriptions and titles of each photo by clicking on "Show Info."

Let me know if you have any problems with it!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Austin Garden Bloggers' Field Trip to San Antonio

I was thrilled to have made the Austin garden bloggers' field trip to San Antonio this past Saturday, where we visited the Botanical Gardens and had lunch at the Carriage House Bistro. On the way up, we stopped by Madrone Nursery in San Marcos, meeting its knowledgable and entertaining proprietor, Dan Hosage; on the way back, we visited the Antique Rose Emporium, where San Antonio blogger Cindy Lawrey of A Daily View welcomed us like long-lost friends.

There was sooo much to see and photograph at the Botanical Gardens, including a rose garden, a sensory garden for the blind, a Japanese garden, a large Conservatory displaying everything from desert cacti to 65 foot palms, a Texas Native Trail, and a number of xeriscapes.
Old-Fashioned Garden

By far, my favorite exhibit at the Botanical Gardens was the Texas Native Trail, particularly the East Texas Piney Woods habitat. Don't try this at home, kids, even if you live in San Antonio; as the sign explains, extensive soil modification and irrigation was required to create this exhibit.
East Texas exhibit

The result was stunning: a perfect re-creation of an East Texas lake, surrounded by cypress trees, filled with turtles and ducks.
East Texas Piney Woods exhibit

The light, textures and colors were simply magnificent.
East Texas Piney Woods exhibit

Throughout the exhibit, park benches invited visitors to sit a while and take in the breathtaking view.
East Texas Piney Woods exhibit

I loved the quotation on this memorial plaque.
"Where flowers bloom, so does hope"

Right next door was the Auld House exhibit in the Hill Country section of the Texas Native Trail.
The Auld House

If I had the means for a country house, I would want it to look exactly like this.
The Auld House

Another highlight was the Watersaver Lane exhibit, highlighting six different garden xeriscapes, like this Wildscape Landscape.
Wildscape Landscape

Next to each demonstration garden was an information panel in English and Spanish with tips for homeowners on how to recreate the look in their own garden.
Wildscape Landscape

While some of the demonstration gardens did not appeal to my personal tastes, I appreciated the fact that they would appeal to other visitors who may be wasting water and using chemical fertilizers and pesticides in order to achieve a particular look.
Watersaver Lane house

I loved the metal animal sculptures in the Hill Country xeriscape.
Watersaver Lane garden

The Bexar County Master Gardener representative stationed at the exhibit told me the sculptures had been donated years ago by the artist, whose name she could not recall; the gift shop once had a few for sale, but they are long gone. Pity.
Watersaver Lane garden

My favorite xeriscape was the Country Garden. If only my front yard could look like this! Now I have a sudden urge to paint my front door and shutters a buttery yellow.
Watersaver Lane house

I have oodles more photos, including pictures from Madrone Nursery and the Antique Rose Emporium, on my Flickr page. Thanks to Pam of Digging and Diana of Sharing Nature's Garden for coordinating the trip, to Eleanor of Garden of E and Meredith of Great Stems for driving me here there and everywhere, and to Jenny of Rock Rose and her husband David for toting my plant purchases from San Antonio to Austin -- thank you all for a fabulous day!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm his new BFF in the whole wide world.

Meet my new best friend.
Isn't he just the cuuuutest thing ever? Well, the reason he's clinging so tightly to his new friend's finger is decidedly NOT cute, not at all.

Our story begins with the whitefly invasion I briefly posted about a couple of weeks ago. At least I think they were whiteflies. Maybe they were moths; perhaps they were gnats. Truth is, I really don't really know for certain, because the little jerks refused to sit for portraits. All I know is, they were whitish in color, they could fly, and they were EVERYWHERE.

Admittedly, I freaked a bit. You see, I had just planted half of the fall vegetable garden (with one hand in a cast, mind you) and I was certain these droves of evil flying creatures were out searching for a cheap brunch buffet. Since pesticides are out of the question in my garden, I quickly researched eco-friendly solutions to flying insect infestations, and decided to go with sticky fly traps.

And the traps worked swimmingly, on both flying and crawling insects. Oh, but I was pleased as Punch with the success of my sustainable garden whitefly solution, smugly oblivious as to whether I was trapping good guys or bad guys. Quite pleased, indeed. That's the way to do it!

Until this morning, that is. Heeding the old adage that a gardener's shadow is the best form of pest control, I started my day as I usually do, by surveying the back 40 (feet, that is; not acres).

After watering the bed where I planted the root vegetable seeds this past weekend, I checked out the pole bean and cucumber bed, and that's where I found the tiny baby anole, hopelessly glued down to a sticky whitefly trap, from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail. Sob! Anoles are good guys, eating flying insects like mosquitoes and, yes, whiteflies. Poor little thing was probably just looking for lunch. At first, I thought he might, not alive...I touched him, gently, and he opened his eyes and began to pant. He's alive, yay! and yikes! I needed to act quickly.

I ran inside the house, fly trap in hand. How to get him off without hurting him? Scraping him off with any sort of garden or kitchen implement would surely cause severe injury. Aaugh! I tried rinsing anole+flypaper in lukewarm water, but dang that glue is water-resistant, precisely as advertised. Solvents were out - even vinegar could be too caustic for a baby anole to endure. Something inert, something with a neutral pH, something slippery...maybe oil would loosen the glue?

Twenty minutes and a Q-Tip drenched in canola oil later, baby anole was free, with every scale, tail tip and toe intact. Free, but weak from struggling to get loose for who knows how long. Trembling with fatigue and breathing heavily, he clung to my finger, never suspecting who put the traps up in the first place! Waa! What have I done? Would he be OK?

I took him outside and put him in the sunniest spot I could find, on a patch of spiderwort, and breathed a sigh of relief as I watched him crawl across the leaves, moving all his wittle feeties, toes, arms and legs with no problems. Whew. As soon as he spied the neutral-colored ceramic pot nearby, he started turning brown.

He attempted to scale a spiderwort stem to get to the pot,

and promptly slid off, landing softly on a sprig of horseherb. Oopsie. I guess I didn't do such a good job of rinsing the canola oil off.
After a bit of a rest, he took off, in search of a (hopefully safer) meal, and I took off to collect and dispose of every stupid whitefly trap in the garden.

And the moral of this story is, eco-friendly pest controls are not inherently harmless, d'oh. Sticky traps can traps lizards, butterflies, ladybugs and other garden good guys. Sigh. Instead of panicking and posting whitefly traps all about, perhaps I should have been more patient and waited for their natural predators to move in. It's always so hard to know when to act and when to wait. I feared waiting could result in a disastrous infestation. Unfortunately, decisions made from a position of fear are typically poor ones. Lesson learned.