Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wildlife in the Garden

I found this fellow walking into our screen porch the other morning.  The screen porch leads into our back entry and we leave the door propped open so our cats, Ophelia and Belle, can come and go.  I picked him/her up and put her in my herb garden, which is where I took this picture.  I haven't seen it since.  Hopefully it has snuggled in under the blueberry or raspberry bushes, safe from marauding racoons and possums that frequent the neighborhood.

That same day, our neighbor across the street surprised a large copperhead snake that had decided to take the sun right in front of her front door.  She hollered at me to come when I went to get the mail, I saw it was a copperhead and got a neighbor man to come over and "dispatch" it.  I have a "backyard habitat" designation from the National Wildlife Federation, and I enjoy the birds, dragonflies, butterflies, the above box turtle (a first in the yard!), and garter snakes.  I would love to have a speckled king snake in the yard.  I can tolerate the racoons, possums, squirrels and chipmunks to some degree.  But no copperheads.  Nope.  No way.  Glad it wasn't in my yard because I hate to think what the folks in the neighborhood that don't like my gardening style would say.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Beach Life

We spent the third week of March at our favorite vacation spot, Seaside, Florida on the panhandle between Destin and Panama City.  Although the girls wished for a bit warmer weather, as the water was chilly the first few days, Wade and I thought the weather was perfect:  highs in the mid 70's, lows in the 50's (it was actually record cool weather for there).  The air was crystal clear (usually there is a beach haze on the horizon) and both day and night we could see the highrise skylines of Panama City, 30 miles to the east, and both Destin and Fort Walton, 30 miles to the west.
the house we rented "Dreamcatcher"

This is the house we stayed in, within Seaside.  Seaside is a "new urbanist" community of beach cottages, and a "downtown" of shops, restaurants, art galleries, a grassy amphitheater, a repertory company, a public charter school, a farmers' market and community garden.  The movie, The Truman Show was filmed there some years ago.

This a view from the pavilion overlook at the end of the street our cottage was on.  Each street terminates in a pavilion and steps that lead down to the beach over the protected sea dunes and vegetation on the dunes.  These dunes protected Seaside from most of the damage from the hurricanes that hit the area during the year of Katrina and the two years following.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Garden Harvest

Yesterday morning the temperature was in the low 60's, with a high in the 70's -- so welcome with it expected to be in the 90's this weekend and all next week!  I went out to the vegetable garden and collected these thinnings from the carrots I planted back on March 18.  I bought the seeds in Austin while visiting a friend.  One carrot per seed just never seemed like a good return of gardening effort for a garden of limited space, and usually it heats up so fast here that spring crops are always an iffy thing.  But I couldn't resist the colors.  They have grown to a nice stand and hopefully in a few more weeks I'll have some respectable carrots.  The variety is "Carnival Blend" by Botanical Interests.  I have a similar variety that I bought at Lowe's to plant for a fall crop,  Burpee "Kaleidoscope Mix".

I've had a very nice harvest of sugar snap peas and multiple cuttings of side shoots from the "pacman" broccoli that I planted.  Broccoli is another very iffy crop here -- it bolts if it heats up too much to fast here, and usually has a lot of insect and caterpillar damage.  This year the plants have been fabulous -- if only I had planted 20 instead of 4!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In the May Garden

Finally!  My May vegetable garden.  These pics are from before we left for our beach trip, so before May 14.  My computer keeps shutting down every time I tried to upload pics from my mac to the blog, which has made this very tedious indeed.
herb garden
This is all in my back yard.  My vegetable garden is a kind of parterre design, with a center square set on the diagonal, and then 4 somewhat triangular beds set off from each side of the square by narrow brick walkways.  On the side of all of this is my herb garden, a part of which is seen here.  It is a circular bed, edged by dishes that belonged to my deceased mother in law, and surrounded by brick pavers that separate the area from the vegetable garden on the one side, and my blueberry bushes on the 2 other sides.  I have thyme, germander, oregano, french tarragon, bronze fennel, lemon balm, and chives (along with the bowl of sedum on the chair).

chicken coop


corner of vegetable garden
vegetable beds
Looking out from my herb garden past the blueberry bushes you can see my chicken coop.  It looks like either Gwynno or Pomegranate coming out from the door there.

Over between the fence and the back of the driveway I put in the "garden annex" last year -- raised beds made from concrete blocks.  Strawberries are planted in the holes of the blocks lining the beds.  I saw this done both at the community garden at Seaside, Florida (where we go to the beach for a week in the summers) and the community garden here at University of Memphis.  I would have thought the plants in the blocks would burn up during the hot summers -- but they do very well.  Maybe it's a little insulating against the heat.

Here is a corner of my vegetable garden, facing the herb garden.  There is a swiss chard planted in one planter by the arbor and hyacinth bean planted in a pot on the other side.  In these two corner beds I have chard, lettuce, broccoli and sugar snap peas.

And here is a bit of an overview of the vegetable garden, showing the center square and the front triangle.  In the center square I have tomatoes and "tricolor" bush beans.  In the triangle I have asparagus beans, some peppers and eggplants.

The flowers in between the beds are showy primrose, which is coming up between the pavers.  I usually let it carry on and when the flowers have pretty well played out I pull it out (otherwise I can't walk between the beds).

I also have okra, squash, and cucumber seedlings tucked around in various beds.

We have been at the beach over the past week, getting back last Saturday -- and the garden now?  I feel like I need a machete to cut my way through!  And we have 90 degree temps with a hundred zillion per cent humidity, and a threat of humongous storms this afternoon and tonight.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

college graduation

 Our college graduate!  The graduation was held downtown at the FedEx Forum.  Loren is now has a bachelor's degree in education.  The day after graduation she drove herself to Austin, TX -- stayed with a friend of ours who moved there 3 years ago, and put in applications.  She just called and said she's been offered a job with "Bright Horizons" to start in 2 weeks, working with toddlers -- the job pays a living wage, includes health benefits, and education reimbursement to get a masters or Montessori certification.  She is so excited.  She'll be staying with our friends for a month or two until she makes sure it's where she wants to be and that she can afford her own place, etc.  I'm glad she'll have that safety net while she's far from home.  Graduation was initially scheduled for that Saturday afternoon, but 3 days before that they had to reschedule it for Sunday (Mother's Day) at 5 because the Memphis Grizzlies ended up with a play-off game there on Saturday and I guess it took priority.

While we were downtown for the graduation we walked down to the river to see it close to its historic crest -- 47.8 feet (flood stage is 34 feet).

All but the very highest part of Mud Island with the flags (a river-themed park with a scale wade-able model of the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico) is all under water.  Memphis sits on a high bluff, and usually the river is far below this road, but here it is right there, almost up to the street.
There were thousands of people milling about the river, all there to see the high water.  There were lots of police for safety -- the river current is tremendously strong and dangerous, but looks very deceptive up close and out of towners often think they can just wade in.  There were news reporters all over the place.  Normally there is a huge barbecue cooking contest at Tom Lee Park right on the river, part of Memphis in May -- but the park was submerged (the first time in my life time) and the contest had to be moved east to "Tiger Lane", where people tailgate for the UofM football games at the coliseum.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Couscous, Raspberry and Feta Salad

I made this salad for dinner last night.  It was inspired by a recipe in "Salads", a cookbook I got last summer from Aldi's for $4.99.  It was pretty simple, but easy, filling, and refreshing.  Definitely a keeper for the summer.

You need couscous, follow the recipe on the box.  My box said it served 3, but it was plenty for the 4 of us.

Some toasted pine nuts (I think any kind of nuts would be fine)

The recipe in the book called for a thinly sliced zucchini, but my zuke (the reason I was going to make the recipe!) had degenerated into serious slime in the fridge, so I had to improvise and lightly steamed a small amount of broccoli side shoots from my garden, and some asparagus cut into sections.

Mix all this with the couscous and add about a cup of feta cheese, some grated lemon zest, and a cup of raspberries (I used frozen from last year's harvest, but fresh would be best), and a small handful of fresh basil (I used some fresh basil and also some fresh mint from my herb garden).

Then I made a sprightly vinaigrette with juice from a lemon, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (the recipe called for white wine vinegar, of which I had none), 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper and pore onto the salad.

I think this would be a fabulous summer main dish with shrimp added to it, or some cold grilled or rotisserie chicken.  I think it might be good with rice instead of couscous, but couscous is so simple to cook (soak in water that was boiling for 5 minutes).

Linked to Eat At Home

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lots of Rain

Lots and lots of rain over the past 2 weeks, with the Mississippi River at historic flood levels, expected to rise up to 45 feet by May 10.  The river has not been this high since the 20's and 30's.  The rain has added to flooding problems with the tributaries, but the level of the Mississippi River has more to do with rain and snow melt up north.

In any case, it's too wet to get into the garden now, but before it all started I had managed to plant some sugar snaps, lettuce, broccoli, radishes, pole and bush beans, and set out a few tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.  Here are some pictures from a couple of weeks ago of the vegetable garden and the yard.

This is a corner of my vegetable garden.  This bed has lettuce and snow peas are planted around the teepee.

 This is a picture of my "woodland path" -- with woodland phlox and red buckeye blooming.  There is also a native azalea close by, as well as self heal, spring beauties, and lyre leaf sage coming up all around the front yard.
This is a glob of frog eggs in my pond.  All this rain has now pushed them down and I don't know if they got eaten or if they have hatched.  I've seen some very large "lost boy" tadpoles (they don't ever seem to grow up and change into frogs), but no tiny ones.
This picture was just taken a few days ago in between the rains.  I have a lot of milkweed in my front yard, and have seen more monarchs flying around than I have in several years.  I have a lot of monarch caterpillars on the milkweed this spring, which is very nice indeed.
This is a picture of the front of my house -- not a very good picture, but it shows the roses and clematis I have by the front door.

I think I remember what the sun looks like.  Now with all the rain the yard really looks like a jungle, and feels like a rain forest.  We had been having temps in the 80's, but today our high is only 59 and it's supposed to get down in the 40's tonight.