violetcheetah: (Default)
I planned to start seeds inside on Groundhog day, and I actually went down to the basement storage to get leftover peat pellets within a few of days.  These were pellets that I'd planted seeds in last year, but nothing sprouted, so I obviously didn't plant them in my garden.  Now, in the heat of spring fever, I soaked them in their trays and went to get the seeds.  Which weren't on the shelf in the kitchen where some of my other gardeny stuff is.  Or in the basement.  Or my dresser drawer.  Or at M's house or shed.  Could. not. find them.  On the plus side, I got my living room closet reorganized because it was the only place I could think of I might have put them; they weren't there, but hey, now I know what is.

Meanwhile, the pellets sat in their trays on the bathroom floor drying out again, where I ignored them for a good two weeks or more.  Last week, something caught my eye in one of them, something small and pale.  I bent down, expecting a piece of clay cat letter.  But it was smoother.  No frickin' way: it was the crook of a seedling stem before the leaves break free of the dirt.  A seed I planted last year, which marinated in damp peat for a good month until I was sure everything that was going to germinate had done so, now decided it was time to sprout.  I watered that pellet again, but left everything on the floor for the time-being.

Today I went back down to my basement storage again, I believe the fifth time I've looked down there for the seeds, and whaddaya know, there they were in the box with the leftover crocus bulbs.  I've now planted a selection of them in the remaining 18 pellets.  I've nailed a piece of wood across my living room window frame so I could hang a piece of plexiglas so the kitties can't get to stuff; the wood was the perfect length, but seems to be slightly softer than marble: I predrilled holes and still bent a nail, and wow do blood blisters hurt.  But I'm feeling rather optimistic about the year-old seeds, given the one that already sprouted.
violetcheetah: (Default)
I tend a food garden in my friend M's yard.  Well, "tend" might be too strong a word; I plant a handful of things and then if I get any food at all, I'm kinda shocked. Most years I've planted some zucchini, which usually produce two or three fruits before some grey leaf fungus wilts the whole plant.  I gather that's been common the last few wet years, but still, when you can't grow zucchini, that's pretty sad.  I also usually get a few tomato plants, but many of the fruits split or get a squishy spot before they are ready.  Still, particularly with a split just through the skin, I'm not too proud to cut off the part below the split and eat that.  I suppose I could water them regularly or something, but that would be dangerously close to "tending."

The hardiest tomatoes I ever harvested came from a Roma vine.  The taste isn't as strong eaten straight, but they don't seem to split or get spots.  So this year I bought a pack of seeds of whatever Roma variety Attleboro Farms had seeds for.  Meant to start them indoors, but, as you can guess, I didn't deal.  It was nearly Memorial Day by the time I planted them in the garden.  And by that time, I'd gotten two potted tomatoes, also from Attleboro Farms.  Free with purchase for the first 50 people to ask, or some such.  Even though M and I were purchasing together, they gave us two, because it was the end of the day.  I asked what variety they were, and the clerk said, "Wellll... we kinda forgot to mark them, so..."  

Both plants have flourished.  One is a fairly normal plant, with moderate-sized fruits, but ones that have thus far (well, a test sample of two, plus one I'll harvest tomorrow) not split, and as an added bonus ripened on the top before the bottom is overripe.  The other plant thinks it's a zucchini.  There are branches (and I mean like sapling branches) at near ground level, which have spread so far that they are draping over the sides of the garden.  Maybe I should have pinched some stems, but again, too much like tending.  And even though it's huge, it's a cherry tomato plant.  Although they are more like ping pong balls than cherries.  Perversely, those have been splitting at the top, but that's okay, because the part below the split is still more than a normal cherry tomato.

Oh, those seeds I planted?  I cut holes in the weed cloth for five plantings, and then planted two seeds in each.  Seeds only came up in 3 spots, two of which are now under the purview of the mutant cherry.  The third spot is further away, and both seeds sprouted.  And I know you are supposed to thin seedlings, but I anthropomorphize, and they were both the same size, so I couldn't choose, so I just decided that if they each grew to half size, everybody wins.  Well, they are now each bigger than the other two seedlings that came up, and somehow time got away from me, and I realized today that the time to put cages around them was, oh, a good 6 weeks ago.  Oh look, they have fruits.  Lots of fruits, actually, some of which are rather large and probably close to starting to ripen.

And I forgot to mention the surprise plant.  Last year I bought what I thought was a Roma.  It was late in the season, and so a pretty good sized plant, not tagged, but with little oblong fruits starting.  Cute fruits, kinda bell-shaped.  It turned out that that was as big as they got, about grape-tomato sized, and they stayed yellow.  I'm not usually a sucker for adorable food, but I was a little sorry to see the season end.  Somewhere about June this year, I was weeding the edge of the garden, between the wood sides and the weed cloth, and I had my fingers around a random weed, and just before I pulled I realized it had tomato leaves.  So the bells are back.  And that plant is also past the point of easily caging it.
 
But I figured I could at least put a cage around the biggest branch on it, and on the Roma twins, maybe tie the others to the outside, whatever.  So I headed to the shed to get a couple of cages, and something darted past me.  Half-grown bunny.  I waited for him to hop away, and after a couple of minutes I sat down in the yard, about ten feet from him.  And he started nibbling the clover where he was.  He turned to stare at me, and I saw a small white star in the middle of his forehead.

Anyway, that's how I ended up pulling crabgrass from a random patch of yard for 30 minutes until he hopped away and I could cage my tomatoes.


violetcheetah: (iris)
When I was six, I was playing near our neighbor's horse pasture when I saw the most beautiful flower I'd ever seen just on the other side of the fence.  It seemed huge, and to me incredibly exotic.  We didn't have flowers in the yard, so my experience was mainly with dandelions, daisies, black-eyes susans, and the occasional rose.  It smelled heavenly: light and sunny, not overpowering like a rose.  I ran to tell my mother; when I said it was purple, she first thought I meant a thistle and told me not to prick myself.  But I dragged her away from making dinner to see it, and she said, "Oh yeah, those were growing by the house when we moved in."  Apparently my father didn't want to mow around them or something, so he dug them up and tossed them into the field, out of his way.  There they had taken root again, probably multiplied until they were too crowded to bloom for the most part, and finally that year created one bloom, like an SOS, which I received.

My brother, a wise 13, was old enough to know what they were called and to have some idea how divide the rhizomes, so he spaced them out along the fence row, every five feet or so.  Over the years, they thrived so much they were re-divided many times, finally planted every couple of feet along the entire fence row along one side of an acre, however long that is.  I went back during college, sometime in the mid-90s, and dug up a bunch to pack in my suitcase and plant up here in Massachusetts.  Some might be outside my old apartment in Brighton; others are presumably still growing in the yard at the duplex I lived in in Quincy.  They multiply so quickly there was no reason to dig up each and every one when I moved.

Over the years, I've acquired other varieties: some I've bought, some I've dug up from a friend's house.  They are all bigger and showier, in fancier colors.  Some have such large flowers that they have to be staked or they fall over under their own weight.  Not these.  The pale petals flop like bunny ears, making me think of lace handkerchiefs, quaint and delicate.  They bloom earlier than the others, and they have more scent, though not enough to be cloying; you have to bend close to smell it.

Walking home last week, I noticed that the same type of iris is growing outside my condo building, which was built about the same time as the house I grew up in in the late '40s.  I wonder how many World War II vets and their wives moved into new homes, with help from the first GI Bill, and planted the same irises, and whether they were imagining them still blooming some 65 years later.
violetcheetah: (Default)
I was taking the commuter rail into Boston yesterday during the blizzard, which is my favorite way to enjoy fresh snow.  I'm inside, nice and warm, but able to watch scene after scene unfold, fierce and delicate, my eyes feasting on unending beauty, but newly insatiable with every change.  

One of the things that struck me this time around was the pine trees, the way the branches bent down like a folded-up umbrella under the weight of this thick, wet snow.  The smaller branches of the deciduous trees curved, and some of the larger ones snapped, of course, but by and large they were able to stand unmoved because their leaves weren't there to hold so much snow that they'd break.

And, since I'm a geek, I ended up thinking about evolution.  Losing your leaves in the fall is quite handy when heavy snows fall.  But the evergreens have their own adaptation: bending.  Lumber people talk about hardwoods and softwoods.  I'm fuzzy on which trees give which type of wood, but I know pine is considered soft, oak hard.  I don't know if there are any hard, unbending woods that come from evergreens, or any soft deciduous trees.
violetcheetah: (chess)
Michele and I stopped at the drug store on the way to her place last night.  As we were leaving the parking lot, Idon't know why, but something on the power or phone lines above us at the end of the driveway caught my eye.  It looked pale grey, almost glowing in the night, and my first thought was a pair of shoes, like morons toss up to dangle, as least up here.  But it was only one, and it wasn't dangling.  It looked like a bird.   It was too big to be a pigeon, and a little too pale; I seriously thought at first that someone had climbed up and put a fake bird up there, like, made of styrofoam. And then it looked down at me.  It was an owl, so perfect it looked unreal.  I know it was just looking at the car, but the feeling of being stared at by an otherworldly being, of being honored, was intense.  Sacred.

Then as an added bonus, on the way back to my place later, a bunny ran across the road from my condo complex, far enough ahead of us so we were in no danger of hitting it.
violetcheetah: (winry)
I'm a weather geek, so I found the latest Public Information Statement interesting.  Unlike Glenn, I know that not only does one blizzard not disprove global warming, but even an entire year is only a snippet of real climate.  Yeah, 2010 was "within the top five warmest years on record" for the Boston area; all 4 cities listed had close to twice as many 90-degree days as the 30-year average from 1971-2000.

But what struck me most was the pattern of precipitation.  Boston was 7 inches above average for total yearly precip, but had 14 days less of measurable precip than average.  Because it had 4 days more in which it got an inch or more.  Four isn't a lot of days, unless the average is 10. Forty percent over average for days with big storms.  Providence had 15 days of an inch or more, compared to an average of 12: big deal, only 20 percent over average.  Hartford: 13 to 12; Worcester: 18 to 13.

So, just like the models predict for a warming planet, we had more hot days, more dry days, and more freakish storms.

Happy 2011.  Glad I bought a spiffy raincoat with a lifetime guarantee and Yak-trax.
violetcheetah: (Default)
Michele picked up a tape gun for me at Staples, store-branded, in furtherance of packing efficiently.  I took it out of my backpack and grumbled:  like just about every other consumer product, it's in one of those thick plastic packages, which I hate because (a) you can't get them open without a pair of kitchen shears and (b) they aren't recyclable.  I grabbed the shears, planned my line of attack to breach the package defenses, and realized that you can actually just yank it open by starting at one corner and pulling the front and back apart.  In so doing, I saw the Code 1 recyclable triangle.

While I still maintain that the whole plastic shell is unnecessary, it's at least a start.

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Violet Wilson

October 2016

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