Winter Solstice


Bank the fires against the darkness, on this, the longest night of the year (at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.)

Underneath the hustle and bustle of the holidays, there is a quietness, if you listen hard enough. This seems to be a good time of year for a little introspection, a bit of self-examination. Maybe it’s the constant hum of Dickens in the background and Jacob Marley’s words echoing in the dark: “Mankind was my business!” that makes me want to take stock.

And so, in between the shopping and the cocktail parties and the frantic to-and-fro-ing we reach for something deeper, looking for those things that tie us together, that connect us.

And in this time of unrest (Has there ever been a time that wasn’t a time of unrest?) it seems especially important.

We want to show our children (and each other) that there is more than fear and hate and greed in the world. There’s good stuff. Really good stuff. Friends and family and music and holding hands and laughter and hugs. Crackling logs in the fireplace, both real and metaphorical, keeping us warm and the darkness at bay.

Peace, joy and love to you and yours during this season and throughout the new year.


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Wordless Wednesday – Prepping for Winter

Bee on Coneflower

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In A Vase…err…Pumpkin On Monday

Pumpkin celsosia1And so Monday arrives with all the baggage she brings. The weekend is in the rear-view mirror, the work week  begins. Five long days to slog through on our way to another glorious October weekend.

Five more long days ’til fun and frenetic Saturday, with her soccer matches and football games and errand-running. And then here comes Fun-day Sunday and her bicycle rides , brunches and rambles in the woods. (Maybe an afternoon nap, if the planets align.)

But don’t be so hard on Monday. Monday’s okay. Monday can be good.

Cathy, over at Rambling in the Garden brings much cheer to Monday with her In a Vase on Monday meme. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may and stick ’em in a vase. Snap a picture. Congratulate  yourself on your teamwork with Mother Nature.

“But!” you cry. “That’s not a vase!”

Okay, so a pumpkin isn’t a vase. But, hey, give the artist (artist?) a bit of license.

A tin can inside a hollowed out pie pumpkin can make a dandy receptacle. Especially for these Cockscombs, or Celosia cristata, rescued from the garden before our first freeze–The night of October 17th in our Zone 6 neck o’ the woods for those keeping score.

I think it turned out quite nice…very autumn-y. Very October-y. Very Pumpkin-y. And we get to enjoy the Cockscombs for at least a few more days.

Is it freezing yet where you live? Any last minute flower/veggie grabs before Jack Frost made his visit?

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September’s Warm Embrace

Goldenrod1By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.
~Helen Hunt Jackson

If April is the cruelest month, as T.S.Eliot suggested, September may be the kindest.

And September in Kentucky means blue, blue skies and goldenrod. Chilly mornings and sunny afternoons. Gardens running amok, as the busy gardener (me) neglects the plot, too busy with young’uns starting school and all the myriad obligations the end of summer brings.

cornBut what a wonderful time to take a moment and breathe in the sweet September air. The tomatoes still taste of summer sun. And the cucumbers, still plentiful on the vines, smell green, green, green.

If there is ever a time to spend a lovely hour or two in the garden, this is it.

And we’re not the only ones taking advantage of good gardening weather. Bees are everywhere, kicking it into high gear as the slanting light of the September sun tells them to make haste. Buzz on, little bee, the frost may be here sooner than you know!Bee Coneflower

So September brings us much to do in the garden. Lots to harvest as everything gives one last mighty Huzzah! We’ll clean up a few veggie beds. Remove the tomato vines and other plants that have run their course. Pull up the faded, gangly petunias in pots. Plant some mums. Maybe a bed of lettuce or two. And spinach. And, if I hurry, perhaps carrots and Brussels sprouts and Swiss chard.

All months have those things that make them special, but September is pure magic. Take a moment to stand in the sun, spread your arms wide and soak it in.

What does September bring to you and your garden in your part of the world?

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Tips for Tastier Tomatoes

Black Krim slice

We have limited space in the suburban garden that is the Squirrels’ Nest so tomatoes are awarded prime real estate. Most every other plant is incidental, and subservient to the placement of the tomato plants.

“Watermelon this year?” Ms. Professor may ask. “Sorry, Sweetie, we need the space for the Old German variety I want to try this year.”


“I’m sorry, my Darling, that takes up way too much space. My Granny told me you must plant at least four rows to get good pollination (Corn is a wind-pollianted plant) and we’re going to want that space for the Brandywines.”green tomato1

So, in reality, our “garden” is really, more or less, (okay, more) a tomato patch.

And we are okay with that. Because we love tomatoes. And I mean LOVE! There’s a reason the French refer to a tomato as the Pomme D’amour, or “Love Apple.”green tomato

And so, here’s our humble offering of tips for growing tomatoes.

1-Find a good spot. We’re lucky. We have a geat spot: southern exposure, good drainage, and easily accessible from the kitchen. And at least 6 hours of sunlight is a good rule of thumb. Of course, the problem comes when we must rotate crop varieties, to cut down on the number of tomato-attacking pathogens in any given plot of soil. We do the best we can by alternating containers and shifting the beds a bit, but we have yet to fully overcome this particular hurdle.

2-Grow your own seedlings. Although many good garden centers have interesting varieties thse days, the best bet is to get seeds and start your own plants. (If your family can grant you the forbearance to occupy most of the sunny windowsills and horizonatal surfaces in your home for a few weeks in the spring.) Cherokee Purple was a big hit this year as was the delicious Mr. Stripey and Black Krim. Brandywine is always a classic and you can’t beat that flavor!Tomato blossom

3-Don’t be afraid to bury the plant as deep as you can when transplanting. Any buried stem will form roots. Some like to bury the stem in a “trench” running horizontal under the ground to take advantage of the warmth of the spring sun to stimulate growth. We usually just dig a deep hole and plop ’em in. Oh, and get lots of good compost in there while digging that hole. And if your transplants have any blossoms, pinch them off in order to concentrate the plants energy on building a big, sturdy root system. As hard as it is to pinch away those future tomatoes, this will pay dividends when you have a big healthy plant covered in blossoms..and then tomatoes!

4-Make sure your soil is well-drained (and, again, augmented with plenty of compost.) We use several large containers and a raised bed for some of our plants, as well.

5-Mulching your tomatoes can help keep any soil-born disease or fungus from getting on the lower leaves of your plants. Plus it helps keep the soil from drying out too quickly.diseased leaf

6-If you see diseased leaves, remove them immediately (and don’t add to the compost pile). Be prepared to rip the poor little plant from the garden if it doesn’t show signs of recovering, Ruthless, I know, but better to remove one sick plant than infect the entire plot.

7-A temptation I struggle with every year is planting the tomatoes too close to each other. After a few months of tomato-less winter, I want as many tomato plants in our garden plot as possible. But be warned: Don’t crowd your plants. Good air circulation goes a long way to keeping disease down. Plus properly spaced plants are much easier to harvest.

Oh, and bonus tip: Fish fertilizer. Smells like the morning breath of the unholy undead, but the ‘mater’s love it! But use with caution. If you get it on you, you won’t be welcomed back into the house for many hours. Many, many hours.

Do you have any great tips for tomato growing? I’d love to hear ’em!

Tomato plate

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What Kind of Sandwich?!?

Peanut butter tomato toast

We’re in the heat of tomato harvesting. And eating.

BLTs, Caprese Salads, Fresh Salsa, Omelets, etc etc.

I’m not saying I’m tired of fresh homegrown tomatoes. I’m just saying I’m looking for a little variety…spice of life, and all that.

In the kitchen one evening this week, I remembered something my grandmother used to fix in the summer. Something off the beaten path. Something unexpected. Something…well, perhaps, a bit weird. Although, knowing Granny’s ability to improvise in the kitchen, I should hardly have been surprised.

The first time she asked me to try it, my 14-year-old brain thought-No way! Not that I was opposed to either main ingredient. I just never paired them up in my brain before.

But she rarely steered me wrong, in culinary matters or life in general. So I tried it. And liked it.

A peanut butter and tomato sandwich.

She made it open-faced with toasted white bread, spread with creamy peanut butter (although crunchy works, too, and adds some interesting texture.) A thick slice of beefsteak tomato dotted with coarse salt topped the peanut butter.

Sweet. Savory. Delicious.

Do you have a snack that’s decidedly weird yet oddly delicious? Something that others might turn up their nose at but tastes divine (or at least, spark those neurons in our brain that remind us of days gone by.) If so, do tell…I’d love to hear about it!

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And the Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down.

storm hills

July showed up wet and topical here in our part of the Ohio River Valley. Brief but angry thunderstorms. Long, gentle rains. Soakers and Sprinkles. Gully Washers and Frog Stranglers.

roses1And when it’s not raining, it may as well be, thanks to the humidity.

But the garden loves it. The tomato plants are taller than me. The cucumber vines are clambering up their supports like circus monkeys.

Tomato blossom

The weeds are thrilled, too. A perfectly weeded bed seems to snap back to primordial forest in 24 hours. When I accuse my kids of growing like weeds, this is what I’m talking about.

Now where is that garden hoe? It’s been at least 30 minutes since my last weeding.

How’s summer faring in your neck of the woods?


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