September Means Sunflowers and Salsas

Scarlet Sunflower

Summer has slipped into September, which means cool weather will soon descend on our part of the Ohio River Valley. We still have 3 more weeks until the Autumnal Equinox, but (probably due to wishful thinking) I’m pretty sure I can feel the crisp air of fall, at least in the early mornings.

Heirloom Tomatoes

We had a lovely tomato crop this year despite cooler than average temperatures. Our compatriots just to the south of us had a surfeit of rain that was not overly friendly to the tomato plants and a little too friendly to the various fungi and blights that can plague the garden patch. We tried several new varieties of heirlooms this year, including Sunrise Bumblebee, Harvard Square, Black Cherry and Dragon’s Eye.

I ask you, Dear Reader, how can you not resist growing a tomato named Sunrise Bumblebee?

I was determined to keep good notes on how the tomato patch progressed, the successes, the failures, and what we’d want to bring back next year. But I learned a valuable lesson: Determination alone is sometimes not enough to accomplish one’s goals. I did managed to scratch down a few sporadic notes. With luck, those few cryptic passages will be enough to plan next years crop.

How did your garden fare this summer? Did you have any particular successes to recommend and that will become a regular in your plot?

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As Summer Slips Away


Summer loosens her grip on us reluctantly in our part of Kentucky, snug on the southern shores of the Ohio River Valley. The heat and humidity claw at us through the month of August and  well into zinnia

Occasionally, though, we are gifted with a day or two of lower temperatures. A cold front from the Northlands will wash away the hot, languid air, making mornings crisp and putting a spring in our step.

As the poet Ernest Dowson declares: “Summer’s loss seems little, Dear! On days like these.”sunflowers

If at all possible, these mornings must be spent out in the sunshine. And there’s plenty to do in the garden.


Tomato blight has swept through the patch, so there’s not much left to harvest, just a whole lot of sanitizing to do. Not my favorite exercise. But for a good tomato crop next year, well worth the effort.tomato basil

The cucumbers are about played out; they put on quite a show this year. I love the look of Lemon Cucumbers, but the ratio of seeds to flesh leave a little something to be desired. Pretty in a salad, though.lemon cucumbers

Young Madeline planted one Sugar Baby  plant (in a bale of straw) that resulted in one stunted (but still lovely) watermelon. We’re thinking straw bale gardening may not be the best method for watermelons.Melon

But as Eleanor Perenyi said “To garden is to let optimism get the better of judgement.”

So who knows, we may try it again.

How many times do you try a garden experiment before moving on? And isn’t experimenting with new plants and methods part of the fun? We think so!

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Summer Sweetness


There are lots of sensory delights this time of year

An icy cold beer after mowing the lawn.

Strawberry shortcake, not that manufactured spongy stuff, but real shortcake,

More like a Cat Head Biscuit, smothered with lots of real whipped cream.

But for my money, there’s little better than a perfectly ripe peach,

Eaten over the kitchen sink while looking out at the birds in the backyard,

Juices dripping down my chin, my wrist, my arm.

That is summer to me, summed up quite nicely,

And as my grandma always said,

I could eat them ‘til I founder.

 Happy First Day of Summer!

What are your favorite joys of Summer?



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Cherry Blossoms & Blackberry Winter

Cherry blossom

Our Weeping Cherry is waking the bees from their winter slumber and tempting us into the garden. A string of warm days sends us, pell-mell, to the the garden store, for (at least) a little window shopping

And although we’re sorely tempted, year after year, to go ahead and start planting, we know that, more than likely, more cold weather’s ahead. We’ve been burned…or, I guess, frozen, by setting out plants too early then either raiding the garage for anything we can put over the tender seedlings to ward off the frost or just watching helplessly while they suffer the cruel fate I’ve subjected them to.

In our part of the the Ohio River Valley, spring is a fickle thing, teasing us with soft warm days, lulling us into a false sense of an early summer. But there always seems to be one last freeze, one last frost, that happens after we’ve put our winter woolies away.

My Grandmother called it Blackberry Winter.

That short cold snap that reminds you the earth hasn’t quite turned far enough toward the sun yet. And so we wait. And plan. And order too much from the seed catalogs.

Mother’s Day is usually safe to set out most anything–The second weekend of May is almost always sure-enough spring at our place. So that’s when we plan to plant.

The weatherman is calling for balmy temperatures this weekend. I wonder if I should just set out a few tomatoes…

Are you as anxious as we are to get out in the garden? When do you start digging?

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Spring Stirs From Her Slumber-Wordless Wednesday


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Spring Foreshadows


Slowly we’re shaking off the effects of our winter hibernation, walking outside to sniff the air to see if we can detect any signs of spring.

Some days it feels like yes. Some days, no.

That’s part of the joy of living in our part of the Ohio River Valley. We might see a couple of 60 degree days in February, but they’re usually followed up quickly with snow or ice or a frozen blast of arctic air.

But we can feel it coming.

Our hemisphere’s been turning its face back toward the sun since late December. and somewhere, deep in our bones or maybe in our lizard brains we feel the spring. It whispers its song to our mitochondria causing them to sway and swell, filling us with the desire to get outside and get some dirt under our fingernails. To feel the sun on our faces. To taste the breeze.

And so we rub the winter sleep from our eyes, stretch our slothful backs, and watch the weather reports. We look for signs of crocus and daffodil. We watch for the the tips of tree branches to green. We scoop up a handfuls of earth and feel its temperature, wondering if its almost time to push a few peas into the ground.  Daffodil shoot

The tug of spring acts on us like the pull of the moon on the oceans, leading us back outside, back into the garden and back into the sun.

Are you ready for spring? Or if you’re in the southern hemisphere, have you started putting your gardens to bed?

And aren’t the seasons wonderful?

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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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