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I'm never bored. If I'm not knitting or spinning, I'm gardening or reading. Always up to something!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Heirloom Tomato History

I planted my tomato plants this afternoon. I used a totally unscientific method of selecting varieties to grow. I chose 'Granny Cantrell's German' tomato, 'Williams Striped' tomato, 'Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter' and 'Burpee's Beefsteak' tomato. I chose the heirloom varieties simply because I thought the names were interesting. I chose the 'Beefsteak' because, tried and true, cut into half-inch delicious slices, it compliments a hamburger perfectly.
It turns out, the varieties I chose have interesting backgrounds as well as funny names. 'Granny Cantrell' was grown by and named for Lettie Cantrell of West Liberty, Kentucky. She had obtained the seeds to this particular tomato variety from a soldier returned from Germany after World War II in the 1940's. She liked this variety so much it was the only type of tomato she ever grew. Granny died in 2005 at the ripe old age of 96.

'Williams Striped Tomato', is a red and yellow variety striped inside and out. Georgia and Rene Emonds received some tomato seeds from an elderly neighbor who had saved them from a variety he had grown, having stashed the seeds in a pill bottle. The neighbor couldn't remember why or when he had saved the seeds. The Emonds started some seedlings, grew the plants and passed some seeds along to Merlyn Niedens. Niedens grew and submitted the variety to the 2005 Heirloom Garden show where it was named favorite of tomatoes that year. That's my motto - "Save Everything". You just never know.

Last, but not least of my heirloom varieties, is 'Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter'. This tomato was developed in the early 1930's in Logan, West Virginia, by a (car) radiator repairman, M.C. 'Radiator Charlie' Byles. Charlie had no experience breeding tomatoes, yet he made a successful cross of the four largest tomatoes he could find. Byles sold his seedlings for $1 each in the 1940's to gardeners who would drive up to 200 miles just to buy his famous plants. No wonder. This variety is reputed to bear tasty fruit that averages 2 1/2 lbs. each. Charlie was able to pay off his $6,000 mortgage in 6 years by selling his plants.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bride & Groom

It's time to plan a bridal shower for my son's fiancee. We're thinking finger food like quiches, chicken salad in tiny croissants, baked Brie en croute with raspberry jam, raspberry iced tea. Maybe a pitcher of beautiful fruit water as shown on the Vegetable Gardener website this week. I think cupcakes, too. I can start baking and freezing as long as I don't try to ice them until just before the party.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gardening within my Ability

I have unlimited enthusiasm for gardening. I try not to let my physical limitations get in my way. I'm not adverse to taking credit when something beautiful happens accidentally. These Aquilegias are native American wildflowers and were apparently the offspring of plants that were here when my husband bought the property in 1999. Aquilegias are normally short-lived and only transplant well when they are very small. I'm leaving these alone and planting some vegetables around them. I hope to end up with some seedlings that I can move in the future.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Love, Good Wishes & Prayer

I received a chain letter today from a beloved friend. It had been a forward to her from her daughter-in-law. My friend's daughter-in-law prefaced the mail by stating (in essence) that she doesn't usually pass these things along but that this one was worthy of a chain because of the positive message it carried. The message requests that I make a wish or say a prayer before I read the quotation and that I pass it along to twelve women who are important to me because (effectively) through a group like-minded women, all things are possible. After passing the message along, chain, unbroken, something good will happen on the fourth day. Okay, I admit it. I'm dying to know what's not going to happen to me on the fourth day. I have the e-mail addresses of twelve women, but I know, without a doubt, that most (if not all) of these women do not want a chain letter from me. Chain letters carry a certain burden of responsiblity that most of us simply do not want to shoulder. I don't know what happens when I break a chain because I always break the chain. I've been chain-breaking since I was a kid and got a "snail mail" chain letter in my mailbox. I thought it was a burden then but I was afraid not to break the chain as there was a veiled threat implied. So I fearfully wrote and mailed all those letters. Then I was told by my mother that chain letters were against the law. (I guess it was the threatening component since was there was no cash involved.) So I was between a rock and a hard place. Either way I was screwed. Bad things (whatever they were) would happen to me if I broke the chain (which had been unbroken by everyone in the world). If I didn't, well, actually, nothing happened. But technically, I had broken the chain-letter law. I guess that was bad. Truthfully, I didn't need to add one more thing to the OCD tendencies I was dealing with at the time. For heaven's sake, I was already maneuvering sidewalk cracks to avoid breaking my mother's back. So, this chain and every other after it will be broken and I'm at peace with that. I know my friend only sent the chain letter because 1) she had to keep the chain in one piece and 2) she was sending me love and good wishes and I wish (and pray) the same for her.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Old Kitchen - New Kitchen

It's not a nice day...again. Rainy and cold and I don't feel that well so I'm staying in. It's a good time to sort through paperwork, throw away the old and file the rest. I found some bills from the kitchen renovation while I was filing. Sometimes I forget what a change we made until I pull out the before pictures. The plumbing under the sink was leaking and the oven was too small for a turkey. The update took 40 years off her looks.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eggplant Topiary

I bought two Black Beauty eggplant seedlings and then decided to investigate their "care and feeding". It really sounds like they're more trouble than they're worth. I think it's going to be a case of the $1,000 eggplant. Barbara Damrosch writes in The Garden Primer, "eggplant is tough to grow in any climate" and "a certain amount of eggplant-growing is sheer luck". Basically, get them started as early as possible, watch for bugs, worms, wilt and blight. Don't let their roots touch the ground, don't pull weeds around them because they don't like it. Harvest your little, tiny eggplants as quickly as possible before something attacks them. Baby eggplants are very "au courant" so nobody will know you're coming home from work on your lunch hour to catch them at the peak of their perfection. In other words, snatching them from the mouths of bugs and disease that are waiting patiently for you to turn your back. I couldn't resist planting my eggplants in the classy urns they so richly deserve. The Alyssum was also Barbara's idea. I think it adds that little something...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Basic vs. Sexy Support

There was a lot of chatter this week-end about "lingerie". My soon-to-be married son wanted to know what the big deal was about bridal showers. I answered him with three words: Pots, pans and lingerie. I visited a lingerie shop on Saturday. There were lots of frilly underthings in tiny sizes (appropriately) and some body armor of the more basic design. Now here's where I can make the gardening connection. Last week I hammered some heavy-duty stakes into the ground and erected a nylon trellis to support some sugar snap peas I had planted. I hope I sewed the peas on the right (correct) side of the trellis. When the seeds sprout, I expect them to reach out toward the direction of the sun so I planted them on the north side of the trellis. Anyway, the pea trellis is "basic support" to say it in the kindest way. It really is ugly and utilitarian. I don't know what the trellis company was thinking by manufacturing it in white instead of green. Now the garden totem I stuck in behind the Annabelle hydrangea is what I call "sexy support". Annabelle will never really need much in the way of support. She's young and perky and will still be lovely at the end of her blooming days in the fall. We all should be so lucky...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Square Inch Gardening

Last month I planted a few lettuce seeds in a container before it was too early and too cold to play in the garden. Each tiny head of buttercrunch lettuce is supposed to mature to the size of a soft ball. This variety was developed for the "Japanese luxury market". I planted according to the directions on the packet. Five to seven of these little babies are supposed to fit comfortably within a 12 to 15 inch pot. Somebody's going to get transplanted. They remind me of little birds in a nest. All this coddling and each little head will barely make a salad for one.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tuesday in May

Robert Lewis Stevenson said, "A friend is a gift you give yourself". I gave myself a gift yesterday in the form of a four hour lunch with my friend, Kathy. If a whole afternoon at Rainbow Gardens restaurant weren't enough, we topped off the day by going shopping at Coldwater Creek. To make that even better, Kathy gave me a $25 coupon to use at CC. Every girl needs a friend like Kathy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Getting More than I Paid For

I continued my autumn ritual last November. For the last few years, I've delayed my puchase of fall bulbs to take advantage of clearance sales. I've had to check the display a couple of times to get the best deal, but I've never paid more than half price for my bulbs.

Of course, this results in a very limited selection. Basically, I end up with what nobody else wanted.

So far, the tactic has worked just fine. The result of my thriftiness is that I buy twice as many bulbs as I would have purchased at the full price. I throw the bulbs in a pile and mix them up. Then I dig large holes and plant five or seven bulbs in each hole.

Last year I planted red triumph tulips, yellow darwin hybrid tulips and mixed lily flowering tulips.
I treat them as annuals and never expect them to flower a second year and they usually don't. Popping up around the highlighter-yellow spurge (inherited from the previous owner), dutchmen's britches (also inherited), and lion's bane (my addition from Walmart last year), I think the results were well-worth the $15 I spent last fall.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

All Heart

Our little Cocker Spaniel is 99% heart - not much in the brains department - but Cocker Spaniel love is enthusiastic and unconditional. You can always tell where you stand with my puppy girl. The only time the tail stops wagging is when she's asleep or involved in one of her favorite pastimes - people-watching...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's a Bumper Crop of Dandelions!

I finally got to read the Home section of the New York Times with my morning coffee. Sometimes I'm right on the cutting edge - who'd have guessed? According to an article by Anne Raver in this past Thursday's edition, ecologists are beginning to link the decline in bee population with the eradication of native plants. In research performed by Professor Gordon Frankie, an entomologist at the University of California, Berkeley, bees prefer to eat locally grown! Who knew? According to Professor Frankie, out of 1,000 plants surveyed, 50 were native plants. 80 percent of the bees counted were attracted to those native plants as opposed to only 10 percent of the bees who buzzed around the 950 non-natives.

The author's advice? "Don't be so quick to mow." Right on, sister. I don't have to be embarassed any more because I choose to relinquish my picture-perfect spring lawn to masses of life enhancing dandelions and wild violets. I'll have more cucumbers and tomatoes than my neighbors with their putting-green turf. I'll be harvesting baskets of green beans and salad vegetables while they're standing in line at the grocery store.

Okay, seriously. Tomatoes, peas and beans don't rely on bees for pollination but other crops like my cucumbers do. I don't use anything on my lawn and garden but organic products and the organic weed control hasn't been very effective. Maybe that's not so bad. The plan for this year is to add more native plants to my landscape. I have plenty of blackeyed susans because they self-sew. Other native plants suggested by the author are Joe-pye weed, coreopsis, penstemon, salvia, milkweed, spider flower, verbena lavender, basil, rosemary and borage. They're all going in the ground this year. Hopefully they're good companion plants to the dandelions and violets.