17 September 2011

compost! it's the sh*t.

While away in the field and desperately missing my garden (among other things), but loving my new Kindle, I downloaded and read The Quarter-Acre Farm. While there were a few dumb moments, overall it was a decent read, and I especially appreciated the part about compost. As a lazivore (my new favorite term, thank you Treehugger), I don't turn our compost. Sometimes I poke at it with a pitchfork, but that's about it. And by sometimes I mean once every 6 months. Apparently I am not alone, but Ms. Warren describes her technique of simply removing the uncomposted stuff on the top to get at the good stuff below. Ah hah! Only our scrap wood compost bin has a removable front, so I just removed the front and carefully scraped out about 3 cu. ft. of lovely composted compost. I could have gone for more, but I started to worry about the pile's structural stability, plus it was hard. But I got enough to top off the one raised bed that is currently empty. And I forgot to take pictures before I got it all re-sealed.

In other news, things are growing, but not too fast at my own 0.05 acre farm. Except for the birdhouse gourd vines, which are trying to take over the world. One of the more amazing things in the yard continues to be the flowering basil, which the bees love so much it is almost embarrassing. And fortunately Rudy the dog has decided to ignore them for the time being (we will not pretend that he actually learned from last year's bee eating / face swelling / Benadryl induced sleeping event).

17 July 2011


Okay, so sometime last year my cousin sent me a link to this site with one of those "ha ha, this looks like some hippie s**t you would do" emails. Little did she know, we were in the midst of a crisis in which N was totally ready to chuck his favorite Patagucci cashmere sweater because it had a hole in the elbow. So, I said "ah hah!", ignored my cousin's tone, and went to buy a felting needle. Only my local yarn shop doesn't carry felting supplies (though they told me there's a shop like an hour away that does) and the people at Michael's across the street from my house looked at me like I was crazy. So, the sweater went in a box, and life got busy. BUT, apparently since then felting has gone viral (as has fixing sweaters - google it, I dare you) and so the last time I was wandering around our disheveled Michael's I discovered a whole new felting section. So this weekend I tried it. I didn't take a before picture, but here's shortly in to the process:

And then slightly further along:

And this is the finished product:

Not quite amazing, but kinda fun. I turned the sleeve inside to outside a few times, and I could work more on it, but this represents like 20+ minutes of pretty concentrated felting-needle poking. I'm guessing if he ever wears this he will get a lot of "Hey, there's something... wait, what's going on on you elbow?"

Garden update: Slowly clearing out, the cabbages are having babies, slugs and/or birds have a striking preference for butternut squash seedlings (over acorn and fairytale pumpkin), the watermelons are sprawling, and if the cucumbers ever start growing they may get slapped in the face by several birdhouse gourd vines. Fun!

10 July 2011

SF Flower Mart

One of the most fun and unique experiences of planning the wedding (and doing all the flowers with just help from family and friends) was taking a trip to the San Francisco Flower Mart. As a recent inductee into the world of flowers, it's pretty incredible. You can literally buy almost any kind of flower you can imagine. For better or worse, many of the flowers are not locally grown - I asked one seller where his roses were from and he proudly told me they were from Ecuador. While they were beautiful, I looked for and eventually found equally beautiful roses from California (organic? no...)

We really didn't buy that much for the wedding - I had already picked up several bunches of mini callas from the farmer's market (from the same grower who recently sold me some awesome dahlias), and we had some stuff from the garden. We did buy some yellow and white roses, several bunches of white hydrangeas, 2 delicious bunches of peonies (the same kind that are currently NOT flowering in my garden), some flowering kale, some other crazy kale, and some curly willow branches. A few of the willow branches even sprouted, and I'm keeping one in water with plans to pot it at some point (that should work, right?)

Anyhow, the flowermart opens at like 3 a.m. but they don't allow us non-pros in until 10 a.m. so I can only imagine how incredible it must be in the wee hours of the morning. Now in my next life I want to be a homesteader, fabric crafter, and locally grown florist.

06 July 2011


One of the things that still shocks me about gardening is the incredible assortment of different varieties available of things that, to most people, are just one thing. And not just of lettuce and potatoes, either. Territorial Seed Co. lists 35 different types of garlic. Thirty five! Do they all taste different? Look different? It seems that way, yet if I walked into a fancy grocery store and asked for "Ontario purple trillium garlic" I'm guessing I would get some funny looks. And then there's red onions. Did you know there are different kinds of red onions? (as well as multiple types of white and yellow and scallions?)

There are also the things we know have varieties, but it turns out that those varieties are just categories, too. "Heirloom tomato" actually refers to an almost infinite number of varieties. Here are a few of my favorite names (today):
- Yellow perfection
- Green zebra
- Delicious (duh?)
- Kellogg's breakfast (in our garden now)
- Pink accordion
- Tiger-like
- Cosmonaut Volkov
- Striped cavern...

It goes on. If you have some procrastinating to do, check out Baker Creek's tomato options and just imagine the possibilities.

03 July 2011

Carpenter bees and other thoughts

On June 18th N and I were married, largely explaining why I haven't written a blog post in nearly a year. Much of my time was devoted to crafting, reading other people's blogs about wedding craftiness, and attempting to grow all of the flowers for the wedding. The last didn't exactly work (I would estimate I grew about 30% of the flowers used in the actual wedding decorations), but it means my garden is much different this year than last.

Here's an abbreviated list of what I grew: various sunflowers (bloomed perfectly on time, unexpectedly), calla lilies (epic failure), peonies (fail, duh), zinneas (fail for the wedding but now blooming beautifully), marigolds (mostly starts, great in the wedding), double-click cosmos (only a few blooms for the wedding, now great), bells of Ireland (meh), some kind of poppy that is about to bloom, dusty miller (from starts, good for wedding filler), ranunculus (too early), alliums (almost all too early), columbine (fail), German chamomile (fail, though finally growing), hydrangeas (now have tiny, unexpectedly pink-ish blooms), yarrow (big win, unintentional addition), and a huge, insane, amazing smelling mountain of sweetpeas ('April in Paris' and 'Royal Wedding' from Renee's Garden). There are a few photos on flickr of the bouquets, etc, with hopefully more to come. In addition to the wedding flowers I've had some good luck with echinacea, violas, and nasturtiums, so it's a pretty colorful place.

What this all means is that the garden this year has been a much more lively place for birds and bees. One big surprise was that the birds' favorite snack seemed to be sunflower leaves. This left the leaves looking lacy, but the flowers intact, but that was fine by me. The bees have been everywhere, of course, but the most exciting was when I got buzzed by a GIANT bee headed to a dime-sized hole in a rotten log I was using to hold down some black plastic (attempting to grow watermelons on the California coast...). It's probably silly for me to be so excited about a relatively common native insect, but I just feel so honored that this guy (I think) has deemed my often scruffy yard to be good habitat for not just foraging but living.

Here's a photo:

I claim no entomological expertise, but I am fairly certain that this is a carpenter bee (Xylocopa spp.) of some species. Go nature!