confessions

Confession #27 The Christmas Tree Killer

indoor trees

A Forever Christmas Tree

It was two Christmases ago that we decided to pare back the decorations in the house. With that in mind, we also thought it would be great to have a forever Christmas tree, rather than buying a fresh one each year.

Not wanting a fake tree, we decided to pick up a little Norfolk Island Pine tree instead. They are great for growing indoors. We found a nice selection at a local big box store early in December, all sparkly and ready for decorating. They were small but we knew it would not take long until we had a nice size tree that we would never need to replace.

Or so we thought.

The poor thing barely made it through Christmas, let alone the new year. Mandolin suggested we buy a fake tree on sale, but I refused to give up so easily.

And so I doomed myself to repeat killing a tree the following year. This second one held on a wee bit longer. I repotted it and fed it, but it was obvious by Christmas day it was not long for this world.

Admittedly I am not great with houseplants, but I can keep them alive longer than just a few weeks.

We stopped in the same store yesterday, and as we happened by the tree display I commented “Should we buy another tree to kill?”

Just as Mandolin opened his mouth to respond, a woman standing nearby said “I’ve had one of those in my house for years. It’s huge.”

Now I never miss an opportunity to talk about my favorite subject and to learn more about growing anything. Mandolin wandered off and the woman and I discussed what she did vs. what I did. We examined the trees that were there and it turns out some of them were not sparkly at all. “Oh mine didn’t have anything sprayed on it,” she said. “Mine was more like this one.”

And she pointed to an untreated tree with obvious signs of new growth. You could see the difference in the health of the trees. The sparkly ones already looked like they were soon to be goners, the untreated trees were greener and had a lot of new growth.

“Oh, look at this,” the woman said, “This has three trunks, just like mine.”

That was the clincher right there. Maybe it wasn’t me after all. Maybe the sparkly stuff killed those trees.

I thanked her for her help, picked up the tree she had pointed to, and set about trying to find my husband.

“I knew you would be buying a tree,” he said, “After I heard what that woman told you about hers.”

“It’s a matter of gardener’s honor,” I answered.

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(Please Don’t) Eat (This) Tomato

Pompeii tomato

It is estimated that men hear as little as two words for every five a woman speaks.

Some women might suggest it is actually less than that.

And I know some men who might say “What? Did you say something?”

So it really came as no surprise last week when this scenario took place:

Mandolin: “That’s a nice looking tomato in that basket.”
Me: “Yes, it is the best of that variety that I grew. Please don’t eat it.”

Mandolin: “Don’t eat it? But it’s the best looking tomato in the basket.”
Me: “Yeah I know, I want to save the seeds from it. It was probably a twin tomato, but since it was the best one, I want the seeds. So, please don’t eat it. You can have any of the other tomatoes, just not this one.”

Mandolin: “Really? But that is such a nice looking tomato.”
Me: “Yes, it is. Here, I’ll move it to the side so you don’t forget.”

So the next day, when I came home from work, the tomato was gone. I knew what had happened.

When he returned from work I asked “Did you have a tomato today?”

“Yes,” he said, “that really nice looking one from the basket.”
“Was it good?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, that was a really good tomato.”

When I reminded him that it was the one I wanted the seeds from, he apologized.
Then jokingly added “But you kept saying ‘Eat tomato. Eat tomato.’”

Smart alack!

After almost 40 years together, I should have known better.
Say less, leave notes.

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Confession #64 – A Happy Garden

Life is not even.

Life is not even.

It was almost 40 years ago now that I sat in my first college Psychology class. The Professor walked in and proceeded to warn us of something called Medical School Syndrome.

This is when young premed students find they have the symptoms of many different diseases and disorders. The same thing can happen when you start reading psychology books.

The truth is whether it is physical or mental health, we all have a few symptoms. As long as they aren’t severe, we’re okay.

Another spaghetti squash and even more beans.

Squash and beans creating a green wave.

Now a few years later, and married with children, the first two garden beds go in. Growing up I had mostly seen flower gardens, so with those in mind I planted the trellised veggies in the back, followed by a handful of bush beans, then the greens in front. There were two beds, one for each of our kids, and they looked pretty.

There were no rows, but one thing I noticed is that they were even; even numbers of vegetables that is. That was the first time I realized that although I do not have an affinity for straight rows, I also don’t like odd numbers.
Not to the extreme that it has a negative impact on my life mind you, but it does affect the appearance of the gardens.

squash plants in the garden

Letting them trickle out into in the garden paths.

So our gardens are all raised beds, with mostly even numbers of veggies. The roadside garden is almost even on each side, but for the swerve of the fence lines and the esthetic addition of trees and brambles somewhat scattered about. No one bed is solely planted with just one veggie, and that intermix appeals to me.

Although my mind does prefer evenness in numbers, my heart leans towards more of a natural flow in spaces.

And that’s what makes my garden my happy place.

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Confession # 219 – Which Dry Bean is Which?

So the garden was over-planted with beans, there are far worse problems, right?
And okay, so we neglected to make a note of which bean was planted where, that shouldn’t be an issue, should it?

Alright… so the answer to both questions is “Yes!”

Fortunately, we keep our seed packets even when they are empty. That narrows down the possibilities.

Keeping seed packets is a high priority here.

Keeping seed packets is a high priority here.

Even better, some of the packets still had seeds in them. This helps with the matching a lot.

So we have narrowed down all but two. The brown ones resemble our Kentucky Wonder seeds, and our Blue Lake seeds. They also look a heckuva lot like a canning jar we have labeled simply “Dry Brown Beans”.
Yeah, let’s not get too specific, shall we? :-P

Narrowing down the possible suspects.

Closing the field on the possible suspects.

Now since these beans are being harvested from the trellis, and our Blue Lake as well as most dry beans are bush types, we’re going to guess they are the Kentucky Wonder pole beans.
Good thing, because those beans can be enjoyed as a dry bean as well as fresh.

Only one mystery remains- the white beans.
Not a clue, nada.
Because they were harvested with many others, we don’t even know if they were pole or bush.

Note to self: If you are not going to be specific and keep good notes, leave at least one seed in every packet until the winter comes.

Categories: Addiction, all about seeds, confessions, How to Grow

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Confession #923 Garden Folklore

Wooly Bully

Wooly Bully

Every fall at the sight of a wooly caterpillar, two things come to mind:
1. The upcoming winter.
2. This song worm.

And not necessarily in that order.

But this post is about folklore, not music; or weatherlore as some call it.
Do you believe that the wider the middle band is on a wooly caterpillar the milder the winter will be?
If that is true, then we’re in for a nasty one!

How about the activity of critters? Do squirrels stocking up signal an upcoming bad winter?
If that is the case, then the squirrels and the caterpillars are at odds this year.

Admittedly, I live in Pennsylvania… and not far from me is a town where they, tongue in cheek, let a rodent predict the coming of spring.
So perhaps it is not for me to talk about these things. Except I do know that some of them are true.

“Red sky at morning, sailor’s warning.
Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”

This is one I remember learning from my Dad, and it is actually based on meteorological observances and evidence.
Not that I can explain it.

Suffice it to say that a red sky at sundown really does signify a clear sky the next day, and vice versa.

Still it is fun to learn the lore, and discover what is true and what is just for fun.
Will thick skins on onions really predict the upcoming winter weather? Probably not… but then there is that “If there is thunder in winter, it will snow 7 days after.”

Darn if I haven’t seen that one come true.
Do I remember the times it didn’t? Well, er… no actually…

What are your favorite weather folklore sayings?
C’mon, share. It will be fun!
(PS f you don’t see your comment right away, it’s only because it has to be approved first. Hang on!)

More on Wooly Bears
Farmers Almanac Folklore

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Confession # 102 – Living with Mandolin Jones

My husband’s work schedule and mine are different, so it’s not unusual for us to leave each other notes.
Usually, they just say something like ‘Call the electric company’ or ‘We need dog food’.

So I admit I was a bit taken aback when I found this note on the bathroom vanity:

cat fur on toilet

Now since the toilet was recently cleaned, I decided this was a statement of past tense rather than a request for me to go get the glue gun and the cat.

The question that came to my mind was ‘why?’

Sherlock Holmes often said “Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.”

There were only two possible reasons I could think of for the cat to be at the toilet.

It had been a week of unseasonably hot weather, so I checked her water dish to be sure it was still full.

And it was… so that left only one other possibility, so I wrote back:

clean the litter box

Now there’s one thing about my husband; whenever there is a joke going on, he likes to have the last word.

I knew when I came home from work that day there would be a response:

clean the box

Of course I saw no reason to let it stop there.

there is no or

Once again, he answered back:

beer and whiskey

Since my birthday was coming up, I thought this might be a good opportunity to carpe diem and leave a hint:

More like a manicure.

He didn’t want to take the bait I guess, so he ended the conversation by finally admitting what men and women have known all along:

There is on cure for man.

I kept the napkin. :-)

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Confession #72 The List

Broccoli in the spring garden

Did you know that in musicals by Rodgers and Hammerstein, they tended to include a ‘list’ song?
It was obvious in Oklahoma! where they actually sang “Here is the jist, a practical list…” and pretty blatant in The Sound of Music and one of my favorite man-songs in South Pacific.

Why am I telling you this? Because this gardener’s brain works in strange ways.
You see, my head is full of odd snippets of information. I actually read footnotes, directions and disclaimers. I find what is unusual is often more fun.
My brain was not a victim of the 70′s, but it did reach capacity around 1985, so every time I learn something new, well… you get the idea.

yellow snow peas

It is pretty interesting though, if you are into musicals; and it’s a good lead-in for this post.

You see, the question often comes up:
“What are you growing this year, GJ?”
“What’s for dinner Grandpa?” <--you see, there it goes again.

So, without further eloquence <-- this year's garden includes:

-26 tomatoes, mostly romas, a few strange ones and 2 white cherry types. Like white cherry types aren’t strange. My mind wanders. <--
-120 sweet corn, 5 varieties
-24 ft. green soybeans
-26 ft. assorted dry beans
-25 ft. carrots

Fava Beans

-12 ft. fava beans
-40 lbs. potatoes

potatoes in May

-16 sq. ft. sweet potatoes
-6 each broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
-30 ft. parsnips
-1 doz. each sweet and hot peppers
-6 eggplants
-9 assorted squash (so far)
-3 baby melons
-21 garlic
-24 ft. onions
-10 ft. beets
-15 ft. green beans

Pears in the home garden

Of course there is an assortment of fresh greens, a handful of kale and collards, a partridge in a pear tree <-- numerous herbs and all the perennial fruits and veggies.

Still to plant: limas, more winter squash and green beans, some okra and cantaloupe <--; as well as the Kitchen Scrap Experiments on the windowsill.

So here's to another growing season. May Mother Nature <– be kind to us all, and may we not tick her off.
Perhaps a list song would help?

What’s growing in your garden?

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Confession #57 -Gardenesia

Gardenesia is a member of the CRS Group of common disorders, and because the symptoms are masked as simple errors or mistakes, it often goes undiagnosed. Although this disorder is not fatal, if not treated promptly it can spread rapidly.

Some of the symptoms include accidental duplications of actions,

Seed duplication.

the placing of items in unusual places,

Lost garden tools.

inability to recollect previous behaviors and actions,

Forgotten plantings.

and the victim may even seem surprised by the consequences of their own behavior.

Unexpected packages.

Gardenesiacts can be treated by encouraging them to utilize simple items such as a calender, notebook and pen.
In severe cases, blogging is recommended.

Blogging for Gardenesia

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Confession #11 -It’s Complicated (Not)

A Garden is a wonderful analogy for the relationship aspect of our lives.

It is so exciting finding that piece of land, planning the garden down to every detail, and then finally getting a chance to set shovel to soil.
You want to check on it every day to see how it is progressing, maybe even take pictures to show your friends.
You get a rush of adrenaline when it starts to produce.
You miss it when you are parted, whether it is the winter months or just on rainy days.

climbing gnome

Gardening can be hard work.

But over the years it may start to become more work than fun.
Perhaps the weeds and the rabbits are winning, and you’re just tired of the battle.
You might think to yourself “Oh look at that spot over there. There aren’t any weeds there. Maybe it even gets more sun or the soil might be richer. Maybe I’ll garden over there instead.”

searching for something better

Are the beans really greener?

Think about what would happen. Sure, it would be fun and exciting at first.
Eventually the rabbits would find the bed and the weeds would start to grow.
Maybe those weed seeds were actually on the bottom of your wellies, and you’re the one bringing them in after all.

Imagine it. Look back at your first garden, how are your perennials doing since you’ve been gone?
Is your asparagus getting thin or your strawberry bed overrun?
What if you had stayed there instead, what then?

Okay sure, I realize sometimes you get Bermuda grass, and there may be nothing you can do.
In most cases though, its simply a matter of mulching the weeds and enriching the soil. You may need to add a little manure to boost up its nutrient content, nothing wrong with that. You can even try some new varieties of veggies once in a while.

Cultivate the plants that do well, and minimize the ones that don’t.
Gardening, like life, doesn’t have to be complicated.

Gnome friends.

Do your friends see what you see?

Over time, you will have a garden that, although maybe not as exciting as it once was, you can trust to provide you with its best year after year.

Those friends of yours will stop by and admire your garden.
“You’re so lucky!” They’ll say.

happy gnome

You know the truth.

And you’ll smile, because you know luck had nothing to do with it.

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Confession #319 -A Different Seed Pledge

Seeds are addictive. Well, they are if you have an addictive personality.
Like me.

The statement “There are seeds everywhere in the house!” of course could not be literal; otherwise we would have to move out.

wall of seeds

The wall.

The statement “There’s a wall of seeds in here!” however, can be taken literally.
There is a wall, and that’s not all.

box of seeds

Just one box.

They are in boxes, by planters, on the crafts/gardening table.
There are probably some in the mail.
There are stacks of seed catalogs and magazines suggesting new and inviting seeds to try.

At times it is all but overwhelming.
Then there are the stores and seed displays… oh my.

more seeds

Will it ever be enough?

So here I offer for your consideration, a different kind of Seed Pledge:

I will not knowingly purchase any more seeds for the upcoming growing season. Signed, Gardening Jones

This is going to make quitting smoking look like child’s play.
Well… isn’t that a bad analogy?

So, are you in? Do you have enough seed packets that you are willing to finally make a commitment? Will you sign the pledge?

And isn’t knowingly open for debate?

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