Tag Archives: gardening

Pickin’ Peas

Pickin’: v. vernacular for harvesting fruits or veggies

Peas: n. heavenly spring legume

The freshest peas ever

The freshest peas ever

My friend Judi is away and asked me to mind her Ps (no Qs).  Last night I walked up there with my little pickin’ basket and minded those Ps right into my basket.

Not as easy as it might seem. It’s hard to judge the pea inside by the fatness of the pod.  I picked about 20 pods that looked and felt right, but when I popped them open, some were still semi-fetal.

“Sorry, babies,” I said to them, feeling like a second trimester abortionist.

Nonetheless, I dropped them all, semi-fetal and mature, into boiling water for about 30 seconds, drained them, added a bit o’ butter, a pinch of sea salt and a grind of pepper ….

OMIGOD.  Like eating sweet green caviar. Their round shapes roll nicely on the tongue and then pop when caught between my upper and lower molars.  Total yum.

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Props for crops

Prop: n. something that holds up or sustains

Pole bean props - with twine

Pole bean props - with twine

With the help of my ex, I’ve created the necessary support systems for my bean-crop-to-be. Two 7′ pieces of scrap wood and four screws (cost $2.48) are now screwed to my raised bed, and soon the vines will be hauling ass up the strands of twine till they’re way out of my shrimpy reach at harvest time.

My family is famous (in our tiny circle of string bean fans anyway) for our Blue Lake pole beans. My parents grew so many that I swear my mom spent her entire summer slicing them (on the diagonal, if you please) and blanching them for a freezer full.

I’m not big on frozen beans but I make a mean dilly bean.

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Other crop prop projects:

My ex and I also encased my four LOADED blueberry bushes in a cage of bird-proof netting. The bushes are about six feet tall and at least that wide. This year I’m going to have to borrow freezer space again because my freezer will be berried out by mid-July.

I’ve encased my tomatoes in cages, which they will overrun within a month. Why do they make them so wimpy?

Finally, my ancient grape arbor is tottering under the weight of an unusually hyperactive vine. I’m going to be inundated come September. Maybe this year I’ll figure out an easier way to make raisins… (wine??). Meanwhile, after hacking back the grasping tendrils, I harvested a bag full of tender grape leaves I’ll try brining.

grape arbor

Perturbed but not yet pessimistic

Perturbed: greatly disturbed, made uneasy or anxious, confused.

Pessimistic: a tendency to take the gloomiest possible view of a situation.

Times are getting tough. People are perturbed. The usually optimistic are beginning to rethink their positions.

  • An old friend stopped by today. She is visiting from the Bay Area for a long weekend with her husband. Just before leaving town yesterday her boss at Oracle called her in to say she was being laid off.  Part of a purge.
  • My ex has a real estate investment that just went belly up.
  • My gig contributing feng shui articles to the local newspaper was terminated because that section of the paper is being eliminated (along with 20 more staff members).
  • My investment portfolio is down 22% since Jan.1.
  • Food prices have increased 5.3% in the past year.
  • Gas prices are $1.32 a gallon higher in Washington state than a year ago – more than 25%.

It’s not all bad:

  • My laid-off friend found a job in a different division of Oracle and will be able to work when she returns from vacation.
  • Many of us are driving much less and much less aggressively, which is good for the environment and our stress levels.  Some of us even have enough spare cash to buy a Prius
  • Many of us have returned to growing our own veggies… I’ve got lettuce, spinach, herbs, and blueberries right now. Beans, squash, tomatoes, beets, grapes on the way. How locavore can you get?
  • I still have a roof over my head, with enough rooms in my house to sleep extra folks if necessary. I don’t know if I can extend that offer to my ex though… (he still has his own roof).
  • The less I have, the more appreciative I am of what I do have: friends, family, health, music, dance, books, children, beauty, laughter. On and on. So much.

Plants and permanence

Permanent: fixed and changeless; lasting; not expected to change in status, condition or place
Permanence: the condition of quality of being permanent

I spent much of the weekend in the garden, dealing with my plants (wanted and unwanted). Last week I hired Joe to deal with the plethora of my unwanted plants (otherwise known as weeds), and the garden looked fabulous. The rhodies, iris and peonies were at their peak, and the roses coming on.

But now the rhody bushes are covered with dead florets and look like hell. Ditto the iris and peonies. I want everything to STOP! Why won’t the rhodies just STAY in perfect bloom? Ditto the iris and peonies.

If there is one thing plants teach it’s impermanence. A plant is at its peak only for a couple of weeks. Cut a flower to bring inside and maybe it lasts a few days.

A few years ago I took an Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) class at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Portland. The teacher had brought all sorts of plant materials as well as just enough low vases and kenzan (the spiky base that hold stems in place) for each of us. I have had a fair amount of ikebana training so the lesson wasn’t particularly new for me, but some of the materials were novel (those flat sweet little peaches, for example).

We all fixed and fussed on our own arrangements for maybe an hour. Mine turned out the most beautiful, the most interesting, the most wonderful (etc etc etc) arrangement I had ever created (at least I thought so). It totally tickled me, particularly how I’d used the peach and picked up its subtle colors in the other plant materials I used.

The teacher walked us from arrangement to arrangement tweaking here and there and discussing what worked in each one. We were inspired by each other’s creations.

Then she said, “OK, take them apart. We’re going to do another arrangement and you’ll need to re-use that vase.”

WHAT !?!?! My chef ‘ouevre? The pinnacle of my ikebana career? Destroyed after only one hour??

I know that plants are ephemeral, but to KILL an arrangement after only one hour was unthinkable! And I didn’t even bring a camera to capture it on film for my continuing pleasure.

Buddhist teachings stress that all is impermanent, that attachment is suffering.  I got it.

the Pull of Place

While I love getting away, seeing new sights, meeting new people, I am firmly anchored at home. Home is where my heart is. Home is where I center and rejuvenate myself.

Since my ex and I separated six years ago, my home has been a 3,000 square foot house on a one-third acre lot framed by trees and nestled into a gentle slope overlooking a lake. In feng shui, this fortuitous placement is called “the belly of the dragon.”

Even though I’m just a couple of miles from downtown, and pretty close to my neighbors, it’s quiet and private. Out of every window I see something lovely.

This is the most wonderful home I’ve ever had – and people who visit are immediately enchanted by it as well. Not because it’s grand – because it is anything but (built from a plan-book in 1972). But it’s cozy, colorful and quirky.

So why did a single woman of modest means buy a house this big?

Three reasons: it was cheap (needed a lot of work), the setting was fabulous, and it was the only house I could find within my budget that had a dining room big enough for my grandmother’s dining table, and a living room large enough for my mother’s Steinway baby grand (which I’m keeping for my still-peripatetic son, 24).

The fourth reason: ohmigod the yard! All the previous owners were skillful gardeners who left behind shrubs, native plants, sheets of color from spring bulbs, rock walls, five prolific blueberry bushes, a grape arbor and an asparagus bed! A chestnut tree on the southwest corner to keep the house cool in the summer, and a couple of towering black walnut trees in my neighbor’s yard that framed my view to the northwest.

I refinanced and plowed a lot of money into remodeling. And more into simplifying the yard. If the economy and housing market hadn’t plunged, the investment might have been wise. But now the moths in my purse are looking hungry.

Walking around the yard this spring, I’m seeing not just beauty but bondage. The yard work is unending. And it’s more work than a single woman of my age wants to do.

I need to make some serious changes. My options as I see it: find a new mate (someone who loves to garden or has enough money to pay a gardener); write a best-seller and become rich enough myself to afford the gardener or; down-size.

At the moment the first two options are in the realm of fiction. That leaves me with down-sizing.

It’s so easy to be blithe about down-sizing when it’s my feng shui clients’ stuff. But the shoe is now on MY foot and it hurts. Yesterday I sat in the yard and wept just thinking about letting go of this place.

It took me months to find my home – and now I’ll be fighting the growing horde of down-sizers who are also seeking a smaller, charming home within walking distance to shops and public transportation.

I hope I can maintain some shred of equanimity during this process. For sure I’ll be a better consultant after I’ve done it myself.