volunteer tomatoes???!

It is a spectacle. I was weeding and sowing today and there are a few clusters of tomato sprouts. I don't know what else they could be...but it seems impossible. Last fall I just pulled all of my tomato plants and laid them on the rows to allow the organic material to decompose into the soil and protect it from weed seed germination. Maybe it was protected enough to survive a Montana, zone 4 winter? But since I have cleaned all of that up we have had several hard frosts...

I suppose stranger things have happened. I am pregnant after all.

Do I qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records or something?


garden themes

I found a thread on You Grow Girl that I totally love. It is about garden themes...here are my faves and I'd love to have other ideas:
  1. A Garden for Cats: a collection of catnips and catmints, successive seedlings of catgrass, flea-repellent plants, other durable plants that provide interesting little caves, a sunny spot or two for basking and a discreet sandy bed for excretion.
  2. Mary Garden: with flowers about the Virgin...lambs ears, lady's mantle, shasta daisies, roses, lavender, assumption lily, bleeding hearts, johnny-jump-ups (trinity flowers), Canterbury bells, English daisy, foxglove, hollyhock, sweet william.
  3. Alice in Wonderland Garden: a bed of pansies, mushrooms and red roses. A moss chessboard. Peony trees, a croquet course with plastic flamingos planted around and hedgehogs. A Cheshire cat it a tree. A shady corner for a tea party.
  4. Gothic Garden: black hollyhocks, black iris, black bat flower, black pansy, black viola, magpie columbine, sooty sweet william.
  5. Grain Garden: clusters of amaranth, wheat, alfalfa and millet for the birds.
  6. A Poison Garden is open in London! Check it out.
  7. Artist Garden: Pick an artist. Georgia O'Keeffe could feature all the flowers she painted with scattered bones and skulls. Monet could be waterlilies, lavender and other whimsy items....and a Parisian building.
  8. Pizza Garden: tomatoes, basil, garlic, onion, peppers...


hot garden trends in 2007

I googled "hot garden trends in 2007" and was inundated with a million fads explained by economic profile, urban vs. rural living, environmental awareness, families, time...you name it. Are you garden chic? Here are the hippest, most en vogue garden fashions this year. Warning: I beleive some of the following hot trends to be luke warm at best.

An outdoor living space. Supposedly their is an entire ilk of folks dying to have furnaces, bars and televisions among poppies and evening primrose. I like the bar idea...check out that waterproof flat screen! -->
Chemicals are out. Yahoo. This is fabulous and is evidenced by MiracleGro's new line.
Foliage and non-flowering perennials are hot. I am more and more drawn to this. The textures are so wonderful and I think an over-blooming garden can feel funereal.
Feng Shui approach is fashionable. The whole less is more idea of carefully selected plants and decorations that reflect your style and promote balance. The BBC likes this little garden with a table and chair as a representative of a Feng Shui garden.
Easy plants are in. People are busier than ever...we work too much, have families, volunteer commitments, travel plans...the social aspect alone of being a cosmopolitan gen x could keep me busy for a full work week. Yes. Easy plants are a must.
Gardeners prefer to purchase from local folks instead of Wal Mart. One study suggests that quality-driven consumers favor garden center shopping and price-driven buyers favor mass merchants. um, duh. How about people who want both? I shop the reject pile at Marchies and Pink Grizzly. Best of both worlds.
Masses of color. I really want to do this. A chunk of red next to a chunk of orange...both bloom all season.

There are some trends I have noticed that aren't on the official lists. Here is my hip garden trend list:
1. Scavenging containers from alleys, garage sales, dumpsters or where
ver you happen to be struck by the perfect vessel.
2. Planting edible gardens with a purpose: I tend to grow what tastes so much better out my garden instead of in a store. In other words, I decide what to plant in my small plot based on what I can't live without. Another friend, Sara, plants what is ridiculously overpriced in the store. We all have to make decisions. What is your reason for picking only basil and squash?
3. Growing dinner. This is popular amon
g my friends. It is hard to know where food comes from anymore.
4. Rocks. People really like 'em in the plot.
5. Iris. I don't get this. I hate iris.
6. Small clusters of many pots rather than two large pots flanking the front door. I like this and think it is much more interesting although my husband kicks at least one pot over every summer. He won't assume responsibility either because, "Babe, they are just so many of them and not much room."
7. Fences. People are more and more private.

My sources for hot garden trends:
Green Beam
Texas Home & Living

Virginia Nursery & Landscape A

Kill two birds with one stone: mass plant with easy plants and you will be an uber-hip gardener. Calendula and tulips are so easy and two of my faves.


early arugula bolt & perfect, round, sexy radishes

I came back from a backpacking trip with three inspiring girlfriends this weekend (stay tuned for a future post about plants, dogs and hilarious conversation in the lower Bitterroot) to find my arugula had bolted. In May? That is just ridiculous. The leaves are still tender and delicious but I have about a week max to eat a million salads before it will be bitter and not delicious. And, my radishes are ready to eat. They are so adorable.

I think I'll try the below recipe from Food and Wine. The original recipe served twelve, and I found this great online recipe conversion calculator...it was a bit much on a Monday morning to figure out 1/3 of 1/2 cup.

So this serves four and would be great on a bed of arugula:

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 avocados

1 bunch scallions

1 pound radish

2 tablespoons cilantro

In a bowl, whisk the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, combine the avocados and scallions with half of the dressing and toss. Arrange the avocados around a large platter or shallow bowl. Add the radishes to the remaining dressing and toss. Mound in the center of the platter. Sprinkle the cilantro over the salad and serve.


my first shared harvest & flea beetles on my arugula

I harvested greens from my garden last night and made a delicious salad to take to a friend's potluck. Every spring I am always surprised by how incredibly scrumptious greens are straight from the earth. I hope I never lose that surprise--it is a wonderful gift after a winter full of flavorless fruit. And it is always a great feeling to share a home grown meal with great friends.

The salad was simple and delicious: mixed greens from the High Mowing Lettuce Mix (I highly recommend
this variety), arugula, dill, parsley, chives, pears, toasted pine nuts and a simple dressing of gobs of garlic, olive oil, balsamic, red wine and rice wine vinegars. It was delish and the only things not from my garden were the pears and pine nuts.

In other news, I have flea beetles on my arugula. Damnit. I consulted my master gardening manual and discovered that fleas beetles are hardy little buggers and I will use Neem Oil on the crop. I found some stuff online that suggests insecticidal soap, but I thoroughly read the label on my soap and it doesn't even mention flea beetles so I won't try it. Also interesting in an article from the Washington Times is that flea beetles prefer radish leaves and that interplanting radishes among arugula, eggplant and other veggies they can't resist will draw them to the radishes....and who cares if you have lots of holes in your radish leaves? My radishes are ready by the way a bit later than the promised 24-day readiness date but they are adorable nonetheless.


Montana Native Landscape=dreamy perfection

While at Chico Hotsprings last weekend, I was struck buy the thriving mountain desert landscape. It is rich with life and while dry most of the year it wasn't that way over Mother's Day weekend. The sage and cottonwoods were fragrant, the wild grasses green and thick and the arrowleaf balsamroot abundant and so yellow. On a hike, my ma-in-law and I saw prairie crocus, Indian paintbrush, periwinkle, bunnies and a snake that sorta looked like a rattler but upon close inspection, it wasn't. (I didn't take many pics, so the photos shown below are the plants in my front yard. From left to right: bluebunch wheatgrass, sage brush, periwinkle) On our hike, I was struck by the lack of weeds especially knapweed--I didn't see a single freakin' spotted knapweed. There was a tiny, tiny amount of leafy spurge, but that was it. The big fat bummer for me is the landscaping around every cabin and lodge: bright green lawn. It is boring, less beautiful, extremely resource consumptive (they were watering the entire time we were there) and because it is a monoculture and lacks diversity, prone to weeds. I am certain they spray.

The ecosystem there is taking really good care of itself. All of the above and below ground niches are filled so weed seeds can't germinate. Why disrupt that? Chico is funky--that is why Montanans and tourists love it so. I heard they are putting in a golf course.

I don't know if I'll go back if they do.

according to The Language of Flowers:
crocus=youthful gladness
sage=domestic virtue
periwinkle=early friendship

Why mess with a landscape touting youth, happiness, domesticity and camaraderie?


mouth watering

We were soaking and lounging at Chico with the moms last weekend and came back to find the yard bursting with lettuce, chives, flax, lilacs and more. As a mama-to-be, my mama gave me a book, The Language of Flowers. The darling book was created by a man for his wife for their anniversary and includes sweet illustrations and handwritten traditional meanings of flowers. My mom gave it to her mom in 1979 and now I have it. I love it and am including the meaning of the flowers I photographed this morning. Vinca wasn't listed and I used Earthly Pursuits for its meaning. Anyone know what the delicate, light purple flower in the very bottom pic?

Peony=shame, bashfulness
Lilac, purple= first emotions of love
Flax=fate, domestic industry
Columbine, purple=resolution
ulip, varigated=beautiful eyes
Vinca=early remembrance
Dianthus=this was hard to find as carnations revail
in this species, however, according to Mississippi State University, Dianthus originates from the Greek dios and anthos, meaning the divine flower.


running funk

I haven't really run since my last ankle sprain which coincidentally was the first day of this blog. So while my blog cut-line includes running with a sprightly dog, I have not been participating in such acts on a regular basis. In this entry I explore why and try to convince myself that it is A) OK and B) something I need to pick back up ASAP.

I am a certain kind of runner. When I am training for something, I am all business and rarely miss a day in my schedule. I have been running since I was a kid. I ran competitively in high school. I was always good at it but one of the slowest of the good ones. I like to have fun. I don't force it if I don't feel it and will sometimes opt to stay in the garden rather than lace up my shoes and head out. However, once I am out, I will not stop no matter how horrendous I feel.

At one time I could run a 5:50 mile. Now if I break 9 I am psyched. I can run forever--I always joke that my 10K pace is the same as my marathon pace. But I think part of this is that I am afraid that if I try to be faster I won't be able to and then I will have failed. I know I can run any distance so my goals always teeter between being a running Purist (running to feel my breath and my body move, unaware of time splits) and a running Competitor (obsessively noticing that I am 10 seconds behind usual when I reach the spot by the Loyola High School football field.)

So I have not been feeling it. I was training for the Missoula half marathon or at least promising myself I would start training for it and then thought I might look and feel kinda funny running with a 4 month
prego belly. So I halfway abandoned the idea until my midwife said I should go for it and just listen to myself and respond accordingly. Seems like logical advice but honestly--and this is where the Competitor takes over (my friends never want to play board games with me)--I think I might have a hard time walking or even slowing down in a race.

So I think I need to cultivate the Purist in my running self. Running is a lot like gardening and making art. I start out with a goal in mind, feel my way through it, usually adjusting the goal a bit and end up with a tangible, satisfying result. I will run in the morning.


weekend news: olive in a tree, lots of worms and a lean-to

We got a lot done this weekend even though we had four parties to go to. I had no idea cinco de mayo was cause for such celebration.

We finished the lean-to! I totally could have done it by myself, but wouldn't be as purty and solid as it is and it wouldn't be finished yet either...my man is so dang efficient! And you can see in the pic that he was absolutely thrilled to participate. The first photo is the result of my building the frame (which I did do all by myself!). It is hard for me to let go of the "but, honey, I can do it" but ultimately it is for the best. I got to search for fat worms in my compost and they were a plenty which is one of my favorite things. So he's good at cutting metal and measuring and I'm good at digging and growing things.

I was ambling by Missoula Textiles on Friday and they were replacing their metal siding because a truck ran into it. "Are you throwing that tin away?" "Yup." The nice man tied the red siding to my friend Laura's car and off we zoomed...free roof for my lean-to. We managed to use nearly all recycled materials. See the amazing before and after pics at the bottom.

Other news: My kitty, Olive, was momentarily stuck in a tree; Andy installed hard-wired fire detectors in the whole house; we discovered a food that Alice doesn't like: grapes.


man. I really want chickens.

In the spring of 2006, I was obsessed with the desire to keep three hens. I wanted to name one Brenda. And I then thought have having a 90210 theme and naming the other two Kelly and Donna. Andrea Zuckerman was always kind of a geek. Anyway, I was given Chicken Tractor: The Permaculture Guide to Happy Hens and Healthy Soil and I bought Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs and Other Small Spaces. I researched breeds and even bought a feeder. I hatched plans for a chicken tractor which is a portable hen house that allows you to move your chickens around your yard while keeping them contained. The benefits of this include the hens pooping (fertilizing) all over the place, scratching the soil like little aerators, controlling what they eat and don't eat (they eat all kinds of harmful insects but you wouldn't want them getting into your lettuce) and eggs!

My darling husband wasn't thrilled with this idea because he knew I'd grow attached to the foul and they can live for over ten years and when/if we move, the idea of hauling our three four-legged critters with three two-legged critters was too much for him to wrap his mind around. And he thinks Sam would try to eat them. The ten-year deal freaked me out too because they only lay eggs for three-four so then you just have chicken pets. Not that there is anyting wrong with that.

The other obstacle is that it is illegal and some folks in Missoula were just busted for their city flock. I think this is lunacy because having chickens is sustainable and responsible. And, really so very Missoula; we are a recreation crazed, organic veggie obsessed, dog lovin', bike commutin', peace nik, hipster, make your own farmer's market tote kinda town. When I called Animal Control and the City last spring I was told by both that as long as I was respectful and asked my neighbors that the two governmental entities could really care less. So, I think it is fine and even a little racy. But it is indeed illegal.

I want a Rhode Island Red (Donna), a Barred Rock (Brenda) and a Silver Laced Wyandotte (Kelly).


plum butter

I canned plum butter last fall and have found amazing uses for it. To make plum butter, I halved plums and boiled for a long time until the mixture was all pulpy and the water had evaporated a lot...it cooked a long time, like, perhaps 1 1/2 hours. I picked sweet, ripe plums and didn't even have to add sugar. I canned 1/2 pints, pints and quarts. The quarts were too big and I lost a few jars because the plum butter got moldy before it was used.

In western Montana you can get free, unsprayed plums when they are in season (late summer). Just spy a plum tree and ask the owner--I guarantee they will be happy to give you some plums to avoid hundreds rotting on the gound.

In addition to it being the best PBJ in the universe, a fab marinade for tofu and all meats (add cayenne for a kick), great on baked brie and wonderful on crusty bread with sharp cheddar cheese, I recently had a stroke of brilliance with this salad: 

sliced mushrooms
quartered hard boiled eggs
toasted pine nuts (toast in cast iron skillet with some olive oil for about 4 minutes while stirring)
garbanzo beans*

*marinate these items in this dressing for two hours:

2 parts balsamic vinegar
2 parts olive oil
1 part stone ground mustard
3 parts plum butter
dash of salt and pepp

Toss it all together!
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