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Archive for July, 2011

Squashed

Last spring, I decided to save a little money by starting my garden seedlings myself rather than paying retail.  Since we don’t have a greenhouse yet, I thought my dining room table would do the trick. I started five kinds of tomatoes, three kinds of flowers, two kinds of squash, and I started them all WAY too early. Minnesota gardening is difficult, though, as one year we are thinking of sowing some lettuce and radish seeds in April and other years our “April showers” require a shovel.   My dining room greenhouse flourished, but by the time Memorial Day weekend rolled around the flowers were looking peaked and the squash plants were pretty limp and disheveled. Still, I planted those squash in hills, along  with a few zucchini seeds. June was cold and cloudy, and one by one the squash succumbed to too much rain and too little sunshine. None of the zucchini seeds germinated. It is pretty embarrassing for someone who calls herself a Farm Woman to have a garden without zucchini, the one vegetable that even a monkey could grow without even trying. Once the weather warmed up, I cleared the dead plants from the hills and direct sowed seeds of Sunshine squash, Buttercup squash, and two types of zucchini.  I had worked late that day and rushed out between rain showers, but with our short growing season they needed to be in the ground or I wouldn’t have a crop.  I threw in a few extra seeds, in case the reason they didn’t germinate was because I had a bad batch.  Since the ground was so warm and moist, they germinated quickly and took off.   Whew. I planted 18 hills altogether and should give me a good combination of both summer and winter squash, plus plenty to give away to my non-gardening friends.  I did lose a few plants again, but there were plenty left and they looked healthy.  I was checking them out the other day and noticed something funny. Well, really more strange than funny.  All of the plants that lived look suspiciously like zucchini. I can’t tell until they start fruiting, but I think that maybe the winter squash were the plants that died, leaving me with 14 zucchini plants. I don’t remember planting that many, but I counted them. Fourteen. You can stop laughing now.

Zucchini bread, anyone?

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The Pigweed Pioneer

Something strange and a little sinister has been happening around here. I have begun to suspect that someone is sneaking into my garden and planting weeds. I don’t know if it is happening at night when we are asleep or during the day when we are at work, but it is certainly the work of a professional.  Anyone who knows me knows that I use no chemicals of any type in my garden, so weeds are a constant battle anyway.   This year, though, it seems worse than usual.  I spend at least a couple of hours every week weeding by hand.  When I get home from work and check the garden,  the weeds are overcrowding the beans and pushing the rutabegas out of their row…again! Looking around at the gardens of others in the area, I can see that this diabolical menace strikes randomly.  Some folks have neat weed-free rows or beds. Their onions are not hidden by yellow nutsedge, their raspberry patch not taken over by thistle.  Others like myself are not as lucky, but we all need to be careful because we don’t know where he will strike next.   I have come up with a solution to nip it in the bud, so to speak. Operation “Weed Whacker” does involve some vigilante justice, though, in order to catch the culprit.   I will volunteer my garden as the test subject. If some of you would just come over and stay hidden somewhere in the garden…just crouch down quietly and wait for him.  Oh, while you’re down there, maybe you can pull a few weeds. If you think you need a weapon, I’ll give you a hoe, so you won’t be so conspicuous. Do I have any volunteers?

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Sweet Dreams

The sounds of summer to me are the memories of summers spent at our cabin. After a day of swimming, berry picking and fishing, we would “take sauna” and crawl into bed, skin pink and scrubbed.  My sister slept on the top bunk and I was on the bottom, flashlight and Nancy Drew tucked in with me, as I often read late into the night.  I could hear my parents settling into the living room for the evening, my dad turning on the radio to listen to the Minnesota Twins. These were the days of Camilo Pascual, Tony Oliva, and Harmon Killebrew. I would whisper their names aloud, letting the foreign-sounding names roll across my tongue. Our cabin had no electricity and I could hear the hiss of the lantern and the murmur of my parents’ voices, trying not to disturb us.  I heard the distinctive sound of my dad opening a can of beer. There were no pop tops yet, and beer was opened with a can opener and gave two fizzy-sounding pops as each side the can was opened.  I wished I could have a swallow, as he often let me have the first foamy sip, but I had just brushed my teeth.  I didn’t much care for the sour taste of beer, but I had heard that drinking it would grow hair on one’s chest and I would have liked that.  As my sister’s breathing softened into sleep and Tony Oliva hit a line drive, I could hear but not see the lone mosquito buzzing around the room and knew that I would have to duck my head under the covers later to get away from the annoying sound. It was getting dark now, dark enough to see the fireflies outside my window and dark enough for my flashlight to illuminate the words of my book. It was summertime, and there was another warm day to look forward to tomorrow. Goodnight, Nancy Drew. Goodnight, Mom and Dad. Goodnight, Harmon Killebrew. Sweet dreams.

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New Arrivals

I have five new chickens this summer. Four are young ones that I have raised from chicks.  About the time I turned off the heat lamp and moved them out to the coop, the weatherman predicted some chilly nights. When I went out to check on the babies, I found them safely tucked under the wings of the meanest and greediest old biddy of the flock. They are now too big to fit under her wings, but every night when the sun  goes down,  they snuggle around her and she keeps them warm. During the evening when they are free-ranging, she keeps a watchful eye out for their safety.

The other new arrival is Big Boy the rooster. Although I have seven small banty roosters, my neighbor talked me into taking this one off his hands. I must admit I was a little worried about having a full-sized rooster around, thinking that perhaps he would be mean to the others.  Well, he tried to rule the roost, that’s for sure. There was lots of squawking and feathers flying as Big Boy let everyone know who was boss….so he thought.  One day the big guy came flying and squawking out of the coop like he was shot from a cannon, chased by Old Mum the tiny banty hen. Now, Old Mum is the smallest and oldest of the flock who fusses about and sits on her nest every day, but to my knowledge hasn’t laid an egg in the last year. She wasn’t about to let any big ol’ man take control, and let him know that right away. Picture Granny chasing Jethro Bodine out the door with her broom.  I laughed so hard that I cried and was glad I didn’t have any neighbors around to see me wiping my eyes.  They probably already think of me as “that crazy city gal who thinks she is a Farm Woman and she can’t even grow rhubarb.”

Each day in the coop, there are lessons to be learned. Strange as it may seem,  many of these can be insightful into our own everyday life.  We learn that parenting is loving and nurturing a baby chick until it can take care of itself and if you do that, it doesn’t really matter who laid the egg. We know that even the meanest old biddy in the coop can have a heart of gold when it comes to babies.  We could all learn a lesson  from Big Boy’s experience:  Never push around a chick who is in henopause.  She will soon let you know who REALLY  rules the roost. Now, if I could only get those chickens to grow rhubarb. I really need some life lessons in rhubarb.

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Barney

My husband is a southern gentleman through and through. His parents raised him well.  When we got married he moved his young Yankee bride (that’s me) to central Kentucky. Everyone was friendly and kind, I think. I only understood about half of what they said. They only understood about half of what I said. During many conversations, folks would look at me a little strangely and say “Y’all not from around here, are ya?” It was a different world. A bottle of pop was a “soda”.  “He’s fixin’ to go to the store” did not mean anything was broken. Southern cooking was wonderful. I loved grits from the first bite and the chicken and dumplings  would melt in your mouth. I never did try the lamb fries (don’t ask!), though.  The people were warm and friendly and welcomed me with open arms. Still, I was homesick. I missed my family and the friends I grew up with.  My husband joined a softball league. I liked softball, and I knew there would be other young wives there to meet and chat with. Kentucky evenings are warm and humid with no mosquitoes to contend with.  That was a big plus for a Minnesota girl who was used to slapping herself silly and smelling like bug spray on summer evenings. I bought a bottle of soda and cheered for his team. I especially remember Barney, who owned the local drug store and had a nice wife who came to every game.  He was a good hitter, and his team would cheer “Go Barn!” as he rounded the bases toward home plate. I would cheer, too:  “Go Barney! Go Barney!”  Sometimes his wife looked at me a little strangely, but I pretended not to notice.  Besides, I was used to that by now. One evening, my husband and I were making plans for the softball picnic. “What about Barney and his wife?” I asked. “Are they coming?” He looked puzzled. “Barney? There’s nobody named Barney on my team.” “Oh, you teaser,” I laughed. “You know, the guy who hit the home run last night.” Now HE was looking at me strangely. “Do you mean Barn?” Well, now, I had just assumed that “Barn” was short for “Barney”. Add a deep southern drawl. “Barn” wasn’t short for anything. “Barn” was “Byron”.  Byron.   Oh.  I was fixin’ to dig a hole and crawl right  in it.  I do have to give my husband credit, though. He didn’t laugh.  He got a twinkle in his eye, and maybe he had to turn away for a few minutes, but he didn’t laugh. Well, not much, anyway. He is a southern gentleman through and through.  His parents raised him well.

See y’all next week.

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