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Showing posts from 2007

Early New Year

As the snow flies, the rain freezes, and I nibble the treats left in my stocking, the New Year has arrived. Well, in some ways it has. Seed catalogs for 2008 are piling up next to my chair. Seed Savers came first with great pictures, and inspirational names for everything from beans (Calypso, Dragon's Tongue, Lina Cisco's Bird Egg) to watermelon (Moon & Stars, Osh Kirgizia, and Melitpolski). The Osh Kirgizia is particularly exciting as I suspect it may be similar to those I ate while in Peace Corps Kazakhstan. (So sweet, so perfect. Still one of my fondest memories.) Johnny's Selected Seeds came next, and I found myself eye-balling the flower selection. Calendula specifically, as I have come to love those blooms (in my salads as well as vases about the house) almost as much as zinnias. Our neighbors at Frog Holler Farm introduced me to edible flowers five years ago, and I've never looked back. (Mostly because I'm too busy eating their fantastic salad mix or

Snuggling down for Winter

We spent a good part of yesterday out getting the garden ready for winter. It seems we move in stages - removing old plants, desperately searching for that last potato, etc. - and we are closing in on the end, I think. It is always a struggle to remove plants that are doing well, and I often just don't have the heart to do it. That's another big reason for delaying or spreading out the process. Our beds are lasagna gardens (see my review of the book in yesterday's post ), and truly possess some of the best soil I've ever seen. I also practice companion planting (see yesterday's post again for the book that inspired it all), and so the garden tends to overflow from such intensive planting. This also helps me justify all those plants I can never resist in spring, including a perennial section of natives and non-natives. (More on that later.) To make up for the intensive planting and offer next year's community members the best shot, we add thick layers of leaves

Four Gardening Books - A Summary

I have a relatively small gardening library at home. Gardening books abound, and I've done my share of exploring and craving of them primarily through my local library. While I find the books full of great photographs, poems, and clever sayings delightful, there are only a handful I have found to be truly useful. These are the books that are pulled from the shelf year-round to answer a question, refresh the memory, and end up with dirty pages. Whether deciding on seeds for the new year, trying to remember what the larvae of the potato beetle look like, or how to know when the squash is ready these are the companions I rely on. Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening by Fern Marshall Bradley and Barbara Ellis, Rodale Press, 1992. A gift from my mother-in-law years ago, this is the book that launched my first garden (along with some help and advice from Uncle Bob), and that I pored over while sitting next to the beds. Alphabetical listings of not only plants (a han

Popcorn Homestead

Why popcorn? I'm pretty crazy about it, that's why. Popcorn has been in my life one way or another for, well, ever. When I was a kid we went to the local popcorn stand in my hometown as part of our summer activities. My mother grew it in our garden at home. In college one of my best friends had a popper and got me hooked for all time. I begged people to send it when my husband and I were in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan. (At one point we had more than five pounds in our apartment. Bliss, I tell you, simple bliss. Those were the only weeks when I gained back some of my American fat.) I wrote my thesis on it in graduate school at Illinois State University, and loved every minute of it. (It's called The Place of Popcorn. A fascinating read on place and identity in a small town, if I do say so myself.) And now I grow it at home in my own garden. After all that, what else could I call my blog?

The first kernel

My inspiration came yesterday while preparing our popcorn harvest for drying. My husband and I sat by the wood stove in the living room pulling back the husks on a basket of ears brought in from the garden. I'd planted three varieties this year in hopes of finding something more interesting than the Japanese Hulless usually available. I had found three - Tom Thumb - a short, yellow popcorn; Ruby Red - a tall, brilliantly red breed; and Thanksgiving - a brown heirloom variety from a local non-profit, Project Grow - and planted them all together. My spring thought was "Why not?" I intermixed these seeds further with nasturtiums, squash, and beans. It got a little crowded and crazy as the season moved along, but I confess to delighting in the resulting green madness. Nothing makes me happier than having to carefully step around wandering vines and blossoms, forsaking the orderliness of my garden rows and paths to these green guests. The popcorn we saw yesterday was worth