Photo Friday: One Day At A Time

As I’m sure you already know, the daylily blossom lasts for just a day. Hence, its name. I have many of them doing their thing outside the house, including a very large, showy variety planted next to my front steps by the previous occupant.

I enjoy them but they make me nervous. Why? Because they tend to flower all at once, clusters of buds bursting magnanimously in the morning only to shrivel into limp wrecks of themselves by evening. Timing is everything in the plant kingdom, and our vacations always seem to coincide when the big daylily circus comes to town.

By the time we return from our ventures, there are only a few tell-tale wisps of former glory hanging off the stalks like forgotten banners from a parade long over. The hot July sun has taken its toll.

The daylily reminds me of fleeting summer months, every day unique and unduplicated. It is the cliche that haunts me as I pass out my front door on another errand that will prove meaningless in less than a summer’s day. When I was a child, the season seemed to last forever, but now I can’t keep up the pace of greeting each plant’s crowning achievements in full bloom.

The raucous hoots and calls of an insatiable modern world demand my attention, and I am pulled away from sunlit gardens where bees and dragonflies perform their miraculous acts.

I’d much rather find a seat and bask in the rays of flowers. I don’t want to miss the show.

Photo Friday: Dirt Bag

Potential salad was sown on Monday and popping up already on Friday. Not bad.

This is mine. You can have one, too. Just go here. They come in all shapes and sizes. Different colors, no less. (I chose poppy.) In my ever-humbling quest to garden in the suburbs full of friendly deer, funneling moles and frisky munks, I find myself turning more to the container option. Plus the fact that I’m just too lazy to saunter farther than my backdoor for that snip of parsley or a quick handful of arugula.

Don’t know how minimalist this arrangement is, but it does appeal to the nomadic gardener who can raise a crop, recycle the soil into compost, fold up the bag and move on. According to the literature, grow bags are healthier than plastic pots because the felt-like fiber breathes and air trims the plants’ roots. I’ll let you know how it all works out.

As you can see below, mine is not quite as square as the ones in the pretty catalog pictures, but I was never one to conform, anyway. Since setting up my experiment, the critters seem to be taking the dirt bag in stride. I saw a chipmunk sitting in it like a bathtub this morning. And, although it does look like a potential litter box, my cat has left it alone.

He’s too busy using the mulch in my flower bed.

Reminds me of buttocks and mooning, I’m afraid. Party on the patio!

Photo Friday: The Summertime Food

I’ll tell you how hot it’s been. We’ve already consumed two batches of ice-cold potato salad (family recipe) and June isn’t even halfway over. The official beginning of summer is still days away. Something tells me there will be many more to come, an assembly line to red-skinned, soft fleshed, vinegary goodness.

Don’t even bother to peel.

Update: A friend asked me to share the recipe, so here it is (roughly).

Dubin Potato Salad

6 to 8 medium-sized red (or Yukon) potatoes

1/4 to 1/2 cup light mayonnaise or miracle whip

1/4 cup (or more if you like the bite) cider vinegar

1 bunch of green onions

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (less if you salt the potato water)

about 1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons prepared dijon mustard

After thoroughly washing off potatoes, ruthlessly gouging out eyes and fiendishly halving and quartering the big ones, cover the little darlings with water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Then for heaven’s sake turn the heat down, because you don’t want water and foam all over your stove, and simmer until soft (about 20 minutes) or when all the steam has given you a complete facial in the kitchen. Drain and dump taters into a large bowl. Sprinkle cider vinegar while hot (the tubers, not you) and allow to soak in until potatoes are cool. (Do not leave for too long or you will come back to rubberized chunks of putty.) Add onions, celery seeds, salt, pepper, mustard and finally, mayonnaise to taste. Chill several hours. Overnight is even better. Serves about 6 normal people or 2 very hungry Dubins.

Happy summer! Enjoy.

Photo Friday: Sun Tea

Cold tap water. A large jar, preferably glass. Three family-size tea bags. A secluded spot on the patio. Plenty of time.

The simple summer ritual.

No fancy machines or designer k-cups necessary. Actually, you don’t even need sun. But you can’t get lost gazing into the golden brew of life-affirming refreshment that way.

Yep, let the big orange ball do the cooking. While you find the best angle for your lounger.

Just add ice cubes.

And a sprig of mint.

Weeds: Lose ’em or Leave ’em (Or Spray the Bejabers out of ’em)

Letting Go #15

Believe me, I would love to let go of some of the undergrowth around my house. This has been a busy summer what with fitting in vacations and preparing to send a child off to college. While my back was turned, the dense carpet of plant hooligans has appeared magically, it seems, aided by an unusually cool and wet midwestern summer.

Although I am determined to cut back on gardening chores, the banes of my horticultural pursuits mock me daily. They are the strawberry patch and the dreaded brick walk “that goes to nowhere.” I finally girded my loins and plunged into the strawberries this week, with the reward coming in the form of mulching the dickens out of them. Ordinarily, I love to mulch, but shoving shredded bark under and around tenacious runners isn’t any fun.

And the brick walk! We inherited this highway of hell from the previous owners who must have thought this would be an attractive feature–EXCEPT THAT IT DOESN’T SERVE ANY PURPOSE. Of course, as an organically inclined gardener, I have patiently plucked the dandelions, crabgrass, and other weird life forms (of another planet), not to mention the ever-encroaching lawn, from the sandy cracks between the bricks. And then there was the boiling water, the vinegar, the salt–yes! yes! and yes!

My conclusion? There is way too much walk–and way too much time and expense in gentler methods. Since this rosy brick path continues to kick my butt, I’ve called in the heavy artillery: I went out and bought me a gallon or so of a commercial weedkiller in a spray pump.

This may be the coward’s way, but I’ve heard from experts of the organic persuasion that if you must use an herbicide, this is the one with less environmental impact. I still feel guilty, but part of my quest this year in simplifying and letting go of outdated and useless activities is to get real about weeds and my precious time.

It’s either chemicals or move.


I’ve Still Got Tomatoes, At Least

Letting Go #13

So, I have reason to believe that green thumbs are genetic. My paternal grandmother’s people were known as plant whisperers. In fact, they settled in Maryland in the late 1920’s because the state was parallel to some place in Italy with a climate conducive to growing anything and everything, including tomatoes. Years later (many years later) I was born into the family nursery (the botanical kind, that is).

My earliest memories are of playing in the sand of the pansy hotbeds and riding my tricycle along the concrete paths that bordered the maze of shrubbery bundled up in burlap. To this day, whenever I’m upset or depressed, just walking into the tropical haze of a greenhouse can reach into my primordial memory and calm me right down.

It was expected that I would grow things. And I did, but with a twist. My father found me scrounging around in the discarded plant heap looking for orphans to revive. Why, he asked, would I want to bother with a scraggly, half-dead geranium when there was a whole greenhouse brimming with perfect ones in every gorgeous color imaginable that he had magically grown from seed? He had done the work for me.

Exactly.

I guess I’m a sucker for cast-offs and lost causes. And a challenge. Later, I got into cacti–literally. My room as a teenager was full of exotic and rather prickly species. Gee, no symbolism there, right? A slight brush near one of the little lovelies would keep me busy plucking for a whole day–hey, what else is there to do when you’re isolated on a 400-acre farm?

In my early life, I dragged my beloved plants from dorm room to apartment, tended to other people’s mistreated pot-bound casualties as a house-sitter, and became a super-hero horticulturist in a trench coat at plant sales (even before the Matrix). While other young women were working on their tans in the yard next to mine, I was busy cutting medicinal herbs to dry and making horehound candy (for sore throats–it works).

About ten years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to finally own a farmhouse and tend a few acres in the country. I ended up with a 3,000 square-foot garden in what used to be a mule pen. Needless to say, the soil was very fertile, and I wound up with bushels of vegetables that we gave away to anyone who couldn’t run very fast. As an organic and soft-hearted gardener, I didn’t have the heart to banish any insects or misplaced plants (weeds), so by the end of the season one needed a machete to cut a path to towering seven-foot tomato groves and waist-high pepper beds.

You think I’m exaggerating, don’t you? I have the photos to prove it. Which I’m happy to drag out and bore you with at dinner parties, as any proud parent showing off baby photos. Unfortunately, after two years spent losing my way in the jungle of my own creation, I wound up overwhelmed and in denial, carefully avoiding the garden until after the first good frost as I would an old ex-lover. And, because of another little genetic gift passed along from the greener side of the family tree, I became too ill to handle a small tract yard, much less three acres of fertile ground.

Which leads me back to the suburbs, and a quarter acre of civilized lawn. As my life becomes increasingly cluttered with suburbanite overgrowth, I’m gradually letting go of the high maintenance flora and opting for simple. I have kept the perennials around the house, the June strawberry bed, salad fixings and tomatoes in containers on the deck (supposedly where the deer won’t dare go–yeah, right). My favorite containers come from Gardener’s Supply because they hold water reservoirs that keep the soil evenly moist, or at least keep me from running the hose out every two hours.

This year’s featured tomato variety is ‘Sun Gold’, an orangish cherry indeterminate that has a sweetness I would suspect closely resembles the nectar of the gods. I’ve learned the hard way that quality is truly better than quantity. It is far better to relish the comforting old friends and selected exotic hotshots of the season reclining on my patio in the twilight hours, rather than swimming waist deep in “misplaced plants” looking for the zucchini that got away and possibly mutated into a new alien life force.

Ah, but I have to say there are moments when I’m tempted to let the genie out of the bottle and go wild at the discount store. When I pass the garden center leftovers, their little voices cry out to me from their overgrown pots and dried up six packs, asking me for refuge.

It’s almost all I can do NOT to go score some mule manure.

Sun Gold tomatoes with cat on the side
Sun Gold tomatoes with cat on the side