Tuesday, July 31, 2012


A couple of yeas ago I had my college research students read an essay that presented the idea of sustainability. I didn't really understand the concept myself until I googled it. (love google). Essentially in my own mind it means the ability of a community to create an environment that can perpetuate a self reliance and thus continue on. So what does sustainability mean to you?

Gardening might be the first step in beginning to create sustainability in our homes. Here, the garden is beginning to yield a satisfying bounty.

Above: beautiful broccoli. Probably should have been picked a day or two earlier, but look at this tight,  huge head as compared to the one below. The top plant came from a garden center. The one below we started from seed. In all fairness, the ones we started from seed matured, formed a nice head, then bolted while we were camping last week-end. I'll harvest the side shoots.

These potatoes vines came up all on their. We just didn't get around to planting potatoes this year, but guess what? Some potatoes must have been left in the ground when we dug them last fall.  We have a very small crop of potatoes this year growing all on their own. So can I claim that my garden is edging its way to its own sustainability?

Passing on family reicpes might be another way to reach some level of sustainability. My mom made the best coleslaw. I think her secret was adding a bit of sugar to the dressing, but I never knew how she made her dressing, so I make up my own. This the prettiest cabbage thus far.

Not only is the head perfect, but so are the outer leaves. Some of the other cabbages aren't as pretty. I've seen those little white cabbage butterflies flitting around. Laying eggs.

Cabbage worm.  He looks fat and healthy.

So tonight I carried in a pan full of fresh vegetables: zucchinis, a few potatoes, the first tomato, two huge heads of broccoli, foot long cucumbers, yummy sweet onions, a head of cabbage. The hens gave up a few eggs--they live in the garden, so eggs count, don't they? And one cabbage worm. Not bad for an evening's trip to the garden that started to see if the lime green zinnia had bloomed yet.

Here she is. I am so excited.  

 Next year I told the head gardener that I want a row dedicated to zinnias, one for glads, and one for sunflowers. I didn't plant any sunflowers this year. Next year big ones. Huge ones. Lots.

Don't you just love going to the grocery store and passing up buying potatoes--that are usually green under the skin and Martha Stewart says not to buy them if they are green, but sometimes what choice do we have--go without?  Passing on a buck 89 tomatoes or onions shipped in from god knows where. Or eggs. Eggs that may be as old as 90 days. eeeek.  I chuckle as I navigate my shopping cart right past the eggs.  I even allow myself to gloat a bit. 

Some are closer to sustainability than we are here at the Garden Spot.  Were I younger with children at home, we might do more given that we have a small acreage--raise our own beef (could do that now, but we'd only end up making a pet out of the steer and couldn't sent it to slaughter); we could get a milk cow. My husband grew up on a dairy and knows exactly where milk comes from. He met a new neighbor who'd love to have fresh milk for her 5 children. Sure we could buy a cow jointly. She cold milk it. She grew up on a dairy too. Then we talked about all it takes to keep cow.  That won't be happening. We could get a couple of sheep and shear them and spin wool and knit sweaters and socks. I don't spin. I don't know how to knit.  I do relish the idea of being self reliant and love the fresh, clean, chemical free vegetables that our garden yields, but total sustainability just isn't going to be my goal, but I certainly do applaud those who are practicing a self sufficient life style, especially those raising their children to be self sufficient, self reliant, independent, and headed toward sustainability. 

 I hope you have great week. I need to buy a freezer.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tossing the Tomatoes

There is a cool breeze blowing this evening. It feels good.  Rain clouds threatened, but only turned lose of a few rain drops, nothing significant, only a bit of a tease. We spent part of the morning in the vegetable garden. Let's go for a walk to see how the garden grows:

We started a dozen tomatoes from seed in March. Planted them in June. They weren't the prettiest or even very strong plants. Pretty pathetic, in fact, so the head gardener purchased six more just in time for them to get pummeled by hail, so the head gardener bought six more. We had a total of 35 bushes and volunteers are popping up all through the garden. So here we see a healthy, strong tomato.

  But next to healthy ones are these pathetically sick tomatoes. Who knows what is wrong with them. Could be blight, so I finally convinced him to pull out all of the sick plants, about six of them.

Bye Bye. Tossed in thrash can.

These are my lime green zinnias. I cannot wait for them to bloom. I planted more, but the heavy rain and hail in June washed most the seeds away. I think. I hope to save the seeds from these few. Unfortunately  they are planted at the end of the row of rather aggressively growing watermelons.

Speaking of watermelons. I was reading on Pintrest not plant cucumbers next to watermelons because to do so will make the watermelons lose their sweetness. Wouldn't you know the first year we try watermelons, we make that faux-pas. We shall see. I'll report back. Actually it may not be an issue if the melons don't mature.

Sundance has a designating latrine. Jacob asked once if it was the pooping station. Horse manure does not have any, as they say, nutritional value. It does, however, add necessary humus to our clay based soil. And it is free.

So the strawberries and the asparagus got a working over. I weeded, then top dressed them with horse manure, topped with grass clippings that our neighbor kindly delivered to us, since we don't bag our clippings. I guess I forgot to photograph the final top dressing. 

 I have been reading about asparagus on Pintrest, too. While my plants look rather unhealthy, they are actually surprising us by sending up new shoots already. The ferns (or is it fronds?) look unhealthy, but we purchased them at the end of the season half price, so they looked bedraggle when we brought them home. The article made it sound like growing asparagus in the garden requires a lot of work. The plants do need a lot water early on, so they got mulched with manure and grass clipping, too, to keep the moisture in and the weeds out.

Isn't he gorgeous? He lives next door. I had to take his picture.

Not enough for a pie, the black berries are nearly ripe. I tasted a couple, still a bit sour. They do make a berry pretty picture, don't you think?

So our little garden thrives and shouldn't it with a bright ray of sunshine?

On the patio, the newest gladiola has bloomed a deep dark magenta red.

We bought weed barrier today to put down in the front garden where we planted the David Austins. I am just so tired of fighting the weeds, those nasty Canadian thistle and bind weed that resist any effort to eradicate them: pulling, poisoning, and cursing. So this week we'll put down the weed barrier and add the mulch for a clean, well kept look.

So a busy week ahead, including an over night trip to the Big City (Denver).  I do hope a cool breeze passes your way. Have a great week.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dog--and Cat--Days of Summer

Mo and Max relax in the shade, looking cool.

From Camping to Bargains

July has about burned herself out, and she has been bloody hot, not just here in Colorado, but all over the country as city after city has recorded record high temps, making gardening a challenge everywhere. What will Lady August, usually our hot month, bring? Well, Lady bring it on, for you can't be any worse than your sister July.

On Thursday we left the heat of the prairie to spend a long week end in the mountains. With a beautiful panorama of the mountain range vista for our camping front yard south of Leadville, the beauty was outstanding, along with fluffy floating clouds on a azure background. For a couple of days we didn't miss the heat of home or the weeds of the garden or any of the other chores that seem to keep us home bound at the Garden spot. The trip home was arduous, to say the least. The drive from the Eisenhower Tunnel to the western side of Denver should take about an hour, not 2+. Sunday traffic eastbound on I-70 creeps and crawls bump to bumper, backs up for miles making for a long drive. The trip ended on a sour note. The wheel bearings on the trailer got hot. The photo tells the rest of the story.

Meanwhile back the Garden Spot, life thrived.

A small, but surely a tasty crop of black berries once they ripen.

Watermelon--several. I hope they reach maturity. We have never grown them before.

Hail retarded the cukes. Looks like the only ones I will have will be these Chinese cucumbers that grow long and curved, but are huge and sweet.

Mystery weed? Not at all. Asparagus. Newly planted only several days ago, it is already sending up new shoots. We bought two containers half price, so the plants were leggy and ragged to begin with, but I am sure that we will have tender asparagus shoots next summer.

This is supposed to be  a dinner plate dahlia, but I don't pinch off other buds, so I will have more saucer sized. That's okay.

Also new this month, the blackberry lily. I had to cut down the milk weeds that were crowding out these delicate lilies, much preferred over the weed.

The tiger lilies are just starting to bloom. They hold sentimental value in the garden. Taken from great grandma's garden and moved each time we moved, from one garden to the third garden. They are hardy and showy.

Gladiolas are an all time favorite. I purchased these at the super market. They are a small variety. I should commandeer a couple of rows in the vegetable garden to plant my glads, as the head gardener's grandmother did. She had row after row of beautiful glads.

The pond is filling in nicely thanks to plants that daughter Heather shared. The white water lily always blooms easily, but there are two other lilies, a pink and a yellow that have not bloomed all summer. 

The Roses

Tess of the Durvervilles, one of the David Austins, blooms heartily. The roses are small yet, but I am hoping that once it cools down the rose blossoms will be larger.

St. Patrick is a prolific bloomer, but once again smaller blossoms than what it had when I purchased it. 

Gertrude Jekyll is ill. See the yellow leaves. My research indicates one of two problems: not enough water. No. Poor soil. Most likely. I need to give her some nitrogen or iron. Possibly suffering from iron chlorosis.

The climber David Austin James Gallway has plenty of blooms that are still small, but I love the peachy color.

You can see the toll that the heat takes on the roses. The blossoms should be double in size and fade much too soon, succumbing to the sweltering heat. 

I look forward to the cooler days of fall when the roses will bloom gloriously in the cooler weather.

Good by Cosmos. (Thank you Jacob for all of your hard work)

Hello Hydrangeas

I wandered into Lowes looking for one thing and came out with these beauties. They are still on the kitchen counter. I am thinking I'll set them out on a cooler day. 

There's a four letter word that keeps creeping into my mind. I shudder when I think of it, wanting to slap myself out of reality; however, the grim reality will hit all too soon as I must confront that four letter word: WORK. August 27 classes begin at the university. Until then, the summer party continues. I love the guests that range for roses, to weeds, to hydrangea, from tomatoes to cabbages, from hoes to hoses, let the good times roll.

I hope your good times roll right into a swell week end. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Family Reunion and Scorched Earth

Bye Bye Cosmos

Tomorrow I am pulling Cosmos. They have reached weed status, taking over their space, spreading, shading, drinking up all of the moisture, so they must go. I've taken enough photos of their delicate petals, become less enamoured of their stems dripping with droplets, less excited by their very presence. Hidden beneath their feathery, delicate stems are the real garden gems: Just Joey, my lovely tea rose; a beautiful delicate pink Asian lily, zinnia seedlings that aren't getting enough sunlight to grow, and my new phlox. So bye bye cosmos. 

Family Reunion. Most every summer my mother-in-law's cousins gather here in Ault at our home for a picnic. We started the family reunions July 1994 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the marriage of the cousins' grandparents George and Emma Nicks. In 2004, we gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Nicks' homestead and their move to this part of Northern Colorado. They journeyed nearly 50 miles from Longmont, CO in a covered wagon to settle east of Pierce, CO.  We have been meeting most summers since at our home This year's picnic was bitter sweet because one of the cousins pasted just before Christmas. It was a quiet party without Kenneth. And hubby's mom is now in a nursing home lost in happier days reliving her life as a teenager. 

This year's theme was classic cars. A couple of the guys have classic cars, so we thought it would be fun to get the old cars out, rev up the engines, and head out on the open road.  Two classic cars came ready to roar.

 Our entry: MY (note the emphasis on MY since certain family members have laid claim to her) 1967 Fort Mustang GT coupe, 289, 4 speed, 4 barrel carb. I bought her in the spring of 1971, my first year of teaching here in Ault. I loved that car. She was my first.  Our oldest daughter drove her all through high school and part of college. One day the old girl gave out on the highway. We towed her home and there she sat for well over 10 years. With other classics coming, hubby decided to get the old lady running. A bit of oil, spark plugs, points, a new fuel pump and fresh fuel and the old girl fired right up, ready to roll and roll she did first with a spit and a sputter, smoke rolling out the the dual exhaust then with pipes blasting, she cruised down the driveway like she was glad to have been awakened from a long spell cast by an evil witch. What a moment it was when dad presented the keys to Heather the next day so that she could take her for a spin around the driveway. The tears flowed.
The other class that came belonged to Andy, his 1941 Master Deluxe Chevrolet coup, souped up, ready to rumble.

Let the Party Begin

 Razzmatazz cone flowers with Russian sage and dill weed made pretty center piece

A bit of a mixed metaphor as I used lady bugs as the table theme. 
Lots of food, good weather, home made ice cream, and a yard full of children armed with squirt guns and water balloons made for a lot of fun.

Scorched Earth

 Not wanting to face the disaster in the house after entertaining 28 adults and children from 15 to 10 days old, I coaxed hubby into taking a drive to see where the High Park fire had burned. To remind you, this fire burned 85,000 acres over 17 days,  consumed 256 homes, and took the life of one woman who just didn't have time to escape.

These first photos are poor quality because I took them through the windshield. The darkened spots on the hillsides are not shadows, they are scorched earth. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

We were surprised at the numbers of homes that we saw where the fire line came right up to the house and the house survived due, no doubt, to the valiant effort of fire fighters. We stayed on the main highways, not taking side roads into  neighborhoods where we felt that we probably weren't yet welcome, but we saw enough to get the idea of how wide spread the fire was. We drove down highway 14 through the lower half of Poudre Canyon, relieved to see that some of our favorite places--sweet little summer cabins, year round residences, and Mishawaka, a watering hole for bikers and hippies--had all survived.  (If you want to know more about Mishawaka, which is actually a bar and and and amphitheater, check out its Photo Gallery).  We were also struck by how random the flames must have been--a spot scorched here, a spot left untouched there. A tree black from bottom to top, another tree slightly burned, green grass already reclaiming much of the forest floor.

Another busy week. Jacob is back with us. We will head out on a camping trip Thursday. I need to get the house back in shape, do more weeding, and perhaps spread more mulch. The weather continues to be hot, hot, hot with little hope of rain. We are also on the countdown to the Olympics. Have you chosen your favorite athlete yet? Of course we are rooting for our Denver swimmer Missy Franklin. And we will eagerly be watching for commentary on the English country side.

Hope you all have a grand week full of good gardening with lots of July blooms.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Jackson and Perkins roses have been in the garden for at least 10-12 years. This year they have been spectacular. The bushes were taller and...