Orchid: Day One

There are some plants I’m scared to acquire.  One of those plants is the lovely orchid.

photo from wallpaperscraft.com

photo from wallpaperscraft.com

Why the plant fear?  Well, I’m capable of keeping some plants alive.  I can handle a Christmas cactus or anything that is good at showing me it needs care before it’s too late to do any good.  Basically, I can handle super hearty plants.  Orchids might be hearty in some senses, but they’re notoriously difficult to get to bloom.

This morning, I found myself the proud owner of a very pretty orchid plant.  This morning, I started a journey to become a better gardener.  (Thanks to the nice library patron who thought I should acquire an orchid.  That was nice.)  Fingers crossed.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Where am I going to look for advice?  I’ll start with my mom, who is a great gardener.  And I’ll try out these instructions: orchid tips.

Herb Garden: Day 1

This is what part of our front garden looked like yesterday morning.  Oooh, aah.

garden before1

I’ve decided to tackle it one small piece at a time, since the last owner of the house must have done nothing but garden 24/7 to keep up with all of the garden spaces on the property.

And this was the other side (when I realized I should take a picture, right before digging the deadster out of there).

garden before2There are happy new rosemary plants in the back there, see?

After digging around a bit and adding a few markers around seed-filled dirt, it looked like this:

BeFunky_main garden.jpgThe labels on the picture are mostly for me–so I don’t accidentally try to put a mountain of fresh oregano into a recipe that calls for thyme three months from now.  I think those are the only two I’m in danger of confusing.

Do you like our pot of rocks?  It turns out I’m good at killing potted plants, especially if they’re all alone on the front porch–a place I rarely have reason to visit.  I’ll work on finding a rock replacement for the pot someday.  First I have to concentrate on getting the seeds to sprout.  I don’t want an entire rock garden.

It isn’t a perfect herb garden yet.  For example, someday I’ll take out the plastic labels and the stick markers.  And there will be real, live herbs, not just herb seeds.  But for now, I like it a whole lot better than a collection of long-dead plants and weeds.  Progress!

There are a few plants to enjoy before the seeds sprout, although I’m honestly not sure what 2 of the 3 plants are.  Sure, I read the tags, but they were unfamiliar plants to me.  This one, however, is yarrow:

yarrowIt seems that yarrow has some medicinal uses, although I’ll have to learn about those in the future.  For now, I just appreciate that is has nice, feathery leaves.  (I also read that it can become invasive, which is fine by me!  I’ll gladly accept a whole garden bed of yarrow.)

This one is cute as a button:

pink flowerYep, I’m too lazy to learn the real name and will henceforth call it “Cute as a Button.”  I do know that we have cilantro and parsley and basil on the other side of the walkway.  Those are the important things to know.

Pictures + Pizza

Scott’s very first priority at our new house was to plant a veggie garden.  I think he might have even started tilling before he found his clothes boxes.  

We were concerned that such a late planting (first week of August) might mean early frost and no produce.  Fortunately for us, it’s been a warm fall so far.  We’ve been enjoying summer squash for a few weeks, and our lettuce and basil and parsley are going to be munchable in no time.  Best of all, our corn is starting to produce actual corn.  It won’t be ready for a while, but I’m still really excited to see signs of future food.  I think it’s beautiful.





And now for the pizza.  We’ve had a squash and chicken-centric menu this week, and it’s been all kinds of tasty and healthy and good things like that.  We also had pizza one night, because I can only take so much healthy.  

Scott has a great recipe for pizza crust that he’s been using for years, and I’ve been gladly using it, too.  It makes a nice crispy thin-crust pizza.  

I’ve never tried another crust recipe, and I always feel a little bit weird about that.  You don’t settle on the very first recipe without trying others, right?  Hmm.  So while Scott was laboring away at work, I pulled a recipe switcheroo on Wednesday.  I ran into The Pioneer Woman’s crust recipe while looking for other recipes in her cookbook.  (I forgot which cookbook.)  Turns out, with a bit more yeast than Scott’s recipe, it turns into the perfect combo of crispy thin-crust and slightly puffier, softer crust.  We’ll call it medium crust.  I love it.  I promise that to be fair, I’ll try at least one more recipe before I settle on anything. But for now, this is good:  The Pioneer Woman’s Pizza Crust.  


photo by Ree Drummond

I did go off-recipe a little bit.  We usually use 100% whole wheat flour for our dough, and I went about 2/3 whole wheat this time.  Approximately.  And then there was some extra yeast usage.  Accidental extra yeast usage.  

What went on top?  Well, I forgot that we had no passable tomato products that could be used as pizza sauce, so pesto was the answer.  Pesto and slices of fresh tomatoes, turkey pepperoni, kalamata olives, and mozzarella cheese (the pre-grated kind, although the freshly sliced kind would be pretty awesome, too).  Oh, and a pile of fresh spinach that wilted down to nothing and made me feel better about all of that cheese and bread.  I would do it all again.

Season o’ Productivity?

You’re supposed to get all excited about cleaning in the spring, right?  Or you’re supposed to feel morally obligated to clean in the spring, thus “Spring Cleaning.”  I’m sure there’s some good history in that phrase.

I feel like winter gets the award for being the baking/cooking/getting fat season, and summer is the sunshine and all things outside time of year.  Fall is my favorite season, since it’s pretty perfect for all of those previously mentioned things (cleaning aside, as it’s only perfect as a procrastination tool).  I also propose that fall be named the official season of home improvement.  Something about raking leaves and planting bulbs makes me want to patch holes in my ceiling, too.  While I’m at it, what about ripping up my back yard and planning for next year’s garden?

I repotted a plant last night while helping my roommate prep our dinner.  It seemed like a good time to sneak in three minutes of gardening, and that tiny piece of productivity set off all of my temporarily dormant home improvement instincts.

Photo by Robert S. Donovan

I haven’t painted anything in the house since August, I haven’t switched out any light fixtures or put things up on the walls of my bedroom.  I haven’t even sorted through my kitchen cabinets to get rid of stuff I don’t need anymore.

So it’s time.  It’s time for me to stop enjoying my DVR a whole freaking lot and spend a few extra hours in my shed/back yard/on a ladder.  I predict good things as a result.  In fact, I predict that I’m going to meet a very nice electrician in the near future, and the wires that have been hanging out of my guest bedroom ceiling since February will be miraculously connected to a ceiling fan.  Good things.


Mercy and Grace for Smaller Critters

I’ve recently discovered that my attitude towards bugs swings wildly between all-out war and “the more the merrier.”  One example of this is that there were two roaches on my front stoop the other night.  Without even thinking about it, I hopped over them, went inside, and thanked my lucky stars that they didn’t skitter towards the door.  Then when there was a roach inside a few nights later, I smashed it into the floor several times with great speed and determination.  Taking the roach outside definitely didn’t cross my mind.

A few days ago, I noticed a small caterpillar chowing down on my parsley.  I thought it was kind of cute, so I left it there.  If I’m being honest, I’m actually creeped out by caterpillars, and I didn’t want to touch it.  Now there are four big, fat caterpillars on my poor little parsley plant.  There isn’t much left of the plant.

Photo by JohnCox

So on the one hand, I wish that all Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillars (yep, I identified it because I’m a librarian and that’s the kind of thing we do) would leave me alone.  They make gross squishing sounds if you kill them, and they have way too many legs for me to be comfortable picking them off of my plant and transporting them to another spot.  On the other hand, they’re having a great time on my parsley.  I don’t like picking the parsley because I think it looks nice, but I did grow it with the intention to eat from the plant.  So why not let someone else enjoy the fruit of my labor?  Maybe it doesn’t matter if the someone in question is one of the world’s smaller creatures.

If they come in my house though, they’re toast.  Is that weird?  To welcome a creature if it’s outside and absolutely destroy it if it comes inside?  I guess no one would think twice about not welcoming a bear in their house.  It seems different though.  For now, I guess I’ll allow my parsley plant to host all of the caterpillars in the greater Norfolk area and maintain my double standard.  Maybe it’ll save someone else’s garden.

Home Grown [Tomatoes, Earwigs, Clicky Bugs]

Among other things like watching the World Cup and eating ice cream out of a gutter (mmm), this weekend included some gardening.

I’m super pleased to say that I now have a hydrangea bush by my front steps.  Its flowers are lime green.  And while I was calculating space for that (and recalculating lots of times, deciding each time that the space available wasn’t big enough for the plant’s future growth, then deciding that I’d worry about that later in true Scarlett O’Hara style), I replaced a few other plants as well.

Some of my productive plants are taking their job very seriously.  This is part of my tomato crop from Sunday afternoon:

I took about seven tomatoes to a friend’s house on Saturday, and there are at least ten more that are ready to pick today.  What’s a girl to do?  Add fresh mozzarella and basil and eat herself silly, of course.

The less fun part of the gardening experience was discovering earwigs in the yard.  If you don’t know what an earwig looks like, I’m happy for you (until 10 seconds from now).  They’re potentially my least favorite type of bug.  I’ll introduce you via Sankax’s photostream:

Beautiful, right?  Especially when you have to put your hands smack dab into the dirt they’re crawling in and out of.  I comfort myself by remembering that I’m thousands of times bigger than they are.

Speaking of bugs, Peanut and I went out for our late walk and were both distracted by a really loud clicking bug sound.  Peanut solved the problem by eating the bug.  It wouldn’t have been my method of choice, but it worked after a few muted clicks.  The look on Peanut’s face was priceless, too.  He kind of squirmed and thought about dropping it until I came after him to encourage that.  If I want him to drop something, that something immediately becomes incredibly valuable to him.  Smart guy.  He knows that humans never want their dogs to have the really fine things in life–rolls in manure, chocolate, table scraps in general.  Who says he isn’t well trained?!

Presto, tomato!

Until a few minutes ago, I was wondering what to do tonight.  Saturday and Sunday are mostly mapped out, but tonight was still a void of nothingness.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy unplanned time, I just had to think through what to do with the luxury of having no pressing projects or cleaning needs to fill that space.

The new books cart rolled by somewhere in the middle of that train of thought, and inspiration struck.  We look at the new books that arrive at the library every day to see what other people ordered and to see how the collection is developing, etc.  It’s also a good time to snag new books that haven’t already been placed on hold for someone else.  And snag I did.

Today’s book of choice is Tomato: A fresh-from-the-vine cookbook.  It’s beautiful, so that was winning point number one.

Winning point number two is that I have tiny green tomatoes on my plants already.  I’m just as surprised as you are.  I was sure I would kill them before they had a chance to produce anything.

So in a short time, birds and cats and wandering neighbors not taken into account, I might have a plethora of tomatoes to cook.  I’m looking forward to that.

Until then, I’d better practice making delicious food out of somebody else’s tomatoes, namely Harris Teeter.  That’s the official plan for tonight.  At the moment, the menu is looking like Nell Newman’s Tomatoes and Basil with Fusilli (and lots of other tasty things).  I love cooking when it’s the main event instead of a rushed necessity, and my basil plant is putting on leaves faster than I can eat them.  Turns out that there are some advantages of having your own garden.  If I had appreciated a good tomato, basil and mozzarella salad as a kid, my parents might not have had such a hard time getting me to help with the weeding.