between the rains…

The gardens are loving the rain.  Some of my plants look like they have tripled in size!

Before the deluge, however, my arugula had bolted, so I had to use it all up.  I was growing arugula before it was trendy, and feeling kinda smug about it.  Its fancy name is Eruca Sativa, but it is commonly called salad rocket, rucola, roquette, rugula, and colewort.  The Americanization of  the name is from the 1960’s, when NYT food editor Craig Claiborne called it arugula (jamaica, ooh, I wanna take ya).

The Mediterraneans have been chowing down on the annual since Roman times, and several classical authors describe it as an aphrodisiac…  The poet Virgil himself wrote:  “the rocket excites the sexual desire of drowsy people”.  woo-hoo, ya’ll, and I just thought it tasted good.

It’s easy enough to grow, but like lettuce, heat causes it to bolt and taste stronger.  It can grow up to 3 feet or so, but since I put it in late, mine only reached about 18 inches.  It can (and should) be started earlier in Spring and sown directly in the garden.   Since it stayed so cold this year, I didn’t get any mesclun ingredients sown, so settled for plants.  There was no compromise in the taste, though.   I can sow some seeds again in September when space opens up in the garden and hopefully get a second crop.

 

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Recipes abound for the leafy green, but I usually just mix it into a salad.  For blogging purposes, however, I made up a little salad that Cavatappo’s (one of my favorite haunts in NYC)  introduced to me.  I’m sorry to admit that the pictures of the plate were not as appetizing as the actual meal, so I want you to just try it for yourself.  It’s delicious.

Arugula & Goat Cheese Salad 

Mix arugula, goat cheese, and cherry tomatoes.  Use balsamic vinaigrette to taste.

Voila!  Couldn’t be easier!

There are some good balsamic vinaigrette products at the market, but I make up my own with balsamic vinegar, olive  oil, garlic and whatever fresh herbs I have on hand;  this time it was oregano, basil, and thyme.

I admit I didn’t know it was an aphrodisiac…I like it even better now..!

 

 

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sowing and feeding

Puh-leeze, let this be the last icey-snowy day for the season…am I asking so much?  Lucky for us, I had the fixin’s for some jambalaya and muffulettas before the storm, so we’re inside warm and fat, getting fatter for Mardi Gras.  Outside, we moved the birdfeeders under the porch so they wouldn’t ice over.   We feed dozens of birds, a number that has increased as word got out amongst the feathery-types that there’s a buffet here.

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The wisteria desperately needs to be cut, but it provides such shelter for the birds, that we’re not sure just how much we should try to prune…

With hope in my heart, sort of, I started seeds last night…  I cleared out a closet upstairs and made it into a darkroom for germinating.  We added another grow-light, too.  If this doesn’t work, I really will give up…

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Casey worked last night, but cleared the snow from the ice in the driveway before he went to sleep.  He says the roads are still icey, so me and the birds will spend the day eating…  Hope your feeder is full…stay safe and warm.

the Gnomes in the terrarium…

I first envisioned fairies living in my terrarium and ordered a fairy garden kit that included a trellis, birdbath, fence, watering can, and a fairy.  When they arrived, none of the components seemed to be in proper proportion with each other, and few were the proper size for my garden….

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I was fairly obsessed…why would the fairy have a knee that was the size of the birdbath?  Why was the bench smaller than the watering can?

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I can’t very well reject a fairy, but I will have to use her in a larger, perhaps outdoor, scene.  I shopped at our local craft stores and finally found some small fairies, but they were not nearly as charming as the gnomes… (and were twice the cost).

So I brought home the Gnomes:  Tyrone, Jerome, and Ramon…hard-working earth spirits who are working their magic even as we speak…

Since these elementary beings are earth spirits, they preferably work the soil and tree roots, to which they grant power.  (from fairiesworld.com)

I like gnomes better, really—they aren’t as temperamental as fairies.  I have several that spend summers in our garden;  Larry Garcia Gnome  (so-named because of his strong resemblance to both our County Ag Agent and magician, Larry Caplan, and the late Jerry Garcia, a musical magician)  keeps watch over our garden year-round:

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Larry Garcia Gnome

I certainly do hope that Tyrone, Jerome, and Ramon keep my terrarium growing powerful, and I’m counting on Larry to do some magic for me every season.  

It’s only 23 more days until Spring, and only 25 until Spring Break…  The temps that soared to the upper 60’s over the week-end are now a memory..and a hope.  Soon, despite the cold, the crocus and snowdrops will pop up, followed closely by the daffodils and tulips…  I’m going to start some seeds by the new moon this week-end…it’s going to work this time (she says with fingers crossed).

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turkeys and true leaves…

Whilst walking through the house, I glanced out the window-seat window and came face to face with a turkey…!  By the time I grabbed the camera, he had moseyed away…

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Good size bird…but young…

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I thought he was gone, but  a while later she showed up again out back019 just under the window…looking very dignified, I think…

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I am proud to announce that my sweet bell pepper seedlings

Have True Leaves!!!

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See them there, teenytinylittle, sprouting up…  Do you comprehend the meaning of this???

They’re Going to Live!!

I think I’ll be able to save 2-3 tomatoes, too, but I’m not sure for how long…

In the meantime, I started the basil all over again and put it upstairs in the total complete darkness, except when I show up to check things every other day or so.    I also started some flowers:  2 kinds of marigolds, dahlia, foxglove, delphinium, and nasturtium.   Trying to grow seedlings seems to be a little like cooking rice:  let it cook and don’t keep checking under the lid…

Hope you had a nice St. Patrick’s Day!

Failure is not fatal…

Unless, of course, you are the spindly seedlings of basil,  planted 2/10, plucked 3/10…

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And the salad bowl is not much better, though it’s at least edible…

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As usual, impatience is my problem…

Success is not final;  failure is not fatal.  It is the courage to continue that counts.

                                                                                                                                Winston Churchill

Soo, since I know what I did wrong, I’ll just start again.  Really, it’s not at all too late;  the new moon is upon us and if I can get things going this week, they’ll be ready for outside planting in May.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

                                                                                                                          Winnie Churchill again…

 

                                                                                                             

This time I’ll get it right…

now what do I do?

I have never gotten this far with the seed-starting…Wow, those grow-lights really work, huh…

 

 

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And look at how the Salad Bowl has sprouted..:

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I am really thrilled..!  On to Stage II, and all I did was flip a switch.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature has flipped her switch…crocus…

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and snow-drops (galanthus)…

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are bloomin’ like it’s Spring-in-Winter…

I am researching how to proceed with the seedlings…

 

starting seeds…

Happy Mardi Gras!!  Ash Wednesday is sure early this year—as is Easter, of course.  I’m not sure I’m ready for the discipline of Lent, but I’m ready to get ready for Spring..!

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, I could successfully plant seeds indoors from Feb. 10-19 under the light of the New Moon (or lack thereof).  Ready…

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If you remember from past years, I am not good at this, but I’m persistent.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes now, so I hope I’ve got all the lessons learned and that this year I’ll save $$ with this endeavor instead of merely giving myself a nice mess to toss in a month.  Lesson 1:  mark which seeds are in which row in which container–seems easy enough, huh? Well, I have had “surprises” before, so I’m doing it right this year with the handy-dandy grid that Burpee supplied.  2:  speaking of Burpee, that’s a different brand of seed and starting medium, just in case my past failures are not All My Fault.  3: We bought a growing light last year, but never used it.  This year, I’m going to be patient with the germination phase and use the light.  Since the windows bring in such abundant sunlight, I’ve always stuck the seedlings in front of them, causing them to be leggy and weak.  This year—oila!—I’ll be ready in a couple of weeks with my new grow-light…

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One flat is all basils:  red rubin, mammoth, cinnamon, sweet, siam queen and some common thyme to round things out.  The other flat is peppers and tomatoes:  roma grande, sweeties, and  bush big boy tomatoes;  big dipper, organic California wonder, and a sweet hybrid mix of peppers.

I’m feeling as confident as a person can feel who has failed for years to get this right.  Well, there was the one year that I managed to get 2 flats of impatiens, proudly.  So my back-up plan:  plant flowers during the March new moon..!  Can’t fail, right?  Right…