Tag Archives: gardening

What Does Old Mean, Anyway?

28 May

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  When I was in elementary school, or high school, or even college for that matter, I would have considered a person of my age old.  Not that I really had a solid determination of old; I think I just considered it something that happens with age.  My parents were old.  My teachers were old.  My grandparents were really old.  I have achieved the number of years that I once considered old…so am I?  No.  At least I don’t think so.  I still enjoy nearly all of the things I liked growing up.  Maybe with the exception of Twinkies–waaaay too sweet–bleh.  But I don’t think my anti-Twinkie palate signifies oldness.

So what IS old?  I’ve assisted people older than me while working my summer job at a greenhouse.  I admit to studying them a bit and imagining myself with their particular challenges of hearing, vision and mobility.  Do those challenges constitute oldness?  Or does the act of coming out each spring for your vegetable and flowering plants and then spending the summer tending, weeding and harvesting keep oldness at bay?  Are you old because it takes you longer to do things?  Does the joy of watching something grow negate the time it takes to plant it in the first place?

And what about the physical differences?  The effects of gravity, the age spots that remind me of summers spent laying in the sun using baby oil as “suntan lotion,” the wrinkles that frame my face.  The older-than-me folks at the greenhouse are also affected by these differences, but even more so.  I find myself repeatedly drawn to commercials featuring young, smooth-skinned beauties selling the latest spot-removing, tone-evening, skin-smoothing, wrinkle-erasing beauty cream, and I confess to wanting that youthful, dewy skin.  What am I afraid of?  Am I THAT vain?  Why can I not settle into “aging gracefully?”

Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe taking care of yourself physically and mentally IS aging gracefully.  Gray hair will happen, wrinkles and age spots cannot be undone without spending huge amounts of money that could be spent on plants and garden bling.  Worry is my nature, but I still love to play with friends, snuggle with my sweetie, watch clouds float across the sky, listen to our mockingbird perform his repertoire, and savor the first tomato of the season.

I saw my shadow the other day as my husband and I worked to weed our front yard perennial beds, and realized my shadow doesn’t show those parts of me that are slipping into what I identify with “old.”  My shadow is much the same as it’s always been.  How can I be old if my shadow isn’t?!  My hair becomes grayer each year, and wrinkles deepen.  Kids may think of me as old.  But I’ve decided I won’t consider myself old until my shadow looks old–how can that happen when it follows me to a slot canyon or when it sits in the garden admiring a fresh bloom?  I think my shadow enjoys a  cuppa as much as I do.  Here’s to my shadow and I toasting each other with a morning brew for many years to come, worrying less, and playing more.


Looking Ahead….

4 Jan

The fresh new year is but 4 days old, and already my head is swimming with all the possibilities I can squish into the next 361 days!  Stuff I’m thinking about:

  • Travel.  DH and I are headed to San Francisco tomorrow to visit friends who said we MUST come for crab season.  Really?  50 degree weather+good friends+good food+reasonable airfare+ability to travel right now=YES!!!  We’ll be there!  Travel to the east coast to visit family is on the horizon for the spring.
  • Technology.  As a RETIRED librarian, I worry that technology will be leaving me behind in no time at all.  But, yesterday I bought a nook e-reader!!!  LOVE it!  I love the look and feel and smell of a new book, but for travel, this is so cool.  I’m finding the nook does have a book-ish feel to it somehow. Maybe it comes from the size of the display, maybe I’m just so easily sucked into the words that the format just doesn’t matter.  It is way easier to read from than a computer screen.  What a great little piece of technology, and I feel right at home with it already.
  • Food.  When am I NOT thinking about food?!  I’m thinking of starting a new blog based on cooking.  I love to cook and if I have a recipe, I feel like I can cook whatever.  I’ve had a lot of fun lately with recipes that are new to me and sharing the yumminess that results with friends.  I’ve thought about adding foodie entries to this often neglected blog, but now that I’m writing while I’m thinking…..thinking, yeah, new blog.  Be watching for it after we get back from the Bay Area!
  • Health.  After my recent adventures with kidney stones, my health has to take priority this year.  I’m drinking more water, and minding the foods high in oxalates.  While the weather is cold, I’m back being friends with my treadmill and Wii Fit.  I’m determined to NOT be in this situation again!
  • Motherhood.  Mr16 is a great kid and hasn’t shunned me, but is starting to *gasp!* be more independent….as he should.  He has but a year and a half left of high school, and then….   He is wisely considering the finite quality of his college fund and has realized his choice of schools will determine how far it goes.  He’s talking staying in town to attend the local state college, Mesa State, for the first two years.  This thrills me no end, I’ll have a couple more years with him around!  He hates cold and snow, so I’m not hopeful that he’ll make Colorado his final destination.  I’m thinking when he moves out, he won’t ever be back except for holidays, lalala.  This year, and the next few, I’ll be sucking up as much of the joy that IS being his mom as I can.
  • Gardening.  The seed catalogs have started to arrive and now that the holidays are over, I’m ready for warmer weather and gardening.  I want to grow fava beans this year.  I’m thinking I’m not gonna mess with as many of the spring veggies, like peas, lettuce, radishes this year; I’m really the only one who eats them. 
  • Dear Husband.  I’m gonna try really hard to revive date night.  A night without the constant drone of the TV.  A night with special food that I don’t cook all by myself, wine, candlelight, a walk in the desert after dinner….you get the idea.  I’m tired of the TV running the show around here.  HGTV, Food Network, Keith Olbermann and the many permutations of CSI can be DVRed for an evening.
  • Blogging and other record-keeping.  I keep a “Christmas Book.”  It has places to save the favorite card, record who got what, events, food, lalala.  I dug it out to record this year’s info, and discovered I had skipped some years.  Michael, Zach and I read through what WAS there, and laughed and remembered and then felt robbed by the missing years.  Memory is such a fragile and precious thing.  I need to save the happy times to look back on.

Enough stuff for now.  I need to look up the gate/concourse we arrive to in Denver and the one we leave from tomorrow morning to see if there’s a coffee shop near them…I’ll be wanting a cuppa!

Freeze Warning?! Ack!

1 Nov

Double “Ack” for not blogging all summer and most of the fall!  Lots to look back on in the coming weeks…

For now, current events.  Western Colorado had a freeze warning a week ago; the same day as the 1A-2A-3A State Marching Band Competition.  What’s the connection?  As a band parent, I was organizing the catering for the judges, and was at Stocker Stadium all day.  I got home after 8pm–well after dark.  Dutifully, I grabbed a flashlight, a basket and my garden snippers and trudged out to the garden.  I snipped off all the basil by the light of the flashlight held in my mouth.  I couldn’t let my beautiful spicy little babies get frosted!   Basil safely deposited in the house, I set out to get the old bed sheets to cover the tomatoes, hoping for an extra day or two for them.

But no.  The freeze got everything.  Michael and I stripped the garden of all tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, squash, carrots and potatoes and deposited them next to the basil on the kitchen island.  Wow!  So much produce….so much work yet to be done…waaah!  Potatoes washed, dried and stored.  Carrots blanched and frozen.  Butternut squash stored.  Up next–basil pesto.

Basil Pesto is easy to make and freezes well.  Two things that make this easier still:  my Hamilton Beach “Big Mouth” food processor and one of these garlic peeling tube thingies:

    Seriously, these thingies work like magic, peeling lots of garlic easily in a flash!  The garlic clove goes in the tube, you roll it on the counter with a little pressure and shake out a perfectly peeled clove of garlic!  I’m tellin’ ya–if you don’t have one, run right out and get one!

So.  The pesto.  The recipe is easily doubled, and will still fit in the bowl of the food processor.

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil

4 cloves garlic–peeled (with the thingie!)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup freshly grated parmesan

1/3 cup pine (or other) nuts

Place garlic and basil in processor and rough chop.  Add cheese and nuts.  With machine running, drizzle in olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy right then, or store in 1/2 cup amounts in snack-size ziplocs.  Place those in a gallon freezer bag and feeze for up to a year!

Yummy!  A single recipe makes one cup of pesto.  End of story?  Not quite.  Parsley is one of the few still-green things in the garden.  I picked what was there, and today I made parsley-walnut pesto!  Same recipe, parsley for the basil (snip off all the stems), walnuts instead of pine nuts. 

Up next?  I bought a half bushel of roasted green chilis today, so probably a morning of peeling, seeding and freezing them.  Then I’m thinking on to the tomatillos for the second batch of tomatillo salsa for this season…none of this will happen before my second cuppa, though.  : )

Yes I Can!

8 Aug

It’s official!  The start of canning season.  The “Sumter” cukes have been very, very happy and have showered us with short, squatty, mildly flavored cucumbers.  Yesterday morning I went out to the garden to get green onions for breakfast and found a “moby-cuke” that had been hiding under its thicket of leaves; I knew it was pickle time!  Here’s the stack of 28–after moby joined the others from the week…way too many to just peel and eat:

After picking dill and jalepenos, peeling garlic cloves, making a brine, washing jars and cukes, cutting the ends off the cukes and slicing them into spears and packing jars with the cukes, dill, garlic and brine, placing lids and processing for 20 minutes each batch–whew–I ended up with 10 quarts of kosher dills! 

The garden has been LOVING the last two weeks of “monsoonal moisure” and has been really bringin’ it on!  The tomato plants are now over 6 feet tall.  One of them produced this amazing Belgian Giant heirloom tomato:

It was just so huge, I had to take it into the house and weigh it–13 ounces!

We sliced it onto hamburgers along with a red onion from the garden.  Nom nom nom!!!   Zucchinis have been doing what zucchinis do, resulting in 2 loaves of zucchini bread this weekend too.  It’s like living with a farmer’s market right outside the back door!

Mary, Mary, quite contrary…..

28 Jul

Wow does summer get busy!  We’ve been to Deming to visit the ‘rents, been to Denver visiting friends–a weekend of “chill and swill”, been to Carbondale for the Mountain Fest, working hard to save our favorite coffee shop from going under, and of course, gardening.

Gardening in our area is what I call commando gardening.  It’s just sooo hot and dry and windy sometimes, that the garden growing at all seems miraculous.  But at this point, we’re already harvesting the rewards that come from picking off squashbugs and hornworms, and watering and trussing and fertilizing.  So, how DOES my garden grow?  Have a look:

Tomatoes and corn taller than me, squash, strawberries and cucumbers spilling out of their beds.  Wanna see some of the harvest?

What to do with this bounty?  Here’s one idea:  Heirloom tomato caprese salad–the yellow/orange tomatoes are “Valencia”, the green are “Green Zebra” , the dark purple-red are “Black Krim” and the red are “Husky Red” (not an heirloom).

Having fresh veggies is just one of the perks of gardening.  I was talking to a friend today who said that their garden is his wife’s “therapy”.  So true.  No matter the weather, the task or the icky pest being squished, being in the garden is so soothing.  It’s like that “ahhhhhh” moment that happens with the first sip of a great cup of coffee or glass of wine.  I’m looking forward to canning season, and being able to enjoy the harvest all winter long.  Ahhhhh…..

Soul Gardening

24 May

Ahhhhhhhh.  The wind has “relaxed” according to our TV weather guy.  The sun came out.  You can see the Mesa from our house for the first time in days.  After dinner (Monday night is pizza night!), I went out to water the plants still in the greenhouse, and assess the wind damage from the last four days.  Those little plants are not much worse for the wear!  I planted a new tomatillo where the wind broke one off, and may need to re-plant a couple of Roma tomatoes.  Aside from that and a few broken leaves on the squash, the garden seems happy.

I went around visiting each little group of plants, talking to them and telling them how wonderful they are to have survived outside in wind that picked up a piece of plywood and tossed it to the back of the property.  I poked around a bit in the radishes to check their size and found some ready to pick!  I picked black-seeded Simpson lettuce, arugula, spinach and an onion to go with them–“House Salad” for lunch tomorrow!  What a lovely bouquet the radishes make, what an earthy still life they make with the greens. 

Just this wee bit of time in the garden has quieted my wind-borne demons.  A garden connects your soul to the earth, nourishing spiritually as much as it will nutritionally.  Everyone needs someplace to reconnect to themselves; a place to be present.  Worries will still pop up every now and then.  I’m lucky to have a place where I can set them aside.

What will you do when you’re retired?

21 May
Evening in the veggie garden
Evening in the veggie garden

This is the most asked question these days.  A close second is “how many days left?”  For the record, the number is 6 after today.  One of my answers to this question is “putter around in the garden.”  Last night I finished planting my veggie garden for this season.  There are 8 kinds of tomatoes, 5 of which are heirloom varieties, onions, shallots, 3 kinds of peppers, 2 kinds of beans, 3 kinds of squash, corn, cucumbers, carrots, tomatillos, potatoes, peas, dill, garlic, cilantro, basil, lettuce, arugula, spinach, radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, and strawberries. (whew!)

Potatoes are planted with beans, each keeps a bug off the other, carrots planted with tomatoes, they help each other grow.  Tomatoes are kept away from potatoes–they hate each other and don’t grow well together.  Squash are in their own bed in anticipation of this summer’s epic squash bug war.  As the tomatoes start setting, I’ll tie bird tape to the tomato ladders, hopefully discouraging the birds from sampling my tomatoes (MY tomatoes) before I get a chance. 

I took this picture last night after I’d finished planting and turned the water on.  It was about 7:30.  Birds were singing, the roosters next door were crowing, there was a light breeze whispering through the pussy willow.  The sun was still illuminating the Mesa in the distance, and dancing around in the top of the cottonwood.  Just being in the garden made my shoulders relax and placed a contented smile on my face….ahhhhh.  My garden is such a wonderful place. 

You probably noticed the tall fence around the garden; it’s not because of deer, but to keep out bunnies.  A bit of overkill, but the chainlink was free, so a tall fence it is!  Bunnies are cute and all, but can be voracious–decimating entire sections of a garden overnight!  The beds are all raised, filled with quality soil we brought in and amend yearly.  The native soil of this place is way too alkaline for growing much of anything.  It seems like commando gardening here sometimes–a lot of hard work and effort is needed to harvest enough food for dinner, let alone canning for the winter.

But, in spite of the bunniesbugsalkalibirdswindheat, I LOVE to garden.  I love going out in the morning to see what will be in my omelet.  I love gathering fresh basil and tomatoes for a caprese salad, I love making salsas and tomato sauce that let me taste summer all winter long.  I love how stress is left at the garden gate.  I’m looking forward to enjoying my garden well into the fall when I’d normally be back at school.  Ahhhhhhhhh.

The Ghost of Retirement Yet To Come…

16 May

Today was everything I hope retirement will be:  sleeping in, lazy breakfast, coffee on the deck.  Then gardening–I planted most of my tomatoes and squash, while DH placed new drippers into a couple of wine barrels repurposed as planters.  All the while, the usual Sunday stuff that is laundry was going on–hanging out clothes to a mockingbird seranade.  Just a beautiful day. 

In the afternoon, we drove up the road a few miles to the Reeder Mesa Winery for the wine club pick-up party.  Doug and Kris throw THE best pick-up parties.  Not only do you get your new wine club offerings, but they provide all sorts of appetizers, wine tastings, and barrel tastings of wines yet to be bottled–my fav today: the 09 Cab Franc–beautiful dark red, lots of spice!  Hung out with lots of other wine clubbers, including a friend from work who is retiring this year too.  We lifted our glasses to each other and toasted the good fortune of retiring in a great place, with many years of parties like these yet to come. 

Now home, watching the sun set over the Uncompagre.  Last load of laundry is on the line.  11 days left, only 8 of those with kids in the building.  Then everyday can be like this day, or however I decide it should be.  It makes me smile contentedly just thinking about it.  Ahhhhhh…..