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Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category

Here we go: planting indoors for my 2012 Outdoor garden!

I made my potting mix, used my nifty soil-block cube tool, and placed chunky dirt cubes into my beautiful seedling trays. I planted with my treasured seeds, watered, placed on the seed rack up in my office, and have felt like the luckiest person ever since. It has been Only Happy Times since March 18th. Here is what happened:

I started with materials:

And following the advice of Eliot Coleman’s “The New Organic Grower,” I assembled compost, sand, and topsoil in my wheelbarrow:

Still following his worthy advice, I added soil amendments (See “Field Notes”):

Cottonseed meal, phosphate rock, and greensand.

And I sprinkled them atop the soil mix:

I mixed these ingredients thoroughly with a hoe, and added some water to create a moist mix that held together politely.

Time for my wonderful soil-block cube maker, tool from Johnny’s Selected Seeds:

I pressed the cube maker firmly into the dirt, turned it 90 degrees and lifted it up. There were a few hapless worms in the compost, and I promise I made every effort to remove each one gently and deposit them in my pea-bed in the garden.

The first cubes went into the first tray:

I continued to fill the trays with dirt cubes. It seems the maximum number of cubes, and therefore seedlings, that each tray will hold is 54. Not bad, when you consider that I have 8 of these trays. That’s 432 plants, if I get 100% germination! (happy happy happy)

After assembling each tray’s cubes, I dropped one seed into each dibbled hole (the cube-maker automatically adds the dibble):

Can you see the dimpled hemisphere, ready to be applied when I push down on the plunger to release the soil?

Seeds for red peppers and green peppers.

And a closer look at the seeds for the yellow pepper plants.

I planted three kinds of peppers, and thyme. I will now water gently as needed, and try to be patient until April 3, when the calendar tells me I am allowed to make more soil cubes and plant again! Stay tuned….

WORDS FROM OTHERS

“It was Hans Jenny, a soil scientist, who first pointed out that there is often more life below and within the soil than there is above it, including Homo sapiens. This inversion of soil as medium to soil as life itself should be enough to convince any agri-scientist to adopt only those means of agriculture that support and nurture this life.”

— Paul Hawken

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I am gardening by the thermometer and tradition this year, rather than by the calendar. My Good Neighbor always told me that St. Patrick’s Day was the traditional day to plant peas, but for the past three years, I worried that the ground was too cold, the weather too damp, and the Fates just not conducive to planting so early. So I waited for the calendar to turn at least one more page.

Not this year. It has been so warm that I almost wonder if I am planting my peas too late! I planted them on St. Patrick’s Day this year, pleasing both Neighbor and my common sense.

Three varieties this year, to mature early, mid- and late:

The early variety is from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and is “Premium.” The vines grow up to 30″ and may be grown with or without support. This year I plan to try using brush to support the vines, again with Neighbor’s advice to guide me.

The mid-season variety is “Sienna,” also from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and I’m told that the vines are relatively short but set heavily for a high yield potential. I am hoping this encouraging description comes true!

The late variety is “Green Arrow,” from the Seed Saver’s Exchange. Besides the later maturation, these peas are smaller than Premium and Sienna, and bear 1-3 more peas per pod. All attractive qualities.

As I did last year, to thwart the marauding chipmunks, I planted my peas and then covered them with recycled milk jugs. These homely-but-effective cloches provide a bit of warmth and a lot of camouflage for the emerging plants. Once the peas are a few inches high, I will remove the cloches, and replace the jugs’ anchoring sticks with brush or some other form of support.

Here is the start of my 2012 Pea Garden:

It was astounding both to Husband and myself that I still don’t have enough milk jugs. I have about 15 seeds planted, but not covered. They are marked with small rocks, to cover as soon as we drink our way through gallons of milk. I am setting out a box of Carnation Instant Breakfast on the kitchen counter as a subtle hint for family members.

Once the peas are established and the jugs are removed, I will only be a few weeks away from putting the jugs back into service to cover my bush green beans and shelling beans.

Ending this post with a few Fun Facts About Peas (because you can never have too many Fun Facts):

-The United Kingdom is the largest producer of peas that are used for freezing, in Europe.

-One serving of freshly frozen peas has more vitamin C than two large apples.

-In 1533, Catherine de Medici supposedly took Italian peas, known as “piselli novelli,” to France when she married Henry II.

-In the 19th and 20th centuries, the thick London fogs were called “pea-soupers” because of their incredible thickness (density) and their slightly green color.

– Clarence Birdseye froze the first peas in the 1920’s.

-Janet Harris holds the world record for eating peas. In 1984, 7175 peas were consumed one by one in 60 minutes using chopsticks.

Source: http://www.bioweb.uwlax.edu, a collaborative website produced by faculty members of the University of Wisconsin.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

“Field pea (Pisum sativum, L.) was among the first crops cultivated by man. Some say the word “pea” came from Sanskrit; however, most concur that the Latin pisum, resembling the older Greek pisos or pison, is the true origin of the word. The Anglo-Saxon word became pise or pisu, and later in English, “pease”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, by 1600 the last two letters were dropped because people believed the word was plural, forming the singular “pea” that we know today.”

— Best Cooking Pulses, Inc.

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Color

I walked outside this afternoon, and looked around, and I thought, “I’m not sure how much longer I can stand this.”

This hill is brown. Well, there IS a little gray mixed in.

And yet, on closer examination, there WAS green in my garden. Actually, there was quite a bit of green!

Green daffodils, with white petals and pink trumpets to-come.

The green fringed leaves of yarrow, and the pink blossoms will come later.

Green leaves of Montauk daisies, and I remind myself that white petals with yellow eyes will follow.

Green fuzzy leaves have me California-dreamin' of vibrant orange petals with black throats.

Gray/green lambs ears leaves now, with their after-thought purple blossoms waiting for the season to mature.

The green sedum will frame rosy red petals in September.

But the green green green was NOT doing it for me! I turned to my Muse: Gertrude Jekyll. This woman was an artist with paint, wood, metal, and plants. Here is the book I referenced, filled with photos of her beautiful gardens. The gardens were renowned for their color, and the photographs she took were…ironically…black & white:

But I took heart after just reading the words “pink,” “blue,” “red,” and “cream.” I took another, closer look into my garden, and said the same thing I say every spring: “Thank God for little crocuses.”

And…

And…

And ending on a delicate note:

The daffodils, in all their yellow and white/pink glory, will arrive in a few weeks. I think I will make it, thanks to the crocuses in the garden, and Gertrude Jekyll’s words in my hands.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

“The groundwork of foliage was gray at either end to deeper greens in the middle to complement the flower colors, which were carefully gradated from pale pinks, blues, yellows, and creams at the ends, to deeper tones of yellows, pinks, and blues, to an intense center of oranges and reds.”

— from “Gertrude Jekyll: A Vision of Garden and Wood,” by Judith B. Tankard and Michael R. Van Valkenburgh, (c) 1989; describing Jekyll’s 200-foot-long flower border in her garden at Munstead Wood

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Beautiful Trays

They could just as easily have been discarded cookie sheets.

Instead, when I confessed to Husband that I am both greedy and cheap, and so wanted EIGHT trays for my soil cubes (that I use to plant seeds), and I didn’t want to pay for cookie sheets, he said, “Hmm, hmm, hmm.”

Translation: He’s about to make something for me.

He disappeared into the workshop, and later that day, presented me with a beautiful tray:

And then I learned the best news of all. There were 8 beautiful trays:

“Now you just have to polyurethane-the-heck out of them,” he said. (Except he didn’t say “heck.”) The polyurethane is to waterproof the trays; necessary, as I will be loading them up with moist blocks of potting mix: a blend of compost, sand, soil, and amendments. I was delighted. I would indeed treat them like heck.

Enter the tools:

In this photo: MinWax, polyurethane supreme; a screwdriver to open the lid, a brush for the poly, and a hammer to tap the lid back down.

And so I started:

The tack cloth removed the dust created from assembly. It's pink!

Then I applied the first of 4 coats of polyurethane:

I love how the polyurethane darkens the color of the wood and brings out the grain.

It took several days. Husband and I took turns applying the coats, flipping the trays over, until all were completely sealed against the damp.

Then came the day to bring them back into the house, and place them on the seed rack by my office window. Look how pretty:

And two more views:

And so, the garden of 2012 began weeks earlier than I expected. I thought my Starting Pistol would fire on March 20th, when I mixed the potting soil, set the formed cubes on rusty cookie sheets, and planted my peppers and thyme seeds. Instead, I had the great fun of helping to finish the beautiful trays for the soil cubes 4 weeks earlier. I was reminded of the quote that appears in “Words From Others,” appreciating once again Mr. Wright’s crystal clear reality. I was very willing to start my walking early, and look what I found at the end of the journey!

Almost a shame to fill these trays with dirt. (Except that this dirt is going to be GORgeous!)

WORDS FROM OTHERS

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.

— Steven Wright, American comedian, actor (1955- )

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All in a Breath

That’s how long it felt. One breath in, one out, and one in again. That was all that was needed to lose, heal, and regain my broccoli and kale plants. Mother Nature is a speedy young thing.

I raised my Italian varieties of kale and broccoli from seed, planted them, and tended them. They grew strong and sturdy. And then overnight it seemed (it was probably more like three days), they were gone. Decimated skeletons, whispers of their former robust selves, brought down by the larvae of the delicate cabbage butterflies I so enjoy watching. The fluttering white wings, with their coy black spot, delightful to watch, but with a deadly darker side.

These lovely ladies are on a mission to preserve their species, and so they lay their eggs on the underside of my babies, to hatch their voracious larvae.

Here is what I found that dreadful morning:

This used to be kale.

And this used to be broccoli.

And so I did some research for an organic solution. “Gardens Alive” is a reliable resource for me. So I read their catalog descriptions of products for my problem, and then searched for the needed ingredient. It seemed to be spinosad, and was described in Wikipedia as follows:

“Spinosad (spinosyn A and spinosyn D) are a new chemical class of insecticides that are registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) to control a variety of insects. The active ingredient is derived from a naturally occurring soil dwelling bacterium called Saccharopolyspora spinosa, a rare actinomycete reportedly collected from soil in an abandoned rum distillery on a Caribbean Island in 1982 by a scientist on vacation.[1] It has not been found in nature since that time, and was subsequently described as a new species.”

Have I unleashed a biological nightmare? Or simply used a gift from Mother Nature…a rare bacterium from the Caribbean, islands of rum and gentle breezes?

I found spinosad in this product:

It seemed appropriate that a bacterium originating in the islands would be bottled beneath the name "Captain Jack." Yo ho!

First, I removed the beyond-all-hope leaves, and was left with this:

Stripped kale.

And stripped broccoli.

I mixed the liquid in my watering can and poured it over the plants. It seemed to take immediate and positive effect. Just wishful thinking? Perhaps. But within two hours of application, I SWEAR my plants looked better.

They were standing up straighter. And in 10 days, I harvested my first broccoli of the season. Husband still will not touch the kale, resurrection notwithstanding, but I will.

Thank you, Captain Jack, for my brassicaea. It was a mighty close call.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

“Spinosad is relatively fast acting. The insect dies within one to two days after ingesting the active ingredient. There appears to be 100% mortality.”

http://www.wikipedia.org

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What can you say about zucchinis? Search the internet, and you will have almost as many facts and figures as I have fruit under the large leaves in my garden. This post will share savory facts and a sweet recipe. Another post, on some future day, will share a savory recipe, and I will see if such a thing as a sweet fact exists.

A few savory bits:

Zucchini contain mostly water – only cucumbers contain more water….If cooked with the skin, zucchini is a good source of vitamin A and a very good source of fiber, vitamins C, K, B2, B6, Folate, magnesium, potassium and manganese. It is fat free and low in sodium and cholesterol free. –www.allfoodsnatural.com

And this:
The zucchini was introduced to this country in the mid 1900’s by the Italians and is now grown by more gardeners than any other squash. –www.heirloomseeds.com

Another site offered a modest cooking suggestion, followed by a lyrical description:
…zucchini are cut into small circles or half moons and sautéed in olive oil. Add fresh spices like rosemary, basil or Italian seasoning to season the vegetable. Cook until lightly seared. Flip when the tops start to sweat. –www.maholo.com

How many things can you say that about, that they are ready for their next phase in Life when they begin to sweat? (I will think about that the next time I wipe my brow in the garden.)

I promised recipes in a previous post about zucchinis. Here is one, offered by a modern-day Renaissance woman — she paints with oils and bakes with overgrown garden vegetables. How many among us can claim such diversified talent?

Zucchini Bread

2 c. shredded zucchini
——————-
3 c. flour
1 ½ c. sugar
3 t. sugar
3 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking powder
¾ t. baking soda
——————-
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 t. vanilla
——————-
Exciting options! Add either 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips or ¾ cup cocoa powder. (Ghirardelli is a lovely brand.)

First: Decide the final form of your zuchinni offering: loaf? Bundt? muffins? Prepare the proper pan, by either greasing and flouring, or using paper cupcake liners.

Next: Shred the zucchini and allow to stand in a colander for 30 minutes. Press out the excess liquid, and then fluff the squished shards with a fork prior to adding to the batter.

Then: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Then again: Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, stir in the zucchini, and one of the options if you are feeling jazzy.

Finally: Pour into your form-of-choice and bake. 1 hour 10 minutes for the loaf or Bundt, and 50 minutes for the muffins. Use a toothpick or broom straw to test for doneness before taking the decisive action of removing the pan from the oven and turning off the heat.

Reward: Eat the bread yourself, or share and bask in the compliments.

Better reward: Both of the above.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

There are 37 people in the U.S. listed on whitepages.com with the last name ‘Zucchini’ and an additional 47 with the last name ‘Zucchino’
(Mark Morton, ‘Gastronomica’, Fall 2010)

–www.foodreference.com

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Squash-ed

What have I done?

I planted zephyr summer squash and bush-baby zucchini, both varieties meant to be harvested at 4-6″. Tiny. Delicate. Manageable.

I did not consider that tiny fruit does not equal tiny vines and tiny leaves. The squash plants are gobbling the garden, and all life is threatened within. I suspect that the deer netting is the next to go, and then on towards my house. If this is my last post, you will know what happened.

Photos:

At first glance, this looks like cucumber vines merely struggling to gain purchase on wobbly plastic trellis netting.

But another view shows a monstrous squash leaf shoving the more delicate cucumber leaf out of the way. (Like the #6 at rush hour in Grand Central.)

Closer look at the squashes planted next to the cukes: When they're not shoving the cucumbers, they're piling up against the front fence.

A longer view of the crush.

Planting lima beans at the end of the squash row? The limas think this was poor planning on my part.

Another downside of this scramble for real estate is that I’m having a hard time navigating the rows, and finding the squashes while they are in their cute baby-phase. Instead, I have (literally) stumbled upon doorstops, formerly known as squash:

To the right: dinner. To the left? Doorstops.

One final shot, to offer perspective. Please note: my harvest basket is large, but not large enough for that day.

Solutions? Short-term: Struggle down the rows each day, lifting leaves, harvesting youth. Long-term: plant something else next time.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

Squash has me thinking a lot about location, and of course I was reminded of the classic advice for purchasing real estate: The three most important factors when buying? Location, location, location.

But I could not find the source of the quote to share in this post. Apparently, I’m not alone. Read this:

“…from a 1926 real estate classified ad in the Chicago Tribune: ‘Attention salesmen, sales managers: location, location, location, close to Rogers Park.’

“…The context of the 1926 ad suggests it was already a familiar aphorism in Chicago; phrasal etymologists are not yet finished with this challenge, and the Lexicographic Irregulars are invited to weigh in.”

— William Safire, The New York Times, “On Language”, June 26, 2009

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The Art of the Entryway

Seasons change. And what suited one time and place, no longer seems right. So we change. We adjust, we tinker, we try something out. Sometimes, the New works very well.

So it was with the wire Christmas trees that Neighbor made for us out of tomato cages turned upside-down. He fastened strings of tiny white holiday lights to the ribs of the cage, and created two small twinkling trees. Husband set them on the urns flanking his studio door, plugged them in, and the studio had all of the cachet and charm of a sparkling gallery or shop in Manhattan. That was last winter.

Then winter warmed, spring came, and one of the strings of lights failed. I suggested something new: Plant morning glory seeds in the urn, place the upside-down tomato cages over the dirt, and run wire from the tip of the “tree” up to the roof, and along the front edge of the roof. Allow the vines to grow up, and out, making a green edge to the roof line of the studio. I was certain the studio doorway, framed in heart-shaped leaves and flowers singing glory to the morning, would appeal to my husband, his fellow artists and the art students that visit.

I bought a packet of Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange. I followed the suggestion on the packet, and soaked the seeds for 24 hours before planting. They germinated, finally, and the vines emerged, and grew up the cage ribs, exactly as I’d hoped.

The entryway is framed. The vines draw your eye up and away from the dark asphalt driveway, to green, white, and then blue sky, and it beckons to the artist in us all.

Beckoning you:

Looking across the driveway to the Art Studio.

Bright sunshine on the vines enhances the welcome.

Husband attached the upside-down "tree" to the urn with wire, to keep it stable in high winds or heavy rain.

The vines climb.

A vine's version of a traffic jam, as they sort out who stretches out on the roofline wire first.

The left urn has a wire that offers a choice: Left over the Workshop roof, or right over the doorway and Studio roof?

I love that this variety's leaves are heart-shaped.

And finally, what I was waiting for all along:

Taken with a flash, the throat of the blossom glows, and the unopened buds suggest ivory and pink torches.

The color of the blossoms changes with the light, and their short appearance each days makes their beauty even more compellng.

Thank you, Laura Ingalls Wilder, for putting it all into words for us. Both as a young girl longing for a life like Laura’s, and as an adult with pioneer tales of my own, her direct words speak to me. Morning glories sing.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

“All around that door green vines were growing out of the grassy bank, and they were full of flowers. Red and blue and purple and rosy-pink and white and striped flowers all had their throats wide open as if they were singing glory to the morning. They were morning glory flowers.”

— Laura Ingalls Wilder, “On the Banks of Plum Creek”

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I was warned not to plant them. Good jokes, bad jokes, yarns, urban legends, all warned against it. I planted them anyway. When I announced my intention to plant summer squash and zucchini, the response was, “Oh. I thought you liked me.”

Apparently, not everyone likes zucchini — or more to the point, not everyone likes zucchini after the first serving at dinner or after the first loaf of zucchini bread. Zucchini doesn’t have much staying power with friends, families, or neighbors.

To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, “July is the only month that Lutherans lock their cars when they go to church. They know that if they don’t, they’ll find a bag of zucchini left on the front seat.”

You can’t give this stuff away, it seems.

Still, I really love summer squash and zucchini, and so I planted some for myself this year. I reasoned: If the plants really do run wild and produce mountains of fruit, I’ll bring them by the basketful into my office. I successfully shared baskets of cucumbers, tomatoes, and jalapeno peppers last year. So why not squash? Surely my plants will not sate my 50 co-workers.

And so far, so good. My first planting of six each — zephyr summer squash and bush baby zucchini — have yielded manageable numbers. Of course, I have eaten them almost every night. And I’ve gifted my neighbors on each side several times. And I just bagged an offering for my husband’s art colleagues….Maybe I AM in trouble. Because, when the first plants were only a few inches high, I planted an additional 7 plants of each variety. I may have unleashed a horror upon the world that only a nuclear bomb can destroy (that’s how Godzilla was finally dispatched, yes?): “Nuke the Zukes! Rated CG: Clueless Gardener”

Before I am buried alive, I wanted to share photos and lore about these prolific plants. Here is a photo of the variety of summer squash I chose for this year:

Ready for harvest!

You will see from the Photo of the Day that this variety boasts a green tip at the base. I was also intrigued by the name “zephyr.” I went to Merriam-Webster.com (see “Words from Others”) and learned that this cheerful squash was named for a westerly breeze. I am not sure how that fits this vigorous, sunny grower. I suspect that in a few weeks, “breezy” will be the last adjective I’d apply to this plant. Maybe “typhoon”?

So I went back to the source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds, from whom I purchased this plant. What did I buy again? I was a bit alarmed at the catalog copy:

“Precocious, yellow, green-tip straightneck.
A distinctive, slender fruit, yellow with faint white stripes and light green blossom ends. Harvest young at 4-6″ for unusually delicious nutty taste and firm texture. Unique appearance for easy recognition. Big, open plant, high yielding. Packet: 30 seeds.

Days to Maturity or Bloom: 54”

Precocious. Really? I always associated that word with an adult’s struggle to remain polite. “Their children are…precocious.” Meaning “bratty.” Once again to Merriam-Webster:

“pre·co·cious
adj \pri-ˈkō-shəs\
Definition of PRECOCIOUS
1
: exceptionally early in development or occurrence
2
: exhibiting mature qualities at an unusually early age
— pre·co·cious·ly adverb
— pre·co·cious·ness noun
— pre·coc·i·ty noun
Origin of PRECOCIOUS
Latin praecoc-, praecox early ripening, precocious, from prae- + coquere to cook — more at cook
First Known Use: 1650″

OK, so this variety matures early. If that is all that was meant, I’m fine with that. So far, I have not been led astray. (Still not so sure about “zephyr,” but “precocious” sits well.)

On to the zucchini. Here is what my first zucchinis looked like:

The one at the bottom of the photo is ready for harvest, and the one with the blossom still attached has another day or two to go.

I also ordered this variety from Johnny’s, and here is how they enticed me to buy my packet of seeds:

“True baby zucchini.
Bush Baby’s fruits are true miniatures and ready to harvest at 4-6”. At this stage they are more attractive and “proportional” than full-size zucchinis used as babies. Fruits are glossy and medium dark green with stripes. Semi-open plants are relatively easy to harvest. Avg. 3,700 seeds/lb. Packet: 30 seeds.

Days to Maturity or Bloom: 49″

Again, so far, so good. The catalog speaks the truth. These zucchini are indeed ready to harvest at 4-6″, and they are beautiful. The stripes are elegant, indeed.

And how could any parent have too much of a “true baby” anything?!

I will let you know. I have 49 days.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

zeph·yr
noun \ˈze-fər\
Definition of ZEPHYR
1
a : a breeze from the west
2
: any of various lightweight fabrics and articles of clothing

Origin of ZEPHYR
Middle English Zephirus, west wind (personified), from Latin Zephyrus, god of the west wind & zephyrus west wind, zephyr, from Greek Zephyros & zephyros
First Known Use: 1611

–Merriam-Webster.com

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Status, June 19, 2001

Happy Father’s Day to all on this sunny June day. I thought it fitting to start this post with a thank-you to my father, who recently sent me the butterfly book quoted in “Words From Others.” I observed in a recent post that I needed a butterfly field guide to identify the tiny skippers flitting about the catmint. He generously responded by popping his book in the mail as a gift. It is small and fits so well in my hands. It is, of course, just the right size to take into the field. I love it.

I appreciate that this book, published in 1951, talks about having learned more about butterflies during “the last generation.” That would be about 60+ years ago. The book’s introduction is evidence that our knowledge base constantly changes, and I love that there is always something new to learn. My dad also introduced me to Peterson’s field guides to birds, and to the field guide to wildflowers in that series. I spent many a sticky afternoon in the western Maryland woods, with a dixie cup filled with water and drooping wildflowers, the field guide opened, and a pad of paper filled with the names of the flowers as I identified them. (It was much more fun, and infinitely more interesting, than collecting kindling for our campsite.)

I used this field guide to butterflies in preparation for posting a Status for today. I will apologize in advance: my digital camera and I are not up to the task of photographing butterflies. They move too fast, and my camera is not (expensive) accurate enough to photograph small objects in clear detail. Forgive me. If I get a better photo of a Red Admiral, you will be among the first to see it!

Here is what is going on in the garden on this Father’s Day of 2011:

Because I knew how I would feel after a morning weeding, I started off a jug of sun tea on the porch.

I stepped off the front porch and looked at the activity in the lavender. It looked like morning rush hour in Grand Central, with bumblebees and butterflies landing on the blossoms and swinging down as the stems swayed. It was a kaleidoscope in motion and color. I don’t know who had the claim to greatest numbers: the bumblebees or the Cabbage White butterflies. Other varieties were in evidence, but these two visitors were present on every plant.

A Giant White cabbage butterfly in the lavender.

Apologies for the blurriness: this is a Red Admiral posing patiently. His antennae are topped with wee dots, inelegantly called "enlarged clubs." (I learned this from the field guide.)

Also sipping lavender nectar, a Painted Lady.

I walked around to the front of our slope garden to see how the perennials were doing. The catmint and salvia blossoms are just about spent. The yarrow is in full bloom and the Shasta Daisies and Monarda are gearing up. Still no-shows: the Montauk daisies and Rudbeckia.

Buds on the Shasta Daisies are ready to burst.

At first blush: the monarda didyma (Cambridge Scarlet) with Stella D'Oro in the background.

Continuing around the curve of the slope, I found the ridiculously tiny and delicate blossoms of the gargantuan borage plant (see “Photo of the Day). These tiny blossoms are said to taste like cucumber. Perhaps so — I can’t quite place the taste myself, but they do look lovely frozen in an ice cube and floated in a drink of sparkling water. A wisp of civilization on a hot summer’s day. Surely someone that is sipping such an elegant drink can’t be suffering from perspiration! This is the drink of people dressed in summer whites, sitting in the shade on a swept porch.

Into the vegetable garden:

Just inside the gate, basil shining in the sunlight.

In the back corner, the one welcomed sunflower volunteer towers over the Cosmos seedlings. I have plans for all but three of these seedlings, in other parts of the yard. The Favored Three will remain to challenge the sunflower for compliments.

Then to the bottom of the garden, to check on the threatening squash plants. The leaves are huge and have reached across their allotted space, over the straw-strewn path, and try each day to pull down the trellis reserved for the cucumber vines. I will be vigilant and keep them in their place. Already I have harvested a few of the yellow summer squashes, variety “Zephyr”:

Youngest Child and I will eat these tonight.

Peeking underneath the leaves I found:

A tiny zephyr emerges from a robust blossom.

Zucchini. This variety is meant to be harvested when small, and I mean to oblige.

Large enough to have shed the blossom, but still small enough to stay upright on the stem. I have my eye on this one. Maybe tomorrow....

Also in the Ready-To-Eat Club:

Three varieties of lettuce, all delicious, all gracing our table several nights a week.

And the peas, although I didn't plant nearly enough this year, and so the servings on each plate are laughably small. I have been enduring a lot of ridicule. In front of the staked plant are two Lamb's Quarter plants. The leaves are very nutritious, and delicious when stir-fried with garlic scapes and olive oil.

In the Don’t-Rush-Me Club:

The Fortex pole bean tendrils are gently touching the first row of the netting.

Tiny carrot seedling, next to the "weed" Purslane. I pull and toss about half of the Purslane in my garden, and eat the rest. The leaves are loaded with sodium, and are delicious in stir-frys.

The bush beans, Golden Pencil, are asserting themselves.

A double row of radishes, backed by a second sowing of beet seeds -- all doing well in front of the pole beans.

Redfield Beauty tomatoes, with lettuce and cilantro turning the corner of the bed.

And Amish Paste tomatoes, bordered to the north by spinach. I haven't decided what to sow on the south side.

And so my morning in the garden ended, and I looked forward to a Sit on the shady front porch with a glass of sun tea.

Almost ready....

I was not in summer whites. I was instead in my overalls with the muddy knees and my tired old sun hat. I may not have been elegant, but I was accomplished — something I value a whole lot more.

WORDS FROM OTHERS

“Why a New Butterfly Book? Recent years have seen the development of the Houghton Mifflin ‘Field Guides,’ led by Roger Tory Peterson’s famous Field Guides to eastern and western birds….It was therefore a welcome opportunity to add to this series a guide to butterflies, so as to make our modern knowledge of these insects readily available to all.

“During the last generation we have found out a great many new facts about our butterflies…”

— Alexander B. Klots, “A Field Guide to the Butterflies of North America, East of the Great Plains,” published by Houghton Mifflin, 1951

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