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Gourmet Squirrels

A few years ago, before I “put in” my garden beds, I decided to grow a small herb container garden.  I bought a large plastic pot (I even sprang for the matching saucer!) and filled it with dirt and plants.  I planted lemon thyme, cheddar pinks, and a sad looking little basil plant I bought in the produce section of my grocery store.

As the plants grew, I introduced my young daughters to the joys of plucking a fresh herb leaf, crushing it between fingers, and taking a big whiff.  They loved it!  I like to imagine that helped them learn to enjoy their senses and live in the moment.

When the basil was getting nice and lush and tall, I went out one day to find one of the tops of the stalks snapped off.  I looked around for the top, assuming that one of the girls had pulled it off to sniff and just tossed it to the ground after, as we usually did.  But it was nowhere to be found.  Oh well, no biggie.  They must have carried it arouBedford a bit before dropping it.

The next day, more leaves are stripped off.  A couple of naked twigs struck up from the mass of leaves.  I gave the girls a gentle lecture about only taking a leaf or two to sniff.  They nodded and agreed, looking a little confused.

A few days later, I walked out to see the plants stripped absolutely bare.  Not a single leaf was left, just several pathetic twigs sticking up from the dirt.  For some reason, I didn’t say anything to the kids, but mentioned it to Hubs that evening.

“Squirrels” was his reply.  He told me that he had seen a squirrel messing around in the pit several days previous, eating some leaves. But he had assumed that the squirrel would lose interest after a mouthful of the spicy, pungent plants.  Well, apparently not.  I assume the stuffed their greedy cheeks full of my prized basil, scampered back to their little squirrel nests and made walnut pesto from the black walnuts the gathered in our yard.  Seriously?  Gourmet squirrels.

Sucking Aphids

Since I’m sending this blog out into the world, I’m trying not to use any expletives.  But I swear the %^€€<|{}!* garden pests just seem to pull the curse words out of my mouth.  By the time pests arrive, I’ve gotten blisters from hand digging my beds, spent hours on my knees plucking out the thousands of violet and other weed seedlings, carefully researched seeds and garden plans, lugged gallons of water to gently hand-sprinkle my fragile seedlings, and just generally spent my  blood, sweat and tears on my little plot.  And those little {deleted} steal my seeds, chew the tops off my seedlings, and ruin my produce.

Now, I could douse my plants and soil with chemical insecticides.  The garden aisles at the hardware stores have enough to make a mushroom cloud of poison big enough to annihilate every bug in the Greater Hendersonville area.  But do I really want to feed that to my family?  And what about the bees and butterflies I need to pollinate my crops?  And what about the earthworms that fertilize and loosen my soil?  So I find other ways to get rid of the baddies, while welcoming the goodies.  There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of watching the tiny alligator-like lady bug larvae devour aphids by the hundreds or seeing the tomato hornworms succumb to the teensy parasitic wasps.

This year, we appear to be having a population explosion of aphids.  They are all over everything, but especially bad on my peas, tomatoes, and roses.  They stunt growth, disfigure the plants, spread disease, and can eventually suck the plants to death.

I started out using a product called “Insecticidal Soap” for NatureworksTN that my Mom bought last year.  It’s made from Cayenne Pepper, Garlic, Olive Oil, and Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castille Soap.  It didn’t have the immediate killing power of commercial poisonous insecticides, but the next day, my plants were aphid free.  Amazing!  But unfortunately, they came back worse than before.  I don’t think it’s a reflection on the soap, it just shows how bad the infestation really is.  The past couple of days, I’ve been wandering around my yard finding Ladybug larvae and releasing them onto the infested plants.  They’ve stuck around and I can see that they are making dent in the aphid population on the individual plants.  But so far, it just isn’t enough.

I actually found myself in the insecticide aisle at Lowes eyeing the Sevin Dust.  So I’m on a quest to rescue my plants from the sucking aphids.  I’m off to the interwebs to do some research, but feel free to leave a comment if you’ve found something sustainable that works.

The Edible Garden

The Edible Garden

This is a photo of my edible garden space. I call it the “Armeggarden”. Hubs is about halfway convinced that Mad Max times are coming and that we need to be prepared. Ok. Whatever. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of living ~comfortably~ off the grid, so this is a first step!

We found out a couple of years ago, when we had to get a 10 foot deep chasm in our yard to connect to the city sewer line, that our yard was filled with top soil when they built the house. For the uninitiated to Tennessee red clay and hard pan, it means luscious, dark brown soil, 10 fricken’ feet deep! I can dig it up with a garden fork instead of having to rent a gas powered tiller (and still having to bust my butt to get it decently tilled) and it is filled with big, fat, healthy earthworms.

The space pictured is a little over 2 feet deep and about 23 feet long. In that space, I can actually grow quite a bit! Last year, I got well over 20 lbs of tomatoes, county fair prize-winning sized cucumbers, 7 kinds of basil, and tons more.

I’ve expanded this year and gotten most of my seeds planted. If all goes well, I will have:
Dragon Tongue Beans
Purple Pole Beans
Sugar Snap Peas
Purple Onions
Evergreen Bunching Onions
Several colors of Nasturtiums
Orange, Yellow, Red, White, and Purple carrots
7 or more varieties of lettuce
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Romanesco Broccoli
Dill
German Chamomile,
Pink and Red Dianthus
Blue and Black Bachelor Buttons
Tiger Eyes Marigolds
Cherry Tomatoes
Cherokee Purple Tomatoes
Pink Brandywine Tomatoes
Malabar Spinach
Love-lies-bleeding Amaranth
Cherry Belle and Rattail radishes
Strawberry Spinach
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Asparagus
Regular and Garlic Chives
Roman Chamomile
Salad Burnet
Vit Corn Salad
Mammoth Sunflowers
Canteloupe
Lemon cucumbers
Birdhouse gourds,
Violas
Pansies
Day lillies
Rosemary
Citrus and Chocolate Mint
White Lilacs
Strawberry Spinach
Sweet Woodruff
Lemon Balm
Lemon, lime, Genovese, purple, and globe basil
Blackberries
Tiffany, Electra, and Peace roses
Hollyhocks
Sweet Peppers
Moldavian Dragonhead
Cutting Celery
And Peaches

And those are just the edible ones! I have a few more that are strictly ornamental, but I will get into those another day.

In my main beds, I use soaker hoses on a timer during the hottest part of the summer. I use Amdro slug baits to control our slug and snail infestation and plain dish soap/water solution for other bugs. I use compost and fish emulsion for fertilizer.

Right now, I’m having problems with aphids on my peas and either squirrels or rabbits are eating my bean and sunflower sprouts. I’ll write more tomorrow about how I’m dealing with these annoyances.

Welcome, friend!

Welcome, friend!

So, my first blog post. Gulp. My goal is to share my deep love for the beauty in the imperfect. The Japanese call it Wabi Sabi, but considering my lifestyle, I’ve decided to call it Wabi Slobby! My hope is that reading my blog will be like having a nice chat with an old friend. So feel free to kick off your shoes, put your feet up on the coffee table, and don’t you even worry about spilling food on the floor. That’s what the dogs are for!