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Morning in the Pea Patch

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Mornings – ah literally my favorite time of the day. I enjoy the stillness, the quiet and watching the dew gather up on the plants as the sun sends its golden warmth to caresses the garden. This time of year, unfortunately doesn’t last long enough! All too soon these gentle mornings give way to some brutally hot and even more brutal humidity! The pea patch is in it’s last few weeks of the this lush green and dew bejeweled days. I am realistic enough to know that this is the expected and natural progression. The dead vines will be chopped and shredded on their way to the compost pile. I am well prepared though for their replacement. Two weeks ago I planted the cucumber seeds that have now emerged and will begin climbing the lattice soon to be vacated by the peas. The peas loath the heat but my cucumbers embrace the heat….. The garden illustrates diversity and adaptation  at it’s best.

As much as I love these spring mornings in my pea patch I know that soon the dew will be on my forehead, (is it dew or “perspiration”,)  when I step into the garden. I can take solace in the fact that I have choices that I can take in response to the the new conditions rather than lament to passing of these sweet and special mornings in the patch! Change…..it is something that many times I/we fear or want to avoid. The world around us is always changing and always will. With change I/we have an opportunity to adapt and respond in a way that  is “forward looking” – and yes we use our knowledge of the past – the past, a place where cannot really return,  but it  provides a vision for the path forward.

I will continue to enjoy each morning, each day and each evening that I can spend in my garden. I will look forward to the changes yet to come – not worrying about those things which are beyond my control. So as the environment warms I will adapt, I will plant new varieties, I will embrace new practices to tend my little patch. As the weather becomes wetter I will raise the beds a little higher, choose my planting to embrace the changes and I will continue to enjoy all of my mornings, days and evenings in the patch.

TTFN

Bishop

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Garden Shots

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I took the camera into the garden the last few days….I am always impressed by the perfection in nature….

Bishop

TTFN

Enjoying it While We Can

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Just returned to Houston yesterday from a quick  meeting with a client in lovely Midland, TX. I guess there really is no rest for the old guys wanting to retire. I am not sure what retirement means because I don’t ever picture myself without an “avocation”.

NOUN:

  1. An activity taken up in addition to one’s regular work or profession, usually for enjoyment; a hobby.
  2. One’s regular work or profession.
  3. Archaic A distraction or diversion.

I think my vision of an avocation will be a blend of definition 1 and 3. Oh yes….I have been accused of being a bit archaic by my children……they seem to grow out of that phase but it does take some time. I can be a distraction and a diversion as well as being distracted on occasion. I am constantly diverting my attention between the large number of activities that fit in definition “one” above. Gardening is high on the list as is photography, fishing, bicycling, blogging, canning, sweating in the gym, day dreaming and I’m sure that Kathy would add a couple more to the list.

Definitions one and three in my life right now are pretty broad. I do love tending my garden. I did wait at least 25 minutes after my return home from this trip before wandering out into the garden to check on things. I have been advised that it does not bode well to go to the garden immediately upon return, I need to see and visit with Kathy for a bit and then wander off. I enjoyed my bicycle ride down to the local Starbucks this morning.Today at  5:45 AM it was dark, the air was crisp on the face and I had to smile a little inside at all of those folks rushing off to their definition “2” of the avocation term. I do not miss that morning rush one bit. I also thought of my best friend John, by the way – he was on his rush to work at least 20 minutes before my ride began, I know he is looking forward to the time where he can choose either 1 or 3. He is a bit like me and I am certain that he is capable of blending the two admirably.

Wow, the garden is taking off! The Yukon Gold potato plants in the wire cage are huge. Below is a picture from March 2nd. Yesterday, the 21st, I adding more shredded leaves bringing the level up to the brim. My estimate – the tops of the plants are now 30-36 inches above the planting depth. I am so anxious to see and yes, taste the results.

Back on March 2nd this is the image....yesterday the 21st the plants are over the top. The picture is straight - the cage is listing to the left.

The sugar snap peas are nearly finished….I did get to eat a handful while roaming around yesterday. I harvested a few more asparagus spears and they graced the table last night. Added a few more ugly and misshapen strawberries to the freezer. Hun, I am saving the best ones for you to eat fresh. The cucumber seedlings are all up, oh….not the pickling cukes….I planted them a week behind, so almost all are up! The pole beans, both green and purple, are ready to grab the poles for their upward spiraling dance. I have got to see if I can manage some room in John’s garden for a tepee of beans.

I noticed the absence of of the wonderful scent of the Meyer Lemon tree blossoms. If I could only find a way to capture and bottle that scent I could add another to my list of avocations – and maybe make a pot full of money doing it….I will stick that thought over into the already brimming full “day dreams” list. I have enjoyed the heavenly scent as well as the abundance of honey bees this year. Their hard work has the tree loaded with little green buds soon to become lemons. I will definitely have to do some thinning.

A tandem attack on the lemon blossoms.

The term” enjoying it while we can” started out in my head this morning as a reference to the weather, we are definitely enjoying this window of spring like weather. We have actually had the AC unit on several times in the past weeks but this morning was glorious. My head is also filled with the thoughts of all that I am able and capable of doing now….yes, I do enjoy it all!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

Birthday Week Gardening

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The week started of wonderfully….the day was spent with family, except for the absence of son Benjamin – away at school. Also included in the great start were our best friends, John and Beverly – also part of many of my postings. We had a great evening at the Houston Rodeo and I loved walking through the Ag exhibits in the Reliant Center…. dream on Bishop!

The rains of last week have saturated the soils and and have lead to many of my “in ground” strawberries becoming soft and beginning to mold. I hate to see them go this route as I would much rather share them or get some into the freezer bag for a jam making event later this spring. All is not lost…. the bad berries wind up in my compost pile where they will continue decomposing and providing some good stuff for the berry patch next year. My strawberry towers seem to be free of the maladies hitting those on the ground….For whatever reasons the berries in the 3″ towers seem to be a little smaller….The 4 inch towers have great looking plants and have not yet begun to flower….maybe a different variety due to my poor attention to details like logging what went where!

Monday I went out and pulled up some carrots, both orange and a lone white variety. As I approached the backdoor I was met by my daughter Ashleigh who halted my entrance to the house….apparently the family members present had a little surprise for me. I had to close my eyes and was lead into the kitchen. I tried to put the carrots down but Ash wouldn’t let me…..she said keep them in your hand as they are so YOU!.

Image

Three tiny donuts and fortunately 58 candles short of the needed - carrots in hand...the choice? I did eat the doughnut. A little sweeter than the fresh picked carrots

An update on the activities in the garden,,,,The potatoes in the cages are growing like crazy. They are the healthiest looking plants that I have ever grown. The taters in the big Rubbermaid bin are also looking good. Asparagus is taking off and should be shooting up all across the bed in the next week. Temperatures will be more conducive to the asparagus’s liking. I added some heirloom watermelon radishes – really cool looking from the catalog photos. Radishes are for more than just salads….check out this month’s edition of “Mother Earth News” for recipes. I will try the pickled Water Melon Radishes.

John has another round of Edamame in the ground as does my garden. I have planted two types of slicing cucumbers and two varieties of pole beans. I will try a purple variety of beans for grins this year. I threw some bush bean seeds into the potato cages and bin. Supposedly they help repel the beetles that love “tater” plants.

Kathy Hun…. I picked some ugly and misshapen strawberries this morning for my jam making. I want you to have only the best to eat fresh! I harvested the worm castings or “poop” from the bin and thoroughly washed my hands before picking them…….trust me! The Meyer Lemon tree is in full blossom and the scent in the air is heavenly! It looks like it will be loaded to the max like last year!

TTFN

Bishop

Relationships – How The Garden Grows

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A gift of love from the garden!

The photo above has been used in my postings in the past. It just so happens that it has become a bit of a personal symbol of the gifts coming from a well-tended garden. Note: My garden is not always tidy, see my Gardens Gone Wild post on July 28, 2011. This iconic strawberry, shaped like a heart and offered to my wife Kathy as first taste of spring in 2010 turned out to be a well received gesture. She said thank you but deferred to me. She said, ” You take the first bite.” it seems that my gift was acknowledged and she gained pleasure from returning an enhanced gift to me. Now don’t be cynical as you read this. Giving a gift back can be something special, something beyond my Mother’s creative re-gifting penchant. (sorry Mom). I invest a lot of time and effort in order to see my garden grow and sharing the bounty is one of greatest pleasures. This paragraph leads me into the title of the post.

I recently read a book that my brother had recommended, ” The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball. This is a realistic and blunt look at what it takes to immerse yourself into the sustainable farming lifestyle. While reading the book I ran across a quote that resonated with me. I found it to be very profound.

“Why is farming like a relationship? Because you do not reap what you sow! That’s a lie. You reap what you sow, hill, cultivate, fertilize, harvest and store.”

I find that for my garden to be successful it takes a lot more than just putting a seed into the ground and later picking a crop. To be successful it requires a significant investment in the “now” as well as looking down the road to keep it all together. It is also very interesting the feedback a garden plot can give you when you don’t invest the effort, time and resources to make it successful. My relationship with my best friend, my lover, my wife is much like the relationship I have with my garden…..I certainly get feedback when my efforts and investment slacks off. The rewards are immense when providing the proper investment. So let me break it down further.

We are always “sowing” seeds, both the seeds we intend and those that were unintended. I don’t have to look any further than the couple of Red Sails lettuces that are growing and thriving under my potting bench. How did they get there? I havent a clue. My planting intentions were for the lettuces to be bunched in neat little rows in the DESIGNATED bed. Intentions are a wonderful thing when executed well. But, as illustrated above, I can on occasion drop an unintended seed or two or three….. In the relationship world it can be a slip of the tongue, a passing comment that landed with a thud or a look that was not received well. On the other side, I need to understand that my life long partner can also drop an unintended seed! I will have to admit that I have responded in the wrong way to the errant seed. Sometimes even letting it take root a become larger than it should have.  Her intentions, I should realize, always have the best of intentions – rather than letting the seed take root I should seek to understand! Note to self, ask more questions and engage in more dialog!!!!

Now when it comes to “hilling” in the garden, my potatoes come to mind. Without hilling I can get a small harvest, but if I continually hill up around my potato plants the returns are significantly multiplied. I have heard the term that love is evergreen. Well, I disagree with that statement. I will agree that love can be evergreen, but it takes a bunch of work….and the work never ends. The returns, with the continual efforts will bear an abundant harvest. Note to self: do more “hilling”.

Now the “cultivating” term in the quote. I did a little internet search and hit on this description from eHow.com.

“An important step in garden maintenance is to cultivate the soil. Cultivating a garden involves removing weeds and rearranging the crust of the soil to promote nutrition, as well as water and air penetration to plants. You can cultivate the soil using different tools, working every two weeks………”

I think this definition can describe a relationship as well. There are always those unwanted and unpleasant things that crop up…we see them, recognize them and remove them before they take over, like weeds and those unintended “seeds”.   Rearranging the crust reminds me to change it up….add somethng different once in a while and look for the beneficial impact. Respond appropriately so the relationship has all it needs to grow and flourish. Tools, we have lots of tools out there for our gardening and relationship building efforts. But I have begun to realize that some are under-utilized – such as the tool of “two-way” communication. Boy, oh boy, that tool has been underutilized by this gardener! …. Note to self: God gave you two ears and one mouth – was that a hint? That last piece of the eHow definition – every two weeks….just ignore that. Cultivation in a relationship is an everyday and ongoing activity.

Now to fertilize does not mean adding or spreading BS! I sometimes have a propensity for spreading BS and unfortunately the humor many times lost on my other half…sorry hun, I thought it was funny at the time. What I should be doing is adding handfuls of soft touches, kind words, a sprinkle of hugs and many more thank you’s to nurture the relationship. Note to self: less BS – that my be hard to do but I will work on it.
The “harvest” part is something I like!!!!!! Man, oh man, that is the good stuff. It leaves me with a twinkle in the eye, a bounce in my step and one of those grins that can’t be wiped off.  That said – both parties need to share in the harvest. Am I providing a shared harvest? I need to ask myself that question a little more often. I was out-of-town this past week and Kathy let me know how much she was enjoying the fresh strawberries every morning. I asked about the asparagus and she had not noticed any. I told her that there a couple of spears poking their heads up through the leaf mulch before I left. The next day she told me how much she enjoyed the strawberries and the steamed asparagus & eggs she had for breakfast that morning. I made me feel so good to hear that she was enjoying the physical bounty of the garden, but it also got me thinking about,  “what does she harvest from the relationship?” – is she getting all that she needs? Note to self: see note above – ask and listen a little/lot more.
The concept of “storing” the returns is pretty powerful. This is an interesting concept in the framework of a relationship. What does it mean to me? I think this aspect of a relationship can be expressed in the memories that we have created. We have built a huge inventory of memories but it is interesting, at least for me, the dominant memories are those that are positive, warm, make me smile and make me feel good inside. Now, we have had our rocky moments and we will probably have a few more, but they don’t seem to occupy much memory space on my “hard drive”. The mechanism or ability to store the best allows me and hopefully both of us, to aways draw upon a stored harvest of our best memories  created in the tending of the “relationship garden”.
I hope my philosophical waxing, the seeds, land as intended…….
Expect a few more posts over the next couple of weeks. My client commitments will allow me to spend more time in the garden. Activities will include; dirt on my hands, the potatoes will be hilled, the carrots will be thinned, the beds will be cultivated, a little harvesting and maybe Kathy will let me store the ugly and mis-shaped berries as jam! Oh yes & ditto for the relationship.
TTFN
Bishop

A Salad From John’s Garden

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We had dinner with our best friends, Beverly and John Saturday night. One of the highlights was a salad that was based on the the young lettuces supplied bu John’s new 4X4 bed. It is truly amazing how much can be grown in such a small space. I had to smile during dinner as the conversation turned to the possibility of expansion. The location we have chosen for John is ideally located in relation to the sun’s daily travel. Most of what I plant in John’s garden is also in mine. To my dismay the growth of his plantings just leap ahead of mine. I have to make one excuse…..my lettuce patch was dug up way too early by my son’s lovely dog Sierra….thank you Sierra, so I have a bit of an excuse to be a little behind. We included some very nice radishes with the young lettuce….it just seems to taste better when it is just hours fresh.

Beverly is taking an interest now as I have decide to try planting Edamame at her request. The have jumped up nicely and will supply a small harvest in a month or so. Again….I am a bit disappointed…..my Edamame seedlings have yet to emerge. I planted mine on the same day. Hmmmmm, maybe John would consider renting me space in a future expansion effort. Our girls went out for a visit to the small plots as John prepped dinner for us – grilled Salmon with his handmade mango salsa, the fresh garden salad, baked cauliflower florets with garlic & Parmesan cheese, a bit of wine & craft ales and most importantly – great company. I do have to mention the beer – I brought a bottle of my recent bottling – a “Dirty Honey Blonde Ale” – a partial grain recipe. It was pretty darned good after 10 days in the bottle. – I did share a little with my host.

The girls with their Pinot Grigio admiring the little beds. In the foreground is Beverly, John’s wife, standing in front of the newest bed. The lettuces, carrots and radishes are very healthy. Against the fence side of the bed are the onion and garlic plantings flanked by two tomato plants. In the back is my wife Kathy by the original bed I put in for John a couple of years ago. The sugar snap peas are getting thick and should be blooming soon.

John's lettuces and radishes on display

We enjoyed the dinner and the company…..Now this post should not be a surprise to Beverly…. I told you that you would be featured in my next post! Smile….we all love you. When can I add the 25 foot beds?

TTFN

Bishop

My Wife Loves Me Berry, Berry Much

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A Handful of Berries

I had to travel again this past week but my garden was left in very good hands. Kathy watered, watched, weeded and sampled the garden bounty. The strawberry towers are really producing….the 3″ towers are just loaded up. Due to my shoddy record keeping I don’t remember what variety of berries were planted in the 3″ towers. The 4″ towers have Chandler berries……I do remember that much. The Chandler berries are far behind the other towers, but that’s not a bad thing….it means I can have home grown berries for many, many weeks.Both the berry towers and my wife are keepers!

I am having some good success with the potato cages and barrel. When I went out to the garden this evening, holding my wife’s hand as she took me out to see the “kids” I saw lots of new growth. The plants in the  two cages were up nearly 8 inches. I added leaf mulch right up to the tops and will repeat the process until the plants flower and die back…..I am already looking forward to harvest time. During the next few months I will probably dig down into the leaf mulch and rob some new potatoes before the big harvest.

Tomorrow  –  I will unwrap the tomato cages now that the threat of a freeze is gone. My friend John says that he has some blossoms already….we may have to pluck them off and let the plants get a little growth in before letting the blossoms set. He told me that the carrots and turnips are taking over the new 4X4 bed. In the old one he says the Edamame soy beans are up  several inches so we may need to get the next succession planted this weekend

I do have one concern about my wife and the strawberries – she just wants to eat them fresh and I like to use a good portion of the harvest for jam. She pointed out the fact that I still have 10 or so jars from last year to use up! I may have to give in and let her have her way…..hopefully with some fringe benefits. Whaddya think hun, do we have a deal?

Fresh Berries for Kathy

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