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Archive for June, 2013

Jun 30 2013

Talkin Tomato

Posted by Mugs @ 7:57 pm in Nature

There are gardeners of all stripes in the world from farmers with fields of wheat to crazy bulb guys with fields of narcissus. We grow different vegetation as varied as grains, fruit, vegetables, grasses, shrubs, trees, and flowers. We all have different interests that others view as a bit absurd. My friends think but seldom say to me, “Mugs, how many pink roses do you need? or “No offense, but I can’t really tell the difference between them.” or “Why don’t you spend your time growing things you can eat?”

I have come to discover that most backyard gardeners do not want to have long discussions about the lilies or iris or gladiolas growing in my yard. They may be willing to occasionally discuss a lilac or a hydrangea with me, but more often than not, they would rather talk tomato.

If gardeners grow only one thing each year, it is most likely a tomato. When talking to my gardening friends, I know I’ll get eyes glazed over when I start to describe the endearing quality of balloon flower, so I’ve learned to start a conversation with this most vital question.

“How are your tomatoes doing?”

Minnesotans discuss the weather. D.C. area residents discuss the traffic. Hawaiians discuss the surf report. Gardeners discuss tomatoes.

Although, I may personally consider the following photos of my June garden blooms the loveliest photos, I have learned that if I want to keep people talking to me, it is best to start with the tomatoes.

Jun 28 2013

Time to Lock the Doors

Posted by Mugs @ 10:42 am in Family,Nature

This week I was given an unexpected gift. My neighbor’s 17 year old son arrived at the door bearing a bag of 4 zucchini. “First fruits of the harvest,” he said as he held out the bag. I thanked him, introduced him to the rest of the Manry Clan and chatted with him a bit.

When he left, I groaned. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” I thought, and I could hear my mom’s voice in my head saying “there are lots of things you can make with zucchini.”

I never plant zucchini. There is no such thing as a little zucchini. If you plant 1 zucchini, you harvest 20 zucchini. If you plant 2 zucchini, you harvest enough zucchini to feed your entire neighborhood. If you plant 4 zucchini, you harvest enough zucchini to feed your church.

When I was growing up in northern Minnesota, our friend Casey used to say, “No one ever locks their doors on their cars or houses up here except during zucchini season. It could be 90 degrees outside, but all the car windows will be rolled up and all the car doors locked tight for fear of coming out of church and finding your car loaded down with your neighbor’s zucchini. Better to suffer heat exhaustion than to have well meaning people stuff zucchini through your windows.”

I’ve never liked zucchini, but I certainly did not want to waste the fruit of my neighbor’s hard work and generosity. The first zucchini was shredded into chocolate zucchini cake in the hopes that I could trick my children into eating it. The cake looked lovely when I pulled it out of the oven. I had baked it in what I thought was a bundt pan. However, when I tried to remove it from the pan, the cake collapsed in a wave. I cut off the condensed cake parts and sent the rest of the cake to work with Dale where people are desperate enough to eat chocolate zucchini cake slices that look a little odd. Days later, while telling my mom of this cake collapse disaster, she kindly informed me that I didn’t own a bundt pan and I had used an angel food cake pan instead.

Note to self: angel food cake pans and bundt pans are two different things.

Two days later, two more zucchini were shredded for zucchini bread. I sent one loaf to work with Dale where people are desperate enough to eat zucchini bread. I am eating the other loaf of zucchini bread, but it’s nothing to write home about. The bananas on the counter are scoffing at me, “You know we are a million times better in bread than zucchini.” I glare at them as I chew.

The last zucchini was sliced, breaded, and baked as zucchini chips to accompany dinner. I thought they were fairly tasty. Dale was forced to eat them, but I wasn’t home to watch. Whether they were eaten or surreptitiously placed in the garbage bin is unknown.

Now that I have successfully used all the zucchini given me by my neighbor, I’m locking my doors.

Jun 21 2013

Garden Visitors

Posted by Dale @ 8:59 pm in Nature



Jun 15 2013

Wildflower Garden

Posted by Mugs @ 9:07 am in Family,Nature

Having had such great success with last year’s fish garden, I decided to employ an extremely reluctant Gabe to create a wildflower meadow in the back part of my yard.

Gabe griped and griped after the first spring mowing about how difficult it was to mow the back half of the yard. Admittedly, the back half of the yard is a disaster. It is sandy soil that the dog loves to dig giant holes in. Josiah and I periodically refill these holes with wheelbarrows full of clay soil from the front half of the yard where (for some reason or another) I need to create new garden beds full of roses and perennials. All the subtraction and addition of soil has created a bumpy mounded backyard landscape of difficult to mow weeds.

I assured Gabe that I could cure his mowing difficulties as soon as he learned to operate a rototiller.

Then, in early spring I did something I regret. Because the whole area was taken over by creeping charlie and I wanted my wildflower seeds to have a chance to grow, I sprayed roundup over the entire area.  I try never to use herbicide or insecticide or any type of cide because I figure it’s going to eventually kill me, the insects, the animals, the birds, and the land. Cide is from the Latin root which means “killer.” There are many, many good reasons to avoid cides. Unfortunately, there are four plants that bring out the killer in me: creeping charlie, vinca, my neighbor’s honeysuckle, and poison ivy. I should have listened to my inner “save the earth” Aussie voice. Instead, I listened to my American “Go Ahead, Make My Day” voice and killed everything growing in the area.

The next day I became violently ill with a stomach virus that had been working its way through the family. I thought, “Serves me right.”

Then I swore, “Never again.”

Dale keeps asking me to buy him some weed and feed for the front lawn. Somehow, I keep forgetting.

Anyway, with the back part of the yard mostly dead, Gabe got his chance to rototill. At 13, Gabe is convinced that he should be able to do something easily right from the start and when rototilling proved a skill needing some finesse, he declared that it would never work. His mother, however, does not let him quit no matter how much he beefs. Eventually he got the hang of it.

I relocated several plants from my garden beds to the wildflower meadow: coneflowers that were (as always) not in the correct location, ornamental grasses that Dale had mowed over twice, and anthemis ‘susanna mitchell’ which makes me mad every year when immediately after blooming, it flops over.

Then, I spread compost, cutting garden and wildflower seeds over the area. I seeded two crossing paths with fescue in the futile hope that if the dog has a path to walk on, he won’t crash through and dig up the rest of the meadow. Next I had to tamp the seeds into the soil. Wise people own a seed roller. Meticulous people rake the ground flat enough to use a piece of plywood. I was forced to stamp the ground bit by bit in something resembling a Native American rain dance where the dancer never looks up and is occasionally overwhelmed with dizziness and falls over. Thankfully, there is no video of this event.

My wildflower meadow is really all a dream, because I’ve learned that the flower bed I envision in my minds eye is rarely the flower bed I achieve.

Thankfully, after the meadow was planted, God sent rain, rain, and more rain. Some seeds have sprouted and I am hoping for the best. I can plant and water, but God causes the growth.

Gabe is not the least bit concerned whether this backyard area becomes a wildflower meadow or a tall patch weeds. I have told him he doesn’t have to mow it and he’ll hold onto that promise for the rest of his life.


Jun 11 2013

Enduring Freedom Honor Team

Posted by Dale @ 9:36 am in Family,Music,school

Although Abby is a professed band geek like her father, this past year in high school, band conflicted with her Spanish class. She wasn’t able to be in band class with the new band instructor, Mr. Reed. This conflict, however, did not stop her from playing with the band. She auditioned to be a part of Mr Reed’s Enduring Freedom Honor Team. The team plays for military members and veterans at events and memorial sites.

Last Saturday, they played a gig at the Marine Corps museum to honor veterans. The Manry Clan went to listen. The team wears old WWII uniforms which makes Abby look like one of the Andrews Sisters. They played great and the veterans were very appreciative.