• 09Dec

    I am positively addicted to Harney & Sons tea, particularly the Caribe flavor. You can’t find it anywhere but online – I got a free tea sachet (like a teabag, but better) in the mail once, and it worked. I’m hooked.

    I’ve shopped a few different places online, no complaints, but happened upon the Tea Butler. I called them with a shipping question, and what a nice guy!

    If you need/want tea, they have wonderful, extravagant teas, and free shipping through Christmas for orders over $35. What luck I called, because I hadn’t noticed that. My order was just under 30 dollars, so I bought another pack of Caribe, and got it free!

    Nice place, shop there: Tea Butler

    p.s. Hi, it’s been awhile. I had a crappy summer, but just another month and I’ll be ordering seeds and starting fresh for 2010. I’ve also signed up for a native plant course plus yoga and photographing birds.

    I can’t wait til I get my tea!!! There’s nothing more perfect than a hot cup of Caribe and a blizzard. Merry Christmas to ME!

  • 02Aug

    My gardens are pretty much on auto-pilot right now, but I do try and spend some time each day just enjoying.

    I have a monarch that visits me daily – either these butterflies are naturally pretty sweet or the word has gotten around that I’m a friend. She flutters around my head quite a bit. I like to think it’s a she, and she’s laying lots of eggs on the host plants I grow. It won’t be long until one day I’ll look, and my butterfly weed will be crawling with monarch cats.

    I also have a yellow swallowtail, a HUGE one. Now I’ve forgotten if it’s the yellow or black swallowtail that uses parsley and dill as the host plant. I have lots of both plants ready for them. Another swallowtail uses the spice bush as its host plant, so I planted a tiny spice bush, but I believe it died. That particular caterpillar has a big face on its head, just colorings that look like a face. The first time I saw a picture, I thought it was a cartoon…it’s that goofy looking.


    Now that I’m a suburbanite instead of a country girl, that means the pets stay indoors. So now I can have bird feeders, and that’s a lot of enjoyment for me. I never understood my grandmother and mom watching the birds like they did, but I get it now. They’re pretty and they entertain. And the cats just love watching them through the window.

    There’s been this bird visiting, and turns out (after much googling) that it’s a bald cardinal. Apparently it has mites and it scratched its head feathers off. Or it’s some kind of molting thing. The first time I saw this bird, I thought it looked kind of sick, and now it’s looking better. But with a big black bald head.

    My aunt in St. Louis has an albino cardinal that comes around every summer.

    On the garden side of things, eggplants are about ready to pick, and I’ve been picking peppers, both hot and sweet. For now, just tossing them into the freezer for later. Frozen peppers are great for stir fry or various recipes.

    Yellow squash is still coming in, so we tried this recipe for yellow squash patties. They were kind of good!

    I also ordered a copy of “Please To The Table,” a Russian cookbook that Yulinka recommended. I’m anxious to get it and try to make black bread. I miss that bread! It’s sour and good. I also hope to find a good Russian recipe for golubtsi, stuffed cabbage rolls. Totally different from what I knew, as it uses sour cream. I learned that recipe from ladies at the Russian Orthodox church in Royalton, Illinois. But now I’ve misplaced it and can’t seem to get it right from memory.

    I also haven’t made borscht in a long time and have a craving for it. Next year I might even grow some beets to honor the borscht.

  • 26Jul

    Sometimes I think these monarchs have a sense about them and show up when I most need a visit. I went outside for awhile today and just walked around in the gardens, checking on things. Resisted pulling a few weeds. And then out of nowhere, my first monarch of the year! I think it’s a she and she was laying eggs on the butterfly weeds (the host plant). She also visited the butterfly bush, which is beautiful but could use some staking.

    She fluttered around my head the entire time I was out there, and it was delightful. I love my monarchs! It won’t be long until I’ve got my caterpillars. I think I have a tomato hornworm, but can’t find it. I’m going to make an order from Gardens Alive, and they had those parasitic wasps for about five bucks. I was going to add that to my order, but then I realized, if they kill hornworms, they might hurt my monarchs. I learned that the hard way last year with the monarch murder (by a spined soldier bug). So I googled, and sure enough. So no wasps for the hornworm. I’ll just have to keep looking for him. The can o’ death awaits.

    Here’s a cool pic of the wasps on a hornworm…they look like grains of rice:


    My butterfly weeds are starting to get the oleander aphids, but as of last year, I decided they are friendly. They feed my ladybugs and lacewings, so I just let them be. That little Joe Pye weed I planted last year is a huge bush this year. Really pretty!

    Despite some weeds, the back garden really looks fabulous to me. Some chicory escaped its pot, which would make my uncle the farmer go crazy. Noxious weed, noxious weed, but it’s one of my very favorite things. I could easily let that back garden just go to “weeds,” which would be chicory, Queen Anne’s lace and my various types of butterfly weeds and bushes.

    When I lived in Russia, one of my favorite things to do was a trip to the countryside, where they had their little dachas, or summer cottages. Some of them didn’t mow at all and just let everything grow up wild. It was so untidy from an Anal American point of view, but I always thought there was something so charming about those dachas and their yards. (Google Russian dacha and you can probably find some photos. One day I’ve GOT to get some of my pics scanned.)

    Maybe tomorrow I can get out to the gardens with my cameras. I need to keep documenting my straw bale garden, which is doing pretty darned well. I kind of like the concept and except for watering and some fertilizing, it’s relatively maintenance free.

    We hired a new yard man and I think this will work out well. He can also do odd jobs. He’s a teacher and just looking for extra work in the summer, so I feel very good about this. He can also tackle the mulch mountains, which would take a huge load off my mind. I’m excited about this.

    Complaint of the day: today my neighbor informed me that she’s been messing with my hummingbird vines, to train it into the lattice. Um, I like it to go where it wants…it does just fine. It knows how to climb the lattice. Reminder to self: she’s one of the best neighbors I’ve ever had. I need to let go of the small annoyances.

  • 25Jul

    Sweet little fellah. S/he doesn’t look too happy. Uncle Renzo set the humane trap out front, and no sign of the groundhog. He kept returning with fresh bait, and finally moved the trap next to my straw bale garden. Boom! Caught! I’m just glad the trap got him before my neighbor’s arrow did. I hope he’s happy in his new home. I feel terrible about the relocation, but it’s better than being shot, right? I wish I wasn’t such a sap when it comes to animals.

  • 25Jul

    I’ll save my complaints for last. I just finished watching a DVD of The Love for Three Oranges, one of my favorite operas by my very favorite composer, Prokofiev. I had an unexpected surgery that turned out to be a little more extreme than I anticipated (nothing serious, just an infection, but it required surgery and the healing process is tedious and difficult). It’s pretty much kept me out of the gardens, and that’s not good for my spirit.

    So I was feeling kind of low, and DH came home with a pile of DVDs, just pure glory. The Love for Three Oranges, Lakme and Madame Butterfly, plus some gorgeous ballets with my two loves: Barishnikov and the late Gudunov. It’s been a real feast for my soul. Madame Butterfly is my other favorite opera; it’s the first opera I can remember as a child, with my mother as the star. She’s a retired opera singer, and one of her sisters is as well (not retired, still sings). i used to dress up in Mom’s Madame Butterfly kimono and wig and float around the house. Thinking of the way that silk felt on my skin just makes me all dreamy and happy.

    Although it’s sucked not being outside very much, this pile of DVDs really helped. Thanks Tony**** You’re the best!

    The garden, despite its lack of TLC, is doing okay. A few weeds that need to be pulled, but they’ll still be there when I’m ready. It’s looking as if my wounds may keep me from doing any real work the rest of the summer, although I continue to hold out hope. It’s just day by day. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 02Jul

    Boy, we just had a huge gullywasher. Yesterday we had hail, although it was small. The weather guy said they got some the size of golf balls on the north side of the island, but missed me.

    Hubby put this nifty little pocket video camera in my Easter basket, and I’ve been taking videos but haven’t yet had the time to edit and upload. I’m anxious to post video of this crazy straw bale garden.

    Unfortunately, we also have a new groundhog. I’m sure he’ll be every bit as cute as Holtsville Hal, which is a problem for me. Tony’s uncle has humane traps, and came and set one, but it’s been three days and still no Hal. Last year we also had a groundhog that dug under the front deck. One day came home to this crazy pile of dirt, and I thought the cable company had been digging for cables. But then I thought, under the front deck??? No, was a groundhog. So Uncle Renzo came over and set a trap and that groundhog was caught in ten minutes! But it wasn’t garden season, and I guess he was hungry.

    That groundhog was sent to witness protection in the country. He was just adorable, even though he had rat teeth. Here’s last year’s groundhog:

    Now we have a new groundhog, and he ate his way through my neighbor’s garden. I caught my neighbor at the end of our drive with a bow and arrow, getting ready to shoot. So I discussed with the neighbor and our deal was this: if he sees the groundhog in his garden again, he’ll shoot, but if Uncle R can catch him in a trap, that’s fine.

    Today, however, my perspective has changed. The groundhog ate my corno di toro peppers. And a baby eggplant! You mess with my peppers and eggplants, and I get mad.

    But I still don’t want Holtsville Hal shot with a bow and arrow. I’d prefer the relocation program.

    Tomorrow I will apply the compost tea I made. It really stinks.

  • 02Jul

    I fell in love with kefir in Russia, and only recently learned it’s now a health-food drink. And you can get it in America – woo hoo! It’s good for you in many ways.

    Go read about kefir on this site (or Google it) and try it. You might fall in love. And here’s a coupon for a free bottle. FREE KEFIR! Just in time for the holiday.

  • 27Jun

    So far, this is shaping up to be one of my best years. I’ve already had a dozen cucumbers and some yellow crookneck squash. I have lots of tomatoes, but none are ripe yet. The old farmer rule of thumb is if you have a ripe one by fourth of July, you’re doing well. I don’t think I will, but they *are* looking good.

    My neighbor, Grandma (I call her that because I forgot her name, and sometimes her great grandkids stay with her, cuties they are), put out a big garden this year with one of her granddaughters. She sees this as some kind of competition with me, which is funny. They planted a couple of weeks earlier than I did (I usually wait til Mother’s Day, another farmer rule that my uncle the farmer does NOT follow), so will naturally have tomatoes before I do. However, I believe their tomatoes have a blight. I’ve had that before, and it’s ugly, but doesn’t hurt the tomatoes.

    My chicory spread out of the pot. LOL. My uncle (the farmer) warned of this catastrophe, although I don’t see it as one. I like chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace a lot. They remind me of childhood, I guess playing in the pastures where this stuff grew. I swear half of the things I grow are noxious weeds to him, but I’ve come to enjoy finding something new to annoy him with. It’s our dance, and he likes it too. This year, it’s the straw garden, which he’s sure is an internet scam. Can’t wait for him to see my big scam and how well it’s doing!

    One of my penstemons didn’t come up this year. It’s weird. Sometimes a perennial doesn’t show, and I think it must have died, then it comes back the next year. This was a good year for my goat’s beard, though. First year it really did well. I may have to plant more of that…so pretty.

    A friend of mine has herds of goats and sheep and is getting a llama as a guard dog. A llama apparently can and will kick a fox or coyote to death, so they’re the latest rage among goat farmers. I just find that incredibly interesting and still wish I had some goats. We don’t have coyotes, so I wouldn’t need the llama.

  • 27Jun

    I have two large (huge) piles of great mulch from a beautiful maple tree that had to come down. It was a beauty, but too close to the house. I’m planning on trying some of that Bark Brite (safe) spray dye for mulch. I like bright red and I may try black, too, to give my neighbor something new to gossip about. I aim to please.

    I have two containers that can be used to haul mulch to various parts of the landscape: one is a yard cart, sort of a plastic wheelbarrow. The other is my Total Trolley (that thing is one of the best “As Seen on TV” doodads I’ve bought). I put a city recycling bin (LOL, they’re good bins) on the trolley with bungee cords and then it’s kind of a modified wagon.

    But there’s gotta be a better way to load the bins than pitching a shovel. I looked at the piles of mulch with love in my eyes; turns out it’s a LOT of backbreaking work, and the city tells me I can’t have my piles too much longer or they’ll give me a ticket. I’ve got to get on this job asap.

  • 16Jun

    I kept seeing pillbugs (roly poly) that were a very pretty purple color. I finally googled it and the poor things are infected with a virus called iridovirus. It’s fatal.

    I don’t mind pillbugs; they work hard in my compost pile and I appreciate their service. So while these purple guys are lovely, I’m kind of sad for them. I know that’s strange…I cannot explain my affection for the bugs these days.

    I can’t seem to get a good picture of the purple bugs. By the time I run in for my camera, they’ve disappeared, probably off to die. But here’s a good pic: