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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

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It is said that  a man’s eyes are the windows into his soul. Might it not also be said that a person’s windows are the eyes of his or her soul?

I have always been fascinated by windows: what can be seen through them from the outside, the view from indoors — but also the windows themselves: the dressings, the objects placed thereon, the construction, the utility, the apparent warmth and security afforded by a nearly invisible plane of glass. The idea of the window could (and does) afford many a subject for artistic and philosophical expression. I am only the latest to consider it.

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I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit Claude Monet’s home In Giverny, France. Having studied a great deal of art history during high school and college, I was well acquainted with Monet’s works, and had passed through the inevitable “Impressionist” phase that any art student must experience at some point in their educational development. Several weeks ago, at the mention of Monet, I might have shrugged my shoulders and acknowledged that he was an accomplished and prolific painter, and insisted that my mind had moved on to more complex contemporary movements.

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To visit a person’s home, however, is to come to a radically new understanding of that person. A home is often an extension of the soul that lives therein, and as I toured the rooms and grounds of Claude’s abode, I found myself coming to a much greater appreciation of his life’s work. To see the waterlilies nestled among the reflections of blue sky, framed by the branches of weeping willow on all sides— it was stepping into the pages of Gardner’s Art through the Ages and letting it come alive.

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Monet’s house in itself is a work of art. Each room painted in bright colors, and each of the many windows affording a breathtaking view onto the surroundings that inspired this man’s joyful paintings. After glimpsing through so many panes of glass framed by delicate lace curtains, peering out onto a sunlit landscape, from an almost equally sunny interior space, I can understand the inner space of an artist who wanted to bring the peace and happiness of Giverny—and of his own soul—into the world for all to see.

But enough of my ineffectual words. Let’s let the windows speak for themselves.

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beeberries

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flower sky

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Baby Summer Squash

One of my favorite things about gardening is that you get to watch your food as it grows. First the unrecognizable cotyledons emerge from the soil, giving way to tiny but perfectly formed first leaves. The leaves grow and from the stem emerges more and more leaves, as if by magic. Out of nowhere, flowers appear. With many vegetables and fruit plants, this is where the real enchantment begins. We all know how babies are made, and even with food the process it is essentially the same. The only difference is, you actually get to see the new life form from the very beginning. The most observant will marvel at the miniature version of their anticipated food swelling almost imperceptibly behind the spent flower after fertilization. It’s difficult not to get excited at this point, even though you know that any number of factors may cause the demise of your infantile veggies.

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Baby Bean

At this point there is not much you can do except water your plants and keep close watch, to make sure they are not getting any unwanted attention from the more unsavory garden inhabitants. If you are lucky, your tender young fruits and veggies will continue the soak up the sun and rain and divide their cells in just the right way to become the final, grown-up version of themselves. And that’s when you think back and can hardly believe that they use to be just an inch long and so darned cute.

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Baby Zucchini

But even as they grow, it’s impossible to tell just how they will turn out in the end, which is another wonderful thing about gardening. Instead of the picture perfect produce stacked in pyramids at your local grocery store, the food that emerges from your garden is uniquely shaped by the land and the air and the sun from which it was made. They have a wholesomeness and, almost, a personality gained from the way they were raised and the conditions which were provided to them. (Which makes you wonder how the grocery stores manage to get all their vegetables to look exactly the same.) Real food isn’t perfect; real food is crooked, and knobby, and sometimes not quite the color you were expecting. Real food can’t be stacked perfectly, and isn’t bred for the purpose of surviving cross-country shipments. Real food comes out of the earth, covered in dirt and munched on by bugs. And it tastes damn good.

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Weird Tasty Carrot Mutants

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It’s a simple life I live, but one full of happy moments. Here are just a few that made their way onto my camera this week:

1. Sharing the Cozy Chair.

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2. Rainy days at home.

DSCN25433. My merry minstrel.

DSCN27474. Optimistic tomatoes.

DSCN27505. Surprise white bleeding hearts.

DSCN27536. The best scones ever. (Archer Farms!)

DSCN27627. My garden’s first flower.

DSCN27648. Pointy ears.

DSCN27659. A beautiful view on a gorgeous 70-degree day.

DSCN276810. Mulberry season.DSCN277011. Anything Charley Harper.DSCN277312. Foster kids.DSCN2777

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Last year was such a horrible season for bugs. They stripped my entire crop of bean plants down to bare stems almost overnight, and when I tried to replant, they simply did it again, ninja style, so that I didn’t even know what I was up against. So this spring, when I noticed holes appearing in my young bean plants, I kept a close eye out. Sowbugs (aka roly-polies) and slugs were the main culprits. There wasn’t much I could/can do about the sowbugs, aside from trying to eliminate the moist, shadowy areas where they congregate under planks of wood and rocks and the like. Avoiding watering in late afternoon might help by eliminating the chance for soggy soil during the darker hours when they get to work.

As for the slugs, I considered a few choices. Diotomaceous earth is supposed to be very effective in keeping slugs out of the garden. Made of microscopic glass-like organisms (diatoms), this fine dust scratches the tender undersides of slugs and makes it difficult for them to cross it. However, most of the stuff I found at the garden centers had very dubious labeling, and I couldn’t tell if what I was preparing to buy was actually organic, or just pretending to be organic, or if it had other more toxic stuff mixed in.

I decided to go with another approach that I had always read about but never tried. (Okay, I admit, I salted a few slugs, but that was only because it was a Sunday and I couldn’t buy any liquor.)

The best approach to catching and killing slugs is by intoxicating them. Simply find a dish at least half an inch deep, and sink it into the ground til it is level with the soil. Fill it with beer (I find that the cheaper beers tend to have better results). The next morning, you are bound to have a dish full of slugs who couldn’t resist the temptation and ended up drowning themselves in a drunken stupor. Not only is it effective, but the mere idea is entirely amusing.

Tip: try covering your beer trap with something that the slugs can easily crawl under, but will still protect the trap from rain, or from curious dogs who will eat or drink pretty much anything. I’ve been using a piece of broken flower pot, which has worked great. And if you are like me and forget to bring your ceramic pots inside for the winter, then I am sure you have plenty of broken crockery to work with.

Drink up, slugs!

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