I finished a day of paperwork and jumped in the truck to visit a friend for wine in the backyard.

Oops - still wearing my slippers... Not a good enough reason to turn around.

Shit - I have nothing to bring my friend's mom. How can you visit the home of a dear old lady named Muffin and bring her nothing?

So I drove around the block, parked, and ran into the backyard to cut a bouquet - white and red Rocket snapdragons, red zinnias, purple larkspur. I threw the jar of flowers in my cupholder and, pulling out while cranking the radio and admiring my composition, noticed that, strangely, this snapdragon had a deathgrip on a perfect, fresh fly...

On closer inspection... a spider - pristine, cryptic in color and quality.

Snapped some pictures, and thought to bring predator and prey as part of my hostess gift.

But does a white spider need a garden with white flowers? Of course it does. So, home again, to deliver my passengers back.

Last I checked, white spider still on white zinnia. No fly.


Opening Day of the Wilkes-Barre Farmers' Market

Summer arrives at our house when Matt pretty much moves into the bakery in the basement. I don't think he knew how appropriate the name "Mockingbird Bakery" was when he chose it a year ago. But now, he and the neighborhood mockingbird are the only ones awake and working diligently through the wee hours - Matt baking to low-volume Nina Simone or some brand of death metal, mockingbird making his own music. I am sleeping upstairs, but when the box fan starts to pull in the earthy aroma of sourdoughs or the sugar tang of cream scones, I do take notice...

Last year this time we were scrambling to finish construction downstairs. This season, it is wonderful to be back at the market and interacting with the great folks who buy his bread. Handing someone a paper sack of something nourishing, tasty, lovely and exciting to eat is really satisfying. So helping Matt out on market day is the highlight of the week for me. (My job is bagging breads and making change - other than pre-market breakfast delivery, I pretty much stay out of the production area.)


My leisure knife, on the job

I decided to tackle the removal of a massive old mat of ferns in a client's garden first thing in the morning, before sweat and bugs and dehydration got the best of me. Within five minutes, my shovel was in two pieces. Useless. I moved to task number two - weeding mint out of ivy, oh joy - and immediately stuck my (gloved) hand in a pile of stinking cat poop. So I moved back to task number one, enlisting my pitchfork, which totally didn't work at all. Deflated at the idea of driving back across the tracks to retrieve the other shovel, I wondered what on earth I could do...

And then I remembered my leisure knife! Was it in the truck? It was! Would it work? Let's try!

I have pretty much never used my leisure knife, but have been carting it around in my little purple tub of tools. It was a gift from Matt's mom and stepdad a couple of Christmases ago. We all had a good laugh when I opened it: it's called a leisure knife, but it looks like a one-slash death shiv. To take out a rhinoceros. Does anyone do that in their leisure?

Not me, but at work I occasionally come up against something that needs out but can't be outed with leverage. My leisure knife cut through that miserable, woody old fern like it was nothin'. Impressive!

Further research shows that my leisure knife is really a Japanese hori-hori. Wikipedia says to be careful with it, because it's sharp. What they mean to say is: "Use it to saw leisurely, without force or frustration. Else you will very cleanly sever whichever hand is not holding your leisure knife."


South Side Scranton's World of Birds

It is a soggy wet morning, so I am typing and drinking coffee at 9 am, and the mockingbird is singing outside my window. When I woke up at midnight, he was mimicking the robin, who was likely sleeping. When I woke up at 2am, he was performing his twenty minute car alarm rendition. Maybe if I could learn to scream bloody murder a little more prettily when the baby squirrels use my delphiniums to pole vault into the pear tree, he would imitate me.

Every once in awhile, he makes a little loop-de-loop in the air above his elm, without pausing in song. What is he doing?

But who is even noisier than the mockingbird? This gang of four, South Side Scranton's very own roving guinea hens - in this picture, threatening to attack my poor old dog.


Apples, at last?

We started a row of espaliered fruit trees four years ago, on the west border of our vegetable garden. Two are sour cherries; in between are three different apple cultivars grafted onto dwarf rootstock (all mail-ordered from Adams County Nursery in Pennsylvania). Last year was the first for the apples to flower, but the fruit was all dropped by the trees after early attack by plum curculio.

This season, we've tried Surround, an organic clay product that you start spraying onto the fruits just after petal fall and for a few weeks afterward, to control the plum curculios. Our apples are still on the trees and growing - much bigger than they got last year before dropping. At least for our rather petite and manageable orchard, Surround is working. My understanding is that for our application, it is a "protectant" rather than an "insecticide," which I think means the curculios don't like to touch/chomp it, but it doesn't kill them. We used one of those two-gallon pump-it-up green garden sprayers to apply.

This picture was taken mid-May, after fruit pruning, which encourages the trees to put energy into producing quality rather than quantity. The Surround is white and powdery when it dries. We ordered it from Seven Springs Farm in Virginia, and they shipped it super fast. Their price is good, and I think it got here the next day, which worked out very well for us, because we are real wait-till-the-last-desperate-moment types, and the plum curculios were practically breaking down the front door trying to get through the house and into the backyard... We made our first application just in the nick of time.

A Day Off

The day started out with a lovely hike at the Springbrook Tract of Lackawanna State Forest. Here Matt demonstrates a rousing game of Bite Bite, just before he loses his pinky finger and we have to rush to the ER.

Next, we weeded the garden and prepped dinner. From left to right, kale, strawberries, whiskey-mint-hibiscus drinks, pesto of garden volunteers (orach, lamb's quarters, green garlic and purslane), Hot Cocoa Rose with larkspur and bronze fennel and lavender, first peas.

Finally, the three of us relax.


Cupcake is ruining my life

Cupcake the Woodchuck was missing all spring until NOW. Where has he been? He looks like he's been sleeping in the scrapyard, using a busted up gas tank for a basinett and greasing his 'do with dirty motor oil. Or maybe he just packed himself away in a rock pile without any moth balls last winter.

Cupcake loves strawberries. He likes sunflowers, and he positively relishes tender young cabbage leaves. He says I should write this list in alphabetical order, and base it on my seed starting records, because he intends to sample his way through my entire list of Things Cultivated, then make a final death-sweep through the garden during lunch hour. Well, Cupcake, maybe I should fill up the birdbath with beer so you can wash it all down.

I am so obsessed with this woodchuck that I mistook my boyfriend's filthy old baseball cap, sitting on top of the washing machine, for Cupcake. (In my own defense, I was in a really big hurry). I actually slammed the medicine cabinet door and whirled around thinking, how the f&#% did he get IN HERE?!