Happy New Year

May 2011 blow in on a wild, free wind, and may you feel earth's energy in your very own bones.


Hibiscus trionum

I spent way too many hours trying to figure out what this flower is. It is a relic of Nellie's Garden, a late self-seeder that pops out of the soil when it's good and ready, 'round about July.

I have only ever seen it in my garden, so I thought it was Rare and Wonderful. Then I saw it in seedling form in one of those dirty sidewalk-tree-holes in Wilkes-Barre, where it had somehow persevered past dog crap and cigarette ash. It was alive, which is more than I can say for the tree that had once been there.

This city street sighting deflated my hopes of Rare, but confirmed Wonderful. Anything that is fertilized, instead of fried, by the fluid that was once malt liquor and is now pee, is Wonderful.

What I like about this flower is a lot of things: It has pyramidal lanterns. It is a really dark, shiny, healthy green with unusual long, lobed leaves and sharp, angular stems. You can scamper out first thing in the morning to see it, and the bud is a tight, white scroll. You can fix your coffee and sit on the bottom step and watch it, and hang out the laundry and load up the truck and walk the dog, and there it sits. You can sigh and flick it, to inspire activity, but... nothing. You can think it is a little bit more unfurled, which it isn't, and go inside to get your this-and-that so you can leave for the day, and then when you come back out, you see: you missed it.

Which is why it is called flower-of-an-hour. Like I said, I spent forever trying to figure out what it is, and finally in exasperation posted a question at the Dave's Garden ID forum, and someone replied with the correct answer in, like, 7.5 seconds.

On further reading, the following words and phrases have been used to describe Hibiscus trionum in the Dave's Garden PlantFiles: terrible, evil, noxious, bugger, scraggly, Attila the Hun, invasive, kill them early and kill them often. If that isn't enough to knot the little bastards onto my heartstrings forever, I don't know what is.


Cold roses

So far, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day has been spent indoors, where the wind mostly isn't. I ducked out to document the roses, but fingers became unserviceable rather quickly.

Matt didn't even dive out the back door during breakfast to chuck kitchen implements at the squirrels eating all the suet, which means that it is very, very cold out there.

Happy winter Wednesday, everyone.



Sometimes, Matt comes home with other people's castoffs. The items are often related to food, and just a little bit broken (a cafeteria-sized stockpot with a tear in the bottom, a wine barrel with one busted stave). They could be used, Matt will say, because they can be fixed.

Matt is really good at fixing things, which I am grateful for. He fixes the important equipment in my life, like my truck and my wheelbarrow, as well as other niceties, like the toilet, the kitchen sink, and the water heater. So I know what he says is true: the miscellaneous kitchen implements could be used, because they can be fixed. Still, I am wary.

Matt's most recent acquisition was The Big Chief. It's a lightweight metal box, about two feet high and eighteen inches wide. It appeared in the entryway under the front porch, its identifying features partially obscured by a mess of other things. I eyed it dubiously. I decided what it was. I was so wrong that now I can't even remember what I decided. I passed it often, in a hurry, and furrowed my brow at it, in a disapproving sort of way. What are you, and are you broken?

At some point I learned that The Big Chief is an electric smoker, for smoking food. This did not elevate its reputation. I was brought up to believe that electric appliances should not smoke. And since it had not yet smoked any food, its state of repair or disrepair was undetermined. Think about it - an electric appliance that, when working properly, is supposed to smoke? If it's broken, the only possible outcome is that it will burst into flames and take the house with it.

I shifted my furrowed eyebrows from The Big Chief, to Matt, to The Big Chief, in order to convey my skepticism. Matt explained that any activity involving The Big Chief would be conducted outdoors, and under strict supervision.

Matt fired up The Big Chief, by flicking a switch and inserting a small pan of water-soaked cherry kindling. He smoked our jalapenos to perfection, along with some green tomatoes for omelets. Good old Matt.


This is not a fancy picture but an actual reality

I was about to have the most productive evening of my life, but then the Fedco catalog came. And because of that, I went to the liquor store. And now I am just going to sit and read and sip and enjoy the once-a-year publication which I look forward to the very most.

I have heard plenty of praise for the Fedco seed catalog over the years - on account of its all-around excellent selection of useful and interesting seeds and its ethics in sourcing sustainable stock. But I have not heard near enough about how it's just damn good reading. The plant descriptions are insightful, original, funny, and valuable to someone who knows a little and cares a lot about what they grow. I can never get into those academic cutting edge garden design books... but Fedco is where it's at in garden writing, if you ask me.

The way this catalog is written actually exemplifies what I respect and admire in the world of honorable small business (I should say I don't know what kind of business Fedco is - cooperative, for profit, non-profit, etc. - I'm talking "business" in a broad sense)... I appreciate that the information presented helps me choose what to buy based on the experience of serious farmers and gardeners. Where and how will this do well, and what can I do to encourage it? Fedco is not in the practice of fudging hardiness zones or calling things "the only TRUE BLACK suchandsuch" or inspiring amateur gardeners from the far north to try germinating their very own rainforest exotics. (Which is not to say that pushing boundaries is a bad thing, but false or embellished salesmanship is, and Fedco doesn't do it.) Fedco is honest and vital and (best of all) clever, and for that, I give it my undying devotion.

You can order from Fedco here, but if you use their searchable catalog, you miss out on the paper catalog visuals. Take this porcupine with his popcorn, from the 2010 catalog - isn't your life enriched for having seen this? So put in a catalog request, and revel in the pleasantly plump volume of newsprint when it's delivered. This is what winter is for.

Happy seed shopping, folks.


Making pizza from scratch

Golden August afternoons sure do seem a world away, now that we're into the weather where the laundry freezes stiff like cardboard cutouts on the clothesline. This picture, one of my favorites of the summer, went unposted at the time. In the background, those are my tireless companions, always eager to shift the toil from the garden to the kitchen. First we fixed their dog food. Then we fixed my pizza.