Sniffing the wild air

My dog, Laika, does what my mom has always called "sniffing the wild air." She closes her eyes, tips her head up, and uses her nostrils like a pair of small bellows, welcoming in the scents. She looks peaceful, happy and relaxed.
I drink my coffee on the back porch in the morning, so I can feel the weather, and so I can feel like I belong. Some mornings it is hard to stay out there, with the warm protection of the kitchen behind me. But I like ritual, or I am a creature of habit, or whatever... I need to smell the wind: is it blowing in ocean salt or hyacinth? just sewer gas and diesel fume?

This morning was a treat: southern pine, on a raft of peach-and-lilac sunrise.



A forgotten-about Musque de Provence pumpkin vine produced this huge black beauty in our garden. After the rest of the greenery had slumped with summer past, there it was tucked in the strawberry patch underneath an espaliered cherry tree... From what I read, it is immature - these pumpkins turn a lovely warm terracotta color when they're ripe - but it roasted up nicely anyway, and a small portion became our pumpkin pie.

We had a warm kitchen full of family, friends, and dogs yesterday. We ate a turkey from Clodhopper Farm, barded with Clodhopper bacon. Mockingbird bread, Ardith Mae cheese, Hillside butter, farmers market kale and brussels sprouts, our own potatoes, and on and on...

I've been stewing in my own toxic broth of cynicism even more than usual lately. But in the last week I've been reminded: I have so many people I love... and such a bounty of beautiful, comforting, nourishing food... and the time and freedom to walk out into the woods to clear my mind whenever I need to...

I've got a whole lot of be thankful for. And I am.


Bumble bees in my lemon tree!

We've been having frosty nights and sunny, warm days, so I've been carting my potted Meyer lemon out to the back porch coffee table each morning, and then back inside in the afternoon. The tree is in full bloom right now, and since pickings are slim for pollinators in November, it attracts whoever is out there roaming around. I hope my diligent carting will result in a tiny crop of late-winter lemons.

I forgot to bring the pot in until last night, in the dark, when I returned it to its perch in the kitchen window, and then went to bed. In the morning, with coffee water a'boiling and eggs a'scrambling... something started a'buzzing. Loudly! And in irritation!

Unbeknownst to me, three jumbo-sized bumble bees had fallen asleep in their supper bowls last night, and just then woken up in my bright, warm, lemon-blossom-scented kitchen. Oh, my.

Matt and I carried out a successful catch-and-release for each bee, and I went back to making our breakfast. When I next stepped onto the back porch, there was an irate bumble out there, buzzing madly at the kitchen window... separated from its dear, sweet lemon tree by a pesky pane of glass. Another bumble crawled across the coffee table and flung itself forlornly into the ashtray, where a blossom had fallen the day before. It buried its snout in between the dirty petals and slumped there.

I carted the lemon back out, and everyone dedicated themselves to energetic foraging, until they fell asleep in their flowers, early afternoon.


Seeds from my mother's garden, for you

The last thing I did, on leaving my parents' property, was fill little paper cups with seeds: opium poppy, nigella, calendula, and dill - four of the flowers that self-seeded wildly and, during a certain part of each summer, made my mother's garden the enchantment that it was. The poppies are the stars - hundreds of them, in every incarnation: single, double, frilled and fringed... grape-colored, wine-colored, vermillion, lilac... and cupcake! There are some that look just like pink cupcakes.

I put together packets of the seeds for friends, and have a few left over to offer here. If you would like one, please leave a comment or email me (zoe[at]fastdoggardening.com). I would be so delighted to know Mom's seeds are sprouting hither and thither across the country next spring.

After the acreage next door to my parents' land was bulldozed to make way for the natural gas industry - horse pastures, swamp, and woods, ripped up, flipped over, and ground in - my mom carried that year's poppy seedheads across the new moonscape and strew them along the edge. I didn't know she'd done it until the next July, when there they were, visible from the road - a stubborn streak of soft, strong, beautiful poppies across a wasteland of ugly, ruined earth. I think it was her way of protesting, saying Not Here, Not This.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed. Our community is small, and people know and respect my mom. They know her garden, and her politics. They know, like I do, that if there was ever anyone capable of saying Fuck You with flowers, it's her. She did it with artistry, and showed what she stood for - not just what she was against - at the same time.

And so... These seeds I want to give you - they are special, because they are the seeds of dissent. Gardening feeds our spirits and our bellies, both, and it is, at this point in history, an act of rebellion. Tending garden gives a person passion, satisfaction, peace, and awe - experiences the consumer culture can't offer... It is a wholly constructive endeavor, and yet it rejects so much bullshit at the same time.

The photo at the top of the page was taken by my dad, Michael Poster, in Mom's garden.


Growing luffa sponges

This is Luffa Ʀgyptiaca, giver of sponges for scrubbing with. After a long summer of tracking garden dirt inside, not cleaning under my fingernails, and allowing the overfull laundry basket to sprout horns and hooves and crouch in a corner of the bathroom like an ogre... it's time to clean house.

Cleaning house is boring, unless you have your very own luffa sponge that you grew all by yourself, and then it's kind of fun, at least for a little while.

Luffas need a long season to produce, which we don't have in northeastern Pennsylvania, but I did get one sponge off my vine, and that's all I need. Like I said - I'm kind of a crappy housekeeper.

I start my luffa seeds (available from Fedco) indoors under grow lights, and set plants out after danger of frost, when the soil has warmed. They need as much jump on the season as you can give them. Luffas like to scramble, so the clothesline is a good place for them, especially if you don't intend to do laundry. They send out tendrils every which way, and hightail it wherever they are headed.

Our vine produced one early fruit, which I left to mature and dry, and then cut after frost. If the fruit is totally brown and dry when you cut it, you just peel the skin right off - all that's left inside is the dry sponge and the black seeds.

We had one short, late dry spell this year. In a season as wet as this one was overall, a dry spell is really stressful on annuals that don't have their roots down deep and are accustomed to guzzling as much water as they please. The luffa vine panicked and set fruit - lots - all of a sudden. But the season wasn't long enough to mature this young fruit. Hence the single sponge.

I think I will cut it in half or thirds, depending on how many things I decide to scrub... two, or three?