Monday, May 31, 2010

Free Penstemons

 These penstemons are in full bloom and what a gorgeous perennial they are, with their burgundy and green leaves and delicate white and lavender, spring blooming flowers.  I have volunteers to share if any one wants some. These guys were $12 each at one of the big Asheville nurseries and they're a much better deal at my house - free! I'll even dig them up for you. You just have to come to pick them up; or if you live close by, I'll deliver.

Yesterday I gardened till I dropped, so the bread never got made. The corn seeds I had in wet paper, sprouted, so they got planted them; and of course there were more weeds to pull in that area and then more hand watering to do and one thing led to the next and I just kept working.

Nature has brought some good morning rain, which is one way to keep me out of the garden. I'll probably be heading over to John Britt's studio this morning to see some of his copper red and shino glaze tests and bring him some tomato plants and hollyhocks. Then it will be on to Wally world for hot dogs for the grill tonight and hopefully some corn on the cob. They were the only place with decent corn this week. It was also priced right - 18 cents an ear.

When I get home I'll start my bread and then sit on my butt, get some recipes on to index cards and let this knee rest until it's time to start the grill. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Not for the squeamish

Here's a picture of part of the little knoll next to my gallery. The saucers are filled with beer to capture the slugs that have been eating all my seedlings. Those suckers really like beer.  After 3 days it seems like I've gotten the worst of them taken care of, I hope! I'm not sure  how well you can see it; but that's a beautiful, burgundy clematis blooming next to the gallery. The drop off is planted with a couple of gooseberry bushes and strawberries and the beginnings of a rock garden.

Yesterday was a hard gardening day. My knees are still aching this morning; but I got all 50 or so tomatoes fed and weeded, planted pole beans which will hopefully grow up the first batch of corn, hilled up the potatoes one more time, did a lot of other  weeding, hand watered seedlings and the lightly watered in  the fertilizer, and filled another large bucket with good organic potting soil and planted another eggplant. I'm hoping the heat of the buckets, plus sitting on the asphalt driveway will create enough of the heat that eggplants love to give me some decent eggplants this year. I have one more bucket to clean out this morning for the last eggplant.Other than that, hand watering the remaining seedlings on the front porch, will probably be it for today unless these knees stop complaining. 

Instead, it will be a day to bake bread, and get to some of these paper piles, and later get the grill out and make some bacon cheeseburgers for dinner.

Friday, May 28, 2010

One of my favorite perennials

 I love these perennial geraniums, particularly this color.  I also have a pink and a white with lilac that I started from seed a couple of years ago.

Since we were expecting rain and thunder storms around 11am, I got out early to get in some planting. It's after 3, and the rain has yet to come; but when dark clouds appeared and thunder announced itself at 2 o'clock, I thought it wise to cease planting.
The beer slug bait is working well, so I re-filled the bowls and when I checked back less than an hour later, there were about 20 more thirsty slugs swimming in the beer. I ordered some escar-go, which is an organic solution to the snail and slug problem. I also tackled the steep slope behind the house (one of the last sunny spots near the house I could find) and dug up the sod, weeds, wildflowers and wild berry bushes and planted 3 Goji berry bushes, one butterfly weed so Monarch butterflies would have a place to lay their eggs, and one Serrano chili. I also planted a few other things in the flower beds and did a bunch of weeding.  The rain still hasn't arrived but I'm too pooped from heavy digging to plant any more today.

It's too late to start on anything in the studio since we're meeting friends for dinner, so I'll use this bit of rest time to watch some of the French Open tennis while I go through my snail mail and catch up with other paper work.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Flower garden

Here are a few photos of the flower gardens in front of the house.

Yesterday was such a heavy duty rototilling, forming mounds to plant sweet potato starts, planting a couple of artichokes and six more tomatoes, that there wasn't any energy left for the studio. It was the most tired I've been. I think the constant struggle with the rototiller along slopes is what wiped me out, along with moving a lot of soil to form mounds added to it. I also put out a bunch of shallow bowls with beer to catch slugs, hand picked a bunch of snails and slugs, hilled up some of the potatoes a bit more, pulled some weeds, harvested some asparagus and hand watered all the seedlings and newly planted items.

Since I was planning a nice dinner (chicken piccata, asparagus from the garden and quinoa), I just started my prep early, and got everything measured out, which made the actual "making" time a lot shorter.It was a good thing because after dinner, I literally passed out on the sofa.

This morning I'm switching to lighter garden work. The rhododendron and a couple of other things need some serious pruning. I also have to put out more saucers of beer. The ones I put out yesterday caught a lot of slugs. I've never seen them this bad. I also have to look for another likely spot to plant some hot peppers. I'll probably pull some of the cold crops that are now going to seed and put them there. Either that or I'll have to find another spot to rototill; and I'd really like to avoid expanding this garden area. It's already too big for one 70 year old woman with a titanium hip, bad knees and bad back.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More Peonies

Two more peonies have come to life. The garden is really showing a lot of color at the moment with more perennials opening just about daily.

Today will be a repeat of yesterday - an hour or two in the garden after breakfast, then studio time till it's time to think about dinner prep (beans and corn bread tonight.) Yesterday I finished planting two large flats of purple petunias along the front walkway, as well as some perennials and other annuals.Some critter (either bunny or slugs) ate the tops off a couple of the newly planted petunias. Time to set out shallow bowls of beer for slugs and sprinkle blood meal to keep the bunnies at bay. This morning I'll plant the coleus and some other shade lovers around the big, old oak tree off of bedroom deck.

Trimming pots, pulling a couple of handles and getting flashing and decorating slips mixed are at the top of today's "to do" list.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Back in the saddle again.

About a week ago I wrapped a couple of pugs of too firm Phoenix clay with wet towels and put them back in the bag to soften. It worked but too well. It was a struggle throwing with clay that soft, so I resorted to throwing a few experimental cup shapes and mugs, a soy server and a couple of bowls.The heat gun saved the wide bowl in front, that wanted to slump, even though I was throwing almost dry. With the other pug of this softened clay I'll be throwing some more low wide serving dishes. After being out of the studio so long, this was a small, but good start.

After cleanup and a couple of other studio chores, I headed to the house to make dinner.  I went back out again after dinner to cover some of the pots and left the few that were too wet, uncovered. It was a good thing I checked them at 6 o'clock this morning,  because they were already pretty leather hard. The pilot on the gas heater makes was enough to dry pots almost too much overnight. It's now off.
Even though there's still a lot of planting and other garden chores to do, I'm now switching to  my plan of an hour or so work in the  garden and the rest of the day in the studio.

Time to plant.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Michael Kline wood fired cup

Here's one of the other pots I bought from Michael Kline at his recent kiln opening. This lovely wood fired, hakeme slipped cup is now in use every morning for my V8 juice.

Please excuse the spots on the varitone background paper. I haven't used it since we had a frozen pipe burst and flood the house and basement this winter. The paper looked OK when I wiped it down right after the flooding, but I hadn't checked it after it fully dried. This morning was the first time I've given it a close look and needless to say was disappointed to see how very badly it was stained and streaked. I'll try to wipe it down with some soapy water, but I'm afraid, from the looks of it, that it will most probably have to be replaced.

It rained pretty heavily at times, this morning, with more expected between now and noon with clearing this afternoon, according to So, if I can find my way to the studio (it's been soooo long), I'm going to head over, wedge some clay and do some hump throwing -  yunomis and sake cups to use as glaze test pots and maybe some small bowls. Then in mid afternoon I'll give the garden a little bit of time planting another large tray or so of annuals if the ground isn't too wet.
Yesterday, it rained lightly on and off most of the day which gave us a chance to get out and make 7 stops for various food, plant and garden related shopping, visiting with friends, then home to unload the car, check email, change and back out again to pick up friends for dinner at Foxfire in Spruce Pine. After dinner we did some porch sitting at their place, with more wine. It was a super busy but satisfying day.

The seedling trays which have been covering two layers deep of our front porch have dwindled a bit but there are still a lot more to plant or give away. I made two delivery stops with 4 or 5 Walmart bags of seedlings to a couple of friends yesterday and another friend will be picking up a few tomato plants one evening this week. My goal is to have this porch cleared of seedlings by Friday!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Veggie terraces planted

Here are the 7 finished veggie terraces. The cold frame has 2 more rows of potatoes planted since I ran out of space in the terraces for all the potato seeds I bought. The lower left terrace has 3 rows of 3 different varieties of potatoes. There are about about 40 tomato plants on a narrow, steep slope to the left of the terraces and more getting planted in my flower beds. 

I had another 4 1/2 hour stint in the garden today. All the terraced veggie beds are planted other than a fee lettuce starts and  pole bean seeds that I still have to plant under and near the small A frame which I"m using for a few cucumber plants and beans. More pole beans will be supported on the first and second corn planting.

Today I did some research on the Native American 3 sisters method of growing corn, pole beans and squash. I prepped a 1 foot high by 2 1/2 -3' wide, flat topped mound. There seemed to be 2 schools of thought where to put the squash, so I opted for 3 squash plants in the center (some has the squash on the outer perimeter). The corn will be planted in a circle around the squash about 5-6" apart, and about 6" away from the squash. and the beans will be planted  about 6" away from the corn when it's about 4" or higher. I put a whole bag of compost and a whole bag of black cow manure on top of the mound and worked it in. In two days, the corn kernels I have in moist hand towel paper will be sprouted and get planted.

The mound I made was with some leftover, very sandy top soil from two years ago when we raised the stone terraces. I'm hoping that I put enough compost and manure in it to give it a bit more body so it will hold the water better.

Since I've run out of room in the terraces and the slope where most of the tomatoes are planted, I've planted a few more tomatoes and herbs as well as flowers in amongst the flower beds today. I thought I'd have it all done in one more day, but unless I get a second wind after dinner, it looks like it's going to take two more days to get an area tilled for the sweet potatoes, plant the fig tree and rest of the herbs, veggies and flowers. Then I'll need another day just to feed and finish the weeding of the flower beds.

Needless to say, getting the garden cleaned up and planted has taken a lot longer than I thought. At 70, 4-6 hours a day is all I can manage energy and time wise and cooking and other chores, the weather and days for shopping and other chores in Asheville and Johnson City have also dug into the garden time.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Escarole, sausage, bean and potato soup

Had this  very hearty escarole, sausage, bean and potato soup last night, along with garlic bread. With all the gardening I've been doing it was nice to pull something out of the freezer. Tonight it's leftover roast chicken.

We've had enough breaks in the rain for me to get in a lot of planting time. The past few days I've gotten 42 tomato plants, two types of corn, canteloupe, pickling cucumbers, Italian frying peppers, summer and winter squash, several varieties of hot peppers, bush beans and pole beans, more radishes and some herbs planted as well as various flowers and rose bushes. Needless to say, there's no time for the  studio till it's all planted. The earlier planted cold weather crops are doing well. F

This marathon is going to come to a halt pretty soon because I'm running out of planting space and I'm not about to clear more land! I even planted a few tomatoes among the flower beds today! I just need about two more days to plant a second fig tree, the rest of the veggies, herbs and bedding flowers and then another day or two to feed everything,get a bit more on top of the weeding and clear the porch of all the gardening paraphernalia.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Have we got irises

It's been a busy couple of days - all day trip to Asheville for clay only to find, for the 3rd time in a row, that they're out of my clay. So I back ordered some and hopefully they'll have it in another week when I'll need it. In the meantime, the studio has to wait till  I finish planting this garden.

Yesterday I finished the second rototilling of the knoll next to my gallery and today I planted most of it with two types of corn, pickling cucumbers, summer and winter squash, zucchini, pole beans, radishes and nasturtiums which are planted to attract the white flies that can decimate squash plants. As soon as I catch my breath I'll try to cover the corn with remay. Last year critters ate a large portion of my first planting, so this year, I'm covering it till they get big enough that the crows won't pull them out and the bunnies or whoever won't munch on them.

Jim is off getting the car serviced and hopefully coming home with some nice fresh salmon for dinner. The garden is giving us lettuce and radishes for our salad as well as kale and some herbs. This past week everything has taken off in the garden. Potatoes are all up and the flower beds are full of color with the first roses,clematis, peonies, irises, dianthus, and other perennials blooming. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rainy day

Glad I rototilled two of the 3 areas still needing it before this rain came. Now I need some dry days from the 15-27th to plant all these veggie seedlings according to the moon signs. I would have finished, but lost a screw and bolt on the tiller which I need to replace today.

Even with a small, 25 lb or so, Mantis tiller, working on a steep slope at my age and with bad knees was a bit of a challenge. Next year that slope is getting planted with one or two more fruit trees and a large scattering of wildflower seeds!

Since I have some running around chores to do today anyway, the needed rain is welcome. It also gives me time later this afternoon to go through this big pile of long ignored snail mail and catch on other paperwork - mainly recipe notations. 

Rain is expected all but one day for the next 10, so I may actually get in the studio earlier than I thought, unless some of those "chance of thunderstorms" turn out to pass us by a few hours here or there.

Monday, May 10, 2010

First strawberry of the season

Hope a critter won't get to this before me. It still has to ripen a bit on the underside. Got all the seedlings back on the porch, hand watered, and dragged my huge canvas carrier filled with weeds and most of the hollyhock volunteers that I dug out the knoll garden yesterday and dumped them down the hill on the other side of the house. I'm creating passive compost piles everywhere!

There's a large list of garden "to do's" all this week, in between doctors appointments and a trip to Asheville. I'm hoping that it rains one or both of those day and not the days I'm planning on getting some of these seedlings planted.
Well, time to change the tines on the rototiller and get back to work. I'll quit around 3:30 and start on dinner - a ziti, ricotta, mozarella casserole. It's will be a good comfort meal after a heavy gardening day.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Michael Kline Jar

Jim and I were out early this morning for Michael Kline's kiln opening and bought this wonderful covered jar which I immediately put to use. Our rhododendron blossoms are perfect for it. We also purchased a small bowl which will be perfect for things like guacamole or other dips, and a lovely cup with hakeme slip and resisted design.  There were so many wonderful pots; but one has to use some restraint.

Last night we had another wonderful dinner at the Knife and Fork, followed by a fun evening at a Relay for Life fundraiser. Several friends were part of the all guys, in drag, beauty contest, which  included interviews and talent segments. They mercifully skipped the bathing suit segment which I know the contestants appreciated. What a hoot! I can't remember when I laughed that hard for that long. They were all fantastic. Why did I leave my camera home!

My intent for today was to continue planting the two large flats of purple petunias when we got back but it was too windy and chilly, so I opted to make another loaf of oatmeal bread instead and catch up with mail and paperwork.

It's going down to the 30's tonight and tomorrow night, so I'll be bringing most of the seedlings indoors again. After that it looks like they'll be able to stay out until planting time. If weather permits, I'll be planting them on the 15th and 16th, which is what the Farmers Almanac recommends for tomatoes and other above ground crops.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Another planting day and free baby asparagus plants

We drove over the mountain into Tennessee yesterday for a big lunch at the Indian buffet followed by a few plant shopping stops. I didn't find everything on my list; but I did get a peace rose, two flats of purple petunias and several containers of impatients and begonias which I'll be planting along with a couple of hostas I got the other day, as soon as the tree trimmers clean up the oak tree prunings.

Two years ago I made a large round planting bed around that oak tree and planted some ferns, hostas and a couple of other perennials there. Some are doing well, but a couple didn't make it, so I need add a few more hostas and other shade loving plants and get some color in there with the impatients and begonias.

The vegetable garden is doing well - potatoes are coming up, we're harvesting asparagus and I see that I also have quite a few volunteer asparagus. Any one want some free baby asparagus? Let me know I can dig them up if you'll come here to pick them up.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The ramp hunt

It's been a busy couple of days. Friday I joined friends and we drove to Ram mountain, unloaded a four wheeler and buggy and headed up an old lumber road. There's no way a car could ever make it up that road, but those little vehicles had no problem. Here's Betty, Bruce and their friend Jim and our vehicles and the mountain shack that hunters, fishermen and ramp hunters use. The other photo is our friend Bruce, who was our cook for the day.

We passed wonderful rushing streams and fields of white and purple wildflowers. There were a couple of old, abandoned cabins and an old homestead with a collapsed log barn and some other remnants of the old homesteaders life. We finally arrived at their special ramp field and dug ramps for a couple of hours. Then we headed back down to the shack you see in the picture to start prepping lunch. Betty and I headed down to the stream to wash enough ramps for lunch and Bruce and his friend Jim peeled potatoes. Bruce fried bacon, then cooked the thin sliced potatoes in the bacon fat, added the sliced ramps, and then added a bunch of eggs. So we had this delicious potato, ramp and egg scramble with bacon, cornbread, beans, and sliced tomatoes. For dessert, I brought a bag of penny candy. It was a great day!

Saturday I was too tired to do any gardening, so Jim and I did some pick up food shopping and had lunch out. When we got home,  I spent what seemed like hours, cleaning my large bag of ramps. and yesterday I took about two dozen that I had set aside and planted them in our woods. Hopefully they will do well and in a couple of years they'll multiply enough so we can harvest our own. I'm glad it's a rainy day because I'm still tired! It will be a good day to catch up on my email and other paper work, feed my sourdough starter, and continue my research on greenhouses. Jim has decided that I really need one. I think he's tired of helping me carry all these seedling trays in and out for the past month!