Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Winding down the jungle #amgardening #mngardening

Green beans in front with past-their-prime cilantro volunteers.

I was going to do a “have a great holiday weekend” post, short and sweet, but when I went out to the garden this week, I figured I had a limited time to get halfway-decent pics before things went even further downhill.

It’s September, and here in MN it means the garden is on its way out. The green beans are almost done, I pulled the pickling cukes out, but the remaining cukes have started to succumb to cool nights. The pumpkin is dying back. So I figured I’d share the journey.

Peppers in back, green beans in front, onions in the middle
The marigolds are rockin’!
Cucumbers still holding on
Sad tomatoes

The tomatoes have almost completely succumbed to blight. I had a couple plants that were more resistant, but they, too, are dying. The worst part is that so many of the fruit hasn’t ripened completely, so even though I can pick them and let them ripen in the house, they don’t taste as good as when they are completely ripe when picked.

Peppers going strong!

The peppers, on the other hand, are doing well. So is the kohlrabi. I picked a kohlrabi almost the size of a softball. I planted them as a bait crop for the cabbage worms, but this year those suckers decided they liked the brussels sprouts better. Sigh.

It’s been fun, though, to see some less-hated caterpillars.

Swallowtail caterpillar on dill

Just like monarch butterfly caterpillars are always on milkweed, swallowtail butterfly caterpillars are always on dill. I had quite a few caterpillars on the dill this year, but oddly I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than one butterfly a year. They must sneak in when I’m not looking 🙂

The pumpkin is dying back, and I have some nice ones. Not sure what I’ll do with all of them, but at least I’ll be able to make pumpkin bread this year.

There ya go. We’ll be pulling onions and digging potatoes this weekend. Both those crops need to “cure”: sit someplace for a few weeks to develop their thicker skins before we store them. It’s supposed to be warmer for the onions, though. Next week we’ll get a preview of fall with high temps all the way into the 60s. And me without my commute to see the leaves change. Bummer.

Stop by on the 8th for a special post! I’m a blog tour stop for Diana Peach’s new release, Liars and Thieves!

Enjoy your holiday weekend! Stay safe and keep writing!


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Mutiny of the bounty #gardenmn #vegetables

garden shot: brussels sprouts, green beans, peppers, tomatoes in distance

And so it continues …

It’s that time of the summer, when the harvest threatens to overwhelm. And since I’m not going in to the office, I have no one to share with.

I stopped weeding a few weeks ago, because once the weeds start going gangbusters, there’s really no point. They flower or do whatever they do to seed, then die. It’s just really messy-looking. Here’s a shot of our lovely giant ragweed in the raspberry patch.

Giant ragweed blooming in raspberry patch. Ragweed is about 10 feet tall.

Yes, it really is 10 feet tall!

Here you can see the marigolds are blooming now, along with the dill and cilantro (white flowers). The pumpkin covers its corner of the garden and is creeping along the edges.

pumpkin vines in foreground

Pumpkin taking over

Hubs cut down the foxtail grass that was challenging the tomatoes to see who could grow taller. Looks good, except now I can see how the tomatoes are bending under the weight of their fruit. And the blight is attacking them. Crossing my fingers I get lots of red tomatoes before the plants succumb completely.

Tomatoes way in back, along with cucumbers

Needless to say, I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done, with picking beans and cucumbers an almost every day event. If I’m not in the garden, I’m pickling. I’m this *shows finger and thumb almost touching* close to pulling cucumber plants out.
Pickling is not for the faint of heart, either. It’s a full-evening affair.
cucumbers ready to pickle

Cukes washed and ready to go

Dill seed heads

Dill!

jalepeno peppers sliced in half

Secret ingredient!

cannery

Jars in the canner

First, pick the cucumbers. When you have enough to fill seven quart jars (because that’s what fits in the canner), it’s time. Wash the cukes, gather dill, and ready the “secret ingredient” — jalepeno peppers. I like to add a half (or 2 halves) to each jar for a little kick. Load the canner, mix up the brine, and away we go!

What follows is a marathon of jamming as many cucumbers into each jar as possible, adding brine, and processing. One seven-quart batch usually takes me a couple hours from washing cukes to processing. The last round I did I managed to process twice, so a dozen quarts (because I had enough cucumbers for that many quarts).

finished

Voila!

I’ve done 4 batches of pickles, and two batches of pickled green beans (because I can only eat so many and our freezer is, well, not exactly empty).

Ugh. Note to self: no pickling next year. Do NOT plant pickling cucumbers. Repeat, do NOT plant pickling cukes. Just plant those nice snacking cucumbers.

This week we also kicked off our first tomato harvest with BLTs. I love BLTs! Unfortunately, the bacon runs out, but thinly-sliced and crisp-fried Spam is a nice substitute. When we get enough tomatoes I’ll make some pico de gallo, cuz that’s what you do with garden-grown tomatoes, cilantro, peppers, and onions.

Now, if I can get some writing done amid all this garden stuff, I’ll be doing well 😀

Happy Writing!

Zoey sitting outside


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How my garden does grow #mngarden

The fun has begun! Cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, kohlrabi. Come one, come all!

Seriously, though, it’s starting. The rush to pick stuff and use it before a) it goes bad, and b) have to pick more.

So, cucumber cascade anyone?

Everything is growing everywhere. The pumpkins are spreading, the cucumber plants are climbing and spreading, and I’ve had to prune the tomatoes a few times. It’s been hot lately, so the plants are a little wilted. We might get a storm tonight, but if not, I’ll water tomorrow.

Zucchini, with a background of tomatoes

The zucchini is, of course, prepping to feed an army. I’ve made a couple batches of zucchini/onion/mushroom sauted in butter (because everything is better with butter 😀 ), and the chickens have gotten a few treats already.

Diva cucumbers–spineless, non-bitter skins, tasty!

I was looking for the variety of cucumbers they sell in stores as snacking cucumbers. They usually come in packs of six or so. The closest one I found was a new variety called “Diva”.

Cucumbers everywhere!

The pickling cucumbers are starting to come in. The worst thing is you have to pick more than once to collect enough cukes to warrant a pickling session. So it means rounds of picking, refrigerating, and hoping to get enough cukes to pickle before the refrigerated ones go bad. The dill is at the right stage now, too (got lucky!).

Green beans and onions, with peppers in background.

This weekend we should get our first batch of green beans. My son loves garden green beans (he won’t eat canned or frozen). He’s home part of the weekend, but it sounds like he’s leaving before harvest. I’m sure we’ll have many more meals of green beans.

Green tomatoes not turning red fast enough!

I’m starting to think I have too many tomato plants, even though none of the fruit is ripe yet. Let’s see, I think I have ten plants. Erm, yeah, maybe a little overkill this year. The plants last year got sick (blight) and died earlier than expected, so this year I hedged my bets. So far, the plants are doing okay. I tried to get blight-resistant varieties, and so far only one is showing signs of blight. Crossing my fingers!

Basil!

The basil is doing fabulous! Now, to figure out how to use it … Pesto, right?

Overheated brussels sprouts 😦

The brussels sprouts are weathering cabbage worm attacks, as usual. I’ve tried to get out almost every day to pick them (squish them!). The plants do not like the heat. At all. Members of the cabbage family prefer cooler weather, but if I planted them later in the season, I’m not sure if they would have enough time to grow. My beets are looking sad, too. I think I could plant them later in the season and they would be okay; they like cooler weather as well.

Marigolds in foreground, yellow-crowned dill rises above

I keep waiting for the marigolds to flower, but no buds yet. The dill is flowering, so is at the right stage to use for pickles. Hoping I get enough cukes to pickle while I still have decent dill.

And there you have it. Julie’s Jungle, with mosquitoes just to keep you on your toes. It’s been hot and humid, as in tropical hot and humid, and little wind, so the mosquitoes are out in force. Swarms of them. They sound like those old WWII movies with all the planes, but at a higher pitch. Ugh. Weeding (what little I’m inclined to do in the heat) is an adventure in micro-vampire avoidance. I think we need more mosquito repellant!

Hope everyone is doing well! I started my new writing class (yay!) and will be digging into Book 2 second round of revisions. My Writing Sisters virtual writing retreat is coming up as well. Man, I’m going to miss gathering in person, but this year it’s safer to Zoom it. Anybody know where I can return 2020 for a refund?

Happy Writing!


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Garden Update–because inquiring minds want to know #mngardening #garden

It’s about time for an update, right? Especially since I just finished weeding again, and everything is doing pretty well. (yes, even the weeds).

By request, I have a lot of pics. You can thank one of my writing sisters for that (CH, you know who you are 😀 )

Note to self: Taking pics before the sun is behind the trees might work better 🙂

I’ve learned that the more mulch, the merrier. I have soaker hoses under the lines of mulch between the plants, which works great, until a hose has a leak. Sigh. New hoses are in order, but they’re getting tough to find.

I have three surprise potato plants, as in “Surprise! You didn’t plant potatoes, but we’re here!”. Luckily they’re all at one end of the garden, so they’re not in the way too much of other plants. The pumpkin (lower right by the potato) might think differently when it gets going.

Mulch to the left of me, cukes to the right …

And yes, you do see radish carcasses. I plant the radishes with some of the seeds, like beets and dill, to mark the rows. We don’t eat them before they get too big (radishes grow FAST), so I pull them and discard to give the other plants more room. Sometimes if they aren’t in the way, I’ll let the radishes go. They get pretty tall, and flower. The seed pods are edible and taste like mild radish.

Cucumbers and tomatoes

This year I’m planning to make pickles, so I have three (not 10 like last time!) pickling cucumber plants, along with a few of a new variety of regular cucumber (which I don’t normally plant). The biggest difference between pickling cukes and slicing cukes is the texture: pickling cukes are less watery, more crunchy 🙂

L to R/front to back: Dill/basil/onions, kale/pepper, volunteer borage/kohlrabi

I learned a couple years ago that starting kale in the house helps them survive attacks from cabbage worms because they’re bigger (I also found out cabbage butterflies prefer to use kohlrabi over kale and brussels sprouts). I started my black kale, and planted seeds for the curly stuff. I prefer the black because it’s easier to clean, and find the caterpillars.

Way in the back you’ll see some tomato cages. Those are my peppers, which could look better. My peppers seem to tip over when they get bigger and have fruit, so I started using the cages (which, by the way, are worthless for tomatoes).

Brussels sprouts and green beans, with onions on the side

The brussels sprouts are looking good, but the cabbage worms haven’t started their main offensive, yet. I try to check them every day to pick (squish) the caterpillars. The green beans are doing okay, but I’ve seen them in better shape in the past.

Better shot of peppers, with kohlrabi and beets in the back

I also have two pumpkin and two zucchini plants this year, a pie pumpkin variety (supposedly somewhat sweeter than usual, but the jury is out on that), and the usual dark green zucchini (mostly for the chickens; I’m tired of zucchini).

Since we’re still all working from home for the foreseeable future, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the extra cukes, zucchini, and whatever else. Those are the things I like to bring to work to share, and my co-workers appreciate it, since a lot of them do not have gardens of their own for various reasons. Which means canning, pickling, or freezing stuff (provided my hubs doesn’t fill the freezer with other things like chicken breasts and whole turkeys and frozen hashbrowns).

The corn and potatoes are doing well in hubs’ garden, and yes, I did help him weed once, because he asked nicely 🙂 . No, I didn’t take pics of those.

The dill, cilantro, and marigolds are doing well, and I planted a second run of dill and cilantro, because experience tells me the first sowing doesn’t time right with the cukes or tomatoes. Basil is the only herb I’ve planted for years, and I did this year only because I got seeds free when I ordered others.

I’ll remember to take pics before the shadows reach the garden next time. I’m a lousy photographer to begin with, but at least the lighting should be better.

Hope you all are doing well and writing 😀 I’m working on pages to submit to my writing sisters for our virtual retreat. We’re planning to return to our favorite B&B next year; crossing my fingers that works out.

Happy writing!

Zoey sitting outside


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YAG – Yet Another Garden #mngarden

I had entertained an idea of no garden this year, but the thought of missing out on fresh tomatoes and peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers and tomatoes … well, you get the idea. I really like garden tomatoes!

The last few years I’m less enthusiastic about gardening. Actually, I think it’s the “preparing the garden” part. You know, laying out the soaker hoses, covering them with fabric mulch, putting up the panels for the tomatoes and cukes, and gathering mulch. Lots of mulch. And that’s all before I do any planting.

Yeesh.

We’re running out of the pickles I did a few years back (OMG, like 5 dozen quarts!), so it’s time to do pickles again. My son actually absconded with a quart, reminding me of all the times I did the same thing with my mom’s pickles whenever I came home during college. She made awesome pickles.

So, here it is. Take a good look, because this is the least amount of weeds there will be. Bonus: we left the perimeter fence up with the chicken wire from last year–take that, rabbits!

Garden laid out before anything is growing
Using some wood chips this year for mulch
Garden laid out before anything is growing
Pig panel for cucumbers to climb and cattle panels for tomatoes on the right

Did I hear you ask what I planted this year? Sure I did 🙂 So, here’s the list, starting with my favorite: tomatoes, a couple zucchini, cucumbers, beets, kale (hey, I like kale), kohlrabi, onions (of course!), brussels sprouts, green beans, peppers, cilantro, dill, radishes, pie pumpkins (because pumpkin bread!), and I got a sample packet of basil. Oh, and marigolds this year, because color and marigolds just might discourage pests. Maybe. But they should be pretty.

I will say I’m glad I didn’t have to figure out where to plant potatoes this year. Hubs tilled another spot and planted potatoes and sweet corn (because I refuse to plant sweet corn anymore). Thing is, creeping Charlie is rampant in that location, or it was before he tilled. Yes, I warned him. And no, I’m not weeding it for him, which I also told him.

Oh, you’re wondering why I won’t plant sweet corn anymore? First, you have to plant at least 4 rows to get good pollination, because corn is wind-pollinated. Then, you have a limited window of time to pick it when it’s at the perfect ripeness. And it’s all ready at the same time. After that week or so, the corn starts getting starchy.

Yes, I know you can freeze sweet corn, but it’s usually ready when I’m in WI at my Writing Sisters reunion, and apparently no one else can pick corn. And a person can only eat so much sweet corn. A lot of the corn ends up staying on the stalk and aging out of the prime eating stage. Hence, I refuse to plant sweet corn.

Anyway. There you have it. As for writing, I’m still revising. Turned in my homework and got feedback. One more assignment to go, this one analyzes plot. I’m so glad I took the class; it’s really helping me focus on cutting the chaff, and notice what I’m lacking, at least at this point in the revision process. My instructor’s comments will help me through the next round of revision.

So, enjoy the glorious spring weather (in the southern hemisphere, enjoy your autumn 😀 ). Don’t forget to keep writing!

Zoey walking through grass