Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Garden 2022 Update #mngarden

Here it is, 2022 edition!

And so begins another growing season. This year is starting out pretty good so far, but a lot of hot, windy days and no rain is making me worried about the smaller plants. I’ve been watering them, so crossing my fingers they’ll keep on keeping on.

So, a few things I’ve done differently this year based on last year:

  • Bought onion plants (not sets) through the mail. I’ve done that before, but not for a few years because I started the plants from seeds (cheaper for sure!). The problem is, even this year when starting them in Feb, they were scrawny. They’re getting there, but still. The plants I bought are doing well. Next year, no seeds, just plants.
  • Started cucumber plants in the house. Last year I ended up replanting, like, four times before they came up, so this year I hedged my bets. I have to pickle this year, so I needed to be sure I would get some. I’ve already got a small cuke 🙂
  • Bought (and am using) organic bug killer. This year I have brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi. I do not want the cabbage worms to decimate any of them, and last year, with the unbelievable number of cucumber beetles that attacked my green beans (and killed my cucumber), I decided I’m tired of picking cabbage worms by hand and I needed some way to fight back against the cucumber beetles. I have some tulle I bought years ago to make a floating row cover to protect the brussels sprouts, etc., but I can’t find it. 😦
L to R: Kale, onions, peppers, cucumbers

I had problems with my cukes coming up last year. This year? Pumpkins. I’ve replanted those three times so far. I want to grow some pie pumpkins; I cook and freeze the pumpkin so I can make pumpkin bread (I like that more than banana bread 🙂 ).

Since we had SO MANY green beans (still have LOTS in the freezer) last year, no green beans this year (kinda sucks because somehow they were string beans). Same with the beets, although I think I’ll plant some later in the summer; fresh is always better than frozen ones.

I tried spinach again this year. So far, a measly 4 plants. I’m planning to plant some more later, closer to fall. Hopefully I’ll get some decent spinach this year.

Foreground: Peppers and cukes. Back: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and tomatoes

The tomatoes are doing well. I got varieties that are resistant to early and late blight, so crossing my fingers they’ll last long enough to get a good harvest. The peppers? Some of the sweet pepper plants are looking pretty sad. I bought plants this year because the seeds I planted in March still don’t have true leaves. I suspect they were overwatered (thanks to hubs who helped when I was in ABQ for Left Coast Crime).

Kale and onions

And there you have it. Hubs has potatoes and corn in his garden again this year, but the corn isn’t coming up very well despite getting fresh seeds this year. We’ll see how much we end up with.

On the writing front, I’m almost done with the next revision of Book 2. Then let it sit again for a week or two before one more pass, then back to my agent along with the synopsis (ugh!). The novellas are ready for critique, so I think I’m going to use one of them for the Writing Sisters reunion this year–It’s our 10th anniversary! Woo-hoo!

Keep on writing and stay cool!


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It begins … Garden season 2022 #amgardening #mngarden

Picture from last year (because I haven’t taken any pics this year yet)

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional garden-planting weekend here in MN, especially since we’ve had a cool spring (hey, at least we’ve had what we can consider spring, instead of jumping right into summer 🙂 ) This year was no different, despite my hubs’ insistentence I had to get the garden in far sooner.

It’s a procedure, at least for me. I posted pics last year, so I’ll spare you this year. Granted, I don’t spend all day putting the garden in. I go out after work (or on weekends, after an early supper) because it’s started to cool down (of course, that’s often prime mosquito time, too). It ends up being about two-three hours at a time.

One of the biggest time consumers is raking grass for mulch. Yes, we have a lawn tractor, but a) the grass tends to be closer to a foot tall instead of three inches tall (no golf course lawns here, more like four-wheeling), and b) with grass that tall the mower clogs pretty easy. Bottom line, in my mind it’s faster to rake it instead of mowing super slow and stopping every fifty feet to unclog the chute. Besides, it’s exercise. And it saves gas, which is saying something these days 🙂 .

I actually started planting last night–finally. Memorial Day was “Storm Day” here, so I intentionally didn’t plant because we were due some severe weather. There were a few tornado touchdowns in MN, one even within 30 miles of us, and sheets of rain and WIND! If I’d planted anything, the stuff would have either drowned or gotten beaten up from the wind.

Then the wind. Sheesh. Laying out fabric mulch and covering it with cut grass mulch that is a couple days old is fine when the wind is light, but once it hits 10+ mph it’s kinda futile cuz the grass is dry (wet/fresh grass is heavier).

Anyway, I got the tomatoes, peppers, and cukes in. Tonight I’ll put in the rest, and rake up more mulch if I have the energy. It seems like every year I have less energy to do that stuff. And hey, I’m not that old, although sometimes it feels like it 🙂 . I remember watching Romper Room after school and Captain Kangaroo, just to give you an idea …

As for writing, slowly but surely. I’m working through the reorganization of my police procedural, but I’ll have to go back to Book 2 soon and do another run through it before I send it back to my agent.

Hope everyone is having a productive early summer/late spring!

Keep on writing!

Flashback: Nyx and Tibbers as kittens


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Using late summer bounty #mngarden #salsa #freshveggies #recipes

pico de gallo

It’s the same struggle every year: what to do with WAAAAY more veggies than I anticipated. One of the best parts about a veggie garden is that very bounty, if you have something to do with all those veggies. I’ve convinced my daughter to bring some of them to her work to share.

There’s something about home-grown tomatoes … I think there are a lot of people that only grow tomatoes because of the taste. Store-bought tomatoes can’t compete with the flavor of a sun-warmed, fresh-picked, red-ripe (or yellow or pink or whatever other color you have) tomato.

garden-fresh tomatoes

This is about the same time the pepper plants are starting to split and fall over because of the sheer weight of the peppers. And we won’t talk about the four (!!) jalapeno plants I have. I don’t know what I was thinking, except those were the plants that came up when I started the seeds this spring. A person doesn’t need more than one jalapeno plant unless they go all out making poppers. Sheesh!

red bell peppers and jalapeno peppers

We plant enough onions to last at least halfway through the winter (we use a LOT of onions), though this year when I planted my onion seeds (I’ve been starting my own onions in the house in, like, March), not as many of them came up as in years past, so I had to get sets from the local greenhouse. Those onions had a tendency to form multiple bulbs, almost like huge garlic. Which might have been okay if I’d pulled them before we got two inches of rain that collected in the pockets of those multibulb onions. So many started to rot! Sigh. We rescued what we could, but next year I’m thinking I’ll order onion plants again. At least I’ll get the variety we like, instead of generic “white” onion sets.

three onions

Have you ever heard someone say you only have to plant dill once? That’s because it reseeds like crazy, and you’ll get volunteers coming up for years. Cilantro is kinda the same way, though it works better if you plant some every couple of weeks so you always have some that isn’t going to seed.

cilantro

Every year when I have an abundance of tomatoes, I make pico de gallo. The first time I had it was when hubs and I were in Mexico with his sister. It was soooo good! And so simple. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, cilantro, and a splash of lime juice.

My daughter will eat pico de gallo with tortilla chips and call that a meal. So, in case you are interested, here’s the “recipe”. It’s like when you ask your grandma for just about any recipe that isn’t a dessert: no exact measures. It’s all to taste:

Fresh tomatoes: enough so that when they are diced, you end up with maybe 3 to 4 cups.

Fresh sweet peppers: enough so that when they are chopped, they are about a third to a half of the volume of the tomatoes (so 4 c of diced tomatoes would need about 1 1/2 cup or so of peppers)

Fresh onions: again, enough so that when chopped they are about a third of the volume of the tomatoes. To taste, though, and depends on how strong your onions are (and some of ours are so strong they can make your eyes water from halfway across the kitchen).

Fresh jalapeno peppers: to taste, and it depends on how spicy the peppers are and how spicy you like it. We’ve had jalapenos that were OMG hot, and some that were meh. I’ve been using about three without the seeds and ribs (which is where most of the heat is).

Fresh cilantro: finely chopped, to taste. Some people think cilantro tastes like soap, I think it tastes great. I add about 1/4 c or so, again depending on volume of tomatoes.

This is my method. No, I haven’t combed through Pintrest or Allrecipes.com to find a recipe. It works, it’s unstructured (read: rebellious), and makes me feel good because everything is from the garden (except the lime juice).

Dice the tomatoes and put them in a strainer to drain (I put the strainer over a bowl to catch the juice, which Hubs uses to make soup or whatever (hey, he loves to cook!)). Trust me, there’s a lot of juice in them tomatoes. Stir in a bunch of salt, start with about 1 teaspoon for sure if you have about 3-4 cups of tomatoes (yes, THAT much, and no, I never measure 🙂 ). Mix it into the tomatoes. let them drain. The salt will pull more liquid from the tomatoes.

Chop the rest of the veggies and stir them into the tomatoes in the strainer. It’ll keep draining. Taste it now to make sure you have enough salt. Don’t be afraid to add more; it’s surprising how much it can take. Make sure the flavors balance and adjust as needed (that is, add more tomatoes or onions or whatever until it tastes good).

Put the salsa into the container you will serve or store it in, then add a splash of lime juice (try a capful if you need a measure). Mix well, taste again, add more juice if you think it needs it. And that’s it.

Note that after you put it in the fridge the flavors get muted; that’s the tomato, I think. Tomatoes always lose some flavor once they’re refrigerated.

Damn, now I’ve got the munchies. I’ll get back to my writing after a little snack 😀

Enjoy your weekend! Keep on Writing!

Nyx, Tibbers, and my son’s girlfriend’s cat, Stella


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Fall Harvesting #mngarden

onions curing on hardware cloth
Two-thirds of the onion harvest

It’s that time of year, when everything seems to ripen at the same time. And you realize just how many green beans you can get from a mere seven plants. Uff-da!

green beans

I forget every year just how many beans one plant can produce. This year was odd anyway. I always get a particular variety, Kentucky Blue Wonder bush bean. They are good beans, no strings like the old-fashioned string beans have.

So I had to replant a few times this year, and got more seeds from our local greenhouse, which gets them in bulk and lets you scoop out what you need. Of course, you never know what you’ll get until they come up.

I ended up with two bush string bean plants, three of the bush beans I expected to come up, and two of a variety that I totally wasn’t expecting and have never seen: pole beans with flat pods. BTW, pole beans grow into a big tangled bale if they don’t have anything to climb. I haven’t looked in my old seed catalogs to identify the variety. Last year I ended up with one string bean plant with my Kentucky Blue Wonders. I think next year I might order through the mail instead of getting them at the local greenhouse.

I have one cherry tomato plant, and that’s plenty. I can keep up with them (since I’m the only one who eats them, apparently). They are good, and ripen at a slow enough rate that I can use/eat all the ones I’ve picked before picking again. I usually don’t plant cherry tomatoes because some varieties have so many tomatoes that unless the whole family eats them, you get to a point where you don’t pick them anymore or they go bad and get tossed to the chickens.

That is one thing I really miss about not going into the office: no one to pawn off the extra harvest. I used to bring gallon Ziplock bags of green beans and cherry tomatoes (when I had them) to the office. One of my former co-workers even told me he misses my cucumbers that I would bring in. Now that I’m working from home for good, I’ll have to be careful how much I plant, or check if the local food bank takes fresh produce.

This year I’ve had more cucumber beetles than I’ve ever seen. I had no idea they liked green beans until I saw the laced leaves (they eat between the veins of the leaves so the leaves look like lace). And the poor cucumber! I’m getting some cukes, but the plant is dying. That’s the bad thing with pests like that, they will transmit diseases to the plant that kills the plant long after the bugs have, for the most part, disappeared.

cucumber plant wilting in the middle from disease
Poor cucumber

The peppers are going gangbusters! Stupid me, planting four(!) jalepeno plants. What was I thinking?! One jalapeno is more than enough for a year’s worth of salsa, chili, and whatever else most people use them for. Ugh. The sweet bell peppers are doing really well, too. I thought the variety was smaller, but no, the peppers are just as big as the usual California Bell.

cucumber plant, pepper plants
cukes on the left, peppers on the right, cheeseweed in the middle 🙂

I didn’t plant dill this year, but you’d never know it from the sheer number of volunteer dill plants that came up. The pumpkin is waning as usual about now.

dill on the left, pumpkin on the right

I grew them for my sister-in-law, who wants them for decoration, I think. When she gave me the seeds, I wonder if she realized how big the pumpkins were going to be. Variety? Jack-O’Lantern. Pumpkins twice as big as a basketball? Yep. And not just one or two. Try a dozen plus.

pumpkins

The beets are huge, the kale is recovering from cabbage worm attacks, and the tomatoes are coming in. I’ll be making another batch of pico de gallo today. Yum!

The last bit of color in the garden is blooming. I don’t particularly like how marigolds smell, but they are kinda pretty.

marigolds

Enjoy the upcoming autumn season. Apple cider, fall colors, pumpkins and the goodies that come with them. Cooler weather and fewer bugs!

Keep on writing!

Nyx (black cat) curled up for a nap
Warm Nyx-y, sleepy Nyx-y, purr purr purr


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YAGU (Yet Another Garden Update) #mngarden

Unicorn variety cherry tomatoes

It’s rolling into that time of the season, where everything seems ready to pick all at the same time, except for those things I really want to pick, like the tomatoes (c’mon, hurry up and get ripe!)

Two weeks ago things were buzzing–literally. The borage was three feet tall, I swear! And bees! Finally! Took them long enough to show up. This week the borage has died back. Yep, didn’t take long, but I think the rain we had last weekend helped it along. Borage has hollow stems, or at least they seem hollow, so after it makes its seeds, it has a tendency to rot at the base, especially when there’s rain to help it along. I ended up pulling out almost all the formerly-bushy plants when I got back from WI because they had collapsed on top of the onions.

There’s still a little still standing, though, and the bees appreciate it.

Bee on borage flower–those little buggers are hard to catch on “film”

The green beans are ready to harvest, but not quite enough at one sitting to cook up for a meal. The cilantro is flowering, but I did plant more, so that’s starting to come up.

The onions are starting to fall over, which is typically the indication they are done growing. The peppers are doing super, with jalapenos (and of course, enough to feed a village and the next village over) and a sweet pepper called “Chablis” that starts out pale and ripens to orange, then red. There aren’t any ripening yet, though.

My poor cucumber. Sigh. It’s struggling, and being innundated with striped cucumber beetles doesn’t help. Then again, I didn’t know cucumber beetles were so fond of green beans, either. I mean, they’re cucumber beetles, but when I checked the beans the other day, there were clouds of them. So I got out my trusty organic pyrethin-based bug spray (which has been sitting around for years cuz I haven’t felt the need to use it for a while), mixed some up, and let loose on those little buggers. Seems to have helped a bit, I think.

And pumpkins! You know how they kinda take over? Yeah, well, they have:

Pumpkin vines

This is fully one quarter of the garden, and they are draped over the fence and sprawling that direction. So, how many pumpkins does that much greenery get you? Not sure. Remember, these are the ones my sis-in-law asked me to plant for her. They are the Jack o’Lantern variety, so bigger than the pie pumpkins I planted last year, and thus there are fewer actual pumpkins (I think. I haven’t found very many at this point.).

I see you there, pumpkin

My marigolds are just starting to bloom. At least one of them is. I’m not a fan of the smell, but I have the seeds, and it’s nice to see a little color.

Marigold

At this point, I don’t bother to weed much, except to pull some stuff to toss to the chickens, who seem to appreciate it. They better, because I don’t think I’ll have enough cucumbers to give any of them to the chickens.

In other news, our reunion was great! It was so nice to see everyone in person again. Even though we had to Zoom one of our Sisters in because she was going through her last radiation treatment (breast cancer), the gang was back together! Next year is our tenth anniversary, so we’re hoping we can all gather in person for that one. It’ll be a blast!

My first week at my new job went, um, … Let’s just say it was interesting. Two companies merged last year to become the one company I work for, so they are still getting the computer systems and networks to talk to each other without choking on things. On the one hand, the IT dept is great! I’m getting really good at submitting tickets :). The people are great, including my manager and my team. I spent the week doing training (two days of learning the fundamentals of payroll … sheesh.), and I’ll spend this upcoming week doing more training.

On Monday I’ve got my first in-person book thing since the early spring of 2020, so I’m crossing my fingers that will be good. Never know these days, especially with the way things are going. I have another in-person event the beginning of Oct, so we’ll see if that sticks or if they switch it to virtual like they did last year.

Have a great writing week!

Nyx and Tibbers chillin’