Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Garden update August 2022 #mngarden

L to R: onions, dill/cilantro, brussels sprouts

Well, we’re in the thick of harvest time. As you can see, I have stopped weeding (dang, weeks ago, and it shows). The onions have been falling over since mid summer, which is disappointing. When onion tops fall over, it basically means the onion is done growing and can be picked. No softball-sized onions this year. Most of them are smaller than a tennis ball. Bummer.

L to R: dill, cucumber vines invading the peppers

This year has not been a good year for peppers. Even the jalapeno peppers are not doing as well as they have in the past, but at least the plants look pretty healthy. I planted 4 bell peppers. Of those 4, only one is still struggling to stay alive. The others never really got going; they were sick. I’m not sure if they were sick when I got them (I look at plants pretty closely when I buy them) or if they got sick after I planted them. However, this year has been stellar for cucumbers. I started seeds in the house, some pickling cukes (that were supposed to be bush cucumbers–not sure I believe that) and some snacking/slicing cukes. As you can see, the cucumbers are invading the peppers’ space.

I’ve stopped picking pickling cukes, for the most part. I’ve done 4 pickling sessions, with an average of 10 quarts per session. Plus we’re still working on pickles from the last time I did them. So I’m letting the cukes grow, then giving them to the chickens. They love them so much that if I leave some laying around to cut for them later, they’ll peck through the skin and eat them anyway.

Speaking of chickens … I’ll get to them shortly. So, the cukes have been going gangbusters, and my pumpkin got going late, but dang, it’s trying to catch up.

L to R: pumpkin, kale

The dill and cilantro are flowering. I almost want to do more pickles because the dill is at the perfect stage to use for pickling. I had so much dill come up on its own that I wondered why I actually planted any. It’s everywhere! And the cilantro is doing okay, but it’s been so hot that it pretty much flowers as soon as it can.

And the most important part of the garden! The tomatoes are starting to come in–they’re so good!

foreground: brussels sprouts, back: tomatoes!

I’ve had to keep tying them up because they’re sprawling. I saw something on PBS about how to prune tomatoes so they don’t get quite so unruly, but I’ll have to watch it again (if I can remember what it was) and take notes. The cabbage, alas, ended up first as a midnight snack for a rabbit that managed to squeeze under the chicken wire (hubs took care of it), and then ended up rotting from the bottom after we got a bunch of rain, then it got hot. Ugh. The brussels sprouts are doing pretty well, though.

And that’s about the state of the garden. The weeds are encroaching from the fence, both inside and outside the panels. I really want to take the entire fence down this fall to get at the ones right at the fence (as opposed to leaving the north and south sides up and opening up the ends so hubs can till). It’s a lot of work, though, to put it up again in the spring.

And did I mention chickens? We got 4 chickens from a neighbor, already at the laying stage so we didn’t have to wait 6 months for chicks to get old enough to start laying. They roamed at their previous home, and since both our dogs are lame at this point and can’t catch the chickens even if they wanted to, we let the chickens forage. And bonus: we get blue, green, and brown eggs!

Colored eggs!
L to R: Princess, Speckles, Rosie (no, we didn’t name them)
Princess

And people have asked me what breed they are, because of the colored eggs. They’re “mutts”, so who knows. They are fun to watch wandering through the grove. I hope they’ll be okay with staying in the pen over the winter.

And there you have it, the garden update. Now that the tomatoes are coming in, time for BLTs!! Yay!

Hey, you, get some writing done this weekend. I know I’ll be working on my police procedural puzzle (after cleaning–ugh).

Tibbers! and Nyx


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How does my garden grow? 2022 edition #amgrowing #mngarden

kale and onions

I figured it was about time to post a garden update. Things are looking good, and we finally got a bit of rain. Of course, the hot humid weather we’ve been having has giving everything a boost, including the weeds!

I managed to add more mulch about a week or two ago. That’s the key, kids. Lots of mulch. Unless you really like pulling weeds. I mean, I don’t mind pulling some weeds, but there are a whole lot fewer to pull when you have more mulch to suppress them.

Cukes in foreground, tomatoes in back

Everything is coming along. I’ve already gotten a handful of cukes that are bigger than I want to pickle. I planted a different variety than my usual this year, but I’m not sure that was the best idea. I need to do pickles, so I planted 3 plants of a pickling variety, bush pickling cucumber. Normally, I plant National Pickling, which is a full vining plant. I’m getting cukes, but nowhere near enough in one or even two pickings to warrant a pickling session. It is still early, though, so hopefully as the plants keep growing I’ll get more cukes at once.

I have one slicing variety similar to the Diva variety I planted last year and the year before. They’re nice because the skins aren’t bitter, which means it’s less work when it’s time to snack on them 🙂

peppers

The peppers are looking good, at least the jalapenos are. Of the four sweet pepper plants, one looks great, the others still look pretty sad. Crossing my fingers they’ll perk up soon.

My cabbage and brussels sprouts are looking fantastic! The organic bug spray seems to be working, at least for now.

One of my pumpkin plants has finally decided to cooperate. Not sure how many pumpkins I’ll get; it’s pretty late in the season, so I’m not sure if any pumpkins it might manage will be able to mature. The onions are doing well, and I’ve had some spinach and kale for lunches. The kale I’m not impressed with; it’s not my favorite black kale variety. I planted Russian White and Russian Red kales, which are supposed to be the most cold-hardy, but the texture when cooked is booooring. At least the black kale had some personality.

The tomatoes are coming along. It’s time to go out and tie them up again, which I do periodically as they grow. Hubs’s potatoes are looking good, and I did cave to doing some weeding for him because he asked nicely 🙂

In other news, we got 4 new laying hens, since we were down to one hen (some thing killed the other one) and she wasn’t laying at all. I’ll try to post pics next time. We got them from my daughter’s BFF’s parents, since they have lots of chickens. They aren’t any particular breed, more like “mutts”, but we are getting brown, blue, and green eggs, so that’s fun!

Also, ventured out into the wild for black raspberries. This year, there are more than there’s been for a few years. Hopefully I’ll get enough for a nice batch of jelly.

And last, but not least, I learned my son–actually, his girlfriend–decided 3 adult cats in a three-bedroom apartment isn’t quite enough. Meet Juniper, with super-soft fur and enough mischief to give Nyx a run for her money.

And yes, her eyes are two different colors. She’s about 10 weeks old and has big paws like Tibbers did. I haven’t seen her in person yet, but my daughter has, and she said I have to go visit. Sounds like we might be cat-sitting in October, so maybe I’ll wait, or maybe I’ll drop in on the kitties–um, my son and his girlfriend.

Anyway, enjoy your week! Keep on writing!

Juniper


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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