There’s folks building homes as sweet as can be They’re leveling their yards and planting their trees But my little hut, I’ll just let it be Lord Jesus is building a mansion for me
Mansions for Me, Bill Monroe
Joe has been planting trees and fruit brambles (does thornless also mean bramble-less?) and I finally have my garden planted. It was hot and dry and now it is cool and rainy. Maybe a false start to summer, but I am happy to be reminded I don’t get to be in charge of any of it. My little hut, I’ll just let it be…
My garden dirt is so happy though! I’ve never in my life had more crumbly, beautiful dirt. Between the topsoil last year on our no-till, cardboard beds, and the lovely compost from our wildflower nursery neighbors, it is excellent. I made a bunch of mounds to start melon seeds on and I’ll transplant the seedlings to the fence if they come out strong.
I tried to switch up the hugelkultur beds—if it had tomatoes last year, I moved in carrots and lettuce instead. Cabbage is with the onions; broccoli is minding its own business. I had done some lasagna method layering back in the fall with newspaper and straw and then I fluffed it all up last month. It didn’t break down completely but all the seeds I’ve tossed on top seem to quickly root and sprout up.
Over in the topsoil/compost area the beans look happy (they always do in the beginning) and I’ve got more hot peppers than I know what to do with—I think I was suckered in by the writing on the back of the package, pairs wonderfully with couscous! Dang you, Baker Creek heirloom seed marketing team. I even planted corn for Joe in the best part of the garden—love is sacrifice, no? We will see how it grows.
I am stuffing bits of cardboard along the edge of my fencing to smother the weeds that want to join the fun. If I can just keep ahead of the weeds!
Last year I sprinkled a wild flower mix between the corn and sunflowers because we were going to set up our beehive by the garden. (This was idealistic, Colorado thinking at its best. Who in their right Midwest mind sprinkles glorified weeds in their vegetable garden?! In the mountains, it made sense.) Well, we ended up with the bees by the back barn but now the second year perennial flowers are popping up. I’ve got Sweet William and Siberian wallflowers and daisies—only one variety is worth keeping.
I am so tickled to be out of school for summer. I was working my tail off and getting discouraged with the politics and educational misnomers. It is a breath of fresh air to make food and wash dishes and weed the garden. I stay up late and watch NBA finals with Jubal and read books out loud on the porch (Henry and Beezus). Luke is channeling his inner John Hartford. Jubal is giving guitar lessons. FC turns on the Korg and will play all day if I don’t holler at him to turn it off. Gretty has been picking out Boil That Cabbage Down on her tiny fiddle. And if they do all the music and their chores I let them play Minecraft and Star Wars on the PS4. Maybe. (Ha.)
It is tulip time and lovely weather and I’m in bed instead of my messy basement music room at school.
It is difficult to take a day off when sick, because I have the mom mentality of must-push-through. I am guilt-ridden even when sick because getting a substitute teacher is not exactly a promise. It’s more likely they split the classes and make the remaining teachers bear the load. So as I lay in bed I feel worse because my favorite art teacher will have 50% more of a class to teach, and might even have to toss her lesson plans out so she can manage the chaos.
It should not be like this at school. Chaos management should not be the goal. Four weeks…I can do anything for four weeks!
Isn’t incredible how there are such beautiful things still in this world even as people go from bad to worse (2 Tim. 3:13)? Isn’t it fantastic how flowers bloom even as creation is subjected to frustration and groans like it’s in childbirth (Romans 8)?
We just had tornadoes rip through the Midwest and all the ranunculus roots held fast? Brilliant.
I sprinkled poppy seeds in the garden by the peas, and dahlia and zinnia seeds around the tulips. We took a day trip to Mansfield to visit Baker Creek and the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. I think I’m getting old because I trust internet shopping less and less. I’d rather drive two hours to buy seeds than order things to be delivered to my house.
But Baker’s Creek was worth the trip (of course) and would make me jealous of the work that goes on there…except! I know their work is back-breaking. They test and try hundreds of seeds. They don’t just grow and go. I am very interested in the only-sow-what-I-can-handle method. Still, it’s beautiful and a great experience and if I had to recommend a what-to-do-in-Missouri trip, this would be top of the list.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder museum is another thumbs up, but it is not free entrance. She was in her sixties when she began writing her embellished childhood memoirs. I would’ve meandered more, but we had ice cream to get to and seeds to bring home and plant.
Last week as I led the kindergartners onto the stage for the first time, I expected them to be a little awestruck by the lights, the risers, the microphones. It was just a little rehearsal to get comfortable with the auditorium (and to learn the valuable lesson of not getting too close to the front of the stage). I didn’t expect for a handful of them to gasp and offer, “it’s just like Papageno!”
They really loved that Mozart unit. We really went into the weeds when we studied it, lots of little rabbit trails over to Ben Franklin and his glass armonica and all the contemporary issues of the day; lice, hygiene, clean water, etc. We touched on Requiem and child prodigies, but we sank our teeth into the opera. It was Grieg, and now we have moved on to Prokofiev (Peter and the Wolf) and Sant Saens (did I spell it right? Carnival of Animals). Dipping our toes here and there.
This is what makes me saddest about public school, if I’m being honest. Even the squirrelly kids are curious and have the desire, when little, to learn and love learning—that tangible, soak it up stuff. But we wean them right off of it by offering the tantalizing tablets and laptops and brain-chemistry-altering “tailored” education by way of standardized, computerized testing and diagnostics.
And then a whole new problem is created where a kid has an attention span of 0.4 seconds and must be “positively reinforced” by gaming tokens or cat stacking and insipid “brain breaks.” My six year old came home and told me they watch ASMR videos on YouTube to relax before they’re dismissed to the buses or car rider line. Are you kidding me? No wonder classroom management is a joke and kids are ruder than ever. They’re used to calling the shots and are completely surprised when an adult erects boundaries, corrects them, or expects them to do anything that requires stamina or effort.
I do think the year I’ve spent teaching has been valuable to the students. Co-workers are asking why I am leaving and it makes me sad. I love the teaching part. In fact, to think I’ve gone to the work of meeting and making relationships with this many kids, let alone getting them to sing comfortably, simply by starting a song off (in the beginning they looked at me as if I had a third eyeball)—this is something I don’t want to shrivel up and die. But I cannot continue to teach at the level I’d like when the standards for behavior (parents included here) and the curricular approach are so opposed to what is natural.
Teachers who want to teach from their own fountain cannot follow the rules of school these days. We have to paint with a wider brush. We of the “painting” variety need time to plan and create and come up with our own flavor of passionate teaching. Another way of saying this is: kids hate testing and aren’t learning better (I reckon it’s actually worse) by one-to-one devices. Now that I’ve seen it from the inside and have the advantage of not being absolutely dependent on the job—I feel obligated to cross the bridge between teacher to administration and parent.
But first—St. Patrick’s Day! Ha. The kindergartners and first graders sang three songs (a One Bottle Pop/Fish and Chips/Don’t Chuck Your Muck round, Lucky Leprechaun, and All I Really Need—a Raffi classic) last Wednesday for a mini-concert during the day. I had no idea how difficult risers were to put up and take down. I’m already regretting I said I’d do another concert in April. But if we pull it off it will be epic. It’s a rain-themed bunch of songs and I’m hoping some high schoolers can accompany us for the CCR song.
We are waiting out a freezing spell on Honey Creek. Flowers are covered; peas and beets and poppy seeds are at the mercy of the Creator. I’m not worried because it’s doubtful they germinated before the cold set in. We did get some seeds in the plastic trays. GK potted some flowers and tomatoes and put them in a recycled croissant container for a little bedroom greenhouse. I’m trying to force some ranunculus inside in a pot along with some allium and tulips just for kicks. The ranunculus love it; the other two are reluctant.
I love those packages that urge me to get a head start and sprout them inside 6-8 weeks before last frost. Even though I’m not the most faithful of indoor sowing and watering . It’s still nice to see something pop up.
We are on the cusp of spring. I am watching the two littlest play on the trampoline. It is incredible to see a little girl in a faux pink fur coat, rolling and tackling her big brother. If I weren’t a touch grossed out by girls competing in the sport of wrestling, I would give her a fair shot. She is as spicy as they come and not even one bit afraid of getting hurt.
We are past the one hundredth day of school. There have been high school basketball games and pep band and elementary after school choir practice. The middle boys are practicing for an upcoming knowledge bowl competition. I got to moderate my first high school quad, which is as nerdy and fun as it sounds.
I have put in my resignation as music teacher. It makes me sad because I love it so much and I’m getting better every single day. But it’s added too much to my plate (understatement) and I am truly under qualified for the position. If I stayed, the administration would eventually (and rightfully) require me to pass a music test. They need to go ahead and find someone who is trained for the spot. Two years have gone by now without a qualified music teacher. If I stay they would continue to be happy and unaware…I guess I’m trying to be responsible and force things to come to a head for the benefit of our students.
I started some ranunculus in the basement in January. Last year was such a ranunculus flop because I just soaked the corms and plopped them in the ground, basically setting them up to rot. Who knew it took such a gentle touch? One of the kids remarked that as delicate as the process is, and if they can’t regenerate naturally, ranunculus ought to have died out a long time ago. I think I agree. My Successful Gardening book doesn’t even list ranunculus as a corm, but a tuber. So I’m pretty much in the dark here…
As were my little corm friends. I soaked them and stuck them in a shallow tray of soil and popped them in the basement. After two and a half weeks, about half of them had sprouted or grown tender little roots. A quarter of them were moldy. Another quarter were dried out.
I planted the sprouted corms and covered them with the heavy black landscape material. Then I re-soaked the dry ones and patted them back into the dirt tray. Since then, a few more have sprouted. I didn’t even bother putting the trays back in the basement, but left them in the front entryway in full sun. They have done fine—I think it’s more important they just get a head start in cold, but not frozen, simulated ground.
Can you tell I love the pioneer style of figuring out plants instead of using science? Ha.
Some folks are back to school today; we are not. Thank goodness. I am hyping myself up for the second semester and trying to plan a start to what I hope turns out to be promising, fulfilling fun for kids and teachers (me) alike.
See also: don’t over-plan or over-expect. I got an idea, a flash of brilliance, this morning as I took a shower; I remembered a substitute teacher or two that came in last semester and they were of the piano-playing, accompanying ilk. I could bring them on board and they could help me with rehearsals! Fingers crossed that I can drum up help.
Only a year or so ago I was too shy to call people up and ask for help, but now I see it more or less as an emergency phone call, not unlike 911. I don’t hesitate or worry about my awkward rambling questions—I just instinctively dial the number. I need to remember the chutzpah this job has demanded I acquire…I am sure it will serve me well in future endeavors.
We have been, overall, plagued with sickness throughout the entire Christmas break. There have only been two days where I was moderately confident we weren’t sick, and then we were back to hacking and fevers within hours. I keep assuring myself and the family it is good to get it all over with while we are not in school or working. But it’s been pretty awful.
On the other hand we’ve had a couple days of beautiful spring-ish weather where I tackled the flower bed on the west side of the house.
It isn’t a flower bed at all, actually. When we first bought the house, there was a big patch to the west side bordered by limestone bedrock, covered with red mulch. It was kind of weird, like the previous owners were trying to hide a big ugly spot so they just dumped landscaping mulch and spread it under the trellised pergola porch that held up a massive wisteria vine. After we bought the place and asked what was up with the bed, the owners told us it had been a sort of garden bed of Martha’s and she’d grown flowers and strawberries along the retaining wall that led down to the garage. After I expressed a teeny bit of disappointment, they apologized for covering it up with landscape material.
As soon as we moved into the house we dug into the deep mulch (sometimes nearly a foot deep), cut a hole in the black landscape plastic, and hit some nice soil. We immediately planted celosia, tomatoes, okra, pumpkin and zucchini. It was a wonderful, weed-free situation, for the most part. But once in awhile I would cut down through the landscape fabric and hit a rock. Then I’d have to move, dig a foot of mulch out of the way, cut a random spot and hope I didn’t hit rock again. It was getting exhausting, the fabric now had holes, weeds were coming through, and more weeds were beginning to seed themselves in the mulch. I needed to know what was under there.
Last year as I made the backyard garden I moved loads and loads of the red much to make walkways and dress vegetables. They say red mulch is no good for gardens because of the dye that leaches into the soil but after a year, ours was decomposing rapidly—it was practically soil at the bottom of the mulch near the black fabric—so I took my chances. Plus, moving the mulch was still cheaper than buying a new truckload. In the back garden it had been amazing for weed control around the veggies. I’m a big fan of red mulch now, and thankful the owners left if for me to manage.
Later, as I had time and energy, I pulled back the old landscape material and put in strawberries, tulips, and eventually radishes, tomatoes, peas, etc. Everything was doing so fantastic I decided I needed to go ahead and excavate the rest of the red mulch, pull up the landscape fabric, and check out the soil situation so I could have a full-on flower garden, the likes of which Martha would be proud.
So this has been our weekend project, pulling up the old fabric, moving the rest of the mulch to the original bed, and laying the fabric back down on top for now to dissuade Minnie from previously planted tulip bulbs (which have already been fooled into thinking it’s spring by this crazy back and forth weather) and to allow for more decomposition before I put in more corms or seeds or whatever suits my fancy. I have had luck buying close out bulbs and seeds this time of year because most (smart) gardeners put their stuff in the ground to overwinter. However, it seems like we always get a good weekend or two in December or January where I can sneak in some bulbs who don’t know any better, nor do they care if they’ve been in the ground 20 weeks or ten. So I get them half price, sometimes discounted even lower. Risky business!
This weekend, we stumbled on several clumps of tulip bulbs and went ahead and separated and replanted them—just enough of a taste of spring in January to keep me and Gretty going! We also added some garlic with the hopes it will also make Minnie mind her own beeswax and maybe it’ll be a nice succession planting.
I’m sure I will have to order a new load of mulch to cover these spring flowers (and veggies) but I’m really thrilled I got by the last couple years, making the most of the original mulch and already-installed landscape fabric. I was looking online at buying fabric pre-cut with holes and a 50 yard roll is not cheap!
Here is an article on lasagna gardening that has been fun to read as we have begun a new worm bin with our January crop of worms (lots having babies in the west flower bed?!) and are debating whether or not to put plastic or tarp over the hugelkulturs in the back to speed up the decomposing. I hadn’t fully thought out the whys of green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) compost, but it makes complete sense, even in the worm bin and controlling the smell.
It never fails we are sick over Thanksgiving—at least some of us, if not all of us. I actually appreciate this foreknowledge because it goes right along with my approach to life: don’t plan things. Planned things tend to pack their bags with expectations, all of them quite lofty. We are better off when pleasantly surprised rather than outrageously disappointed. Once I planned a trip to Hawaii and within weeks of our flight, Covid-19 happened. Never again! I am convinced now that my planning must be conservative and only ever whispered, if ever born.
But. I am planning to have a thousand tulips pop up in April, something dependable on Honey Creek. The effort of planting is minimal and the effect is so maximal. I see it more as an investment. I am deciding on the top flowers I love (not roses or things that are woody, thorny or burr-y) and only putting those in the ground. Things that burst up and out in hoards. GK and I need more flowers. More!
I am slowly cleaning up the garden—much easier after it all dies, freezes and thaws a couple times. The hugelkultur system we made with mounding the beds worked like a dream this past growing season, but we need to add some nutrients rather than letting it all sit. I’d bought straw bales last February or March with the intention of planting in them. They were not quite broken down enough to do really well—I got tomatoes and cucumbers to grow in straw bales, but it wasn’t a smashing success. If I had let them sit for a whole year before planting, it would’ve been better.
Straw bale growing was developed more for folks who don’t have great soil or space or lack other resources. (In some countries, poor farmers are encouraged to urinate on the straw bales to add nitrogen!) We first saw people growing successfully in bales (not urinating on them, btw) when we lived in southwest Colorado. I wanted to give it a go just to experiment, but our soil and climate is so suited for growing that there’s really no reason to rely on it.
So I’ve been forking the partly-decomposed straw bales over the hugelkultur mounds, layering it with leaves and newspaper. Our resident 5th grader gets the local paper at school and usually brings me home three or four copies a week (“I know how much you love to read the newspaper, Mom,” lol). We will see how this lasagna method works for composting and enriching the soil. It should break down quickly. *This gardener, who freely bashes every method of gardening, is resentfully tolerant, so it’s a go for me.
The most beautiful people live where the tomatoes taste good. I have thought about this for much time. I am telling you, it is the only philosophy. Vivi dove i pomodorisono buoni… once you have learned this, you cannot go back. It is the ultimate truth.
October is showing off this season and so are my tomatoes. Who knew they’d keep coming and coming? Last year I had buckets of green ones but this year they’re doing me a favor and turning red. It’s great, I just don’t have time to process them. While I was out picking (weatherman is threatening me with frost) I gathered the last of my purple piñata peppers. They’re looking extra spooky right now. I really am super tickled with our pepper situation. This year we toyed with the idea of taking veggies to a farmers’ market. Maybe next year?
Today we visited the nursing home and played and sang a few songs. Something about the unintentional acoustics of the dining room? Makes us sound extra awesome.
I’m trying to meet and get to know the workers and residents there before I show up with some kids from school. The plan is to take students who are well-behaved on a special little singing trip once a month. Now, if I could just get these kids to sing?! It’s incredible how hard it is to talk many of them into singing (and dancing!)—one of the more pleasurable things to do in life, I think, but somehow our culture has told them it is embarrassing and best left to professionals. I blame it all on the internet.
Tyler Swick and Mr. Henry are saving my tailbone in music class. They create lots of fun YouTube things that let me plan plenty of spin-off material with my older students. We watch the video, learn a rhythm, play along. Then the next time I see them we translate the song to paper on a grand staff. I frantically explain meter, time signature, treble vs. bass, all the notes, etc. and watch as the interest wanes. I hate that half of the battle is engagement. I’m telling you, it’s like many of these kiddos have a sand timer ticking in their brain and all of the sand drains out after two minutes. Another teacher said it—I feel like I have to be a monkey and sing and dance to get their attention. They want to be entertained. I mean, of course they do! This is what they’ve been taught is normal. It’s sad. I’ve said it before on The Average Pearl—the reason public school fails, if it fails, is because parents failed first. It makes me feel sick. Sick for them, sick for the future. That cell phone/tablet/screen pacifier is a beast to wean them off—and it turns out the weaning job has been handed off to innocent teachers. Talk about in loco parentis.
The other thing I am noticing, 8 weeks in, is the faux-attitude of parents supporting teachers. Lots of parents do genuinely care. But some are just waiting for a kid to come home, drop some miscommunication or half-truth, and light a verbal bomb. When I asked another teacher what to do in such a situation, she sighed and said, “these days, there’s really nothing you can do. Parents don’t want to hear it. It’s always our fault, never the child’s. It doesn’t do any good to tell the parents their child is causing problems—no one believes us anymore. We’re the bad guys.”
I find this pretty accurate. Parent-teacher conferences are coming up and I’m ready to bring in the big dogs—Panera and Starbucks gift cards, cookies, you name it. It was a rough enough week last week that I bought a banana split on my way home to share with Joe. It did make things better.
Anyway, I don’t know where I’m going with this, just taking notes for the time being. If I were to split a book into sections, this section would be called Great Expectations. I’m trying to set the students up for success, but it is really up to them. I’m thinking maybe I should open a seasonal bakery on the farm and say to heck with the rest of the world.
One day a couple weeks ago I asked Jubal if he wanted to stick his usual oatmeal cream pie in his backpack for an after school-before ball practice snack.
“You know,” he said, “I actually eat my oatmeal cream pie right after band. It gets rid of my trombone breath.” I wish I was still uploading At Home Ed cartoons because it’s made me laugh ever since.
Something about a seventh grade boy makes me feel like all will be well in the world. That’s opposite of how I felt before I had a seventh grade boy. I was nervous for him because I assumed he was a little version of me. I tell my six graders in class to stop touching each other all the time and recently I paused after saying it and thought aloud, “why in the world would you want to touch each other? I hated it when people touched me when I was in middle school!” Really? Why? They asked. Well, it’s because I was a hot anxious mess, that’s why. I was hyper aware of everything: worried my hair was messy and gross, worried I was too sweaty, too hairy, too loud. Obsessed with drawing the wrong kind of attention or getting teased. On edge. Life made me very, very uncomfortable and very, very aware of it all. “So stop touching each other! Not everyone likes to be touched!” I finished.
I’m a great, super reasonable teacher. At least I think I got their sympathy and a surprise free therapy session for me. Ha.
We are raking up our September garden on the weekends. Cosmos are dying, gomphrena is thriving, celosia is dropping seeds and looking lovely, dahlias are magnificent (even if poorly staked). All in all, I am tickled. I’m ready to move on, get some layers going in the garden, and plan to put in a bunch of tulips in October.
The pumpkins we’ve neglected on the vine have been infiltrated by squash borers. They are a little creepy but I say ‘tis the season.
The tomatoes are having a heyday. My little cherry tomatoes are squeaking in last week of September but I did plant them as seeds in July I think so I am not complaining. Why oh why do I ever begin seeds inside in the dead of winter? Just to torture them and myself.
I do love little tomatoes (and the biggies). You’d think I’d eat them all the time for a snack, but I mostly eat them in salads and I haven’t had a lot of time to make them lately. While I was off school yesterday for pinkeye (thanks to those dirty kindergartners who all make me open their milk cartons during lunch duty) I worked on a tomato project.
Sun-Dried/Oven-Dried Cherry Tomatoes
All your cherry tomatoes
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Slice tomatoes in half, arrange cut side up on pan. You may crowd the pan; they shrink a lot. Sprinkle on salt. Dry at 210 degrees for several hours until nice and chewy.
I’m sure this would work in my air fryer but it might cause a sticky mess. Plus parchment likes to burn in an air fryer. It’s easier to cram a bunch on a sheet tray and go on with life for a few hours.
Flying by the seat of my pants has always lessened the anxiety I feel in life. I think it’s the real key to enjoying everything: don’t over-plan, don’t over-stress, and always always have low expectations.
My music teacher days are filled to the brim with flying by the seat of my pants. I knew some of it would be this way, but I didn’t expect how much I’d love it. I need more hours in the week but at the same time I’m bone tired in the very best way possible. Even if there were more hours I’d spend them sleeping, not cutting out cute little pumpkins or working on laminating centers activities.
I knew (and know) a few people who do this teacher thing and are always complaining. I am not there yet, thank goodness, and I don’t plan on ever arriving. We have kiddos who come to school from an absolute mess at home, or with a terrible, self-defeating attitude, or are the product of caregivers who are at their rope’s end. I’m even more grateful for my upbringing and the wisdom that’s come as a grown adult. I did not jump into the deep end unwittingly, and I’m so glad. It would really stink to imagine a class full of obedient, darling children and then be handed all sorts of belligerent, disagreeable, chaotic elementary kids. There are plenty of both. I’ve had standoffs with kids who refuse to hand me the mallet once xylophone time is over. Kids who have no concept of personal space, and kids who are so exhausted from late night living (your kids need more sleep, parents! Put them to bed at a decent hour!) that they wallow on the carpet like puppies. Kids who refuse to work with a partner (“we hate each other,” the nine-year-old said matter-of-factly, to which I replied, “it doesn’t matter, she’s your partner. Go sit in the corner and get used to feeling lonely, because that’s what life’s gonna be like for you if you can’t get along with people”). Kids who sulk and walk silent, threatening circles around me because I didn’t immediately let them disrespect me.
Then I have the lovelies who stare, gaping and thrilled when I bust out the autoharp, or the old typewriter, or the ukuleles. This is what it is about—all of it. For the former, I get to be an adult who cares about them enough to challenge them to grow into a decent human being. For the latter, I get to show them how learning is awesome and opens worlds of fun.
These are from my cypress vines. I planted two seeds along the deck on the house and a couple to trellis on the arbor near the garden. After we pruned back the wisteria on the deck I had hoped for something a little less destructively invasive, so I gave these a go. The leaves are feathery and light and the blooms are so fun! The hummingbirds love it, and I love having hummingbirds back around without a sticky red bird feeder.
We will see if I still love it next year, if and when it reseeds itself. The wisteria is always threatening to make a furious rebound, which makes me fear for the deck itself. I keep thinking about the annoying ivy character from Darkwing Duck—Dr. Bushroot?! (Confirmed. Though the internet wants to convince me his evil was born out of loneliness, not malicious intent.)
I’m working on a lasagna compost idea, but first I need to do some heavy weeding. Squash borers have infested my pumpkins—and I’d been so good about removing those plants to prevent the spread! Oh well. We have a good run. The idea is to get more cardboard to lay down on top of the decomposing plant matter. I don’t know it it’ll work in the hugelkulturs—I’ve been re-mounding them with straw after I pull up the bed. (The straw bales I’d bought in Spring didn’t work as well as I’d thought than just the soil for sowing seeds. Back in Colorado I was always impressed by one neighbor who regularly planted all his garden in bales, but I should’ve known not to bother since the climate and soil here is so great for plant life.)
My tomatoes this year leave a lot to be desired when I compare my summer luck to last year. Of course, the situation is completely different. For one, I planted extremely invasive cosmos alongside my tomato plants, which basically shaded and blocked out a good deal of sun for my Big Boys. I don’t really know what I was thinking. I’m pretty sure I was thinking to plant marigolds alongside the tomatoes, so what might have happened is the kids were helping. The good news is that I like cosmos, too.
Me and invasive plants seem to have a good thing going, or at least we are reliably ignorant co-conspirators.
I’ve been more interested in growing a bigger variety of vegetables this year anyway. I’m always happily shocked at how well everything is doing, and how lucky we are to be getting winter squash at the beginning of August. It feels so strange!
We are very French and turn every squash into soup first off, almost before eating it in casseroles or stuffed or sautéed. I had a friend in Durango who fed me soup and I was amazed to find it was zucchini. No one in my life prior had ever made zucchini soup. But if you sauté onions in butter and add your squash, salt, pepper and some chicken stock, you can purée it into the most delicious soup. (A little cream won’t hurt.) So we’ve had summer squash soup and butternut squash soup on even the hottest days. Maybe we’ve been partial to this method this summer since we’ve been dragging the sore throat sick bug out for weeks. The Instant Pot is a whiz at making it simple and not heating up the whole house.
I started pretty much all but a couple tomato plants by direct-seeding them. Of the plants I began inside in March, I bet only two or three have made themselves at home in my garden, one being a cabbage and the other a kale. Even my tomatoes have done better direct-sown in June. Isn’t that something? I’m not going to wear myself out next spring.