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broodings from the burrow

July 8, 2018

first week of july garden update
posted by soe 1:31 am

First July Weekend in the Garden

Strawberries and peas are pretty much done for the season. I’ll pull out the pea vines this week and stop watering the strawberries.

Garden Flower

I harvested my first tomatoes today. They aren’t ripe, but they had their first hint of color and I’ve learned that if I leave them until they get ripe, squirrels take a bite out of them and then leave the rest. Cheeky buggers. So instead, these — one bigger one and two yellow grape tomatoes — will ripen on my counter. I also had to add some more stakes to my biggest tomato plant, which was leaning dangerously far into the pathway, despite already taking up two cages.

Squash Plant

I finally found a squash plant growing in my garden. I’d put down seeds for them and for beans last month.


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July 2, 2018

heatwave weekending
posted by soe 1:40 am

We Really Do Care

I know it’s summer, I know that means heat, I know no one wants to hear me complain. I will instead say that I am grateful for the ability to wear very little clothing, for air conditioning, and for the pool.

The weekend started out with a performances of Hamilton at the Kennedy Center. I enjoyed it quite a bit and thought the actors and dancers were excellent. The actor portraying the titular character is a better singer than Lin, so songs like “My Son,” were even better than the cast recording, and sad second-act events, while known to 80% of the audience, were portrayed so movingly, the cast had us all snuffling in our seats. We were fortunate to catch the tail end of the free Millennium Stage act before our show and emerged afterwards to a live karaoke battle.

Families Belong Together March

Yesterday, I headed to the Families Belong Together rally and march, where 30,000 or so people braved the unrelenting heat to express our outrage about recent inhumane treatment of immigrant and refugee families. The organizers did a great job of having large portable toilets that would work for families and disabled protesters, lots of screens and speakers, and several banks of gigantic water dispensers. I also saw the one of the local fire trucks was using its hose to provide a misting area. (I admit at first I worried they were using it as a water cannon, but then I saw kids running toward it and decided that it was a friendly move.)

Catalonian Dancing

Afterwards, since I had not managed to meet up with my friends and since I was already on the Mall and gross, I decided to check out the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, an annual festival where they highlight the cultures of various places around the world. This year, the regions were the Catalonia region of Spain and Armenia. I ate a Catalonian lunch of fava bean salad and Crema Catalana, the Spanish answer to creme brulée, before heading off to see the crafts, speakers, and demonstrations. Because the heat had kept so many people at home, you were able to get up close to every booth and practically every kid I saw was getting a hands-on lesson from artisans ranging from glasswork to pottery. Usually the festival is ridiculously crowded, even in the heat, so that was a real treat.

Lavash Baking

By five, though, it was all I could do to drag myself to the bus stop and sit there eagerly awaiting the nap and shower I thought I was heading home to. And then I remembered the garden. And how it hadn’t been watered. And how no rain was expected. And how I’d want a drink if I were growing there. So I dragged myself down there (and then on to the grocery store, since it was only another two blocks) and it was good I went because things were definitely starting to look parched.

Summer Solstice Torches

These are Catalonian torches used at the Summer Solstice to light bonfires. Every village has a unique design. The big ones are for adults and the small ones are for little kids. The dangling ones are meant to be swung in giant circles, kind of like when you swing a pail of water around.

Today, it was the farmers market and chores around the house and, later, an hour at the pool and then an hour at the park.

July 1 Garden

How was your weekend?

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June 20, 2018

father’s day weekend garden update
posted by soe 1:14 am

I realized while we were away that I’d neglected to water the garden before leaving and that, because for the first time in weeks no rain was expected, this could be a problem. I worried we’d return to discover that all the work I’d put into my plot during the spring had been undone in a single quartet of days. I was pleased to discover that my concerns had been unfounded. Nevertheless, my plants, much like my cats, were delighted to see our return.

Rudi had finished watering by the time I reached the garden after work on Monday, so all that was left to do was pick some peas and a head of lettuce, eat a couple alpine strawberries that had ripened in our absence, and admire what was growing:

Tomatoes (the top ones are biggest and we get progressively smaller):

June 19 Tomatoes


More Tomatoes

I have more than a dozen cherry tomato plants that will need transplanting from my office window this coming weekend. I do not currently have spots for this many plants, but Rudi assures me we’ll find room.

This weekend, I’ll also need to harvest some chard and some herbs, as well as more lettuce (hopefully harvesting lettuce will free up space for tomatoes…):


My potato patch (and maybe some peanuts) is doing well. I’ll need to add more dirt to it this weekend:

June 19 Potatoes

The beans I planted a week ago (no sign of the flowers or the squash yet):



Peppers to Be

Finally, to my delight, I found that my echinacea had re-seeded itself last year:


So far, this has definitely been my best gardening year to date. Having my big shade tree cut down certainly didn’t hurt, but I’d also like to think that some of it has come from all the learning (and prep) I did in my earlier years.

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June 13, 2018

pride weekend garden report
posted by soe 1:38 am

JUNE Garden

I spent several hours at the garden over the weekend, yanking out weeds, planting seeds, and harvesting vegetables. All the rain we’ve had has made my plot quite verdant, as you can see. (That’s from after all the weeding, if you can believe it.)

I pulled a plastic shopping bag’s worth of sorrel (which tonight Rudi turned into soup) and another of lettuce (three types, all of which become salads tomorrow). I also picked a handful of shelling peas and a couple strawberries.

My potato patch is full of greens, always a good sign, and I’ll need to mound the dirt back up when we get back.

Garden Tomatoes

One of my tomatoes has developed fruit that are now of actual cherry size. I’m just not sure if it’s a cherry tomato plant or one that still bas some growing ahead. I’ve got cages around several of them already, as well as the tomatillo, and expect to have to put up the rest for my peppers and the other tomatoes soon. The second batch of purple basil has taken (the first died in the floods we had last month) and the green will hopefully do better again now that I’ve thinned the sorrel and violets shading them.


My lavender is doing well, although it looks like tiny spiders are also enjoying the flowers. But man, do they make my plot smell nice! I try to step over that part of the garden, instead of walking around, just to encourage the scent!

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May 27, 2018

fresh from the garden
posted by soe 1:33 am



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May 22, 2018

mid-may garden update
posted by soe 1:05 am

Rudi and I headed by the garden Sunday evening, he to put down beer to entice the slugs away from our strawberries and I to plant my potatoes. We’d had seven straight days of rain by that point, so there would be no need to water, but pulling out some of the weeds, which had irritating flourished without sun, was necessary.

Mid-May Garden Scenes

I’m growing quite a jungle right now, particularly in contrast with this scene from ten weeks ago when I planted my peas.

Our slugs are not like the ones I grew up with, large and fat and out only on dewy mornings and rainy days. Ours are tiny, smaller than your pinky fingernail, and love to decimate delicate basil leaves and to hollow out strawberries. I learned after our first year of gardening to bite strawberries carefully if they looked like they had a tiny hole anywhere on them. So we put down peanut butter lids filled with cheap beer to encourage them to their drunken deaths instead.

I had two bags of seed potatoes I’d purchased earlier in the month, as well as sprouted potatoes and sweet potatoes from over the winter that I’d put aside for the garden. I also found some peanuts I’d bought but never planted, so I threw those into the back of the potato patch as well. Next week I’ll re-cover any errant potatoes that have been exposed to the air (no one loves the smell of rotting potatoes, except, apparently the squirrels who are awaiting tomato season by digging for buried treasure) and plant some beans to that section of the plot, in an attempt to grow upwards in the same space.

Mid-May Garden Scenes

My peas have reached navel height and will require additional supports this week. Still no pods, but plenty of flowers. If we don’t get hit with a prolonged heatwave, I’m optimistic about the season.

Mid-May Garden Scenes

My greens are flourishing. I’ve planted lettuces, spinach, kale, and arugula — both seeds and seedlings — before, but they’ve never done so well that I’ve been able to pick whole heads at a time, instead contenting myself with picking leaves off the plants before they bolted. This year, though, we’ve already harvested three heads of lettuce from the section above. That row of lettuces in the shot below will be thinned next week.

Mid-May Garden Scenes

Nearly all the basil we planted last week is gone, victim either to wildlife or seven inches of rainfall. I had two green basils survive, but we didn’t find any of the purple basil that Rudi had planted amidst the strawberries, so I’ll either need to buy new at the farmers market or see if I have any seeds to try starting them on my windowsill at work. (My tomato seedlings are growing well there now and will need to be repotted into individual containers within the next week. It may be that I started the seeds too late for this year, but it will have been an encouraging experiment, no matter the outcome.)

Soon, I’ll have to start thinking about what else I want to grow in the garden this year. I haven’t had a lot of luck with squash in the past, but this could a turning point, particularly since my plot has more sun this year. I’ll keep you updated!

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