Saturday, April 28, 2018

Plant Sales

I really hope you’re not getting tired of all of the plant related posts and pictures.  I’m justifying them by telling myself that most of you who read, or at least comment, regularly live in different regions, countries, or even continents, so hopefully I’m not showing you pictures of what you’re currently seeing in your own backyards.  It’s also my favorite time of year, and I get so excited over the plants and flowers.  This winter seems to have been particularly harsh and long, so I’m even more enthusiastic about plants and flowers than usual.

The local community college has a plant sale every year.  The horticulture program does it.  The plants are things the students have grown, and the money goes back into the horticulture program.  It’s one of the first places GrandMommy took me when she was cultivating my love of gardening.  I’ve gone every year since then (even though the first year going without her was really hard), and it’s something I look forward to every year.  They seem to have mostly vegetables, and the prices are better than the stores here, so it’s a great way to get the vegetable garden started every year.  The sale runs Thursday - Saturday, so I arranged to take a half day off of work yesterday so I could go plant shopping.

We’re changing things up a little bit with our garden this year; we’re scaling way back on the number of tomatoes we plant (we just don’t eat enough of them to justify the number I usually plant), we’re going to try growing corn this year (though it’s still early to plant it), we’re adding a few cucumber plants, and we’re trying a few eggplant plants.  We tried planting eggplant seeds last year, and absolutely nothing sprouted.  We think that’s probably because a certain three legged dog has a habit of rolling and digging in the raised beds, not because our yard isn’t eggplant friendly.  So we’re trying plants rather than seeds, in hopes that Duke won’t destroy those like we think he did the seeds.  We’re also sticking with planting kale, squash, and zucchini, from seeds.  We’ve had good results from that, and aren’t about to mess with a good thing.  The kale seeds are planted.  The squash and zucchini seeds with be planted either this weekend or next weekend.

So I had a pretty specific list when I went to the plant sale yesterday, which was good because I have a tendency to buy anything that looks interesting when it comes to plants.  Here’s what I bought: seedless cucumbers, a type of heirloom slicing tomatoes, eggplant, purple peppers (not on the list, but we like peppers, so I’ll find a spot for them), and two kinds of flowers (pink vincas and a lavender petunia).  I’m hoping the cucumbers do well because I really like the seedless ones, so it would be nice to grow our own.  Of course I’m interested to see how the eggplant does so we’ll know if we were right to blame Duke for last year’s eggplant failure.  I’m really excited about the purple peppers, just to have something a little different.  I’ve finally determined that when it comes to eating raw tomatoes I definitely prefer the heirloom/slicing variety.  I’m actually not a huge fan of Roma or cherry varieties.  Nick doesn’t have a preference other than not grape/cherry, so heirloom it is.

We also needed more garden soil, so we went to Lowe’s last night and bought several bags while we were there.  I had to look at the flowers, which leads to me buying flowers about 99.99 percent of the time.  We bought marigolds, yellow snapdragons, pink petunias, and these purple and yellow violas.  The violas were on the sale rack, even though they looked great to me.  I always check the sale rack. Sometimes the things on it clearly need a lot of attention, and I don’t buy those because I don’t have the skill set to nurse them back to health.  Sometimes, though, they seem to be on the sale rack just because the store may have a lot of them, and I’m delighted to buy those.  I’ve planted violas before, and they came back a second year, so I’m hoping these will too.  Even if they don’t I’m pretty to happy to have only spent $3.00 on flowers that were originally around $10.00.

Needless to say, we’ll be spending a large part of the weekend outside plating things, so I’ll probably have more flower pictures over the next few days.

How will you be spending your weekend?  Are you planting anything?  Have you been to any good plant sales lately?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Lilac Bush, Three Years Later

I usually love it when the “you have memories” notification comes up on Facebook.  Most of the time it’s kind of fun to see what was going on exactly a year, or several, ago.  Sometimes it’s a good way to measure progress and see how much has changed.

This picture popped up today, from three years ago.

In 2015, the attorneys in my office gave me a gift certificate to a local nursery for Administrative Professionals Day.  That was a good year in the yard, so I was delighted with the gift certificate.

One of the things I bought with it was a lilac bush to plant in front of the house.  I had forgotten how small it was when we first planted it.

As you can see from these pictures, taken today, it really has grown a lot in three years.

I really, really like the bush, so I’m very happy it’s doing so well.  It smells great, and I love the flowers on it.

So what about you?  Do you like lilacs?  Do you enjoy it when Facebook informs you of memories for a specific day?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

We Signed Up For A Produce Box

I’ve been slowly learning to like vegetables as an adult.  Fresh vegetables just didn’t feature much on the menu when I was growing up, so there were some I didn’t even try until the past few years. 

It’s also pretty easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to buying vegetables.  I love squash, zucchini, peppers, and onions.  It takes little effort and virtually no thought to use them, so I tend to automatically buy those.  I don’t always think about adding different vegetables to the mix, or trying new ones.

A few years ago we signed up for a CSA, and discovered a whole new world of vegetables.  For the first time in my life, I was planning meals around fresh produce, and trying lots of new vegetables.  We liked the CSA so much we signed up for it every year, and from May through October we picked up a box of fresh produce every week.  Our diet was definitely healthier during those months.  That’s also when I discovered that I love beets.

Unfortunately, the farm we bought our CSA from switched over to just wholesale, and we had a hard time finding another farm that was a good fit for us.  A lot of farms only offered full shares (which is too much for just two people), or didn’t have a pickup location that worked for us.  We decided we would just buy our produce from the grocery store and farmer’s markets, but vary what we bought.  That didn’t last very long, Before long, we were back to sticking with our old standbys.

Then I started reading about produce delivery services.  They seem to be becoming fairly popular.  The concept varies a little from company to company; some seem to be focused more on preventing food waste, some seem to be focused a little more on organic produce, and some seem to be very similar to a regular CSA, but with delivery.  It took some time, but I found one with fairly reasonable prices that delivers to us. 

Their focus seems to be organically grown, and sourcing produce as close to home as possible.  Obviously during some months there’s not much (anything?) being grown here, but they source the produce from farms as close to us as possible.  We signed up in February, and have been very happy with it so far.  I set up an account with a default delivery option, which for us is a small bin of mixed (fruit and vegetables) produce. 

We have the option to skip a week, which is nice for when we go out of town.  We also have the option to customize our bin.  There’s a small increase in price if we choose to customize, but it’s worth it to spend a few dollars more on a week we would otherwise be getting something that we just wouldn’t eat.  I’ve been trying not to customize much, unless there’s something we just truly do not like.  After all, a big part of why we’re doing this is to increase the variety of vegetables we eat.  I’m very happy to know that we’ll be able to customize our bin during the summer, though, when we’re usually inundated with certain things from our garden. 

The orders go in a week ahead of time, so that makes it easier to plan meals around what we’re getting.  It also helps me to know that there’s another bin coming every Sunday; it gives me more incentive to use up what’s on hand to make room for the new produce we have coming.  We’re definitely eating more fresh vegetables than we do when we don’t have some sort of subscription service, so I think it’s working out for us. 

What about you?  Do you enjoy a variety of vegetables?  Do you belong to a CSA, or have a produce delivery service?  Do you have to force or trick yourself into eating different vegetables?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Signs of Spring

For the purposes of this post, we’re just going to ignore today.  We’re not going to talk about the fact that it’s cold and windy, or the fact that it has rained all day long.  We’re going to pretend we’re not under a flood watch. 

Instead, we’re going to talk about Saturday, when it was sunny, warm, and gorgeous.  We spent almost the entire day in the yard.  We cut grass, trimmed bushes and vines, dug up the raised beds, and planted kale.  It’s still a little early to plant most things, but the kale seeds are planted, and the raised beds are ready for the other vegetables we’ll be planting in a few more weeks. 

The azaleas are in full bloom, and absolutely gorgeous.  The hammock is up and ready to be enjoyed.  Definite signs of spring! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Peonies Are Blooming

The weather may be crazy, but the peonies are blooming.   They’re holding their own in spite of the rain, wind, and crazy fluctuating temperatures. 

I absolutely love these flowers!  I think they’re beautiful, and they’re usually the beginning of the bushes in our yard blooming.  That always makes me happy.

What’s blooming where you are?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

We Babysat. Voluntarily!

So for most people that might not be worthy of a blog post title, but for us it’s a pretty big deal.  Nick and I don’t have kids, and usually aren’t kid people at all.  We’ve babysat once in the nearly eleven years we’ve been together. 

Our next door neighbors, who are the best neighbors in the world, have six kids.  Six funny, interesting, articulate, incredibly well behaved kids.  The entire family has been extremely nice to us the entire time we’ve lived here (or, in the case of the youngest three kids, since they’ve been born), and they’re just really great neighbors.  It seems like they’re always doing something nice for us, and we wanted to do something nice for them.  So we came up with the idea of offering to watch the kids.  We thought it might be nice for the adults (Lori and Steve) to go out for a nice evening while we provided a fun evening in for the kids.  They took us up on it, and scheduling worked out a few weekends ago.

We were pretty nervous.  It seemed like a big leap to go from never having watched a child together before to watching six at once.  Go big or go home, though, right?

We both tried to remember what we liked to do as kids, and what we liked and didn’t like about some of the people who babysat us over the years.  We also asked lots of people for ideas and suggestions on food choices and activities.   The things we remembered enjoying essentially came down to being given a choice about things (my control issues apparently aren’t anything new) and having different experiences and activities than what we had at home. 

We decided on tacos and pasta for dinner, and let them choose which, or both, they wanted to eat.  That seemed to go over well.  One of the boys even commented that coming over here was like going to a restaurant because you get to choose what you eat.  We had cupcakes, chocolate and vanilla, for dessert. 

For activities we let them pick out a couple of movies to watch, within the rules they have for movies.  And we decorated t-shirts.  We both loved painting t-shirts when we were kids.  I think puff paint must have been in its heyday then because we both remember that being the thing to do.  We opted for fabric markers instead of paint, but we bought everyone a plain white t-shirt (thanks to Google clarifying the sizes) and let everyone decorate their own shirt.  They seemed to enjoy it, and most of the kids wore their shirts home.  I’m assuming that means they liked them.

Lori and Steve said they had a nice evening, and the kids said they had a good time.  I really hope they did.  We did, even though we were exhausted the next day.  Cats and dogs require less energy!  We’re planning to offer to watch the kids again, maybe a few times a year, so please share any suggestions you may have for fun activities for them.  We freely admit to needing the help.

In case you’re wondering, the pictures in this post have absolutely nothing to do with us watching the kids.  I think it’s a gigantic “NO!!!!!!!!!!  Do. NOT. Even. Think. About. It.” to put pictures of someone else’s kids on the internet without their permission.  So I’m sharing a few more pictures from our visit to the arboretum in February.