Bzzzz September 19th, 2007

I actually woke up at 1:30 a.m. remembering to move the weather command unit to higher ground in hopes of catching Uncle Sam’s radio signal with the time.

Actually, my mind is racing trying to keep up with everything going on these days. Too much work. Too much work. Too much work. It gives a whole new meaning to this busy as a bumblebee thing.



Given how fast life is these days I was happy to receive my welcome letter today from Nell Wright over at Slow Food USA, which I recently joined. I’m not complaining, mind you, but I did find it interesting that it took about a week for the email to get here.

I joined Slow Food USA in hopes of learning more about the foods I eat, but also in the hopes of finding others around these parts interested in the idea of good, wholesome food, carefully and lovingly prepared and enjoyed.

See, even after about nine years here in rural Calvert County I’m not all that widely networked with my neighbors. I travel too much and I work from a home office. Unless someone comes pounding on my door with a package delivery or I run across them regularly on my errands, I don’t really get the chance to meet many people here. My local network consists mostly of the folks at the nursery (who mostly know me for my love of mulch) the wine guy (who mostly knows me for my love of wine) and the nice people at our little post office (who mostly know me for the impressive quantity of mail order catalogs that I receive).

I also haven’t run across too many people on those errands that share my interests, particularly in slow foods. I mean, I am one of those throwbacks who actually cooks dinner every night so we can sit down for a family dinner. It usually takes one to two hours for the preparation and cooking. I also am making my own cheese and have pretty much given up buying store-bought bread in lieu of making it myself, although that’s usually in the bread machine. (Note to self: Ask the Slow Foods people “How slow is slow?”) How do you find people these days who share an interest in cooking with good ingredients, particularly when you live in the middle of nowhere?

I don’t know about where you live, but out here it’s appalling what I see people tossing into their grocery basket. I see families with kids, God bless ‘em, with little more than frozen pizzas, ramen noodles and sugary cereals piled up in their grocery cart. And I can’t help but notice the correlation between the nightmares in folks’ shopping carts and their, well, shall we say their impressive girth?

And some purchases just don’t make sense given that you can accomplish the same thing at home with a minimum of effort. Don’t these people KNOW you can make tea yourself with boiling water and some cheap teabags? You don’t NEED someone in Arizona (or pretending they’re in Arizona) to boil it up, sugar it up and bottle it up. You can even just stick those bags in a bottle of water in the sun and—VOILA—sun tea!

I just want to holler sometimes.

Clearly, the stress of work is getting to me that I’m worried about Arizona Tea here at 2 a.m.

Gotta get a life here soon…

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Bzzzz September 13th, 2007

In the spirit of continuous improvement, I offer some reflections on the things I learned from gardening this summer. I also ask that you share what YOU learned this summer!

1) I am getting older. (GASP!)
For now, let’s not talk about the creams, serums, elixirs and magic skin doctors, aestheticians and hair specialists that are on extravagant retainers to keep this leaky boat afloat.

bee-balm-06.20.07.gifFor the garden, this ceaseless march of time means that the heavy lifting of potted trees, long and sweaty days of manual labor in 95 degree heat without rest and the improper bending are taking more of a toll than they did even five years ago. Although the grand visions of a verdant green estate with sweeping swaths of flowers and luscious vegetables continue to escalate in my mind, the fact is that I need to think more seriously about ways to lower the overall maintenance of my garden as is continues to grow. Adding fuel to this notion is the fact that the demands of my work mean that planes, trains and automobiles whisk me away from where my garden work is. I simply must simplify.

2) We cannot possibly eat all the vegetables I produce around here. To be more accurate, we cannot eat all the tomatoes and peppers we grow around here.

For the past couple of years I have been converting vegetable space to flower space. This was a good thing. The garden is more beautiful as a result. But I continue to make the mistake of planting too much of one thing and not putting in a wide enough variety. Does a family of three really need FIVE Brandywine tomato plants? Couldn’t we do with one Brandywine, one Cherokee purple and perhaps a couple of others that Hanna will recommend based on her extensive experimentation? And couldn’t I do with only one mound of cucumbers, substituting some tomatillas instead?

I suppose my mistake is based on the novice gardener’s worry that something will die. I need some backup Brandywines, right?

Perhaps now that I have a bit of experience under my belt, I can throw caution to the wind in ’08 and try a wider variety.

3) I cannot count on my local garden center to have what I want and, thus, must take matters into my own hands. I rather knew this going into my summer season, which is why I ordered this fabulous light garden to start my own plants. I found that last year I couldn’t rely on them to get anything other than the same old hybrid tomatoes. And who wants the same old petunias, impatiens and salvia that everyone else has in their garden? How about those cock’s comb? What about some fabulous black hollyhocks? (Okay, they didn’t actually grow, but that’s beside the point.) What about bachelor’s buttons, pink spiked cleosa or Chinese forget-me-nots?

Light%20Garden.jpgI was reminded of this fact yet again when I traipsed down to the garden center this past weekend with my fingers crossed. My ceaseless business travel meant that my good intentions of starting cabbages, collards, lettuces, leeks and such didn’t actually happen. What did they have at the garden center? Nada. Now look at me. Nothing to plant for the fall. This weekend will be spent traveling hither and yon looking for bedding plants.


4) My interest in topics related to sustainability, organic living, locally grown foods and other environmental issues has grown exponentially. All my life I have been an avid reader of fiction. Now I cannot get enough of reading about gardens, birds, organic alternatives, slow food, massive experiments in alternative organic living and local food eating.

My family worries that I am stepping a bit too close to the edge for their comfort. When I recently suggested to my husband that we needed to look for Maryland rather than Washington apples, he looked as if I had slapped him. My son wouldn’t hear of giving up his UPS delivered Omaha steaks in lieu of butternut squash patties. When I talk about reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, their eyes glaze over.

When I trade in my St. John suits for muslin jumpers, I believe they will stage an intervention.

5) There is a fabulous community of gardeners out there who write and read garden blogs. They have helped me to identify plants, butterflies and bugs. They have provided moral support when my spirits were flagging and the weeds were winning. They have provided a chuckle when I needed it. They have given me dangerous ideas (according to my family, anyway).

When I divulge my interest in blogging about gardens, I explain that it’s like taking a walk around the block and looking over my neighbor’s fences to see how their gardens grow. In turn, they come to visit mine. We don’t trade zucchini for cucumbers or borrow each others’ power tools, but we do share everything else. How wonderful to have met such a truly big hearted group of people—that I didn’t even know I was going to meet!

Now, I’m not a big believer in memes, on the theory that it’s just too much pressure for the ordinary person. But I would truly love to hear what you have learned from gardening this summer. If you can manage, I would particularly love to hear from the people whose blogs are listed in the garden blogs section to the left here. And if your blog isn’t here, please do it anyway and make sure to let me know.

Your faithful gardener,

–Robin (Bumblebee)

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