I pretty much make it up as I go along. I planted an enormous amount of English thyme from seed a couple of years in a row. Never being able to waste a single life, I tediously transplanted every seedling. Now, many of the vegetables beds are edged with thyme plants. I would never live long enough to use all that thyme so I decided to cut each plant down to tidy little six-inch globes of cuttings. I spread the bushels all over my hay mulch around the potato plants in hopes of deterring both voles and Colorado potato beetles. I have no idea if it will work but who knows for sure? Perhaps all garden lore started in a similar fashion. It sure smells great nonetheless.
I am happy with the look of the newly trimmed herbs. They are sporting nice new growth instead of woody sticks.
The alpine strawberry crop is unbelievable. I have positioned a couple of stools strategically in the row so garden guests can eat as many as they want as comfortably as possible!
I did not net my fledgling blueberry bushes in a timely fashion so the catbirds are enjoying each one as it ripens. Marie told me that her husband, Danny Larsen, said his grandfather used to put raisins in the brim of his hat and catbirds would pick them off. I love that. It reminds me of feeding the seagulls potato chips on the ferry. They will take them directly from your hand as they fly alongside the boat.
I enjoyed all the red, white and blue last week. Several establishments went with the color theme in pots and window boxes; hobelia seemed to be the blue of choice. It is a lovely little plant but prefers shade and does need a severe haircut mid-summer. It can get quite untidy.
Sadly, the foxgloves have seen better days. If deadheaded to the next joint they will put out another bloom. It won’t be as stately but will give a bit more color in the shady border.
Because of the fungus attacking the impatiens recently, I’ve used wax begonias and coleus. I’ve been very happy with the results and do not miss the impatiens at all. Platycodon does quite well in partial shade as well. I do love a hosta mix of various sizes and colors. Beware, however, nothing is more desirable to deer. They can ruin an entire bed in one night. One of my workers is from Pennsylvania, home to most of the deer on the planet. Her still-gardening-86-year-old grandmother requested a gun for Christmas.
I made the year’s first batch of dilly beans. I’ve told you the recipe every year. Why should this year be any different?
If you are lucky enough to pick a couple of quarts of green beans, wash and snap them, peel a couple bulbs of garlic, and snip some dill heads. Boil one cup vinegar (I prefer apple cider) and three cups water, two tablespoons salt, and the cloves of garlic. Add the beans and dill to the hot mixture and bring back to a boil for a nano second. The beans should barely turn color and still be crisp. They will keep in the fridge for weeks. It is the only way Violet will eat green beans.
If you want to can up a batch for winter enjoyment, put the raw beans and dill into hot, sterilized jars, pour on the boiling vinegar mixture and process 10 minutes in a water bath canner. Thirty or so jars is not unreasonable. Our family could polish off a quart while waiting for supper.
I just started the Timothy Egan book, The Worst Hard Time, the untold story of those who survived the Great American Dust Bowl. It is a cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature. It tells of the environmental disaster through the eyes of those still living who lived through it and did not flee in John Steinbeckian fashion. The book is already making an impact on me, so rest assured, I will be sharing it with you in future columns.
Indulge me a retelling of a family story. My maternal grandfather, C.P. Armstrong spent the “dirty thirties” working on oil wells in Oklahoma. On his way home to Rew, Pennsylvania he had to stop to fix a flat tire outside Tulsa. He put his opened suitcase on the ground while rummaging in the trunk for the jack.
My teenage mother went upstairs after he’d started unpacking that suitcase to find a diamond-backed rattlesnake in the upstairs hallway. As you can imagine that trip home from Oklahoma is a big event in our family.
Oh, how I digress! I’m about to turn on Morning Joe and get the latest on the deteriorating situation in Egypt. On a lighter, albeit stupid note — how can Eliot Spitzer be criticized for his return to politics, given David Vitter and Mark Sandford?