Back Forty, butterbeans, fiber art, Greensboro North Carolina, More gardening, Rebel stitching

Here we go again

(Note: I forgot to click Publish when I wrote this on Monday night.)

The week before fall semester classes begin is always a huge adjustment. It feels like going from 0 to 60 suddenly. Gone are the quiet days with few people on the hallway. Now I get to meet about 30 new people and do some public speaking. I’ve come to think of this as my “Sanity Box,” a little box of magic that I can take out during a lunch or other break and just hem squares or stitch them together. No major thought is going into this. Just doing.

A lot of veggies and figs have to be dealt with also. I am much better this year than I have been most Augusts. I attribute this to adding fish oil and vitamin D to my daily supplements. My therapist had suggested the fish oil, and I was vitamin D deficient for a long time. I feel better physically and mentally, although I still tire very quickly. The muggy heat doesn’t help. Yesterday evening I picked tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, eggplants, and figs, then cooked for a couple of hours. I still have a lot of cucumbers and figs to do something with. I don’t want to get out the canning equipment – it just seems like too much for too little, and I am not a huge pickle or jelly fan – but I don’t want them to go to waste. This weekend I put some cucumber slices in with my tomatoes and peppers in the electric dehydrator. They came out wispy and delicate, like soft thin leaves. I might experiment with this more. Sandy and I are planning a repeat of making fig newtons this weekend. Last year he made some good ones, but he baked them on the wrong kind of pan. The filling was great, though.

The butterbeans are overwhelming at the UNCG garden. Very tall and thickly planted. There was a lot of Japanese beetle damage at first but I outplanted them, I think. Hardly any beans, though. I think that the intense heat wave in July stopped them from flowering. I hope they will produce soon so I can get some bean in the freezer before a heavy frost happens. I pulled up most of the eggplants and the lemon cucumber vines. I was tired of them and the eggplants were buried by the bermuda grass and peppermint that I lost control of very early on. Once the Roma tomatoes and one zephyr squash plant are done, which should be before the end of the month, I am abandoning that plot. However, I do think that the grass and mint may have helped hold in moisture during the dry spell when I was traveling.

Sandy and I walked downtown on First Friday, heard music with friends on Saturday, and went to the Greensboro Science Center and out to dinner with a dear out-of-town friend on Sunday. So we had a busy social time. This poodle at Gate City Yarns agrees that Sandy is great and tried to lick him clean.

Lord, I just want to sleep and play in the studio. Daydreaming about going to Ireland. All the books I want to read. Weaving with cloth strips keeps nagging at me to come back to it. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. How do people get bored at home?

Back Forty, More gardening, Permaculture

Back Forty Update

I have been absent from the blog lately. April seems so frantic at work that when I get home I want to read a book or garden or do something creative with my hands or just sit on the porch, where we have lost the wifi signal. I definitely don’t want to sit in front of a computer screen. I don’t even want to watch TV or movies, although we have been watching Outlander and American Gods this month.

Tomatoes and peppers and flowers are coming up in the greenhouse. I planted the leeks, onions, garlic, and chives last week. Bobbe gave me some walking onions and hardneck garlic so I will have three kinds of garlic and two kinds of onions.

April gardening

April gardening

I don’t usually get any fruits from my garden but I continue to try. The birds get all the blueberries as soon as they turn red (bush on left). We have to race the ants for the figs, but usually we are able to get some (bush on right). In between, I have planted a raspberry cane and two elderberry bushes. The seckel pear tree will probably get cut down this year, since it has some kind of disease and squirrels got all the pears before they were ripe anyway. If nothing else, I do feed the wildlife around here, even if it is unintentional.

For next year I am going to plant a lot more asparagus. I let this little bunch that survived the transfer from Wharton St. go to seed. The groundhogs don’t seem interested, so that means it gets a large space in next year’s plan.

Also in this photo: lots of foxgloves, feverfew, and peppermint. Again, this garden has been planned around what the groundhogs left alone last year. There are also evening primrose, one hollyhock, echinacea, and coreopsis.

April gardening

The pineberries that I transferred from Wharton St. last spring have gone stone cold crazy multiplying. There is some catnip on the corner that gets lots of visits from the neighborhood felines.

April gardening

As you can see in the background of these photos, lots of work is going on next door. They moved the garage back and closed it in, and now they are adding a room on the back of the house. We are going to put some of the many tomato seedlings, both volunteered and greenhouse raised, in the area next to the fence. I’m pretty sure that the neighbors nuked their side of the fence with herbicide so we will have to see how this goes.

April gardening

One good thing that came from the construction next door is that I was able to retrieve enough old bricks from their digging to build up my front hugelkultur bed another layer. Great, because the area in the front used to contain potted veggies and the ground beneath that is hard rubble. I planted a lot of mint in the most shallow layer. Chives went on the bottom too. They aren’t happy, but they will probably perk up. Just planted basil, borage, arnica, sunflowers, snapdragon, and milkweed seeds in the past couple of weeks. Some of these seeds were saved and I am just giving them a chance. My friend Anne gave me some clay balls with coriander and curry seeds embedded in them so they’re in there. This should look great by the time we get back from our vacation in May.

April gardening

The front shade garden is starting to look great! Funny story – a few weeks ago I overheard a friend of ours recommend someone to my husband who “would clean up all this and make it look real nice.” HA! I didn’t say anything.

April gardening

April gardening

Concentrating on the sunny side of the front garden now. Planted a eucalyptus here and a bunch of peppermint on the strip between my stone walk and the neighbor’s lawn on the other side of our house. This strip is actually on their kind of the property line. I plan to put potted pepper plants there too. I dug up a lot of the herbs from this side and transferred them to the hugelkultur bed, so it has room to grow.

April gardening

I leave you with this shot from their neighbor’s yard in the front. These bluebells were spared from the tilling and planting of their new grass, mainly because I don’t think that they know this strip is on their side of the line.

April gardening

At some point I may talk about something other than gardening, but I haven’t finished yet. I’ll leave it for later.

More gardening, Wonderfulness

Spring sprung: Flowers that multiply

Bloodroots are nearing the end of their blooming season. This is one that started with one clump of roots ages ago that I’ve divided and moved around. It multiplies beautifully and provides flowers at a time when little else blooms. They will grow in shade or sun.

This variegated solomon’s seal is perfect for this soggy spot where rainwater runs out of the gutter. A purchase of three plants about ten years ago now fills in an otherwise difficult shady wet spot in my front yard. The flower spikes and foliage is gorgeous. It is just now emerging from winter’s sleep.

Another successful planting from three perennial bulbs of grape hyacinth that I bought around ten years ago. It was getting stepped on and so I dug up the three clumps, divided the bulbs, and replanted along the sidewalk.

I’ve never been able to get a 100% positive ID on this flower, but you see it naturalized in many of the older yards around here, and it is my favorite sign of spring. I think that it is in the scilla family. One “natural” gardening website actually suggested eradicating it and said that she sprayed it with Roundup to no avail. Good for you, little squills. You show ’em who’s boss. (And NEVER EVER use Roundup, and don’t use the word “natural” if you do.) UPDATE: Identification made by Nancy in the comments: Ipheion uniflorum, AKA Spring starflower. Thank you!!!


All these are in the front garden that I’ve been developing over the past decade. Hellebores, hostas, foxgloves, and comfrey take up most of the rest of it.

Back Forty, butterbeans, More gardening, Permaculture, Slow Food

Back Forty Update

Hugelkultur bed with garden balsam

Lots of flowers are growing in this new hugelkultur bed in the front at the end of my driveway, along with lots of volunteer “mouse melons,” tiny watermelon-like fruits that taste like cucumbers. I’m using them as a ground cover – did not plant them. I believe that is a Juliet tomato there that I didn’t have room for anywhere else so I just popped it in there. It might be a Roma. There’s not any fertilizer in this bed. There is mint and parsley and feverfew and calendula. I’ve pulled out the ageratum in this photo. For next year’s bloom there is hollyhock and evening primrose, and the garden balsam blooming now which should reseed freely.

So many cherry tomatoes! And a few Roma tomatoes, although quite a few have blossom end rot despite me putting Epsom salts in the planting holes. Maybe I forgot on that particular one. We have had so much rain and it has been muggy hot, so the new garden bed in the back is lush. I gather tomatoes every day and I try to pick them just as they start to ripen to keep them from splitting, and so that they don’t tempt hungry birds and critters. The ground cherries don’t make it indoors. I eat them on the spot.

Herbs and flowers

^^^Ageratum grows everywhere, and I like to keep some to bloom for the bees in the fall, but it’s one of those plants that is selfish and wants all the land for itself. Now that I’ve pulled out most of the ageratum, this bed is devoted to herbs this year. There are three kinds of basil, mint, feverfew, tarragon, borage, and parsley (which was overwhelmed by the ageratum and did not grow well this year). In between there are a couple of dozen foxglove seedlings that volunteered from last year, and a few rudbeckia that survived the groundhog attack by hiding in the ageratum. The celery and kale did not survive the critter attack. The motion sensor spraying device there is out of business, and didn’t work except on humans. There are a few lamb’s quarters left in there that I eat for greens. Next spring this bed will look awesome with foxglove flowers and the bees will love it. Herbs will be shifted somewhere else next year.

Candy roaster squash

^^^If I get any candy roaster squash from these vines (I see the harbinger of doom in the back of the photo) they will be huge, like pumpkins but oblong. Right now they seem hellbent on Back Forty domination. No squash in sight so far, just flowers.

Butterbeans!

^^^Butterbean Survivor – there are a few bean vines that survived the groundhog feast, and some of the damaged ones are trying to play catch-up. I’m picking beans now, but only enough to add to other dishes.

Rudbeckia survivor

^^^”Rudbeckia Survivor – The groundhogs think that these flowers are very tasty so I’m proud of this tough little survivor that made it to full bloom.

Back Forty, More gardening, Permaculture, Reading, Slow Food, Western North Carolina

Sunday afternoon

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It is such a relief to be at the end of spring semester. I still have a few things to do at work, but all of the time-sensitive stuff has been done. Last weekend we went to the St. Francis book sale, where I blew my “no more buying books” pledge out of the water. In my defense, it was fill a grocery bag for ten bucks day, and I found an old book on Cornwall and a 1925 “The Etude Music Magazine.” Not a bad haul for $12, and I’ll donate some to the little free library now and the rest later.

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I have said this before, but I have enough books to read for the rest of my life. Seriously.

THEN, when we went to Black Mountain later that day, we found a sweet new bookstore where I bought two NEW books:

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I have a problem, obviously. If you saw my house, you’d understand. However, this addiction might be why our house is nicely insulated.

OH YAY! I hear a good rain shower. I was hoping for at least one today, because I was out of rainwater. Our tap water smells so clorine-y that I don’t want to use it for natural dyeing or my seedlings. My buckets are out under the gutter downspouts.

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Spinning Spider also brought baby goats and had a milking station for people to milk a goat.

I posted about the tapestry show earlier this week, but we also went to the WNC Cheese Trail Festival held at Highland Brewery in Asheville, and laid some money down for some excellent cheeses. Cheese, books, and good beer. Add coffee and chocolate, and you’ve got my version of heaven right there.

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TIME FOR GARDEN PHOTOS!!! I had a lot of catch-up to do in the yard this week. As usual, my garden is way behind. I made it a priority to clean up the mess at the end of our driveway and in front of our front door because the house next door will be for sale soon and I want to attract someone who doesn’t mind hippies but is nice, sane, and fairly neat. At least to the point of not letting invasives crawl all over the yard like on my other side. Ha! They probably think that about me in the back yard.

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Justin came over for four hours on Wednesday and helped with digging up some problem shrubs, cutting branches back to get more sun on the south front edge, and making a hugelkultur bed with some of the rotting firewood outside our front door. He dug down about a foot until he hit solid clay, filled about a 3×5 foot area with the wood, then shoveled the soil back onto the logs. I’m going to grow flowers in it first, since he says it will be a nitrogen suck for a couple of years. Maybe transfer some clover over to it and plant fava beans late this fall. We’ll see how the flowers do. I planted black hollyhocks, coreopsis, garden balsam, and transplanted a clump of daffodils around the edge. I tossed a few monarda seeds on top just for kicks. The birds are probably going to eat them all anyway.

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When I planted the foxglove seedlings, I said that I hoped they would be purple. And I did get some purple ones. The one that is truly stunning is white, though.

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This rose is on the other side of the property line, but last year it nearly died from being choked with vines. I pruned it and cleared out the vines, and this is my reward. It climbs up into my cherry tree too.

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Yellow irises have outlasted the purple irises.

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I’m amazed that this sage is so happy here. That’s one reason I am developing this side this year.

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Welp, I’m pretty whipped with all this gardening, but I’m happy. I’m seeing a new chiropractor twice a week and I’m going to the Tapestry Weavers South retreat in a couple of weeks. I got into the workshop at John C. Campbell Folk School that I was on the wait list for a week later, but by that time I had paid and committed to the TWS retreat. I was going to run up the credit card and go anyway, but then I found out that the reason a seat opened for me was because the friend I wanted to take the class with had canceled. I was really disappointed at first but after I thought about it, it was just too much to do in one month, too much time in a car (it is painful for me to sit for long and the trips will take 5-6 hours each) and too much money to spend. So be it. They were kind enough to give me my deposit back.

AND, because I didn’t think I’d get into the JCCFS class, I also signed up for another weekend workshop at Topsail Beach in June, so there’s that to look forward to (and pay for) so it was for the best.

During all this, I have been experimenting a little with natural dyeing and taking India Flint’s Alchemist’s Apron online class. I’m going to re-dye my apron to try to get it darker, and I’m going to start over with the videos now that I have time not to half-ass it. Dyeing the silk threads has been really fun.

Oh yeah, I harvested my first homegrown mushrooms. Lion’s mane. Delicious sauteed in butter.

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BYE, time for a nap.