Another great day in the yard. We waited until Sir Grumpy Pants finally went down for a nap and then vaulted into the back yard, peat pots and soil in hand. Theseus repotted the tomatoes (4 varieties - 3 beefsteak and 1 cherry), giant pumpkins, watermelon, peppers (2 varieties - 2 to go), the remaining two acorn squash, a lone white pickling cuke and a lone soybean. He also repotted the clipping I took from a ropey plant he bought me for my birthday - the one I almost promptly killed. As it took its last gasps, I clipped three pieces from the least-dead part; two clippings died, and one has lived long enough to be repotted. You can see it here, when it was still living in a rocks glass in my bathroom. Its new pot is the one next to it in the photo. (I have no idea what kind of plant this is). There are also five clippings from the other birthday plant, which hung on a little longer but eventually also succumbed to my black thumb. So far all five clippings are doing fine in their rocks glass and will be repotted in a few more weeks, once their roots are longer.

While Theseus busied himself with the seedlings, I fed the compost and reclaimed some soil from peat pots whose seedlings died earlier in the spring. Then we set all the plants out in the sun for a bit and took to the lawnmowers. As usual, I steered the trusty rider - Ol' Bess - through the large parts of the yard and Theseus took the push mower to the narrow, oddly shaped areas where the rider won't fit. Now all the weeds are the same height, at least. Right?

Oh, actually: before we mowed the lawn, we rescued another turtle from the woods. The lot across the street from us is marshy, and there are often turtles traveling back and forth from the marsh to the lake. This turtle had kept close to our fence and had crawled under part of the massive brush pile we've created, which was blocking his (her?) path to the lake. I climbed over the fence, but I couldn't get to where it had crawled. We waited a little while for the turtle to turn around and crawl out from under the brush pile, and then Theseus reached over the fence and pulled it out. I carried the turtle down to the lake, the same way we did last time, and we left it alone to make its way to the water in peace. I know the turtle would probably find its own way to the water eventually, but I always feel bad when we find them rustling through the leaves. Turtles out of place. So, we help.

After the baby woke up, we ate and did some chores inside. The laundry never ends. We gave the baby a bath before bed and I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the bathroom - a slight sunburn on my face. Or maybe it's just dirt. Either way: awesome. :)

- Antiope

 
 
It all blew away.

So this afternoon Theseus and I bundled up and went out again, collecting all the cardboard and stacking it behind the house. We'll have to wait to spread it out until we get all the hay delivered, I guess. We called a guy that is offering mulch hay for $1/bale; hopefully he'll give us a call back tomorrow and let us know if he will deliver.

I also ordered all the seeds today. We are using two different companies this year: Victory Seeds, which supplied all our seeds last year, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which is a little more expensive but offered a few varieties we wanted that were sold out of Victory. Now that we have a year of serious gardening under our belts, we were able to select seeds with a bit more knowledge for the coming spring. As a result, we scaled back the different types of vegetables and focused on variety of the ones we had success with. Our potatoes, which we haven't ordered yet, will again come from Wood Prairie Farm, an organic family farm in Bridgewater, Maine. Always happy to do business with New Englanders! :)

After dinner (salad and a cup of hot soup) we gave the baby a bath - he's so funny in the tub. My grandmother bought him a little whale that floats in the bath and shoots water through its spout. He loves it! I can't wait for him to get a little older so he can spend more time playing in the water. I always loved baths when I was young. After he was rinsed off, I lotioned him up and Theseus put him down for bed. He's such an agreeable little guy.

So now we've settled into the couch by the fire. I'm so glad we got the chimney inspected/repaired this year - having a fire in the evenings is the best!! I've also attracted a lonely cat who has made himself at home in my lap. Not a bad night.

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Today's photo is up!

- Antiope

 
 
It is January and we are running out of time. :(

Today we braved a chilly wind and moved more of the leaf pile(s!) from the front yard to the giant leaf pile in the back. I hate to keep whining about the raking, but we have a TON of leaves on our property. It's absurd. Theseus made a sled for the leaves out of a tarp and a random wooden pole he found in the basement, so we raked the smaller leaf piles onto the tarp and then dragged it into the back yard to add to the big pile. Sounds pretty easy, but it's actually kind of exhausting. We did that until lunch time and then came inside to eat and warm our faces.

After lunch and after the baby went down for another nap, we headed back outside and took out the tractor, Bess. She's seen some better days, but she still has a couple years left in her, I think. Anyway, we forked compost from last year's leaf pile into the trailer and hauled it to the main garden for spreading. Once that was done, Theseus sliced up some cardboard boxes and I spread it over the compost. We had a heck of a time combating weeds last season; hopefully the cardboard will at least slow them down. Before we went inside, our faces freezing, Theseus hosed down the cardboard so it doesn't blow away.

We've been inside for over an hour now and I still can't feel my nose!

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Today's photo is up. :)

- Antiope

 
 
All of these things happened this week! (the tomato was happening for some time, actually)
     
 
 
On a scale of 1-10, I'd give this year's garden a 4: a 6 for effort and a 2 for results. So, a 4.

That's not good (let's face it, it's pretty terrible), but I've made peace with it. We really didn't know what we were doing, and we went about a lot of things the wrong way. I wasted $74 in heirloom seeds and only have some starchy corn and a few sad bell peppers to show for it. All the zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes that produced decently were all purchased at Home Depot after the heirloom seedlings failed.

Some of the major failures, and their reasons (as far as I can tell):
- pumpkins: squash vine borer
- acorn squash: squash vine borer
- hubbard: squash vine borer
- crooknecks: squash vine borer
- butternut: squash vine borer
- zucchini: eventually, yes, squash vine borer
- cucumbers: fertilizer burn/possibly squash vine borer
- watermelon: (unknown)
- potatoes: blight (wish I were kidding)
- eggplant: unknown tiny black beetles
- cabbage: unknown beetles
- strawberries: overcome by weeds/apathy
- sweet peas: swift death, reasons unknown
- peppermint: (unknown)
- soy beans: (unknown)
- heirloom tomatoes: possibly bad gardening soil/unknown
- celery: overcome by weeds/apathy

Really, it's a good thing we weren't trying to live off the garden. It became, unfortunately, a novelty - try this salsa we made with the (Home Depot) cherry tomatoes! - rather than a reliable source of food.

But the more I read (I've been reading a lot about gardening lately), the less sad about it I feel. It would be like trying to make a shirt or a pair of pants without ever bothering to learn how to sew properly. Sure, I could cut some fabric and crudely stitch the pieces together into something vaguely resembling an article of clothing, but it wouldn't be very good, and it wouldn't be very reliable. This was my (our) garden this year. So how can I feel bad when, really, things grew in spite of us, not because of us? It was all wrong from the very beginning. I should eat our (severely over-salted) pickles and be happy to have them.

Next year will be different. Although this year was a near-total fail (rating it a 4 is being generous, in truth), I will always think of it with a mix of fondness and frustration. Why didn't I pick up a damn book sooner?!

- Antiope

 
 
We had an exciting weekend! And it all involved food. Hmm, I'm sensing a trend...

Friday night Theseus returned from the grocery store with supplies to make our own ice cream. He bought me an ice cream maker for my birthday two years ago that we had never used, which we placed in the kitchen sink and put to work. Thirty minutes later: homemade vanilla ice cream! It was incredibly good. I say was, because it didn't last long enough to be photographed. He added it to peach flambé and whipped cream (also homemade). It was divine. Next time he wants to try a mocha chocolate chip, but I think the citrus orange recipe from our ice cream maker's website looks really yummy. And now you know we made 2 quarts of ice cream and ate it all in less than 3 days. Don't judge us!
    
 
 
For dinner tonight, Theseus made us a big salad from the lettuce in the garden. He cut up some of our cucumbers, added some cherry tomatos (only on my plate, though; he doesn't like tomatoes), grilled zucchini, and corn. The corn was the only thing in the salad not from our garden. Pretty cool, eh?

Speaking of corn, a sad story: we had some impressive storms last week, and in the wind, most of our corn was knocked down. Theseus hilled it back up and tied it to some poles so they won't get blown over again, but I hope they even make it. The damage was pretty significant. So far our corn has survived two attacks from hungry geese and now hurricane-force winds. If they ever produce any ears, I'll be very impressed! The stalks are about 6 1/2 feet now and I'm getting impatient for corn.
    
 
 
...was with, surprisingly, swiss chard.
    
 
 
Remember the grand plans I had for our gigantic garden? A big crazy mix of vegetables, all heirloom varieties, being grown in an organic plot. Birds singing, a rainbow overhead.
    
 
 
Today it reached the mid 60s, which was so wonderful I could have cried. You don't realize how yucky the cold weather makes you feel until you have a really nice day. The air smelled so great and I was even able to keep the front door open for a little while.

T and I walked around in the back yard and started to talk about plans for the garden. It's going to be huge, did I tell you? :) I also threw some expired food into the compost bin and gave that a couple turns. All the bugs that were munching the compost in the fall (back when I kept up with it) are dead now, but hopefully with the new food, more will come in and get to work. I'm very excited to mix it into the garden.