The Texas Garden in August aka Picante’s Inferno

The garden in August is a lesson in survival and non-survival. Miss a day’s watering and your three year old spirea is toast. (Not a hypothetical example). It’s cut to the ground and is starting to leaf back out- that was touch and go though, it was in no way a given that it would survive. But, here’s what is going on out there right now…

IMG_7787.jpg

You can’t see all the bees in this picture… there were at least 4. Pickings are slim for pollinators these days so we’re all happy to have the flowers we do.

IMG_7790.jpg

Tithonia (the Mexican Sunflower) is over 4′ tall now

IMG_7789

Orange, Red, and Purple… I may pass on recreating that in an ice dyed scarf…

IMG_7794

Mexican Olive Tree- gotta be close to 6′ tall now. The Mexican Redbud is doing great too. If I had Mexican Oregano I’m sure it’d be thriving.

IMG_7795.jpg

So the days are past that we sit over here for the aesthetic.

The tomatoes are really struggling. Turns out the curled leaves I was concerned about on the Bobcat and HM 1823 is just the tomato response to extreme heat, so NOT a disease as I originally thought. The cherry tomatoes are still producing- though Sweet 100 is doing better on the volume of crop we’re collecting in the middle of this summer, but the Sungold has set lots of new fruit after a couple of week’s lull.

IMG_7796.jpg

I’m already needing a stepladder to harvest- gotta be 12′ these days, but it’s starting to curve back down.

IMG_7802.jpg

My buddies- the caterpillars for black swallowtail butterflies. We have 7 right now- how I love them!

Lord it’s so hot. We’re all just hanging in there for fall… which usually hits right around late November ’round these parts…

Advertisements

Carrots Agrodolce with Currants

Like dude, that title amiright? Agrodolce means something about sweet and sour, and I’m 90% sure it’s Italian. You don’t get that kind of half assed explanation outta the Barefoot Contessa, now do you! If you can’t blaze your own path, store bought is fine.

This is the culmination of a long search for a carrot side dish. I don’t know why I made this my thing- the THING- I worked towards for years. But I always knew there had to be more to these orange bastards than I’d run across so far. Roasted baby carrots left me bored. Various other glazed carrot recipes always came out kinda weird or bland or required celery salt.

carrots-1326182-1279x852

The enigmatic jerks!

But this one? Tangy, not cloyingly sweet, and the currants upped the flavor depth. (Upped? Not deepened? Odd choice, brain.) Also, when done in the pan after cooking pork chops or chicken, you also incorporate the fond from the meat and the whole thing then gets served over said cut of meat as a sauce. Bitchin.

Ingredients:

½ smallish yellow onion, chopped
5-7 carrots, cut into rounds about 1/3 of an inch thick. Approximately.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. honey
4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp. currants, more or less
Salt and pepper to taste

In a pan over medium heat (after cooking pork or chicken, or can also be done in clean pan if required) add a good glug ( thats 2 Tbsp-ish) olive oil. If you are cooking the carrots after cooking meat make sure you have enough oil and your heat low enough that you don’t burn the fond. Once oil is heated, add the chopped onion and salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, scraping bottom to loosen fond, until onions are softened and starting to turn golden. Add carrots; stir once and then let sit for 2 minutes before continuing to stir and scraping the fond. Once carrots start to soften a little add honey, currants and vinegar, stirring regularly from here on out (another couple of minutes). If the sauce starts to dry you can add a little water. Continue scraping fond until you have a nice glaze that has coated the carrots and a bit of extra sauce. Serve as a side dish or spoon over meat if at all humanly possible.

I had this tonight with pan seared pork chops, sautéed spinach with red pepper flake and garlic, and wild rice. Spooned the carrots half over the pork and half over the rice. Pretty as a picture and tasted like I’d pay $26 for it in a restaurant.

Linking up with Samantha over at Fake Fabulous Here- check it out!

Random Word Generator Prompts

Like a random word post, and it’s been awhile, so figured I’d give it a whirl today. But first- I JUST realized that after I send a post live I often have some editing (misspelled words, etc.) that I correct and update. Those updates do NOT seem to be going to those of yall who get the post emailed to you. I will try to fix that and also be more vigilant with my pre-launch editing moving forward.

Sheep: My brother and I had the odd history of growing up in a city neighborhood with a feral sheep. His name was Stinky, and he supposedly belonged to the young married couple at the end of the street, but he wandered wherever he wanted to. As toddlers my brother and I was terrified of this huge, male, unshaved sheep. One time he trapped us in the garage and we climbed on my Dad’s car to escape him. I prefer Stinky to any religious or political sheep though, boy those are the worst.

Material: Well hmmm, I’m having a hell of a time finding acceptable fabric/material for new curtains in the kitchen. I want something Scandinavian with a white background and multi color print without being too twee or whimsical… or geometric. Hence the “hell of a time.” I did finally find fabric for my slipper chair in our living room. I reversed it so the side showing is actually the back of the fabric, but we like it more like that. I recovered the chair last weekend.

IMG_7577

Wouldn’t have worked for the curtains though…but similar to style I’m looking for.

Warning: Had enough health warnings lately that the husband and I are walking more, drinking less, and cutting back on cheese. Cholesterol. Weight. General weird ailments (plantar fasciitis sucks but is almost cleared up) that it’s time to just commit. Heed the warnings… we’re trying.

Art: I still haven’t finished the 4′ painting I’m doing of my husband… but I hung it on the wall so it didn’t get toddlerized- I better finish it or that will be the picture I’m “almost done with” for the next 40 years. I showed it to my mom and she asked if his hair was supposed to be a bike helmet. Actually its a bandana in the picture I’m working from… but thanks Mom.

IMG_7576

I swear the rule needs to be don’t hang it up until you’re done…

Bullet: At our last house I found a bullet in our hallway once. We don’t have guns. It remains one of the weirdest feelings to bend down and pick that up of the carpet. Someone brought a gun and bullets in my house. Or didn’t and didn’t realize a random bullet fell out of their pocket. Or… I have no idea. It could be from some totally different scenario I haven’t considered. Weird to think you know so much less than you think you do about what goes on around you sometimes.

Advice: I try to stockpile advice for the girls’ use later in life. Like, if a boy doesn’t seem a little nervous around them, they need to realize he’s trying to play them, not love them. Or that washing you’re face with a face cleanser every night really DOES make a difference. Or that starting to moisturize in your 20s is important. Or that there are no princesses waiting to be rescued in this family- they need to be women who are always capable of rescuing themselves. So far there are only two pieces of advice I’ve ever given them that seems to have stuck. First is that they should try to be the hero of their own stories. And the second is that the thinner the eyebrow the crazier the woman. GOD HELP ME why that last one that I just tossed off without thinking after a couple of glasses of wine should be one of the main ones they remember and cleave to, but parenting is weird like that. I bet you anything they mention it in my eulogy. I SAID IT ONE TIME FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!

 

 

 

Of Grave Importance

I was out on a construction site for work today next to the police station in Cibolo, TX… and there was an old cemetery across the street that looked beyond intriguing. I’ve discussed my love of old graveyards before here.

I wrote on that previous post about the peace of graveyards, and how time kinda removes the grief from death… but it wasn’t how I felt this morning. God, there were just so many children… parental loss and it’s screaming anguish was still so upfront in this graveyard.

Unknown-4.jpeg

Nastasia born 1864, died 1867… “Gone to be an Angel” written on the bottom

The symbolism though… the lamb, the tree cut down too soon…

Or this one, that was excruciating to imagine those parents who lost their 2 and 3 year old daughters two days apart in 1890. What sickness was in the house… what grief those poor people endured. It still hung heavy in the air around this dual grave:

Unknown-3.jpeg

Olga, just shy of 2 when she died on May 14th 1890, and Bertha, one day past 3 when she died on May 16th, 1890. Ow my fucking heart, History!

The ratio of children to adults was much too high for a normal (I use that phrase loosely), more enjoyable stroll around a graveyard. But there was still the normal interesting things that are what I like. (said the crazy person…)

Unknown-1.jpeg

Buzzfeed style caption: Tree stump headstones are prevalent in graveyards from Victorian and Edwardian times. Find out why!

I always knew tree trunks were Woodsman of the World headstones… but turns out why there are so many of them is interesting. They were free with W.O.W. life insurance policies! And the Germans would be damned if they were going to pass up a sweet deal like that! Hence SO many tree stump headstones! A tall trunk is for adults, short logs are for children… not sure if the 2 cut logs the larger trunk is astride means they lost two children or just that they sprang for the more expensive policy package.

Unknown

She sells seashells down by the sea shore… FOR DEATH!

No one is REALLY sure why there are so many cemented in sea shell covered graves in the South… many of them far away from the ocean. Loose, non cemented in shells (often conch shells like the two closest to the headstone on the picture above) generally mean someone took a pilgrimage and brought it to the grave long after burial. (European symbolism there of a pilgrimage). Slaves often marked graves with shells because the ocean brought them to this place, and so the shells symbolized taking them to their final home. Perhaps these German immigrants used them for the same symbolism? My favorite theory (though I don’t think it’s right) is that shells were used s shingles on grave surfaces as a protective “roof”… so totally utilitarian. And while that DOES sound very 1800s German it doesn’t quite jive because the rest of the graves are so ornate. Shells have generalized Christian symbolism… we may just have to leave it at that and that it was just a Victorian fad.

Unknown-2.jpeg

The Shrouded Urn… a great name for a mystery, now that I think of it

The urn was a symbol of death long after cremation went out of fashion, and the shroud symbolized variously: the last curtain between life and death, or protection, or that death has fallen over something. I’ve seen shrouded angels (fucking terrifying, lemme tell ya), shrouded fruit baskets, shrouded obelisks and urns… there were some pretty talented stone carvers back in the day. It’s one of my favorite things to look for in cemeteries, the shrouded statuary.

img_7547.jpg

Oh you!

And then there are the hands. The hand like that is SUPPOSED to be pointing up to heaven and God, but which always look like a shaking finger like “Oh you! You got me! Never saw that one coming, I didn’t!”

Next there are these, my VERY favorite things- enamel pictures from the 1800s. The glimpses of people… generally in the prime of their lives even if they lived to be old… which I LOVE. I HATE modern obituaries that only have the pictures from the very end of life… I love seeing people from another age, in their prime, looking out at the world like this! Now, as much as I love graveyards, I never wanted to be IN one before. Cremate me and cast me in the Frio River in Uvalde… but I’m tempted by the chance to be one of these for the next few centuries…

Unknown-7.jpeg

Wilhelm Reimann

Unknown-6

Nestine Reimann. Only picture on a grave of a woman in the whole cemetery. Twenty bucks her middle name was Prudence. I bet you.

Unknown-8.jpeg

Millennials are just the new Progressive Generation. (Do you have ANY idea how long it took me to research that joke? I was committed to it though.)

And inscriptions… There was one that read Asleep In Jesus from 1915 for a 25 year old dude. Which is just weird and I hope just the result of iffy English skills. Or this one:

IMG_7556

Germans are hardcore

It reads, or as damn close as Google Translate can get me, “The silent grave is unafraid of the Devil, because of faith in God and no fear of Judgement.” Well okay then.

I guess I love old cemeteries for the same reason as I like older neighborhoods and not the cookie cutter new developments. Variability! Individuality! Craftmanship! Interesting Things!

Here’s the thing, every once in a while I think like, huh. So THAT’S how I turned out, to be someone who likes old cemeteries. Who would have known when I was younger that I’d grow up to be that? Wonder if quilters or giant pumpkin growers or people who collect typewriters ever wonder the same thing?

Linking up with Samantha at Fake Fabulous HERE- check it out!

In Other News…

So, it’s actually been a pretty busy summer, multiple posts about ice dyeing aside.

For the past few months I’ve been volunteering on the texting campaign for Beto O’Rourke for Texas Senate. He’s running against that asshat of a tapir, Ted Cruz.

tapir_lowland_1

Ted Cruz campaigning in Iowa

I started donating to the O’Rourke campaign for $25 a month way back in January the SECOND I read he might have a viable shot at beating Cruz. It’s money well spent. And there are a couple of quotes that have really hit home recently:

“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

And the other was something to the effect that when you’re grandchildren ask you about this time in history and what you did during it- what are you going to say? That you sat idly by while children were ripped from their parents and put in cages and neo-nazis marched the streets with impunity? 

So I’ll be DAMNED if I’m just going to sit here! So… activism I guess.

But, there was more to do as well than tossing a few bucks a month at the campaign. So I’m currently texting a couple of times a week, as well as just signed up to host a phone bank. I attended an organizing event for the Beto campaign yesterday and the Comal County Democratic Headquarters has STANDING ROOM ONLY. Something they assured us has NEVER happened before.

So I’m doing that, and cooking, and we’ve been traveling, and we’re sealing the shiplap in the girls’ rooms before we paint them… and I’m still ice dyeing too. (Just put out a batch of scarves for a pink, red, orange set.)

So here’s hoping and continuing to work towards a GOOD November 6th… we sure could use one after that last debacle!

If you want to learn more about Beto, here is the link: Beto For Texas

Ice Dyeing: Last Night’s Batch Turned Out Like This…

IMG_7502

NICE!

So why are there no white spots, even though these were more tightly crammed in than the previous batch? I may have soaked these more than the other ones… so maybe the white on the previous set were dry parts in the center of some folds? Not 100% there…

Here is the thing- LOOK at the color variability within the batch though!

Here is how one of the first two scarves I was struggling with turned out:

IMG_7501

Meh. It’ll do. But compared to the color on the left…

So those scarves were 40% synthetic and 60% cotton… JUST like the ratios on the pashmina’s I did in the same dye batch. Can you imagine if I had just decided I couldn’t figure this out and thrown up my hands because of those things? Because here is how the pashmina’s turned out:

IMG_7500.jpg

From left to right: 80% cotton scarf, 100% cotton bandana, 40% acrylic/60% cotton pashmina, and the original scarf I was playing around with, also 40% acrylic/60% cotton.

Check OUT that color variability from the same dye batch.

So if at first you don’t succeed… try a different fabric!

As to the color: funny how when I was a kid purple was my favorite color but it doesn’t do ANYTHING for me these days… I like the previous set better, but I’m also not a huge fan of turquoise. Blasphemy, I know! But it’s not about what I like best… it’s having a nice range of choices at the craft fair and using all the dye in my collection. I do think they turned out purdy though.

 

IT WORKED! Ice Dying

IMG_7493.jpg

IT WORKED!!!! KINDA!

So how about them apples?

So my 24 hour experiment in ice dying with the use of soda ash… rousing success. Aside from the unpredictable nature of the dye itself that is. Let’s be clear- those colors SHOULD have been true blue, black, olive green, and yellow. And we ended up with torquoise, brown, black, pink, a few yellows, and on the 4th one (not pictured, but a gauzier fabric so was already dry and was pulled off the rack at the time of the picture) spots of neon orange.

IMG_7496

The products, even the cocktail salt, are all ordered on Amazon. I can do without a salted rim most of the time but I’ll have to save some for Chiltons. Normal table salt is fine and cheaper, I just ran out

But lord above, I think this whole thing might work out after all. Interestingly, even though all of these fabrics are synthetic and blends, it’s the natural fiber dye that’s working best. And, of course, most of the dye in the stash is iDye Poly instead of just the iDye powder. Sigh.

So here are the steps that led me to this last go round. Make sure your fabric is prewashed. I just tossed all the scarves and bandanas in the washer and washed with regular detergent.

Step One: Brain Folds

IMG_7489

Brains!!!

So I watched a video of a dyer who said the more folds in the fabric the more interesting the ice dying comes out. She said she tries to aim for a brain folds look, which seemed easy enough to emulate. The edges of that ol’ garage sale dish drainer have large holes on the corners so I prop it up with some scrap pieces of 4x4s from when we installed the fence extension. I’m a LITTLE concerned I put too many scarves in this batch and the whole thing might be too tight for the dye to work down… Only one way to find out.

Step Two: Saturate

IMG_7490.jpg

Action Shot

So I totally soaked it with water. Some people get the scarves wet before the folding into place stage, but this seems easier to me. Also, maybe some dry spots will be more interesting. And this keeps me from getting soaking wet myself.

Step 3: Sprinkle with soda ash and salt. More than you’d salt food for both  by about 4 times, but no clumps.

Step 4: Sprinkle on dye powder over surface. Particular colors in spots, some overlapping, but not to much- you don’t want muddy colors. So I hear.

Step 5: Sprinkle on more soda ash and salt. I also poured on the dye activator liquid, which as far as I can tell hasn’t done anything yet, but I might as well use it.

IMG_7491

Im using way more dye powder these days than I was before watching other people do it on tutorials.

Step 6: Top with ice, evenly cover surface with about an inch or so depth.

IMG_7494

Collaborate and listen

Step 7: Wait 24 hours.

Tonights batch (the pictures used in the steps above) are Black (was in the natural fiber dye sleeve, but I may have mixed up the bags to sleeves.. or the black from the experiment yesterday was poly dye… I don’t even know anymore.) Poly purple, all the rest of the poly turquoise that has come out denim blue in the past, and a few dots of the brilliant blue natural fiber dye that turned out turquoise yesterday. I went heavier with the black and purple.

Yesterday I only did four scarves, tonight I went with six and two bandanas, but three were gauzy scarves, including the first two I was experimenting on. The poor ugly ducklings are pretty stiff with salt at this point. Fingers crossed for some swans out of those two on the third try.

Now we wait and see. This part kills me…

Mice Flying and the Pardon

Just kidding, it’s another post about ice dying and the garden.

So… after the debacle of the last 2 scarves… THIRTY pashminas and scarves and then 20 handkerchiefs showed up… creating a bit of uneasiness on the order of WELL WHAT THE HELL AM I GONNA DO NOW?!

So… first step. Test every scarf with both dye types to see what takes. I chose, since they were open, the black dye for natural fabrics and the turquoise for synthetics. We know the turquoise dye takes like a denim-y blue, so both of those could work with just about anything I subsequently dye with. You see how well reasoned that was? Let’s see how that turned out.

img_7467.jpg

So of course the black dye took as red… because why wouldn’t it really?

IMG_7474

But also black… in spots. But red, also red!

But can we all agree the dye took WAY better this time! Like… I can work with that color depth. So I did two things different this time, I used a ton more salt, and also sprinkled soda ash as well. Now, soda ash is SUPPOSED to be mixed in water and the fabric dipped in it before dying… but since it has a warning that it might be FATAL if F-ing swallowed I went ahead and just sprinkled it on the wet scarves (I prewetted them), sprinkled dye over the top, then salted the whole thing, and then added the ice. I will then throw the fatal powder away or give it to the crafty neighbor without kids because that bottle makes me nervous. Please let this shit work out, because I’m already annoyed with the unpredictability of the dyes. Also, I left this trial run sitting overnight instead of just 2 hours. Which… we all knew that needed to happen too.

So now I have 4 scarves out for a second treatment, with brilliant blue (looks purple) olive green (looks pucey) and yellow (looks like brown mustard) so God help me as to what this will look like… they’ll be out there for 24 hours if I can keep my twitchy hands off them.

The garden is burning up in the Texas July… and the woodpeckers have found the big tomatoes. So… it looks like this:

IMG_7472

Bobcat I think is done, HM 1823 is close, and Sungold and Sweet 100 are still going strong

IMG_7470

Seriously this thing. It’s the Leaning Tower of Pizza-Toppings these days, at least 10′ and growing

The Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes seems to be out producing the Sungold right now, or it may be that the Sungold is easier for the toddler and birds to pick off. While the woodpecker eats the large tomatoes, the mockingbirds keep a pretty steady stream in and out of the sun gold for cherry tomatoes. It’s okay… there are enough to share.

 

Ice Dyeing… or What have I Done?

So… ice dying, right? So I loved the look of the scarves I did last week:

IMG_7341

First attempt. Should have just left it alone…

But once I put one on to wear it read as really subtle since you lost the marbled look with it scrunched up around the neck… and my husband said the couple of light tan spots read as looking dirty… so okay, I’ll just over dye those spots in red with a poly dye for synthetic fabric.

IMG_7373

So yeah, I totally spilled a glom on that one spot…

But… it didn’t take. Just gave a blah light pink diffusion over spots… so that sucks. Okay, so then I overdyed and went heavy with it the next day with the red dye for cotton fabrics.

IMG_7374

On the grass this time for greater control. I still spilled it. Also added more blue and black to make it less murder-y

And… it still didn’t take. I even used the dye activator liquid that came with the dye, and salt… it’s a bit of a mess. I rinsed the one on the left in the picture above out after 2 hours, I’m going to let the one on the right stay out there longer and hope the cat doesn’t walk on it and the dog doesn’t pee on it. This is asking a lot of fate, I know.

I sure as hell hope it’s either just the particular fabric on these scarves or the red dye color from both types. Because 30  scarves that look like this ain’t gonna cut it, methinks.

IMG_7395

At least the salt is helping the black to take… so there’s that. It isn’t a mistake if you learn something, RIGHT?

I’m just going to chalk it up to a learning curve… like the first pancake that never turns out right.

One other thing- it’s disappointing to see that now that I have all this poly dye, it’s stating that it really needs to be heated to set… as in boiling the fabric with the dye. Well, that is just not going to be possible here. Now, the poly blue took well enough without it… but that poly red sure is a mess. I’m just going to do a test on the next few scarves of all the dyes in stripes to test the colors and see what I can work with- since the poly red and blue reacted so differently, and the natural fiber black and red took so differently I really just need to see them all in action. Watch it be the first one to sell…

The Garden in July

The garden got some much needed rain and cooler temperatures for a couple of evenings (80s! break out the sweaters!).

And today, with overcast skies still it’s a good opportunity for some pictures that aren’t completely sunbaked and lost in high contrast shadows. So I give you… the dahlias!

img_7381.jpg

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!

Here’s the thing. Just like cannas, dahlias are unbalanced on the foliage to flower ratio- which seems crazy because those flowers are huge. Think waterlily sized. Or hell, you don’t have to imagine it, here is a picture.

img_7394.jpg

Toddler arm for scale, red chair as the only clean backdrop to be found in the house.

So dahlias are glorious for cut flowers, but man are they blah to weedy looking in the garden. No textural or aesthetic benefit from the foliage, such as with Cardinal Creeper vine, for instance.

IMG_7392.jpg

Check out those leaves, will ya? It should have been in a month before I planted those seeds unfortunately… but it’s still being a trooper

img_7383.jpg

Another by seed addition to the garden, which aside from the occasional zinnia is pretty much a first! My Tithonia, the mexican sunflower

The tithonia, I think, walks that absolute knife edge between coarse and weedy looking. I think its awesome, but it’s right there on the edge. It’s supposed to be 4’x4′ at full size, but is already much too close to the Francis Dubriel rose. I’m the worst at eyeballing spacing. This one should have dark orange flowers, so I’ll keep you posted.

As for the tomatoes… anyone want tomatoes? It’s amazing how quickly things go from: “GLORY BE THE FRUIT OF THE GODS!!!!” To: What the hell are we going to do with all these tomatoes? Throw them at people?”

IMG_7387.jpg

HM 1823

img_7386.jpg

Bobcat- leaves are starting to curl, I don’t take this as a good sign

So of the determinate tomatoes HM 1823 looks to be the more disease resistant. The leaves on Bobcat are starting to curl in on themselves. This isn’t bug related (there are some bugs that do that) it’s more like all the leaves are severely concave but not touching in the middle. Fruiting is still good, but it’s days are numbered.

IMG_7388

Dude.

And the cherry tomatoes are huge. The toddler is overdoing it on the tomatoes on a daily basis, but there will be no scurvy to be found on this ship!