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…

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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…

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.

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

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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:

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

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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.

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?”

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HM 1823

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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.

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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!

It’s Le Hot

It’s BLAZINGLY hot around this place these days, so no new plantings are happening. No weeding is getting done. The watering is done at night, and mostly by sprinkler. And the bermuda grass is creeping in as slowly and methodically as fascism in 2018 America.

The only thing that’s not done begrudgingly is TOMATO HARVESTING!

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HM1823 and Bobcat… they are huge and prolific and delicious and taste-wise I can’t tell them apart. That pot had 10 lbs of tomatoes in it… yes I weighed it.

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Sungold and Sweet 100… two plants and this is just about the harvest each day… as long as we can keep the toddler from eating all of them

As for the plants… The cherry tomatoes are so huge- Sungold has to be 9′ tall and Sweet 100 has to be 6 and a half. They have very different growth habits. Sungold is more abundant, but also easier to harvest since it’s an airier and more open plant. The Sweet 100 is more dense, so much more difficult to harvest as it tends to fruit in the middle of the plant as opposed to on the perimeter like the Sungold. Sweet 100 fruit are also smaller is size, but more tart, which I prefer. The Sungold is awesome though, and I will definitely buy one again next year just to keep up with the volume I want on the cherries.

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It’s too hot to model these, but rest assured we’re pushing 9′ tall these days

As for the others, even the shorter tomatoes had to get 6′ T-posts put in- they pulled their cages over with the weight of all the fruit they’re setting. Yet another first from this year’s crop…

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Bobcat- the heavier producer. Looks a little light on the leaves thanks to a damn tomato hornworm I CANNOT F-ing find… look at those top leaves… I know you’re in there, hornworm. I KNOW it!

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HM 1823… hard to see but that’s a heavy crop there as well. Seems to split more, but it’s been boom or bust on the watering, so it might be my fault.

Ignore the background… that’s the old deck railing that needs to be hauled off. But in the foreground is a 4′ Mexican Olive tree, that all of the sudden catapulted itself out of the bronze fennel.

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Holy cow is the Mexican Olive Tree growing insanely fast… it was a foot tall in April!

In other news, I’m really trying to cut our food budget. I’ve taken over as the primary cook in the household, which is great. But it also means I indulge in WAY too many trips to the store, where it seems I invariably drop $70 a trip- on top of the pushing $200 weekly trip. And we can all agree that’s insane, And it is especially too much since I want to trade in the Honda for a Subaru Ascent here in, like 2 weeks. So to afford the payment difference, I need to shave off about $200 from my personal and food spending. Which, eh, no problem. I could do with less of my “money grows on trees, devil may care attitude” anyway. So let me show you one of my latest moves that direction: FREE MEALS.

Okay, not actually free in the soup kitchen or community food pantry way or anything. God that’d be a dick move to get charity because I don’t want to cut into my TJ Maxx budget but still want to afford a brand new car, wouldn’t it? No, to me free meals are ones that I can make with only what we have on hand and a much more hearty reuse of leftovers. No trip to store or any purchases besides beer for the meal.

So on Wednesday I made a pork loin. We cut it into medallions, pounded them a bit, breaded them and then I made a cheater scaloppine sauce (didn’t have asparagus so I subbed red bell pepper. I do what I want) to serve with it. WAY too much sauce and a ton of the pork was left over. The middle child ate dinner with a friend, but even so it was a big pork loin. Which still only cost $8 so already a pretty budget meal.

Thursday I cooked some pasta, thickened and stretched the sauce from the scaloppine with some flour and chicken broth and added some cooked Italian sausage from earlier in the week- boom. FREE MEAL. And it was good.

Friday we had barbecued chicken thighs and veggie skewers. Plenty of leftovers, chicken thighs cost $7 for the pack.

Saturday day we had chicken tacos with leftover thighs from night before. FREE MEAL.

Saturday evening I cooked up a box of dirty rice I had on hand (Zatarains mix… it almost pains me to buy something boxed or branded these days but it’s exactly that kinda snobbishness that lost the Dems this last election). To it I added finely chopped up left over pork loin and the rest of the smokey veggies from Friday night. I did make a garlic yogurt sauce to go on top and I put minced parsley on literally everything, so it went on this too to dress it up. (crush some garlic in some yogurt and refrigerate for an hour. boom. Garlic yogurt sauce) FREE F-ING MEAL.

And then today for lunch I made up a quick asian soup broth (box of chicken broth (organic. It’s my need to say so that lost the Dems that last election), mirin, miso paste, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil- dash of this and that, I have no measurements here- along with some minced garlic and ginger. Then I added frozen spinach, some dried asian mushrooms, noddles and sliced in some of the pork loin. Topped it with cilantro and lime. FREE Mother F-ing MEAL!

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Chili paste in the center. I meant to add in halved cherry tomatoes but I forgot.

And I realize, this isn’t breaking new ground here- reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle…  but I’m learning. And that’s obnoxious, don’t I know it. But I’m strolling my merry way towards being more fiscally responsible on food so I can be less so on the car… so yay for coastal elites and being out of touch with the heartland, I guess?

Vote Democratic 2018 folks.

Of Wallpaper, Water Closets, and Womatoes

So, wallpaper. No wait. So, water closets… no. How do I intro into a thing about things I generally don’t like but now have both?

So in the master bath we have a water closet- which I hate for various reasons. First- why? Look, no one is showering while their spouse in pooping at the same time… at least not around these parts, so I prefer a more open concept floorpan for these sorts of things. But no- privacy prevailed to the previous owners so now to use this toilet you have to shut yourself in a 4′ by 3′ space… but hey, it’s 10′ tall sooo… yay? That’s how spaciousness works, right?

On top of the fact that I’d have never built this standing coffin in the first place it was builders’ beige with a cheap light fixture that has a fan you can’t turn off when the light is on. I slapped a small watercolor print and a stick on the wall and literally called it a day for 3 years.

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OH MY GOD NO ONE ZOOM IN ON THAT TOILET OR FLOOR- TODAY WAS CLEANING DAY I F-ING PROMISE.

SO..I think you can see why I was sick of it. Not shown are all the gaps to be caulked and trim that was never properly painted… it sucked. And I tried to never go in there. And it’s been a disaster from day one in this house.

And yet… I knew it wouldn’t take much, it’s such a small space. I thought about shelves across the back… but it really is so small I worried that no matter how they were hung my husband or I would hit our heads on it. And then I’d just have to dust everything on it… so no. Gallery wall? You know, I’ve never actually been great at them, and then there is still all the dusting. Instead I decided on… wallpaper!

Now look, I’m wallpaper conflicted. The house I grew up in had wallpapered bathrooms, flowered and striped wallpaper, to be exact, that replaced, and I’m not kidding here, gold foil inappropriate (read naked figures) cartoon wallpaper. It’s seared into my memory. Mom replaced that gross gold foil stuff on like day one of buying that house and I was only 4… but I still remember. So needless to say, in all the years, and all the wall options… I really thought this day would never come.

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I almost opened it so you could see how clean it was. Almost.

The look I was going for was a 30 years from now “Oh my god that’s hideous what were they thinking?!” Because really, with wallpaper it has to be go big or go home. So I only did one accent wall (if I had painted an accent wall red it would have been very 2001, no?) because I didn’t want to feel too overwhelmed by that pattern. Also, I know you can’t really tell, but the walls are now painted a light grey. It’s… it’s white. I broke my cardinal rule of trying a paint swatch in the room itself first and just picked a color and bought it at the same time. It was supposed to be light mousey grey… but even “white” it’s an improvement. I’m hoping when I get the trim repainted the contrast will be more apparent? Oh well. Also, the wall sheen has now gone from WHY DOES ANYONE DO THIS flat to satin and the trim will go from WHY IS THE TRIM FLAT TOO???!!! to semi-gloss. All the gaps are caulked. The floor was scrubbed with CLR and a toothbrush which I assure you I am never doing again. And look- a handy basket of spare rolls of toilet paper rolls- because in this bathroom no one can hear you scream.

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Wait, could those be… cactus and palm trees together in an impossible landscape? You bet your ass they are, bub.

So, I’m pleased with myself and covered head to toe in paint and caulk and wallpaper paste and it might all finally come off after the 3rd or 4th shower. On to the tomatoes.

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ARE YOU SEEING THE SIZE OF THIS TOMATO PLANT?!

The Sungold is now taller than me. Taste test wise… it’s a good cherry tomato, but nothing beats my old trusty Sweet 100s. Which contrary to their name are the tangier of the two.

We’ve relented and let the toddler start harvesting tomatoes. She very carefully takes a bowl outside to fill… and then not a single one makes it back inside, ever. That’s okay kid, you get the tomatoes on the bottom 3 feet, I’ll take the ones from the top 7, deal? The older girls are smart enough to sneak out without the toddler to snag some for themselves a couple of times a day.

Not all about Tomatoes!

So we had a VERY impromptu garage sale this weekend. Our neighbor across the street has a pretty regular garage sale, and since she was having one this weekend we decided to glom on and hold one ourselves. (we put our own signs up to help draw more people to the street. I hope the god of the etiquette of garage sales is placated by that and is merciful with us.) Can I tell you how much we love garage sales? My goodness- the enjoyment I get from offloading STUFF and people watching- love everything about it. We held one with some friends of ours many a year ago and they made fun of the bag of wine corks I put out for sale, some very serious ribbing was put up with I tell you. And then the joy the next day when a lady declared that her daughter had forbidden her from getting anything for her unless it was wine corks- oh the sweet sweet vindication! Said friends didn’t sell their tuba rack- so take that, losers.

Anyway, so we worked late in the night on Friday to unpack and stage three SUV loads of boxes from the storage room and we donated everything we didn’t sell at noon on Saturday. And as a bonus, we made enough money to replace the 6 patio chairs that were getting dangerously rusted through in parts with new ones. I’ve worried about those old chairs for the past year. The metal on the underside of the front was jagged in a couple places- it was some stitches and a tetanus shot waiting to happen.

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…I was two and my parents didn’t replace some rusted patio chairs like they should have

After the garage sale we took back the empty bins to the storage unit and got rid of about 5 more boxes worth of stuff and organized it. I hope to one day very soon be able to get rid of the storage unit entirely. We got it to put things in to stage our last house while selling it… and then ended up buying a house with no garage and less storage… so there it has sat for three years- full of junk. Hopefully soon we’ll get the carport and storage room up at our current house- we have the slab poured… hopefully soon.

Anyway, after sweating through some serious heat and humidity with all of that, we then gardened and barbecued outside yesterday and then took a walk with the girls in the evening downtown for ice-cream because screw you, sense of reason. So… sitting in bed in cold AC to write a long blog post might be in order this morning. Might.

To the house first before tomatoes! So our router is on a corner of our kitchen counter, and that also is where the phone charger and fitbit charger are. (18,116 steps yesterday, 7 hours, 17 minutes of sleep. I love this thing.) So that corner looks like this:

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That’s actually better than it usually looks, honestly…

And I got so tired of looking at it it now looks like this:

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Want to hide something you don’t like? Have you tried hiding it?

You have no idea how happy this has made me. So the containers are these old tin flour and tea containers my mom had forever, and I don’t know why I love them the way I do, but they’re two of my favorite things ever. And you see that top cookbook? My Meemaw’s copy of the Joy of Cooking, complete with her handwritten notes.

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They’re in cursive though so they might as well be hieroglyphics. Add chick baths? Oh wait, broth… I bet it’s broth

So anyway, I’m pleased with it/myself, but I also will be replacing the important stuff with other, more expendable things because I keep moving them farther and farther away due to a fear that this whole set up is a fire risk. Which, the router has 6 inches all the way around it and isn’t covered on the top but still. I worry.

On to the garden and pets!

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DO YOU SEE THIS GOOD BOY? Walking on the path my god dogs do not get better than this one I tell you

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Remember how I mentioned I may have misplanted the purple horse mint on the front right corner… yeah…

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I had an entourage today on the morning stroll. Some of the new patio chairs in view

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She runs between your feet to throw herself down right in front of you… should have named her Future Broken Hip instead of Lacey. But she’s the 9-year-old’s cat, so it wasn’t up to me

And no escaping without the tomatoes!

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Sungold, 5′ 4″ tall and growing. Turns out it’s an orange cherry tomato which I really should have put together from the name but I totally did not

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Sweet 100

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HM 1823

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Bobcat

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HM 1823 with Bobcat in the background- look at that pretty fruit set!

The two-year-old has discovered these plants are tomatoes. None have been lost to toddler predation yet but it’s just a matter of time. I’ve told her she has to at least wait till they turn red… we’ll see how long that rule holds.

Quick Update

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Tomato Plot

Have I never posted a full bed shot of these? Huh, I guess not!

 

So you can see I now have “Tomato Towers” on the right hand side- fancy name for two tomato cages zip tied together. These are now 8′ tall and they mean I MIGHT just stand a chance of harvesting some higher up tomatoes once the toddler catches wind of what these plants actually are.

From left to right we have: Bobcat, HM 1823, Sungold, and Sweet 100. In the background we have a weedy yard with only a peach tree, a pomegranate, and a sycamore tree in view. Considering the whole thing was long neglected NOTHING when we moved in, even they are an improvement, I promise. Goal is to not have but a sliver of grass left along the back and a big patio with gardens and trails around it. We have a LOT of work ahead of us…