Monday, June 28, 2010

My birfday

No, I didn't turn three, but I guess the family couldn't find the second digit. One of my favorite cakes, the frozen Sara Lee strawberry shortcake!

In the past several years, my husband's task has been to cook a homemade meal for my birthday. Unfortunately, I only have one birthday a year. This year's meal was as usual, a strictly guarded secret, and resulted in a 2 hour slow-cooked corn chowder with Italian sausage. I had a last bowl for breakfast today - there's nothing else like a chowder that's had a couple of days in the fridge to come together just perfectly.

A couple of almost mishaps...He called down at one point wondering why the "condensed milk" the recipe called for seemed not quite right - and too sweet. Luckily, he commented on this just before making the decision NOT to add the can of sweetened condensed milk to his dish.

Then, he decided to add some fresh basil as a garnish. When he returned from the garden, he said that the basil tasted like grass, and he wanted me to try it to see if it tasted right. When he showed me the bunch of leaves he'd snipped, attached were a couple of jalapeño blossoms!

Minor mishaps averted, dinner - complete with asiago-garlic toast was delicious. And as an added bonus, I was regretful to tell him upon his request, that I did NOT have any fresh garlic. If you saw the last photo in my previous post, you know that I wasn't going to even bother with "harvesting" that shriveled up crap. Well, in a burst of energy, I did go out to see if anything was out there and sure enough, I was able to dig up about 20 bulbs of garlic. Seed stock replenished.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

WYG: what a difference a few weeks makes

A gorgeous planter near the entrance of the Administration Building of the National Arboretum.

Below are beets that I helped sow in the Washington Youth Garden just three weeks ago. Rows are labeled with pieces of old vinyl blinds.

A few other sights around the Washington Youth Garden on this very hot early summer day...

Things were smelling as good as they were looking - and I'm not just talking about the rosemary shrub we were weeding around. A local chef was doing an outdoor cooking demonstration for some WYG families. Can you smell the freshly harvested garlic sauteing in the pan?

Today's duties for the volunteers consisted mostly of taking care of the Bermuda grass - pulling, covering with cardboard, mulching...not fun, but like all weeding tasks, somewhat fulfilling as well. Here are some of us, sweaty but proud of how things in the perennial border look. I'm in the red shirt.

Here's Mamoi weeding (sorry - I'm spelling his name phonetically because I can't remember the proper spelling!). I learned the most interesting thing from him today. We were talking about bamboo when he mentioned having seen bamboo seeds in his country. He said that unfortunately, seeds bring poverty and famine (to which I was very confused). I did a little research on this later on and here's the explanation in short: Bamboo flowers/seeds about once every 100 years. There is actually a mass flowering of a certain type of bamboo, regardless of location or region. Due to the mass fruit/seed production, the rodent population booms. This boom in the population also means they will eat whatever is available, including food stores and farm crops. Many of these pestilent rodents also carry disease. Now if that's not enough, after the mass flowering, the bamboo dies. This is a huge loss of a natural resource used for building material, floors, furniture, many other products and for trade. All this could be really devastating to many countries that are just barely making it anyway.

Anyway, in addition to the knowledge I always gain from either the WYG staff or other volunteers, this week I also gained a fresh bulb of garlic! This is no small token for my 3 hours of labor on a 95 degree day because have you seen my garlic stock? Me neither but 8 months ago, it was here...

Monday, June 21, 2010

20 photos (and just 7 words to read!)

Pretty things from my garden. I'm happy...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

John's garden

John wouldn't let me take his photo, which I can more than understand since we don't necessarily look picture perfect when we're working in the garden. Plus, I would imagine some people might be slightly guarded when a stranger stops and asks to take their picture- even when she claims to be a neighbor. John did turn off his hedge trimmers though and took a short break to chat about his garden. Framing his yard are numerous boxwoods and other shrubs that he likes to keep in natural but tidy shape. I didn't take a photo of the hedges as it looked like he was just starting and I'd sure be upset if someone took a picture of my "before" work to post on the Internet.

So on my run this morning, I did shoot one of the expansive garden beds situated within the boxwood hedge. These lovely garden beds on John's corner lot have always caught my eye as they're tall, mature, and just scream wildlife habitat. Turns out John enjoys his garden for just that reason as well. John mentioned the critters who make their homes in his garden, "...butterflies, bees, birds,chipmunks, even several bunnies. And THAT guy over there..." (as he points to a white cat crossing the street towards his house). I ask,"You welcome him too?" To which he responds, "Welcome? Yeah, one of these days I'll have a welcome for it!"

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

MC MG demo garden

I was happy as could be the other all-day work meeting ironically titled "retreat" ended early (the real treat!), the ATM at the bank was actually in operation, I dropped off my mail at a drive-by PO box, and returned some lights at Home Depot without incident. The next stop was to get my automobile emissions test which was due in a week. When I drove up to the emissions station, I found it was no longer in service. A wrench in my plans, but I still had time to kill before kid pick-up time. I realized I was very nearby the Montgomery County Master Gardeners' Demo Garden, and after reading via the Grow It, Eat It blog about all the interesting things the Montgomery County Master Gardeners are planting, I decided to search for this place.

When I climbed the hill and entered through a most charming garden gate, I was awestruck at the hidden gem this garden is. Though "Demo Garden" isn't exactly the most clever name (and for some reason I always think of demolition rather than demonstration), it certainly is descriptive. This garden, one of the most obviously loved gardens I've seen, really demonstrates different vegetables, ornamentals, trellis systems, planting beds, paving materials, mulching strategies, and composting system. I'm not sure who exactly maintains this garden space, but it really looks like 20 very special little gardens in one large plot.

Above: the expanse of the Demo Garden. Below: something I'd really like to try - attractive and space-saving.

When I visited, I remembered that I wanted to come here and learn just before my first season gardening, and I really should have. A new gardener can read the educational signage, see how things are done, learn about how to grow veggies in a raised bed, and how much space to devote to certain vegetables (which would have helped me as you can read from this old reflection). A more experienced gardener can learn about unique vegetables to try, gain ideas for trying something new, and even see in action, that colorful spiral trellis you've had your eye on. I, personally, am motivated to stop simply scattering my lettuce seeds, and grow in neat rows because it's just that much more attractive!

Above: a shade garden. Below: a fun reminder about the habits of mint!

And the best part after this super-charged productive day that even got to include a garden I was taking this weird road home that I'd never travelled on, I happened to look left while sitting at a red light. Guess what I see? A small VEIP sign - an emissions testing center just around the corner! Alas, there was just one car in front of me. My trusty SUV passed with flying colors.

Monday, June 14, 2010

GBBD June 2010

For this month's Bloom Day, hosted by May Dreams Garden, I'll be showing off my father's water lilies. I have shown a few of these photos in a previous post. I was thinking about printing and framing some of these photos to give as a Father's Day gift. I can't decide whether I'd like to print a series of photos, or a single photo. Can you help me figure this out?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Annual Chopping of the Hogweed

A famous landscape designer made the decision to use Heracleum mantegazzianum liberally in the design of this beautiful Washington, D.C. public space. It's not difficult to understand why. At an imposing 8-14 feet, it commands the attention of city pedestrians. There is something for everyone to admire, whether it's the gigantic leaves, the large summer fruits, or the gorgeous white umbels that reach to the sky.

So why the chopping? Heracleum mantegazzianum has an ugly side. Let's call that side hogweed. Hogweed is considered a noxious weed. It's invasive. Destructive. Non-native. Learn about the perils of hogweed here, and other facts about hogweed here.

The planting in this particular location makes many stakeholders nervous. Across the street, this path leads to a creek that leads to the National Zoo. Because hogweed loves to grow in semi-shade, moist and rich soil, seeds that drift into the creek are very bad news. As I drove to the location, I passed a group of kids on a walking field trip. I'm sure they noticed the ridiculously large and gorgeous flowers. Must have been a wonderful walk. Oh, but did I mention that the sap of hogweed can cause reddish-black, painful, burning blisters? Yep. The sap increases the skin's sensitivity to light and can cause the blistering. Hope the kids didn't decide to bring a bouquet to the teacher!

Unfortunately, what makes controlling the situation complicated is the number of players involved. An embassy sits on the top of the hill. The hogweed is growing on embassy property, but is on State Department land. Factors that keep the control of hogweed a struggle may have to do with ownership (of the land and the problem), the best method to control the plant, who will provide the labor, and more than likely (since they impact everything else!) - money and politics. Much of it is probably taken for granted by most people not directly involved, but I can tell you this...on this sunny day in June, the Annual Chopping of the Hogweed occurred.

Two watchdogs of the hogweed: buddies Dr. Alan Tasker, the National Noxious Weed Manager for USDA/APHIS, and Sandy Farber-Bandier, Extension Agent, UDC.

Above: the aptly named "Giant Hogweed". Alan at the left calling for reinforcements

And here to answer the call - to the left, members from the National Park Service Capital Region Invasive Species Team , and to the right, a happy team of student interns from the Washington Internships for Native Students (WINS) program (who claim a day of chopping hogweed is better than a day in the office!).

Coming up with a game plan...

Because the sap of these plants can lead to painful blisters and burning, it's important to wear long sleeves and gloves. Below, gathering supplies - loppers and plastic gloves.

Because the plants had not yet gone to seed, the plan for the day was to simply lop off the flower heads, and carry them off.

Kevin Archuleta from the National Park Service

Though I've made mention of my inclination to overextend myself, I did not help with this effort, but only stood taking photos. I was only given a day's notice, but when I heard of the Annual Chopping of the Hogweed, I knew I needed to make space in my day to at least visit the site and learn about this noxious weed. I had to zip off and get back to my regularly scheduled responsibilities but hopefully I didn't leave too far before the others did. I would say that with lots of help, the chore of chopping the hogweed seemed very quick work. Hopefully there will be no burns or blisters to show for it!
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