suburb city country

Howdy, friends. It’s been a very long while… Since I last posted we’ve been transplanted – twice! Once from our suburban Texas garden to the bustling city of Washington, DC for a year sabbatical; and then back to Texas, but this time to a new place in the country. Of course I’m wishing now that I had kept a running log of all the things that happened in that time frame here on the blog, but regrettably I didn’t. Instead, I used Instagram, the “micro-blogging” platform to post about #allthethings (okay, maybe just some of the things) going on in the garden of my life. Feel free to peruse my feed @grwhryrpltd if you’d like to see what I’ve been up to lately. I hope to write more about our next chapter in life once we get a bit more rooted into our new digs.

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Our former suburban home and garden 2008-2016
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Our former entry garden. Sadly the awesome Opuntia is no longer there… 
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…nor is Mz. Audrey (I refused to remove her as the realtor implied, but I’m pretty sure the new homeowners eventually did). She would’ve been eight years old.
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Our tiny Capitol Hill East garden in DC… all I planted there were the two African Blue Basil plants along the sidewalk and a small herb bed in back. The bees and butterflies loved them. We didn’t really love residing in 700 SF, but relocating to our nation’s capitol was an overall enjoyable, if not eye-opening, experience in living for a year (2016-2017).
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Grayson and Dude share a tiny spec of potted earth on our back urban patio. Learning to walk with leashes was so much fun and most entertaining for passersby.
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Lots of space to set roots in our homestead in the country. Welcome to #fieldtripfarm

 

pursuing the path

I’ve been thinking and dreaming about paths a lot lately…

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a new path leads through the garden

So I pulled up a few quotes on the subject, and like how the following flow together:

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.
-Henry David Thoreau

March on, and fear not the thorns or sharp stones in life’s path.
-Khalil Gibran

If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.
-Anatole France

We ourselves must walk the path.
-Buddha

I’m not sure where the path I’ve chosen to take is ultimately leading me, but I’m grateful for all the places, people and experiences it has brought me. Here’s looking ahead to the Garden Bloggers Fling just around the corner in San Francisco later this week.

who’s got the best bluebonnets in town?

the brazos county master gardeners, of course! i just went out to check on the DIG (our demonstration idea garden) and this is who greeted me there:

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just in time for our upcoming plant sale… not this weekend, but NEXT WEEKEND, saturday, march 24th. be there or be square. maybe more of the aggie bonnets will be in bloom by then. what’s an aggie bonnet you say…? don’t you know everything in this town is maroon…?

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holiday greens

i’ve fallen off the blog bandwagon for a while… so, in an attempt to hop back on the sleigh, i’m proposing a daily, single photo post, of holiday greens that catch my eye on that particular day. why holiday greens? i love this time of year, especially for home & garden decorating. i hope to find some unique twists to what is traditionally considered for holiday green decor – be it actual materials, color combos, flavor inspirations, or whatever strikes my fancy that day. feel free to comment and let me know if we’re on the same wavelength.

first up, swiss chard:

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red and green, and pink and white. on one hand, this photo makes me think of peppermints. on the other, reminds me of the subtle-tasting vitamin addition my sister added to her recent holiday energy smoothie. drink it up friends. december is here.

to the man with a heart of gold

the risd landscape architecture family lost a wonderful soul this week.

doug crowell, we already miss you. may the light and laughter you brought to all of our lives continue to resonate from the hearts of those you touched.

the man with a heart of gold

i took this picture of doug playing guitar in the wire tree studded window of our graduate show gallery in mid june of 2005. it was a beautiful moment, seeing him playing there… we were full of hope and celebration of getting through three years of studio all nighters, cut fingers from model and wire tree making, tough critiques that made us wonder what the hell we were doing and personal breakthroughs that pushed us confidently forward. without a sheet of music in front of him, nor a care in the world of what passersby thought of him playing solo in the window, he was sure in that moment. he was free.

 

garlic roundup

if you’re looking for something to grow in the garden that doesn’t take a lot of work and has boundless benefits, consider garlic. we first grew the delectable bulb in our new york community garden, planting it in the spring to harvest in the fall.  we had to switch that time interval for our texas garden, planting in fall to harvest in spring.

a gift that keeps on giving

we first tried growing garlic that was sent as a home & garden warming gift from our friend lynn. as lovely as the package was, and savory as the un-planted cloves tasted, they were not successful in our growing conditions. we attributed our failure to harvest any garlic that year in planting a variety of hard-necked garlic ill suited to hot & humid southerly climes. determined to try again, i searched for a purveyor of garlic with a provenance proven to perform. i forget how i stumbled upon them, but i placed a rather ambitious order with gourmet garlic gardens. when the box arrived from bangs, texas with several nicely wrapped packages of garlic, it was accompanied by a hand written thank you note from bob.

nicely packaged garlic
packaged garlic varieties
a quality garlic product
hand written thank you

i was eager to get planting, but mr. grwhryrpltd thought i was crazy, wondering where the heck we’d plant it all.  considering we prepared a bed along a blank fence line earlier that spring, we had plenty of room.

april 2010 bed prep

according to the brazos valley vegetable planting guide, garlic is best fall planted between august 10 and october 20. since it was already october 22, i quickly went to work separating & peeling the cloves, soaking them overnight in a mixture of water and baking soda as bob recommended to neutralize fungi. i placed each variety in its own labeled mason jar. the next day, i drained the water and quickly soaked the cloves in a second bath of rubbing alcohol, also as recommended, to kill any remaining pathogens.

garlic's overnight soaking
basket full of soaking garlic cloves

i admit, we had a lot of cloves to plant. to take advantage of the available garden space, i utilized some handy rulers to evenly space each clove approximately 6″ apart. to keep track of each planted variety, i labeled each row with a wood coffee stirrer. seeing this wasn’t the most durable solution, i scavenged larger strips of wood from the garage, wrote their names in pencil (which is longer lasting than any pen i’ve ever used), and spray painted their tips orange, just for fun.

2 x 6 scraps make convenient rulers
labeled garlic rows

then we waited for the cloves to grow over winter, mature into spring and usher in summer.

growing garlic foliage
garlic, with a snowy winter blanket. yes, this is texas.
garlic progress in march, with kitties
garlic progress by may, sans kitties
garlic harvest: round one, late may
Inchelium Red

look at the size of those bulbs!

the giant Inchelium Red
Sonoran garlic
Siciliano garlic
Lorz Italian

after all the harvest-ready garlic was gently forked from the ground, it was transported to the garage to hang and dry. each variety was separated into groups of four to six bulbs, lassoed with twine, and properly labeled.

hanging to dry

while the garage is out of the elements, it can get pretty hot in there due to its southern exposure. garlic prefers to dry in a cool, dark environment. i’m hoping the humidity and light that penetrates through the garage door’s clerestory windows (ha, i wish) doesn’t prove to be problematic. it’s the only space we’ve got for such an operation.

while awaiting the second round of garlic to mature, i finally noticed some scape production. at this point in time (early june) i doubted if any of the garlic varieties would send up scapes. some do and some don’t. the first to show signs was Metechi, a marbled, purple-stripe garlic.

bowing scape head of Metechi
garlic scapes tower over eggplant

scapes are the flowering structure of garlic, similar to a chive, but better. if picked early enough, they’re particularly tasty to chop into whatever you’re cooking for dinner. by picking it you’ll save the garlic bulb from losing some heft, as any flower head left to mature converts its stored energy into seed production. however, if you let a scape mature just a wee bit longer, you’ll start to see bulbils form, which are another tasty addition to the skillet, similar to a mild onion. mmm… scape bulbils… and, if left to fully mature, the bulbils turn into mini cloves that you can plant and eventually harvest a bulb from, if given a few years to remain in the ground. full circle.

i heart scapes
bulbil
bulbil scapes... mmm, they're tasty

a week or so later, the next batch of garlic was ready to harvest:

garlic harvest: round two, early june
German White garlic
Metechi garlic
German White garlic with bulb and scape

we had two more harvests, but i’ll spare you those close-ups. after the garlic dried for a couple of weeks, it was time to clean (some of) it. this involved brushing off the dried soil, trimming the roots and stem, and removing the outermost leaf layer – purely for aesthetic reasons. by now the garage smelled quite savory given the steamy, 100 degree afternoons. not quite like passing over the forcefield of peppermint threshold at the celestial seasonings tea factory, but definitely a close second (if you don’t know what i’m talking about, go to boulder, colorado to find out. it’s worth it).

three dried garlic bulbs
trimming the roots
trimming the garlic neck
a clean garlic bulb
a peeled garlic bulb with separated clove
peeled bulb and clove
one naked clove

i bet you’re practically tasting the pungency by now, aren’t you…? to say that the flavor of a sliver of this bulb lasted until morning is an understatement… wahoo! fresh garlic packs a punch! now i know why my friend barb was so dedicated to growing it in her upstate ny garden. i may have to take her lead and host a garlic festival, texas style, to celebrate the garlickiness with friends. in the meantime, here’s my favorite hummus recipe:

puree 2 cups chick peas, 1/4 cup bean liquid, 1/4 cup lemon juice (better yet, key-lime juice), 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons tahini & 2 tablespoons olive oil in a food processor. blend until light and fluffy. mix in minced garlic scapes if you want an extra garlicy flavor and pretty green bits in your hummus. serve with chips, crackers, or garden fresh veggies. bon appetit!

 

ready the fleet

crossing the field & making marks

something must’ve struck me about the image above, for back in my scribbling days i marked it with my favorite yellow crayon, so that when i just happened to come across it some twenty eight years later in a dusty book at my parent’s shop it’d stop me – in. my. tracks. was i clumsily trying to star it because i liked the image of the women in their matching mechanic suits, walking across the air field in a confident but down to earth manner? was i already aspiring at a young age to be like one of these women? why did i mark this page…? why did i find it after all these years…? and how is it that i know for certain it was me, and not one of my sisters, that tagged it? what am i trying to foretell myself here? even though i found the mark, i often feel as if i’ve completely missed it. i’m well aware that life doesn’t come with a manual or pre-flight check list, but sometimes i just wish there was something more certain to go by. high school, check. college, check. grad school, check. career, sort-of check… on second thought, scratch that last one. where’s a good pink eraser when you need it?

my friend maggie, blogner of the curiosity shop at slotharium, recently posted about her own appreciation for rosie the riveter. she even had some local landscape interventions to experience them by this past memorial day. but seeing that it was i who begged her to start blogging, she’s now taunting me to pick up the blogging stick once again, even if i don’t feel as if i have much to say. yes ma’am…

here’s a somewhat recent cartoon, from the april 4, 2001 edition of the new yorker that’s been on the desk for a while, waiting for its moment at grwhryrpltd. it pretty much sums it up for me.

phew...

while not a worm, i do have an affinity for caterpillars, both before and after pupation. it’s especially cool when i’m able to convince a newly opened swallowtail butterfly to cling to my finger. there’s an amazing, unforgetable energy transferred from butterfly legs to human digits. you should try it sometime, if given the opportunity. i rescued this guy for a spell, then placed him on the flowering Diplo perennis (perennial corn) we’re trialing here in the garden:

male black swallowtail on perennial corn

thanks to my friend cindy for the link help to identify this guy from the gals. i was able to “rescue” another swallowtail from certain kitty doom yesterday, and she (the butterfly that is) seemed relieved for the assistance. while i may not have a matching swallowtail mechanic suit to strut amongst the sunflower patch with her, i have a quilt in the works that should suffice. it’s of my own design, modeled after the stripes on a swallowtail caterpillar. while it takes a certain amount of explanation to point out the similarities between the caterpillar and sewn squares, i sure like the mystery about it. i went to design school dang it, and not everything has to appear realistically. can you figure it out? here’s a hint: think vertically, in groups of three.

caterpillar quilt, in the works

see the resemblance?

Polyxenes asterius (black swallowtail) caterpillar

moral of the story: you really don’t need to know about everything all the time. but if you pick up clues and insights along the way, you’re probably doing okay.

now, where did that yellow crayon get to…