In between

Cover of the Glinda of Oz
Cover of the Glinda of Oz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the time of year when Glinda and I pretty much throw up our hands and say “Oh to hell with it.”  We sort of make sure things stay watered, we pick whatever is out there to pick (what the #@!!%&ing squrrels don’t take bites out of) and start thinking more about next year’s garden.  Next year will be different, it’ll be better.

We do have plans, it’s not like this is all airy-fairy wishful thinking.  We have plans backed up by research.  We know when things need to be moved.  (Roses in the spring, virtually everything else in the fall.)  We try hard not to notice the powdery mildew on the lilac while we plan our pruning strategy.  We change the plants in the front of the house to reflect the seasonal change and try not to notice that our flag holder is still hanging off the wall by one screw.  So attractive.

Our 101 year old neighbor told us to plant tomatoes where Buffy was.  I think he’s probably spot on so we’re already planning what varieties we’ll put there.  He keeps telling us to prune down the nectarine (He thinks it’s a peach.) so it’ll be full of fruit next year.  We need to drown the thing in nematodes for that to happen since we have peach borer, but yeah, we’ll prune back more this winter.  It doubled in size after the last pruning so this time we’ll be savage.  We hope we’ll have beautiful nectarines for him next year.

We’re trying not to think too hard about what’s wrong with the grapes.  They’re terrible this year and frankly I’m about ready to pull the vine out and put more roses in.  They do well in that bed which is more than I can say for the grapes.

Gardens are about ups and downs, they’re about cherishing what works and pulling out what doesn’t.  Probably the best thing they teach us is that we can’t begin to control nature so we have to learn to live in harmony with it.  More people should garden.

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In Memoriam: Buffy the (almost) Invincible

We killed Buffy today.  Part of me thinks that I tempted fate once too often by saying: “Buffy is unkillable.” But that was why we named her “Buffy” after all.  She was here when we moved in.  That first winter killed two of the four roses in our new garden.  The process of putting the patio in killed Buffy’s companion rose, but through it all Buffy remained solid, reliable, beautiful.  She was also prickly and would not hesitate to take a bite out of anyone foolish enough to approach her without gloves.  For five years she rewarded us with hundreds of lovely apricot-pink buds that opened to single white roses.

She was like the Lernaean Hydra; if a cane was cut down or broken, two would grow up in its place.  Every growing season we’d have to try to tie her back, and every year she’d spring free.  She weathered record heatwaves, cold summers, Japanese Beetles, black spot, powdery mildew, and ravenous bunnies.  She was a survivor.  We had begun to talk about building an arbor over the sidewalk to allow her to climb up and trail across the top.  It would have been beautiful.  We thought she’d be with us forever.

Until today.

Early this afternoon, Glinda and I were coming back from taking an orchid to Aunt Louise who is recuperating from a bad fall.  As we passed Buffy, I looked up to see where we could tie off the canes that were swinging over the sidewalk and I noticed that some of the canes looked wrong.  They had pinkish, spidery-looking growth where there should have been leaves and buds.  The growth looked like pink Witch Hazel blossoms, and it was not something I’d ever seen on a rose before.  So I decided to go inside and look it up.

 Buffy had rose rosette disease, a fairly new virus that is carried by microscopic mites that chow down on tenderest part of the rose, the new shoots and leaves. It’s also called “Witch’s Broom.” Rose rosette disease is incurable.  It’s also highly contagious.  If left untreated, it would spread to our other roses. It also isn’t common up here; it’s more a disease of zone 6 and higher.  Hotter areas.  Yet another gift from climate change, eh?
I looked for a way to save her.  I googled for an hour but there was nothing.  There are things that might work if you catch the disease early, which we hadn’t.  We were at the point of hoping that Cordy, Willow and Tara wouldn’t be affected.  Every page I found gave the same basic advice: Pull out the rose and get as much of the root system as you can.  The mites can live in the  root nodes.  In other words, rip it out and do not plant another rose in the same spot.

I went out with trash bags, gloves and pruning shears.  I cut down every cane and bagged it.  (Infected plants can’t be composted.) I cut and she bit me.

I told her that I was sorry, that she had to understand that it was to save the others.  Buffy had to die to save her friends.  She stopped biting then and let me cut her down.  Glinda came out and dug up as much of the root system as she could find.  She swept up the debris and I washed all the tools, the trellises and even the gloves in bleach water.

It hurt my heart to kill Buffy; she was our first rose. She meant a lot to both of us  I can’t really express how much we’ll miss her.

Buffy with her old friends
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Summer Tomatoes Call For Extraordinary Efforts

Tomatensorte Typ San Marzano
Tomatensorte Typ San Marzano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We grow our own tomatoes — this year it’s Black Krim, San Marzano, Mr. Stripey, Sungold, and a couple of others not really worth mentioning.  I’m going to turn the San Marzanos into tomato sauce, but tonight I had a bunch of fresh tomatoes from our garden and from our friends Linda and John, so I decided to whip up this recipe for a tomato tart.

Alas, I found that the puff pastry I had in the freezer was shells, not sheets.  But I thought, Okay, I can work with this.  I only had cheddar cheese, and had absolutely no intention of smearing mayo on this thing.

So I dutifully removed the pastry from the freezer half an hour before cooking, and sliced two beautiful tomatoes — one Black Krim, and one perfectly round one that Linda brought over — salted them lightly and put them between sheets of paper towels for half an hour.  I ended up laying the cookie sheet on top of them to make sure as much liquid as possible drained out.

Glinda grated the cheese for me, about a cup, or maybe cup-and-a-half.  I sprinkled the cheese on the pastry shells, then sprinkled them with Lake Shore Drive  seasoning blend and laid a tomato slice on each one.  Then I sprinkled on the reset of the cheddar, more Lake Shore Drive blend, a touch of Taylor Street cheese sprinkle (both these blends come from The Spice House, but if you can’t or don’t want to bother to get them, you can see what the ingredients are on the Spice House site.) and a bit more salt.  Then I baked them @ 400 for 30 minutes.

RAVES!  Seriously, both Linda and Glinda loved them, and I was wishing that we had twice as many, they were that good.  We have more of everything but pastry, and I’ve asked Glinda to pick some up this week.  We have got to have these again while the tomatoes are this good.  We also had some of Linda’s faboo banana bread for dessert and watched more of Whitechapel.

Speaking of Glinda, I went upstairs to help her tile the top of the Cumberboard, an antique sideboard that she got for an impressively low price last summer.  She got a fabulous deal on tile from the Designer Stone Outlet and while she set them, I cut the odd size ones.  Buckaroo chased Tommy through the Thinset so Glinda had to go wash him.  Then later we tormented Buckaroo into some ungentlemanly behavior.  Good times.

Oh Midwest, never change.

About two yesterday afternoon, I noticed that there was a severe storm watch for our area.  I knew Glinda was getting off work early so I texted her to let her know about the alert and to urge her to leave when she could and not work late.  To be honest I sort of figured this would be a wash, too.  We’ve been warned a lot this summer but nothing has panned out to more than a bit of rain here and there and maybe a couple of booms.

She got home in good time, but not long after it started getting very dark, and by the time she’d normally get home the wind had picked up and it had begun to rain. And at six all the lights went out right in the middle of a horrific wind and hail storm.

Just stare at this while you listen to the sound of the hail on Glinda’s a/c.
Now you’ve got the idea.
You know the cyclone in Wizard of Oz?  Kind of like that without the bump on the head, and cats instead of munchkins.
So we had to cancel our dinner plans with our friend, Linda.  I lit all my battery-operated candles and Glinda brought hers down.  We sat in the dim and ordered pizza before my laptop battery conked out.  We lit a real candle and put it on the porch so the delivery guy could find us.  He told us about all the trees that were down in the neighborhood.  It was kind of annoying that all the houses on the other side of the block had power and all our street lights were on, but at least the temperature had dropped and it wasn’t horribly hot without the a/c and fans.
We ate pizza and cannoli, and played with our smart phones, taking bizarre photos in the dark.
Waiting for the pizza

What our ancestors did in the dark.  Selfies by tablet light

Glinda gathers her candles for the long, dark trek upstairs.
Also annoying?  We were told power would be back by 7, then by 8 when it did come on for two seconds, long enough to be half blinded by the flash.  Then they said 11:30.  I was texting to get the status.  About 10:30 they stopped responding to requests for status, or anything else and I ended up sending texts like: “STAT!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STAT!!!  STAT YOU BASTARDS!”  And I wasn’t even drunk like that time I started emailing American Express. (Don’t ask.)
It came back on at 11:35.  I was half asleep.  Everything beeped and woke me up.  The first thing I did was get up and start the dish washer.  I lost a whole batch of pumpkin butter and three trays of grapes that had been in the dehydrator for a couple of hours.  If it hadn’t been so humid, I might have restarted them, but keeping either the grapes or the pumpkin butter seemed like a recipe for disaster.
There are fallen leaves all over the garden, and we had several of our light bulbs smashed to pieces by the hail.  At least there were no dead baby bunnies, squirrels or birds that we found.  Buffy took quite a beating as did Tara.  Most of the other girls came through in good shape.  I was sure the pots I’d left on the table would have blown off and broken, but they were all still where I’d put them.  We even had a few ripe strawberries waiting for us this afternoon when we got back from the movies (“World’s End” Great film.)
So today we went down to the basement and moved some furniture.  We’re really pushing forward on our studio plans.  Which reminds me that we could use your help.  Cloth, Paper, Scissors is running a contest for studio furniture and CPS product, and we’ve entered with a very sad photo of what the place looks like right now.  You can help us by clicking on the widget below, or to the right, and voting for us.  We’re doing quite well so far!  Thanks.  We’ll keep you posted if we win anything.

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