Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Gardening Obsession

Why did no one tell me how addictive plants are? It seems I've spent every spare moment this fall planting! I've recently planted about 150 more bulbs (mostly daffodils, some tulips and crocus), 5 clematis, and 5 varieties of garlic (about 10-12 cloves of each, so I'll be all set for next summer!). I've got several day lilies coming next week, too.

Yesterday was a busy day. I definitely made the most of the wonderful weather, and only came inside long enough to eat lunch and dinner! I got my trellis painted with Rustoleum, so I could install it and get the clematis planted beside it. I planted the 5 clematis (4 by the trellis, one out front, to twine up one of the shrub roses), mulched the new bed where I planted a lot of new named iris last month when my mom was here, planted the garlic, mulched the strawberries and garlic with straw, weeded and re-mulched the butterfly garden, and just basically did a lot of yard clean-up. I also learned to drive our new John Deere riding mower, complete with the trailer. Dave had let the boys try it, with supervision, but never had it out when I was available to try it. Took a few tries to figure out how to start it, but no worries once I had it going. I don't think I'll tell him that I know how to run it, though, or he'll expect me to mow! :o)

Our tomatoes are still producing like crazy, so I've been canning and freezing lots of tomato products. I found two new recipes on Dave's Garden website, and have been making them constantly. One involves throwing tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and whatever else you like, in a couple of 9 x 13 pans, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 425 for 2-1/2 hours. Then run it through a food mill to remove the seeds and skins, for the most wonderful roasted tomato sauce! It is intensely flavored and has such a nice kick, if you add a hot pepper or two and lots of garlic. I know I COULD can it, but thus far I've just been freezing it in two cup quantities in freezer bags. I'm sick of all the steam of the pressure canner!

I've also been playing around with a chunky salsa recipe for canning, adding different levels of heat, trying roasted veggies, etc. That one I don't quite have perfected. I think I need less sugar, and roast everything BUT the tomatoes, because I don't like skins in my salsa. So far I've made 3 batches, and we've already eaten 3 jars of it!

The broccoli has made a surprise final showing, too. I didn't know it would start producing again when the weather cooled down. In fact, this is the first harvest I've gotten from the 5 plants I bought locally. I did get a little earlier from the two plants my sister-in-law, LeaAnn, gave me, and they are producing again, too. I guess I need to either blanch and freeze it, or get going on some broccoli cheddar soup! Mmmm, I love soup this time of year!

I harvested tons of walking onions, trying to clear out enough room to plant the garlic, and learned how hard it is to braid the tops to dry them. After a half-dozen attempts, I finally just tied string around the tops and hung them up to cure. I only learned this year that those walking onions are actually really good to eat, not purely ornamental, so this is a new endeavor, too! I sure hope that the garlic doesn't flavor the strawberries, which are next to it in the bed. I could handle garlic flavored tomatoes, but strawberries? Not so much.

Our other big adventure of the weekend was a visit from the surveyor that Dave hired. Dave and our neighbor to the west have been having an increasingly heated debate over exactly where the property line between us lies. I am relieved to have an official word on it, so there will be no more of the conflict. I grew up understanding the importance of good relationships with your neighbors, and just hated having this issue hanging between us. I'm sure the anger won't just go away instantly, but at least the definitive decision was made by an independent third party. Both Dave and the neighbor have been talking about putting up a privacy fence, because they are so angry over it. Personally, I just don't see the big deal. Six-12 inches one way or the other. . .is it worth ruining a relationship over? So they were both mowing around the row of peonies. . .so what? I do think I need to dig up and move my Pinky Winky hydrangea, a gift from my mom for my birthday, as I now know it is over into their yard a little. They said they didn't care, but I'd just as soon know it wasn't going to get sprayed or pruned inappropriately or something.

Meanwhile, as I update the yard and add beautiful flowers, the house itself suffers. We need a new roof, I really want new siding, we've GOT to get that main bathroom functional again, we need to replace flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms, I'd love to replace the ugly 1970's carpet on the front porch, we need to fix up the window sills and door frame. . .the projects just continue to pile up. I wish I knew how to do some of the work myself, but I truly have no idea, and it seems every time I dive in and tackle a project, figuring I'll learn as I go, I end up making a bigger mess than we started with. I suppose Dave feels the same way, but somehow I still feel like he should be taking a more active role in fixing up the house. I guess I've learned one important thing: we are the WRONG couple to buy a fixer-upper house.