Archive for July, 2010


Budding Garden Thoughts

July 21, 2010 Registered & Protected


“When heart and nature

work jointly, the harvest swells.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Summer Dinner

July 20, 2010

Homegrown produce, fresh off the vine, brings magic to the dinner table. Authentic flavors and aromatic scents heighten engaging conversations in ways store-bought food can’t. Serving a meal grown with your own hands is one of the best symbols of hospitality. Recently one of my readers treated friends to such an occasion. Below, with Betty Lee’s permission, I’m happy to share the special event. Here’s what Betty wrote.

“We had our first long-bean dinner last Friday, greeted with great anticipation. Our fresh garden vegetable dinner included baby bok choy, Japanese cucumbers, Mortgage Lifter and Celebrity tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants, bell pepper, and cilantro to complement the crab, pork spareribs, chicken, and won ton soup. Afterwards, my guests went outside to see my 2010-prize bean. It was 32 ½” long, and still growing. I am keeping this one for seed. 

The guests went home with some tomatoes, eggplants, and a variety of basil.”




Photos courtesy of Betty Lee. 


The Project: Day One

July 19, 2010 Registered & Protected


Morning arrived and I woke with “the project” on my mind. As soon as I publicly announced that I decided to commit time to “the project,” I couldn’t get started. There were many distractions, and enough excuses to fill a compost bin. The chickens needed tending too, my pet turkey, Miss Bobo, and Ralphie. Potted plants wanted water, weeds plucked, housecleaning, blogging, and my least-favorite thing—cooking meals.

 Feeling pressured to keep my word, I grabbed a pen and paper and scribbled a to-do list. This usually influences positive action on my part. By the end of the day, or week, I’ll have each task completed. Completion feels good. With faith in my back pocket, I pulled out “the project” and placed it on my desk. The plan was to finish the mundane tasks first, then start on the stack of papers. But I never touched them, not on day one, two, or three.

Eventually, the ball did start rolling. Ideas swelled. Organization for “the project” formulated. With new creativity flowing and a can-do attitude, I felt refreshed. Something I’ve needed as of lately. Here’s why.

Since converting In and Around the Garden from an e-newsletter to a blog, almost daily I’m more concerned with what readers want, frustrated with my poor computer skills, and not enough time to do everything.

Pondering articles that will educate, entertain, and get readers involved with commenting weighs heavily with bloggers. When In and Around the Garden was an   e-newsletter, feedback was excellent. On the web, people are less enthusiastic–shy about leaving their name–to comment or subscribe. However, for the blogger, a long line of subscribers conveys interest and a job well done. Comments express which materials you enjoyed, how the content connected to your life, what moved your spirit, what you need, or simply desire. Subscribing and commenting keep bloggers going. They fuel us in the same way a hard-earned paycheck would.

Then there’s the technical matter where only professionals know how to map a site, add Paypal, code e-books to sell on-line, link a blog to Facebook and Twitter, and activate multiple features—all of which I have yet to learn. Web designers, computer geeks, and like-minded individuals charge a hefty price that many bloggers can’t afford. Therefore, I wait for a kind soul to come along and volunteer his or her expertise. I have faith. My tiny e-newsletter is proof of where one can go, how much one can learn. Just the other day, a couple of techs tried to help me with a Facebook issue. Although the matter isn’t resolved—in the end they wanted payment to fix the problem—I now understand how the trouble came about. That’s more than I knew before. Each positive step, no matter how small, leads to the grand finale, in whatever measure that may be.

Remember the old song, Torn between Two Lovers? I often think it’s referring to country-garden writers. Writing steals time from gardening, educational classes, reading, and tours. Gardening steals time from writing, editing, reading, and attending critique groups. All are essential to provide interesting material, and to satisfy the driving force from within. I am consistently torn.

Whether you’re a country-garden blogger or a movie blogger, you have to get out there. Try new techniques, meet interesting people, and learn new methods. Without focus and prioritizing, all of this would be a mess-mash of tired energy (and sometimes it is), which brings me back to “the project.”

As previously posted, I’m not ready to reveal details. However, I will tell you this; “the project” has been the driving force behind my blog. Completion may take six months to a year. So hang in there with me. If on occasion, I post less often or if I get discouraged and bleat like a lonely goat, know that I am here moving forward—writing, gardening, doing the country thing, and with any luck learning just a tad bit more.

PS:  My first day working on “the project” may not have been on day one, but it was a good session.


Loving the hammock with a dog

July 15, 2010


Ralphie loves to swing in my hammock. A ritual we share late afternoons when a breeze has met with us to cool our hot summer brows.  The challenge is getting on and off the hammock together, and then wiggling our bodies to the center where balance remains steady. Once we’ve accomplished an even poise, an unbelievable calm, deep within, overcomes me. It may not last long though. Oftentimes, Ralphie wants to get down for a short expedition, and then back up again. Sharing a hammock with a pet is a lot like stolen parenting moments. You pray for five minutes of peace and quite. When it arrives, you embrace it with all your might and hope to heaven that there will be more of the same. Soon.


Budding Garden Thoughts

July 14, 2010 Registered & Protected


“Fertilize the soul

with adequate nourishment: 

Surround yourself with encouragers and doers.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


What’s up in My Garden

July 13, 2010

Let’s start a thread of comments about “what’s up in my garden.”

I’ll spin the first thread:

My vegetable garden, as I mentioned before, is a single raised bed built by my husband, Joe. He was going to fill it with soil from the pasture but I didn’t want to rob top soil from the old area for the new bed. I should have listened to him.

The raised bed’s soil came from an outside source. Who knows what was in it. I’ve lost a whole crop of lettuce and now two more problems have attacked my plants. For years, I had a huge vegetable garden growing in the warm earth (not a raised bed). The only problem in the old garden was hornworms.

Problem #1:  My Mortgage Lift heirloom tomato plant has Tobacco Streak. The virus arrives by Thrips through pollination. The leaves curl under and brown streaks run along the stems. I’ve trimmed off much of the infected parts, but the disease remains deep within the plants fiber. The tomatoes may or may not develop necrotic ringspots and lead to flower drop. At this point, all I can do is wait and watch.

Problem #2:  Ants have invaded my zucchini blossoms. Ants love sap; we all know this from their drunken parties with sugar in the pantry, chocolate cake on the counter, a breakfast plate in the sink still holding pancake syrup. In the garden, ants are usually a sign of aphids, but this is not the case with my zucchini plant. The ants are after the nectar, and there’s plenty in the depths of yellow zucchini blossoms. If left untreated, the ants can steal all the pollen and cause the blossoms to drop.

Because I don’t want chemicals around my plants or food, or seeping into the soil, I’m experimenting with corn meal. Supposedly, ants can’t digest the meal and die.

Problem #3:  In the perennial garden, my snapdragons have Downy Mildew. I’ve posted a photo so you’ll know how to identify it in your garden. Mildew is common on snapdragons, and most of mine get it every year. Unless it’s necessary, I’m not one to spend money on products. The snapdragons have finished blooming, and are littering seeds for next spring’s generation. Eventually, as the mildew spreads and turns the plant ugly or threatens to infect neighbors I’ll pull up the plant.

Now, it’s your turn to spin the next thread of “what’s up in my garden.”


Ten Garden Tips for Avoiding Aches and Pains

July 12, 2010 Registered & Protected


1.  Dress the part. Wear comfortable closed shoes with cotton socks. Clogs may be easy to slip into and out of, but your feet are apt to do just that, causing loss of balance and possible injury. Avoid sunburn. Use sun block. Wear sunglasses and a wide-rimmed hat that will shade your face and neck. To protect your body from a variety of elements like thorns and bacteria in the soil, wear garden gloves, long sleeves and pants. Even if you don’t have bad knees, use kneepads or a knee cushion.

2.  Take a few minutes to stretch your legs, arms, neck, and back. Your body will be more flexible and less apt to hurt later.

3.  Use tools that fit you. If a clipper opens too wide for your hand to manage comfortably, your hand will have to work harder. The same goes for large tools like shovels and rakes. If they’re too heavy, it will take more energy and effort to maneuver.

4.  Keep tools in tip-top shape. No point in struggling unnecessarily with dull blades. Keep them sharp and oiled so your tools do most of the hard work.

5.  Don’t stay kneeling or bent over for long periods. Switch off and on doing different garden tasks.

6.  Wear a mask and gloves while handling chemicals.

7.  Avoid dehydration. Stop to drink water every 30 – 60 minutes.

8.  Avoid tripping or stepping on garden tools by putting them away after each use.

9.  Lift heavy items with your legs, not your back. Use a dolly to move heavy pots and bags.

10.  Rejuvenate your body with a warm bath. Soak in Epson salts and scented herbs from your garden.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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