Tuesday, August 15, 2017

World Garden War 1/2

The codependency of my plants is really getting out of hand.

I used to think my animals got pissy when they didn't get enough attention.

The last couple weeks, I've been outside every night after nine with a flashlight, taking out bugs that have decided to take up shop in my muskmelons. Leave those bastards alone for one night and the melon plants get gnawed down to little more than sticks.

Now that's codependent.

It all started with the monsoon that blew through my town a couple of weeks ago. July in Wyoming is usually hot and dry, creeping into the nineties and triple digits. Things suffer in the heat and need to be watered regularly.

Muskmelons and cucumbers thrive in the heat. They soak up that sun like tanning bed addicts. Of course they still need water as do the rest of my plants, so the area in which they sit is usually slightly damp from all the watering I do.

 My monthly water bill is on the wrong side of fifty dollars.

When I first moved in I paid forty dollars every two months.

I'm not sure how the city is justifying this, but whatever. I water a lot, but not that much.

One morning I noticed holes in the leaves of my muskmelons. There were holes in my cucumber leaves too, but that was because of the hail that came along with the monsoon. Driving rain also came along with the monsoon, and that whole week had been rainy and pretty wet.

Imagine my horror when I went out one night and my fence was just covered in slugs.

I have a solid white aluminum fence. Perfect for slithering over as it's a smooth surface. I scattered slug pellets all around my plants, but apparently it wasn't deterring the party raging on the fence.

Slugs can decimate a garden in a couple of nights. That many slugs can decimate a garden in a matter of hours.

So I got out the big guns. More slug pellets and a spray bottle filled with water and vinegar. I went out there and just took out the fence in streams of vinegar water, target-popping each slug and sending them sliding into the dirt as they died. Apparently their sticky slime doesn't hold up well in vinegar, and who the hell wants slug slime all over their fence anyway?

GROSS.

At least they were small, even if there were fifty or sixty of them. On the west coast I'm told they grow to the size of small cats.

It was remarkably satisfying, aiming that spray bottle at each slug and taking it out. The next morning while it was still damp I went out again and picked off the survivors.

Yet, holes still appeared in my muskmelon leaves. I had to step up my preventative tactics. The slug pellets work, but not nearly as well as is bragged about on the bag. I also set out beer traps, trellised my cucumbers, and surrounded them with dog hair (apparently slugs can't slither over hair). Then I did some research.

Turns out while slugs were a nuisance around my plants (and my fence), what was actually going after my muskmelons was earwigs, or pincer bugs. They chomp holes into leaves, strip the leaf stems, and they can decimate a garden in a few days too, if there is enough of them. Plus they love damp conditions, and with all the rain, I'm probably harboring a small city of them somewhere.

Once again I went online to find out how to combat these little pests. According to my friend Google, you can kill the little bastards by luring them into oil traps seasoned with soy sauce. The soy sauce attracts them and when they fall into the oil it gums up their works and they drown.

It didn't work.

What did work? Well, just like the slugs, beer worked great. In the evenings I can go out there, shake the leaves of my melon plants, and a bunch of the little jerks fall out. Then they discover the beer which I set out in shallow plastic plates, and it's goodbye pincer bugs.

Now every evening I put out shallow plastic trays, fill them with beer, and wait for morning. The last few mornings I've found dead slugs, dead pincer bugs, and dead wasps floating around in my beer. The beer is discarded into the rosebush and everyone's happy.

Especially me as I still have my melons.

I had an issue with grasshoppers too for a while. One day they were everywhere, jumping around, climbing up the long grass that grows along my fence, and the next day I noticed the herd had been considerably thinned. I thought at first it was Tess, as she likes to snap up things that fly around. It's one of her games. She chases flies, wasps, and grasshoppers, and snaps them up. She's done this for years, and never been stung. She's the reason I don't have yellow jackets building nests under my deck anymore, as one summer I came home from work and the deck was littered with yellow jacket carcasses.

I'm not the only one declaring war on pesky insects. My dog is at it, too.

The only thing I don't like about this little dog quirk is the occasional snap she takes at a big fat bumblebee. I'm sad to say she has killed one before. They just can't get their big fat butts into the air fast enough to get away from her.

Not okay, dog.

Anyway, the grasshoppers pretty much disappeared from my yard, and I couldn't figure out what had gotten them until the other night when this cute little black snake bolted across my foot and under the cucumber tub.

Most people would have screamed. I was all, "Oh, aren't you just the cutest thing?"

Some people hate spiders and snakes. Me? I love them. I especially love them in my garden.

I went ahead and named him Hiss.

I was also thrilled to discover more little jumping spiders crawling around on the cucumber plants and taking care of the vermin there. I still remember a few summers ago when I was weeding one of my raised beds, and here came this rather large spider just dragging a grasshopper carcass along behind him.

It's deadly out there.

So beware, slugs, pincer bugs, and grasshoppers! There's Hiss the Snake, Tess the dog, plenty of spiders, a collection of shallow plates filled with beer, and me and my spray bottle of vinegar just waiting to take you all out.

Let the war begin.

Who knew gardening was such a bloodbath?

 

My pride and joy - six muskmelons!



And some carrots!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

War of the Roses

I might have codependent pets, but I also have codependent plants.

Actually, I think I'm the codependent one when it comes to the plants.

My mood shifts from sad to happy as soon as I see my petunias. It physically hurts every time I have to shear them down halfway in order to prevent "legginess" and to encourage the plants to bloom more. When I went on vacation for a week I had to cut all the blooms off and trim the stems halfway because I knew the Cowboy would not deadhead them while I was gone and I didn't want the plants to die.

I cried.

Rationally I know they grow back, but it still hurts me to cut beautiful flowers off when they are just exploding in blooming color.

It makes my deck look happy.

I landscaped my backyard several years ago and had plants put in along the border of the fence. I also planted a crabapple tree in the corner. That tree died at the end of last fall and the winter did nothing to revive it. When spring hit this year, it remained a skeletal statue of broken twigs with no leaves. Usually by mid-May it would sprout beautiful reddish/purple leaves and start bearing fruit by June. I'm not sure what happened to it, but sadly, it had to be chopped down.

Meanwhile, it had inadvertently reproduced. I had a tiny crapapple twig sticking out of the ground in May and after watering it all summer, it is now a good three feet high and getting bushy with leaves.

Every summer I attempt to plant a garden, and usually I yield a few carrots, some peas, and maybe a cucumber or two. This year, I planted four cucumber plants, four muskmelon plants, some radishes, some peas, and several types of herbs. I have about eight carrots. The radishes became food for pincer bugs, and although the cucumber plants are busy and beautiful and popping with flowers, I have all of three cucumbers trying to grow, and none of them the size they should be by now.

The muskmelons are doing the best. I have six melons all bigger than a softball, and I'm out there in my yard constantly, arranging their vines on trellises, watering them, rearranging the melons themselves so that they don't strain their vines, and eliminating pests as they attempt to destroy all my hard work.

It's exhausting, but I'm attached to those damn muskmelon plants.

My favorite plant is this crazy wild rosebush in my front garden. It's right up against the front of the house and it came with the property when I moved in fifteen years ago. At that time I rented, and I didn't pay much attention. The thing took care of itself, reviving every spring and blooming rose blossoms from mid June through August, and sometimes into September. I rarely watered it, but it didn't seem to care, and no snowstorm, windstorm, or burning 90 degree heat seemed to faze it.

After I bought the place I started taking care of it more, mostly because I admired how hardy it was
and I felt a little bad for not caring for it. I started to water it in the summers, particularly when it got really hot. Also, the Cowboy had planted other plants around it that need to be watered constantly so the rosebush reaped the benefits of that. Someone also told me that rosebushes love beer. One year after a particularly harsh winter when I wasn't sure the bush survived, I dumped a huge can of cheap beer on it, and within a week that thing exploded. Since then it gets a can of beer every year and also my coffee grounds daily.

It has flourished.

If it won't die lacking water and being beat on by dry hot sun, imagine what happens to this thing when it's actually being nurtured?

It took over.

The Cowboy had to get in there with shears and trim it back before it covered my kitchen window and crawled across the front lawn.

And since my lawn isn't big, it would have been crawling into the neighbor's lawn. I doubt they'd appreciate that because the thorns on this thing are wicked.  It acts like the perfect barrier against deer and rabbits for my tulips. The tulips grow right underneath the rosebush and nothing bothers those.

Over the last fifteen years I've become extremely attached to this thing. Added to the fact that it just won't die barring a nuclear winter (and even then I think this is the only thing that would survive), it's just a neat bush. It's not like those hothouse roses or domestic rosebushes. You can't buy these plants at the nursery or Home Depot. I don't know where it came from since it's been in my front yard since I moved in, but it's crazy, wild, and out of control. The guy at the feed store told me it's probably one of those old throwback bushes that grow wild in the mountains.

That makes me like it more.

I like to think of it has the protector of the house.

Wild rosebushes are said to repel vampires, like garlic and crosses.

It's not doing a very good job since California Guy still manages to cross the threshold, but hey, legend says, so it must be true on some level.

Now being faced with the possibility of maybe selling my house and moving, I'm in a conundrum. I refuse to leave this bush behind. The other plants are replaceable, but this rosebush has sentimental value, and let's face it, it's like one of my pets. No one will be able to care for it like I do, and true, it seems to do just fine on it's own, but still. We've become pals. We've bonded.

So California Guy had the bright idea of trying to clone it. When the time comes I might still hire a professional to dig it up and help me transplant it, but meanwhile, in case that doesn't work, I'd like to at least take some part of it with me. 

We bought some cloning gel, followed the directions, and tried to clone three branches from the bush.

We did it wrong and they all dried out and died.

A couple of weeks ago, we tried again. The directions aren't that hard. You find a branch with a spent bloom and snip it about 8 inches at a 45% angle. You dip the clipped end into cloning gel and plant it in a container with fluffy soft planting soil, the bottom lined with rocks. Then you spritz it with water, put it in a bucket and cover it with plastic wrap, making sure to keep the stem leaves moist at all times. It requires several spritzings a day. Set it in indirect light so it doesn't cook in the sun and cross your fingers.

So far both clippings are still alive. Despite my fussing and checking and rearranging the plastic wrap over the bucket, the clippings are actually thriving.

I can't seem to leave shit alone and just let it do its thing. The clippings would probably develop roots a lot faster if I'd just leave them alone and go away.

I have to say, I was skeptical reading the directions. Does this actually work? Coupled with the fact that we killed the last three we tried this with, I really didn't know how this last one would make out. We made some bad mistakes with the first three though. California Guy took them home which was a two hour drive so they dried out and started to die then. And then when he put them in a box and wrapped them, they just couldn't stay wet enough because the plastic wrap wouldn't cooperate.

I discovered the bucket was much easier rather than a box. With two clippings in there, it works like a greenhouse.

I have one more month to do this as the bush will continue to bloom through August and I can still get my hands on spent blooms. I have visions of cloning ten of these guys and planting them everywhere I go.

Otherwise it's another year before I can entertain the idea of moving as I will not leave this bush behind.

It's my baby.

But if these two twigs I have survive and actually become Rosebush 2.0 then I will definitely believe that nothing can kill this bush.

It'll be the cockroach of plants.

Keep your fingers crossed.


Rosebush 2.0 - it reminds me a little of Baby Groot


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Just Want a Cheeseburger!

I might be one of those annoying, pretentious people on a special diet, but I have to grudgingly admit that I think it's actually working.

Who knew? What you put in your body actually has an affect on how you feel and look.

Crazy.

Two weeks on this ridiculous diet and I am already starting to feel better. Everything they promise you when cutting out wheat, grains, sugar, processed foods, and chemicals actually does happen. Your skin clears up, the brain fog dissipates, you lose weight, the bloating deflates, and the energy returns. And if one has issues with halitosis, it clears that up too, because Candida and the bacteria from oversugared foods is what causes bad breath, even if you brush your teeth three times a day.

The only thing that does not happen as they say is the cravings go away.

That's a load of crap.

I've been very good about sticking to the diet, mostly because I threw away everything I can't have to get rid of the temptation, but visions of cake, chocolate, specialty coffees, and ice cream still dance through my dreams at night.

The other night I decided I'd been so good and I could only give up three vices at once, so I caved and had a glass of white wine.

I waited with breath that was bated for my stomach to balloon up and turn me into a pseudo pregnant lump again.

Nothing happened. I enjoyed my wine immensely and did not turn into a pufferfish.

Here is a typical day for me. It starts with a handful of supplements, the main ones being berberine and a probiotic to help with the tummy issues, and a cup of bone broth. Then I usually eat hard boiled eggs or a cup of plain Greek yogurt with berries for breakfast. I'm usually not hungry by lunch because I snack on carrots, celery with almond butter, nuts and seeds, and a square of 86 or 72% cacao chocolate (and truth be told I'm getting damned sick of that shit - I MISS MY MILK CHOCOLATE!) For dinner I make some kind of meat with olive oil (no butter for me) and a salad or steamed vegetable or baked root vegetable or something.

I'm starving to death.

Just kidding. I have a tendency to be dramatic.

I can't have coffee so I drink tea, but I'm here to tell you, tea is just not as satisfying as coffee.  And it's doubly unfair because I never put sugar in my coffee, and if I have to cut out all sugar, why does that include my sacred morning coffee?

Oh, yeah. I have to cut out caffeine.

Oh, poop.

I do cheat foodwise. I made curry the other night. Everything in it was on the list of okay foods except the tomato sauce. I'm not supposed to have tomatoes and definitely not tomato sauce in a jar.

The curry was delicious. It was worth it. I did pay for it, though.

Twenty years ago, you couldn't find anything gluten free, let alone anything with limited ingredients. Now, instead of potato chips there are sweet potato chips baked with only coconut oil and salt. Instead of saltines and Wheat Thins (oh, Wheat Thins, how I miss you), you can get sprouted crackers made with seeds, sprouts, and rosemary and thyme.

Not even kidding.

I didn't think I could find a cracker not made of grains. Gluten free crackers are made with rice. But these sprouted crackers don't have a single grain or processed ingredient.

And quinoa seems to be the "new thing." Instead of rice or pasta, just whip up a batch of this stuff and it's like rice or even couscous.

Speaking of pasta, I found pea flour pasta made from 100% peas and buckwheat pasta. Most gluten free pastas are made of rice or corn, and the quinoa pasta is half corn. I can't have corn or rice or any other grains except quinoa and buckwheat.

How lucky is that?

Twenty years ago I would have really starved to death. But now there are so many choices. I don't have to just live on grilled salmon and sauteed spinach with asparagus.

There's never been a better time to be pretentious and on a special diet.

The thing is, with all of these healthy substitutes, it's still never going to be the same. Sweet potato chips are delicious, but they do not hit the spot when one just wants a bagful of greasy potato chips. I like the Boulder Canyon potato chips cooked in olive oil, and while they are better than Ruffles, they do still bother my stomach.

And stove popped popcorn in olive oil? Yummy. But they do not beat the movie theater popcorn with fake butter drizzled all over it.

Also, popcorn bothers my stomach.

My huge weakness is fries. I love fries. Sweet potato fries are good, but sometimes a good old plate of greasy diner French fries is the only thing that will ease the craving. This last weekend all I really wanted was a cheeseburger. I ended up settling for vegetable stir-fry with venison and quinoa, and it was very good, but it was not a cheeseburger. I also got to have wine with it, but the wine wasn't very good.

I should have cheated with an ice cream bar instead. Red wine at least has some heart healthy something or other that winos like me think makes it legit to indulge in. Meanwhile, ice cream has absolutely zero redeeming qualities. So when I cheat, I cheat with wine rather than sugar-laden ice cream, and tell myself at least the wine is sort of healthy.

Sure it is.

I tried coconut whipped cream in a desperate attempt to get some kind of whipped yummy goodness. Forget it. I just ended up with stirred coconut milk. Coconut milk is good, and I didn't mind it poured over my strawberries, but it wasn't whipped cream.

Also so much coconut milk did make my stomach hurt.

It is possible to overdo "healthy."

Everything in moderation right?

Although, my big secret is that I baked a loaf of my mother's homemade gluten-saturated bread for California Guy this weekend and I actually had a small piece of it.

Don't tell my doctor.

I don't know if it's the two weeks on a strict diet of roughage and protein, or the daily cup of bone broth, but my stomach actually accepted this deviant piece of bread with no complaints.

I may one day be able to digest small amounts of gluten again without looking like I'm ready to pop out twins. If I stick to mostly healthy eating, indulge in "bad foods" only occasionally, and drink my bone broth, my stomach will heal itself to the point where I won't be as gluten sensitive.

I can have cupcakes again!

Someday...

Again, everything in moderation.

I doubt, however, that I will ever be able to digest fast food or most processed foods again. That ship has sailed. But I will willingly give all that up permanently if the light at the end of the tunnel says I can indulge in homemade bread, the occasional croissant, or a cupcake.

Then I will eat my kale and broccoli with zero complaints.



Two typical dinners for someone restricted to my diet.
Definitely not a cheeseburger...