peas in a pod

peas in a pod

After a sunny, dry week of comfortable temperatures the weekend of course has to get humid and stormy. The storms hold off until late in the afternoon which does leave practically an entire day to be outdoors. Except not. The sun is hot and the humidity high and after 15 minutes I am sweating through my t-shirt. Not even the gusty breeze helps. But I keep going. After half an hour the sweat is pooling behind my knees and my hair at the nape of my neck is damp. After 45 minutes my bra is soaked and feeling really gross; there’s nothing quite like wet elastic. After an hour, I’ve had it. I’ve got dirt on my face from where I wiped sweat away while wearing gloves that are now plastered onto my hands which are sweating too. And when I pull my wellies off, they make a lovely sucking sound. But I am happy in spite of it all. Because look what I got to start picking today: peas!

Have you ever had peas fresh from the garden? There is no taste quite like it. The canned and frozen peas at the store aren’t even close to how much flavor they have just picked. If someone asked me what the color green tasted like, I’d say peas. Firm, not soft. And dry, not mushy. Sweet, but not sugary. And shelling the peas, so much fun. You gently squeeze the end of the pod and it pops open. Then you stick you finger in and carefully unzip it to reveal the fat peas inside. Hold the open pod over a bowl and run you finger down each side to dislodge the peas. Eat one now and then. Put the pods in a bowl to take out to the compost bin when you are done and save a couple inside to feed to the red wiggler worms in the bin. And while you are doing this, think about doing it again tomorrow and the next day and the next and then wonder why you didn’t plant even more peas in May because peas are the best and you can never have too many.

In my tiny, difficult to grow anything, south side of the house, hot and dry and partly shaded garden, last year I planted

Lovage

Lovage

lovage. Lovage is a tall perennial herb in the apiaceae family, a family that includes dill, fennel, parsley, parsnip, carrots and celery. It was too new and small to bloom last year but this year, it has grown up to about three feet tall (just shy of a meter) and is blooming with yellow umbel flowers that look kind of like dill but are bigger and sort of spiky. When I went to take a photo of the flowers, I discovered ants really like the flowers. The leaves can be used in salads or soups and the roots can apparently be dug up and eaten like a vegetable. If it turns out to be a big spreader, perhaps I will try the roots sometime. As for the leaves, they are supposed to taste like celery. So I nibbled on one. It definitely had a celery flavor going on, but very sharp and sort of smokey at the same time, sort of cumin-like. Which makes sense now because cumin is also in the apiaceae family. I am not sure I would ever use the leaves in a salad and if I did it would be just a tiny snip. They’d probably go better as a spice/flavoring in salad dressing. I can imagine it would taste good in soup, maybe a stew of some sort? So there you are, all about lovage. It is a good plant if you have a hot, dry, partly sunny (6 hours sun) corner of the garden and you want something tall but not too bushy.

All the gardening I’ve been doing for the last week and half has been performed in my new gardening capris from Duluth Trading Company. These pants are so wonderful I wish I could wear them all the time. I learned about these pants on a gardening blog about two weeks ago and decided I had to have a pair (they come in capri and full-length). I got moss green and went for the capri length because I have taken to wearing my wellies every time I go out in the garden even when it isn’t wet. Before these garden pants I’d just wear worn out tan cotton pants that quickly became even more worn out and stained especially at the knee. What’s so great about my new garden pants? They have so many pockets, and deep pockets at that. Plus they have pockets over the knees into which you can insert specially designed kneepads, which I also bought when I bought the pants. No more carrying around a foam kneeling pad. The kneepad inserts are comfortable and bendy and I hardly notice they are there. In addition, the fabric of the pants is a soft cotton/nylon blend that breathes and is durable while also being dirt, stain and water resistant. I have never bought anything from Duluth Trading Company before but after discovering these pants and seeing what good quality they are, I plan on eventually getting a work shirt or two for wearing in the garden.

a volunteer black-eyed Susan

a volunteer black-eyed Susan

I found out recently that much of what I am doing in my garden falls under a growing movement called “urban homesteading.” It isn’t only about gardening and producing food. It also encompasses an approach toward living in as sustainable a manner as possible, reducing your carbon footprint, self-sufficiency and community. It turns out I am already doing quite a lot that falls under the urban homesteading rubric without actually having known I was doing it. I read a really good book recently called The Weekend Homesteader. It is a start-where-you-are sort of book that offers simple projects you can do in a weekend to get you started on the homesteading path. A lot of it is about gardening but there is also seed saving and canning, baking bread and putting up a clothes line.

Homesteading and even permaculture gardening, generally also includes livestock: chickens, ducks, rabbits, bees. The bees: honey and pollinating. The chickens and ducks: manure, eggs and meat. The rabbits: manure and meat. As a vegan I would never dream of having livestock for meat or eggs (though if they were my own poultry they’d be more like pets and I would seriously consider eating their eggs but only their eggs). I considered rabbits for manure and thought, hey I could get longhaired rabbits that I could brush or shave twice a year and use their fur to make yarn for knitting. When I brought up the idea to Bookman he wasn’t keen on it. He doesn’t want to have to worry about more animals to take care of and he thinks it sort of cruel that the rabbits would be pretty much living in a cage all their lives. I see the point. But bees, now that is a possibility. We are going to have to knock down our slowly leaning garage in a few years and build a new one. We already decided we would do a green roof on it. Now we are thinking we could put a beehive on that roof too. This is something that won’t happen for at least five years but it is good to start thinking about these things now so when the time comes we know exactly what we want. Of course, I have also thought of knocking down the garage, building a small tool shed, removing all the concrete and extending the garden. I wonder how many things I will imagine before it comes time to actually do something about the garage?

We made a trip to the home improvement store to get supplies for our next project. This coming Friday is Independence Day and we have plans of the no fireworks related kind. There will be apple pie made from our own apples and Bookman has perfected his vegan hot dog recipe. It will be all-American. Oh and the project? It is a garden project that involves metal stakes, zip ties, and chicken wire. It will be a bigger, better version of something we already have. What could it possibly be?

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