Tag Archives: garden

The Scent of My Morning

The morning is early, but you can feel the edge of the sunshine turning hot.  A quick shift in the breeze between cool dampness and dusty heat.  As I tromp out of one garden patch, moving the sprinkler to another bed, the scent of garlic perfumes the air. This is not the “aroma” of stale garlic from a cheap pizza joint, but fresh garlic growing inches from where I drag the hose and try to not stumble into the plants in my early morning haze.  In the interests of full disclosure it’s not really that early, but my level of functionality in the morning is… how to say this politely… slow.  Yet every morning as I move the sprinkler from that particular garden bed I catch the scent of garlic and think of it longingly.  I miss garlic.  I love garlic.  It’s early, I don’t plan on eating garlic right now, but it’s the true scent of the plant that makes me smile.  Every morning the scent of that garlic makes me think of food, which makes me laugh at the thought of a heavy garlic breakfast (not an impossibility in my household before the FODMAP… joy).  Then that thought always takes me to Turkey.

The first picked garlic head (with accoutrement) was gifted to me.  It was also the first time I'd actually seen the whole plant, including the curly scape growing out of the top.

The first picked garlic head (with accoutrement) was gifted to me. It was also the first time I’d actually seen the whole plant, including the curly scape growing out of the top.

Our landlord also let me harvest the remaining scapes from her patch.  Half of them ended up on our grill with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  The other half are destined for some garlic scape pesto, but more on that later.

Our landlord also let me harvest the remaining scapes from her patch. Half of them ended up on our grill with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. The other half are destined for some garlic scape pesto, but more on that later.

I have no idea when I’ll get to return to Turkey or in what capacity, but the country and the people are lovely and I miss them both.  But in the mornings when I smell the garlic plants I reminds me of a less pleasant smell… at least at 4am… that of pancakes. Don’t tell my son that I wrote this, but at 4am on a dig site the last thing in the world I want to smell is cooking food, particularly pancakes.  For my first excavation in Turkey we had a dig chef who is arguably the best (and most fought over… literally) dig chef in the country.  Necmi is amazing.  Out of his love and caring for us, Necmi would prepare for us special food to start our day.  Pancakes.  The smell of those pancakes at o’dark hundred hour made me nauseous, but out of love for Necmi we would all try to choke one or two down.  Then around 8:30am-ish, after we’d been working at the excavation site for a few hours, we would stop work for second breakfast (the life of an archaeologist in the field does have some parallels to how hobbits eat) we would wish we had his pancakes.

Now I just need to figure out how to cure this glorious bulb.

Now I just need to figure out how to cure this glorious bulb.

But back to the garlic.  This is one of those crops that I’d never actually seen in “the wild”  before moving to Vancouver Island.  I had a good working knowledge of what the plant looked like, having cooked with garlic bulbs all of my adult life, but that doesn’t prepare you for the reality of the three foot high stalks, the buried/hidden bulbs underground (are they growing down there?), or the Seussian curly scapes that signal the garlic is almost ready to harvest.  Nor does it prepare you for the realities of how to actually harvest the thing.  Fresh garlic needs to cure or dry before it is used, but these are seriously thick stalks.  Can we even braid them into some form of bulbous hair-like creation?  And if so, where do we put them.  And if we can’t braid them, where do we store them?  Fresh garlic is like a gremlin, don’t get it wet.

My glorious harvest of scapes.

My glorious harvest of scapes.

The bulk of this garlic-based malaise is actually not mine to carry, but my landlord’s.  We did not plant garlic because I figured it was a moot point since we couldn’t eat it due to Little Man’s FODMAP restrictions.  That was… shall we say… shortsighted of me.  SInce then I’ve found ways to use garlic (like in garlic infused oils) in cooking for LIttle Man, and there is the fact that Dave and I can eat garlic even if our son cannot.  While the low FODMAP thing is working great for Little Man, my weight has gone up, my nails shatter just by looking at them cross eyed, and I’ve started coveting my neighbors garlic patch.  Luckily our neighbors are kind, sharing people, and I have some fresh garlic curing downstairs as we speak with the promise of more garlic later in the season for us to plant for next year.  The world is a kinder place because of it.

Garlic Scapes

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A Red Wheel Barrow

So much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.
-Poem by William Carlos Williams

I first read that poem in high school and promptly forgot it.  It was nearly 10 years later, after university as I worked in the “real world” that I decided I liked the ivory tower better and wanted to go back to graduate school.  Only after starting graduate school would I remember the rainwater glazed wheel barrow.

I was in Turkey for my first archaeology field season when Williams’ wheel barrow came to mind.  Maybe it was the pastoral setting with sheep, goats and turkeys rampaging across the golden countryside.  Maybe it was the horizon dotted by slow moving tractors harvesting grain that would feed most of the country.  Or maybe it was the fact that I’d discovered how intensely, mind numbingly boring archaeology can be at times.  I’m not sure what the impetus was, but I was in immediate need of poetry.

Don’t get me wrong, I love archaeology, but there are days when you’ve come across nothing, nothing, nothing, but more dirt, nothing to get your mind working on anything.  It was one of those mornings where I’d found nothing but more dirt… again… that I found myself quoting poems memorized in high school.  Emily Dickenson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.”  Random Shakespearean sonnets.  And what bugged me was that I couldn’t remember the one about the wheel barrow and the chickens. It just seemed to fit somehow, but I couldn’t remember the words and there was no wifi for miles and miles.

In fact, not only was there no wifi, but there was no electricity, no running water, no cars at the village across from our excavation site.  My favorite thing was to watch as the donkey drawn cart come trundling over the hill, dangling with plastic bowls, metal pots, children’s toys, and other paraphernalia that the local villagers might want to purchase.  Often on those same days we would see the ice cream donkey hoofing it over the hill.  The donkey was led by a young boy and had two large, orange, insulated drink containers strapped to his sides, both filled with the local ice cream that is blended with pounded orchids giving it a distinctively gummy texture.  It’s an acquired taste.  At the time I didn’t know that this was not the glorious rainbow sherbet that just the mention of caused my parched mouth to water.  When I finally gathered up the courage after weeks of excavation to get some ice cream from the lad… I ended up burying it in my back dirt pile the minute he was over the hill again.  Maybe it was just his local batch, but it had the overall flavor of what I can only imagine old tires must taste like.

My garden plot needed a bit of elbow grease, especially with the amazing kale finally going to seed after a mild winter.

My garden plot needed a bit of elbow grease, especially with the amazing kale finally going to seed after a mild winter.

What brought all of this to mind was me digging in the dirt of my garden patch.  After our relatively warm winter, my plot had begun to look rather… what’s a polite word for it… scruffy… unkempt… bordering on embarrassing.  I hacked away at the clumps of stubborn grass and filled my borrowed red wheel barrow to the rim twice with fluffy, green toupees to dump in the pig pen.  The pigs seemed to have fun tossing them in the air.  Or at least I think they are having fun.  They might have been vehemently stating that fluffy, green toupees of grass are not delightful pig snacks.  Just to be sure I brought them some wonderfully wilted vegetable scraps later.  Those pigs have long memories.

Getting the kale out was the easy part.  That grass toupee was obnoxious.

Getting the kale out was the easy part. That grass toupee was obnoxious.

But that brings me back to the wheel barrow, glazing rain water and chickens.  So much depends upon…  Still makes me smile.  As I swung my scythe of doom for weeds (aka a borrowed hoe that I likely should not be swinging like a scythe) poems from high school streamed through my mind.  Foremost has been the white chickens by the red wheel barrow.  Though in my mind this is followed by a curly haired little boy chasing the said chickens amid much cackling from boy and chickens.

The grass toupees are gone, and I've moved the parsley and chives to their

The grass toupees are gone, and I’ve moved the parsley and chives to their “new” garden plan locations.

Let the gardening games begin...

Let the gardening games begin…

My Pumpkin Vine Tried to Take Over the World

My pumpkin vine recently made a bid to take over the world, and it very nearly succeeded.  When starting this garden I gave myself the freedom to experiment… aka to mess up big time.  I didn’t want to be so worried about the outcome that I would be paralyzed to do anything.  Our garden plot is large, so I divided it up into quadrants with a small hill for squash in the center. In the center most part of the squash hill I planted a seedling that Aiden had made from the Easter Festival in downtown Nanaimo.  Dave and I call it the mystery pumpkin since neither one of us can remember what the seed was called at the festival.

Here is a picture of the mystery pumpkin seedling when we first planted it in the center hill of the garden.  It is the tiny seedling in the top center of the photo.

Please note the small, unassuming mystery pumpkin seeding in the center of the garden.

Please note the small, unassuming mystery pumpkin seeding in the center of the garden.

Now here it is today…

The mystery pumpkin tries to take over the world, starting with the garden.

The mystery pumpkin tries to take over the world, starting with the garden.

Where did my lovely paths into the garden go?  Oh, yes...  They are buried under pumpkin vines.

Where did my lovely paths into the garden go? Oh, yes… They are buried under pumpkin vines.

I started noticing an issue with the pumpkin vine when it got more and more difficult to place the arching sprinkler into my garden patch.  The humungous leaves of the vine started blocking the water, so I began pinning leaves down under the sprinkler to give the rest of the garden a chance to get some water.  Then I started noticing that half of the garden was disappearing under the ever-encroaching vines.

It was when I woke up one morning from a stress dream about my garden that I realized something needed to be done about the vines.  Once again turning to the internet for a solution, I stumbled on the Pumpkin Nook.  Using the Pumpkin Nook’s information I attacked the pumpkin vine with a loving vengeance.  I pruned more pumpkin vine than I had realized even existed in the garden.

One of Little Man's pumpkins.

One of Little Man’s pumpkins.

Now that I’ve done some drastic cutting back of the pumpkin vine, it seems to still be trucking along healthily and Little Man daily goes out to check on the progress of his six pumpkins.  I can’t wait to see how big they get.  And I think I need to start doing a bit of internet research on uses for squash blossoms.  What I failed to mention is that on the north side of the pumpkin mound I planted zucchini and on the south side I planted sun burst squash… Yes…  Remember that I wanted to experiment?  At least I don’t have to worry about not having any garden produce…  😉

Pumpkin Blossom

A Sick Snow Day

This week dawned bright and sparkly on a few inches of unexpected (at least to us) snow.  These were the sights that greeted me when I stumbled out of the house on Monday morning with an old cardboard box to gather wood from our shed for the day’s fire.  I’d forgotten to tuck my pants legs into my sorely misused Uggs, and would have wet, cold ankles for a bit once I got back inside, but the beautiful pink light from the morning sun coming over the dusted pines made me forget about that.  The farmer’s dog hadn’t been let out yet, so our snow was still pristine, without dog footprints or other offerings.

Snow-frosted fencing curled up around the border of our back yard.  Just waiting for Spring so the garden beds and "real" fencing can be put in place.

Snow-frosted fencing curled up around the border of our back yard. Just waiting for Spring so the garden beds and “real” fencing can be put in place.

Unfortunately this was not just a snow day, but a sick day with our toddler totally knocked out with the flu.  It was almost with tears that we had to turn away the farmer’s daughter when she came to see if Little Man would like to go sledding.  He, of course, said “yes!” through a fit of fevered coughing, and almost succeeded in rolling off the couch towards the door.  We’ll have more chances for sledding later, once he’s fit as a fiddle again.

A view of our little summer "gazebo" bench, and the lone Canadian flag windsock.  A nice punch of color for our white and black landscape.

A view of our little summer “gazebo” bench, and the lone Canadian flag windsock. A nice punch of color for our white and black landscape.

In the meantime, when Little Man did have enough energy to roll off the couch he decided he wanted to “decorate the floor.”  He’s done smaller versions of this on the dining room and living room tables, but nothing quite to this extent before.  If anyone had the audacity to walk into the living room while he was working, they were greeted with a firmly outstretched toddler hand and a croaky “don’t step on my cars!” warning.  We’ll get back to practicing kind words later, but on this sick day we let the mini-artist have a bit more leeway as he looped and swirled his cars and other precious toys around the rug.

Little Man's rug "decoration."

Little Man’s rug “decoration.”

All in all, it was one of the best sick snow days I’ve had… especially since it wasn’t me being sick.  Now that we’re in February, we enter the anxious waiting period for Spring.  I know I can’t expect it to come too soon, but I keep waiting and plotting the things I want to plant in the garden this year.  Little Man has already requested that we plant carrots for his stuffed fox and Cheezies for his stuffed bear.  For some reason I think we’ll be more successful with one than the other.  I’m just trying to figure out something else we can plant that will get him excited to eat things from the garden, even if it won’t produce artificially cheese-flavored snack chips like he hopes.

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