Life’s a Garden…Eat It!

It’s that time of year again….time to plant some delicious veggies, water daily, and wait for the magic to happen!  This year was a much more enjoyable planting season since we didn’t have to dig out and dispose of sod first!  Plus, it’s much easier to break up soil that’s been tilled once already.

I decided that last year’s layout wasn’t a great use of space.  It just felt like we had a ton of open dirt.  I know you aren’t supposed to crowd plants, but I like the idea of knowing where my food comes from.  Doesn’t get much fresher than the backyard!  A little reorganization was due this year to really optimize our veggie producing potential.  Last year we grew-

  • 3 Spaghetti Squash Plants
  • 2 Rows of Green Beans
  • 1 Full Sized Tomato Plants — Cherokee Purple
  • 2 Cherry Tomato Pants — Indigo Rose Variety
  • 3 Pepper Plants — 2 Banana Peppers, Cajun Bell
  • 3 Kohlrabi
  • 2 Patio Pots of Herbs — Basil, Thyme, and Oregano
  • 1 Patio Pot of Lettuce Mix and Kale (Kept at an anti bunny nibbling height)

This year we have planted

  • 3 Spaghetti Squash Plants
  • 2 Rows of Green Beans (They are being eaten alive by bugs, we might not get beans)
  • 2 Full Sized Tomato Plants — Cherokee Purple and Siberian Prince
  • 2 Cherry Tomato Plants — Chocolate Sprinkle and Yellow Cherry
  • 2 Rows of Snap Peas
  • 4 Kohlrabi
  • 3 Peppers — Orange Bell, Giant Marconi, and Anaheim
  • A smattering of White Onions (In the direct sight line of the bunnies, so fingers crossed)
  • 2 Patio Pots of Herbs — Basil Blend, Thyme, Oregano, Cilantro
  • 1 Patio Pot of Lettuce Mix, Kale, and Arugula (Still at an anti-bunny height!)

We did do some rotating, tomatoes down to the side with the sprinkler system leak since they enjoy lots of water, and beans and peas over to the dryer side of the garden.  The only veggie that didn’t move locations are the squash.  Since the mowing is hired out by my HOA, if the squash head towards the rocks I can keep them from getting mowed to death by the high school boys the lawn company hires.

 

SO MANY PLANTS!

Ugh….I’m just so excited!  Also feeling slightly antsy.  I would really like to be able to walk out to the garden and pick fresh tomatoes and herbs for a caprese salad, but alas….we aren’t there yet.  The herbs have started growing enough that we can pluck some, so in the meantime we will just have to settle for store bought tomatoes to go with our fresh basil, thyme, and oregano.  In addition to the classic Italian trio, we also decided to try some Cilantro.  We make a ton of tacos and salsas, so it seemed like it would be a good addition to our fresh herb collection.  Our cilantro has since grown into a small tree…..so yesterday I decided to chop it off and whip up some taco deliciousness!  So good and so easy….which was ideal cuz I had furniture to refinish and naps to take yesterday!  Something about a cool breeze coming through the window just makes me wanna curl under a blanket and nap on the couch….so that’s what I did!  But, I’ll put my flung together recipe below….just in time for TACO TUESDAY!!!!!

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Lime and Cilantro Pork Tacos

  • 1 lb Pork Roast
  • 1 Medium Onion, Sliced Thin
  • 1 Bottle Corona
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, Smashed
  • 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder and Cumin
  • 0.5-1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper (Spice to what you like!)
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro
  • Zest of 1 Lime
  • Juice of 2 Limes
  • Salt and Pepper

Create a bed on the bottom of your crock pot with the onion slices, add the pork, and then top with the spices, zest, juice, and beer.  Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.  I flipped mine halfway through so the top half could get some loving, but only because I happened to be home….otherwise just let it go all day.

Shred and get ready to enjoy!  I like my tacos with some fresh onion, fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado, and maybe another little squeeze of lime!  I will caution….these are saucy!  Next time I whip these up I might toss the meat into a skillet and cook it a little bit to try and thicken the sauce and crisp up the edges of the meat.  However, I will say, these are totally delicious right outta the crock pot, just make sure you eat over a plate!

Also, I grabbed myself a new iPhone 8 this weekend, so hopefully these pictures are looking premium!

 

Pirate Bunnies : Murder, Pillage, and Plunder

The Engineer and I planted a garden!  Most years I’ve just planted a few veggie plants in patio pots.  This year, we went all out with an actual dug in garden!  I had been meaning to get this done for a couple years, but I’m lazy and didn’t have a solid plan to deal with the sod once I dug it all up.  Cue…The Engineer’s truck!  He maybe drove around with a slightly soggy, boggy situation in the truck bed for a week…..but I offered to help him get rid of it and he wasn’t feeling my initial dump off location!

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The prime location!

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Day 1 progress…..The Engineer is good with a shovel, and I’m a good sod puller!

We got really ambitious after getting the HOA board’s approval.  It seemed like a nice early warm spring, so we got to work right away with visions of epic gardening in our heads.  Well….idk about his head, but in my brain I was going to have a big garden with lots of happy plants that would supply me with tasty snacks and food all summer long.

The sooner you start the sooner you get to eat yea!?

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There were a few days when I started to question garden placement…..things got a bit soupy.  Also….notice the mostly dead spirea that I eventually dug out.  Extreme gardening happening at Casa Miss Happenings! Slowly, the swamp dried out and we got everything tilled and planted.  It turns out that the soil in my yard is mostly clay, so I ended up adding several bags of top soil into the garden.  I didn’t buy great soil, actually….I bought the cheapest kind Menards has.  This was maybe a bad choice?!  I’m not sure, we will find out……live and learn I guess.

The years crop included  4 tomato plants, 3 varying pepper plants, two large rows of green beans, and some spaghetti squash.  I also planted a pot of kale and mixed lettuce, a pot of kohlrabis, and two pots of herbs which include two different types of basil, thyme, and oregano.    I also have two decorative pots of pansies and petunias.  I hate petunias….but they are what grows here so whatever I guess.  Everything seemed like it was coming together….and then disaster struck!

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Remember how I said we started early because things seemed warm and happy and springish?!  Well……I maybe got a bit over ambitious.  I ended up loosing my first batch of tomato plants because I forgot to bring them into the garage during one of our spring cold snaps.  So…..there was that!

2017 Plant Deaths — A Running List

  • 3 Cherry Tomato Plants

Tomato plants are cheap, so I quickly rebounded from that initial downfall.  Everything really seemed like it was coming together…..I had gotten the dead spirea dug up and thrown into the back of The Engineer’s truck.  One night we may or may not have driven out into the country and tossed the plant and the leftover small pieces of sod into a ditch.  The large chunks of sod went to a coworker’s new house while they await landscaping….her dog needed a pee patch!  Sometimes The Engineer and I like to do “dirt kid hood rat things”….actually, that might have been our first ‘delinquent’ move together. The couple the dumps sod together stays together?!

After we conquered the sod and dead tomato issues…..came the bunnies.  Fucking herds of spicy pepper loving bunnies.  The Engineer even talked to some guys who gardens at his work and they assured him that bunnies are no problem because they don’t like the spicy peppers.  Well……the bunnies in my yard ate my peppers from spiciest to mildest.  I’m not sure what they says about them……but I’m sure if you ate one they would be well spiced and delicious!

2017 Plant Deaths — A Running List

  • 3 Cherry Tomato Plants
  • 1.5 (approximation based on remaining growing time) Pepper Plants

To combat the herds of capsaicin loving furry woodland creatures, we had to build emergency fences around all the pepper plants.  All 3 of the initial plants survived, but the banana pepper took the hardest beating.  He’s trying really hard to recover and grow, but I’m afraid he won’t make it before winter comes.  The Engineer decreed that a flowering and fruiting banana pepper plant was a garden requirement, so we bought a new one and transplanted in where the abused plant sat.  We moved the little abused one into the corner and gave him a protective cage.  He’s starting to leaf out slightly, but when you’ve been eaten down to a 3 inch stump in the ground….you’ve got a lot of growing to catch up on in a short growing season!

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Maybe if we have a winter like this…..my abused pepper plant could recover fully.

Everything seemed to be going along well for a couple weeks…..and then disaster struck again!  The bunnies attacked and murdered my pot of kohlrabi……just murdered them and threw their tattered and torn leaves all over the back yard.  Honestly, I’m not even sure why I even bothered to plant a pot of kohlrabi…..last year they didn’t grow at all!  Well….I mean they grew leaves…..but I didn’t end up with the desired, baseball shaped orb of deliciousness.  Round two seemed to be growing well this summer, so I thinned the plants to create more growing room.  Then……as if they sensed the vulnerability in smaller numbers….the bunnies made a night attack!  Ughs…….

2017 Plant Deaths — A Running List

  • 3 Cherry Tomato Plants
  • 1.5 (approximation based on remaining growing time) Pepper Plants
  • 5 Kohlrabi Sprouts

I watered the pot for a couple days, but none of the thinned out roots looked like they were going to take off again.  I ended up planting a few rows of kohlrabi seeds at the front of the garden, and I’ll just have to wait and see what comes of those.  Funny thing…..we actually bought a new pepper plant for the pot of soil because we thought that the bunnies had somehow gotten under the protective fence on my abused little banana pepper and finished him off.  We pouted around for a couple days thinking we had been out maneuvered by some bunnies…..only to discover that the little guy had gotten covered over by some dirt!

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We also replaced several plants around my property with boxwood plants.  We dug up 3 sad little day lilies and a decorative grass out of the front yard bed and replaced them all with tiny, little baby boxwoods.  We had to drive all over town one weekend to find four matching boxwoods….but I love them.  Boxwood just has a particular smell that reminds me of vacations to Virginia, they are always green, they are low maintenance, and look like something, and mostly they are just my jam.  Don’t know what to plant…..why not a boxwood?!  I also replaced the mostly dead spirea with a slightly larger boxwood….hahah cuz of course I did!

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2017 Plant Deaths — A Running List

  • 3 Cherry Tomato Plants
  • 1.5 (approximation based on remaining growing time) Pepper Plants
  • 5 Kohlrabi Sprouts
  • Various Flowers, Lettuce, and Kale Leaves

Last night we had a pretty major storm, and I was pretty nervous about the survival of all of my veggies.  I’m happy to report that everything survived the wind, hail, and rain.  Now, if I can just keep the bunnies away from the beans and my lettuce we will be all good in the hood!

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Squash and two happy little bean rows…..who’s getting excited for veggies?!?!?

Prune at Your Own Risk

Granted, this isn’t about my townhouse, but it’s still home maintenance so I’m throwing it into the home section.

Learn from my mistakes people!!!!

Spring Clean-Up Week is still a thing in my hometown.  Everyone collects all the random junk that’s been floating around the house, and tosses it out on the curb for strangers….or the city….to collect.  This is a small town thing, and it’s sorta a sight to behold.  Just piles of stuff on curbs as you drive around town.  At our house this is always prime yard clearing time.  Everything gets pruned, raked, and dug into submission.  This year I came home to help do the basic yearly stuff, as well as take down two trees that were dead.  We got the big flower bed that runs the width of our backyard all cleaned up, and I even got a bunch of old tree stumps dug up and thrown out into the junk pile.  Once the back was all done it was time to move onto the trees.  Tree removal came with the promise of a chainsaw, however that plan didn’t really end up working out all that well…

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Needless to say….we were off to a great start…..

To start with, I know little to nothing about plants.  They are pretty much either alive or dead.  Anything that needs any appreciable amount of maintenance is not at all the plant for me.  Things like woody shrubs, boxwoods, yews and the like are easy.  You basically leave them alone, and prune them up a bit if they start to get a little out of control…..but that’s achievable for me.  Flowers, privets….which apparently grow a million miles a year….., and apparently trees which need constant pruning off the roof are not for me.  I was however, looking forward to using some high powered cutting force and putting it to work.  Usually, trimming and cutting down trees at Momma’s is a sawzall level activity….and it kinda sucks, in a brain rattling sorta way.  Yesterday though, I got a brain rattling that I wasn’t prepared for.

Like almost everything that we’ve inherited from Grandpa’s house in the course of my life, the chainsaw had seen better days.  Now, I’m not anything close to a chain saw expert, but I think the chain was too long, and possibly installed backwards on the saw.  At the very least, it was incredibly dull.  The saw only got through one branch, mostly by burning instead of cutting, before a massive intervention was required.

To our credit, we did really try and get it fixed, unfortunately, the Ace here in town doesn’t sell the proper chain for it, and the techs who do the sharpening of old chains are all off until Monday.  Skirting around the fact that it seems strange to have your machine techs all off during the weekend….ya know when most people have time to be wielding their chain saws around….Momma and I were still left with the slight issue of the two dead trees.  The clear solution was to obviously tear them down by hand.  Clean up week only lasts so long, and loading up the branches and then paying to toss them at the dump just seems dumb when you have the option of not having to deal with them past piling them up on your lawn!

Since they were mostly dead, I discovered that any of the branches I could reach I could mostly pull down by hand.  This worked fine until I had to start jumping to reach some of the higher branches, this again worked out just fine…but we started on the smaller of the two trees.  Eventually we got to the central, more vertical, thicker, trunky type branch.  This required some sawing…..the battery for our sawzall is basically shot, so we were left with the hand saw.  I now understand why people used to just crawl into caves, live in tepees and tents, and why the sod house had such an appeal…

CUTTING DOWN TREES BY HAND SUCKS MAJOR ASSBUTT!!!

These guys are badasses, and my hat’s off to them….but I’m apparently a weakling and I’d rather live in a tent than have to saw down trees and make lumber to build myself a cabin.  Anyway, that’s sorta besides the point, but we had to put in a fair amount of work to get these two, realistically small trees down.  The last branch of the smaller tree eventually gave way after one warning crack and sorta whipped Momma across the mouth on it’s way down.  We weren’t really prepared for it, but she was fine, and so we just sorta carried on.  Once we got that tree piled up on the end of the driveway, we turned our attention on the second, larger tree.

The obvious solution was to try and see what was dead and could just easily be pulled down.  So, I picked out a fairly small branch, although all of these branches required jumping to reach…..this will become important.  So I sorta hop up there and grab onto this little branch…..and then there was a crack…..then I was suddenly falling to the ground….and I landed, and took a rather large section of tree to the top of the head.  Apparently, the smaller branch I had been after didn’t feel like breaking, but the whole side of the tree felt like giving way.  So….there I am…..laying on the ground…..eyes watering….and somewhat trapped under a tree.  Momma sorta wanders over and pulls the branch off me, and I promptly declare that my arborist services for the day are done.  Fuck this tree and this whole situation….it can sit here until it falls down naturally.  10-20 years outta do it I think and that’s frankly fine with me at the this point…..

 

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The offending section of tree…I was attempting to break off that piece up the trunk and to the right……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For scale…..in case you think it’s more of a twig…..that’s my size 11….big enough to make even some men quake in their child-sized boots!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, my parents didn’t raise me to be a quitter….so I was forced to rally and show that stupid dead tree who was boss.  While Momma did some pruning of the branches I pulled down….apparently the city has strict length requirements on their pick ups…..I proceeded to saw and pull down the rest of the branches.  I began utilizing a sort of “half cut,” jump, pull, and move technique.  I was unwilling to spend anymore time than necessary using the stupid hand saw to try and get anything done.  So I’d saw just until I thought I could jump and use my body to pull them down.  It worked fairly well until I once again was down to the largest, central branch.  This involved having to scamper into the tree, sit on a couple of the broken off branch stumps….cuz that seems safe, and sawing most of the way through.  This was mostly unpleasant because I ended up down wind and at eye level….less than ideal honestly.

Eventually though I did get everything down, and we got everything piled up on the curb.  Hopefully, once the chain for the saw is sharpened, Momma will be able to get the branches cut into smaller pieces for pickup.  A working chainsaw should be able to make simple work of whacking the branches into chunks.  Eventually, we will have to cut the trunks off closer to the ground and then into pieces, but again….hopefully a working chainsaw will make easy work of that!  Momma has plans of turning the larger trunk pictured below into a sort of plant stand holder which I think should work well.

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A days worth of worth of hard work I suppose!