topatoes and beets, oh my

I think the little birdie just might trade in her dancing shoes for farming “topatoes.” And I might just join her. I had no idea growing potatoes would be so fun. Maybe it’s so gratifying because we had no idea what was happening down in the dirt. It’s not like other vegetables that you can easily monitor every day to see how things are shaping up (or not). With the potatoes, we just decided one day we ought to dig down and find out. Crossing fingers, we dug and easily upturned some beautiful little guys. “Topatoes!!!”

Some of the tigger melons (or delicata squash?) from across the garden were starting to crowd out the beets so we harvested a bunch of those too. I can smell some roasted veggies in our very near future. Autumn, we are happy you’re here! Do any of you like to do anything in particular with your beet greens? Treat them like kale or chard? Any ideas?

Licking our lips in northern Michigan…

a late summer meal

There seems to be a steadily growing pile of tomatoes in our kitchen and my heartburn has really been feeling it. But it’s worth it (thanks, Tums) because fresh tomato season is too short. Last night I threw together some carrots and tomatoes from the garden, plus some of Grandpa Jon’s corn. Tossed on some cheese and some crunchy potato chip crumbs. Baked and enjoyed with friends. Perfect! What late summer meals have you been enjoying lately, lovelies?

tomatoes, finally!

It seems that for the last couple of months our garden just kept getting greener, wilder and more overgrown, but wasn’t producing much of anything. I wondered if we would ever harvest anything but herbs, salad greens and peas. And then seemingly overnight we are giving away big ole brandywine tomatoes to friends, neighbors, even the appraiser who came by this morning. I noticed that we’ll have a head or two of broccoli this week and it got me wondering about the fingerling potatoes in the ground… The dark, leafy greens we planted last week are sprouting too. Pretty soon I’ll be complaining that we have too much to keep up with – be careful what you wish for, right? Make haste and get the canning jars out, lovelies! It’s tomato season. Finally!

What are you harvesting from your patches of green, lovelies? Any fun farmer’s market finds lately? Cheers!


nesting: dark, leafy greens

The little birdie and I worked in the empty patches of our garden yesterday afternoon. Early summer’s bright greens and peas are only a healthy memory now. It was time to turn our minds and spades toward fall. We weeded, turned soil, dug trenches, planted seeds and watered. Hardy, healthy, robust, iron-rich kale and spinach will take up a couple rows. We threw in a couple rows of beans too because somehow I forgot to plant them earlier this year. We’ll see how they do…

It dawned on me as the little birdie was burying the seeds with soil (her favorite part of gardening so far) that–with a bit of luck–we’ll be harvesting these dark, leafy greens right around the time little birdie #2 is due to arrive. Must have been on my mind as I chose these particular things to plant. Probably what my body will need most. And, who am I kidding?, some halloween candy to balance things out…

blueberry bonanza

Happy August, lovelies! We started the morning out with an early blueberry bonanza to beat the heat. Apparently, I just can’t eat enough fresh blueberries because we picked some last week too, but my supply was already getting a bit low. They’re just soooo good right now. I’ve been eating them by the happy handful every day. And no, I haven’t turned into a Smurf yet. Yet!

Truth be told, the little birdie isn’t a great blueberry picker at this age – maybe next summer. She loses interest in picking after about, oh, 60 seconds. But she loves to run up and down the rows, check in with her friends (err, boss them around), and occasionally, pop a big, plum-sized one in her mouth. Pure northern Michigan summer!

She also had a great time with her good friend, Cora. And they didn’t even fight over anything today! Girls are so funny: one minute they’re pulling each other’s hair out over a toy and the next, they’re hugging and laughing. Or holding hands…

How are you celebrating the arrival of August and beating the heat in the midst of these dog days? Any great blueberry recipes I just HAVE to try? Send ’em my way. Until then, we just eat them straight out of the bowl! mmmmm.

Cyberspace friends, thank you so much for your thoughtful, thought-provoking, understanding and encouraging thoughts regarding my anxiety over the arrival of little birdie #2. Your support and advice means a lot. Thank YOU.

the jungle

It doesn’t seem to matter what I do OR neglect to do. My garden seems to turn into a jungle, a tangled mess of green stuff. Last year, I overplanted two small beds. This year, we expanded the garden to take up half the back yard and I actually followed the directions on spacing the seeds and starts that I bought. I only bought four tiny tomato plants, but I’ve lost count of how many we actually have growing now in the garden because at least a couple dozen have sprouted from last year’s compost that we mixed into the soil.

And it’s not just a tomato jungle. See that pumpkin plant? I did not intentionally plant it either, but it’s taken over the south half of the garden. You have to be careful when standing near the garden that its curly tendrils don’t quickly wrap their sticky, prickly selves around your limbs. We have to keep retraining the pumpkin plant to stay in the garden or else it would probably spread across the lawn and happily find its way to the hammock twenty feet away. Crazy stuff! And the weeds? Sigh. They’re back. But you knew that would happen, right?

While the heat wave of 2011 has not mixed well with my psyche and growing belly (and butt), the garden seems to be absolutely thrilled. So at least one of us is happy with it.

How’s your garden growing this year, lovelies? What have you been able to harvest where you live?

it just doesn’t get any fresher

I don’t really like peas. Sugar snap peas, yes. But shelling peas? Not so much, thank you. So I’m not sure what made me throw a shelling pea seed pack in my cart late this winter. I think it might have been because they’re such a beautiful plant and easy to plant for tiny hands? Regardless, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year! Picking, shelling (shucking?) and eating the peas right off the vine is one of the little birdie’s favorite things to do right now. “S’more peas, Mama?” or “pick SELF, Mama!” are common words out in the back yard this week.

I just love to hang back and observe the little birdie in her work. She’s so focused and serious about the process. So proud of what she can do! I watched her reach high for the peas she wanted, pull hard and yank them off the vine, sometimes making her tumble back into the dirt or on top of a broccoli plant: “uh oh!”  Then over again and again, undeterred.

I was full of awe at her determination and in those moments, I thought again how I had no idea I could love someone so much. At the same time, wondering how I could find more love for the other little birdie on its way. Trying to remind myself that I’ll be surprised again by the capacity to love, to expand, to nurture.

on weeding

A miraculous thing happened last night. Lots of late summer sunsets and parties caught up with the little birdie and she went to sleep at 6 p.m.! Lovelies, this has NEVER happened before. I’ve heard of children going to sleep at a reasonably earlyish time and sleeping for twelve hours, but Wren is not one of those. I was cursing myself for putting her down so early because I knew she would wake up at 7:30 or 8 and then be up for a few more hours, arrggh. But she was so crabby and we just couldn’t take anymore of each other. Usually when Wren naps in the afternoon, I rush around and try to cram in as many things as I possibly can because I never know when she’ll wake up and require my attention. Could be in 45 minutes or the very rare, three hours.

So what was I to do with this gifted time? Read a book? Take a bath? While those sounded appealing, I just couldn’t ignore the garden anymore so I went on a long-overdue, no-holds-barred weeding rampage. I know, right?! I have some extra time and what do I do with it? Weed. Because I over-planted last year’s garden, it didn’t have any weeds. But this year, well, a completely different story. One ripe with clover. Sigh.

The thing about weeding is that there’s just no space for the kind of feverish activity that I usually cram into any extra time that lands in my lap. I was forced to slow down, be methodical and eventually let my mind wander. After about an hour or so of bending over, my preggers heartburn kicked in and I had to take a break. I went inside, drank a glass of water, consumed a couple Tums, aka “Mama’s medsin,” listened for the little birdie and hearing nothing, headed back outside. It took about another solid hour of bending and pulling, oof.

Miracle: the birdie didn’t wake up AND the weeding is done. For now anyway. And it actually looks like a garden again with pleasingly distinct rows of strawberry plants, asparagus ferns, fingerling potatoes, beets, carrots, tomatoes, nasturtium, basil, dill, tomatillos and peppers. Where the parsley is hiding I still have no idea, but I’m still holding out hope that it will emerge. Slow to germinate, right?!

The same simple geometry cannot be found further south in the squash and melon patch. I came across an absolute deluge of volunteer plants likely from last year’s compost and my rule became: if it looks even remotely edible, it stays. A few tomato plants here, what looks like tomatillo or maybe a couple sunflowers there, and a pumpkin or two? So let’s just say it’s even more organic down there…

Once I settled into the weeding routine, it reminded me a lot of my yoga practice. The way my mind wanders and my body protests at first, then my mind slows and focuses and my body finds its flow. I’ve been really missing my ashtanga yoga practice during this pregnancy so maybe that’s why I found the weeding so gratifying, almost meditative. The sun crept lower, the traffic quieted, I stopped hearing lawn mowers, edgers, radios.

“They know, they just know where to grow, how to dupe you, and how to camouflage themselves among the perfectly respectable plants, they just know, and therefore, I’ve concluded weeds must have brains.”  ~Dianne Benson, Dirt

The weeds will certainly be back and I’ve got to admire their resiliency. Albeit completely terrorizing!

What are your thoughts on weeding, lovelies? Do you also have a love/hate relationship with them in your garden?

rhubarb gelato

Wow, what a weekend: sunny & 70s, lots of outdoor fun and projects, time with our family, no commitments. Yessssss. One of the highlights of our kick-off to summer weekend was taking a trip to our farmer’s market and loading up on rhubarb. I think rhubarb is one of those love/hate foods. Me? Love. In many forms I like to consume it, but I’m always looking to try something new with it.

Strange side story: we had a rhubarb plant growing here at 605 and harvested some of it last year, but this year, it’s completely gone. And in its place? About 6-8 fern plants. It’s almost like someone came and dug up the rhubarb and replaced it with a mini forest of ferns. I love the ferns so I’m not really complaining, but where-oh-where did our rhubarb go? The ferns marched on over from our neighbor’s ferny corner, so no real mystery there. Did you take my rhubarb, lovelies?

OK, back to our regularly scheduled program…

So my Mom bequeathed us with her ice cream maker last weekend (thank you!) and I loaded up on four pounds of local rhubarb. Things were beginning to come together… I decided to embark on this simple recipe for rhubarb gelato. It sounded perfect – easy and refreshing. Do you like Sweet Tarts? Yeah, me too. You’ll probably really enjoy this one then.

We all did. The little birdie kept saying, “sour,” but she continued to eat most of her cone. It has such an intense flavor that it’s very satisfying. Enjoy!

How do you like to eat rhubarb? Do you have a good strawberry/rhubarb pie recipe and if so, will you share it with me?

Happy Monday!


It doesn’t just seem like the snow piles just disappeared. They really did. And what happened to spring, anyway? Yesterday’s summery 83 and sunny crashed that party. So my peas are not ready for 83 on a regular basis. They seem to prefer a milder spring. But they’re making a lovely appearance, aren’t they? Finally!

In other gardening news, the little birdie and I planted several more rows of different seeds yesterday. Melons, squash, beets, carrots, dill. She’s pretty focused for about 3/4 of a row of the bigger seeds, like tigger melon or delicata squash seeds. The carrot seeds–so tiny, even for tiny, nimble hands–not so easy or interesting for an (almost!) two tot. She just wanted to toss them up in the air and see them rain down. Can’t really blame her, but it will be an *interesting* carrot crop this year.

And I’m thinking that we will have a nice salad for a Memorial Day picnic… crossing fingers here.

What’s growing in your garden, lovelies? Have you had any fresh asparagus yet? Yummy. XO ash

P.S. Yes, it does seem a bit trite to blog about lettuce growing in our backyard when there’s so much devastation and heartache in Joplin. I’m feeling very grateful to have a home that is safe and sound, a healthy family, and another beautiful day to be alive.