Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Garden’ Category


tomatoes-mEveryone I knew when I was growing up had a garden; some larger than others but all of them featured vegetables and a row or two of flowers.

My grandfather always planted potatoes on Good Friday with the first harvest in late August. I remember my parents (and later I helped) cutting up the old wrinkled potatoes that lived in a bin in the basement to plant in late May/early June. Harvest time was in September and Dad would hitch up the plow and plow the entire garden including the potato patch. It was our job to pick up all those potatoes.

Radishes were usually the first vegetable, followed by black seeded Simpson lettuce which was always served swimming in mayonnaise.  A row of marigolds to discourage rabbits and deer and a row of zinnias for color were always planted nearest the house.  Tomato and cabbage sets were bought from the greenhouse and required daily watering for two weeks or more until their roots were firmly set. Sweet corn and popcorn and cucumbers and pumpkins were planted; and sometimes the timing was right for the piglets to wander under the electric fence and sample the growing garden.

It has taken me a few years to understand the gardening cycle in this part of Texas that is so very different from southwestern Wisconsin. Planting peas and lettuce in late May does not work but nearly anything you put in the ground in Wisconsin this time of year will grow abundantly.

However this year we had snow peas from January to last night; lettuce in form of Bibb and Simpson for several months–it has now bolted; and at long last I now have the promise of tomatoes and cucumbers. The okra has sprouted and I hope to have enough to pickle and freeze for the winter months ahead.

lemon20blossom-mEach year we wonder if we will have lemons and each year I am tasked with finding things to do with all the lemons. There are still lemons in my refrigerator and the promise of at least that many more plus blooms suggesting even more


That tree is to the far behind the white metal gate. It has never grown much taller, just rounder and fuller, making picking all of those lemons an easy task except for the ones requiring us to get on our hands and knees to pick the bottom most group hidden near the trunk of the tree.

A floral tribute to April

As I sit at my desk looking out the window towards the backyard, it is raining. It is a deluge worthy of Noah’s ark days fairly typical of our Gulf Coast weather systems. Toby, our border collie mix, is terrified of loud  noises and hid in the bathroom this morning unwilling to go outside. Fitted with a leash, she is undaunted. During the hurricanes and tropical storms of past years, I would take her out on the leash during the few lulls in the rain. Dora, on the other hand, an Aussie Border Collie mix, is not afraid of loud noises but far prefers to be inside even on a good day.

My photo website is somewhat organized and needs some more work and definitely some pruning—who needs ten images of the same thing but just slightly different angle?

I’ve started organizing my flower/botanical images by month. Some months have no images….yet….but given the current political/medical milieu and being a person of moderately high risk and therefore avoiding contact with others….more walks around the neighborhood and more photos and more organizing.

Tomorrow is the last day of April.

While people have been spending far too much time on the internet (in my opinion), some have taken the time to be creative while a few have leaned toward the finger-pointing mode. I can fingerpoint with the best of them or even better, but I am trying hard to use this time productively and positively.

My husband never complained about our telephone bill; I called my parents once a week, usually on Sunday afternoons when I was getting the household ready for a week’s worth of school and work. I would tell her what was blooming–and she would be envious as Wisconsin weather was several months behind. My dad never understood why anyone would mow their lawn in January….his lawn would still be covered with either snow or dead grass with little heaps of dirty snow under the trees.

But I’ve yammered on long enough—rain makes for thoughtful remembrances, books, and lingering over morning coffee.


ornamental pomegranate on the back fence of the McFadden Ward house


one of the roses in the rose garden at the McFadden-Ward museum. The gardener was kind enough to let me walk around the rose garden. Toby was with me and I was not equipped with a pooper scooper baggie; our trip was short but so wonderful.


some grasses gone to seed in the backyard of my ‘playhouse’ out on Highway 90.


primroses or buttercups in the back yard along with a few ragweeds. I pulled them up after this photo was taken. Ragweed is distributed by the wind—and it is a never ending project to pull ragweed. The bees love ragweed as it has a lot of lovely pollen for them to store as food for their babies.


sugar cane from a cutting from our one outing to a local home brew shop the first part of March. I don’t think we’ll be processing the cane for our sugar as we have bees, but this part of the backyard is swampy–part of being an old rice field. The house is the original rice farmer’s house but moved about a half mile or so from its original location.


and finally a magnolia blossom by the side of the McFadden Ward Museum visitor centers. I had to stand on my tippy-toes and hold the camera at arm’s length to get this photo. And yesterday I spied a bloom at the top of my tree in front of my playhouse on Highway 90.

Gardenias and fences

gardenia-mLast night one of our neighbors called to discuss a common fence line between us and an apartment complex behind us. They have dogs—as do we—and we are grateful they are not upset when our dogs find an opossum in our yard and feel they must alert us. And then they also feel obligated to notify us of bicyclists, joggers, walkers, other dogs, and the UPS truck and so forth.

I was thinking of neighbors and some of the neighbors we have had in the past; there was the strange woman who created huge sculptures out of paper in their converted garage studio, the ones who shared a fenceline and thought our evening meal of fried rice/leftovers smelled wonderful, the neighbor who wanted us to save him the Sunday paper for the coupon for cigarettes, and the neighbors who greeted us with a pot of coffee, orange juice, and doughnuts on our first day in our current home.

Although I had read about gardenias, I had never seen one in real life and had no lidea what the plant/bush/shrub/tree looked like.

But in Augusta Georgia that claimed to be a garden city (not many gardens there like there are in Wisconsin), there were a lot of plants around our house. One huge bush was by the corner of a small screened in porch that I claimed as my sewing room. The porch was unheated and not cooled but I still left the doors open so the scent of that jasmine/gardenia could flow through the house.

The house we live in now has many plantings from the original owner. Remnants of a green house attached to the garage indicated an active gardener and every spring we enjoy snowdrops and jonquils along with azaleas and later on crepe myrtles. A few have died out, but there was no gardenia. I planted a miniature variety in the front yard several years ago. It has weathered hurricanes, snow, and freezing temperatures.

The scent is not as strong as that of the one in Georgia but it is enough to give delight.

Flattening the hill (curve)

buttercu5b-mThe Dukes of Hazzard was a popular television serial while I was in my residency in Augusta Georgia.   Georgia was a very different place than the Midwest; I quickly learned to ask if alcohol was government label or not. And the little rural hospital I moon-lighted in lent its ambulance to the movie producers for one of the Smokey and the Bandit movies.

We lived outside the city limits in a lovely suburb named Vineland. It was bordered by the highway, the Masters Golf Course, Forest Hills Golf Course and a huge cemetery. Masters Week was always a nightmare with traffic and people from out of state who all left their diabetes and blood pressure medications at home. Tickets were at a premium and were something named in wills. The golf course is as lovely as it looks on television; the only thing the course cannot control is sunlight.

Now that we are all admonished to stay home so we can ‘flatten the curve’, I am reminded of those Dukes of Hazzard; well-intentioned but making up their own rules as to what is right.The internet is flooded by ‘hints’ about how to make masks….people thinking the masks will protect them against the virus—masks are designed to protect OTHERS from the wearer.

While I am very much limiting social contact…no shopping…no travel… a few walks in the neighborhood, I see grocery store parking lots as full as if it was Black Friday shopping days; liquor stores and comic stores considering themselves ‘essential’. but then we can all read about the 50 years since Apollo 13 and be amazed at the ingenuity of NASA engineers.

peach-mToday is Easter Sunday; a day celebrated with joy and family and friends and special meals. While all of us wonder when all of this will be over and we can return to ‘normal’ with work and play and museums and movies and family gatherings, perhaps we can take courage from nature—male cardinals whistle for mates in the trees outside our front door, the crepe myrtles have fully leafed out, the peach tree that turned out to be an apricot tree has two small apricots, the satsuma is covered with tiny fruits, the tomato plant  is growing taller, all in ignorance of the pandemic. Next year they will do the same.

Yellow flowers and Tomatoes

yellow20flower-mWe live in an old house that is now over 100 years old. It was built to withstand hurricanes and so far with the exception of a few roof tiles being blown off, has done just fine. It was also the home of a gardener.

There were the remains of a green house built onto the side of the garage but the grounds are filled with jonquils and snowdrops and crepe myrtles.

Then there are these little yellow trumpet flowers. They litter the front sidewalk like petals strewn in front of a bride—now days that is Dora happily doing her daily job of fetching the newspaper. We always looked to see where those flowers came from.

Now we have found another location for those flowers–the backyard where the vine has taken over one crepe myrtle and is vying for space with the wisteria.wisteria-m

And in other news, I ventured out …cautiously….to Tractor Supply to get some tomato plants and one bell pepper plant. Hopefully the plants are what the outside sign said they were, people tend to pick up things and put them back in the closest spot rather than the proper one—but they are indeed tomato and pepper plants—and if successful we’ll be quite happy.

No photo of them–they are hiding on the front porch in the shade awaiting transplant later today.



Peas and Lettuce and a Lemon Tree

Being of Midwestern stock and of the rural variety, a garden was a regular part of life. Each January the seed catalogs would appear, brightening up the dull gray, white and black of the outdoors to visions of summer with outdoor activities not associated with loads of extra clothing. We tended to forget the mud season otherwise known as mud season and of seasonal floods with wagers about whether or not Stark’s Sporting store would flood again this year.

Everyone planned their garden about the same way, a row of zinnias (they grew fast) and marigolds (to keep away the rabbits and deer) and then tomatoes and carrots and lettuce and peas and sweet corn and green beans and squash or pumpkins. Maybe one or two experimental vegetables that looked so fun in the catalog

Now on the Gulf Coast of Texas it has taken me awhile to adjust to our four season gardening. Lettuce was planted in December and was slow to sprout but now I have it in abundance. lettuce-m

Peas were planted in January–had to plant twice, the seeds kept coming to the top of the soil. There isn’t enough to make a meal but as garnishes and as dippers for the spinach dip I made the other day, perfect


And then there is the lemon tree


This little tree produced a dozen lemons the first year and we were delighted; the next year triple that and since then so many lemons.


The blossoms this year are plentiful and fill the air with a delightful scent—the bees are working that tree along with the clover—plenty of honey to process in the near future.


Staying Busy

fallen20blossoms-mWhile some people are parked in front of their computers doing virtual tours of museums and dairy farms and checking out books from the New York Public Library, I’ve worked on our taxes (not done yet), cleaned floors ( a never ending project with two dogs), gone to work (careful to stay the required 6 foot distance), canceled airline flights and conference attendance (internet access is not reliable enough to do much of anything consistently ), re-glued up some wall paper, matted some prints, took apart a beehive( with husband) and made three splits–we’re both crossing our fingers hoping they will queen themselves, and now back to working on those UFO quilting projects.

Tired of being mostly indoors—I worked some on the never ending vines that creep up along the house and smother the azaleas—-and took a nice leisurely walk around the neighborhood to capture some flower photos. I live in an old neighborhood so there are also some wonderful old houses to photo..they all smiled for their picture. And then there are the odd bits of things I find interesting–the texture of rusting metal on the side of what used to be an ice house.

Here is the link for the photos—there are previous years photos as well—so for those of you who are looking at snow–please don’t be too envious. It will soon be baking hot here.




Satsumas and a change or two

satsuma20ripening-mSome years ago we planted a satsuma tree in our front yard—actually Lee planted it for me as Toby had dug it out of its container at least three times as I had hoped it to be a surprise birthday present for my husband. The tree miraculously survived and has produced satsumas in abundance last year. This year it does not seem quite as loaded down. Last year, we would pick a dozen or so and think we had picked the last of them….until we ate all of those and went out again and found a dozen more. We ate fresh fruit for nearly three months!

There are a few that seem to be ripening now and the branches need propping up….along with an abundance of lemons on another tree out at the shop. I froze lemons one year and used them to make some absolutely wonderful lemonade. I also made salted lemons which I pureed, some with dill from home-canned dill pickles and some plain—used over chicken or fish with a bit of olive oil. It is supposed to be good on Lamb as in Moroccan style cooking but lamb is not something easily found in the grocery stores here.

Along with what passes for fall here, we are trying to do a few repairs and updates around the house. One involved rehanging wallpaper that had come undone with the humidity here—and then some electrical repairs. Living in an old house means some odd a light switch at the door that turns off an outlet but not the overhead light.



Some things do come in tiny packages.

This little flower must like the old rice paddy wetness of the shop backyard.


And then there is okra. I haven’t been very successful the past two years. I did well when they were in raised beds, but they are not so happy in containers (easier on my back and fewer problems with San Augustine crawling into the beds. Toby did a fabulous job of digging out the dirt for me to replace it—but the grass was more tenacious and determined than I could ward off.


One Lane Road and Two Orchid blooms

People ask me if I am still working. Could it be my hair which mysteriously and when I wasn’t looking became mostly gray? Or is it because I should volunteer to do something?

The credit union and bank think I should continue to work–they seem to put their hand out expecting something every month. Of course, one of the things happens to be my new truck—Big Mack.

Big Mack is bright red–candy apple red(yay)  but an automatic (groan) but a diesel (yay) and extended cab (too long) and made of aluminum (yay I can lift the end gate without thinking I am lifting weights at the gym) and great big side mirrors(yay while driving and a nightmare when parking).

So I should probably post a picture here—and I will but not today.

Today Big Mac and I went to Galveston. This means a ferry ride off Bolivar Peninsula. Going means a drive along the gulf with the waves splashing over the barriers and then a one lane road as the inevitable summer road work is carried on. This was my view.


And I could have been a bit aggravated over the wait and the smell of all that asphalt but this is what I could see out the side.


There is just something calming about watching all those waves and the occasional pelican or sea gull flying by.

I rode in the middle lane–plenty of room on either side of me—and watched dolphins playing in the water, dancing around a trawler, pelicans diving, sea gulls overhead looking for scraps of bread to be tossed.

The doctor visit–the reason for the drive was so-so—I can’t say I am impressed by the academic knowledge—perhaps it is because they do not expect any of their patients to give a cogent history.

On the way back, I was crammed in between an oversize semi and the interior of the ferry—I had exactly six inches on the driver’s side and four inches on the ferry side—not so happy to get a scrape on those wonderfully sticky-outy mirrors without the automatic fold in feature.  I could see a few grackles wandering underneath the semi–it was hot–and no breeze–blocked by that truck—-

However, in my dining room is this orchid. It blooms every summer around this time. But this is the first time I have seen two different colored flowers on the same stalk–a dark purple and a light lavender. The blooms last a long time and every time I walk past it, I smile.img_2066-m

And just to clarify—Big Mack is also a F250 but my first car/vehicle was my gold F250 always referred to as ‘THE F250″. It has 532,000 miles on it—and my husband has claimed it—so it is still in the family and should last another 2 or 3 hundred thousand miles–maybe some new tires along the way and the occasional oil change.