When the rain stopped…

…Max and I emerged, like moles, blinded by the light. All was so green and bright and glorious looking– I almost made you another movie. Really it was very close.

Max in the sun

Instead I will show you this brilliant new plan I have, to dig up a bunch of the lawn.

flower bed planIt’s early afternoon, but look at those wintry shadows.

Anyway, you can see how I have used my flower-bed-definition system, or sticks, to kind of map out the shape of this giant new planting.  Also, the first residents, pots of propagated stuff (viburnum and nandina), are perched in places like part of an undisciplined game of lawn-checkers.

I’m going to go for easy on this project, just excavating the perimeter and then putting down the massive collection of flattened cardboard I have been hoarding all summer, together with some layers of compost and leaves, very exciting and I hope it doesn’t kill the trees. Also this new bed is situated partly under the clothesline area so next summer I may regret the whole enterprise– but really next summer is far away.

cyclamenLike the cyclamen, the perennial fuchsias are utterly pleased with the rain, and flowery. A pale pink one is what I see from my kitchen window, grown rather lank and unruly in the summer but still covered with bloom. Almost daily my pet hummingbird Francine comes by to sip at the flowers– like in the image below, taken through the window this afternoon.

Francine in the pink fuchsiaThese plants are easily started from cuttings, and I’m thinking of propagating a few for next year, as a surprise for Francine when she gets back from her winter travels.

Francine hoversToday she said to tell you hello.

In other news, there is a kitchen remodel underway.

You may recall my vow to not paint things but I found a loophole in that and it has to do with whether the things are inside or outside, and so I painted the kitchen ceiling three times. Then I wallpapered maybe two thirds of the room.

A couple things about wallpapering a kitchen. First, no one is doing that any more. And I doubt I would be doing it either except my house is old and the walls are made of wide rough boards. They were white-washed once but aren’t surfaced to paint so it’s mandatory wallpaper. Also you have to tack up cotton fabric first, between the boards and the paper, or else the paper rips.  (I’ve done the whole house this way so I’m used to it and only occasionally sink a tack into my hand.)

Anyway the next image shows you the paper, called Aurora, which I recognize is a peculiar pattern but one I quite like. It’s a reproduction of a ca 1870 design uncovered during restoration of an Aurora, Oregon log house, except the background is sky blue (the original was tan). I really like it because it’s historic and also because it’s like a perpetual blue sky, very cheerful in this rainy place.

Also the design, with its vines and flowers and birds, allows me to say, “I put a bird on it.”

Aurora Colony reproduction wallpaper

That I have not wallpapered the remaining one-third of the kitchen is not my fault but rather has to do with Other Things which must be Done First. The First Thing that must be Done most First is to to determine if it is possible to make functional a circa 1926 Hotpoint electric stove –or electric cooker for those of you who say that. Use of this stove dictates the rest of the kitchen layout. (You can see the not-yet-papered board walls in this image of the stove taken during the Ceiling Painting Phase.)

Old Hotpoint electric stove 1926By now you are thinking OMG she is nuttier than I thought– but in response to that I will simply say that not everyone can evaluate sanity by just reading blog posts so don’t be so hard on yourself sweetie. In addition I will tell you a secret: there is a huge movement toward restoration and use of antique appliances, especially those made before about 1950. It’s part of the preservation of many early and mid-20th-century houses and also because the older stoves and refrigerators are made to last forever and in many cases work better and use less energy than new ones. Also they are way cuter and more fun. (My house is 19th century but I refuse to cook everything with a woodstove so I’m fudging.)

Anyway I love this old range and I was excited to start rewiring and reinsulating and to get a nice pot of soup going. So we tore it apart.

stove in bitsAnd now I spend all my indoor time polishing enameled pieces of metal and looking online for parts and wire and new insulation and also advice. (If you know how to remove the cover from the external oven thermostat please let me know right away.)

But the stove skeleton looks nice with the wallpaper don’t you think?

I’m going back outside now before I start to talk about the clothes-washing machine that I took apart because the guy on YouTube made it look so easy and how I ordered a pump for it but the problem turned out to be the door switch which the diagnostic website had said was possible but SO unlikely and which Mr O fixed in about seven seconds. (Boy am I glad to have him working on the damn stove.)

Really this whole appliance repair thing does not come easily to me and the sun is shining and I completely need to get out in the garden and therefore today I am of the opinion that the clothesline is just going to have to find a new tree next summer.

Posted in actual plants, birds, Max the Westie, my 19th century house, weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Potatoes and sunflowers

Lovely rain fell last night, and this morning.

Up to now we’ve had hot August weather, and I’ve spent a lot of time dragging hoses around and watering plants. Late in the day you can kind of play with the sunlight in the spray…

watering the garden

But enough playing in the water–this is a grown-up gardening blog sometimes.

There was a second basil harvest:

bowl of basilLots of basil sauce made and frozen for winter, from a blend of leaves, garlic and olive oil. And the plants continue producing in the shelter of the greenhouse which is the only place I can get them to happily grow.

My favorite garden event has been the sunflowers. Finally!

three sunflowers

I grew about eight tall plants. They are the sort for cutting, not seeds, although the honeybees work them over anyway. I simply love the blooms in a vase–the most cheerful flower anywhere– and they last so long you can almost pretend they won’t die, just like we do with people.

Potato plants die.

dead vines

It became time to be strong and face the outcome.

My terrier assistant stood by with shovel and trowel and pruning shears.

late summer Max

I cut back all the vines and leaves to get to the possibly vast harvest.

pots to dig
Then really I just tipped a pot up into the daisy wheelbarrow.

This was an exciting moment. I hesitated. Tiny useless potatoes? No potatoes? Millions of potatoes? Max sounded a trumpet, and in the distant hills I heard a roll of thunder…

pot tipped

I pried the clump of soil apart like a muffin.

potato layer

The filling was nice-sized potatoes, growing in a layer, all at the same level, still lightly attached to the plants’ roots. Muffin potato stratum–not like jam but still.

potatoes on rootsFrom the four pots I harvested maybe 10-15 pounds of potatoes. I salvaged the compost they grew in, and gave it to a new flower bed. (Growing potatoes makes growing flowers seem extraordinarily pleasing.)

soil and potatoesOverall it was an interesting experiment.

I haven’t cooked any of these potatoes yet but, unless they are epic in taste, I shall stash the experience in my memory rooms, at the end of a corridor in probably a little closet, where I can go find it and look at it now and then– through all the coming summers when I do not cultivate potatoes. Because the thrill is gone, as they say. I’d like to seriously try bush green beans though.

Always, I will grow sunflowers.

sunflower bouquet

Posted in actual plants, vegetable garden | Tagged , | 36 Comments