Cozy Factor rising

I am writing in the pre-dawn darkness again this day, and listening to the surprise warm rain falling outside.

I love the new cooler weather, and the falling leaves. I look forward to the first big storm, wood fires, apple cider, fog and frost, the “need” to make soup and stew and bread and pumpkin pie. In general it is an upward fluctuation of the cozy factor –something we track at my house.

cedar chest

I like opening the old cedar-chest and bringing out the wool sweaters.

Will there be snow this year? I would love to make a snow lantern like I read about on Søren’s blog. (How could I be this old and not know of snow lanterns?)

Once I wished for snow with a chicken wishbone. We had a kind of blizzard that year — my grown children still call it “the chicken-bone snow.” Might try that again…

Some warm rain this morning, but the recent heat turned our clay soil to concrete. Most every spring I have amended the soils in all the beds, and clearly more of that is required. The house painting is finally completed for this year, but I was still pretty busy with it when the hot weather came. Only a few annuals actually died, but now flowers are few and far between.

scruffy garden bedHere is a representative Scruffy Bed Image.  There are a lot of these scruffy beds around my house right now.

pink jacobs ladderThe native plants have endured the best, like this pink Polemonium, blooming again.

stone bedHappy native plants, but mostly just green.

I’ve started my Fall Plant Move, to correct for too-hot, too-shady, too-crowded.

In positioning plants I consider light and water, and I avoid rigid symmetry, but I am pretty hopeless in actually planning a garden design in an overall way. I tend to look at the beds and try to choose the best neighborhood for the plant(s) in hand.

Those drawn-to-scale sketches with little circles for trees don’t seem to have anything to do with me or my garden, even when I am the one drawing them. And how could I ever organize, on paper, blooming times and heights, when I can scarcely make a successful grocery list?

And there’s another thing. I can’t find the quote, but somewhere in William Robinson’s classic book, The English Flower Garden, Mr. Robinson suggests that if you just add to your garden those plants which you like instead of the plants which the design and location require, well then you are a plant collector instead of a gardener. Or something like that. (It weighs heavily upon me.)

I’m afraid the truth is that, like Popeye, I am what I am.  (Note: They say Popeye saved the spinach industry in the 1930’s.)

OK my gardener therapy session is over now.

In other news, yesterday I emptied out one of the composters and used the best part of the contents to create two huge bins of potting soil for the greenhouse.

potting soil & MaxMax thinks it smells okay.

I went through the compost, one shovel-full at a time, pulled out sticks and broke it up nicely. I put it in the lidded bins ($3.99 at Goodwill) and stirred in some peat moss, a bit of sawdust, organic fertilizer, and a little vermiculite. It probably has a few weed seeds, but I like the light weight of it better than the commercial soils I’ve bought in the past, and it fits my budget in that I had all the ingredients lying around.

fall cucumber

In the greenhouse I’ve started a cucumber called Rocky hybrid. It’s recommended as a greenhouse plant and it grew like crazy in there last fall. It climbs along whatever skinny support you provide and produces the cutest little (4 inch long) flavorful cucumbers for weeks.

Speaking of growing food, here’s something I found.

It’s a remarkable garden blog called The Urban Farming Guys, all about creating a farm on vacant properties in the worst urban part of  Kansas City, Missouri.  An online search for “urban farming” will show how this concept is spreading.  (See  a collection of breathtaking photographs here of magnificent abandoned structures in Detroit.)

In all our cities vacancy rates are high. Re-use of the land and buildings for growing local urban food, making green reappear among the ruins, all to the benefit of the local people– how completely terrific is that?


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in actual gardens, composting and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Cozy Factor rising

  1. Angie Case says:

    Hi Linnie! Nice to see you and Max out and about in your garden! I’m looking forward to snow cream this winter. Do you remember that as a kid? You have to run out in fresh snow and scoop up bowls full of it. (The challenge with the teenagers here, is to do so barefoot!) Add milk and sugar and you have a tasty treat to eat in front of the wood stove. Gardening is almost over for the season here. Winds are increasing and nights are good and chilly! Gathering seeds mostly now. Youngest son, Johnny would be happy to share some of his sunflower seeds with you if you want to try next spring. Have a wonderful Autumn!

    • linniew says:

      Hi Angie! Yes we made something like snow cream when I was a small child. I’ll have to try it again if we get some snow…and add more interesting ingredients than just sugar, which is what I remember. Yours sounds better. Sure, tell Johnny to save me some seeds, thank you, your sunflowers were so pretty!

  2. Alberto says:

    That polemonium is really a native there? Very nice!
    I’m so looking forward for some fall too, this heat exhausted me! I need soup and stew and hot chocolate and other warm fatty food too!

    • linniew says:

      Hi Alberto
      Yes I think the Jacob’s Ladder is Polemonium carneum– Kali Robson’s Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants lists it, and it certainly does well here.

      Hot chocolate should definitely have been on my winter foods list. But “fatty” has too many negative connotations — as we consider the wonderful sustenance of winter we don’t say that.

  3. b-a-g says:

    Linnie – Like you, I don’t plan or organise my garden. I like to see what it will do by itself, just as much as adding to the plant collection. I position plants where I think they will be happy. Hopefully they’ll meld together eventually.

    • linniew says:

      YES. That is exactly my approach, b-a-g. And when plants aren’t happy they are skilled at letting us know. And then of course the trick is to notice before they are actually dead… Which I’m sure is what we both do almost always.

  4. Cathy says:

    OK, I am going to have to stop reading your blog. You’re rubbing off on me and I think I’m becoming psychotic. Me, the person who dreads fall because she detests winter is thinking about going into the cedar closet and taking a few deep breaths (not to get high, just to get into the “mood”), thinking about the smell of logs burning in the fireplace, think about stew simmering on the stove, and baking breads, and mulled cider, and pies…. OMG, I am thinking about how it’s silent outside when the snow is falling in the night. Roll out the straight jacket!!!! I KNOW I’ve lost my mind. She’s made me actually start to dream about WINTER!!!!

    • linniew says:

      So, you think you are going to catch psychosis from me? From ME? (It seems to me that I am quite stable every now and then.) But YOU brought up the beautiful image of silent snow falling at night. Clearly, Cathy, you are a latent winter enthusiast. Try saying this: “My name is Cathy, and there are a lot of things I love about winter.” It’s really just the Cozy Factor–you may not have heard of it. But bake a little ginger-bread in a snow storm and zap! up it goes. I should probably create a meter, with a pointer and maybe an alarm that rings when the CF gets dangerously high…

      • Cathy says:

        OMG you are a riot a minute. In thinking about this, though, I will say that I can enjoy a snowstorm for about 15 minutes, and then I’m over it and I return to my senses. But since it is so could out, I do get to make stews and bake more, which I enjoy….

        BTW, after nursing my little Betty Corning cuttings for weeks, the bad news is that we went on vacation and the gal tending the gardens put them out on the table on the deck to water them, forgot about them out there, and they …. baked. WHAT WAS SHE THINKING????? They could have been watered right where they were! Anyway, I am starting again and going to try to pot up a few more this week and get them potted up and rooted over the winter. If it works, I’ll have some for you in the spring.

        • linniew says:

          Don’t panic Cathy, this isn’t such a bad time for starting cuttings. At least I hope that’s true, since I’ve been snipping them here and there recently. Still using the old hormone powder so I think they will grow.

  5. I am glad to hear that more and more people are growing their own food. It is such a rewarding experience and teaches us so much. And I kinda’ like your scruffy bed…looks natural!

    • linniew says:

      Bless your heart Butterfly, I like “natural.” It’s just so much better than “chaotic,” or even “random.” If the ghost of William Robinson ever drops by to talk about my gardens, and why, I will be prepared with “natural.”

  6. kininvie says:

    Linnie, I was looking in my copy of Robinson to see if I could track down the quote you mentioned. I’m glad you sent me back to him – he’s wonderfully scathing and a real antidote to the glossy mag school of gardening, such as his chapter on ‘Evil Effect of books on Italian Gardens’ Other quotes you might like: ‘It is rare to see a garden seat that is not an eyesore’ ‘The greatest evil is the stereotyped plan, the results of which are evident on all sides’ ‘A grievous source of wasted effort in gardens is monotony arising from everybody growing what his neighbour grows’ etc. etc.
    BTW Are you sure that cucumber seedling isn’t a sunflower?

    • linniew says:

      Oh Kininvie, “scathing” is the perfect word for Robinson. “Ego” also comes to mind. But I really enjoy reading the book and I love that you have it too.

      Pretty sure the cucumbers are cucumbers.

      But this is my new sunflower idea. I’m going to go for World’s Tiniest Sunflower. At the Fair. Here is my practice plant, getting ready for next year. What do you think, will it get the attention of the Fair employee lady?
      tiny sunflower

  7. nhgarden says:

    I am a bit of a plant collector myself 🙂

  8. Such good points you make. If you have enough beds in enough different kinds of conditions then there is always some bed whose design and location suits the plant you want to collect, voila instant transformation from collector to gardener.

  9. Sheila says:

    I, too, have the scruffy bed look. I choose to believe it’s inevitable for late summer. I SO agree about plant collectors vs. gardeners – though it would be ideal to be talented at both. Whenever I have watched garden makeover shows, I want to scream, “these are LIVING plants, not design objects!”

    • linniew says:

      It turns out there are many of us who fall in love with a plant first and then march around the gardens until we find a spot for it. (Sometimes I make room by moving some other unfortunate who was probably misplaced to begin with.) There is a romance to it, and there is always the chance that the new plant will suddenly bring together an entire bed, or maybe a corner of a bed, or that at least it won’t die… Thanks for the supporting words Sheila!

  10. Secretly I like the snow too, and think of all the fun we will have with the cameras. Great to see your buddy Max approving the compost. Yes and the food growing community is really getting stronger every day. Greetings and good luck with the cucumbers:~)

    • linniew says:

      Snow is usually light here and often there is none, but I am truly looking forward to all the snow pictures being posted by others! (I will have to get creative with rain, somehow.)

  11. Alistair says:

    Linnie, I live where we usually have our fair share of snow, but like you and definitely older hadn’t heard of the snow lanterns which Soren had been speaking of. After all these years I am still planting stuff in the wrong spots. Your posts are always a good read.

    • linniew says:

      I think one of the problems with locating plants is that the characteristics of the location change– adjacent trees get bigger, or it becomes obvious that the gardener (do I know this person?) has put the plant in question a bit too close to others. (Mr. O makes this observation every time I plant a new area. “No no!” I say, “It’s perfect!” But later it isn’t.) On the flip side (for those of us who remember vinyl records) when you have to take out crowded things, it’s actually quitek fun to try again to find the perfect spot. But Alistair you gardens are all so glorious, I am proud to share with you the issue of misplaced plants!

  12. Lyn says:

    Such a great post, Linnie, chock full of goodness! Look, all we have to do is make up a fancy-sounding name for the “buy a plant on impulse – wander around looking for somewhere to plant it” school of garden design. How about “anti-constructionist post-acquisition romanticism” ?

    • linniew says:

      I’m in! Boy, you are good, Lyn! Anti-constructionist post-acquisition romanticism, damn near perfect, and sounds like a category of grad school studies or something. Dr. Linnie?

  13. Lyn says:

    Yep, let’s open that school and make a fortune, Dr Linnie! And we could get undergrads to work in our gardens for free…

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