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Triumph of the Mundane

Slow blogging at its finest

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garden

Hang On Little Tomato!

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(A little late on this posting – the harvest is vinally over – bad pun intended!)

The title of a Pink Martini song and album has come to mind often these last few weeks as scores and scores of tomatoes ripen, and we attempt to pick them at peak ripeness.

This year’s tomato planting is in a new spot. Most of the year the south side of the garage is in the dark shadows of the neighbor’s behemoth brick house. My guess was that the high angle of the summer sun would last long enough to yield a hearty crop. And indeed it did. Another title in the running for this post was Incoming!

In a nod to monoculture, the hubs planted five roma tomato plants there and two more in pots on the deck. Producing gallons of sauce was apparently the only thing on his mind (more on that another time). But we still topped salads and enjoyed BLTs with these tomatoes. A little variety, however, would have been nice. . .

Back to the harvest, which is where all the comic material lies.

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The hubs rigged up this wonky trellis for better air circulation and to allow the vines to grow longer and outward, thereby increasing production. When the birds decided it provided a nice, secluded place to sit and grab a snack, he draped the whole business with netting. And the final runner-up title for this posting was Rack ‘Em Up.

What he failed to consider was picking tomatoes. The contraption is a little over four feet high, and it requires an awkward combination of yoga and limbo moves to get in and out. That’s accented with grade school-level Quasimodo imitations to plod, hunched over, and reach deep to pick tomatoes. Four times out of five, one of us smacks a noggin on the overhead trellis and at least once a week somebody gets tangled in the netting.

Hopefully the neighbors get a kick out of our point-and-pull method. I crouch on the ground, looking up into the vines, pointing out tomatoes; the hubs reaches in almost blindly while I coach “a little to the left and up” in hopes of plucking the ripe fruit hidden in the leaves.

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Random image of the lovely tomatoes we picked. Not necessarily representative of a day’s harvest. . .

The fun continues when the hubs attempts to estimate the day’s harvest. It’s a whole new level of husband math. Example: “Must be five pounds of tomatoes, maybe 12.” Nothing like covering your bases: Nine pounds was that day’s yield.

Then there’s the canning pot. Our newish stove has two ceramic burners and two induction. Somehow he convinced himself that we were damaging the large diameter ceramic burner by using prolonged high heat and the old-fashion enameled canning pot. I remain unconvinced.

However, since I returned to work he is unattended all day and in possession of a valid credit card. Thus, unsurprisingly, I came home to a shiny new gargantuan canning pot suitable for use on an induction stove. I informed him that we will never can enough of anything to justify the cost. He remains unconvinced.

Thus, he has spent much effort outlining possible additional uses for this pot. The best one so far is the pot is big enough to make bagels. Oy vey. Hang on little tomato, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 

Dandelion Blivet – or – I Can Handle the Truth, I Just Don’t Like the Maths

dandelion blivet

A highly technical military term (wink, wink), as my father explained it to me, a blivet is ten pounds of crap in a five-pound bag.

This weekend produced a close-to-real-life example: I took that leetle beety plastic pot out front to hold all the dandelions I’d dig up. Surely there weren’t many so early in the spring. . .

To loosen the nasty weed’s grip on the good earth — the over-wintered ones had roots the diameter of small carrots and I’m not talking baby carrots — I used the Japanese all-purpose garden knife available exclusively, in the 1990’s, from Smith and Hawken. Now available fine big-box stores everywhere.

And pardon the Britishism, too much Masterpiece Theater, but the blivet wasn’t the maths that were getting to me. The truth is, by trading a large chunk of my time for money these days, only so much of anything gets done. This weekend, the dandelions. Not enough time to do a proper weeding. Other items on the weekend to-do list loom large and the hours vaporize quickly. A time blivet of sorts — how much to cram into a too-short timeframe.

The dandelions, however, don’t care one whit about my schedule. And I’m gonna need a bigger bucket.

Comparison Chopping or I Love the Smell of Lavender in the Afternoon

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Working again means certain things will be put aside for another day. But other things, such as trimming the lavender, are time sensitive. An unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon seemed the opportune moment.

I was all set for a quiet, zen-like moment when the buzzsaw hubs showed up. As noted last year, spending time, plant by plant, to trim thoughtfully results in a nicely undulating hedge of robust blooms. Blunt cuts without careful deep trimming soon leads to lower bloom production and stifled plants.

The hubs has a different approach. There is he was, like that cigar-chomping officer in Apocalypse Now, mowing down the lavender bushes into the shape of large mushroom caps. And I’m hearing Vikings and Beekeepers (it’s playing at the 8-min. mark), a famous piece used in the movie and the SCTV sketch, playing in my head. And yes, that’s how I refer to that music; the real name doesn’t stick. Which reminded me to pick my battles. Carefully. And laugh.

So I worked closest to the sidewalk because those plants produce the best blooms. And I quit the task much earlier than planned. Sure enough, he gave up soon after. I’ll go back and finsih the overall trimming, and do some delicate trimming on the newly rounded plants once the warm weather really sets in and the hubs’ attention is absorbed in getting the vegetable garden planted. Patience. Oooommmmm.

 

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Time for a Cool Change

Frighteningly unseasonable weather well into November meant the green pepper plants kept producing until just a few days ago. Experience warns the appearance of great bounty precedes a painful-down-to-the-soul crash; it’s a false joy.

green-peppers

But waste is pointless, so stuffed green peppers for several days it is. With a side of impending doom.

And then on to new and other things.

Recently I came across the website of a fabulously named restaurant in Land, Oregon: Viking Soul Food. As a midlander, the Northwestern United States does not come to mind when thinking Nordic. But it is, and there you are.

My thoughts were already pointed due north. A year of Nordic cooking, perhaps. Yes, a year of Scandinavian cooking has a better ring to it. However my half-Swedish cousin rarely fails to remind that Finland, from whence my side of the family comes, is not technically part of Scandinavia, ergo it’s erroneous to claim the heritage. That’s why I hang with the German cousins.

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Tomato Fail Times Two

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This year’s tomato harvest is dismal. Pathetic even.

Last year the output was smaller than usual so we figured it was time for a new plan. Probably that blight thing, so give up on planting tomatoes in the garden for a year. Try pots on the deck. Fresh tomatoes just steps from the back door. Not so much. Mostly dry, hot summer punctuated by periods of deluge. Plants either too dry (even watering multiple times a day) or too wet.

What to do about spaghetti sauce!

Costco to the rescue!

Tomato 1

This has to be the solution, right?

Then The Splendid Table re-posts a story on canned tomatoes. Clearly, I’ve been dupped by a PR scam. But I’m certainly not going to throw away this jumbo can of tomatoes.

Maybe a little extra vodka in the Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola will cover any shortcomings. And maybe put some of that vodka in a glass rather than in the sauce. . .

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Honey Wasp Don’t Care

Honey wasp

See anything interesting, anything at all? No? Good!

Here in the Land of the Frugal, mulch goes down when the price drops. And the end-of-season price on cedar mulch meant it was time to load up.

So the hubs starts spreading the stuff in the front garden when he feels a sharp pain on his nose. Just about center of this pic is where the honey wasp nest was and the mulching stopped. He got stung, and it wasn’t fun.

The event made him pretty wary because it took three weeks of asking about next steps before a can of wasp destroyer was purchased. Even then, you-know-who had her hand on the nozzle while he pointed where to aim.

Now all’s quiet on the eastern front (yard).

 

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The Kludge Report – Honey Locust Don’t Care Part II

Well, the tab for ‘free’ firewood from the neighbor’s downed honey locustis about $150.

When the small electric log splitter, some hand tools, and a lot of elbow grease didn’t make any headway on turning those logs into firewood, the hubs headed to Northern Tool. (By the by, is there a name any more flannel than that? Probably not.)

Anyway, he came home with a hand-powered 10-ton splitter. And this is is what happened.

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Lots of creaks and snaps. Flipped the log over, more creaks and snaps. No split.

Then we looked at the splitter. New personal best: Broke a piece of new equipment in under an hour. The creaks and snaps were the frame saying Hey you two idiots, STOP. Bent that puppy good. The wheels rolled no more.

At this point (or perhaps sooner. . .), the battle has become personal and the hubs heads to Lowe’s, comes home with some angle iron, and some nuts and bolts. Heads to the basement. Lots of loud sawing, banging, and whatnot. And this is what happened.

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Behold the newly reinforced log splitter. Frame whacked back into shape, too.

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Again with the creaking and snapping. But at this point, what the hell. It works or it don’t; no point in babying the thing.

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Houston, we have liftoff! Whew. A little ‘finessing’ required as the frame inhibits the split on larger logs.

But that’s a small price to pay.

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Honey Locust Don’t Care

When the neighbors up the street felled a honey locust, they offered us the remains. We quickly accepted and trundled the logs to the wood pile in our backyard. Free heat!

Honey locust 2

The honey locust is a hardwood tree. A very hard wood. The hubs spent several hours splitting a few logs.

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Several instruments both sharp and blunt were employed.

No such thing as free heat.

Making Do – The Spring Edition

Spring kludge 1

Spring into summer is kludging season for the hubs. A few years back, he and the neighbor created a spectacular pool-heating system kludge. Yards of garden hose winding aimlessly behind an array of old glass doors and windows, the whole thing baking in the sun so tepid water would (eventually) flow into their pool. It was a sight to behold, and damn if there is no photographic record. In my mind’s eye it was a glorious Rube Goldbergesque contraption. I’m certain notable lawn damage occurred and there was a minor injury. Or two.

This year’s project is suitably mundane: Divert the rainwater around the garden. Bonus: Helps keep out the rabbits. He cut a handful of old composite boards (stacked behind the deck for years, years I tell you) to a narrower width to cover more territory. The math of figuring out how much territory the boards would cover proved that an illustrator and a writer should never be in charge of such things. Thank goodness there wasn’t a time limit on that problem and we’re good with a tape measure. Only minor marital squabbling took place, mostly when ear protection was on and the saw was running.

And thank goodness there was enough board to go around.

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