The Wasp in the Garden

The one thing I hate about where we live is the huge number of wasps that build nests behind every rosemary bush, above every window, under every piece of wood and even in holes in the ground every summer.  So far all of us, except Gavin, have been stung at least once every summer.  Two days ago Brae and I were both stung.  She is pretty immune to wasp venom so after a couple hours she was running around on her stung foot with no problems.  My reaction was a little different this time.

So remember a couple years ago how Brae and I were attacked by a wasp swarm?  Well apparently those 5 or 6 stings I received did a lot to increase my wasp allergies.  Of course I didn’t know this the other day.

It had been a somewhat stressful afternoon and had just sat down in the garden to take a quick kid free break when BAM a wasp came out of no where, stung me on my ring finger and took off so fast I hardly had time to see what had actually happened.  Pain coursed through my finger and I jumped up screaming a long and very loud list of colorful curse words at the escaping wasp and rushed to the front yard to find Tom.  Within minutes my whole arm began to itch and hives spread across my skin.  That had never happened before so I quickly took a Tylenol and a Claritin, and in 10 minutes the hives were gone, but the swelling and burning gradually increased overnight.

By the next morning most of my hand was swollen, red hot and my finger felt like it was going to burst from the pressure.  By mid day, my finger was turning white and I could feel pain radiating up my arm along the bone.  Not good.  I dropped the kids off at a neighbors and headed to urgent care.

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Usually I dread urgent care centers, but then again Ive never been there with a potentially life threatening injury before.  I expected a long agonzing wait but the nurse took one look at my hand, asked if I was having trouble breathing, which thankfully I wasnt, and took me right into a room.  Three hours and a Benedryl shot in the butt later the swelling and itching had become bearable and I was back home with strict instructions to see my regular doctor about an epi pin.  Just in case.

After all that drama, I really needed some happy time.  I headed back out to the garden to begin our very first Summer veggie harvest.  It was small, but so exciting to finally have a homegrown veggie for dinner.

I’ve continued taking the Benedryl every 4 hours and I woke up this morning with much less swelling and itching which makes for a much happier Mama.

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What’s Happening

Hello!  Summer has been speeding by here!  Its been cooler on average too which has been very nice.  Several times I thought it was Fall already, but then realized that no, it was still July.  Anyway, here is a little of what we have been up to this month.

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– Our landlord is replacing the insulation in our bedroom this week which is why there is drywall all over my garden.  The bedroom window happened to be the easiest way to get it all outside and its located right over the garden.  They also agreed to paint my room any color I want!  We chose a beautiful blue color aptly named Apple River.  I cant wait to get in there and set it all up!

– fertilizing the garden with fish emulsion makes the plants grow inches overnight, but there is still nothing to harvest yet.  We are about ready to peel back that astroturf and move it to another location.  It did an amazing job on all the weeds.

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– Experimenting with creative bean trellising.  The beans are currently headed across that rope.  I’m hoping for a cool bean overhang.

–  We went to the SF Zoo.  Had a blast seeing all the animals, but were a little disappointed that “Hawk Hill” only had one hawk, a couple owls and a turkey vulture.  The owl in the picture is an Eurasian Eagle Owl.  They are massive.  About the size of my torso.  Their only Hawk, a Harris Hawk was not even out on display.   Brae, my outspoken girl, told the docent that she had a Harris Hawk at home and wanted to see something new.  Turns out we have way more hawks and falcons then SF zoo!  Isn’t that wild?

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– The blackberries are coming in about a pint at a time so far.  I had a couple bags in the freezer from last year, so they became jam.

– I also made jam from the same local Shiro plums that I found at Andy’s Market last year.  I used the same recipe as before.

– I have been using the crock pot a lot lately.  The best recipe by far was the baby back ribs.  Just cut the rack into three chunks, or whatever size needed to fit in your crock pot.  Season with salt, pepper and rub with a couple spoonfuls of brown sugar.  Coat with a quality bbq sauce and pile in the crock pot with plenty of bbq sauce in between the ribs.  Pour the rest of the bottle over the top of the ribs.  Cover and cook on high for 6 hours.  They were AMAZING!  Even better than the last bbq restaurant I went to!

–  It’s probably a little early to begin planning the Fall garden but it’s so cloudy and cold everyday that I’ve had the gardening books out and already bought my seeds.  Since we decided to stay here for a couple more years we are planning to add another garden bed in the backyard.  I’m hoping I can get it done by fall.  Now that I can stick Gavin in the back of the Ergo I get so much more done.

– The Gravenstein apples are ripe already and the trees are packed with them this year.  I see lots of applesauce and apple butter in my future.

Back soon, no really, way sooner than last time 🙂

Garden Update 7/7

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I forgot to tell you I would be out of town for the last two weeks.  My little sister got married!  Congratulations to Kristen and her new husband Kevin!

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It was ridiculously hot in southern California while we were there.  Over 100 degrees for most of the trip.  Tom tells me that it was hot at home the whole time I was gone, but when we got home Sonoma’s cool ocean breezes were here to greet me.

My garden grew by leaps and bounds while I was gone thanks to the heat wave.  The beans tripled in size and the tomatoes doubled.  Plus the first blackberries ripened and the Gravenstein Apple’s are almost ready!

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Garden Update

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Above pic: Two weeks ago

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2 days ago

It seems kinda silly to continue my 30 days when I am obviously not blogging everyday.  As much as I want to, it is impossible for me to blog everyday.  I have to choose between spending time with Tom after the kids go to bed or blog.  Sorry, but family first!

I did enjoy my 30 days of Renewal.  I started knitting a little again.  I started eating a salad everyday for lunch, experimented with vegetarian dinners, started taking a pile of supplements to help support my pregnancy weakened joints that have been causing injury after injury the last couple months.  I started gardening again, started doing yoga again.  And so much more.  I am really starting to feel like my old self again.  Except for the extra baby weight.  Nursing isnt dropping the pounds as fast as I thought it would.  I have lost about 12 lbs but not without lots of work!  Nursing had nothin to do with it!

I am really happy to be gardening again.  It’s so therapeutic!  Digging my hands into the soil.  Pulling weeds.  Finding stray carrots that wintered deep in the beds.  The soil pulls all the tension out of my body and sucks it into the earth leaving me refreshed and calm.  Gavin and I are loving our morning gardening time.  He gets to hang out in his stroller watching the world from the shade of the redwoods.  I get about 20 minutes of me time to garden as I please.  Its awesome.

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Two weeks ago

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2 days ago

So, this year I planted a bunch of cucumbers and tomatoes.  There are two or three kinds of pickling cucumbers and a slicer.  I also picked 5 or 6 different indeterminate tomatoes, blue lake pole beans, zucchini squash, a couple lettuces that will probably bolt soon anyway, dill and cilantro.  I have room for a little more but haven’t decided what else to plant.  Maybe an eggplant or something.

We are about to move the astro turf in the backyard.  Its done a great job on the weeds so far, but we have much more to do!  My allergies are so bad this year that weedwacking sends me running inside for a Claritin and a shower.  I’m glad the turf can do the job for me!

You know what I really need is a goat!

Day 20 – 30 Days of Renewal – Garden Update

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I bet you are wondering whats up with my garden this year?  Well the answer is a big fat NOTHING!  I haven’t even started yet.  We have been so busy with the end of the school year and baby proofing the house that the garden has been mostly forgotten.  I hope to have time to pick up some new dirt and plant summer veggies this weekend.  That’s my goal at least.  We have a lot of work on our hands and I’m feeling the pressure!

The backyard is worse than the front.  Weeds have completely taken over.  I’ll be gettin busy with the weed wacker soon.

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A couple weeks ago Tom and I spread out some astro turf in the back to kill all the stickers.  It works great and gives us a clean, sticker free place to hang out until they’re dead.  Its probably not the most economical choice, but since we use a lot of astro turf in the falcon’s enclosures we usually have extra lying around.

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We ran out of turf for this section.  The weed wacker and heavy gloves come in handy here.  Especially since I gotta be able to get to those blackberries over there!  I am so excited we will be here for another blackberry season!

So, that’s it.  My awful, overgrown and ugly backyard.  I’m planning some big changes in the next couple weeks.  I need my tomato fix this year!!

On a side note, today is the last day of the school year!  Gavin’s asleep and this is probably the last time I will be alone for the next three months!  With that I’m going to go do something non electronic.  Like work on clearing out the garden beds in the front.

30 Days of Renewal -Day 9 – How to Make Chive Blossom Vinegar

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For weeks I’ve been waiting for these flowers to bloom.  Ever since I read about making flower flavored vinegars.  When Quirk Books sent me a new cookbook called Cooking with Flowers by Miche Bacher I was excited to try cooking with these new flavors I’ve never experienced before.  Hollyhock Scones, Dandelion Wine, Daylily Cheesecake, Calendula Cornbread, Tulip Martinis, Violet Macarons and so much more.  They all sound wonderful.  I sent the recipe for Pistachio Rose Shortbread off to my sister for her Alice and Wonderland themed bridal shower.  It’s perfect for a tea party.

At first, I was concerned I wouldn’t have access to most of these flowers, but after a few minutes I realized the rosemary and thyme in the front yard are blooming.  So are the lilacs next door.  My sage plant is about to bloom too.  The roses are in bloom.  OMG, there are edible flowers EVERYWERE!  The rest of the flowers in this book are found in every nursery in any town.

We will talk more about this book, I am sure.  For now, I am going to leave you with the recipe for chive blossom vinegar from Cooking with Flowers.

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Chive Blossom Vinegar

  • 2 cups of cleaned and gently dried chive blossoms
  • 1 1/2 cups of white wine vinegar

Put blossoms in a canning jar or another jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Warm the vinegar in a saucepan over low heat for 4 to 5 min.  Pour it over the flowers.  Cap the jar and leave it where it can capture sunlight for 1 week.  Move it to a cool dry place or the refrigerator, and let it sit for 1 week more.  Strain out the blossoms, and store flower vinegar in a clean, capped jar in the fridge.

The vinegar turned a lovely pink purple color overnight.  I didn’t have 2 cups of chive blossoms so I am using about 1/2 cup of vinegar and all the blossoms I can, adding more as they bloom.

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*I am aware I missed posting on Saturday, but I think that on the weekends there is just too much going on for me to post.  I will if I can but no promises.

30 Days of Renewal – Day 4 – In The Garden

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Several of last year’s plants have come back this spring including my chives. I have plans to turn these chive flowers into chive vinegar after they fully bloom. Look for it in a week or so. I’ve heard it turns the vinegar purple!

If you have time today add some fresh potting soil to your potted plants. Just spread it around on top. If its been a couple years, just repot the whole thing with fresh potting soil.

30 Days of Renewal – Day 2 – Succulent Propagation

20130419-144855.jpgRecently I noticed that my neighbor had several babies growing on one of her succulent plants. I asked her if she was planning to propagate them and she said she had no idea how and I was welcome to them if I wanted. I was thrilled to get so many new plants for free, but I felt bad that she couldn’t do it herself since its so easy.

So today I wanted to show you all how to propagate your (or your neighbors) succulents.

Succulent babies often grow at the base of the mother succulent. In the picture below you can see a baby growing at dirt level right out of the side of its mother.

20130419-173419.jpgGet a clean pair of scissors or clippers and cut as close to the base of the mother plant as possible leaving a stem on the baby plant.

20130419-173743.jpgLeave the baby outside on a bench in the shade for a few days so the cut end can dry out and so new roots begin to grow. After roots form it’s time to plant.

Clean a decorative plant pot with hot soapy water and dry. This is to kill any fungi that are waiting to infect your sensitive baby. Fill the pot with succulent soil mix and stick the stem of your baby plant into the soil and gently press the soil to secure. Give it a little water and place in a partly sunny location.

Water your babies just a tiny bit once a week. If you want to check to see if roots have formed gently tug on the baby. If there is resistance then roots have begun to form. If not, give it a couple weeks and try again.

Happy planting!