Saturday, April 18, 2015

Lemon Balm Pesto

Lemon balm is prolific in my garden, as in many others.  A member of the mint family, it spreads like wildfire and produces fragrant lemon-scented leaves almost all year long.  Last year was the first year I became aware of its charms.  You see, I thought it was lemon mint, and was expecting fresh and fragrant mojitos in the bright, humid summer of Charlotte.  In any case, I was presented with lemon balm instead, and it took me a while to figure out what to do with it.  A rudimentary search on Pinterest led me to Lemon Balm Pesto.  Now that it's prime season for herbs, I decided to give it a try.

Lemon Balm Pesto

A handful of parsley
Two to three handfuls of lemon balm
Olive oil
Vegetable Oil
Scallion tops
Rice Wine vinegar
Fish Sauce

Toasted pumpkin seeds
Red pepper flakes

Mix until you get something that looks like pesto.  Easy peasy.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Miracle of Spring

I've been thinking a lot of my plants and garden plans.  This was my first real spring after doing so much planting and planning last year, and it's amazing to see the fight for survival play out in my backyard.  Dawn's mom had bought me a Kaffir Lime plant last year.  True to my indoor black thumb, it was dried up and dead within weeks of bringing it inside to overwinter.  After a time, I stopped watering it, relegating it to the the small list of houseplants I have killed over the years.  You see, I already know my gift of plant stewardship ends at the threshold of my back door.  Without ground to spread their roots, or rain to supply life-giving water, my house is as inhospitable to plants as a desert terrarium.  In any case, I thought I had another botanical victim, until last week, when I swore my eyes deceived me.  Was that green in the lime pot?  Sure enough, the plant was sending up shoots from the base of the trunk.  Tortured, brown and spiny, the main stalk had passed away months ago, leading me to think I had another botanical victim on my hands.   Luckily, it was clear that Mother Nature had granted my plant a last-ditch effort to resurrect itself.  This was my Easter miracle.  As the weather in North Carolina is continuing to warm up, I promptly took my lovely lime outside, to be heralded by the spring sun and showers.  I'm sure it will survive, at least until winter.

This same process happened all over my garden.  I had replanted a sad hosta, which was a Walmart special last year, and it is so happy now.  Double the growth in week!  Also, the striated leaves are more prominent.  Two of the Wally world ostrich ferns poked their fiddle heads above the ground in the new tree beds I made of alpaca compost and leaf mold.  No sign of bleeding hearts yet.   It's possible I planted them too deep.  Recon when the sun comes up!  The potted comfrey and peony are reviving nicely, and the rest of the crew, save the rosemary and lavender that officially died last year from lack of water, are doing well.

Last night, I mixed up a fragrant batch of soil for the strawberry towers, complete with Starbucks coffee grounds.  I will finish it off with some alpaca manure and get them planted, though it is a bit late.  Also, I cut the wood for the salad table cage.  The squirrels are way too interested in them for me to start planting, and my head lettuce is getting leggy.  That's all for now!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Easter Vacation Everyone!!!

I'm happy to be on vacation, and feel pretty accomplished in the last three days.  On Friday, we bought the municipal compost I wrote about last time, and spent much of the day raking and shoveling it around.  We had bought some river rock to put in the firepit area after we laid out the area in bricks.  We're quite pleased with the effect.  Then I used the leftover bricks to build the front garden bed I've dreamed of since the day I moved in.   A quick trip to Lowe's supplied some bedding plants, Polka Dot plants, white Dianthus, two violets that came up in the herb garden this year that I transplanted, a Red Russian kale, to move in the direction of edibles in the front garden, and some lemon balm, which I'm both hopeful and fearful will do well with just some morning sun.   Hubby also helped me put the straw bales in place, so I made the vine bed, and what may end up to be a three sisters garden.  I was thinking maybe I shouldn't plant corn, but now I have decided screw it.  I will move the arch back to the other bed, since the corn will be supplying most of the trellising.

I've started the straw bales with two cups of Milorganite each, and daily watering.  They overwintered in the open Walmart parking lot, so I feel as if they are composted enough to start plants in within the next week. This was a tough decision.  I saw that Milorganite was composted sewer sludge, and did some research.  I have decided at this time, I'm OK with using it in the vegetable garden.  Even though it is labeled as organic, it is not for use in an organic garden.  I have heard that people have gotten some great results from this product.  Even the salesperson at Lowe's was surprised I asked for it and told me he usually recommends it.  Also, it is rumored that it repels deer and rabbits.  For this alone, I am willing to try it out.  

Dawn and I went to the farmer's market, where we succumbed to pie and plants.  (Speaking of which, my rhubarb is coming up!)  On our way, I spotted an upturned plastic bucket indicating a yard sale. We vowed to return on our way home, and could have never imagined at the time what we were getting into.   

After purchasing tomatoes and kale from a lively character who urged us to spread copious amounts of lime on our red clay to improve the soil, we returned to the yard sale only to be greeted with a pile of refuse, the likes of which I haven't seen since garbage day in front of a block-long Manhattan apartment building.  Piles of trash provided a fence for a few worn pieces of furniture and assorted glassware, among some other odds and ends.  Hosting this event were two native Charlotteans, whom sadly enough were helping out the brother, who had not paid taxes in seven years.  It was as if Hillbilly Blood met American Pickers.  There was so much junk.  The man told us that we could have anything we want for $10.  Dawn and I looked at each other, and in a few moments, it was clear we weren't leaving without a truckload of stuff.  

We had spoken earlier in the year about possible starting a weekend home-grown business, maybe flea market booth.  Sadly, as both of us are lacking the funds for starting up said business, it's been on hiatus.  Well, after this trip, we now have enough furniture to start flipping to start it up!  After making a pile, including most of the furniture, used greenhouse pots, random bricks from around the property, glass wine jugs, a lamp, a rain barrel, and other stuff, we promptly returned to my house to empty the truck of the mulch that still resided there from the day before.  Feeling like proud multicultural Picker Sisters, we slept well.  

Hubby and I spent Easter watching a Season 4 Game of Thrones marathon.  It felt really good to relax and do nothing all day, but eat candy and watch TV.  This morning, I started to catch up on Outlander, installed a second clothesline, hung up a few loads of laundry and contemplated the garden layout.  Today I will make a compost sifter, get the strawberries planted in the soda bottle column,  and plant the concord grape in a container.  If there's time, I can finish Dawn's Giant Jenga I started before Christmas.  Still lots of sanding and painting to do for that.  Then I might finish in time for knitting :)

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