This is the story of a fig tree. About five years ago I decided I wanted to grow figs in the backyard of our northern Virginia home. You may know that George Washington successfully grew figs at Mount Vernon. It was pretty cold in the 18th century, so I figured if George could do it, so could it. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that George probably know a lot more about horticulture than I do, and had people working for him whose sole job it was to grow things. And now that I think about it, maybe these fig trees were inside a green house. Never mind all that. How hard can it be? So I began my fig saga, first with one fig tree, then with a second in year two. I got figs from one tree in year two. Then this tree died after a protracted cold spell in the winter. In year three I removed the dead fig and replaced it with a fourth one. This one, like its predecessor expired after a rough winter. Now in Pennsylvania I have finally succeeded. Continue reading
Spring harvest time
In between knocking on doors and meeting people in my township, I have been busy in the garden. Building on lessons learned from last year, I have already had some early successes. These include lettuce, spinach, radishes, and peas. I recently started putting in my summer veggies: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and green beans. The longer than usual cool spring weather helped extend the lettuce. I had so much lettuce I have been giving it away by the armfuls. The spinach is about done and going to seed, which is good because I need the space for zucchini and cucumbers. I found a local source for high quality compost, and learned about the value of covering plants, organize means to battling pests, and growing in bags. Continue reading
On the road in the Highlands of Scotland
I have been quiet lately. After returning from our trip to Scotland life took over. Since late last year and the tears and the depression, I got back up and into the game. I volunteered for an organization that I care deeply about and have been on their fundraising committee for their big event of the year. It was hugely successful and thankfully now in my rearview mirror. Did I also mention I’m running for local office? That was another of my post-election decisions. If you want to have an impact on your community, you have to step up and get in the arena. I have been knocking on doors and meeting lots of people and listening to their concerns. More on this later, but first I want to take moment to remember the beauty of Scotland. Continue reading
Ringing in the New Year: looking ahead in 2017
We rang in the new year quietly with a mildly alcoholic drink and a movie. No late night parties for us or big celebrations in a bar or hotel ballroom. Maybe it’s because we’re not in our twenties anymore or just that we enjoy being at home with our canine friends. Whatever the reason, we were satisfied with our quiet evening at home. We are at the point where we didn’t even have to explain to each other why we spent our evening at home. Our priorities had changed. Continue reading
Thanksgiving hopes to share a slice of the American pie
Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. The leftovers have been doled out to company and casseroles washed and put away. The dogs got their annual treats and we gorged on an extra helping of stuffing and a second slice of pie. Our lives are marked by these cultural traditions. In America Thanksgiving is our premier holiday for families. It’s a time when children and in-laws get plane tickets and take time off from work to gather at the family home. We shop carefully for special items and construct a dinner meant for double the number of guests. Because you never know if an additional guest or two may need a seat at the table. Continue reading
Traveling in Iceland: food, drink and sleep
During our one week vacation in Iceland, we only stayed in an actual hotel once. That was on our first night in the country. While often spartan and always unique, we enjoyed the diversity of our bed and breakfast choices. We ate delicious food and drink everywhere, even in the most isolated places. By the end of our time we came to appreciate the ubiquitous cod and potato meal, and to yearn for Skyr, a yogurt like dairy product made from whey. Our trusty guide book pointed us to places where we could get a reliable meal in the most out of the way hamlets. Continue reading
My one year blog-anniversary
One year ago I wrote my first blog post. At that time I was embarking on a new life in a new town. We had packed up the car with our two dogs, and left DC for Pennsylvania. How have I spent my first year outside the office? Well, let me tell you, it hasn’t been boring or mundane. The journey has begun.
Let me count the ways.
I gained a new appreciation for sitting quietly by my peaceful pond and do nothing.
I put in a backyard garden and understood how hard it was to successfully grow food to feed yourself and your family.
I realized that not only did I not miss getting up every day to dress for the office and embark on the morning commute, but I didn’t miss spending the day in the office and keeping the boss happy.
I cultivated an eye for wildlife all around me: Mallard ducks and woodpeckers, rabbits and deer and chipmunks and butterflies. I learned to be patient and wait for them to come out and show themselves.
I got back into the practice of cooking not because I had to but because I wanted to.
I lingered in local shops to get to know strangers who became friends. I let down my guard and learned that trust is easier than it seems.
I left the house without locking my door and didn’t think twice about it.
My blood pressure went down, way down and stayed low.
I stopped worrying about things that didn’t matter.
What about year two?
Now that I’ve taken a look back, what’s in store for me in the coming year? One of the things I started with at the beginning of the year was genealogy research. I started a project of finding out more about my family history just over a year ago. Then life got in the way, most importantly, both of my parents, who are elderly, began to decline and became more frail. We had to clear out their house to get it ready to sell. I found a few of my relatives and connected with my second cousin who live in New Jersey. My year two plan is to start the work of adding more leaves on the family tree and get it in a form that I can share with my relatives and for those who come behind me.
I want to write more, beyond the format of this blog.
My backyard garden project continues, with failures and successes. Before the season ends I need to map my garden on paper and catalogue what worked and what didn’t. Over the winter I will begin the task of planning the garden in a more scientific way, putting planting dates on the calendar, starting seeds indoors, and investigating ways to prevent pests from destroying my zucchini and eggplants.
We have travel plans in the next twelve months and beyond. I will be blogging about that.
I want to try at least three new things. Stay tuned! No, I will not be jumping out of an airplane or bungee jumping. I will be planting fruit trees, spending more time outdoors, and getting creative.
Want to join me? What new things do you want to try?
The green giant, or how many ways can you cook a zucchini?
As the first of my harvest comes in I am reminded of what it must have been like to live off the land. In the summer you ate whatever was in season. You went out to the garden and that was what you ate. No one at peaches in December or asparagus in September. For the past week it has been all about zucchini at my house. Soon it will be something else, and if I’m lucky, an assortment of vegetables. Unfortunately, when you have one zucchini you have ten. They don’t cooperate and ripen one at a time. There is no way I can eat all these veggies, so I am coming up with imaginative ways to eat, store, or repurpose it. This post is about the green wonder. Continue reading
How does your garden grow?
I haven’t written anything about my garden project in a while. This is part of my push for self-sufficiency and reducing my carbon footprint. Why drive to the store and buy food that has traveled in a truck or train when you can grow it in the back yard? Now, if I could only give up chocolate. Unfortunately you can’t grow that anywhere in my neighborhood.
After weeks of rain, we now have the opposite — long, hot days. I have to water every evening, carrying my two water cans back and forth to the standpipe to fill them, and then repeat. I finally got a hose to attach to my existing one to reach the garden, and a spray attachment. I promised to keep you informed about what was working and what was not. Mostly, it has been successful, but there have been some challenges and some failures. Continue reading
Garden Setup: building the beds and planting the vegetables
Earlier this month I blogged about starting a garden. I planted seeds and watched them carefully, hoping they would grow and thrive to later be planted outside. Last week I had two of the three raised beds put in the backyard. The third bed will be installed this week. Continue reading