Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Return to the Koloa Market

Every Monday at precisely Noon, a whistle blows and the waiting crowd surges in, crowding, elbowing, hustling to be the first at the booths were local bounty awaits.
I had almost forgotten the thrill of the Koloa Farmers' market!
My usual pattern was to pounce on the anthryriums, the glossy red elephant ears with yellow dangling pistols. Then I grapped a spray of purple and white orchids, wrapped in maidenhair fern.
The produce! Foot-long green beans, heirloom tomatoes -- that's new here --, pale green cucumbers with warts, baby bok choy, avocadoes in perfect ripe condition, rose-bloomed mangos the size of a grapefruit. I'm in heaven.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Finding the Right Southern Gentleman -- Sex in the Garden

Maryland Beauty is a real babe of a winterberry -- nicely curvaceous outline with bright red accents. I had my eye on her for sometime as I made my way around town. Bertholdi Garden down the street has a real specimen of it. So when I bought one for my rehabed front garden last year, I never considered that she needed a mate.

Last fall she flowered -- demure, tiny little buds and blooms. But without any male companionship, she failed to conceive. This happened quietly and I never noticed until winter came. She shed her foliage, but had set no bright red berries. I remembered then that hollies needed both male and female plants to produce berries; hadn't realized that winterberries shared this heterosexuality.

A weekend visit to friends in Chesapeake City, MD last week took me by Priapi Nurseries, where I had bought the Maryland Beauty. One of the gardeners found a male winterberry tucked in the back shadehouse. His name -- Southern Gentleman.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Gardener's focus

What's more important -- the President or new spinach?
Yesterday I posted on Facebook that I was about to take the foreign journalists from the University of Maryland to the White House Press Briefing. But I also announced I had harvested from my garden the first spinach and chard of the season. My nephew Nick -- the man who never writes a postcard -- responded on my wall that he was jealous. "Mine are just sprouts," he said of his Montana garden spinach. My pal Sal from Minneapolis also chimed in about spinach envy. "And, oh the White House is nice, too" she added.

So I share a recipe I've used from the New York Times for almost two decades -- works well on spinach year-around, but is particularly good on spring greens:
Brown garlic slivers in olive oil; add pine nuts to toast as well. Throw in the tender new spinach for only a short time. Add a few raisins or currants.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Stoking March Fires

This morning as a foot of snow piles up outside, I indulge in one of life's great luxuries -- a morning fire, to be valued doubly, because it'll be one of the last for this winter.

I know many people don't want to bother with wood fires -- hauling logs into the city and in my case, up the back stairs, is a lot of work. The fires themselves don't really provide much heat -- most of that goes up the chimney, while polluting the air and spewing dust into the house. Worse the ashes need to be swept up every couple of weeks.

But I'd never give up my real flames for a gas-powered imitation, even in the city. 

I've found a farm near campus where I can buy a trunk load of split logs. But obtaining enough kindling poses a problem. So I pick up sticks around Capitol Hill. It's added a zest of adventure to errands and makes me feel more self-sufficient, as I follow these instincts to hunt and gather.

When I return from these foraging expeditions, I like to lay the makings for fire right away, so it'll be ready later in the day. I challenge myself to construct a teepee of logs on a bed of kindling that can be light by using only one match. If the wood is good enough and I've used enough skill, a fire can crackle and spurt on its own long enough to last a nap --another winter luxury on a snowday.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A crisis for squirrels

(By Lucinda Fleeson -- Published in the Washington Post, January 17, 2009)
Some call them tree rats. At times the Capitol Hill squirrels are rapacious and naughty, digging up my bulbs and throwing dirt around. I've threatened to shoot them. But their antics of running along the utility wires like tightrope artists, or chasing each other round and round, up and down tree trunks, have endeared them to me. I guess it's not surprising that these medium-sized rodents, in the family Sciuridae, subspecies politico, would be a tad more aggressive; they populate a neighborhood with more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed former student council presidents than any other on the planet.
So when the news emerged that oak trees produced no acorns this year, I worried.
Usually at this time, the squirrels dig holes with great diligence, all over gardens, tucking away acorns by the hordes. None of the forest or wildlife experts offer any reason for the acorn drought. They warn of runty animals and predict that the squirrel population will be decimated, slowly starved. Many might make a case that we actually could do with a population reduction. But a squirrel famine has repercussions all up and down the food chain. Fewer squirrels means fewer prey for hawks and other carnivores. (continued at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/16/AR2009011604506.html)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Gardening

The garden is sleeping now. Snow falls lightly. December nights lengthen