Archive for the ‘plants’ Category

Class, cat and other projects

March 10, 2010

Well, once again, it’s been a while.  But, I thought an update on all the New Year’s plans was in order.

I have been attending the class Migracion Internacional since the beginning of the semester.  The professor is great and I’m having all kinds of conflicting feelings like: I’m talking too much in class, I should be teaching a class on migration, I should be studying at a higher level than undergraduate (even though it’s all in Spanish), maybe I should really get my butt in gear about this doctoral degree idea, I want to tell them all about the research I did for my MA and thesis, I should sit back and listen more, if I don’t understand something is it because of the language or was it a difficult concept?, and many other things.  So, it’s very invigorating.  I return home for lunch after my class and I feel a strange combination of tired and charged for the rest of the day.  I think this is good.

We adopted a small kitty who immediately doubled in size (ok, maybe it took a month).  We looked into an organization a friend of the family used to adopt her cats and went to their monthly fair.  Now Eco has been with us for a couple months and is master of the house, yelling at us all morning and sleeping all afternoon.  Also, he’s very pretty.

The sweater project died and had to be put on hold, but the knitting continues.  Mom hooked me up with a knitting website and now I can find free patterns.  I’m currently working on a shawl with the yarn that would have been the sweater but wasn’t enough.  And, a present for a friend, so I won’t say much about it here – especially in case it doesn’ t turn out well and I’m too ashamed to send it.  As soon as I finish the shawl, which is also the first lace pattern I’ve ever attempted, my needles will be freed up for the renewed sweater project attempt – with new yarn.

The garden shuffles along without much assistance from me.  With the lone exception of the first tomato plant.  I saw it was trying to put out new leaves and decided to cut back all the older, dying leaves.  I now have a full-on second round of tomatoes coming on the first tomato plant!  I’ve never had this happen before – it always got too cold.  The second tomato plant is staggering behind.  It put out flowers, but is half the size of the first plant and seems to have an infestation of something which I have not researched and have not taken any action other than squishing a few bugs and spraying more soapy water.  The peas continue to be very unhappy with their lot in life.  Adolfo and I ate a total of 5 peas from the 5 plants.  I saw one more sad little flower yesterday.  Maybe we will both get one more pea.  The serano chile has also decided to go another round and is putting out flowers and chiles like crazy.  I picked a LARGE, ugly worm off the plant this morning and threw it over the balcony (my pest prevention plan).  The chile plant seems to not mind at all, even though some of the leaves were chewed off.  I made three cups of pesto (not all at once) from the basil plant and need to cut it back again.  It continues to insist on flowering.  Also, the gardenia is not happy and I don’t know why.  I’m sure I could read about it, but I haven’t.

I have a lovely backlog of books to read which I am savoring or devouring depending on my mood.

The cooking has not been very interesting since my stomach is all messed up and I’m on a very boring diet – so boring I’m losing weight even though I’m eating potatoes at practically every meal.  The one bright spot today was that Paty and I made the Oatmeal Chippers out of the Farm Journal Cookies book.  She had asked me to teach her a cookie recipe.  I told her my big secret was halving the sugar.  They turned out great, as usual.

Yeah, sorry about that…

November 29, 2009

Oooh this blog thing is getting the best of me.  So many things have happened, time has past, gardening and cooking have progressed.

We harvested the very first tomato the other day and yesterday I took the second one off the plant.  I’m impatiently waiting for the mother load to ripen.  The plant is loaded down with green fruit and this morning I re-worked some of the supports so the vine is not doubling over quite so much.

I recently transplanted two more tomato plants and we will see if I can finally get my perpetual tomato production plan in action.

I’m also trying to get a plan together for some Christmas preparations, which includes cookies and bread baked and in the freezer, and some small meals stashed away.

We’ll see if I manage to get the Christmas cards out this year.  It didn’t happen last year, so I’m still stocked up on cards.

And, now the FIL has started, so we are going to be at the book fair all week long!


September 25, 2009

So as soon as I post about the successes in the garden, the worst storm of the season rolls through town.  I managed to rescue the chile plant when I saw it rocking back and forth in the pot.  The roots looked like there were going to come right out of the dirt.  I propped it up in a corner of the patio behind a chair and it was pretty safe from the rest of the storm.  The tomato, however, was a different story.

I can’t move the tomato so easily and one of the first things to happen was the tomato cage fell over, while trying to rip out the tomato.  Luckily the stem was not broken, it has happened before, and I was able to kind of prop it up on the fallen tomato cage for the rest of the storm.  The leaves are pretty battered by the hail, but no major damage is apparent.  We put the tomato cage back over the plant and reinforced it with two more pieces of wood.  I think it will stay put, now.

rogue squash

September 22, 2009

I believe there is a rogue squash down the street and I’ve been keeping my eye on it for a while now.  Ever since it put out a few squash/melon/cucumber-like leaves, I will check under the leaves every so often to see if there’s anything interesting going on.  It’s residing in some dirt between an empty house for sale and the street.  But, just the same, the street sweeper/gardener/concierge guys on my street are sometimes inclined to tidy up things like this.

I’m pretty sure we have a neighborhood squash plant, since there are now several yellow squash blossoms, but not enough to eat.  Maybe this is the start of my own personal community garden. (Can a person have a community garden alone?)

In other garden news, the chile serano has three open flowers and quite a few blossoms.  Every since the last big storm he’s growing a little sideways, but seems to be doing ok.  Adolfo’s father gave me three chile pods of a Tornachile and I am going to plant them as soon as I figure out where to put them.  I guess the side of the road is an option around here now.

The Health Kick Hybrid tomato has several buds on it and the tomato cage Adolfo and I made out of discarded tree parts (and modeled on my father’s wooden tomato cage) is holding up just fine.  I’m starting some Homesweet Hybrid seeds and hopefully they will be coming up soon.

The dill is infested with aphids again and has stopped growing at about two inches.  I’m going to rip it out.  I have not yet had a successful dill crop and I’m about to give up – except that it’s practically impossible to find dill in the market.

The onions are coming along, but don’t seem to be as happy as previous batches.  The lettuce is bolting and we have to eat it VERY SOON.

The gardenia for some unknown reason is very happy (!?!) and continues to bloom. It smells lovely.  And, the bougainvillea is recovering from a worm/unknown menace infestation and is refusing to bloom any more.  I’m doing my best to be convincing.

Lemongrass and peas, maybe

April 12, 2009

The garden is on the upsurge, once again.  I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the gardenia and it seems to be thriving as long as I keep picking off the little bugs that gather at the blossoms.  The azalea seems to be suffering through all the wind that comes racing through the terrace at sunset and we will see if it ever blooms again.  So far, it’s putting out a nice amount of new foliage.  My free fern that came wrapped around the azalea has been putting up new fronds and as the new fronds unfurl, I’ve been clipping off the older browner leaves with the kitchen shears.

The rotation plan for the green onions is also doing really well.  Every time I pick one green onion, I push a new seed or two into the vacant soil.  I have four onions going at different stages of development.  The lettuce is once again in it’s last hurrah and I’m going to pull it up in the next few days.  However, I already planted the replacement lettuce and it is too small to eat, but coming along.

Last week, after several weeks of pondering, I broke down and bought the lemongrass plant I’ve been eyeing.  It was so root-bound I had to use the scissors to cut off some of the most offending masses.  I divided the plant, but put it in one large container.  Next time I do this I need to wear opera-length gloves, as I managed to slice up both arms to the elbow.

I also made it back to the horticulture store in the Centro.  Trips to the horticulture store are both exciting and disappointing.  I really want the people working there to be more knowledgeable.  But the seeds are so cheap, I feel like experimenting.  I ended up buying some peas and serrano chiles, I passed on the tomatoes for the moment.  The chiles were really an unnecessary expenditure.  I can get a few chiles every couple weeks for pennies at the abastos market.  Sometimes the venders even throw them in for free – I usually ask for three or four and it’s not worth the trouble to charge me if I’m buying other vegetables at the same time.  But, I’ve been wanting to have my own chiles and the plants can last for several years – if you treat them right.  Since a packet was only $5 pesos (~$0.40 US), I thought, why not give it a try.

I’ve purchaced peas a few times in the market and I decided after the last attempt to give up on the fresh peas.  They are old and square, starchy and hard.  These are not the peas I want to eat.  So now I have three pots with a pea seed in each and we will see what they do. The packet said the growing season was September to January.  This may be the practice round since I’m growing them out of season.  I know the weather has been extra warm and the peas shouldn’t like that, but the lettuce hangs on.

I wanted to know if they were going to need supports when I bought them and I asked the woman behind the counter, what kind of peas are these?  She replied: normal.

So, for more than one reason, I may need a practice run with these peas to see what I have and what they want.

I also asked about the tomato varieties and received unsatisfying answers.  Apparently, there are three kinds of tomato seeds:  round, oblong, and by the kilo.  hmmmm…..

The “by the kilo” seeds were also of the “round” variety.  I could see the labels on the seeds and wrote down the varieties so I could go home and look them up on the internet.  This is what I found: Flora Dade and Rio Grande.  Do you know anything about these?  I didn’t write down the “by the kilo” type since I have NO need for a kilo of tomato seeds.

I looked them up, and the descriptions used words like: firm, blocky and grown for market.  Other tomatoes are described as tasty or sweet and juicy.  These are not words used for Flora Dade or Rio Grande.  I am not convinced.

Other than the tomato mess, things are growing and growing and I’m excited to see what the peas will do.

Many things

February 24, 2009

Well, many things have been happening and not much writing has been done.

I have been stalking the dried fava beans at the abastos market and I finally got up the nerve and bought about two cups.  Tonight, I made soup from my Diana Kennedy book and I think it turned out really good.  Sadly, I also found out that Adolfo detests dried fava bean soup and would not even try a bite.

My job has been kind of nuts lately, but mostly in a good way.  Hopefully, I will soon be planning a trip to Xalapa.

I went for the first round of wedding dress shopping, which was kind of horrible.  The first shop was comically horrible.  First, when the shop ladies found out I was shopping for a wedding dress, there were yelps and squeals of fake congratulations.  Then, I tried to explain that it would be a casual affair and I was not interested in dresses with sequins, rinestones, or other plastic crap.  She responded excitedly that it was “my day” and as the bride, no matter how casual, I was supposed to “shine” (with rinestones, apparently).

Also, a friend is beginning to study for the GRE and this morning we met to work on vocabulary.  We are thinking good thoughts about a Fulbright grant to the New School in NYC.

While all this is going on, I’ve managed to kill off a tomato plant and encouraged an aphid invasion.  So, the garden is not in tip top shape.

There are many more plans in the works.

Tamales and Clay Pots

January 1, 2009

The family came and went and we ate and ate and ate.  There was turkey and bacalao and romeritos with shrimp cakes and escargot and panela and sopes and on and on and on.  Adolfo and I are trying to radically shift our eating habits back into the norm, but we have so many leftovers in the fridge that we are still eating lots of meat and very few vegetables.

Yesterday a friend invited me over to her house to help make tamales for New Year’s Eve.  I grabbed a box of picadillo out of the freezer and headed over for the afternoon.  She did a couple things with the dough that I don’t remember seeing before, but that make a lot of sense.  The first is the addition of some baking powder.  I think this makes the dough steam up a little lighter.  And the second is the addition of some rice flour.  I’m not sure exactly what the rice flour does, but I like the end results.  She also added a few ice cubes to the mix while we were beating the lard and masa (dough) together.  Keeping the dough cold is probably good for the lard and makes for a slow addition of icewater, which was also needed.

In addition to the picadillo tamales, we made some of beans and cheese, pinapple and strawberry.  I haven’t tried the pinapple or strawberry, yet, but I’ve been promised a couple.  The dough turned out better than many tamales I have tried.  And, my friend’s son (14 mo. old) whipped through half a picadillo tamale before getting fussy and needing a nap.  I think that was an endorsement.

The other exciting thing that happened recently was that Adolfo and I happened upon an abandoned nursery with a crew of guys hauling stuff away.  We stopped and asked if we could take some of the left over pots and they said no problem as they were headed for the dump anyway.  So, I came home with seven new clay pots of various sizes and shapes.  I’ve already planted lettuce, radishes and onions and I’m making plans for the rest of them.

Happy New Year to you all.

good thing I didn’t buy a new pot

August 11, 2008

We just had another hail storm. Hail storms are oddly common here. Just ask my parents who witnessed two hail storms in one week. Of course the hail is no bigger than peas and they melt within seconds, but it’s hail all the same. This evening the hail storm took the top off one of my tomatoes, which immediately solved a problem I was having.

I had an extra tomato seedling. I have 3 pots and I planted 4 tomatoes (more or less) and instead of one failing to come up, everything sprouted. Which only made me want to buy another pot. But, we have a pot-buying moratorium going on right now. So, I was just waiting around for the moratorium to be lifted, to find an abandoned pot (that never happens here), or to suddenly need another tomato plant for some reason. And, now I do!

Next, I need to pull up the lettuce which has started to bolt.


August 1, 2008

There are several green tomatoes now on the tomato plant and I’m in desperate need for more and bigger pots.  I have another tomato seedling that is ready to plant; it was to be my back up if the others didn’t sprout.  And, I would really like to plant it but I have no more pots.  Adolfo and I are on a spending moratorium and I have been cut off from my nursery habit.

I thought I was going to plant some dill in where the radishes were previously planted, but I read on the packet that each plant needs quite a bit of space and my gardening books say I should plant them 10-15 inches apart – my pot is about 8 inches across.

So, to get more bang for my buck/space, I planted a couple onion seeds where the radishes were.  I’m planning to eat them as green onions and I’m not really interested in them becoming bulbs – as they are rather cheap at the market, but green onions are hard to come by.  Which is also convenient, since I don’t have the space for them to become bulbs anyway.

While I was watering my plants this afternoon, I decided to throw another cup of dirt on the bougainvillea plant.  When I reached my hand down into my bag of dirt, I came dangerously close to an encounter with a very large spider.  Large, large, large!  I yelped and jumped back 10 feet, where I watched the spider calmly crawl further down into the bag.  So, there will be no new dirt for anyone.  Now what do I do?

What I really need is an actual garden plot of dirt.

And, I’m trying to get pictures, but every time the sun comes out and the garden looks great, Adolfo has taken off with the camera.

tomatoes and whatnot

July 22, 2008

So things are slowly resolving themselves, and not always in the ways I want them to be resolved, but questions are answered none-the-less.

I did not sell my car to Adolfo’s sister’s friend, but that resolves one issue. We are not getting answers from the Mexican Consulates (yes, multiple) in the US regarding a power of attorney for my father, in order to help us buy our apartment, but that just means that maybe my father will come and visit us soon so that he can sign the paperwork in person.

I got my visa amendment amended, yea! I am looking forward to next month when I get to start the visa renewal paperwork (blech). I also made my lawyer some cookies as a thank you and I just need to get over to her office to deliver them before they mysteriously disappear.

Also, and somewhat unrelated, it seems like everyone is moving, which strikes me as very interesting as I am desperately trying to stay in one place (specifically, buying our apartment) and Juli is heading to England, Wendo is heading to France, Max is heading to Ecuador. Usually, that’s my job! I’m the girl who moves!

I’m not jealous.

In gardening news, I have eaten all but one of the viable radishes (there is one that is so beleaguered that I do not believe it will survive whatever trauma I have bestowed upon it to produce an edible radish). And, I am debating on weather to sow the dill or the onion seeds. The lettuce is going well and I continue to pick the leaves that are getting big enough to go into a salad. But, the crowning achievement is that I have two very small green tomatoes on the tomato plant! There are lots of little yellow flowers and I am looking forward to picking some garden tomatoes soon.