Monday, February 28, 2005

Now You See It...

Ignore that snow that's belatedly falling down (it was supposed to begin, variously, at between 1 am and 4am, and it hadn't started until 9:30am), spring is on the way. Here's one sign: strawberries [from Florida] were on sale this week at Giant, for $1.97/lb (instead of being expensively imported from abroad or California).

In addition, not only are these beauties large, but they're pretty tasty, surprisingly. I thought it was too early in the season for any spring fruit to have any flavor. I simply had three of them,cut up, and ate them at breakfast. Splendid. Who says that good eating is difficult?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Idle time...

With my thoughts ricocheting between winter and spring, I'm still thinking of an indoor gardening "failure" which I can somehow take advantage of. That those arugula pipe up so quickly after planting (virtually overnight, to which its popular nickname 'rocket' attests) can be useful; I popped one of these seedlings in my mouth, and recognized that sprightly young arugula flavor instantly. This makes me think, arugula sprouts would be a good 'crop' to grow in the winter, as these sprouts are tasty as well as nutritious, at a time when good-quality fresh vegetables are hard to find. Also, just to see something growing does something positive for one's wellbeing, somehow.

I bought the (organic!) arugula seeds from a Lowe's, I think. Oddly, though the sprouts have that great nutty arugula taste, the seeds themselves smell like celery seeds.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Just Tease Me, Won't You?

Now, what is this I see? The sun feebly attempting to emerge, while a flurries begin to fall. And talk of perhaps more snow next week (which I don't quite believe, if the highs are to be in the 40s).

Naturally, such weather makes me daydream about the little orange tree I nurtured a few years back, in my bedroom. A couple of weeks after it arrived, fragrant blossoms emerged, and stuck around for a couple more weeks. Shortly after, you could see tiny green fruits, which grew a bit larger and turned orange. I planned to use the rind, but somehow never got around to that. Perhaps I didn't water it enough, didn't provide drainage, don't know what caused that beauty to fade. Someday, I might try again with another type of citrus tree from the same company,
Gardener's Eden. The folks there offer a dwarf lime as well as a Meyer lemon tree, which you can buy individually, or as part of a series. Uh oh...

RANT: I get tired of folks (originally) from other parts complaining that Washington people are weather weenies, such as a lady from Minnesota I saw on the news last night. In case she (and others) hadn't noticed, Washington is not Minnesota, Vermont, Wyoming, etc. It seems that such people complaining about Washingtonian behavior in the winter come from places where the weather is far more predictable--from places where it's always cold, and when the forecasters say it's going to snow, they reliably predict the amount. Such locales are so cold throughout the entire winter that there is almost never the possibility of sleet, freezing rain, or ordinary rain, possibilities that always exist in these here Mid-Atlantic states, where the temperature can change on a dime, the winds can shift, ay, the storm itself can change course. So please, quit nagging Washingtonians, as we're dealing with a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the weather in these parts.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Winter's Still Here

Winter's--er, snow's falling again. The forecasters are predicting some three to six inches of the fluffy stuff to land today. Of course, this means continued cabin fever for me. This close to March, especially after I heard some tv personality announce that the date has been set for the Cherry Blossom festivities dates, somehow the snow seems a bit misplaced.

The other day, someone mentioned a tempting topic for me--starting a community garden. Now, this could be a frustrating experience. Thankfully, some of the other people interested in the venture have more gardening experience than I do. The chance to introduce kids to growing some of their own food is exciting, as I have read that youngsters that refuse to eat vegetables in general will eat those that they grow. (What's next, cooking from the garden with the young'uns?)

My experience at food gardening has been less successful than a couple of long-time attempts to grow and maintain flowers. To me, morning glory was extremely easy to grow from seed, but not a good plant for a lazy teenager to grow in the summer, as I usually did not get out of bed early enough to enjoy those colorful trumpets. Another easy (nonweed) flower was the balsam, with its little bell-like flowers.

The tomatoes, on the other hand, were a different story. They just never grew past the green, tiny novelty size stage.

I've always had an envy of many people in the Washington area, who seem to go to a rural area of North Carolina or some other state in the summer in a yearly pilgrimage. Thus, to some degree, I've romanticized farming and gardening. Perhaps. Then again, maybe I'm just stubborn. I mean, people have gardened and farmed for millennia--I should be able to grow some food on a tiny parcel of land--even if that parcel is only a pot.

For the most part with my more recent attempts at container gardening, I've tried shortcuts--buying an herb plant, then transferring it to a container. Now, this generally works for a while, but then something goes awry. Not enough water, not enough drainage, hmm... The most recent victims have been thyme, mint, and lemon verbena. However, all is not completely lost if you lose a woody plant, for you can still use the dried leaves that remain, while you try to determine what went wrong.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Sleeping Grounds

On a typically bleak winter's day, nestled among the dormant plant life in the gardens near the Simthsonian museums were various evergreens, such as imposing hollies, standing at attention on the grounds of the Smithson castle.

However, there were surprising specimens nearby, in the smaller gardens. The Ripley Garden has an old, woody rosemary plant, looking for all the world like an unpotted bonsai, its branches tumbling, its plentiful, verdant needles as supple and fragrant as any to be found.

Another grizzled veteran of a rosmarinus officinalis was spotted in another nearby garden, a space which also contains a good-sized lambs' ear, as well as a busy thyme. It was refreshing to see these Mediterranean transplants thrive in the hothouse atmosphere of Washington, as well as in its chilly backside.

Now, this foray was not the first time I've seen apparently inappropriate horticultural displays in official Washington. Some years ago, I first saw a runaway rosemary in a garden across from the Botanical Garden, a bushy, three-foot tall patch conveniently located near a bench in the garden there. Of course, I was shocked (I say, shocked!) to see this plant thriving in a humid Washington summer, this refugee from a more arid clime. And not just a bit of rosemary, either, but a decently sized patch, in a stamp of a garden, containing a fountain and statue sculpted by the artist that created Lady Liberty, near a tiny (?office) building that looks incongruously like a tiny Provencal cottage. This, at the bottom of Capitol Hill and across the street from a faceless, fortress-like government building.

This winter quasi-hibernation that we inhabit at this time of year causes us to dream of spring, and planting, which can be a dangerous thing, particularly for someone like me, who, let's say, has a very dark green thumb, but tries year after year to produce something living, and keep it going, no matter that you have no natural talent in this area.