Small Garden Update

This is how part of my yard looks like. I’m leaving for Boston Friday, will be gone a week and will not be using any mobile devices or computers: so no blog updating. I also have some tendonitis in my wrist from mouse-scrolling at work: so, the less typing the better. It’s a great time to get on a plane, for me, as I’ll have some movement restrictions in my hand until this gets better.

So here are some photos of what’s going on in my yard. I have a nice columbine that is finally flowering:

There are the apricots, they were all picked today.

I dug up the small raised beds and moved the frame, they’ll be used later. I planted a sage garden this space, but I can’t find the photos I took so next time…

I’ll be back here May 20th to post photos of my Boston trip!


Beet Procrastination

If I’d properyly thinned my beet patch, things wouldn’t have gotten out of control.  I knew I was in trouble when they started going to seed; I deadheaded the tops, to avoid (I hoped) too woody and tough a beet root. I somehow just could not get around to dealing with all the beets. So my mom came up to Tucson to help me today.

Here she is, about to dig in; her enthusiasm is almost alarming to me, given how I’ve put this job off forever and ever:

My mom insisted on a photo of my giant beets. I didn’t think big beets were anything to be proud of, they indicate procrastination to me; but of course I took the photo, given all the help I was getting!

Not only did my mom pick the beets (and carrots and parnips still left in the ground) she cleaned them and trimmed them!

I gave her the parsnips and carrots, and in return I now have a big bowl of sliced raw beets in my kitchen. Tomorrow I’m making pickled beets!

Backyard Then and Now

Six years ago, my backyard looked like this: and, I should say, this is a huge improvement over what it looked like 7 years ago: then, it was a pit. The notable features then were a huge rusting broken down shed and scattered shotgun casings on the ground. My house was basically such a wreck the first year I owned it that I couldn’t take a single photograph.

This is how things in this part of the yard look now:

This is the view through the not-yet-covered-in-tombstone-rose arbor:

Every year I try and rehabilitate another small piece of the yard by planting mostly native plants that will produce shade one day and reduce weeds; this is a small bed of  perennials, all of which are largely buried under annual wildflowers, an ornamental kale and hollyhocks:

It’s hard to believe this will all be largely shrunken and brown come June!

Odds and Ends

Bearbear and I watched Annie (on the right) this weekend; she belongs to a colleague, and her photo has appeared on this blog before: she’s 14 1/2 and is very friendly with Bearbear. In fact, when I got my dog from a rescue group, he didn’t know how to play or chew bones and Annie showed him how to do these dog-type things.

The rest of the day was spent on household chores. I decided to try and make cheese danish on my own, after I made them with my mom for the first time last month. I made the dough last night, then rolled it out this morning; the dough acted quite well, and here are my fledgling danish:

And now they’re shaped and ready to raise:

The 2 danish on the left (below) are the ones I cobbled together from leftover dough, so they’re a bit sloppy; the one on the right is how most of them turned out, quite well! I also made some bread, which also is very yummy; it’s whole wheat, spelt, polenta and oat bread. A little lecithin, olive oil and honey makes it supper soft and keeps it together nicely.

I also worked in my yard today. It’s blooming with zillions of wildflowers; here’s an up close shot of some desert bluebells:

And of course some poppies; don’t you just love these shapes?

It’s hard to believe that in 90 days we’ll have scorching hot temperatures all day, every day. I have raised beds for veggies, which you can see below; now, these beds have kale, lettuce, parsnips, beets and carrots–but in the summer, raised beds loose water too quickly, and it’s impossible to garden in them. I’ve tried.

So, behind the raised beds, in the corner of the yard, is my tangelo tree; I’m building a small perma-culture-type bed under the tree for my tomato plants; this bed will be slightly below ground level, with a small berm around it and a soaker-hose inside with plenty of compost on top. Below, you can see the tomato plants, which I started from seed in January; these are San Marzano romas, a variety of tomato which is supposed to be highly disease resistant; also, smaller tomatoes do better in the heat, they’re less likely to split. And they’re supposed to be vigorous, indeterminate vines that grown tall, so the stakes are a good 6 feet above ground level.

I hope the partial shade from the tree will be enough once the temperatures hit a hundred day after day! I’m also hoping that combining water use for tomatoes and the citrus trees (there’s also a small orange tree and lemon tree) will benefit all plants and trees. I’ll keep you posted.

More of What Gets in the Way of Artmaking

I have felt so burdened lately by getting stuff done. Usually I feel OK about daily chores and routines; I appreciate some structure to my artmaking. Lately, though, there’s been too much structural work going on: yard and garden upkeep, bathroom remodel, shopping for a new commuter bicycle, etc. And not enough time for art, making me cranky. I’ve mentioned in prior posts I’ve had some painful back problems (which have turned out to be painful–but less serious–hip problems) so that hasn’t helped my irritability.


My winter garden is looking good, thanks to an inch of rain last week and recent work to tidy up the yard. Here’s the kale, lettuce, beets, parsnips and carrots:

The cabbage is a bit sluggish in comparison, there is a bit of lettuce in there, pink trumpet flower in the foreground…

I’ve put in a few new perennial beds in my effort to make it impossible for weeds to get a successful hold; you can’t really see it here but there’s a red salvia, a Gregg’s Mist flower, Chocolate flower, canyon creeping verbena stuck in the ground here with the existing hollyhock, desert grass and yellow bells:

Here’s a new bed of evening primrose, verbena, white sage and a euphorbia:

Finally, as disgusting as this photo is, I’ve been working on my bathroom remodel. One look at this and you can see why I’d put time and effort into improving this mess, which I think has it’s origins in 1958. This is being gutted tomorrow!

Art some time soon, I hope!

St. David, Arizona Tomato Terrace

St. David, Arizona is a little over an hour from Tucson; it’s a Mormon community with lots of water due to the San Pedro River. On the edge of town is a Catholic outpost, the Holy Trinity Monastery; the lovely small church (which you’ll see if you click the link) there was built by my grandfather, who’s buried there, and my 2 uncles, who still live in St. David.

One of those uncles, Christopher, lives across the street from the monastery in a rammed earth home he built, with a large solar array outside; next to his home is an irrigation ditch–these ditches are the  source of the southwestern myth of La Llorona–which he’s cultivated with fruit trees and a jungle of indeterminate tomato vines.

I paid a quick visit today, hoping for some tomatoes. Here’s just a small part of the elaborate vegetable terraces:

Above, a close-up of tomatillos, and below, lots of tomato vines, recently picked clean so I’d have a big bucket of tomatoes to take home!

I know this may not seem very significant to those of you who live in a milder climate, where you can garden, but in Arizona, this is a spectacular vegetable garden. Check out the watermelon and cantaloupe:

A fallen cottonwood trunk is a pedestrian bridge over the ditch:

Can’t wait for dinner tomorrow….which will be a giant Caprese salad!

Parched Plants Holding Up: A View of the Garden

Calling anything a garden in Tucson is a stretch…it’s been 107 degrees for the last week, temps that don’t support a typical garden. The plants in my yard are  holding up, I think most will make it for the 2 weeks it’ll likely take for the rainy season to begin. The hollyhock above seems built for this weather; and luckily these plants go to seed and sprout up again with little effort on my part so I’ll have more of the same next year. There’s a native grass in the background; it’s behind a mesh screen to prevent Bearbear from chomping on it.

Here’s Pam’s Pink Honeysuckle (trying to bloom again), moss verbena and chuparosa, all doing well; and, below, my Wonderful Pomegranate tree/bush from a cutting from the massive tree at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, with lavender–not blooming but not dead–in the foreground:

I’m going to have lots of pomegranates!

Above are clumps of chocolate flower, which bloom like crazy in the morning but look wilted and diminished by the end of the day; and what plant wouldn’t, really, under this relentless sun!

Here’s a view of part of the yard; nasturtiums in the foreground, the honeysuckle arbor, Russian sage in the back and to the right, I’m pleased to observe, my Desert Gold Peach tree is doing well, thanks to weekly watering from an improvised gray water system from my washer (I just hook up a piece of flexible hose to my washer, which is outside, and feed the tree).

Spring Planting Frenzy

Another bi-annual plant sale put on by the Master Gardener’s program at the Cooperative Extension has come and gone; I managed to stop at 14 plants (2 were zinnias for the patio, so they don’t really count). The line started early, as usual:

The sale supposedly runs from 8:00AM–11:00AM, but virtually all the plants are gone in the first hour.

A few days before, in anticipation of having more plants to put in the ground, I dug bricks out of the patio to extend one of my beds:

Slowly but surely, every year I have a little more shade, which means more opportunities to put plants in the ground and have them survive the brutal summer; most plants need some shade in the morning or afternoon, few can handle full-on sun all day long. The green bush above is a Wonderful pomegranate, the tiny tree to the left a desert-adapted peach.

I picked up a variety of plants at the sale: lavender, a columbine that supposedly does well in this climate, some moss verbena….they all went in my newly extended bed. I try to plant stuff that’s good for birds, bees and butterflies:

This is some of the plant matter I yanked out of the ground:

I also planted 2 mission fig trees: you can see one here, hooked up to my crude soaker hose, the light green plant in the back is a wooly butterfly bush, they get quite large and have funny orange-globe-shaped flowers, kind of like globe amaranth.

I’m pooped now! And a bit sunburned.

Backyard Global Warming? Or Overachieving Agave?

The other morning while sipping coffee and looking out the kitchen window, I noticed this agave looking a bit odd:

To those of you unfamiliar with agaves, you might not notice the inflorescence starting in the middle of the plant. Inflorescence is the fancy word for the spectacular blooming stalk the agave sends up a few dozen feet before dying, and this bloom generally happens in the spring after the first frost.

I haven’t done anything special to this plant like fertilize it or over-water it. I’m going to call the plant clinic at the cooperative extension tomorrow and ask about this. I’ve never seen an agave start to bloom in mid-winter. We’ve had such ridiculously hot weather–80 degrees F.–which is 15 degrees above average for this time of year.

Tomorrow: a quilt update!

New Fig Tree

I should be working on my quilt; but I couldn’t pass up another plant sale at the University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension this past weekend. There were mission fig trees at great prices; $12 for a 4 ft tall plant.

I dug up a part of my yard….

..and in went the fig tree and a few hardy desert perennials: moss verbena, and a guara-family plant which I believe is native to Texas.

I also planted a couple of blackberry canes I got at the plant sale. You can see them in the photo below. Blackberries are often a huge, pain-in-the-ass bramble in much of the world; without the right gloves, the plant makes for a painful encounter. One doesn’t think “blackberries” in the desert, but there are a couple varieties that supposedly do well in this climate…so I’ll see how those go.

One last photo here: a view of the dogs. Baxter looks like his usual happy self; but Bearbear appears to be on the look-out, for cats most likely. Because Bearbear exists primarily to protect me from one of the greatest dangers out there: the domestic cat.