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My vision is to create a business from my garden, so that I can afford to leave my job, have the garden as income, and paint and write. I also want my customers to read the story of my garden, look at pictures, and get an idea of the process of the work of the garden.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It's been a while. I was crazy-busy at work, then I got sick. Michel and I both got sick at the same time. I mentioned to him last Monday night that I had a scratchy throat--usually the first sign I am coming down with something, and said that I would see in the morning if I should go to work. But the next morning, he was sitting on the sofa, and could hardly talk. Feeling pretty dismal myself, at first I got resentful, and harbored the thought that he was jumping in to get attention, but then realized it was a crazy idea, no doubt fueled from my own ensuing sickness. He did seem worse than me, at first, but he recovered more quickly, while I was still miserable on Sunday, almost a week later. Needless to say, I had no interest in the computer. My illness took on a Russian theme. I absconded with a book that he had found in our extensive library (we have books and books in the attic, lots of literature, and no idea what we have anymore, as we have yet to build shelves in the living room). He had been reading it, and left it on the table, and I took it and started to read the short stories by Russian writers. In my defense, we both have a habit of coveting what the other one is reading. He didn't raise a protest, and I continued to read all week. When I felt I could. Had never read most of the writers. Tergenev, Pushkin, Babel. Loved Nabokov, now I want to reread Lolita, and read anything else he has written. A fantastic, creative use of language. Then on Sunday, I watched War and Peace, with Audrey Hepburn, which was pretty slight.

I am almost finished with my deliveries. I will only be delivering for the next three weeks. I am ready to stop. Then I have to prepare some kind of customer survey, so that I can do better next year. I did pick up a new customer for next year at a wedding reception we attended, and one of my clients says she will do it again next year. So I am gratified about that.

I had to miss my first computer class, the beginning of my teaching for the fall semester. Now I have to go this week and figure out with the students how to make up the missed class. So it is a transition time, from the garden to the classroom.
Have to go, still at work.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

We went for a walk last night on the road that travels by the front of the house. We took the dog on her leash and walked up the hill--a truly strenuous walk as the hills around us are like little mountains. There is a spot where the hill levels out for a while before it descends again, and we marvelled at the breathtaking scenery we are privileged to live near. As far as the eye can see--farmfields and hill. The fields in the sharp late afternoon slanting light of the sun looked like caressable squares of fabric--chenille, velvet, old persian rugs, tapestry.

We saw our neighbor Arthur sitting on his porch. He is lost now to his old age, perhaps it is alzheimer's. He used to come by and visit us, and we often hid when we saw his car, because after the first dozen visits, he would demand so much attention to the same stories--and they made us uncomfortable with his racist views on people. But he was an old guy, and we felt sorry for him. He used to drive really, really slowly by, looking to see if we were home. Mostly, he was looking for my husband, not me. Because sometimes when I was working in the garden, he would stop the car and get out, and come over to where I was, and always ask if Michel was around.

On Saturday there was a party given up another side of our hill for Polly, his wife, who was retiring after thirty years as director of the nature preserve that spreads out around the summit of the hill for 200 acres. We walked up to spend a bit of time there, to greet Polly and be social. Arthur was there, sitting quietly a few chairs away from Polly. He doesn't say anything anymore, just a wan smile.

On our walk last night, nothing much else happened, save for the dog being impossible on the leash. She would lunge at pickup trucks, that was expected, and Michel held her tightly. She is very ferocious on the leash. But when a woman walking up the road came closer, Sable acted as if she would tear out the woman's heart. We have worked with Sable for a long time, and she is beloved by a lot of people, most of all us. We bought an electronic collar for her and used that for a while, though it was painful to me to zap her when she didn't obey. But it worked. Then we ran out of batteries, and finally lost the receiver, and stopped using the collar.

The new director of the nature preserve told us about the collar, as he has his dog wearing one. Rolly was wearing it when we went up there on Saturday. I have stopped taking Sable to the towpath as the last time I had three unfortunate encounters with people, just like the one with the woman on the road last night.

Ambivalent about using the collar, I think it can't really be such a bad thing, as I see Rolly acting so well around people.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Waiting for a hurricane. Some of us at the company had signed up to go kayaking tomorrow, but they have cancelled due to the river being 6 feet higher than usual, from last night's heavy rains, and the debris floating downstream.

Michel is battening down the hatches, so to speak, today at home. I'm most concerned about the greenhouse, if it can withstand heavy winds. Not sure what to do about that.

Me, I tend to like dramatic weather, my inner child likes a day off. When we were kids, we used to get our rainsoakers on and go out to the golf course (behind the neighbors' house across the road, we could access the golf course) where we would hold hands and let the hurricane winds push us up and down the hills. We always walked over to the ocean side to see the wave action.

Maybe my sister will answer this blog and tell me her memories about going out in hurricane weather.

We grew up near the ocean, and during a couple of them, when I was little, beach houses were washed quite a bit away from their foundations. And there was always the hurricane of '35? or '38?, which took all the big hotels and homes in Watch Hill from the peninsula where Napatree Point is located.

Now I have equal mixture of excitement and dread. Because of owning property, I guess, and hoping we don't have tree limbs falling on things (or us).

I am also supposed to go into Philadelphia tomorrow night to listen to Michel's daughter give a lecture. We have to play that by ear, also. And I am supposed to teach Thursday night--have to keep an eye on that also.

We got our emergency chain e-mail again today from the company; we have a telephone chain during inclement weather, so I get called by someone and then Ihave to call the next person on the chain.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Lots of rain, good weeding weather. I am now beginning the work of cleaning up the garden and preparing it for next spring--even as I still have my deliveries to do throughout October. I am only delivering every other week, now, as I start teaching this week, and need my time for that.

I still have in the garden--collards and two kinds of kale; watercress; swiss chard; basil--next week will be the end of it. Still have another row of beans, that will be in October when it matures, maybe the first week. Have new beets coming, and carrots. Have bok choi, tat tsoi, and arugula. Still have a bit of broccoli raab, and see some baby brussels sprouts forming--still might be too late for them. In the greenhouse I have seeded more arugula, bok choi, broccoli raab, salad, and red mustard. Everything has germinated except for the salad. I am beginning to get the message that I need to put in seedlings for the salad.

We did a lot of clean-up this past weekend, especially in the squash patch. I did find four mature winter squash, which is better than nothing. I thought all was lost. Even cooked up one for lunch on Sunday.

We live in a beautiful, rural area. Very hilly. I went for a long walk on Sunday, alone. I have a usual route, know it by heart, but lately have been branching out. This time I went for a very long walk, for at least an hour and a half, and was totally transported by the visual sights. I have driven over that route many times, but never have walked it. It was like being on a walking tour through a foreign country, along farm lanes, passing by barnyards, silos, and cattle. Fields of purple. I am scouting out places for my landscape painting, and found numerous "scenes" on my walk that excited me.

I am planning to do the same on next Sunday, and had an idea that I would meet Michel at a certain place for breakfast, and he can drive me home. That way, I get to walk even further.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Again, busy at work--so busy that I forgot to go to therapist today--maybe a convenient Freudian slip of sorts. Really, crazy busy at work, plus had to go to a teachers' gathering (they paid us to go) for the instructors at the Polytech. I teach adults Introduction to Computers, and I start again next Thursday evening, from 6-8. So I had that to do, plus I had to harvest for my clients, and the days are getting short, so there is little available light in the evening--an hour and a half, at the most to harvest. No time for anything else.

So I am only delivering every other week to my customers now. But with the teaching, that will make up for any lost income from the garden.

Have to talk about the kitten. I talked recently about Pete disappearing. He was our favorite cat--a real sweetheart, very affectionate, beautiful tiger cat, last seen in the middle of July. He stayed outside, except in the very cold of last winter. I read somewhere that outdoor cats have a life span of around 3 years. And that was about how old he was. But he was so healthy, very shiny coat, and I can only think either some person made friends with him, and enticed him away, or he met with foul play--too awful to contemplate.

Michel and I went to visit our chimney sweep fellow, who lived on a farm out in the country. When we came back through Frenchtown, Michel wanted to go to the hardware store there, and I decided to go into the country store. I saw on the bulletin board that there were kittens available, only one was left, and to see inside. The picture was of striped tiger kittens, with similar coloring to Pete's. When Michel came out, I showed him the picture and note, and asked what he thought. He said fine, so we went in and asked. Well, long story short--we have a new kitten, very tiny, striped black and gray like Pete, that we named Philly--after Phillip Glass (who we call "Phillip-One-Note" to ourselves), because that is how she cried all night long. She stopped crying after a couple of nights. I went out and spent forty dollars on food and supplements and a new litter box for her the next day.

She is a little bundle of pleasure, and rides around on Michel's shoulder. Sable is good with her, and we will keep her in the house until she gets older.

I have still 14 1/2 days of vacation left for this year. I might take a week in October, and another few days around Thanksgiving, and the rest at Christmas.

Unless we are able to go to France. But I doubt that now. We need to do the oil heat. And I am just putting extra in the 401K.

Time to start putting the garden to bed. Lots to do. I also want to get started on some paintings. I've cleaned most of the plants out of the greenhouse, and seeded some salad, arugula and broccoli raab, and purple mustard. Michel has taken down most of the tomato plants. We are still disgusted by the enormous number of squash beetles, that are still reproducing out in the remains of the zucchini and melon plants.

I pulled some celery root for the first time this year, and they looked pretty good. The watercress is coming back, and I am thinking my brussels sprouts might even sprout, even at this late date. The plants are really big, but no sprouts.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I have been busy at work, and then on vacation, and the last thing I wanted to do on vacation was sit at the computer. We didn't go anywhere, and I tacked on a couple of days to the Labor Day weekend, so I still am hoarding my remaining days, to save in case we are able to go to France. If not, I will take the remaining days in the winter, and we can plan to do more work inside the house, or better yet, I will just paint for a week.

My husband fixed up the coop and the studios are so nice, and airy. I am debating even moving any more furniture into my side, I have a drawing table, and a painting wall. He is going to create shelves in the common area, so we can keep books and supplies there, so I think I just want a table for the palatte.

I have been going through my art supplies that are in my old studio area that is in the barn, to see what I need to bring over to the coop studio. The barn never worked out as a studio. It is too big to heat, and too dark, even with large fluorescent light fixtures. The coop has many more windows, and the area is much smaller, so we should be able to heat it with the coal stove he is putting in.

The garden is winding down. I am now delivering every other week to my customers. I also start teaching computers in a couple of weeks, and as the days are really short now, I haven't got the time for the garden. There will be enough work getting it ready for the winter.

We still need to harvest a lot of potatoes.

What I will do differently next year.

Plant melons earlier, and put them all on black plastic.
Order more remay and cover all the squash plants until pollination time to keep out the cucumber beetles.
Do succession planting with cucumbers and zucchini plants.
Check all the squash plants frequently for squash beetle eggs, and take them off the leaves.
Cover the eggplants with reemay until pollination time, to keep the flea beetles off.
Manage the cover crops better. (we lost the value of the buckwheat, because we didn't plant the succession cover crop soon enough, and the weeds took hold again.
REALLY get a hold on the herb garden next year. Mulch heavily to keep the weeds out. I had to let it go as I didn't seem to have enough time to pay attention.
Ditto for the flower gardens.
Cover the brassicas again with reemay, but try to make it butterfly proof. They still manage to get in, either under it, or perhaps the wind created an opening, or just through holes stretching over the leaves underneath. Maybe bt is better than the reemay for these plants, anyway. But the bt shelf life is not long, so it is hard to know if it is even viable.
Trellis the peas better.
Keep the seedlings going through the summer for the fall garden. I had thought I would direct seed a lot of the fall garden, and I did have some success this year with the bok choi, tat tsoi, and arugula, but I lost the salad seeds to the ants.
Keep the plants in the greenhouse manageable. I planted too many tomato plants in the greenhouse, and they didn't even come in any earlier than the ones in the garden, and they grew so big, that they overshadowed the pepper plants, and the eggplants.
Better weed management.
Think about a better washing system for the vegetables. It gets really difficult and messy in the kitchen. A dedicated space for that somewhere else.
Make sure I have enough large brown bags.

I'm sure I will think of other things as I go along. But it was a great year, I met my financial goals. We had beautiful spring greens, because of all the rain, and even though I lost a lot of the summer vegetables, like the melons and the eggplants, we had beautiful and tasty tomatoes, great potatoes, very nice basil, I got to grow broccoli raab, finally, the right way, and I found that harvesting in the summer months less labor intensive, as my husband brought in tomatoes and peppers as they were turning, so they could ripen on the kitchen table, and I just had to select and bag them.

I'm still making jam, or rather, I am now making the jam, as I put the raspberries in the freezer as I picked them. I don't know if I will have any quince, but I still have more raspberries to make jam from, and will do that next weekend. Maybe make some tomato jam, as well.

Had a great labor day weekend. Nice people came over for a picnic, and we spent a long lazy afternoon with them, eating, then going for a walk up to the nature preserve, then dessert, and more gabbing. A perfectly pleasant social day.

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