Harvesting corn, tomatoes, peppers

Golden sweet corn right from garden to steamer.

Golden sweet corn right from garden to steamer.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written of my joy in having a garden. Sometimes writing a blog is hard work, not so much the actual work but what I call “writing into the void.” It’s a place where you don’t get feedback, good or bad, about sharing.

I do get spam, however, a lot of spam. And spammers are more sophisticated than when I first started the site; however, a clue is that they don’t have “real” email address—the addresses are often “Louis Vuitton” or “google” with a bunch of garbage after it. Sigh…it’s discouraging.

But, the heck with spammers—I have a garden and it’s a great garden! We’ve been eating corn from the garden for the last couple of weeks and we have another bed planted on the east side of the house (heaven only knows if the corn will actually bear in these small beds). But for now, we have the second best crop of corn that we’ve ever had.

Our first tomatoes ripened in May because of this long spell of dry weather. We certainly didn’t get a repeat of the 2012 March rains. Instead, it’s been very dry since January, and some garden vegetables are a couple of weeks earlier than usual.

We’re getting copious numbers of zucchini, tomatoes, chile peppers, and the aforementioned corn. Tonight I’m making roasted salsa (my favorite summer salsa). I’ve got padrone peppers charring on the comal right now, then I’ll grill the rainbow peppers, then finish with tomatoes. Then I’ll peel them, add salt, and smash them for a thick and chunky salsa.

The only thing I don’t like about harvesting vegetables is how badly my arms itch after sticking them in the plants. Argh! Plants protect themselves by exuding substances that cause reactions!

So, I guess I’m back and will try to write more frequently. The garden deserves my celebration of its bounty!

Joyous January

Winter chiles. Copyright Ann Carranza, January 2013

What a gloriously beautiful day! The sun is shining strongly enough to warm the earth. Pulling the final nine chile plants was an exercise in touching the warmed earth and uncovering rich soil. I actually picked a handful of Padron peppers and a single Serrano. I used them in stir fry that night.

The raised beds will need more soil this year; perhaps we’ll find some old window screen and sift the soil Leonel removed from the front yard, lighten it with added loam and sand, and enrich it with compost. At least we’ll be able to reuse part of what he has moved.

Leonel has a compost pile that he buried last summer, but I want to set two cans into the earth—one to fill, one to “cook”—on the south side of the house. They would compost so much faster on the sunny side. I found the idea to cut the bottoms out of two 32-gallon plastic garbage cans, set them a foot  or foot-and-a-half into the soil and using them for very inexpensive composters. They have to be in a sunny area. You keep them tightly capped with their lids (and you could even cover them with black plastic to raise the heat even further) and you add household compostables, brown leaves, cardboard and compost starter to get them “cooking.” After you finish adding to the first can, you cap it tightly and leave it to finish cooking and start filling the next. It will probably take a couple of months to break down.

Romaine and garlic. Copyright Ann Carranza, January 2013

The broccoli is showing its first florets and I know we are going to have small but delicious cruciferous vegetables in just a short time. It reminds me it is time to add a side-dressing of fertilizer. (Done.) We’ve been eating chard and parsley and I see there is more both to harvest. I also checked on the Romaine—and the outer leaves can be harvested now, too. I could pull several small heads but the lettuce will last longer if I just harvest the largest leaves.

Our lemon tree has given us a number of fat, juicy lemons. I guess it was just a slow starter—it grew so slowly for years, until last season when it started to sprout up. It’smuch taller this year and now it is sharing its bounty with us.

The flower bulbs that I planted in pots last year, despite no water and nine months of neglect, have started growing. I wonder if these poor struggling bulbs will offer any flowers after I left them to molder for so long? If they do, it is certainly more than I deserve!

Holiday ruminations

December river from Rio Lindo Academy. Copyright Ann Carranza December 2012

When I was growing up our family tradition was to celebrate Christmas. Usually we’d go out to dinner on Christmas Eve, then come home to open presents. We sang Christmas carols after eating on Christmas Day. We decorated the house, but not in the later more exuberant manner, and gathered family together. Sometimes, in the earliest years, in the week before Christmas, we’d go look at the lights and decorations in San Francisco.

Later, after our parents’ divorce, the tradition moved to northern Sonoma County and the Christmases got sparser and with less family togetherness, though we still went out on Christmas Eve (or close to Christmas Eve).

We raised our sons more or less the same way—we’d spend Christmas Eve with my husband’s brother and his family. On the menu were, and still are, posole and tamales. After eating, we’d open presents together, then drive around (sometimes)—not all of us, just the smallest children and the women, to look at Christmas lights. At times, to be honest, this was less a tradition and more of an escape from the men who were drinking too much and causing a great deal of stress.

The four of us would celebrate at home on Christmas morning. The boys were allowed to get their stockings (that Santa had filled in the night) as soon as they woke up. They had to wait for us to get up for the rest of their presents. (Presents were a huge thing for me and I bought LOTS of them and packed them under the tree. This wasn’t always as successful as I would have wished. I did buy, particularly for my husband, presents that were not a hit—at all. I mourn the wasted money, teaching opportunities and bum gifts—I wish I had been more thoughtful and restrained in my choices. I wish I hadn’t taught rampant consumerism to my sons.)

Our sons are grown now and the elder has two sons of his own. Unfortunately, they are not nearby and we don’t get to see them for Christmas. Our younger son is at home with us but usually does his own thing, which includes golfing on Christmas Day.

This year, I spend my time rethinking everything about the season. We haven’t put up a tree often in recent years or done any decorating. We still did when my blended grandson spent time with us, but his mother has chosen to take him away from us completely, so Christmas spent with him ended last year—though we didn’t know that was going to happen.

It’s hard to stimulate enthusiasm when you’re working with uncooperative people. I want to celebrate—I wanted to scale back, but not this much!

While I believe that Jesus Christ was a pivotal historical spiritual figure, I do not buy the complete mythology. And I think of how divisive Christianity has been—even across denominations, to the detriment of parishioners and other faiths. There are too many unanswered questions and too much conflict. I believe that the Christ was a good man who wanted us to do so many things better than we are actually doing. Like the “love your neighbor as yourself” idea. We should all be putting these words into action.

I cannot believe any one religion owns God. For that matter, God cannot be (to my mind) a patriarchal figure—that would make no sense whatsoever. So, I have created my own spirituality comprised of things that make sense to me—partially Earth mother, with a hint of Jung in a personally-revised collective unconsciousness (that I choose to think of as conscious subconsciousness), and a sprinkling of paganism.  I do not believe that humans are more important than the creatures that walk the earth or even plants—this truly is a one-earth-for-all. I think the idea of humans having “dominion” is an abomination. If anything, we should have been thinking of stewardship because our space on this planet is borrowed not owned. As the fine old adage goes, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” And we should care for it with great and tender responsibility and walk lightly.

Of course, it is not surprising that Christmas is celebrated near the solstice. It makes perfect sense—it comes after the light turns in its cycle. Early Christianity chose well when it co-opted the timing because they bought acceptance. Of course, it also adopted many pagan symbols. If you doubt me, Google it.

So, why do I miss celebrating the holiday? Why do I feel so sad? Part of it is being so far from my aforementioned grandsons and blended grandson (who I hope will one day read this and know that I miss him terribly). Christmas—with or without the religion, in so many ways, is about bringing happiness to children and hope to the hopeless.

I also love the carols, decorations and lights—yet deplore our wanton wastefulness and the whole consumerist culture. I have one ornament hanging from my ficus but this will be the last year I do no decorating—everything seems empty and bare, bereft.

So, tonight, while my husband and son go visit my in-laws, I’m staying at home Christmas Eve and thinking of what will bring me joy during this season of giving and light, albeit a little late for this year. It isn’t about receiving presents—it’s about joy, the celebration of life and light, and it’s about caring for the earth.

So, I search my heart (and the internet) to understand, plan and do those things next year that will bring me the spirit of the season. I want to do something more meaningful and giving of myself.

The Hound of the Baskervilles or ravening wolves?

Yoda at 2 weeks, 1 day old. Copyright Ann Carranza, August 2012

I just finished writing the last post, when we heard a knock at the front door and Chica, with her usual enthusiasm, ran to answer. I grabbed her collar as I opened the door to athletes waiting for Coach Travis; I told them he’d be out in a minute.

Just then, there arose such a howling, as if the Hound of the Baskervilles had scented Sir Charles, or as if ravening wolves had eyed their next prey.

Hound of the Baskervilles or Honey? Copyright Ann Carranza, August 2012

I thought it was Leia but Leonel told me it was Honey. I assumed she needed to go out, though he told me she was caterwauling because of the knock. Honey regularly barks when someone comes to the door but I had never heard her howl like this. I leashed her up and took her out, and sure as shootin’ she made a beeline for the students who had come to the door. Leonel was right. Honey, tail wagging vigorously, attempted to drag me to meet these new friends. Funny little girl—she just wanted to be part of the action.

Meanwhile the wailing went on; Leia had taken over where her mother left off. Her voice rose above the television and through the front door. Moreover, she howled until we came back in. She didn’t want to miss the action, either.

These little “watch Chihuahuas” make me laugh. That big howls come out of such little bodies is truly astonishing. They are so intent on warning me, but then they go and wiggle and waggle their little bodies to greet visitors with joy.