Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Shoots

It's fun to put little vegetable plants in the earth and watch them thrive and grow, while looking forward to the bounty we hope to harvest in months to come.  In fact, we're already enjoying some tiny, red, deliciously sweet fruits from our strawberry plants.
My favorite part of the whole garden experience, though, is that moment when the seeds we plant erupt from the ground as tiny green shoots.  You almost wait with bated breath, wondering if those little seeds will do their job and make an appearance above ground.  This year's garden has not disappointed so far!

Here are the new vegetable plants that we started from seed (or seed potatoes):

May 18: The radishes were first to burst forth, just 4 days after the seeds were sown.
May 30: Now look at the radishes today, just 12 days later!
I read somewhere that radishes are the workhorses of the garden.

May 30: The cauliflower is doing fine.

May 30: The carrots are coming in like crazy!

May 30: The potato plants almost look like they belong in a flower garden.

May 30: We have 4 rows of peas!  Ed looks forward to these the most.

May 30: Here's a row of spinach.  It's funny, but after 2 years of this
I can pretty much tell the different types of plants apart now.

May 30: We only have a couple of zucchini plants so far.

Of course, all of these green growing things require a lot of water, but Ed's got it covered with a series of hoses.  It took a lot of time, money, and effort to come up with a plan that would reach all 4 beds with enough water pressure, plus water the bean pole area, plus leave an extra hose free for hand-watering and filling the chickens' water bottle, and so on.

And here we have Grand Central Hose Station.  It looks like a technological octopus!  Ed has it all figured out and he's explained it to me a few times, but I prefer to leave all this watering gadgetry to him!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Little Plantlings

11 May 2012: The entrance to Christopher's Gardens.

Two weeks ago today we finished building and setting up our 4 new raised garden beds, including stuffing them full of mulch-enriched topsoil.  As soon as they were done, we headed straight to our favorite local nursery, Christopher's Gardens, to select some starter plants and get the beginnings of this year's garden planted.

Chris and Dylan help Ed load our new plants into the back of the car.

It was getting toward dusk by this time, so the plants sat on the kitchen counter overnight to await transplantation the next day.  Meanwhile, Ed asked me to do some research on which plants need direct sun, which do well in partial shade, and which plants do or do not do well planted together, and then design a plan for our new garden.  It took me 3 hours on the computer that evening, but this is what I came up with:

Ed actually followed the plan fairly closely, although some of it had to be modified.  For instance, our 18 strawberry plants took up much more room than I'd anticipated, so we were only able to fit 3 of the tomato plants on the end of that bed.  Eventually I will revise this plan to reflect how our garden actually turned out.  Then we'll use this year's results to determine what worked and what didn't, and apply that information to designing our next garden.

The strawberry bed, with 3 tomato plants in Walls of Water at the end.

3 different varieties of lettuce were planted in the nearest bed.
Spinach seeds were planted in a row beside the lettuce.
In the next bed beyond it, Ed planted cauliflower and radish seeds;
to the right of those are broccoli plants.
In the furthest bed you can see more tomatoes and some chili peppers.

Ed plants some cabbages for me (he hates cabbage).
The lumpy rows to the left are where he planted potatoes.

Originally, we decided not to plant onions this year because
we still have almost half a row of onions left from last year. 
However, we ended up buying sets of red onions, which we haven't planted yet.
These old onions never got very big; they were more like large green onions.
During my research, I learned we should have thinned them to give them more room to grow!

At the end of the day, Ed waters down his new little plantlings!

Our 6 new cabbage plants.

Three days later, we were back at Christopher's Gardens for more starter plants.  Everything was going so well, we were excited to fill every space!

Cherry tomato plant to the left, regular tomato plant on the right.
Beyond them are the chili peppers.

The 6 chili peppers are on the left, and we added 3 bell peppers on the right.
Ed hadn't planned on bell peppers, but I requested them.

We also added 6 tiny little cucumber plants.

The 6 broccoli plants.
Next: What's coming up!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Time to Bed Down

Ed just wasn't happy with his vegetable garden last year. He made up his mind that he was going to have a nicer garden this year, and to do that he wanted to build some raised beds.
3 of our 4 raised bed boxes, 4' x 14'.  The 4th is wider at 7' x 14'.

As it happened, there were some small, ancient bleachers in the big hall outside my classroom.  Last fall the district decided the bleachers were no longer safe and should be disposed of.  My aide, Kim, who is also an avid gardener, quickly volunteered to take the 14-foot seat boards off their hands.  We each took half the boards, and Ed has been storing 9 of those big boys in our yard all winter.

Last week, Ed purchased more lumber and hardware, and we set to work building 4 big boxes destined to become raised beds in his garden!

While we built boxes, our son-in-law Chris roto-tilled the old garden area for us...

...and our son Dylan tried to tame the mountain of topsoil and mulch that was blocking the hen house and shed doors.  (Eight yards of dirt cost $266!)

Luckily, moving all that dirt was a little easier because of Ed's tractor (circa 1952) and an attachment that allowed him to scoop up the dirt and dump it in the beds.

The first bed (the wide one) is set into place at the side of the house.
The strawberries will go here!

Although the tractor helped by transporting the topsoil, all that dirt still had to be moved around inside the bed.  Chris and Dylan had that job under control. 

This first bed was the toughest because it was the widest, plus the tractor could only dump the dirt in one spot at this narrow end, so it had to be shoveled and raked all the way to the other end. 

Ed brings in another load.

The other beds went pretty quickly.  Besides being narrower, Ed could dump the dirt anywhere along the long sides.

Just after we'd finished filling the first 3 beds and set the final bed in place, the tractor ran out of gas.  Ed decided it was time to take his laborers out for a pizza.

When we returned with full bellies and a full gas can, we were stunned to find that the final bed had been filled with topsoil during our absence!

Danny Keith, a young man from church who returned from his mission about two weeks after our missionary son Jacob left, had come by earlier to borrow Ed's cutting torch.  We were gone when he came by to return the torch, so he got his CAT off his truck and moved the last of the dirt for us!  What a guy!

All 4 beds set up, filled, and watered.

Next: planting a garden!

Friday, May 18, 2012

It Begins

Smoke from distant fires hovers on the horizon, concealing a red sun.

Arizona's fire season has already kicked into gear.  For the past week or so, firefighters have been battling our first 4 wildfires.  Directly south of us on the San Carlos Apache Reservation is the Elwood Fire.  To the west are three fires: the Bull Flat Fire on the Fort Apache reservation; the Sunflower Fire in Tonto National Forest; and the Gladiator Fire in Prescott National Forest near the town of Crown King.

Today the high winds that make fire season so difficult have roared in.  We've been experiencing 50 MPH winds all day.  Ed, Dylan, and Chris are even now out in the wilderness for the annual church Fathers and Sons Outing.  I hope their tents don't blow away!  Luckily, their camp is east of town at Brown Creek, with is a fire-free zone thus far.

On our way home from Dylan's concert on Wednesday night, we came over a hill and saw the most incredibly huge, radiant, flame-red sun I'd ever seen.  I knew the color came from the light shining through the smoke particulates hanging in the air from the fires, because we've seen some amazing suns and moons through wildfire smoke before, but this one simply took my breath away.

Alas, by the time I found a place to pull over and jumped out of the car with my camera, the sun had sunk down into the smoke and my photo op was spoiled.  The poor picture at the top of this post doesn't even begin to capture the magnificence we'd seen just moments earlier.

Dylan's last performance as a junior high student.  He is the bass player at far right.

At any rate, Dylan's final concert of the school year was also magnificent.  I can never get my video clips to post with sound, but Blogspot has updated their post editing features and hope springs eternal!  If there is no video clip here when you read this or it has no sound, you will know I was unsuccessful once again.  Sigh.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Mothers Day Call

13 May 2012: Mary (age 57) with her Mothers Day gift!

As always, my awesome children made Mothers Day a memorable event!  My son-in-law Chris had to work, so Sarah went to church with us.  After church, she picked Chris up from work and they came over to spend the rest of the day with us.

Sarah was tricky about the gift she and Chris and Dylan gave me.  Usually she gives me a new Willow Tree figurine for my collection, so she put my actual gift into a small box that was similar to the Willow Tree boxes.  She fooled me!  As it turned out, they got me the new Zelda, Skyward Sword game for Wii that I've been wanting since Christmas.  I love it!

They also gave me this gorgeous card!

26 Apr 2012: Elder Jacob Carter (age 20) on the left, 
with Elder Nelson at the Oakland CA Temple.

We all agree, however, that the very best part of the day was getting to talk to our missionary, my older son Jacob!  Missionaries are only allowed to call their families twice a year, on Christmas and Mothers Day, so we awaited with great anticipation Jacob's call from the Santa Rosa Mission in Northern California. 

Just before 4:00, the phone began to ring... 

Dylan (age 14) went first, talking to his older brother for more than 15 minutes.

Then Chris (age 34) took his 15 minutes to chat with his brother-in-law.
Remember, Jacob and Chris have never yet met in person!

Next, Sarah (age 22) spoke to her younger brother.

Finally, Mom got to talk to her son for about 45 minutes! 
We spent about an hour and a half in all on the phone with Jacob.

Ed was at his mom's place when Jacob called, so Jacob called him later on his cell phone.  (Which is why there's no picture of Ed talking on the phone.)  Jacob reports that they had a great talk about missionary work that got him all "pumped up" for the concluding months of his mission.

Yes, I said "concluding" months.  This was our final phone call from Elder Carter, because he will be home before next Christmas.  In fact, Jacob told me that President Bunker put "November 1st" in the computer as Jacob's departure date.  That means he will be home in only five and a half months!  That's less than six! 

All in all, it was a pretty wonderful Mothers Day.

Oops!  Almost forgot that Diego got to have a moment with Jacob, too.
He barked excitedly and then he tried to take the phone in his mouth,
which caused him to hang up on Jacob, so we had to wait for him to call us back!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Inspiring Words

Our high school principal has a new secretary this year.  Her name is Tina and she is one of the most upbeat, helpful people I have ever met.  Believe me, working for a principal and dealing with the often stressed-out personalities of almost 50 high school teachers is no walk in the park!  Yet she demonstrates grace under pressure and meets each new challenge with a sweet smile and a kind word.

One of the things Tina has brought to her job is the addition of a "Thought for the Week" to the school's daily bulletins.  Over the months, many have been so profound that I now find myself looking forward to seeing what new thought Monday will bring!

I was so touched by the sentiment in the top photo that I felt impressed to turn it into one of those "posters" so many people are fond of posting on Facebook.  (I added the quote from Neal A. Maxwell.)  The thought for the following week also spoke to me, so I turned it into a poster, as well.  And then, of course, I posted them on Facebook!

So what do you think?