Ad Victorium

I’ve often referred to my vegetable garden as a Victory garden, for no other reason than to give a historical tribute to the WWII public campaign aimed at reducing stress on the national food system and coping with rationing.  It’s also somewhat ironic in that we garden for pleasure, for it’s really not feasible now to compete with the prices of farming conglomerate-grown produce.  Nor is it a good time investment.

But it’s fun, and the results are tastier.  And, I get to revel a bit in historical Americana.

Yet the existing garden was too small.  It needed expansion.  It needed to push the boundaries between hobby and chore, the way my in-laws still maintain a garden large enough to feed a German-Catholic family.  For ’tis the manner in which all those with hobbies internally debate why they must still invest the time and energy into an obsession.  But that is not the topic of discussion for this post.  The topic, rather, is what we did, not why.

And what we did was borrow the in-laws’ tiller, to destroy one deeply-rooted icon of Americana (the lawn) for another.  And we did so in a most American fashion–by burning gasoline.

A little amateur engineering cleverness later and I had a small rabbit-deterrent around the perimeter as well.

Surely the ends were worth the means, for we now have one medium-sized timesink with cucumbers on the way!

And weeding…lots of weeding.

–Simon

Tomatoes, Again!

Yes, I like tomatoes.

And this year, I started them earlier.  I also reinforced the net, mulched, and am spraying neem oil.  Yes–I’m getting serious.

Why?

Because I discovered home-grown tomatoes make the best Bloody Marys.  Mmmmm.

–Simon

The River is Now a Canal

Two years ago I addressed the terrible sump drainage.  At the time we bought the house, an old vacuum hose had been stuck to the output and draped across the lawn and out into the yard.  It was and ugly and inefficient solution, so I dug a trench instead.

The trench worked and looked much nicer, but had a tendency to fill in with debris.  I concluded then that I would use the plethora of unearthed bricks (which we uncover every time a shovel is stuck into the ground) and pave the trench, my reasoning being that the reduced friction would channel the water faster and flush out anything in its way.  And it would look nicer, and hopefully hold up better.

Additionally, I planned to sink a small recess to hold some of the water to give it time to soak into the ground–a rain garden, more or less.  I installed something similar on a downspout, but it was gravel and I don’t want that look in the garden.

And so I dug until I had the desired pit.  Then, as I began placing bricks, the sump pump clicked on and flooded it.  Perhaps I should have unplugged that before starting this project.  Ah well, I’m not one to allow simple forces of the universe, in this case hydrodynamics, to interrupt me.  I continued.

I put a rush in the center

When full, it looks like a reflection pool.  It’s also accumulating mud because it hasn’t dried out yet with all the Spring rain, so I can’t clean it.  And it’s overflowing constantly.  What I should have done was dug out a deep dry well and filled it with rocks, then arranged my bricks on top of that.  Whatever redesign I decide upon, one thing is certain–it needs more capacity.  I will, no doubt, be revisiting this.

–Simon

Nature Will Kill You

It’s more or less what I’ve learned from any Greek story: nature will kill you given the smallest chance.  And it’s not an entirely overdramatic conclusion really.  We only recreate outdoors now voluntarily, and only because we’re rarely in any serious danger from doing so (except that of our own making), and that’s because we’ve driven to near-extinction any competing apex predator.

But still, nature will kill you.

But nature kills everything.  And in few ways do I find this more apparent than the existence of the carnivorous plant.  A generally immobile life form, seeking its energy from photosynthesis, it hungers for something more.  It hungers for blood.  It requires nutrition!

I think everyone’s had a Venus flytrap at some point.  And everyone’s had one die.  Like goldfish, we all dabble in the hobby, then give up instantly upon failure.

But age has granted me a longer attention span, and greater resources.  So when my mother gifted unto me a couple such carnivorous plants, I decided to make a certain effort and keep them alive.

Sarracenia purpurea
Nepenthes mirabilis

Following my sister’s advice, I planted them in a mix of sand and peat moss.  But with nowhere to put them (houseplants don’t do well in our house as it has no south-facing window), I left them under the grow lights.

So far they’ve been doing well, and have slowly produced more deathtraps.  A number of fruit flies have fallen victim.

A few observations/points of research: The Nepenthes mirabilis appears to digest its prey with an enzyme fluid, but the Sarracenia purpurea does not–relying instead on bacterial digestion.  Also, the mirabilis appears to have a cover to keep out the rain, while purpurea does not.  And mirabilis never seems to go dry, while purpurea does.  I’m assuming then that purpurea relies on rain water to keep full, so I make a point to fill their leaves on occasion.

I must be doing something right, because they’re still growing and making more traps.  Maybe they’ll have a slight impact on the number of unwelcome flying houseguests.  Regardless, they do look cool.

–Simon