Tag Archives: sweet peas

A gardener’s work and prayer.

I’ve been in the garden every day, at least a little, and often a lot. When I come downstairs in the morning and realize that it’s already warm enough that I can slide the glass door open, without thinking about it I slide open the screen door, too, and go out to have a look.

The bluebird parents can be seen flying back and forth to feed the peeping infants. Finches, sparrows, hummingbirds and even the flirty Bewick’s Wren fill the space with their songs. Oh, and crows. It is a new thing the last few years to have crows in my yard. I prefer the old way, and I politely ask them to leave. They leave but they come back.

Often in the morning I will put water in the fountain, and trim a little here or pull a weed there. Most days I seem to spend quite a while picking sweet peas.

The sweet peas have become very intimate with the perennial runner beans. The sweet peas were up on the trellis months earlier, and were covered with flowers when the bean stems emerged at three corners of the planter boxes and started climbing. They mostly twist their stems around the pea vines as they climb, and quickly they have outclimbed the peas.

The pea vines responded in kind, continuing their reach for the sky by holding on to the beans. This relationship has to end, though, because the peas are expiring while the beans are only now putting out a few flowers. So, the last couple of days when I pick the flowers, I’m also going to a lot of trouble to break up this love affair without breaking the bean stems. Let’s hope I can plan better and not let this situation develop next spring.

When the sun gets too high and I start to droop, I go indoors and do housework. Or read poems. I’ve been bingeing on them in the last week, and hope to share my favorites here eventually. Maybe in the fall when I have finished my Big Sort, the organizing of all my Stuff: rooms, closets, cabinets, drawers and belongings to throw, give or put away. I hope the Big Sort will be done long before that, but there is the garden…

Acanthus
Lemon
Lavender

I mixed up some fish emulsion and fed the lemon tree today. I wanted to give it more iron, too, but I read on the bottle that you should not apply that until late evening. It was time for a break, anyway, so here I am. And here is a poem I read last night, which I hope you like:

GARDENER’S PRAYER

O Lord, grant that in some way
it may rain every day,
Say from about midnight until three o’clock
in the morning,
But, You see, it must be gentle and warm
so that it can soak in;
Grant that at the same time it would not rain on
campion, alyssum, helianthus, lavendar, and others which
You in Your infinite wisdom know
are drought-loving plants-
I will write their names on a bit of paper
if you like-
And grant that the sun may shine
the whole day long,
But not everywhere (not, for instance, on the
gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron)
and not too much;
That there may be plenty of dew and little wind,
enough worms, no lice and snails, or mildew,
and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano
may fall from heaven.
Amen.

-Karel Matej Capek Chod
(1860 -1927) Czech Republic

Shopping, cooking, and singing.

This week I’ve been blessed to have several days when I was able to stay home all day. I have a big sorting-and-organizing project upstairs, figuring out how to use my new closets and cabinets, and deciding what things to throw out because I begrudge them the space. But I didn’t end up spending much time on that.

One day I was on the prosphora baking team at church…

… and since that got me out of the house in the morning, I just kept going and did a lot of grocery shopping in the afternoon, five stores. First I went to the Thai market, where it’s fun to see what exotic snacks and goodies they have in stock. Often it’s a mochi type of treat that I try out, and this time I found these, chewy with a black sesame paste filling.

I enjoyed them very much, but the ingredients label made me resolve to make my own mochi again, at home. I already have mochi flour (mochiko) that I also buy at the Thai market. My friend Elsie brought me a mochi cookbook from Hawaii one time and I have been wanting to try out some more recipes from it again.

I bought Asian yams, green onions, and several pounds of ginger root at that market. It was time to make a big batch of ginger broth.

As I drove around to the other less interesting stores I listened to music in the car. Gordon Bok was singing one of his sailor songs, and though I am not a sailor I love to hear him sing about anything, his voice is so rich; it is a feast for my ears. Here he is in a sample I found: Sailor’s Prayer by Gordon Bok

It was 90 degrees that afternoon when I brought home my bags of groceries, and it would be hotter still the next day, when I had to wait at least until the evening to cook, so that the heat could go out the windows when we open them at sundown. It was supposed to be cooler the following day. I did start my ginger broth and roast a couple of pans of onions that evening — oh, and two pans of Brussels sprouts.

The next day, which was this morning, I thought I would just bottle up the broth and put it in the freezer, and get on with my sorting project. But one thing led to another…. I needed to wash the big pots and my breakfast dishes, of course. The cooked ginger went into the food processor, because I can’t bear to throw it out, but always use it to make puddings or breads. I decided to make bread with my ginger paste right then, so I found a recipe for zucchini bread to work from, and substituted ginger for zucchini.

The roofers were working in the morning, and they finished by early afternoon. It is such a weight off my mind to have a new roof, my whole body felt lighter and ready for more work. The bread went into the oven and I washed more dishes, and Aaron came to work on my garage project. I was happy to send him home with a loaf of bread, because I’m realizing that I like cooking too much for one person. When I start cooking I just do not want to stop.

The weather really cooled off today, so I am hopeful that my sweet peas will grow longer stems again for a week or two before they expire from heat. I had to hunt down shorter vases and bottles to put them in the last few days. This one color is my favorite this year, and I was able to make a whole little bouquet of them, which will be my closing image here, as I’ve cleaned up the kitchen for the last time and am going up to bed. Good night!

Collards and sweet peas.

I always think of collard greens as the meatiest sort. (Of the leafy greens I have commonly had in the garden I would rank kale as next most hefty, then Swiss chard and finally spinach.) But they were lightweight enough that the wind was able to blow a few of the topmost chopped leaves away off the table where I was working. After removing the whole 5-foot row of collards I had such a big pile, I had decided to do the first stage of processing on the patio, where the spring breeze was aggressive.

These greens were incredibly clean; only about five aphids total had to be flicked off when I was looking over each of dozens of leaves. I chopped and blanched them and put four quarts in the freezer, keeping out another quart or so to use soon.

I still have kale and Swiss chard in my planter boxes, and am planning to use the space where the collards were for ground cherries I started in the greenhouse.

Sweet peas are coming on so I brought a bunch of them in, too.
It’s the season for Garden Love.

A boy and his loves.

Liam was with me for a couple of days last week. He is almost six and suddenly reads with astonishing fluency. Reading is downright fun for him, I guess that’s why, and the more you do something you love, the better you get at it. I was pleased to realize that he would be just the person at just the stage to appreciate The Disappearing Alphabet by Richard Wilbur, so I searched through my bookshelves to find it. We read it together with many giggles.

The artwork, by David Diaz, is much more pleasing to me than that in The Pig in the Spigot, another of Wilbur’s books for children which I wrote about here once. Each page is devoted to a letter of the alphabet, with a short verse musing on what would happen to our beloved world if that letter were no more.

After reading the book, then eating dinner, we went on one of my creek walk loops. Immediately we began to practice our mutual love of plants and their names. My grandson is starting to understand that I don’t know every plant, and our nature study is more of a joint effort now, with him not saying, “What is this?” so much, and saying, “Grandma, look!” more.

But he brought up the subject of the alphabet also, as we walked along, saying, out of the blue, “If there were no letter N, we wouldn’t have pain! or lanes! — or extensions!”

Our walk took longer than I planned, because I had forgotten about how it’s our habit to meander and pick things, as I had started out with Liam in Flowery Town years ago.

FT P1090307

We ate quite a few new-green wild fennel fronds on this walk, and even some slightly older ones, comparing the flavor. And several times he reminded me that we must take the route home that passes by the pineapple guava hedge, because he was eager to taste the flowers I’d mentioned.

We ate flower petals, and got to bed late, and the next morning the boy picked more right next to my garden dining spot, which he added to our breakfast feast. Rarely is it truly the right weather to eat breakfast outdoors here in my city, and this may have been my first time to do it with company so agreeable.

The middle of this second day was spent at my church, where the end of the children’s week-long summer program featured a long session of water play, and Liam was delighted to get all wet and to eat a popsicle.

Even here, he drew my attention to a tree blooming right above, which I’m sure I’d never noticed before. Our rector said he planted it himself “way back.”

Australian Silver Oak or silky oak, Grevillea robusta

While children were settling down for the Bible lesson that morning, another boy showed me this fly that he was admiring on his hand. I think Liam was already waiting patiently on the other side of the circle so he didn’t see it.

Later that afternoon I had planned to have him help me clean the greenhouse, but then realized he’d like better to pick sweet peas to take home to his mother. I have only a little patch that I didn’t pull out yet. He was diligent about that task for nearly an hour, and collected a large jarful. I made headway on the greenhouse, and we took breaks to study the bumblebees that only recently decided to mob those flowers.

One day we had read Monarch and Milkweed, and the other, I showed him my milkweed plants; the Showy Milkweed is in a jungle behind the fig tree, where I hope, if Monarch caterpillars hatch out, the birds might not notice them…?

Liam helped me to see my flowers without a magnifying glass. As we were looking at some tiny succulent flowers, and I was trying to get a good picture of them, I began to notice little black dots on them. “Are those holes in the petals, can you see?” I asked him. He squatted down and looked hard, and told me that they were things on the ends of hairs coming out of the middle of the flower. Ah, stamens! When I enlarged the photo, I could see, too:

We washed rocks! Liam had been examining and organizing one of my collections of pebbles and stones and such in the house, and out here I had him put these larger stones from the Sierras and from the Sacramento River through some sudsy water and a rinse, so they could wait presentably until I find a use for them.

What other things did we both like to do while he was visiting? Eat ice cream cones, and judge matchbox car races, and read Winnie-the-Pooh. Many times during his last hours with me, lines from Pooh or The Disappearing Alphabet would come to his mind and he would say them again, looking at me with a twinkle in his eye, knowing I liked them, too. He especially liked these from the page about the letter L:

“Any self-respecting duck
would rather be extinct
than be an uck.”

I was so grateful to Liam’s parents for making this intimate visit work out. Next time I see him, he will be more grown up, and a different boy. But probably not all that different. I hope we can always find a way to share our love for words and plants and many more details and gifts of this vast world in which our loving Father has placed the two of us as grandma and grandson.