Sunday, May 17, 2009

Soon I will post about something other than gardening

But not this time. Now, I'm not trying to be competitive, I'm just very proud of how my garden, in both the American and English meanings of the word, are doing. My tomatoes are completely unrecognisable from the midgets I photographed for the previous post. Everything in the square gardens is a little stunted because the boxes aren't very deep. I lined the bottoms of them with that black roll to keep the weeds down and it definitely helped prevent the wiregrass from taking over. But now that I'm sure all the grass underneath the soil is long gone, I think the black stuff is holding back my vegetables. Consequently the plant flower when they are very small. I was picking off the flowers from the tomatoes until they got a bit bigger, and now I think they are a sufficient size to do their thing. We have tons of flowers; lets hope that converts into a good crop of fruit. The peas are producing well right now. I'm slightly embarrassed by my diminutive peas, having seen various people's pea plant in Mathews which reached a good two or three feet. Mine decided that eight inches was tall enough and started flowering. Tha'ts fine by me, since we are getting a decent number of peas. I think we'll have a few with dinner tonight.

Remember than small lonely potato plant peeking up through the leaf litter? Several of his friend decided to make an appearance, including some volunteers from the compost which I transplanted. Fortunes are varied for these guys. A few are doing really well, while others are having the living daylights eaten out of them by some agent unknown. I'm just going to see how it goes. To be honest if I get a single potato out of this endeavor I'll be rather happy.

Another plant that is doing well is my single pickling cucumber vine. As instructed by the seed packet, I planted a 'hill' of five or six seeds, expecting to thin the seedlings to the best two plants. But only one seed plucked up the courage to show itself above ground, so he was selected by default. I also scavenged a volunteer maybe-cucumber (its hard to positively identify from two leaves) and but him in the pot too. Clearly the extra depth for root growth is benefiting the resident cucumber, but the newcomer's life still hang precariously in the balance, and if he doesn't put on a growth spurt soon his bigger brother may well seal his fate.
Moving on to the other type of garden my rose bush, as predicted, exploded into a sea of red. However, these rose bushes are found all over the place in our locality, so they must be a hardy variety. I can take too much credit for its success. Other recent additions from the McKelvey's include a honeysuckle that we wrapped around the banister of our front stoop; several varieties of violet than went in the front bed and window box; a lily that I put in next to a stump at the end of the drive, and broke my gardening fork in the process! This further confirms my theory that someone is introducing cheese into the steel supply. I was levering softly against a stubborn root, and two prongs bent them snapped right off. Pathetic - and the second fork to meet it's demise at my hands at Fruehauf Rd. Maybe I'll add that to my wedding registry!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My other garden is a vineyard

In my dreams I am a rich landowner, living in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and I spend my days tending to my vines and making world famous wines. To feed this fantasy, it is occasionally necessary to visit the vineyards of the real rich snobs and sip their wine imagining it to be my own. Our plans this weekend changed at the last moment and presented an ideal opportunity to visit Shenandoah National Park and fit in a couple wine tours.

We left with a picnic lunch packed an no particular plan in mind. We figured on reaching Skyline Drive and seeing what hiking spots presented themselves. There are so many trails it can be a bit overwhelming, but we picked one that looked like it went somewhere, and did a short loop that took us to a rocky outcrop with a breathtaking view. To the West of the ridge the weather was fine and sunny, but as we carried on up Skyline drive we crossed over to the Eastern side of the mountains and became enveloped in low misty cloud. Another glance at the map revealed an obvious path home along Rt 33, which would fortuitously take us past the Barboursville and Horton Wineries.

Barboursville was bustling with students who had recently completed their semester at UVA, so we stayed long enough only to decide that the recent crop of wines there was nothing special. We did take the opportunity to visit the ruins of a house designed by Thomas Jeffeson for the local governor, which had unfortunately burned down one Christmas Day. Moving down the road to Horton, we arrived just ahead of a Coach-load of wine-tourers, but had time to enjoy our tasting in peace before they burst into the main hall. The wines at Horton were much more to our liking, and we enjoyed the Stonecastle White (a blend of Viognier and Chardonnay) so much that we bought a case for the wedding. They also have a selection of fruit wines that are very sweet but like nothing else you'll ever taste. I tried the cranberry variety, and will remember it for next Thanksgiving.