A Sad Farewell

Long before there was a housing development, there was a farm.  And long before the Miller Family Farm, there was a tree.  According to local legend, the tree anchored the original home site. I can only imagine the Miller Family was as drawn to its stately presence as we were.


While its true age eludes us, it is fair to say that this gentle giant has witnessed a lot – families coming and go, children attempting to climb its massive branches, horses and buggies replaced with automobiles, and the glow of streets lights piercing the darkness.

For two years we’ve wrestled with the reality that it would have to come down.  The legendary oak tree was dying and a hazard.  Large, heavy branches would fall in the middle of the night and the base was beginning to rot.  We even had an “anonymous” neighbor send a picture and complaint to Town Hall (by the way, I know who you are).

So, this weekend the tree came down.  It took a crew of six and five hours.  The house shook every time another a section fell.  I left midway through the process and didn’t return until it was finished and the crew was gone.

It’s still strange to walk out the front door or round the corner onto our street and not see it.  Eventually we’ll get used to it.


There is also an enormous sense of relief having it gone.  I won’t lie awake at night in a panic every time the wind begins to blow, or worry about a branch falling on one of us while we’re tending to the flowers or enjoying our front yard.  But we’ll miss its grandeur.  We’ll miss imagining what secrets the giant oak held.


Fall planting (and a fresh coat of paint)

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with fall – it was October of my freshman year of college while driving from Eastern Tennessee to Raleigh, North Carolina. The mountains were on fire with shades of red and orange. It took my breath away.

Growing up in North Dakota, fall lasted about a month before it snowed on Halloween. The opportunities to enjoy fall foliage were limited, to say the least.

Now, not only do I have amazing color in my backyard, but I have a garden in which to plant a fall crop.

That said, it took several weeks for us to finally get all of our fall planting finished – mainly because it was so HOT!! 

My first attempt was Labor Day weekend.  After gathering up my tools and seeds…


… I managed to plant a couple rows of radishes and carrots and spread some compost before downing a bottle of Gatorade and retreating from the 95 degree heat.



The next week we tackled the tomato plants.  I trimmed back the bottom growth and the vines that were no longer producing and used them to start a fresh batch of compost.


I also pulled up all but one of the green bean plants to make room on the trellis for peas.


We then planted pea seeds.  I decided to give them a second chance since it was already too hot when I started the plants in the spring.  We sowed a row on each side of the trellis.


The next week we planted more spinach, lettuce and mesclun mix.  We also harvetsed another large bowl of peppers, beans, and tomatoes.


Our hard work is paying off!  The radishes came up immediately.


The peas are now beginning to climb the trellis and there are even a few carrot tops!

I also decided to brighten up the garden with paint.  While I don’t regret my decision to build the raised bed with cement blocks, it resembled a concrete fortress in our backyard.


I thought a nice shade of green would keep it from being an eye sore, especially during the dreary winter months.  I only painted the outside so that we don’t run the risk of paint leaching into the soil.  I am absolutely in love with the result!



Pepper Pickin’

Our garden (and kitchen) are officially overflowing with peppers!  The Serrano plants are loaded.


And we’ve put them to good use! Several batches of restaurant-style salsa quickly disappeared.


I also roasted some of the peppers.

They made a nice addition to my grandmother’s mac and cheese recipe (which I was too excited about to take a picture) and gave a delicious kick to this chicken puttanesca sauce.

We also picked the first of the de Padron peppers.


I ordered the seeds on a whim… with only this description to go by…


The average de Padron has a heat index of about 500 scolville (compared to 20,000 in the Seranno variety), but one in about five de Padron hits 25,000 scoville. The intensity of the heat can vary depending on growing conditions, such as amount of water and sunlight.  The only pepper I’ve sampled so far was HOT (although I’ll admit to eating almost all of it anyway.)


So, I don’t know if I just happened to cut into a random hot one, or if I grew them all hot 🙂  I did some googling and learned that de Padron peppers are popular as a tapa in Spain – seared in a skillet with olive oil and then sprinkled with salt.  This is definitely going to be my  next experiment!


Oh, Deer

“The reindeer are eating the flowers!”

Well, my daughter’s statement is half-true.  I don’t have the heart to tell her they aren’t actual reindeer, mainly because it’s so cute.  But that’s really the only cute thing about this situation.

My lilies started out strong and beautiful – loaded with blooms.



Then one day, I noticed the back row of lilies had been munched on.

I was mad at the reindeer, but at least the majority were blooming.


My anger turned to fury when our uninvited guests returned to make a meal out of the leaves, and for dessert, completely strip most of the stalks.


The only bit of good news is the flowers in the front yard have distracted the deer from the vegetables in the back.

How do I keep them out of the flowers?!?!?!?  The only reindeer I want to see are fake ones, in December.










Defying the Odds

Following the April freeze, I’ve been torn between holding out hope and giving up completely on my chili pepper plants. The prognosis was grim.  Even my dad grimaced when I showed him this picture…


The Serrano plants started to show signs of a comeback in mid-May, but I still wasn’t convinced they would survive.


Then suddenly they were large enough to be tied to the stakes.


And now, WE HAVE PEPPERS!!!!


I am concerned that something is eating the leaves.  If anyone knows what this could be and what I should do about it, I would love to know.


The de Padrone pepper plants (in the background below) are still a bit small, but they are trying.


I’m going to shower them with some fresh compost, and assume they will be ok too.

I’m impressed with the fortitude my plants have shown.  Then again, they do live at the Mills house.  I shouldn’t be surprised.







Tomato Collapse

It was my first brief moment of panic.  We walked up to the garden to find  ALL the tomato plants had toppled over.


Either the support poles weren’t strong enough or the tomatoes are growing at a feverish pace.  Likely a combination.  Regardless, we re-staked all of plants and added some extra poles as reinforcements.


The good news is that none of the tomatoes were damaged and we were able to pick the first of our cherry variety.






Backyard to Table

Backyard to Table

I am proud to say my daughter experienced her first fresh-from-the-garden meal.  We spent our Friday evening picking salad greens, green beans and edamame.


The green beans have done extraordinarily well!

IMG_2926[1] IMG_2937[1]

And the edamame are beginning to produce a small yield.  In retrospect, I should have planted more edamame seeds.  Lesson learned.


BUT, we still walked away from the garden with a large bowl of fresh produce.


My trusty sidekick helped me boil up the edamame.


And she ate them all.