Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stupid things we’ve all done

OK, fine.  Stupid things only I would dream of doing.  Have you ever pondered a current or recently taken avenue in life and decided, upon reflection, you should have turned left rather than right?  Or better yet, exited the vehicle all together and ridden your bicycle?  And maybe, just maybe, your wrong turn becomes another and then another.  No, this post isn’t going to turn into an episode of Lost or Guiding Light, but sometimes I can’t believe the dumb things I do.

Exhibit A:

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Surely the most damning of the evidence, I put my house up for sale on the same day I hosted a benefit garden tour for the botanical garden this summer. 

The Last Frontier Gardener was merely trying to hit her target market for a home sale but ended up having to turn people away at the door that wanted to walk through.  To be fair, my sign did say “By appointment only.”  Did that stop them?  Said my sister in law apologetically at the door, “Uh, she’s kinda busy right now in the garden.  Sorry.  But give her a call later.”  I can’t blame them.  If you did a drive-by of a home for sale and saw scads of people flocking towards it (for the garden tour) you might be forgiven for mistaking it for the biggest Open House of all time.  Dumb.

I’m not even going to mention the difficulty of getting the house and garden into shape by the same day.  I will say a few primal screams and silent inner screams were involved.  That and a lot of Windex.

Exhibit B:

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Not entering the garden for a month and expecting to harvest vegetables that aren’t supporting three generations of pests or have gone to seed.

After above mentioned tour, I abandoned the garden (was it resentment?) for a month.  Be merciful, readers, it was raining (see above pic).  Every day.  In fact, we have had a record breaking streak of rainy days this summer, so I hope to be forgiven for not being thrilled about the outdoors for the month of August.

It was just as bad as you’d expect.  Everything was riddled in holes and slug poo.  My celery had turned into a high rise slug tenement.  It was rather unsavory washing so many slimy bodies off and having to scrub the celery so hard to get all slug digestion remnants off for dinner.  Stew anyone?  I’ve abandoned the remaining two celery plants to their fate.  The beans are goners and the cabbages are barely salvageable.

Exhibit C:

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I agreed to let a photographer/horticulturist come out to the garden for some shots this month for a future presentation on fall interest, (an obscure, if not dubious subject in the minds of many Alaskan gardeners).  You think I would be able to plan ahead by this time in my life.  Nope.  About thirty minutes before she came, a whirlwind of raking, weeding, pruning, and snarling in the back yard.  I hope she didn’t notice that giant dandelion in the front yard.  Ho hum. 

Did I mention the slugs have had free reign the last month?  The Hosta, Ligularia, and veggies are Swiss cheese.  The only thing looking particularly good is the aforementioned dandelion.  The weather has transitioned from rainy to threat of snowy.  Apathy has me in a chokehold.  And I still have to clean the house for a prospective buyer tonight.  Which means I’d better think about getting that Windex out again.   Sheesh.

Done anything stupid?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Games garden bloggers play

There comes a time in every Alaskan’s year when the transition from outside pursuits to inside pursuits takes place.  Depending on the weather, it can be in October, September, or in the case of this year, June.  We’ve had a record year of consecutive rainy days (I feel your pain Seattle, Brazil, England).  Then cloudy.  Now cold.  So I feel cheated about the whole summer gardening season.  Since I have transitioned to the inside stuff (whether I want to or not) it seems appropriate to mark the occasion with something I can do indoors.

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Bangchik, a garden blogger growing all kinds of unheard of vegetables (in the cold, frozen north of Alaska at least) in Malaysia, has kindly asked me to stop shivering long enough to list 10 Things I Love.  I don’t usually take time for online games, but what else is there to do?  Certainly nothing outside at the moment.  The containerized Phormium in residence agreed with my assessment of the now cold nights outside and was dropped off at the nursery’s balmy greenhouse for the winter on Friday.  I asked if they had room for me but the price was too exorbitant, so here I am.  Batten down your tarps and put on your quiviut hats because we’re off: 

1. Italian leather shoes.  It all started with one pair, justified because of the sale price and an upcoming wedding in the family.  Now I have to move into a home with a bigger closet.  And the LFG hubby is talking about getting a side job at the gas station.  I may be wearing rubber boots or flip flops six days of the week in summer, but watch out on Sunday when I get the peep toed heels out.  Ka-zam!

2. Chubby kid cheeks, preferably clean ones.

3. Sunshine on the couch, warming it to the perfect temperature for napping.  Do I ever get a chance for that nap?  Usually the first five minutes, then “ring, ring” or “mommy!”  Someday my nap will come.

4. Crunchy dill pickles.  Absolutely no sweet or squishy ones.

5. A good hair day.  I think possibly this falls in with numero uno in being mostly a woman thing.  Men, am I wrong?

Nassella tenuissima in container, October

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6. Ornamental grasses like Nassella tenuissima, backlit in the autumn sun.

7. Hearing people I love laugh, most likely at me.  They say they’re laughing with me, of course.

8. Front yard gardens: unique, funky, vegetable, jungle-like, anything goes as long as it’s not just lawn and one shrub.  (Though I must say, I don’t care for the broken down cars or blue tarps adorning some front yard “gardens” here in Alaska.)

9. Being done with housework…for the moment anyway.  I can hear the dust settling as I type.

10. To my shame, cheesy music like ABBA, Bee Gees, etc.  “If you change your mind, I’m the first in line.  Honey, I’m still free.  Take a chance on meeeee.” 

Am I the only one who loves having a good hair day?  Maybe the infrequency of such a thing makes it that much more precious, sort of like a non-rainy day this summer.  My hair often has twigs or a stray bug in it during the gardening season, so the bar is set pretty low.  Pathetic or empowering, you decide.

What do you love/hate on my list?  Please don’t tell me I’m the only one with a few cheesy CD’s lying around….

Monday, September 13, 2010

Flowers, food, and freaks

Or as the LFG hubby says, the three “f”’s of the state fair.  I might also add “full parking lot.”  For those that checked out the giant veggies last week on the blog, this week’s lowdown is not super-sized, but quite a bit more fattening, I’m afraid.

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One thing about our State Fair in Palmer, the flowers are always stupendous.  And they’re everywhere, even hanging near the restroom doors.  Something I noticed new this year (meaning it’s the first time I noticed it, not that it’s new) was the All-American Selections just inside the gate. 

fair 068Do you realize what this means?  This implies no less than that someone has conceded Alaska is indeed part of America.  I still struggle with some mail-order companies that just don’t believe it.  Also sighted in this area, selections of fruiting trees and shrubs like mountain ash (Sorbus spp.) and currants (Ribes spp.).

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If herbs and vegetables are more your thing, there is a delightful gated garden that, correct me if I’m stating the impossible, seemed to be growing okra.

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There is always a theme to the fair, and this year is no different.  I’m not saying the themes are always catchy, clever, or creative.  2010 was the “Imagine if…” year.  One of the most fun horticultural sightings is always the south side theme display.  This year they were inspired by the carousel ride just around the corner.

fair 104 If carousel rides aren’t your thing, try some of the fun booths, a few of which sported antiques, jewelry, pottery, clothing of all kinds and decades, garden themed items, and even bona fide living plants.

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And this wouldn’t be the Alaska State Fair without a few vendors displaying outdoor wares of another variety.  The Y chromosomes were hovering like bees.  I was actually knocked aside in a small stampede of teenaged boys on their way to view the 2011 model snow machines (or snowmobiles for you non-Alaskans).

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No fair is complete without the flower show.  Even this (rainy, miserable) summer, at least a few people managed to grow show quality flowers.  For anyone that’s wondering, no, I have nothing show quality.  Congrats to the winners (who must have sheltered each blossom with its own miniature umbrella from our month and a half of rain).

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One more garden item and then I’ll move on.  A spectacular perennial garden, with the romantic name “The Perennial Garden” is tucked between two large exhibit halls.  For the best use of new, unusual, and little known plants in a public garden, this is the place in south-central Alaska, and the Last Frontier Gardener is not one to gush.  Unfortunately, my skills with the camera are not a sight to behold and it was the one sunny day of the fair, which I’m not about to complain about.  I find wearing my sunglasses helps when viewing these washed out pictures, but to each their own.

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What is a fair without the artery clogging food?  They dip everything in hot oil here, from corn dogs and halibut to donuts and Twinkies.  (I went for the halibut, if you must know.)  My doctor needn’t worry, I starved myself so as to have all available calories for this jaunt.  Jokes about the grease aside, there really is a lot of different food choices and types of cuisine.  Next year I have made a mental note to try the cream puffs and the cheese curds, and will someone please tell me where the booth that was selling chocolate covered bacon was?

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After eating said grease, I wasn’t in the mood to defy gravity or tempt physics, so the kids did the rides sans me.  I risk sounding elderly mentioning this, but the music at each ride was deafening and a bit, uh, edgy.  Why do the little kiddie rides need heavy metal playing at louder decibels than a plane taking off?  “Mom, what does ‘shout to the devil’ mean?”

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And I can’t wrap it up without tipping my hat to the guys who have probably broken more bones and whose mothers are some of the most worried (or heavily sedated) in the world.

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Just to be clear, the guy sitting down is on top of a ramp about seven feet off the ground.  The other guy back flipped over him on a bike.  Probably the best entertainment at the fair and no one died that I’m aware of….  Ok, ok,  just one more of these fun pictures.

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I didn’t manage to capture photographic evidence of many freaks, though it made a handy title for the post.  What captured my notice was the fact that nearly every smoker in our state seemed to have showed up on the day I was there.  For some reason, I thought the fair had designated smoking areas.  I’ll go ahead and give this kid with crazy hair the freaky title for this post though I’m sure she’s as normal as can be.

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After four hours of trudging around and taking more than three hundred subpar photos, it was time to head home.  Now just where did I park?  Maybe I’ll take the train next year instead since they have a depot right at the fair.  Who doesn’t love a train ride?

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Had any greasy fair food lately?  How are the gardens at your fair?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage discovered!

At the Alaska State Fair, of course.  What, you were thinking it would be parked at Disneyland?  (That one is a stand-in to fool the tourists.  For the real deal, visit Alaska.)  The carriage is in its original condition, that is to say, it looks like a pumpkin before the “bibbety bobbety boo” and wand waving magic.

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I just can’t fathom how much TLC it takes to produce an eleven hundred pound behemoth like this.  In my neglected vegetable garden, at this moment, there are celery quietly going to seed, two mournful cabbages, three slug-ridden lettuces, and some zucchini plants that decided not to do anything aka produce zucchinis.  So I’m guessing actual care is required.  The water demands of such a thirsty giant would probably tax Eklutna Lake (one of our city’s water sources).  Really, how does a pumpkin top 1000 pounds?  Since I’m not big into actual research, I may never know, but check this article in our local paper for some bona fide information.

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Cinderella’s carriage was grown by Mr. Dale Marshall of Anchorage, and weighed in at 1101 pounds, a new Alaska State record.  Other contenders for chauffeuring the future princess tipped the scales at 757 and 902 pounds.  If she ever tires of the pumpkin mode of transportation, she might recommend her fairy godmother put a spell on some of the other giant vegetables seen in the fair town of Palmer, like the enormous 24.9 pound rutabaga.  And was that a 16 pound zucchini I spotted?  Honestly, some people have all the luck (because it couldn’t possibly be effort and skill)!

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Any mice to pull the pumpkin coach, you ask?  No mice (that won ribbons, at least) but just about every domesticated animal was there to vie for honors.  Cinderella could have her pick of cows, goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, rabbits, pigs, a turkey, or geese instead.  I’m voting for the bunnies.  Is there anything cuter than a bunny?

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As a kid, the geese and turkeys at the Fair always freaked me out (obviously I wasn’t raised on or near a farm), and I see I haven’t much changed.  One loud honk or hiss and I’m moving on to the next cage.  I’ve heard you can tell a lot about people by what they are afraid of but I’m not quite sure what fear of large barnyard fowl says about me.  Perhaps that’s why I eat turkey with such zest.

fair 189If Cinderella decides to take a break from choosing her next set of wheels, she could wander over to the show ring.  I well remember the year of The Great Pig Fight in center ring.  A handful of 4-H kids showing their pigs for the judges, nothing out of the ordinary, then BAM!  Angry, squealing, lunging, open-mouthed, and sharp-toothed drama.  My eyes grew wide as I thought nervously, '”Will they shoot the pigs?  Shut the barn doors?  Get the tranquilizer gun?  Do pigs eat children?  Are lassos involved here?”  My city-kid self was in fight or flight mode.

fair 178 Thankfully, the pint-sized handlers didn’t even bat an eye.  Crisis was averted with pig boards, handy barriers the children carry for separating the pigs (see picture below for some multihued samples).  I guess if you can’t see your deadly pig enemy, you can regain your pig manners and resume the walking circuit.  And get some much needed rest after all the excitement.

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There is a bit more to the Fair beyond the livestock and Cinderella-sized vegetables, including an unexpected and stunning perennial garden with some of the most unusual plants to be found in the 49th state, but that’s for next time.  Tune in for rides, food, exhibits, and a flower contest extravaganza.  See you in Palmer!

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What barnyard animals are you afraid of?  Any giant veggies in your area?


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