Tag Archives: summer

The Last Plot 6 Post of 2017

plot 6, forest park community garden, community gardening, hunter boots, herb garden, raised bedThere’s a blanket of snow on the ground this morning, so what better time to talk about…gardening!

We put Plot 6 to bed right after Thanksgiving. It was kind of a sad year in the garden. Our tomato plants became infested with white flies so we barely had a harvest. To say I was devastated is an understatement since really, the only reason to garden is so you can enjoy deliciously ripe, home-grown tomatoes. Our kabocha squash, however, grew like gangbusters and delivered a dozen kabocha by fall. It was crazy and we’ll never grow one in our plot again, but it was a fun experiment and I’m glad we tried it. (Besides tomatoes, experiments are my other favorite part of the garden.) Our basil, parsley, lavender, and rosemary did really well, too and made great additions to cocktails and dinners over the summer. I’m 100% growing more herbs next summer. Herbs and tomatoes. That’s it. Except maybe some carrots at the beginning and end of the season. (Clearly I need to ponder on this all winter.)

morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowers morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowers morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowersOn the balcony, I was able to save lots of seeds from my various morning glories so I’m excited to plant those next spring. Sometimes I feel like such a dummy about seed saving. It never occurred to me to save them from my morning glories until my dad mentioned how easy it is. Hopefully these flowers will be making a comeback next summer! Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

I got this book at the library this fall and I am looking forward to experimenting with micro-greens this winter (probably after Christmas when the doldrums of winter set in.) I promised myself I’d get through the holidays before making a mess of the kitchen with more plants. (The kitchen window is the only place safe from Presley’s teeth.)

Do you have any winter gardening plans?

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The Eclipse…

Kimberly and Naoto, eclipse 2017, Makanda, IL It’s hard to believe that our whirlwind eclipse trip was over a week ago. The day was hot, exhausting, emotional, stressful, worrying…but in the end, it was so worth it. I didn’t realize how much I needed a break from being at home stressing about politics and world events until Naoto and I were out on the open road driving to see one of the most beautiful sites in the sky.

I should explain that I was the only willing participant in this trip. Naoto was totally not into it. He didn’t want to take off work or make the very long drive. I had to talk him into it. I was prepared to go alone, but I convinced him that it would be a fun adventure. At the moment of full totality, he told me it was worth it.

On Sunday we drove down to my parents house in central Illinois in hopes that we could get a jump start on the Chicago drivers Monday morning. That part of the plan worked like a charm. We left at 3AM and made it down to southern Illinois around 8:30. We didn’t have a solid plan. I just wanted to be in the path of totality. I didn’t care if we were standing on the side of the road. I just wanted to be there.

cars parked to see the eclipse, 2017 path of totality, Makanda, ILBut we made it down to Makanda (rhymes with Miranda,) Illinois, which had been hyped in newspapers as the place to see the eclipse. They were doing the postmarks and had a little town celebration for the eclipse, so we decided to pay the $20 to park our car in a field along the side of the road. (The field is pictured above.)  There really wasn’t another option in Makanda. I had immediate second thoughts, but it ended up working out perfectly for us, so I’m so glad we stayed. Makanda, IL, path of totalityMakanda is a small town of 350ish people. They have a cute post office, a few shops, and…fields. I didn’t get a good picture of the shops, but they all had a hippie vibe to them. Actually, the whole town had a hippie vibe. A lot of the guys walking around reminded me of Willie Nelson. (This may explain the fact that someone came around offering people some marijuana before the eclipse!) Everyone was chill and welcoming. Makanda, IL Makanda, IL One of the shops had a backyard “sculpture garden” that was fun to walk through. We climbed stairs and walked through doorways all in the name of shade. Oh, have I not mentioned it was almost 100 degrees? Kimberly and Naoto, Makanda, IL, eclipse path of totality We packed water and snacks and forgot sunscreen. This is us in the garden around 10:30AM. We were still fresh then. By the time the eclipse started, we were melting. I spent part of the morning writing out postcards, but the heat was making me delirious, so I didn’t get as many done as I’d hoped. We went back to the car a couple of times to turn on the AC and get out of the sun, but we have an old car so I was worried about something overheating before the drive home. We had a little snack, but it was so hot, neither of us felt like eating much.  Makanda, IL, Path of totality, eclipse 2017Finally, it was time for the eclipse to begin! We got out of the car and got our glasses ready and made friends with our field neighbors. There were tons of people from Chicago! We parked next to a family from Naperville.  There were three single guys, one from Downers Grove, one from Pittsburgh!!!, and one from the Champaign area. And there was another couple from Arlington Heights. CW, the guy from Champaign, had the eclipse app so he helped us all stay on track with what to see during the whole experience. We were all stressed about the clouds, which kept blowing through and even covered the sun for a few moments as the moon was crossing over. But thankfully…it all worked out and we had clear skies after that. eclipse watching, path of totality, Makanda, ILeclipse watching, path of totality, Makanda, ILSo sweaty…by the time we reached 70% coverage, all of the men were shirtless. Except Naoto. (Remember, I forgot sunscreen.) eclipse 2017, path of totality, Makanda IL, light changes eclipse 2017, path of totality, Makanda IL, light changes 2It’s so hard to see in my pictures, but the two shots above show the light changing as we went into full totality. The top picture is at the start of the eclipse, and the bottom picture is a few minutes before totality. eclipse 2017, path of totality, Makanda IL, light changes eclipse 2017, path of totality, Makanda IL, light changesThe changes were really subtle at first, but as the moon covered the sun, the darkness became really sharp. Even the street lights came on by the time we reached totality. And, like a gift from the heavens, the temperature dropped!

The guy from Pittsburgh had a playlist and we listened to Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” during totality. It was a party atmosphere as we all high fived and just said, “Can you believe this?” to one another as we looked at the sky. Kimberly, during totality, eclipse 2017Here I am, during totality. You guys…it was magic. I kind of rolled my eyes on the drive down when someone on NPR said a total eclipse was life-changing. But he was right. It was. I didn’t try to get a picture because I knew it would never compete with the real deal. I just tried to focus on soaking it all in. We all had our glasses off for the quick moment the moon completely moved over the sun. (Our eyes are okay, don’t worry!)  The corona was brilliant, blazing white, glowing behind the moon. It sparkled.  And the sky…it was a deep, dark blue, not black like you see in the pictures. The sky was darkest above, and there was some light left around the horizons. The sun and moon felt so close, right above us in the sky. We were able to see Venus and Jupiter, but not Mars and Mercury. It was the shortest two and a half minutes of my life. I know it’s a cheesy cliché but, I just wanted to bask in the moment forever. I know some of the most beautiful things in life are fleeting, but I just wanted to look a little bit longer. I’m so thankful I had the chance to see it, even if it’s just once in my lifetime.

We left soon after totality. Naoto had to work early on Tuesday morning and we were sort of exhausted and anxious for the long drive home. We headed back to my parents’ house (again so we didn’t have to fight traffic all the way back to Chicago.) The trip back to my parents was long and tedious. We hardly hit any traffic on the way down, but going back up was stop and go the whole way. Our GPS sent us on an “alternative path” to “save twenty minutes” but we ended up in these weird country road traffic jams because everyone else was getting the same routes! So basically every time there was a stop sign on a country road, there would be a long line of cars waiting to go through. It took us almost twice as long to make it back and we decided to stay the night and drive home in the morning.

By the time we got home Tuesday morning, we’d driven more than 800 miles in 1.5 days and I had a sunburn all over, even in places my shirt had covered! So Tuesday was all about napping and recovery for me. (Naoto was able to sleep in the car.) In spite of the driving exhaustion, we are both so grateful for the experience.

Heck, I’m already plotting 2024 when the eclipse will come to Makanda again!

P.S. Chicago’s own weatherman, Tom Skilling had such a great reaction to the eclipse…I feel ya, Tom!

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Gnome-Body Paints Like We Do

naoto and his gnome, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenLast weekend, Naoto and I went to a local Forest Park spot, Creativita, to paint garden gnomes with our Forest Park Community Garden friends. When I was little, I would often go to a little shop in my hometown to paint ceramics. I painted flocks of geese and ducks, spoon rests and teabag holders for my mom. I painted a cow for myself…I still have him on my dresser. So I knew I was excited to paint a garden gnome, but I didn’t think Naoto would be. To my surprise, on Saturday afternoon he told me he was really looking forward to painting. As you can tell from the picture above, he was verrrry serious about his gnome. He was also full of gnome puns. “I don’t gnome-ally do this, but it’s fun.” “Gnome one told me it would be this difficult.”

Our group sat at a table together and we all brought wine and snacks to share. It was so much fun choosing colors, deciding on designs, and laughing at our own painting skills (or -ahem- lack thereof.)
norm the gnome 1, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenNaoto painted “Norm the Gnome” and I painted “Norma the Gnome.” We decided to make them kind of coordinate so they could live in the big pot on our balcony together. norma the gnome 2, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenI went the traditional route, mostly because I love blue and red. I didn’t paint her face because I was afraid to screw it up with too much detail. norm the gnome 2, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenNaoto gave Norm a blueish green outfit and painted his eyes black. finished gnomes, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenWe went back yesterday to pick up our gnomes. I think they turned out pretty well! I just love Norm’s white beard! And I admit Norm’s black eyes look better than my faceless Norma. In spite of her lack of lips and eyelashes, I think they make a cute pair for our balcony garden.

There are tons of things to paint at Creativita and I’m looking forward to going back and painting again. They have a really cute cat dish that would be perfect for Presley. And maybe I can add to my mom’s ceramic collection. (Just kidding, Mom!)

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Plot 6…Good Lord What Was I Thinking?

plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park grows, community gardeningThe kabocha has taken over the plot. I’ve tried to control the growth but it’s impossible. It’s taking over half of the plot now. Every time I go to the garden, I have to rescue a few tomatoes from it’s strangling tendrils. I’ve tried to bring the long arms back around to the south side of the plot and to weave them in and out of the fences I bought (too late in the growing season to be very effective.) Ooof. kabocha plant, plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park grows, community gardeningSo far, there are at least a dozen tiny kabocha and this one that’s grown really quickly at the base of the plant. Hopefully there will be a bumper kabocha crop this year…and a bumper tomato crop in spite of the encroachment. I have quite a few green tomatoes on the vines, but nothing red yet. And I’ve had to transplant my precious Juliet twice because of the kabocha. Every year we try a little experiment in the garden and this is the first time I’ve really felt like it’s not working. Sigh…it’ll all be okay. I hope. garlic harvest, plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park grows, community gardeningIn happier news, I’ve been harvesting basil, rosemary, parsley, and lavender like an herbalist. And I picked our garlic this week–aren’t the purple ones great? I’m looking forward to trying them and sharing a bulb with my dad.

That’s the Plot #6 update for this week…how’s your garden coming along?

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Cocktail Perfected: The Rosemary Gimlet

rosemary gimlet, Hasegawa Happy Hour, cocktail hour, summer cocktailsWe don’t have any ripe tomatoes in Plot 6 yet but our herbs are flourishing like crazy. So far, I’ve made Greek orzo salad with our parsley, a round of pesto with our basil, and a cocktail with the rosemary.

I haven’t made a classic gimlet in a long time, and I thought rosemary would be a nice addition and what do you know? Someone‘s already done it! I love the balance of herbal and tart with a hint sweetness (though mostly herbal.) Rosemary used to remind me of fall, Thanksgiving turkey, roasted potatoes…but in a cocktail, it’s very fresh and summery.

Rosemary Simple Syrup

Make this ahead of time so you have time to chill it before making the cocktails.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

~2 Tablespoons of rosemary, roughly chopped (Or for a lighter rosemary flavor, just add 2-3 stalks of whole rosemary into the sugar/water mixture.)

Add ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and let sit until cool. Strain into a jar and refrigerate. This makes enough for 4+ cocktails.

The Rosemary Gimlet 

2 oz gin

3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

3/4 oz rosemary simple syrup

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until very chilled and pour into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary. Enjoy on the lanai on a hot summer night!

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Plot 6 in 2017 

forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkWe’re back in the garden again!

I’m a little late in my gardening season posts…a little behind on posting in general. But here’s what is going on in Plot 6 so far this season:forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkLast year when we closed the garden, a woman who lives in the neighborhood gave a bunch of us garlic from her garden. I’ve never planted garlic before so I was excited to plant a few bulbs and even more delighted to be welcomed this spring with several garlic plants! It’s always fun to come back to something growing instead of just plain dirt, right? And unlike my chive and walking onions, they aren’t taking up too much space…that chive plant gets bigger and bigger every year. forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkUgh, and I really like the walking onions because they are tasty and grow into crazy alien-like beasts, but man…they are shading a whole corner of my plot! forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest park forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest park, lavender plantSo far we’ve planted a few herbs (lavender and rosemary from seedlings and thyme and basil from seed,) edamame, beets, daikon, kabocha, kale, and four types of tomatoes: Brandywine, Rutgers, Better Boy, and Green Zebra. I have at least two more tomatoes on my wishlist…which just goes to show I haven’t learned from my tomato jungle disasters of the past. #YOLO forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkHere’s the plot so far. It’s in its neat and tidy stage before things start growing out of control and the rabbits eat the tops of my edamame again. The joys of gardening!

 

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Hasegawa Tanabata 2016

Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations dayLast month, we had a few friends over to celebrate Tanabata, a Japanese festival celebrated on July 7th. (We held our party the weekend after.) The celebration revolves around an old Chinese legend.

Orihime, daughter of Tentei (the Sky King,) had a lover, Hikoboshi, who lived on the other side of the Amanogawa (the Milky Way.) Orihime and Hikoboshi were both hardworking gods. She was a weaver and he was a cow herder. But once they got married, they became lazy which upset the Sky King so he separated them with the Amanogawa. Orihime was so devastated that her father promised her she could be reunited with Hikoboshi, but only on the seventh day of the seventh month and only if she and Hikoboshi worked very hard. But because the lovers were separated by the river, magpies had to build a bridge so they could meet. Tanabata is the celebration of the lovers crossing the Milky Way to meet each other again.

Tanabata festivals are held all over Japan, sometimes on July 7th and sometimes in August (for those keeping with an older calendar system.) Modern day festivals include fireworks and bright, colorful decorations. (I love these pictures! #decorationgoals) Festival-goers also write wishes on pretty paper strips and tie them to bamboo branches in hopes their wishes will come true. Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami prepI wasn’t planning to celebrate Tanabata, but once I read more about it, I couldn’t wait to have an excuse to invite a couple of friends over for a little mid-summer celebration. I did some research and found a few easy decorations to make. I spent a morning folding a few traditional Tanabata ornaments to hang on the lanai. Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami fan Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami bamboo leavesI folded fans and lanterns and made a trail of bamboo leaves (the green one…please excuse my imperfect folds!) and cut a little blue net (which is so simple but turns out so neat looking!)Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations nightI also used this printable and cut strips so we could each write down our wishes. I tied the strips to my basil plant, the most bamboo-like plant on the lanai.
Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, somenI made a yuzu cocktail and Naoto made edamame and somenHasegawa Tanabata 2016, Naoto eating somen(Naoto was the only one who ate his noodles with a fork.) Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami prepAnd Presley even got into the action, tearing up one of the decorations and chasing it around the apartment all day. (How could I be mad with that sweet, innocent face looking up at me?)

I’m already thinking of Hasegawa Tanabata 2017. I have a Tanabata Pinterest board going so I can keep all of the origami instructions and ideas together until next year. I think I may need to start folding now, right?

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Plot #6 for 2016 

plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community gardenIn between jet lag naps and unwrapping all of my stationery from Japan, I started our garden for the summer! I planted almost everything mid-May and then added a couple of things last week. So far, so good, but I really do need to cut back my chive plant before it takes over! plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community garden, Juliet tomatoI clearly didn’t learn my tomato jungle lesson from last year…I planted six tomato plants! I just kept seeing new varieties I wanted to try! I planted both pink and red Brandywines, a Juliet, a Golden Girl, a Cherokee Purple, and a Mr. Stripey. The Juliet already has a couple of tomatoes growing! plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community garden, Brandwine tomato, sweet banana pepper, rosemaryIn between the tomatoes, I planted peas, lima beans, edamame, bush beans, Japanese scallions, lettuce, parsley, thyme, and basil all from seed. And then on impulse, I added a rosemary plant and a sweet banana pepper plant. I wanted to try a couple of cutting flowers from seed, but I haven’t gotten my act together, so those might have to wait until next year. As it is, things are looking pretty full. All of the seeds are coming up and it really is just a matter of time before the tomatoes are taking over.

I love this time of year when everything is all tidy in its place. (At least in the garden it is…my apartment is a whole different story!)

How is your garden growing?

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Swapping Seeds 2016

seed swap, Forest Park Community Garden Seed SwapOn Sunday, I spent the afternoon with fellow gardeners at the Forest Park Community Garden Seed Swap. It was my second seed swap and I think I walked away with some fun options for Plot 6 this spring.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our garden plot and trying to convince myself to be a better planner and to not allow things to get jungle-y this year…but let’s face it…if I can’t stop myself from wanting to plant everything, what hope do I have?

I decided to plant some lettuces on the balcony this summer to see how they do. The past couple of summers, I’ve missed out on some of our planted lettuces because the bunnies “harvested” it before I did. Having the lettuces on the balcony will solve that problem. (Though I do have a rogue squirrel visitor on the balcony now…) I picked out some Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce (not pictured because it didn’t come in a beautiful envelope), Komatsuna, and some Wasabi Arugula at the swap.

I also grabbed some thyme and oregano, which will probably get planted in both balcony pots and in our garden plot. And, since I’m a glutton for punishment, I grabbed some golden beets, which are so delicious and impossible for me to grow…Sigh…

In the flower department, I picked out some nasturtiums since they are supposedly easy to grow and I love the bright orange-red. And, because I love a good climber, I decided to try the Passion Flower climbers, mostly because they looked so interesting! Mike Nowak, Forest Park Community Garden Seed SwapIn addition to swapping seeds, we listened as Mike Nowak presented about his own backyard garden and about the community garden he and his Logan Square neighbors built together in an empty lot formerly known as a drug dealing corner. Not only did they rid their neighborhood of drug deals, but he also met his neighbors and introduced gardening to kids nearby. It was a really great speech that made me think of the kind of impact a community garden can have.

It was a great way to spend a rainy Sunday. It’s been a warm spring, so I’m hopeful that gardening is just around the corner!

P.S. I posted the giveaway winner yesterday!

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Plot #6: The End of the Season

plot 6, Forest Park Community Garden, Naoto picking parsleyOn Saturday, we spent the morning clearing out our little garden plot for the season. We pulled out all of the tomato plants, the sad, underdeveloped loofah (sniff, sniff), and a few last herbs. I was at the garden a couple of weeks ago and I thought I’d harvested the end of the parsley (pictured above with Naoto), but it turns out, there was a ton left. We gave some away to our fellow community gardeners and ended up bringing home another half-pound of our own. forest park community garden, pumpkin patch, green pumpkinThere was one last pumpkin in the pumpkin patch. Laura had left it there longer to see if it would turn orange, but it never did. I was charmed by its coloring so I got to bring it home. It’s on the lanai now, but I’m going to bring it in for the Thanksgiving table in a couple of weeks. walking onions, planting in the fall We added a little bit of fresh compost to our plot and then I planted a few walking onions from Laura’s plot. I’m already looking forward to that harvest in the spring!

As I mentioned way back in this post, I have been weighing my harvests all summer. I totaled up all of the records that have been sitting on the corner of my desk and I was quite surprised. We picked over 38 pounds of produce from our plot this summer! Not bad, right? And we didn’t even make the most of our plot by planting fall crops or using the space the best possible way. (One of these years, we are going to learn how to stop the tomato takeover! But I guess there are worse problems than loads of tomatoes, right?!)

So that’s the end of Plot #6 for 2015. I still have some work to do on the lanai before I can put my gardening gloves away for the season and dream of the Seed Swap coming up again next March!

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