The Gift That Keeps On Giving – Aloe Vera

Since just after Christmas last year I’ve been sick – fever, aches, coughing, days off, the works!  And unlike any cold/flu/cough I’ve ever had, it will go away for a week or two and  then come back.  There are four of us that share an office at my company and three of us are sick this weekend – I think I might be the one who’s been hit the least this time around, but I’ve been hit three times to their two outbreaks.  It’s just cycling around.  Worse, almost all of my friends and family here in Vienna have also contracted this crazy virus that is resistant to EVERYTHING!  It’s all anyone talks about.

My husband is taking care of me and his Oma (granny – grandmother) here in Vienna, while my wonderful Schwäger (brother-in-law) tends to his wife a bit further out.  Hub’s is pumping us full of Thyme-based products from the Apotheke which has really helped in the last two days.  Believe it or not, despite how simple it is to get medical care here and how understanding the professionals are in taking rest, I simply don’t want to take off anymore time.  I want my life back – to accomplish things, meet up with friends (without infecting them), and just feel good in my own body (sneezing/coughing is torture because I’ve bruised the muscles in my ribs from all the coughing).

I don’t know how it happened (but I’m glad it did), but all of a sudden, I was inspired.  I’d always (even as a child) consumed Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis*) for it’s immune system strengtheing properties; when did I stop?!  No idea.  I think over the summer as I wanted the plants to gain their own strength from over-harvesting the winter before.

Well, those plants have done so well with being outside in the sun, fresh air, receiving a bit of fertilizer (my friends back home think I’ve lost my mind for that), and so on; that they’ve put out ‘pups’ or baby plants in late summer.  I let them be simply because I didn’t know what to do.  Honestly, I was dismayed.  “Now what, how do I deal with this mess?!” I handled it by not harvesting from the mother plant so she could feed her clones.

It’s now late winter; spring is showing signs of coming back and everyone’s talking about their gardening plans (in between complaining about our sicknesses, lol).  I received a multitude of seeds and gift certificates to an heirloom gardening store for my birthday and have also begun planning.  It’s also time to resolve the aloe issue that’s been looming.

So, I harvested leaves for the plants’ health (sometimes, the older leaves just need to be removed – to prevent disease, encourage new growth, etc), to resolve deformation/over-crowding of the pups as they continue to grow, and to get the plants ready for the spring.

The plan is to remove them from their pots, remove, pot, and gift the pups to others, repot the mother plants in fresh soil and most importantly, to use this wonderful gift that’s been silently waiting for me to take notice of it.

I’ll keep you posted as the season develops.  Hope you’re all healthy and happy; and thanks for checking in on me from time to time.

*There are many different types of aloe plants but to my knowledge, only Aloe Barbadensis is safe to consume.  I am not a medical doctor; please consult a doctor for safety and further information.

Here’s a pictorial of where we are so far:

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Planning Your Great Odyssey

A very good friend confessed that living in France has always been a lifelong dream. She reckoned it should be a simple affair to buy a home and work remotely from this exotic locale given the many travel shows about the topic.  It seems that my move to Austria further prompted her on this specific bucket-list notion and she’s seeking to enlist her hubby in the venture.  As we conversed, suspicions that her admirable dream may not have legs to stand on began to pop up.  In no way am I purporting to be an expert on settling in a foreign country, as you probably can tell by now, I’m more bravado and bluster than anything.  These are just a few things to consider as there’s a lot that television never shows.

The first suggestion when deciding to move to a foreign country would be to visit the embassy website/office of the country within which you wish to reside.  One can request clear and current information on their policies on migration.  As you might recall from a previous post, even embassies of developed and industrialized countries may have outdated information. 2012 saw the modification of Austria’s residency application process – a basic German language certificate from a recognized institute is now a requirement for the application process.  Previously, one was contracted to achieve a specified level of proficiency within two years of arrival.

Another suggestion would be to realistically review your current financial status, job/income options, the foreign exchange between the country of choice and your homeland, and the tax laws you would be subject to.  Austria’s residency application process requires the declaration of one’s financial value (bank statement), education level, work history and an indication of how one would support one’s self.  This might seem to be overkill, but consider:  It takes time to settle into a new country; how will you support yourself while seeking employment or starting a business?  Will you be allowed to work immediately upon arrival? How will you fund housing and the necessary ammenities – i.e. internet, phone, electricity/heating, food, clothing, transportation, language classes, renewal of residence permit, etc?

One thing I discovered upon moving to Austria is that not all degrees or professional certifications are created equal.  A legislature lawyer conducting a professional seminar I attended, stated that the only currently accepted degrees and certificates in Austria were those received from England, The United States, or certain EU member countries.  An Indian friend of mine who was a respected, University-lecturing dentist with a thriving practice found upon coming to Austria that she would have to attend a dental school in Austria for two years and retake her tests in order to be able to practice here.  An American friend who has a BA in Nursing and 5 years ER experience was required to study an additional 2 years here and retake her tests in order to return to her profession.  My Marketing degree from The Bahamas was accepted (thank God!) as was another friend’s Canadian Architecture degree; nonetheless, I needed to learn more German than all of them given the communications demands of my profession.

On the bright side, perhaps starting over can be a silver lining – perhaps you intend to start that business you’ve always dreamed about!  Why not; new land, new opportunities, new you!  Review the import/export legislation, policies governing foreign investment, even zoning (in some neighborhoods, a home business is not allowed), necessary supporting infrastructure (I couldn’t believe it took almost a month for my internet to be installed; especially in a G20 member country!), etc in your intended country.  Once I had internet, I learned that ‘unlimited’ connection here slows down considerably after a certain amount of gegabytes have been consumed.  Working remotely requires consistent, dependable internet and phone access; conference call participants are only so patient.

Also, what are the requirements to rent/buy real estate in your new country?  Descriptions can be completely different than what you’re used to:  Back home,  a house described as 4-rooms outlines the amount of bedrooms available; in Austria, those four rooms are inclusive of the kitchen, bath, and living room. So technically, its a 1-bedroom house. Another thing that baffled me here is that with some offers are zero-land; meaning you buy the house but lease the land upon which it stands.

Further consideration to running a business would be labor.  Customers and most employees will speak the language of the country, do you?  How would you instruct your employees and communicate with your customers and business partners?  What about taxes?  Most of the entreprenuers that I know here state that the worst part of running their business are the incredibly prohibitive taxes.  There are also licenses to be won from various government offices and they can severly limit how you conduct your business.  Example, You might opt to open a small restaurant, but due to size, location, layout & infrastructure, etc, you are not allowed to serve alcohol or are only allowed to operate a take-out instead of a sit-down and so on. What about credit cards or phone contracts?  Credit here is limited to a fixed amount based on your monthly income.  This probably means dipping heavily into savings to get up and running.  Phone contracts can only be entered into if you have employment.  Yes, there is the option of a prepaid but my western friends complain endlessly about them for a sundry of reasons.

Don’t reinvent the wheel when planning your great odyssey, review expatriate sites for your chosen country.  There is a wealth of shared practical information provided by others who’ve done what you intend to.  They can fill you in on most of the hidden details of code and culture and possibly save you a ton of headache and despair.  Need to know which schools are best for your kids, which neighborhoods are safe yet affordable, how quickly you can obtain electricity to your new digs, what the natives are really like, does your cultural community exist there, where to find specific food items, the virtues or failures of public transportation, can you freely practice your religion, how to find the nearest hospital, which local pub is the best, and even where to find a job among so many other questions that will pop up.  Some of them hold outdated information, but there’s still value in them and if you join the forums, you can get current information and even friendly advice; you might even make your new friends amongst those that answer your questions – I did!

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“Keep on Swimming…”

Man, it’s been almost 3 months since I’ve written anything!  This summer, it seemed like everyday something new was happening and it took full concentration just to acclimmate and keep my head.  In short, I left my job, visited a new land, started a new job, started a new course, and cleaned up my social circle.

Last year October, I started working in retail because I was raring to get back to work.  Retail seemed like fun (apparently retail in The Bahamas – my only dose of experience – is a completely different beast); I’d meet people, make new friends, earn a little money, and most importantly, further develop my German.  Managing to be accepted by one of the largest retail firms in Austria was deceptively easy – one quick interview and I had a job.  Lucky for me, I was put in the men’s department (trust, the women’s department is the WORST!) and unbeknownst at the time, my coworkers in this department were the best thing that could’ve happened to me.  They showed me the ropes, taught me the merchandise (I can spot a bad suit a mile away now), helped me with my German, and protected me.  “From what?”, you’re asking.  Smiling wryly, “From customers”, I’ll answer as flashbacks dance before my mind’s eye.

It is becoming more commonplace to see people like me in the workplace in Austria but it’s still visually like rum raisin icecream and some folks (not all) react ….well, differently.  Still, I was employed and I applied myself because this job was the introduction I needed to acheive my end goal.  You see, Austria is an interesting country; employers need the reassurance of another employer that an employee is employable – confusing?  Not really, fact is, no one knows me or my skill sets here.  Although the language courses are government operated, an C2 German level means nothing to the general populace or an HR manager; as in most government programs that affects the population, they failed to close-the-loop.  Granted, very few migrants ever continue on to C2, most stop at B1 (see, this means nothing to you, imagine a hiring officer!). So, now you understand fully why I started in retail.  It got me that intro I needed for my resume, it polished my understanding and use of the language (anyone who’s ever used any highschool foreign language in the country of origin knows what I’m talking about), and it boosted the confidence of other hiring managers.

By mid-summer I began to go crazy.  Bored to tears, standing in an un-conditioned store, clocking my life away, and receiving endless amounts of rejection letters sent me spiraling into depression.  I will admit, patience is not my virtue.  This works well for me in project management – I roll up my sleeves and get things done under budget and on time.  When I’m not in control however, patience is a trial by sword.  A coworker at the store swooped in to the rescue, she told me about a government agency that helps women update their skills and get better jobs.  I visited this agency and got an advisor.  He looked at my resume and told me that my first problem was that I’d failed to put my education title on it.  I was shocked, not one of my Austrian ‘friends’, that have ‘helped’ me with my resume updates and ‘supported’ me through my search had ever told me, “you have a title, you need to use it”!  Turns out, for the level of jobs I was applying for (for which I am well-qualified), one must have a degree (title) and it must be prominently displayed everywhere my name is placed; otherwise, HR managers just don’t bother themselves to read through and see the copy of the degree and apply logic and so on.  K.I.S.S. people!  He also pointed out a few other things that I’d been erroneously doing and then shipped me off to the University for further assistance (turns out, I was over-qualified for his agency to assist me).

A few weeks went by, while interviewing intermittently, I spent a lot of time thinking about the value of friendships, re-evaluating my life and goals, and making decisions.  I went from being depressed to being white-hot and deeply angry.  The term “Schadenfreude” (to experience joy at other’s pain) took on meaning for me despite not having an English translation.  Can you imagine that the closest English equivalent to “Schadenfreude” is Sadism?!   I began to remove ‘leeches’ from me one by one.  The last vestiges of ‘sweet island girl’ were laid aside and my anger dissapated as I freed myself from these destructive people.  Interestingly enough, the very folks that I disassociated myself from where the very folks that I’d previously had to basically bribe my husband to associate with.

IMG_3634Mid-August arrives, last day at work arrives and my husband surprises me with tickets to Greece!  Now, in my previous life (NYC), we’d travelled quite a bit and upon arriving to Austria our energies (not to mention, all our savings) were diverted to settling in and rebuilding our lives.  I’d accompany him on business trips to neighboring countries and it was great to experience but….that’s not a vacation.  Three long years and my husband hadn’t taken a vacation – poor thing.  So, off we went to Rhodes for two weeks of sun, beach bars, and incredible seafood.  It was wonderful but there’s twist in my story.

Two weeks before we left for our vacation, I get a call from a company that had already sent me a rejection letter months ago asking if I would interview.  Shocked, curious, and resourceful, I agreed.  The discussion was friendly, we spoke in both German and English and before I walked out, I knew I would get another call.  I did, two days later – this time to speak with the VP.  I prepared like heck, this was it!  I thought back to any questions that hadn’t fully been answered in the last meeting, and prepared a presentation to that theme.  The VP tried to unsettle me by telling me my German was shit (she literally said that, lol), to which I smilingly replied in German, “As I arrived here three years ago, the only word I knew was ‘Hello’.  It takes time to learn a new language but I think I’ll get there.”  She then pulled a few other tricks out of her bag but I kept on hitting homeruns. Finally, as she sat back and considered me, I turned to the Director that had initially interviewed me and reminded her of the unanswered question and presented my prepared Powerpoint.  The VP gave a belly laugh and left to attend something; the Director turned to me and gave me a thumbs-up.  I sat back and waited.  Upon returning, the VP and Director discussed me and a new department they needed.  Two days later, I got the job and happily went off to spend a few moments with my husband on a sandy beach.

I’ve been at the company for 3 months now and love my job.  My life has switched back into the high-tempo pace I’m used to – things to do, people to see, places to be.  My final personally-financed course – “Deutch ins Büro” (Office German) is a huge disappointment that I will not get into, but suffice it to say, I’ve learned more useful German at work than in this course.

As I celebrated my new job with the family, Oma bursting with pride said, “I always told you, you would succeed, didn’t I? Didn’t I?”  Squeezing her tight, I replied, “Yes you did Oma, you were always in my corner!”  while encompassing the entire family in my gratitude.

It’s mid-November now, my life is still high-tempo yet simplified and incredibly satisfying.  I’ve reached the one of the goals set three years ago – to step back into my career.  The requirement to utilise both languages daily, has prompted an incredible jump in my German skills, so I’m well on the way to accomplishing my last goal set three years back.  I’m feeling the need to once again re-evaluate and set new goals.  There are a few shadows floating in the back of my mind but I’m not quite ready to examine and organise them just yet.  After such an exciting summer, time to enjoy the moment is required, to fully process what has happened and ensure that my reactions are in line with ensuring the positive development of my current situations.

The one thing I’ve taken from the past months is not to be a bystander in my life.  Opportunity will knock but one has to open the door.

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Summer Has Left Austria

A month ago, I said goodbye to the last of the spring harvest and looked forward to enjoying our summer fruit.  With the erroneous concept that the garden was self-sufficient, Hubs and I took off for a week on our first real vacation since I arrived in Austria.  What we discovered upon return was fascinating.

Some things flourished, came to fruition, and began to out-compete their neighbors for resources.

Some found the fight a bit too hard, while others ‘caught their second wind’ as we faced an invasion from the neighbors – amazing what obstacles plants will overcome to get what they need, isn’t it?!

But let’s not forget the most important part – the harvest & tasting!  While I delight in observing the plants’ interaction and reaction with their environment, Hubs is focused on the ROI – how big, how much, how tasty!

In the weeks since our return, there’ve been additional harvests and growth but the most worrying variable has been the weather.  Austria summer is unpredictable, for lack of a better word.  The sweet pepper plant was laden with young fruit and blossoms – all but four of which were lost to a cold snap.  The hibiscus showed its displeasure via yellowing and falling leaves.  I have no idea if the sweet potatoes will have a decent harvest this year, despite a much bigger and deeper pot.  One just never knows and currently, we’ve got decidly Fall temps at the moment.  However, rather than worrying about what can not be changed or influenced, we’re enjoying ‘the here and now’ and considering what (and when) we’ll put in our Fall plants.

Here’s how the garden looks now and a bit of what we’ve been enjoying.

 

 

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Squeezing the Last out of Spring Harvest and a Warm Chard Salad

About a week ago, I told you about The Weird Gap Between Spring and Summer Harvests, when temperatures rise, lettuces and other spring offerings start to wane and taste weird, and the summer items are getting ready to come into their own.  What I didn’t really do was mention anything about how to squeeze the last out of your spring harvest.

However, a fellow gardening blogger out in Long Island, NY recently experienced and wrote about this sad and frustrating aspects of gardening in  Why is my salad so awful? | bunchofcilantro.  So I’ll just point you in his direction for a detailed how-to on late spring lettuce resurrection.

In other news, Hubs and I (mostly me, lol) enjoyed the taste of our Swiss Chard so much that we wanted more.  However, since patience is a virtue I am working on, I settled for regular Chard (known as ‘Mangold’ in Austria) from the foodstore.  In my opinion, it’s not as pretty as the Rainbow Chard and, since I’ve always believed that more color diversity equals more mineral diversity, I don’t know if it’s as nutritious as my favorite – although any greens are bound to be full of iron and other trace minerals.

The most dramatic flowers I've ever met!  They're supposed to be able to handle full sun and hot, dry weather; two hours ago, they were freshly watered and proudly standing.

The most dramatic flowers I’ve ever met! They’re supposed to be able to handle full sun and hot, dry weather; two hours ago, they were freshly watered and proudly standing.

This batch of Chard had bigger, longer, older leaves than mine were, so I opted to make a warm salad with them.  I know; what was I thinking?!  Even my flowers were protesting the summer heat, but in my giddiness, I bought them before really thinking the process through, so suffer through the heat I must!  Although it was really delicious – even Hubs agrees – I’ll be saving this recipe for Fall when the cooler temps will make working in a hot kitchen more enjoyable.  Hopefully, our highbed residents (the bug life) will leave us enough leaves to harvest for salads that don’t require cooking.  Just to be on the safe side, I popped a few more seeds in.  I don’t know if they’ll germinate and grow but here’s hoping!

Warm Chard Salad with Tomato Herb Viniagrette

2 bunches of Chard, 1 Corn on the Cob, 1 large Sweet Pepper, 1 large Zucchini, 4 small Carrots, Tomato Herb Viniagrette, Olive Oil, Salt, Black Pepper

Make the viniagrette (recipe to follow) and wash all the veggies.  Trim the ends of the chard stalks and set them in fresh cold water to dry and hydrate.  Slice the zucchini at about a quarter inch thick and the sweet pepper in half.  Slather the zucchini, sweet pepper, and corn in oil and salt.  Roast/grill veggies until soft and set to cool.  Do not burn or they will be bitter.

Strip chard of leaves and tear leaves to roughly about the size of your palm.  (Stems can be chopped and also used but I opted to discard them in this dish.) Loosely place in a pan with half of the viniagrette.  Do not pack into the pan, left-over chard can be added later.  Toss chard with viniagrette, cover and allow to wilt under medium heat.  Toss occassionally to ensure all chard is wilted – left-over chard can be added as space allows.  Add extra olive oil, if needed.  Once chard has wilted, remove from heat but keep covered.  Roughly chop grilled veggies, shred carrots, and remove corn from cob.  Add to warm chard and toss with remainder of viniagrette.  Add extra salt and black pepper, if needed.

Tomato Herb Viniagrette

Mince two handfuls of Cherry Tomatoes, two cloves of Garlic, and a small Onion and place in a jar with lid.  Add your favorite Herbs, Honey, pinch of Salt, Black Pepper, Hot Pepper, and Mustard to the jar.  Add in Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil in a 1:2 part ratio to the jar.  Cover and shake well.  The longer this viniagrette sits, the better it gets.

Mal Zeit!

 

 

 

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The Weird Gap between Spring & Summer Harvests

We’ve hit mid-July and the garden is still alive.  There’ve been no major setbacks – outside of the Okra, which I believe are stunted due to poor placement on my behalf and unstable weather.  There hasn’t been any harvesting of the summer crops yet but what the spring crops we have harvested have been delicious.

Someone got to enjoy them before we did!

Someone got to enjoy them before we did!

Radishes have done fairly well and only two were lost to slug attack.  During a two-day period of rain, I removed the pot from it’s elevated spot in it’s tray and placed it on the ground to allow for better drainage.  Two days later when the sun returned, several ‘adorable’ nibbles were noticeable.  Still, we managed to have enough for snacks and salads.

 

The spinach and romaine lettuces are done as well too.  They started to get really tall, which is a sign that they’re getting ready to produce seeds.  With all the plant’s energy being diverted to seed production, the leaves will start to get bitter and stringy.  So after harvesting the last of the leaves, I cut the stem at ground level, leaving the roots to decompose within the soil (returns nutrients to the soil) and ‘chopped and dropped’ the stems onto the soil.  They will mulch the soil as they rot and return nutrients.  The tomato plant growing in the same pot is very happy for their contribution.

The only leafy green available in our garden now, the Rainbow Chard,  was harvested for the first time this summer.  As I tend to harvest in the morning cool, their intense dark green and maroon leaves veined with yellow, orange, pink, and red provided a unique (and in my opinion, beautiful) bouquet throughout the day.

That evening, to accompany a dinner of steak & pasta, I sauteed the chard – including stems – just as one would spinach.  They kept their color beautifully, adding visual intrigue to the meal, and tasted a bit earthier than spinach.  Like spinach, they shrink down to literally nothing when heat is applied; so next year, I will be planting plenty more.  Thankfully, they are amongst the few leafy veggies that can handle the unstable spring, summer heat, and cooling fall, but will only be able to eat them as salads since we’ve only got two little plants.

I also didn’t post any photos of the harvested peas; mostly because the harvest was pitiful and what was harvested didn’t even make it to the terrace (I ate them).  Next year, will definitely call for more than 9 crowded plants and they will have to be placed on the cooler side of the  highbed.

As for the summer fruiting plants; the tomatoes are laden but green, the Hungarian pepper managed to hold onto the four pods it’d already developed but lost countless smaller buds & flowers in the last chill, the hot pepper is covered with green pods, and the Zucchini is putting out lots of male blossoms but no females as yet.

I’ve already started making notes and plans for next year’s adjustments and ammendments.  Truthfully, it’s too late in the season to add anything and too early for fall/early winter plants, so my future posts will probably be more food-oriented.  There are a couple of interesting/impactful gardening insights I’ve been reading/reviewing and, if I decide to incorporate any of those tips into my garden,  I will share those with you.  Not to worry, you’ve still got to see the harvest(s) as well, so there’ll be lots of pictures (unfortunately) of self-induced disasters and (hopefully, lol) gorgeous eats!

 

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Okras in Cloches

Our garden is filled with what we like to eat – artichoke, radishes, rhubarb, tomatoes, sweet & hot peppers, zucchini, peas, okras, sweet potatoes, greens (spinach, lettuce, chard), and herbs.  Some of those items can be pretty pricy or of questionable quality in the stores.  Last year’s goal was to see if anything would grow; this year, we’re learning from last year’s mistakes as well as determining limitations and options.  Next year, I hope to have the whole system operating like clockwork and be able to eradicate shopping for certain items.

It’s a constant learning process – which challenges my creativity, intelligence, and problem-solving skills.  It’s awesome!  There’s always something new to learn, solve, discover…  Those skills were recently put in play with our okras.

Okras are tropical plants that produce the most delicious pods (some people will say that is a matter of personal taste) that may be prepared in a variety of ways.  I grew up eating them as a child and sought high and low for the seeds here in Austria.  The common garden centers had no idea what I was talking about.  Finally a year later, I found them at an organic garden center about 2 hours drive outside of Vienna.

IMG_3461The little package of seeds (probably about 30 seeds) was super expensive but worth it; especially since I intend to harvest my own seeds from a crop.  Upon purchase, the gardener held onto the package, constantly reiterating that they were tropical crops (Austria’s weather is unpredictable), needed a minimum of 8 hours of sun, and wouldn’t survive a frost.  I assured him that I was aware of their needs and I wouldn’t be back in the fall complaining that the seeds did not produce.  He surveyed me with a look of uncertainty.  Poor guy – I felt compelled to explain that I had a south-facing garden with wind-protection that achieved temps of over 100°F in the summer.  Hearing that, he finally smiled and released the seeds into my care.

Arriving home with my treasure, I planted them and placed them in their little glass house.  They shot up in no time and produced their first real leaves on schedule. Congratulating myself and thankful for the unseasonably warm spring, they were then planted into their spot in the highbed, mulched, and protected from slugs.  Everything was growing well and I started anticipating the harvest.

Two weeks later, we were hit with cool days but they didn’t lose their leaves or turn in color and everything else (also warm crops) were doing very well, so I didn’t worry.  I watched as the tomato plants grew thick, strong, and tall.  The peppers took their time but also established, so I had  no worries about the okra.  My concerns were saved for the zucchini which I realized was set in a difficult spot.  It’s amazing how big plants grow and how competitive they are.  I’ve had to trim the tomatoes to keep them from blocking out the others.

Eventually the weather warmed up again and we got lots of rain.  Again, with the temperature consistency, I was confused as to why everything else was stretching toward the sky, producing blossoms, and then fruit but the okra were struggling.

One night, I pulled out a blanket against the cool nights.  A few days later, I noticed the curling of the tomato leaves and finally it occurred to me that we weren’t sleeping with the windows open anymore.  It hit me like a brick – the poor things were cold!

It explained SOOOO much but what to do?  That’s when the problem-solving and creativity kicked in.  Gardeners use glass cloches to warm plants in the spring and dark ones to blanch others (ie. rhubarb, etc).  Trying to find a cloche might be an unfruitful search at the regular centers – so I made one.

The idea is not my own – I’m sure I must have seen it somewhere before – on a blog, a Youtube video, or some gardening website.  It’s so simple, easy, effective, and best of all – free!

A few recyled, one litre, plastic bottles were all I needed.  Snip off the bottoms, remove the tops and labels, place them over the plants, secure, and finished!  It took all of 5 mins to give my poor okras a warm blanket for the chilly nights.  The plastic cloches will remain on until the plants outgrow them.  They let the sun in during the day,  increase the humidity, and provide cold protection during the night – creating a micro-climate perfect for the plants.

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They’ve been in place since Thursday and already the little plants have started putting out new leaves.  They seem happy now and that makes me very happy!

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Noticing The Small Things

While tending to the few minor needs of the garden this morning, I was forced to stop and admire minute details that often by-pass me during the week.

Things like the intense color of flowers and the unique patterns they utilize to grab attention.

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The determination of the insect world; both those gardens seek to attract or discourage.

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The infinitesimal development and growth that is often overlooked and only appreciated at the end of the journey.

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Their resilience to the environment and whatever life throws at them is astounding, as is their simplicity.

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Everything about them is simply fascinating, inspiring, and impressive.

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Living examples of ‘blooming where they are planted’.

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End of June…

Finally found my camera and made a few shots this afternoon – even if I did get the date wrong.  For more detail (or an enlarged view) click on the photo.

 

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Practically Nothing Left To Do

It’s getting more difficult to maintain any type of consistency here but at least the garden is, to a point, self-sufficient.  A few of my earlier implementations are performing immensely well as time- and energy-saving bonuses.

The mulch was initially set to deter the cats from leaving me ‘gifts’ in the raised bed and I experimented with a few measures before settling on the current covering.  Bark mulch was first as I’d read the scent would drive them away and it was the only one available in the garden stores in April.  Bark mulch only seemed to attract the cats and I later read that it can increase the acidity of the soil; so after more research, I switched to straw mulch, which worked well.  However, adding the mulch early meant that the soil stayed extremely pliable and moist.  The huge amounts of rain and hot sunny periods were not able to compact or bake the top layers allowing the plants to develop strong roots and benefit from nutrients, a temperate environment, and lots of moisture.  Even the worms and other buggies seem to like their home.

Last year, a lot of time was spent watering – sometimes twice a day.  Given that I’m not home this year, an investment in a drip-irrigation system was required.  I’ll be using it tommorrow for the first time this season, but I’m already looking forward to the time and water saved by having it.  I estimate that with the combination of mulch and irrigation, the bed will only require about 10-20% of the water as compared to the previous year.  Less water will be required and more moisture will be held – brilliant!

I’ve also been adding dried, crushed eggshells around the fruiting-plants’ bases and used coffee grinds and mowed grass to the leafy plants.  The eggshells should provide calcium to prevent bottom-rot while the coffee and grass provides nitrogen for leaf development.

Now that all that is done, there’s really nothing left but to inspect for pests and wait for the fruit and leaves to ripen for harvest.  Between you and me, with every moment of free time, I find myself wandering out there to do something…but there’s nothing to do – my babies don’t really need me anymore!  It’s a bit difficult for me, but it’s my lesson in learning to relax and do nothing (a talent of Hubs, lol).

Failing the cooperation of my Iphone, these pictures from late last week – early this week will have to suffice.  Everything’s practically doubled in that short period of time.

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