Romance of Country Life

When I was growing up, my younger sister and I often accompanied our parents on visits to my great aunt and uncle's home in Benton, Pennsylvania. It was "out in the country" compared to where we lived. Much of Pennsylvania is rural or forested land. Where I grew up was not a metropolis, but a small town. Still, my great aunt and uncle's home had a lot a of green space, a farmer neighbor on one side, and a creek next to the side yard that we played in.

My great uncle died when I was still pretty young, so I don't remember him as well as his wife. Uncle Claude Moore was a tall, thin man with silver hair and glasses. He was a brother of my mom's father. His wife Mary (born a McHenry) was shorter, plump (by the time I knew her) and wore her silver hair pinned up by bobby pins. Both of them were much like the traditional grandparent image.

It was easy to romanticize country life for me. And I still do. I do enjoy the conveniences of "town" life. The attractions of large cities do not elude me. I've been to NYC close to 20 times.

I think I'd enjoy living on a small farm. While scanning the hobby and crafts section of a magazine display recently, I discovered Hobby Farming, which does put beautiful fantasies in my head. In my aunt and uncle's youth, many people were trying to leave the family farm for the "big city." Now there are people going the other way.

It reminds me of the film Baby Boom with Diane Keaton. Her character is a New York City business woman who "inherits" an infant. Eventually she moves into rural New England, and falls in love the country lifestyle, and an attractive veterinarian.

(Before her transition, she tells a physician how country life is driving her crazy, putting her into the poor house, and that it has been way too long since she had sex. To her humiliation, she learns that he's a vet, not a people doctor.)

These hobby farmers choose to live an agrarian life. To learn more, check out the website and/or the magazine if you find it. The site has a wonderful gallery of photos submitted by hobby farmers.


Lost A Few Battles ...

... But It Looks Like I Won the War

Foil wraps and cardboard collars on plants in my plot and in containers on my porch have defeated the cutworms. I also removed grubs and squashed them as I worked the soil. So, my tomatoes, basil, and remaining brocolli seedlings are fine.

The next strategy will be implemented against the ubiquitous flea beetles.

They are on my mustard.

My black bean seedlings are also tasty to them.

They like my green and runner bean seedlings. Rapid sprouting and growth has kept them ahead of the damage so far.

You might think that more plants appeal to flea beetles than discourage them. I would agree, based solely on their love of our community garden plantings. We've grown a smorgasbord for them.

Leaf lettuce is left alone, so far. Onions and garlic chives surround my lettuce beds, which may be detering them.

I prefer organic. It is important to remember that organic methods have less effect on the environment, but are not always without hazards. Follow instructions carefully, especially with chemicals applied to the plants or soil. Wash all vegetables before consuming them.

Diatomaceous earth, etc.
"Diatomaceous earth is one of the more effective repellents, applied as a dry powder to the plants. Horticultural oils and some neem insecticides also have some repellent effect on this insect."

Garlic spray

Flea beetle photo from this web page, which has a long list of beetles:


What's Growing? What's Knawing?

I planted broccoli, concerned that they would develop heads right about the time that heat would make them bloom. So far, only a few survived cutworms and flea beetles. This is one of them in the photo. It's now much bigger (about a week later).

It's hard not to love perennials, especially tasty herbs like these chives. The pretty purple flowers taste better than the leaves.

This photo of last year (probably late July) shows that the chive bed was not as thick.

Grubs of cutworms and Japanese Beetles turned up in many shovels of soil while I worked in the compost. The curled white one is the Japanese Beetle. The fat gray grub is a cut worm.

I took this photo as an experiment. The camera is sitting on the ground in my lettuce bed.

One could say this is a bug's perspective.


Summer Again -- Almost

Above is another aerial photo of the community gardens, courtesy of one of the gardeners. This was taken on June 10.

Sun protection while gardening is important. This time of year, the UV rays are strongest because they are most direct. I found a quiz to test sun protection knowledge on the American Academy of Dermatology's website: quiz

Generally, I get no color and I do not burn, despite being pretty fair-skinned. I still use liquid SPF. The time of day when the sun is strongest is between 10 a.m. and 3 or 4 p.m. (It is also when pollen is most concentrated.) The importance of a sunblock that protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays is emphasized more than it used to be; such a sunblock helps protect against burn, and the skin (DNA) damage that can result in cancer and aging.

If you should get a sunburn, here's some advice from health central's website:

First Aid

* Try taking a cool bath or shower. Or place wet, cold wash cloths on the burn for 10 to 15 minutes, several times a day. You can mix baking soda in the water to help relieve the pain. (Small children may become easily chilled, so keep the water tepid.)
* Apply a soothing lotion to the skin.
* Aloe gel is a common household remedy for sunburns. Aloe contains active compounds that help stop pain and inflammation of the skin.
* An over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be helpful. DO NOT give aspirin to children.

Do Not

* DO NOT apply petroleum jelly, benzocaine, lidocaine, or butter to the sunburn. They make the symptoms worse and can prevent healing.
* DO NOT wash burned skin with harsh soap.


My! What Colorful Stems You Have!

No matter how many years I garden, I'm sure there will be new things to learn. I earned a new insight yesterday.

First a little background: my brocolli seedlings have been disappearing seemingly from above and below ground. On some, healthy leaves are dropped or gone; on others, only a hole remains as though a mysterious underground creeper pulled the fresh seedling into its dark lair.

As of yesterday morning, two beautiful Sun Gold tomato seedlings, which were hardening off on my porch, were merely stems about 4-5 inches high. Self-seeded morning glories have also disappeared from my containers this year and previous summers. My first thought was to blame the pigeons that spend their days on the roof of my apartment building.

(this photo is not mine.)

Later in the day the likely answer occured: cutworms. On my porch!

Cutworms chew holes in leaves, just as flea beetles do. This explains why my first suspect in damage to my mustard was not visible. (I did not see the beetles on the plants.) They are better known for their ability to rapidly destroy tomato seedlings, as my Sun Golds exemplify. So, I never suspected them at first. I will have to do some prevention. It is time to declare war on cutworms.

Black cutworm corn damage

I'm growing corn this year, too, for the first time.

Advice on Growing Tomatoes from P Allen Smith's site