Category Archives: Gardening

Where We Live Now

The house we live in now is where I intend to spend the majority of my life. That’s a strange feeling. After I left my parent’s house I was in a constant state of moving, always thinking of the next place, unsure of what furniture to buy and then not buying any because, who knows, the next place may have a square dining room and I may want a round, not rectangular, table.

Paul and I have looked at hundreds of houses in the Seattle area. Perhaps I’m difficult to please but that’s a story for another post. There was one house that we almost bought. It had a style similar to ours, 1950’s era, modern architecture, with a view of the lake. It was badly in need of a remodel and while we waited for an architect to meet us, I asked the selling agent about the giant front porch swing that was sitting in the middle of the living room. He said the owner, an elderly woman who raised her children there, drove half-an-hour every morning to sit in this chair and stare at the lake. She planned to do this every day until the house sold.

Then the architect came rushing in carrying on about plans to raise the ceiling ten feet and remove the wall that separated the living from the dining. I couldn’t do it. When I looked over the old green carpets, I didn’t see dirt and ick, I saw kids in soccer cleats and muddy dog prints. I didn’t want to paint over this woman’s childrens’ growth charts. I didn’t want to be the one to take this away from her.

We’ve been in our house for nearly three years now and I frequently think about the past owners, especially when I’m working in the yard. That’s where I see their choices, their personalities most clearly. I also think about the future owners. Who will buy this house from us?

I wonder who will comment on the wear patterns in our hardwood floors, the path worn from the stove to the sink to the fridge. Who will frown at and sand out the dog scratches where her toenails raked around the corner of the cabinets frantic to get to her dinner? Who will curse me for the navy blue walls in my bathroom? Whoever it is, I hope they understand that this place, all of it, is my growth chart.

Awash in Squash

Garden Update: first it was the broccoli, then the greens, now we’re awash in spaghetti squash. The vine took over the 4’x10’ bed then tried to crawl across the aisle and up the bean trellis. A few weeks ago I noticed that the vine had withered and died and I decided that even though they were still a little under-ripe it was time to bring them inside. I had 8 of them lined up along our kitchen counter.

I think we may hand a few out at Halloween. Here kid, have a giant under-ripe squash. Boo!

Or maybe we’ll hand out kale. The kale I planted in the spring never bolted, it’s still growing and producing. A few weeks ago, I thinned out a few plants but I still have three. They’re taller than I am. I tied their stalks loosely to stakes so they won’t blow over. I expect them to walk into the house and curl up next to the fire any day now.

Hey kid, would you like a Reese’s peanut butter cup or… a stalk of kale?

Anyway, what are you awash in this fall? Are you planning to grow anything over the winter?

Here’s one of my favorite spaghetti squash recipes. It’s kind of like lasagna only without noodles and with squash so really nothing like lasagna. Forget I said that. Of course, it’s gluten-free. I made a Josie a special dairy-free section without the cheese.

Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Tomato Sauce


  • 1 2 lb spaghetti squash
  • 1 lb ground buffalo (or beef)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 28oz cans whole tomatoes drained and chopped
  • 3 oregano sprigs
  • 3 thyme springs
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 15oz carton ricotta


  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Pierce squash with a fork and place it on a baking sheet. Bake for at least an hour or until tender. Cool. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Throw away the seeds and use a fork to remove spaghetti-like strands to measure 4 cups.
  3. Brown ground buffalo (or beef) in a frying pan.
  4. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, crushed red pepper, tomatoes, oregano and thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Discard oregano and thyme sprigs. Mix in browned buffalo, Parmesan, and remaining salt, pepper, oregano and thyme.
  5. Layer squash, tomato and buffalo mixture, and ricotta cheese in a 9×13 baking dish. Bake at 400 for 50 minutes.


My vegetable beds have gone totally Darwinian – the squash, melons and cucumbers are all tangled up in each other, the kale is five feet tall, and the spaghetti squash vines have taken over one bed and are reaching over the aisle and climbing the green bean trellis. It’s scary out there.

Here’s the problem: I can’t throw away vegetable starts. I don’t do seeds unless they can be planted directly into the beds. When the season is right, I go to the local nursery and buy a variety of organic starts – whatever sounds good. This means I buy six or eight plants when I usually need about three or four.

Take kale for example, I bought a container of six, but when planted the recommended 18” apart I only had room for four. It seemed like there was so much empty space and the starts were so itty-bitty. I couldn’t just throw them away. I imagined my baby kale crushed in the yard waste bin. So, of course, I planted all of them about 12” apart and planned to thin out the smaller more sickly ones later. When that time came they were all so healthy and doing so well. How could I rip such a lovely food-producing plant out of the ground and throw it away? Do you see? This same thing happened with the onions, leeks, chard, kale, all manner of squash, celery, beans, and the lettuce. There’s some crazy shit going on out there.

So now, instead of broccoli, I am awash in chard and kale – greens, greens everywhere. I bring a cooler full to the Wednesday night sailing races and I walk around the parking lot, just me and my bunch of greens, pushing them on anyone who will take them. I add kale to everything – pea soup, stews, spaghetti, and, yes, it was not my proudest moment, but I even add them to tacos.

I’m constantly on the lookout for good greens recipes. I’m fond of a white bean and chard or kale soup and also Martha Stewart has an awesome recipe for brown rice and chard risotto, wrapped in a blanched chard leaf (like a burrito) and topped with tomato sauce. It’s great but exhausting to make.

My new favorite is this one. I substitute chard for spinach and it’s oh so good. Rice, onion, egg, chard and lots of cheese baked together? Really, you can’t go wrong.

Have you got any good greens recipes for me? Please, please help me with our chard consumption. I’m begging you.

Keep Those Gremlins Out of My Garden

I’ve been chipping away at a vegetable garden for the last two years. I had one in the last house. Then we moved with a six-month old baby. It wasn’t at the top of my to-do list. Last summer for my birthday, I asked my husband and my dad to build 3, 4’x10’ raised beds (in 97F heat). Then we had dirt delivered. What a way to celebrate!

For Christmas my mother made a donation to my drip irrigation system. Then it had to be designed, ordered and installed.

Then veggie starts had to be purchased. Then they had to be planted. Of course, I planted peas. I have to have peas, but it didn’t take me long to realize they had nothing to climb. For the last two weeks, a melee of birthdays and Mother’s Day celebrations, a voice in my head has been screaming your peas have nothing to climb! Get on it woman! Of course this thought was written on post-its and lists everywhere. Then finally, Mother’s Day, the peas got something to climb and I bought a few more starts to fill in the first bed. Isn’t it lovely?

I hope the peas like it.

Then I read this – Rx From the Cursing Mommy. I loved the whole thing but the end/byline was my favorite part:

Looking for new ideas in the garden? Get the Cursing Mommy’s yard-and-garden manual, “I’m Going to Kill Those Fucking Deer with My Bare Hands, I Swear I Am: A Guide to Seasonal Plantings,” possibly available at many stores.

Deer aren’t a problem at my house but so help me if one of those little rats, cats, possums, bunnies, weevils, muchkins, leprechauns, dogs, gremlins, chipmunks, hamsters, birds, squirrels eats a leaf off my lettuce or a strawberry from a vine, I think I will track down the cursing mommies garden manual (or maybe I’ll write my own). I swear I will.

Happy Birthday Babe!


Our house was built in the 60’s. It was maintained for 40 years, then trashed for five and hastily remodeled before we bought from a construction company two years ago. The remodelers found the yard a wasteland of debris, and by the time they were finished they’d removed five dumpsters of junk and blackberry vines. But before all that, one family had tended and loved that garden for forty years.

The Plum

When we arrived, the property was a nearly clean slate with only a few old hearty plants – an ancient, moss-covered dogwood, a cherry, a plum, and a hawthorn. I could see the character of the gardeners that came before me in what remained. Near the fence were two Japanese maples, one with green leaves and one with red, that had been trained to twist around each other so they formed one two-toned unified shape above the trunk. The same technique was used on the old lilacs, with half of the tree blooming early and half late in the season.

There was a sprinkler system.  It seemed to work, except the heads were all broken or missing and water shot in every direction – primarily away from the needy plants. I replaced the heads but for that first summer, with a new house and a six-month-old, I didn’t do much planting or maintenance. It was all I could do to water on the hot days.

The Trillium

After a year of semi-regular water, mysterious plants began to emerge from the ground – a cluster of trillium next to the new fence, hyacinth, daffodils, and the dogwood bloomed delicate pink flowers. Under the stairs the ground was covered with heart shaped leaves and tiny pink cyclamen. Near the deck was a cluster of daisies and another of iris. I started to see how the previous gardeners had used the space. The cutting flowers were in the bed near the deck and stairs. The roses were in the side yard and the shrubs were lined up against the fence. Except for a few months every winter, there was always something in bloom.

The Cyclamen

We’d been in the house about eighteen months when the wisteria bolted from the dirt, its vines all needy and grabby, looking for the trellis it used to climb. I found a bamboo lattice and when I placed it next to the plant, I could see how it must have looked in its glory days, with purple flowers draped over the deck rail.

The Wisteria

Now that we’re settled and Josie is two, I’m able to do a little more work in the garden. We’ve built vegetable beds in the side yard. Frequently while I plant, prune, trim, train and water I think of the family that lived here and loved this garden for forty years. I know from their mail that he was a veteran of the Navy. I imagine him as a guy’s guy. I picture him building the sprinkler system and her tending the cut flowers. I can see them together but I cannot figure out who had the vision, the foresight, and the persistence to twist those trees together. Maybe it wasn’t him or her alone. Maybe it was something they did together.

I imagine they used chemical fertilizers, that’s the way people did things then, the nitrogen giving the plants a boost of short-lived green growth. I wonder if they used pesticides, wiped out the beneficial microbes and organisms in the dirt. It’s likely they treated the lawn, and if they did, when it rained the leads, toxins, heavy metals from all this “help” washed downhill the few blocks to the lake where the couple swam in the summer. 

Then I think about the years when the yard was overgrown with ivy and blackberries, when none of the plants were given any attention, when many of them withdrew into the dirt to wait for better days, and I realize those years of recovery, when the dirt could regain some of its natural composition, were one of the best things that could have happened to this yard. 

There’s still a lot of work to do in our garden. I hope this year to get the vegetables in the beds for cool season planting, to prune the weigela and the lilacs, and to plant some peonies in the bed of cut flowers. We plan to live in this house for a long time and sometimes I wonder about who will love it next, if they will care for the yard. I hope that I will be lucky enough to tend this yard for forty years, and that I will leave my mark in the form of strong branches and dirt that will continue to give for many years after I am gone.

PS  – This post is for the Green Moms Carnival on Gardening hosted on April 12 by Green Talk. Check it out!