Merlot Mudpies

Can a blog be about gardening, cancer, family, food and life all at the same time? Oh good.

Why I Don’t Have a Garden to Post About June 26, 2009

Filed under: garden,Gardening,ivey ranch,loss,thanks — Mary @ 9:45 pm

Some of you might have noticed that I haven’t said anything about my garden for awhile.  That’s because I don’t have one right now.  As much as it broke my heart, I had to give C10 and B10 up this year.  The drive was getting overwhelming (it could be a long one in traffic), I was having trouble keeping Eamonn interested, and the rates were raised this year. 

Ivey Ranch is extremely reasonable in its rental rates — so much so that it’s almost embarrassing to say we just couldn’t swing them this year.  But, with our budget and because we used the garden plots to save money on food (and therapy!), it financially just wasn’t feasible anymore.  With tearful farewells, I bid goodbye to my plot mates and donated what garden items I couldn’t use anymore to a swee set of German retired couples who had come out to start plots of their own.

The great blessing in this is that I will be starting a new garden this July.  It’s free, it’s within walking distance if I want, and it is in a contained yard where Eamonn is free to run and play.  A very good friend of our family, Murray, has kindly donated the space in his yard to me and even worked to clear out planting room.  I am contractually obligated to pay him in salsa.

So, that’s why you aren’t hearing about Ivey Ranch these days.  I miss it.  But mostly I just miss the folks and some of them I couldn’t have back even if I was still there.


Because it’s been so long… February 19, 2009

Filed under: garden,Gardening,ivey ranch,Organic Gardening,weeds — Mary @ 5:32 pm

I know you’ve been pining for some before and afters.  I KNOW you have!

Well, you have to watch the vid from yesterday to see B10 as I found it after 4 months of neglect.  Here it is after about two hours yesterday:

Here it is after a few hours today:

We sowed (is that right?  sowed?  it seems wrong…oh well.  so does seeded.) two kinds of beets, carrots, three kinds of lettuce and arugala today.  I was also delighted to find my mint, thyme, lemon thyme and oregano all flourishing in spite of my neglect when I fought through the nettles surrounding them today.  I was so delighted when I discovered them all waiting there that I greeted them out loud.  Oh well, there was no one there to hear me but them.

This weekend will be more meticulous clean-up and I’ll also have a go in C10, which is equally overgrown.  Thankfully, there seem to be fewer nettles in that plot.  They’re bigger, sturdier weeds (babies of the veritable weed trees i was pulling when i first got these plots last year), but the ground is soft from the rain, which helps.  So I’m jumping on them as quickly as I can before the sun bakes them any more.

If I tried to write about how pleased I am right now, I’d just write gibberish.  But my heart feels lighter than it has in months.


Over Wintering February 18, 2009

Over Wintering

Originally uploaded by merlot

I visited B10 and C10 for the first time in about 4 months today. Driving home it suddenly dawned on me that all this that happened was only last year. It seems like a life time ago. When I started this blog my mom was still alive and I still thought I had months left with her, if not years.

You can’t return to a plot you didn’t over-winter well and not pay. I am covered in nettle stings and dirt. Eamonn is sleeping off a mud high and I keep smiling at his little mud-covered galoshes on the floor.

I had to leave Ivey Ranch for a while. That sounds so emotional and dramatic. But I did. I needed to let it grow over and weed up and die back. And it has.

Here is a preview video of what’s to come over the next weeks with Spring right around the corner.

You know, a lot is going on when a plot just sits. There is so much stuff happening under the surface. And then it just bursts out with the coming of spring. Water and light give life and everything begins to stir. Digging my hands down into the soil today I considered a picture of myself. I was so happy to be there today.

Apparently I just can’t pull a weed or grow a tomato without getting lost in the quiet splendor of it all and I’m so happy to be starting in again. I’m so thankful that the world works this way.  I’m so thankful to experience and see it all.


Uncle Richard August 14, 2008

When I came to Ivey Ranch, heart held in front of me raw and scared, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing there. I only just knew I needed a garden, they had one for me, and by Jove, I was going to grow things.

Richard is one of the first people I met once I got there. He is the reason I made it. Without being asked, he offered to till my soil, wet my weeds for pulling, wire my gates against renegade bunnies, holler if my son wandered too near the road by his plot. Without his help I would have ended up worn out, burnt out, and ready to quit within weeks of my plot lease. But Dick was there every warm morning with a smile and a joke and, if I asked, humble but accurate advice on just about every thing from weeds, to corn worms, to kids.

“Hiya, trouble!” I’d call when I got to the plots and saw him with his knee pads on, working away on his own plot or some newcomer’s who he thought needed encouragement. “How’re you?”

“Fat, sassy and happy!” he’d tell me every time. I knew the answer. That’s why I always asked. I tried not to worry when he’d have a coughing fit while I admonished Eamonn not to pick the green tomatoes, worried over my watermelons, and bemoaned my plethora of squash. I’d listen to him joke and laugh with every single gardener there. He’d ask after kids, grandkids, plants, and pets. He’d give a hug and tell a joke any time you’d need it. I had to fight with him to get him to take some of my organic plant food when he demanded to know how I’d gotten my corn so tall.

“Over my dead body will you pay me for that food, Mister! It’s time for a little payback!” I’d holler at him with a foot stamp.

“Do you see??” he’d ask anyone listening, “Do you see what I put up with?”

I really, really love Richard.

Rumor has it, it’s lung cancer.

We all try to water when we can, pull his weeds when there’s time, pile up his harvest for his neighbor to deliver when there are things to pick. Everyone’s worried and no one’s quite sure what to do. But the feel of the whole place has changed. It’s pensive, and it’s quiet, and we all throw glances at that empty plot where no one is hollering out sass and encouragement like he’s supposed to be.

It is amazing how one man can shape the face of a place and how his lack can make it so empty. When I consider it, I ache.


Garden Update, Me Update August 9, 2008

I’ve been horribly remiss in my posting. I haven’t got much to say for myself except, “WAAA!”, total toddler style. Hectic doesn’t begin to describe the weeks we’ve had. But it’s all been good, interesting, fun…well, except the strep. And…well…except for the part where my poor brother and his wife got flooded out of their condo for the second time in as many years by their upstairs neighbors. Yeah.

There is a lot going on at Ivey Ranch and I’ll get to that when I have words for it. We’re all walking around with furrowed brows and aching hearts at the moment. I can’t start to explain it without wanting to get up from the desk and walk away…so I won’t touch it more than that for now. You just really can’t escape death and it’s touch on everything in this life.

Perhaps this leads me to a bigger thing: I have so many deep things I’ve been wanting to say of late. I don’t know where to start with them all. Some pertain to my garden and what I’m learning there, so many pertain to my mom and the new layers of loss you come to every time you get out of bed. Do you ever look at the pile of things you feel need processing and saying and just find yourself quiet in the face of it all?

Yeah. Me, too.

And so, here is a plain garden update:

Ann and Joce and I busted our collective tushes (tushi?) this afternoon. We weeded the whole area, tied up and trimmed many of my tomato plants which are, let’s face it, on their last legs at this point with the heat. We pulled up dying and dead plants (three yellow squash, two watermelons, the rest of my pumpkins, a pepper, and a tomato). He picked so many tomatoes I don’t know what any of us will ever do with them. Honest to Pete, I never thought I’d be sick of tomatoes. One of God’s graces, perhaps, is that even the best fruits and vegetables start to get a bit old before the season ends, so you’re almost happy to say goodbye until the next year…We dug in steer manure and fertilizer in preparation for the beds I’ll be planting in the next months, and eyed bunny holes that need plugging up.

Regarding my bunnies: I believe their next step in renovating my plots is installing a bunny disco ball. I really can’t think what else they need. My plot is one of the cushiest bunny hang-outs of all time. They’ve even told the squirrels to give it a whirl. I really, REALLY need to rebuild some of my fences. If not to keep them out entirely (I really think this is somewhat impossible to do entirely and still like yourself), at least to give them enough pause to like, count their blessings and say grace before they dig into my vegetables…

Tomorrow I will go back to give my tomatoes a much-needed trim down in B10 and to consider what else needs to be allowed an end so I can begin again.

Renewal. It’s an amazing thing.

I’m sort of glad that I lost what I did when I was in Oklahoma. It allowed me, in the end, to remember that my need was not to keep everything alive forever, but really, to learn the cycles of my garden and this climate to grow and produce what the seasons dictate and invite. This is a hard, but good, lesson to learn for a new gardener.


A Garden Update July 30, 2008

I was a little heartsick about my garden on my return trip from Oklahoma and have been avoiding writing about it as a result. But, time has shown me that my inexperience made things seem worse than they really were, and that I have a lot to learn and look forward to out at dear Ivey Ranch.

I know it sounds strange, given the very reasons I started this blog, to say this but, I’d forgotten that death was a necessary part of the cycle in regards to my garden. I had been so focused on the flourishing, burgeoning, amazing growth I encountered every day in my garden that I mentally shoved away any of the thoughts of what to do when my plants were spent…or even the fact that they would indeed be spent at some point.

We were gone for a full week and when I returned to my plot, I was shocked. My plants, for the most part, were barely alive and many had been infested by aphids and white mold. I did, indeed, lose a few: My sugar pumpkins are gone, though I did harvest 5 ripe pumpkins when I pulled the plants. My corn was so riddled with aphids I had to wear gloves to harvest the ears. We ended up, however, with about 45 ears. I lost my red bells and some potatoes entirely. My lavender is just about done. My tomatoes had begun to die back, but they have responded well to frequent and deep watering since my return. Ryan has been incredibly understanding about my need to go out nearly every day right now. It took me three days and several plot mates taking some of them to catch up on the tomato harvest. I’ve since perfected my salsa and tomatillo salsa verde recipes as a result. I just did NOT know what to do with them all. (My dad, I must say, is a champion tomato help-mate in these cases. He polished off an impressive amount of tomatoes for me with a glimmer and a smile. I have a whole new basket bound his way this weekend…) I was forced to cut back my zucchini and yellow squash quite severely as white mold has set in. I need to get my soil healthy and figure out a fix for white mold before I plant in that particular bed again.

All in all, I did lose things. However, the beauty of it all is that, after a few tears of frustration and surprise (I blame jet lag), my mind immediately leaped forward to renewing soil, planting new seeds, trying new things, and redesigning the set-up of my beds.

We harvested all our corn and distributed what we couldn’t eat to very thankful neighbors and I have some watermelons about to come in within the next week or two, as well.

I’m aware as I write this that it’s not well organized, thought out, or written. But it’s been sitting in my chest, waiting to be explained so that I can begin blogging again without its blocking anything else I wanted to say.

So there it is. You can’t escape the cycle of life. But in the dying back of one thing, the beginning of another is allowed…there is a certain reassurance and beauty in that which makes me smile and I’ll get into more later.

In the meantime, this is my sugarbowl watermelon — the first from my garden and, truly, one of the best watermelons I’ve ever eaten.

Sugar Bowl Watermelon, Grown Organically


The Zucchini Naming Contest July 8, 2008

All right, friends. A zucchini this size deserves a name. But I am too fried to come up with one right now. And so I leave it to you to come up with a name for what is, currently, known as “The Whale” of those of us in Ivey Ranch who grow zucchini. It was so big I yelled when Joce showed it to me while she was watering for me as I pulled some weeds.

I give you The Whale, AKA Zucchzilla, AKA “HOLY COW WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT THING??”
Giant Zucchini

Entries will be considered with considerable bias by me and possibly my sisters-in-law because DANG are they funny…but if they make suggestions then clearly it’s just me deciding on the winner. And we all know I’m succeptible to bribes. A prize will be given. I’ll even promise a GOOD prize. But I have no idea what form that will take at the moment.

Comments with suggestions, por favor!


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