Merlot Mudpies

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

You thought a roach motel was bad… January 12, 2011

Filed under: garden,Gardening,learning,Organic Gardening — Mary @ 12:06 am

How about a worm palace? I’ve got one!

So a cool tidbit of information for those of you in North County: Most likely, your city will subsidize the purchase of a worm bin for you. The Solona Center seems to be the place to go — I had about three people tell me about it when we began to plan our move and my experience there was a breeze. If you have proof that you live in San Diego County, you can purchase a bin for $40.00 cash or check.

I forgot to bring proof of my residency, but the cuteness of my children convinced them I had to be a good egg and they gave me mine for the $35.00 for Encinitas residents…Adorableness pays, my friends! (I also got a discount at the post office today because, I quote, “That is a sweet cute baby.” But that’s another story.)

Ahem…back to my worm bin.

I was excited to get my bin home

Then I started to read the instructions and got a little worried I was in over my head

But reason prevailed and finally, finally, I had the worm bin put together
(this was so pitifully easy…I really got confused before I needed to.)

Tomorrow morning I will go to Jan’s house. Jan is a lovely lady I stopped at Home Depot to ask about raspberries. This is something I love about gardeners. They love to share their excitement and help you get started. In conversation I mentioned that I was going to be getting a worm bin (not knowing she had one of her own). She immediately offered me worms. How’s that for some light introductory conversation? “Hey, I have worms! Want some?” However, given the fact that a pound of worms from a supplier is $25.00, I’m thrilled to take free worms!

I’ll post the introduction of our new little pets into their home tomorrow morning. I’ve already been instructed by Ryan to keep my worms to myself. So clearly he wants me to blog about them instead.


Keeping with the theme of things in my car… January 9, 2011

Filed under: garden,Gardening,Organic Gardening — Mary @ 11:43 pm

When my mom died we had grand schemes to offer her unused pots on craigslist or something, but we never did quite get around to it. I consider it providence because I’m so happy to have a good number of those pots here with me now in our new home. I really should start a category titled, “What I can fit in a 2001 Honda CR-V.” Man, I love this car. If not for the fact that we are at max capacity for seats with two small kids, I’d go right out and get another when this one eventually gives up the ghost. What’s in there, you ask?

  • a baby crib
  • a mattress
  • a jumperoo
  • a carnation crate (best kid’s planting box EVER)
  • 12 bricks (i’ll explain later)
  • two rocks i remember digging out of a river bed for my mother when she was on chemo (i think i’ve written about that, i’ll have to check.
  • about 12 giant pots
  • an herb box
  • Hmmm…I think there’s more that I’m forgetting but let’s just say pulling into my driveway was more of an adventure than usual and that my car kinda squeaks when it’s loaded super heavily. You learn something new every day!

    I now have pots large enough to plant my dwarf meyer lemon and dwarf lime trees for our front patio. I have pots for just about anything at all I don’t want to plant in the ground and more where those came from. Dad, my mother-in-law and I spent a happy hour cleaning them all off and loading them into my car.

    Eamonn, delighted with the Carnation crate, helped me turn soil in our two front planter boxes in exchange for a box full of soil and compost. As I scooped it around I asked, “Eamonn, did you know this soil is actually poop? Cow poop, actually.” His eyes got large and happy. What was this? Mom talking about poop?? Poop being openly discussed outside of the bathroom where normally all poop talk is imprisoned? A banner day! “Really? Gross….why??” I explained that it’s good for plants. And went on to explain, “And then worms will eat in it and they’ll poop it too…so it’s like double poop for our plants! Cool, huh?” He was an old hand at that part…darn PBS Kids for stealing my thunder. “Oh, yeah,” he said, just on the verge of sounded jaded at 4.5 years old, “worm poop is tooootally good for plants. I know all about that…”

    He spent five minutes dumping a full packet of sunflower seeds and carrot seeds into his box. Oh well, something’s bound to grow…right?

    In the meantime I’ve got my red, romain, and arugala starts in. I alternated with rows of seeds so we can work on having a continuous harvest. Now I have to figure out my other box which I think will contain asparagus, onions and garlic which I seem to recall should do well all planted together…I need to verify that.

    Pictures of all the “befores” to come along with my plans for both front and back planting areas along with desperate pleas for help with roses which I now have but have NO idea about. All I know is they’re horribly overgrown but wonderfully fragrant.

    And oh boy, wait until you see the baby in her jumparoo.


Starting Seeds March 4, 2009

Filed under: garden,Gardening,Organic Gardening,zucchini — Mary @ 9:44 am

Waiting for seeds is like waiting for Christmas.  The anticipation is building in our house right now while little peat pots sit quietly in their makeshift greenhouses waiting to sprout.  I’ve only got 25 pots going right now.  I tried to restrain myself.  And I’m finding that this year, again, I’ll probably rely on starts that I purchase instead of only just growing from seed.  The Heirloom Tomato Sale starts in just a week or two at Hawthorne’s Country Store.  Their supplier loves his plants.  I feel good buying from him.  He’s the one who encouraged me to try Sungold even though they are a hybrid.  I loved them.  I had them coming out my ears last year.  But I’m going to plant two this time.  It’s like having a candy plant.  But the fruit is nutritious!  Eamonn just started liking tomatoes this year so I’m looking forward to eating tomatoes off the vines with him — an unfulfilled vision from last year’s first season of Planting With Toddler.

Speaking of toddlers…my little baby is not so baby anymore.  He’ll be 3 this month and he’s a lot more content in the garden these days.  I’ll be preparing him his own little garden bed this week that he can walk in all he wants without mommy hollering, “DOWN ON THE PATH!  AUGH! THOSE ARE CARROTS!  GET DOWN!”  He started some seeds with me, too.  4 sunflowers, one pot of Brandywine tomatoes (I think…mommy forgot to label his), and one pot of green beans.  The green bean is already starting to peek its little sprout head through the soil.

He’s a very professional gardener, my guy:


Eamonn starts seeds while wearing his special gardening goggles.

Eamonn starts seeds while wearing his special gardening goggles.

My seed chart.  You can see some of the varieties in there:


Lots of tomatoes and a few other odds and ends

Lots of tomatoes and a few other odds and ends

My pots.  My lovely little pots.


My pots prepped and seeded, waiting for the growth to begin.

My pots prepped and seeded, waiting for the growth to begin.

Along with Black Krim, Costoluto, Persimmon, Brandywine, Jubiliee and Orange Flamme tomatoes, I’m starting two yellow crook neck squash (no more than that this time…I learned my lesson!) and some cucumbers…Armenians, I think.  Trust me, many pictures will be taken of my babies when they pop their heads up for the first time.  

I’m finding it’s not Eamonn who’s having to be warned off of lifting the lids off the greenhouses 20 times a day…Starting seeds forces patience on the impatient gardener.


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.


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.


Living on the Edge — Support Your Local Farmers July 30, 2008

Aphids are the bane of my existence right now. I hate them. I dream about them. I take great pleasure in spraying them with a mixture of Listerine, dish soap and water…the organic gardener’s magic solution for aphids. They attacked my corn, they attacked my okra, they attacked my strawberries, they attacked even my zucchini while I was gone.

As I harvested all of my corn this week, I wore gloves and watched in fascinated horror as clumps of aphids and their farmer ants fell to the ground at my feet while I cut stalks and shucked husks into a wheel barrow. I was really surprised at the wrath I felt towards these pests, and how personally affronted I was every time I threw an infested branch or cob into the waste pile.

It got me thinking about what it must be like to really be a farmer. While I am growing this food for my family and, from a budgetary standpoint, we have begun to rely on our garden as a resource, we always have the grocery store and farmer’s market in our back pocket should things not go well. Would we have to cut someplace in our budget to compensate? Sure. But would it we devastation for our family or the end of our livelihood if a crop failed? Of course not.

But for thousands of families who farm for a living all over our country and all over the world, that is not the case. And for organic farmers and small-time family farmers, I think the burden and the tenuous balance on the edge of financial and lifestyle viability bust be very extreme. This has been highlighted for me this week as I’ve dealt with the pests, diseases and weeds in my own garden that have taken hold during my absence for a week.

And yet, small family farms and local farmer’s markets carry some of the best-tasting, beautiful produce you have ever seen — and here in California during the summer, produce is so bountiful at Farmer’s Markets that it almost seems like some of the booths are giving their things away in a joyous celebration of the plenty that our climate provides for.

I know that Farmers Markets are not as convenient as the local grocery store. I know that sometimes getting past the less-than-picture-perfect bend of a local cucumber or pitted heirloom tomato bottom can be hard when we’ve been trained to think that waxy-shined, straight-grown produce equals great taste at the grocery store. But I urge you to pick a day in the week to come, find out when and where you can get to a local farmer’s market, and support our local farmers and organic growers. Let your other senses take over, let your nose and your taste buds inform you as you choose out some of summer’s bounty at the different stalls. Enjoy the fact that your jalapenos and tomatoes from local sources are not a part of a scary national recall and that the man or woman who is helping you pick your fruits and vegetables is likely the person who grew them — not a 5th party vendor down the line from some mass-production farm with little personal investment in what they produce and sell. Do like my friend Jen and see what $20 can get you.

I doubt that you’ll be sorry, and I suspect you’ll decide to do it again.

As a bonus for those of you with kidlets? I’ve yet to visit a FM and not have my son plied with free samples of sweet fresh fruits, lots of smiles, and a chance to see from close up the source of the food on the table every night. He loves a trip to the local Farmer’s Market and I’m sure your kiddo will, too.

The San Diego County Farm Bureau offers a free online calendar for all the licensed farmers markets throughout the county if you don’t know which is closest to you and works with your schedule. Be there, or be square.


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