<![CDATA[<br /><br />The Coming Appetite - Garden]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:12:20 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Like Christmas Morning]]>Sun, 24 Apr 2016 13:15:01 GMThttp://thecomingappetite.com/2/post/2016/04/like-christmas-morning.html By golly, it's like Christmas morning here in the Braley house! I just tiptoed out of bed, carefully trying to make it to the bathroom without waking the Pablonator. And on my way past the window, so bright and fresh and green and sunshiney I couldn't miss them, were the seedlings I planted last weekend, stretching with great cheer toward the sunlight filtering through.
It was just yesterday that they were only barely popping out of the soil, all sleepy and hesitant. And now, now! There is a luscious miniature garden growing atop our monitor heater. 
It's possible that I went a little overboard with seeds this year. My friend Molly is planting her first garden as a grown-up this year, all by herself, and when she told me about it I obviously wanted to be part of the fun. So, together we drove to Andy's Agway to prepare for the coming of spring. Knowing my over-zealous tendencies, I had written myself a neat little list of the seeds I still had leftover from last year and the seeds that I would need to buy for this year.  When we got to the farm, however, I don't think that list ever left my pocket.  Brussel sprouts! Romas! Cilantro! Beets! Sage! We attacked that seed cart with reckless abandon.  
It was only when it was time to check out that we sobered slightly.  Molly took an honest assessment of her overflowing basket and realized that her garden probably wouldn't have room for all the packets of veggies she had selected.  I looked down at mine and shrugged - I would make room.... somehow. 
We spent the majority of the afternoon on the floor of my living room, sitting on a spread of old newspapers and filling soil into the tiny peat cups we bought and, after those were all used up, whatever we could put soil into.  Rice and cereal boxes, an egg carton, and an old spinach container all got repurposed as mini raised beds. We marveled at how these little flecks of seed could become tomato plants that would be fruit for sauces and salads.  We prayed that they wouldn't be a bust.
And now, only a week later, Molly and I have been sending pictures of tiny sprouts back and forth to one another in awe and amazement. Really, REALLY - have you thought about what a miracle it is that seeds grow into plants? Neither you or I could make that happen. On this Sunday morning, as the birds sing outside and inside Pablo is draped across my lap in leisurely bliss, I can't help but be in wonder of all of God's creation.  
And I can't wait to get those babies in the ground. 

Love well and eat well,

<![CDATA[A Long Winter's Nap]]>Wed, 11 Nov 2015 19:39:59 GMThttp://thecomingappetite.com/2/post/2015/11/a-long-winters-nap.html
This weekend I faced what I couldn't ignore any longer - my withered, frostbitten garden.  It was a graveyard of half-chewed butternut squash, unpicked tomatoes turned a sickly pale color, and overgrown broccoli that never seemed to reach its peak. 
Sunday was a sunny but chilly day, and to be completely honest, what I really wanted to do was put my pajamas back on after church and pretend I was watching the Patriots game with Ethan so I could have an excuse to eat lots of chips.  But my garden was calling to me, one last time, and so I put on real pants and ventured out into the blustery November afternoon.
One of the only pops of green color still thriving in the garden was a small patch of arugula in the center that I had replanted midway through the summer after harvesting the first batch.  You gotta love that hardy arugula.  It was the first plant to break the earth in the early summer and the last plant standing in November.  If I hadn't harvested the rest of it after taking this picture (and eaten it in a delicious spinach and strawberry salad for supper), I wouldn't be at all surprised to find it still standing at Christmastime beneath a couple inches of snow. 
Other than the arugula, an unruly patch of parsley, and some curly baby kale, everything else in the garden was dead and needed uprooting.  It was such a funny thing - in May I agonized over gently placing every seed just so, watered them with careful attention, and patted them into perfect mounds every time a speck of dirt fell out of place.  Now, I went at those plants like a kid who couldn't decide which new toy to play with at Christmas.  Oooh - here's a long stalk of something! I will rip it out of the ground! Oh, but over there is a tomato cage.  When I pull it out, I bet a tomato plant will come with it! I would drop one thing mid-row and go onto another.  Somehow, in this erratic fashion, I managed to eventually get all the major plants out of the ground.  The dejected veggies littered the perimeter of the garden.  Inside, only the weeds that I couldn't be bothered with remained. 
After gathering up all of the bent and occasionally mangled plant cages and wrestling them into stacks, I went about taking down the groundhog fence.  In retrospect, I still feel quite proud of that chicken-wire and wooden-stake invention.  It couldn't keep out the deer but there wasn't a single veggie ravaged by rodents after its installment.  Ethan had suggested I curl the chicken wire around a couple of stakes to make it easy to unroll in the spring, so I did just that.  Judging by the way the wooden stakes snapped out of the ground and had begun to rot, they'll likely have to be replaced in the spring. 
All the while I worked, I thought about what was above the ground and what was below it.  Everything above ground (except for that trusty arugula), appeared dead.  It was brown and ugly and shriveled.  But when I pulled a plant from the ground, it would unearth a dark rich soil and writhing earthworms.  And I thought of the green onions and chives, all wilted in the corner of the garden, and how they looked like they were dying but really, they were just sleeping for a while.  Because in the spring their bulbs will soak in nutrients and water and, miraculously, what once looked dead will come back to life.  And not only will they be alive, but they will add spice and flavor to everything they touch. 

This gives me hope. 

Anyone who has lived a winter in Maine knows that the days are short and the darkness and cold can seem overpowering, suffocating, life-squelching.  But if it can't even squelch the life out of a patch of green onion bulbs, then I'm not going to let it get me down this year, either.  

I tucked my garden in for a long winter's nap this weekend.  But I know the spring will come again and so it's okay for everything to not be green for a while.  
<![CDATA[Sweet, Sad September]]>Fri, 04 Sep 2015 21:52:25 GMThttp://thecomingappetite.com/2/post/2015/09/sweet-sad-september.html
Sweet summer is fading.  Though it hasn’t disappeared completely, the days no longer begin and end with the same hot stickiness.  The frogs have stopped croaking into the warm evenings and I haven’t heard the triumphant morning songs of birds outside our windows lately.  There are still snippets of summer to be snatched, of course.  I went to the beach today to celebrate a successful end to my first week of teaching, and as I fell asleep in the sand with visions of assessments to be recorded in my head, the midday sun still had enough power to scorch my skin in the uncovered places. It looks like I will be sporting a nice blotchy complexion for this last summer hoorah, this sweet, long weekend we take off for Labor Day. 
Even the hot noon sun couldn’t burn off the tinge of crispness that was in the air today, though.  September in Maine is a unique experience. It can be glorious and bright and cool, and it can be foggy and mystical and mild. It carries a hint of nostalgia - I never really can place my finger on it.  It’s just that I feel slightly sad in September.  But at the same time, my body embraces the change of pace, the welcoming of new routine, and the need to put on an extra layer of clothing.  There is longing and hope and remembering in September.
My garden kind of looks the way September feels.  It is slightly sad.  I’ve allowed weeds to grow up alongside the plants and have forsaken spraying those sticky thick grubs that so love to eat the broccoli.  Many of the plants have been harvested and are now turning brown, crisping up, getting ready to decompose along with the changing leaves on the trees.  But yet - there are butternut and buttercup squash still blossoming, expanding their reign over the garden by reaching their vines ever further. The pumpkins are gradually turning the orangest of oranges, lying in wait for their moments of glory when they will be the prized decoration on our doorstep, the carved Jack-o-lantern glowing in our living room, and the first bite of pumpkin pie in our kitchen.  Where there’s a twinge of nostalgia in the garden that was alive and thriving just weeks ago, there is also still the hope of something yet to come.  

<![CDATA[The Food War]]>Tue, 28 Jul 2015 02:23:19 GMThttp://thecomingappetite.com/2/post/2015/07/the-food-war.html
It's no secret that people have a love-hate relationship with food.  They love it because it pleases their taste buds and gives them a temporary feeling of satisfaction, but then later hate that fleeting satisfaction and the way it makes their bodies look and feel.  Today I stood in my garden and contemplated this strange relationship we have with what we eat.  When I looked around,  I noticed  yellow blossoms bursting forth with squash.  Cauliflower was emerging beneath bound-up leaves.  Bean plants were falling over because they were so heavily laden.  I thought about how God made all of this grow, and suddenly felt astounded with the way He has provided such flavors, such scents, such textures and colors in this one tiny plot of land. And that's when I realized:  We are thinking about food all wrong.  We aren't supposed to be in a war with food.  God didn't intend for us to punish our bodies for not being perfectly chiseled, or for us to be constantly consumed by thoughts like  "I hate this or that about my body."  Oh no, no, no.  He gave us an incredible, infinite selection of things to eat so that we may nourish our bodies and - the best part of all..... so that we may enjoy it
There's already too much hate in our world.  The last thing it needs is for us to hate ourselves, too, and that chocolate chip cookie to boot.   How are we supposed to love others and make a change in the world when we are so consumed with our own lives and whether or not we have done enough cardio today to eat that bagel?  We are being distracted, friends, from what is truly important.  Loving others.  Loving ourselves.  Service.  Prayer.  
Of course, it's no surprise that we believe lies like, "My body isn't good enough," or "If only I could lose 10 pounds, then I would be happy."  Have you walked past a Cosmo or People at the grocery store lately? Gorgeous people with unheard of bodies laughing at their own beauty and enjoying the best sex of their lives.  That's what we're told, at least.  My heart breaks for little girls who look at those same magazines, thinking that worth comes from skimpy clothes and skinny waists.  It breaks for all of us older girls who get tricked into believing that, too. 

And believe me, I have been tricked. I have spent hours, days, months, even years of my life wishing I looked more like one of those Cosmo girls. That flawless skin! Those gorgeous thick brows! The pouty lips! Why don't mine look like that? And some days, I still do pass by those cover girls and think about how I should stop eating so much ice cream.  And it's nearly impossible to ignore the self-deprecating thoughts that come whizzing through uninvited every December when the Victoria Secret Fashion Show rolls around.  Those girls are like roadkill, only a lot prettier - you want to look away, but you can't.  

But God created us for so much more than that.  No matter what the world would like you to believe, beauty does not come from pouty lips and thigh gaps.  Our bodies are temples.  It is true and good  for us to be careful what we put into our bodies and to exercise often.  But it's also true that we mustn't let our days be so consumed with the way our temples look that we don't leave time or energy to think about truly important things, like what we can do to make a friend smile, or spending time with God. Instead of letting yourself become distracted with what not to eat, pick something from God's splendor today and enjoy it.  Savor it.  And let it remind you just how much He loves you, and how carefully you were made.  Then, go do something amazing with the body you've been given. 

Love well & eat well, 

<![CDATA[Lessons on Hesitant Thinning... and Other Things]]>Fri, 10 Jul 2015 22:12:20 GMThttp://thecomingappetite.com/2/post/2015/07/lessons-on-hesitant-thinning-and-other-things.html
I've been neglecting my garden for the past 3 weeks or so.  With all the craziness that comes with the end of the school year, an anniversary, a leisurely hike up Mt. Washington, and the celebration of America's independence, I found all sorts of convenient excuses not to weed.  But this week, with no traveling or celebrations on the horizon, I ran out of excuses and was finally forced to face the jungle that had become my vegetable patch.  I spent the better part of two afternoons thinning carrots, redirecting aggressive pumpkins, and crying out in agony every time I pulled out one of the thorny greens that has effectively invaded the garden. This was all much to Ethan's amusement, of course.  He snapped this picture above of me in my truest form: grubby, rubbing the sweat out of my eyes, and rocking a pair of Jose Cuervo sunglasses I got for free at Margarita's on Cinco de Mayo. 

This multi-day undertaking led to a series of emotions and events, including hesitant killing, single-minded endurance, quiet epiphanies, and mild heartache.  Who knew a little 12' X 24' garden could produce all that?
Remember when I decided not to kill the gopher that ate my peas last week? Well, upon facing the tangled row of lush carrot tops a couple of days ago, I discovered that I can't even kill a carrot, for heaven's sake. I squatted right down with my face near the dirt to contemplate the scrawny roots growing much too closely together. I knew they couldn't all stay; they were much too crowded and if I let them all keep growing, none of them would get big enough to actually eat.  I know because I wimped out on thinning last year, and that's what happened. But how could I decide which one got to live and which eight or nine around it would be chucked aside, withering in the sun until chopped up by the lawnmower? 

I chose the ones which seemed to be the sturdiest to survive. At first, I hesitantly pulled out a single carrot, pale and minuscule in the bright sunlight. I examined it for a moment, then felt so sad about pulling it up that I brushed the dirt off and ate it in a single bite. It was so small I could have swallowed it whole and not even noticed.  I continued about my working, growing bolder with every carrot I uprooted.  Aha! Up came three in one handful.  Oh my! That was satisfying. Before I knew it I had thinned the entire row and was moving on to the rainbow carrots beside it. Scanning over my handiwork, I smiled at the carrots still in the ground, for they stood tall and strong and looked like they could actually get some sunlight now. 

And suddenly, I got a zest for pulling stuff up.  Once I had thinned, I could weed. And weed I did. I tackled it with such single-minded ambition that I didn't pause even for a snack break.  For all the flack that weeding catches for being tedious, I found some plusses.  First of all, it is extremely satisfying to compare a section that you haven't weeded to a section that you have.  Secondly, it's therapeutic to do all that pulling.  Some people run to relieve tension, some people shop.  Others choose more toxic alternatives.  But for me? Weeding, please. It's cheaper. Plus you get a sweet farmer's tan. 

There are other benefits to all that hard work, too. Take, for example, this glorious, perfect tomatillo. I mean, doesn't that amaze you? I found it busting out of its husk and picked it today to use for homemade guacamole.  Look at the tiny veins laced all over the husk, and the complete smooth greenness of the fruit. I look at that and just can't help be amazed by God's attention to detail.  Just when I thought I couldn't be any more amazed by the growth I was finding in my garden, I found this:
A single pea pod.  It had clung to life even after all the pea plants had been chowed down by some critter.  When I found the remains of the pea plants last week, in my frustration I had wanted to pull what was left of them out of the ground and chuck them aside.  But, mid-pull, I noticed that some of them still seemed to be alive.  As upset as I was, I still decided to let them stay, to see if anything would grow after all.  And, while I was down on my hands and knees pulling weeds in the row beside them this week, I saw this lone pea. 

I actually rejoiced. A pea! I cried to Ethan, jumping up and down and pointing to the wreckage.  I found a pea!! 

Looking at the other plants, we noticed that other blossoms were beginning to unfold.  Other peas would grow. What a testament to God's faithfulness.  Just when I thought all was lost, He showed me new life.  And He does that with people, too - not just peas.  

Not all my vegetables are bouncing back, though.  The cauliflower, which was also eaten by a critter last week, had begun to grow again and it seemed likely that it would survive.  But yesterday, I went out to look at it closer and found that it was teeming with piles of grayish-green insect eggs.  Last night Ethan and I had dinner with a friend who is a farmer and I inquired about the mysterious eggs.  "Cabbage worms," he told me regretfully.  "You better spray it or they aren't going to be any good. They'll get your broccoli too." 

SPRAY IT? I thought.  FAT CHANCE! It's not that I insist on eating only organic food, but when it comes to my own garden, I like to think of it as a little chemical-free safe haven for veggies to grow.  I didn't even use fertilizer.  But this afternoon, when I went out to check on the situation, vinegar solution ready, I found this ickiness: 
Sludgy eggs which had multiplied and a green worm writhing from the center.  Ten points if you can spy the worm in this picture.  Anyway, I was horrified.  Vinegar solution wasn't gonna cut it.  And I felt slightly emotional, knowing the sad fate of the cauliflower if I did nothing to save it.  For all you parents out there - how do your poor, sweet hearts handle the pain of seeing a child get hurt or walk the wrong path? I can't even accept the imminent harm of a cauliflower plant. If only it was so easy for parents as to spray their children with organic insect control!  Guess I better grow some thicker skin before mommyhood...

So, in the end, Operation Take-Back-The-Garden turned out to be quite the learning experience. And the moral of the story? Don't wait three weeks to weed your garden. 
<![CDATA[Mangled]]>Sat, 04 Jul 2015 12:37:02 GMThttp://thecomingappetite.com/2/post/2015/07/mangled.htmlThis past weekend, my husband and I went to Cape Cod to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. TWO years! We couldn't believe it. Even though most of the weekend was rainy or overcast, we had fun visiting the beaches, strolling through quaint Main Streets and trying on overly expensive hats, and licking (probably too many) ice cream cones. 

When we left, my garden was bursting forth promisingly. 

We returned Monday evening with the sun gleaming brilliantly through the cloud cover. My mother arrived shortly after I walked through the door, planning to spend the night at our place in preparation for our hike up Mt. Washington the next day.  Before she barely had time to put her bags down, I pulled her out the door to show her the abundance of my garden.  She, after all, still lives in Northern Maine - 300 miles north - and anyone who's been up there knows that those poor folks are at least 3 weeks behind our lower latitudes in summer.  Her garden is still in the "popping up stage," veggies hesitantly emerging from the ground for fear of an early July frost (hey, it could happen in the County!).

So, nearly jogging ahead of my mother as she admired the tiger lilies on the lawn and the apple trees overhead, I loped to my garden, scissors in hand.  That's right, I run with scissors. Especially when there is fresh kale on the other end. I reached the edge of my garden.  It was a rich, sensuous deep brown from the rain.  There they were. My gorgeous green beans.  My pumpkin plant stretching its tendrils right into the basil and parsley.  My carrots tangling in thick rows needed to be thinned. My peas mangled and ripped from their cages. My peas! I tiptoed to the back corner of my garden in disbelief, my rubber boots sinking in the spongy earth.  Sure enough, each and every pea plant, which had been growing so splendidly only 4 short days earlier, had been expertly chomped to pieces and torn out of the ground. 

Fury raged within me. I heard my mother approaching and turned around, and that's when I noticed the row of broccoli and cauliflower. Munched.  Completely munched. The plants I had hoed and weeded and cared for so thoroughly were simply eaten alive.  Not to be enjoyed by me, but by some stupid gopher.  I knew I should have shot that gopher last time I saw him, I thought darkly. 

"Wow, look at your tomatoes!" my mother exclaimed from the edge of the garden. She hadn't noticed the wreckage yet. 

I actually wanted to cry bitterly, standing in the middle of my garden with a defiled pea plant dangling from my fingers.  But how pathetic would that be? I just let out a sputter and weakly whispered, "Yeah." 

I've had a few days to think about the mangling of my plants since then.  I'll admit, I was mad.  Real mad.  I thought about fencing and sprays to keep the pests from coming back.  I thought about gopher traps.  And I thought about the peas, broccoli, and cauliflower I wouldn't get to eat this summer.  But all things considered, the loss of a few vegetables is nothing compared to the losses that life makes us face all too often.  God used my fallen plants to remind me, in His oh-so-gentle and loving way, that He is in control.  I was beginning to think I was responsible for how magnificently the plants were growing.  Praising myself a little too much for having a green thumb, and not quite remembering that those plants are, in fact, his plants.  He provided the nutrients in the soil and makes the rain fall from the sky.  He makes the sun shine. He was the world's first gardener, and certainly the best.  I'm just a girl who takes the seeds and puts them in the dirt, hoping God will provide all of the other things to make them grow.  And he has, wonderfully so.  It is the same with our lives.  We just go through our days, doing the best we can and praying to God that He will bless us, our families, our friends.  And he does so, with a faithfulness so amazing it's hard to comprehend.  Sometimes, we do experience loss.  But he catches us from falling into despair by reminding us of His love, and all the blessings he has surrounded us with.  So, today, instead of thinking deathly thoughts toward the gopher living near the garden or bitterly shaking my fists at the beautiful deer who surely feasted on my peas, I will look at all God has blessed me with and feel thankful for them.  Like my gorgeous green beans, my sprawling pumpkins, and my overgrown carrots. 

<![CDATA[Battle of the Bugs]]>Sun, 21 Jun 2015 22:08:28 GMThttp://thecomingappetite.com/2/post/2015/06/battle-of-the-bugs.htmlPicture
God has blessed my garden big time.  My peas have wound up their cages and are reaching toward the heavens with their big, beautiful white blossoms.  Yellow, velvety blossoms are erupting from my zukes, as well. And we've already savored some of the fresh arugula, kale, and spinach at our dinner table. 

But there is one area in which my garden is a hurting unit.

Many of my squash plants are being devastated by bugs. 

Just look at this poor buttercup. The leaves have been eaten alive, some of them so much that they have shriveled up and died. Many of my cucumbers and spaghetti squash are in the same state.

This. Means. War.

Now, Ethan suggested I just go to Home Depot and eradicate the little buggers with a good ole' fashioned pesticide once and for all, but I am trying to avoid using any toxic chemicals in my garden. Of course, there is always the au natural route - plenty of places sell natural sprays these days - but I thought, "Why buy it if I can just make it?" And so began my search for an at-home remedy for conquering the bugs and taking back my garden.

Today was Day 1 of the Battle of the Bugs. First I had to identify exactly which bugs I needed to battle.  Some bugs are good bugs, after all, and I didn't want to kill those. The biggest squash-eaters seem to be a small yellow and black beetle, pictured below. 

After doing some highly reliable research on Google Images, I decided that these stinkers must be blister beetles.  They matched the picture and description, at least.  After a little more research, I found a natural DIY recipe for bug spray for plants that is supposed to work on beetles over at Earth Easy. The recipe is: 

1 quart water
A couple drops of Ivory soap 
2 Tbsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cooking oil 

I combined these ingredients into an empty, rinsed out spray bottle that I had been keeping around just in case an issue like this arose. I shook well, then went out to my garden and sprayed the bejeepers out of those blister beetles.  

The good news is that the beetles (and all the other bugs in the vicinity) went running in the opposite direction. I almost felt bad, until I remembered that they were killing the fruits of my labor. I suppose it will take a few days before I'll be able to tell if this natural pesticide did the job.  Stayed tuned for updates on the Battle of the Bugs.  

Until then, happy gardening, friends! 

Do you have a specific pest in your garden that is worse than the others? How do you deal with it? Please share any natural remedies you have - I've heard that planting specific plants next to one another works in some situations, as do all sorts of natural repellants.  What has worked for you? What hasn't?

<![CDATA[Planting Time]]>Tue, 09 Jun 2015 20:32:47 GMThttp://thecomingappetite.com/2/post/2015/06/planting-time.htmlPicture
I am not a plant whisperer.  Things die on me all the time.  In fact, I've already planted, replanted, and then planted some of the vegetables in my garden for the third time.  I'm overzealous, I'll admit. I planted seedlings inside in early May, and by the time I could put them outside without fear of them freezing to seedling pops they had already grown much too large for their containers.  And then, they were scorched by the sun and shriveled up and died. 

The thing is, I just love getting dirt under my fingernails and have trouble waiting all winter to do so.  I love being outside with a purpose, knowing that all my hard work will pay off in the form of fresh herbs and veggies in a couple of months.  I love waking up every morning and checking for new growth in my little plot of land. 

I haven't always considered myself a gardener.  My mother always had a large vegetable garden when my sister and I were growing up, but mostly I was just interested in eating the raw peas.  Plus I was obligated to weed, which I roughly equated to being forced to grovel in the dirt while creepy creatures crawled and squirmed all around me. But something happened when we moved into our own place, with our own plot of land.  Maybe it had to do with the fact that I got interested in cooking, or because I was spending a lot more time grocery shopping. Or maybe it's a bug you get, something you just wanna do when you grow up and move into your own apartment. Whatever it was, I caught it.  And I've been trying to figure out how to keep my stuff alive ever since.

I do some experimenting out there, trying to figure out problems like wilty cauliflower and bug-invested cukes and a persistent little gopher with a taste for green beans.  I'd be happy for you to come along for the ride.  I can't promise perfect advice, or perfect greens either.  But enthusiasm for garden to table cooking? I've got it. And I will share what I discover along the way.

My plot of land is jam-packed with goodness this year.  It's got cantaloupe, cucumbers, butternut, buttercup, acorn, summer, and spaghetti squash, peas, tomatoes, pumpkins, tomatillo, basil, parsley, zucchini,  carrots, swiss chard, baby lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, broccoli, green onions, chives, and cauliflower, plus a few zinnias sprinkled in for color. What have you planted? 

Please share your own tips and experiences, whether good, bad, or hilarious. Gardening is like cooking -  even better when shared.