Quart of strawberries from my garden today. Yesterday I had two. Our book group takes turns preparing treats for one another's birthday, and last night was my turn. You can probably guess from the picture that we had strawberry shortcake last night, complete with wonderful Bisquick shortcakes and canned whipped cream -- but at least it was the real stuff, not that chemical substance that comes frozen in a plastic tub!
This year's berries are so big and sweet and good. Last year the combination of late freeze and extended drought deprived me of anything but a few little berries. This year, I'm relishing the abundance. There is plenty of rain, but not so much that they get that watery, mushy taste. These are perfect. My only mistake this year (live and learn) is that I didn't get them mulched with yellow straw early in spring -- so some of them are being eaten by small slugs and ants, or rotting because they're sitting on wet soil. I've also noticed that the birds have discovered them (large snips missing on the top side). Sigh. Now it becomes a decision about whether to leave some berries another day to fully ripen, or take them a day early to save them from the birds. Last year I more than doubled the size of my strawberry bed, going from two smaller beds holding different "crops," to one single bed, filled with berries. I also still have some plants growing in the path that is furthest east in the garden; I want to transplant the rest of those into the bed, which still has plenty of space. Last year I gave away dozens of plants, including some to the parishioner who built my new gate; his wife told me they are getting berries now, and it pleases me that I could give them that gift. Here's my strawberry bed:
See all that space in the middle? By summer's end, it will be filled with healthy plants from the adjacent path.
The rain has made everything abundant. My roses are voluptuous. Unwanted garbage trees are sprouting everywhere. There's a bumper crop of poison ivy. The weeds are loving it. But so are the perennials. Everywhere I look, my eyes are delighted by flowers of every kind. I recently pulled at least a dozen stinking hellebore to give my neighbor, and there are at least that many more in my various beds that need to be pulled. I love the low-to-the-ground kind that produces pretty little Lenten roses in February; but I hate the invasive kind. It looks best growing in clumps at the edge of my yard, where I've thrown all the plants I've pulled up.
My hardy geranium is also looking bushy and fabulous this year -- good enough to thin and plant elsewhere. It's the prettiest border I've seen.
I've also discovered that newspaper covered with wood chips is an excellent mulch for the paths of my garden. Last year I used landscaping fabric covered with grass clippings, and ended up with grass growing and sinking roots down beneath the landscape fabric! But in the fall I started with about 6 thicknesses of newspaper, topped with about 3-4 inches of wood chips (remember those maples that came down last year?). A bit of ragweed did manage to grow up through the mulch, but the roots were shallow and came up easily. Now I can't wait to get the rest of the paths mulched.
So, okay. It has been a quiet week at the ranch (church), and I've had time for sunbathing (I feel like a teenager), gardening, running, blogging, just enjoying life. Tomorrow I go for a consult at Vanderbilt with a nephrologist (kidney specialist), on the advice of the urologist who has been following me for 5 years. As you may know, my father and brother (to whom I'm almost genetically identical) both died of renal cell carcinoma. My oldest brother died of bladder cancer (though he was a heavy smoker until he died). I have blood in my urine (for 12 years now, under medical supervision) and cysts on my kidneys. So paying attention to kidney stuff always makes me nervous. My urologist has uttered the words "kidney biopsy" as a possibility. How do they do that, anyhow? It doesn't sound too pretty. But I'm fairly sure that won't happen tomorrow -- I'm sure the first visit will just be some sort of consultation. But those of you who pray might offer up a couple for me, all the same.
See you when I get back from Nashville.