And on to July! Hope you all are having a nice summer!
This past weekend we traveled to…
Camp Merri-Mac has been a major influence in my life. I was a camper there from age 11-16 and I was a CIT (counselor in training) at 17. It is very fun for me to think of all of the things I do in my adult life that somehow relate to my days as a camper. Art, crocheting, gardening, swimming, exploring the woods: all of my hobbies and interests have some sort of roots in Camp Merri-Mac. There are wooden swings in our backyard. We spend lots of quality time in creeks. We even live on a one lane dirt/gravel road (just like camp!) Pretty much on any given afternoon, I might as well be at summer camp…enjoying our low ropes course (zip line, slack line and again, those joyous wooden swings!), singing camp songs to the kids (since they were babies!) and just generally spending loads of time outdoors learning new things.
Though there was no gardening at camp, gardening is very much a camp-type pursuit (again, outdoors: learning new things!). The excitement of tribal competition (Go Seminoles!) I now find at little league games (Go Knights!). Chapel is now church and the alarm clock is Reveille. Well maybe that last one’s a stretch;)! My sister always tells me our laundry smells like the laundry at camp. This is probably because we always have at least a couple of articles of clothing that have gotten thoroughly filthy and wet (another important tenet of summer camp!).
A major reason I’ve never gotten my kids any video games or let them play on a phone and limited TV time is because camp was (and still is) always totally technology-free. True to form, even on the (looong! 11+ hours!) drive to North Carolina, the kids stared out the window and sketched on scrap paper; no ipads or video games on our road trips just like “in my day” (I can say that now! Hahaha)!
In my professional life as a psychiatric nurse I guide and encourage others to find joy, meaning and purpose in life: something I began to learn at camp. Exploring the deeper value of leisure pursuits and conveying the importance of exploring spirituality are passions born at camp.
And of course there’s the creek and mud and friendship of Baby’s Forest School: much like camp (year round!)
Even though Camp Merri-Mac and Timberlake are on the same campus, they keep the two camps quite separate. Until now I didn’t know too much about Timberlake but I figured it is probably the greatest place on earth for a boy in the summer; since that’s true about Merri-Mac for girls!
So off we sent our first-born, our precocious progeny, into the blue ridge mountains for the next two weeks!
We hiked for four hours (much of which was uphill!) Whew!
This area is a beautiful place for a nice drive…
Finally it was time for drop-off!
The counselors snap shots of the kids and post them to a parents’ site so fortunately we have a little window into what he is up to…
In 2012, a great camp friend of mine invited me to be a raft guide, the summer after my freshman year of college, which is where I met Smoochie. So no camp? No Smoochie, no little spies, no Spy Garden! Thank God for camp!
Blue Flax: (Linum perenne) This perennial flower was discovered on the Lewis & Clark Expedition, and hence the species was named “lewisii”. Lovely blue flowers on 24” plants, beautiful and easy to grow. (seeds/description from http://www.rareseeds.com)
Hope you all are having a nice summer (or winter for my southern hemisphere friends!) and have a great weekend!
Oh! I have a favor to ask. Would you please send an email to support our friends who own some llamas and alpacas (as seen here on Spy Garden)? Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him (impeccable manners, please!) for the Wier’s llamas (and alpacas) to be allowed to stay in Wildwood.
If you would like you can also call 636.458.0440 to share your support of these gentle creatures being allowed to stay at their current abode. You can also sign a petition here:
Here’s more info about these llamas (and alpacas!)…
Thanks for your support! Hope you all had a nice weekend!
Hope you all have a great memorial day weekend!
Spring in Spy Garden means baseball season!
Snake-watch continues. My new hobby is staring at this tree:
I asked Babyzilla what they should be named and she said “Tongue-y” and “Tongue-y II” Hhahahahaha
Overcome the Fear of Snakes
Some people have such a dread of snakes that they actually avoid going outdoors to fish, hunt, hike, or picnic. Others kill every snake they see. This is too bad, both for the people who let the fear of snakes keep them from enjoying nature, and for nature itself. It’s relatively easy to avoid direct encounters with snakes, and all snakes — even venomous ones — help control populations of rodents and other pests. Getting to know the kinds, natural history, and distribution of Missouri’s snakes can help you overcome your fear of them and appreciate their role in nature.
Missouri’s Wildlife Code Protects Snakes
Few Missourians realize that all snakes native to our state are protected. The Wildlife Code of Missouri treats snakes, lizards, and most turtles as nongame. This means that there is no open season on these animals, and it is technically unlawful to kill them. There is a realistic exception, however: when a venomous snake is in close association with people, which could result in someone being bitten. We hope that more people realize that snakes are interesting, valuable, and, for the most part, harmless.
Snakebites are Rare
Contrary to popular belief, snakes do not go looking for people to bite. In fact, snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. As Jim Low says in his Snakebytes blog post, “Snakebite ranks just above falling space debris as a threat to human life.” Read his post to learn more about who gets bitten by snakes, when, and why.
Last night walking out the front door I almost stepped on…
From the Smithsonian National Zoo website:
Copperheads are social snakes. They may hibernate in a communal den with other copperheads or other species of snakes including timber rattlesnakes and black rat snakes. They tend to return to the same den year after year. Copperheads can be found close to one another near denning, sunning, courting, mating, eating, and drinking sites. They are believed to migrate late in the spring to reach summer feeding territories and reverse this migration in early autumn.
Needless to say, I am not pleased with the idea of a communal copperhead/black rat snake den under our front porch!!! AGGGhhhhhhh!!! Baby named the copperhead “Teeth-y”!
Males are aggressive during the spring and autumn mating seasons. They try to overpower each other and even pin the other’s body to the ground. This behavior is exhibited most often in front of females but this is not always the case. These interactions may include elevating their bodies, swaying side to side, hooking necks, and eventually intertwining their entire body lengths. Copperheads have been reported to climb into low bushes or trees after prey or to bask in the sun. They have also been seen voluntarily entering water and swimming on numerous occasions. (source)
All venomous snakes native to Missouri are members of the pit viper family. Pit vipers have a characteristic pit located between the eye and nostril on each side of the head. They also have a pair of well-developed fangs
Note the shape of the pupil. The pupils of venomous snakes appear as vertical slits within the iris. Our venomous species all have a single row of scales along the underside of the tail.
Missouri’s venomous snakes include the copperhead, cottonmouth, western pygmy rattlesnake, massasauga rattlesnake, and timber rattlesnake. The western diamond-backed rattlesnake and coralsnake are not found in Missouri. The most common venomous snake in Missouri is the copperhead.
The female went back into her nest in the tree and the male slithered off under our deck/house. These antics went on for hours today. It was so crazy to watch! They are nonpoisonous black rat snakes. We spotted them once in 2009 and once in 2012. We have never seen any babies hatch (maybe this year?!) Are we hosting a colony of these? AGgggghhhh! Cool and amazing, but pretty freaky too!
The spearmint and citrus mint were threatening to take over a large part of the garden. We’re moving most of it to an area behind the house. Mint is very invasive but smells so wonderful. It repels pests, attracts beneficial insects and when it starts to take over and you dig it up it all those roots have totally aerated the soil! So I think its a good kind of invasive! The Spy and Baby say “We have so much mint we could make our own gum!”
As part of the kindergartener’s “Bone Robot Project” at Forest Preschool, a Belgium artist who goes by the pseudonym Roa, came to paint!
Wait, I thought Roa had an art show in NYC at the Jonathan Levine Gallery going on right now?
He does! (Click here to check it out).
But while in the States he also visited Forest School!
The kindergarten class came upon Roa’s work when doing research for their “Bone Robot” project. The kids choose the themes for their semester-long projects. And this one was a doozy!
Here is a short essay by the kindergarten teacher/owner of the school:
Who is That Masked Belgian Man?
Cultivating Relationships to Further Inquiry
To make a robot, it’s best to understand how bodies move. Bones, joints, muscles, tendons, cartilage are all good things to know for robot making. How are bodies put together? What components allow movement? What would happen if something were left out? What does the mechanics of animal locomotion mean for robots?
To answer these questions, the kindergarteners first studied the human body.
And from humans they moved on to local animals. Their goal: CREATE BONE ROBOTS THAT MOVE.
As Bone Robot Project evolved, the children became enthralled in the work of a graffiti artist also interested in the bodies and workings of animals bones–ROA.
“Wow. That’s just, I mean, that’s just pretty cool,” remarked a kindergartener.
And it is pretty cool. Roa examines the local fauna of an area–the common, the native, the endangered. He considers the role animals play in a particular place and with the human inhabitants. Then, he finds a prominent location to give it form. Using spray paint, Roa creates huge art pieces depicting the flesh and bone of a town.
Kindergarteners have a lot to say about his pieces. The often viscid nature of his graffiti seems to match the juxtaposition of the children’s project of bone and metal.
How will the children integrate their encounters with Roa’s art?
On day three…
My nine year old son (who used to attend this preschool) hasn’t gotten a chance to see the murals in person yet but he did look through all the pictures and jot down his thoughts…
On the Raccoon skeleton, he wrote:
I realized that it was missing part of it’s rib cage. Why did you put it in skeleton form? Why didn’t you just paint a real raccoon? Couldn’t you have made it a bit smaller? I mean, it’s squished up in a little corner, well big corner but HUGE painting. The last thing is that wouldn’t it suck being that raccoon? Squished up in a corner of a room, missing part of your rib cage?
And on the Groundhog, he wrote:
Is that a squirrel or a groundhog? Because it looks a lot like a squirrel well, the head anyway. Why is it’s tail so stubby?
Roa has certainly taken some liberties with animal anatomy, exaggerating the size of the bones in the Raccoon’s tail and in his big-headed, skinny-necked groundhog. The kids noticed while he painted, that he worked quickly (each mural took approximately 3-5 hours each), did not have an eraser and he did not “fix” drips.
“I thought he was supposed to be professional?” one of the kindergarteners remarked as a drip of black paint left a trail down the wall. (hahahaha)
“This is art. If I wanted it to be perfect I would take a picture.” Roa answered.
It was fun to discover an artist with a secret identity as Spy Garden loves a little mystery. It is exciting to see how these murals have inspired conversation. How will they inform the next generation of artists?…
Roa’s recent works showing now at the Jonathan Levine Gallery are neatly contained in squares and rectangles you can hang on a wall:
Which is really just so much more civilized than street art. But civility, restraint, subtlety? Perhaps not the stuff to suit the wild preschoolers of the forest!
Or podophyllum if you prefer.
We were searching for morels in the woods this afternoon. We didn’t find any yet but we did spot another…
I read that false morels (which are poisonous) pop up a few weeks before the real thing, so we will have to keep hunting! While I was hunting for morels, Baby was hunting for coyotes. And rocks…
Ahhhh, the joys of rocks.
The date of our last frost is usually around April 21st, but I was getting impatient (and it has been quite warm) so I have already planted lots of things; including peppers and eggplants; which I will cover if it gets cold. There is zero rhyme or reason to this year’s planting. Things are going in the ground, that’s about all I can say about it! Spring is a wild time. The weeds are growing like crazy and little seedlings popping up everywhere (and for a time I’m not always sure which is which!). The tiny, fragile seedlings are hammered by wind and hail and pelting torrential rain. It’s a wonder any little plants survive spring in St. Louis!
And a few unrelated photos of the Missouri River at sunrise…
We love circus-y things in Spy Garden (click here to see us showing off more of our circus tricks). St. Louis has a wonderful circus arts school that offers many classes, including flying trapeze lessons (click here to check them out)! I am a proficient juggler, so naturally, juggling clubs while walking the slackline is coming soon. Ha! But for now, I’m happy to enjoy the tricks of the spring garden…
In Squirrely Garden…
And springing around St. Louis…
Smoochie took the kids on a SIX mile hike last Sunday; SIX miles!
The other day Smoochie saw this sign/a bunch of riders with their horses and pulled over for the kids to get a closer look.
I was born in 1982 which means that probably at no time in the 1980’s was I thoughtfully considering fashion choices. This means I was never fully responsible for wearing neon. So really, I’m more like a child of the 90’s. The glorious 90’s. The renaissance of nail polish. Over-the-knee stockings with pleated skirts from Contempo. Melrose Place. Clueless. Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.
Recently, I noticed something weirdly familiar in my
rare sporadic shopping escapades: The 90’s are back! While not all of it is wearable for a second go-round (i.e. anything I ever owned from Contempo)…
The nails…Vamp? Very Vamp? Totally doable!
Teva’s also had a 90’s moment.
Fashion is generally an extracurricular pursuit in the land of Spy Garden.
I rarely pick out Baby’s outfits as she is quite capable of dressing herself. And at Forest School there’s little room for fashion. They get really, really dirty. And have to stay really, really warm in the winter months.
(and really waterproof, bugproof, etc. in other seasons). They wear a green uniform t-shirt everyday too. So there’s not really much fashion going on there, its mostly all about utility. But they do learn to sew, make costumes for performances and so forth. And they dress up for picture day. And the dress code allows for NO characters of any sort. Which actually is a great victory for fashion when you think about it. So amid the framework of utility there is fashion, right?
But enough about Baby…
I am a nurse and believe nurses should look like this:
What ever happened to those hats? And white pencil skirts, how did those go by the wayside? I mean how on earth did we go from…
To scrubs? Is there anything less fashionable than scrubs? I think not.
I think the scrub infiltration might have actually started in the 90’s now that I think about it. Fortunately I don’t have to wear scrubs in my nursing position. But I digress.
Fashion before function is great in theory. But what is great for feet are Birkenstocks. It is so hard to wear shoes other than Birkenstocks once you know how glorious they are.
In order to fully express my affection for these shoes and the excitement of rediscovering them via my consideration of 90’s fashion I have written a Shakespearean sonnet.
Ode’ to Birkenstocks*
In sumptuous suede or gold burnished leather
At your stamped bronze buckle a few may baulk
But on cloud-like cork I’m light’s a feather
Dearest beloved, easy, Birkenstock
If Choo, Weitzman, Blahnik or Louboutin
Are height, narrow toes; lithe ballet for feet
Chic and hip, happiness to see, to don
But is comfort luxe? Or modest, discreet?
Bunions, blisters, heels stuck in sidewalk cracks
Are sometimes worth the pain. But must one trade
Pretty shoes for pretty feet? With socks*, slacks,
Birkenstocks, in your favor I’ll crusade.
Plush pedal succor; if a bit ugly
Down with fashion; I shall wear them smugly!
So there you have it; Birkenstocks, the Gem of the 90’s ( I do realize they’ve been around a lot longer than that, but that’s when I discovered them). What’s your pick for Gem of the 90’s (fashion or otherwise)? Leave it in the comments!
*Yes, the clogs, with socks. So sue me.
**My Birkenstocks were unable to be visually represented in this post because they are too ugly.
And outside at the Missouri Botanical Garden…
And back in the land of Spy Garden…
And in Squirrely Garden…
By “they” I mean Smoochie and a few other parents and staff. I only have these few photos as I was not in attendance for this fence-install (thankfully; it was freezing!)
Now that you’ve seen how fun it is to share how gardens grow, check out…
Happy March/Happy Spring!
We’ve started peppers and eggplants (three varieties of each), Thai Red Roselle, ground cherries, red celery, blue hyssop, red cabbage and an herb called wild dagga (which we’ve grown before for ornamental value; it’s a great Halloween plant).
(Lupinus mutabilis) The Tarwi Lupine is another one of the “lost”foods of the Incas. Originally cultivated only in the high andes, Tarwi is a plant supremely adapted to the stress of high altitudes-it can take drought, cold and wind and still be very productive. Nowadays agronomists and gardeners are taking a look at Tarwi for growing in other places other than the high mountains. In Denmark and Northern Europe it is being trialed as a new pulse crop. The beautiful white seeds are choc full of fats and proteins. Tarwi has been cultivated/domesticated for probably close to 2000 years. The seeds themselves cannot just be eaten without a little simple preparation. The seeds contain alkaloids that are bitter, fortunately they are quite easy to remove just by soaking and rinsing them over a few days period. In the past this noble crop of the Andes was known only by the poor indigenous peoples, today thanks to modern systems for rinsing large quantities of seeds it is now a “chic” food of the Urban wealthy. Our own friend john Glavis is raising Tarwi with great success on the California coast north of San Francisco. The seeds offered here are from select Peruvian strains tracked down by Joe. They need a long growing season but really like cool weather too, so the Pacific Northwest coast is a great place to try them, everyone else could just give them a shot and save any seeds produced to select them to adapt to new climates. (from the Baker Creek website)
I’m largely showing these pictures to prove how simple it is to start a garden. Dirt in containers of your choosing (that long clear thing is a box that a poster came in!) and a few seed packets is all you need. Then put the cups in a windowsill that gets some sun, keep them moist and in a few days you will have little plants! We’ve advanced a bit from just a windowsill and now have a wooden box that can sit atop a dresser or desk and two grow lights clip onto it.
Our windows are pretty drafty so the extra heat from the grow lights is important when it is still pretty cold out.
For way more details and information about seed starting check out my glogging friend Maria at Sweet Domesticity for some Seed Starting Q & A!
A hike in Greensfelder Park…
It was 11 degrees just this past week, but it’s been in the 60’s all weekend!
January was been Jan-packed with exciting new things. Graduate school (reading…and writing, writing, writing…lots of new things!). Squirrely Garden (the garden at Babyzilla’s school) had a big beginning-of-the-season planning meeting. I gave myself a new title; Honorary CEO. As I just can’t commit to my Squirrely Garden CEO duties of yore. But they are using the Spy Garden deer fence plans as inspiration for a new deer fence and I still plan to photograph the garden as it grows. There will also be an orchard planted at Baby’s school this year; and a whole load of berry-bushes! In other news, Babyzilla has learned the art of photorealist portraiture:
And the Spy has been slaying it in school and reading lots of good books (including the Hardy Boys; I loved Nancy Drew at his age!). Frigid cold in Spy Garden, and dry, not much snow this year (so far!). At this time in winter all the cold has sucked the color from withered vines and only the hardiest of plants show bits of green. The landscape is all blues and greys and tans; very nice and unfettered, methinks.
A year ago I became a registered nurse. On this site, I never shared anything about nursing school while I was attending. The first I mentioned it was the night of my graduation with a bachelor of science in nursing (December 2013). I tend to prefer “afters” to “befores” or “durings! I’ve shared with you all that I’m gainfully employed as a nurse, but never shared what field or anything about my work (other than my lovely commute!). It’s nice to have Spy Garden as a place of leisure; where I don’t think about work, where the focus is purely on art and plants and other things I find interesting.
This month I started graduate school, I am seeking a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP). I sort of freaked out at first; grieving the loss of my leisure pursuits.
Would there be no more drawing, painting, sonnet-writing or gingerbread-Eiffel-tower building? No more socializing? No more contemplative and thoughtful gardening-as-art? So long to documenting the growth of the garden in hundreds of photographs! What about outings? Hiking? Yoga? Ever again? Maybe I can just throw some seeds down and see how things turn out?!
I was being a bit dramatic. There will still be gardening; there will ALWAYS be gardening! It’s just an adjustment. For now, the program is online (the clinical practice hours won’t start for another year or so) and so I can be really flexible with when I complete coursework (i.e. 4-6AM haha!) LOTS of reading, writing, discussions and research. Everything in APA format; no ellipses or sentence fragments or ambiguity. But these academic pursuits are not unimaginative and cold. There is a science AND art to nursing. There’s loads of room for creative and artistic expression in both nursing practice and in graduate nursing education. The expression is just distinct from the Spy Garden Status Quo I’d grown accustomed to. But change is the stuff of progress and growth. And you all know I love growth!
Spy Garden (both the garden and this website) shall still be cultivated. Maybe my post-format will change, maybe it won’t. Spy Garden may be my escape from citations and peer-reviewed journals and evidence-based practice…or it might be a place where I share these things. I’m not really sure! I do know that the frequency of posts will decrease; I’m aiming for a post a week. And so goes the beginning…I’m just a few weeks in…3-4 years to go!
Happy Saturday all!
Happy Friday! Some random images from the week…
Happy weekend all!
My daughter (known in Spy Garden as Babyzilla!) attends a Forest School. Rather than have daily themes or weekly lessons, the kids do semester-long projects on topics of their own choosing. My son (known here as The Spy!) also attended the school when he was younger so I’ve seen a wide variety of really cool projects. At the end of each semester the project comes together with some sort of event or “store” or publication or art installation or field trip. The Ocean Project concluded with a child-written play. The kids made the set, designed and made the costumes (learning to sew with the teachers’ assistance) and performed for the parents.
There’s been a Dog Project which concluded with parents bringing in their dogs and walking them through different stations of a Dog Spa…
There was a City Project, Animal Project, Dirt Project and many more (and many more to come for Babyzilla!) Often when the kids are working on a project they will write letters to various individuals or businesses asking questions or making requests to learn more about the topic. Teaching kids to seek out experts in fields they are interested emphasizes that their inquiries are part of a world outside the classroom walls (or treeline)!
From the school’s website…
Our philosophy is based on the truth that young children are best challenged in the arts and sciences when they are given meaningful work in the dynamic setting of the real world. Here, their experiences have big implications. Content is contextual, not isolated. It is all connected to the world that surrounds.
Sounds impressive. But do preschoolers really feel connected to the world beyond what they see in their immediate surroundings? Do they really feel they have the power to influence their environment? Are these concepts farfetched? The school proves over and over again it is possible!
Recently, the kindergarten class at the school was doing a “Bone Robot Project” (remember the project topics are of the kids choosing!) While this project was underway, one student, in researching his first name (Roa) came across a Belgian street artist, whose pseudonym is ROA. ROA’s art often depicts the bones and other internal aspects of animals.
Excerpts from an email from the school…
When Roa brought examples of ROA’s work for them to see, they were inspired. They still mention his work often, and it has influenced the direction of the project. In fact, they were so inspired, they decided to write to ROA and invite him to paint a mural at [the school]. He’s kind of a big deal in Europe, so we really weren’t expecting a reply.
ROA said yes!!!
We believe in empowering children to change the world. This is not an empty, grandiose statement. When we say “change the world,” we mean the immediate world—the world within reach. We want our students to internalize an “I can” attitude. I can climb that rock. I can build a bone robot. In short, I can imagine a change in my environment and then make it happen. We believe that fostering this attitude can lead to the more grandiose outcome later in life. Writing a letter to a well-known artist and having him accommodate the request definitely serves this purpose.
This spring ROA will be coming to the school to do a mural. So exciting!!!
The animals ROA chooses to paint are those that live in the area surrounding the location of the mural. I wonder what he will choose? A bunny? Racoon? Deer? Ladybug? Groundhog? A turtle, snake or crawfish? He’s got a lot of great options of special creatures that live right in the woods of the school’s eleven acre campus.
What makes even more exciting is that ROA has a secret identity. ROA is a pseudonym. And I just love the concept of a secret identity. Spy Garden is sort of my own pseudonym. (Or is it Mrs. Spy Garden?!) Can’t wait to watch the mural in progress and to share the final masterpiece with you all!
I really enjoy winter. It may even be my favorite season. Which may sound strange coming from someone who lives for dirt and plants (and who was born and raised in southwest Florida!). The gardening possibilities seem endless in winter. Winter shades of taupes and tans are like a blank canvas.
I can expand there. Maybe plant the tomatoes over there? Sunflowers here?
Winter is a time of inspiration. Tomorrow the high will be seven (degrees Farenheit). Seven is my favorite number. (See? There’s always a brighter side!) Blustery, windy frigid weather can be inconvenient. Long hair sticking to the velcro of coats and rising up with static electricity and tickling your face and obscuring your view (I’m thinking of Babyzilla here haha). Gloves, scarves, mittens, hats. Scraping ice off windshields, salting the driveway, shoveling heavy snow. Winter adds elements of adventure and survival to prosaic activities and errands. Watching the sunrise, listening to the radio and wandering thoughts are the commutes of summer. In winter, a commute is often a silent ride of hypervigilance. Eyes wide scanning for black ice, creeping slowly down steep, snowy roads with short and fervent prayers. More darkness, more fear (don’t worry Mom, I drive very slowly and carefully!) Winter is a harder season. Maybe I like the challenge? What I really like is to daydream of garden futures (not whilst driving of course!)
I love spotting covered things in winter. They remind me of the sculptures of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Taking time to explore art in winter inspires the spring garden.
What sculptural elements could we add to Spy Garden? How can we add more whimsy and interest? How can we make the garden unique this year?
Per Kristian Nygård, a Norwegian artist, had a recent exhibition in Oslo that is very inspiring…
Walter de Maria’s Earth Room (from 1977) is also rife with possibility…
Wouldn’t it be fun to have a greenhouse like that?! Many people question “That’s art?!” What do you think? Back in Spy Garden, we re-hung a lot of our own art work. I find changing the position of art can do wonders for freshening up the house.
All of the Christmas decorations are packed away, but I like to keep the outdoor lights on for as long as possible (maybe through the whole month of January!?)
Best thing about 2014?
“My first homerun.” (The Spy)
Best thing you ate from the garden?
Smoochie and the Spy say, “Pumpkin Pie!”
Best addition to the garden?
Shaw Nature Reserve every time! Shaw Wildflower Market in May, The Meramec River in Shaw in December, Shaw in July (the wildflowers!!!) Shaw Nature Reserve is the #1 Spy Garden Don’t Miss St. Louis Garden Outing Destination!
Best Plant of 2014?
I’m voting for the Eucalyptus.
Smoochie says, “The blackberries”
Best wildlife photo?
Best Photo of 2014?
Best Media Moment?
Click here to read about Spy Garden in the November/December 2014 issue of St. Louis Homes and Lifestyles Magazine!
Favorite Blogs of Spy Garden?
What were your Spy Garden favorites of 2014?
A few more favorites from 2014…
Hope you all had a very merry Christmas!
A few pictures from Christmas last year…
Working on a gingerbread Eiffel Tower for this Christmas!
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas this year; will it snow?!
The skins of each clove of this variety of garlic are purple as well. All of this garlic was started with a small handful of seeds given to us by some friends 5+ years ago. Garlic grown from seed takes three years to make a full head of garlic; if dug up in the first or second year of growing it is still edible; the heads will just only have 5-7 cloves on them. If garlic is grown from an individual clove you can plant it now (winter time) and harvest full heads of garlic by late spring/early summer.
Christmas came early for the garden (“the garden” here as anthropomorphic figure as it is a force larger than myself HAHahhaah)…
The new 2015 seeds have been shipped and delivered! (Though let’s face it, these aren’t the only seeds/plants I’ll procure for the 2015 growing season). Sunflowers…herbs…giant pumpkins…plant cuttings from friends/neighbors/etc. aren’t included on this list below. The list below are the varieties I ordered from http://www.rareseeds.com which is the website for Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds located in Missouri. They have a location in historic Wethersfield, CT and a seed bank in Petaluma, CA.
Along with the name of each type I’ve added a note about why I chose that particular variety…
Mammoth Red Mangel Beet: A white fleshed beet with blushes of red. We have hard clay soil and growing large root vegetables really improves the dirt. Plus who doesn’t want a giant beet?
McGregor’s Favorite Beet: Because I used to live off of McGregor Boulevard. hHahaha
Giant Red Re-Selection Celery: Ooooo red celery?
(Kulli) Black Incan Corn: Onyx-black shiny kernels. Perfect for Halloween décor! And my parents recently took a trip to Peru. And we love alpacas and llamas and they’re from Peru.
Dragon Tongue Bush Bean: These were a 2013 favorite of the kids; tasty eaten raw right in the garden or with dips. Pretty purple stripes down flat pale yellow pods; pretty and tasty!
Dragon’s Egg Cucumber: Because of Game of Thrones; isn’t it coming back in 2015?! Winter is here! Spring is coming and there shall be the eggs of dragons in Spy Garden.
Sikkim Cucumber: Also looks like a dragon’s egg.
Tarwi Q’ollo Lupine: The description is very interesting:
(Lupinus mutabilis) The Tarwi Lupine is another one of the “lost”foods of the Incas. Originally cultivated only in the high andes, Tarwi is a plant supremely adapted to the stress of high altitudes-it can take drought, cold and wind and still be very productive. Nowadays agronomists and gardeners are taking a look at Tarwi for growing in other places other than the high mountains. In Denmark and Northern Europe it is being trialed as a new pulse crop. The beautiful white seeds are choc full of fats and proteins. Tarwi has been cultivated/domesticated for probably close to 2000 years. The seeds themselves cannot just be eaten without a little simple preparation. The seeds contain alkaloids that are bitter, fortunately they are quite easy to remove just by soaking and rinsing them over a few days period. In the past this noble crop of the Andes was known only by the poor indigenous peoples, today thanks to modern systems for rinsing large quantities of seeds it is now a “chic” food of the Urban wealthy. Our own friend john Glavis is raising Tarwi with great success on the California coast north of San Francisco. The seeds offered here are from select Peruvian strains tracked down by Joe. They need a long growing season but really like cool weather too, so the Pacific Northwest coast is a great place to try them, everyone else could just give them a shot and save any seeds produced to select them to adapt to new climates. (source)
Mitoyo: A nearly black eggplant; the description said it was one of the most delicious eggplants and can even be eaten raw.
Thai White Ribbed Eggplant: grew this one before from a free seed packet from Baker Creek and the variety did really well. Eggplants always seem to take FOREVER to mature in Spy Garden; so I’m going to start them indoors early this year.
Strawberry Spinach: I’ve tried growing this one before without success. Little red berries (that in the picture look like raspberries) and flat broad leaves that can be eaten like regular spinach.
Dwarf Banana Collection (PRE-ORDER): Mmmmm!
Hardy Kiwi Collection (PRE-ORDER): MMMmmm!
Rare Fig Assortment (PRE-ORDER): MMmmm!
Dishcloth or Luffa Gourd: A gourd you can wash dishes with? Had to see it in person! I’ve had my eye on this variety for years and finally gave in to my curiosity.
Quinoa, Shelly 25 Black: Because our good friend is named Shelly. And she’s a vegetarian and quinoa is an excellent source of protein!
Black Seeded Sesame: Mmmmm!
Flax: Flax fibers for making our own rope?! And seeds for eating! And pretty blue flowers!
Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry: We have grown giant cape gooseberries for the past two years and they took a long time to mature and didn’t produce too many berries. So trying a more classic variety of ground cherries.
Early White Vienna Kohlrabi: Baby picked this one. Kind of looks like a space-ship! We’ve grown the purple ones before. Tastes like cabbage.
Charentais Melon: French varieties always seem to do well in Spy Garden and we’ve grown Delice de la Table the past two years so wanted to try a new melon (like cantaloupe) this season.
Orangeglo Watermelon: Mmmmm! We grew this variety in 2013.
Royal Golden Watermelon: The rind turns a bright yellow/orange when ripe! Have tried unsuccessfully to grow this variety in the past.
Noordhollandse Bloedrode Onion: Like the looooong name haha; and the color is a striking, deep purple. Baby picked these.
Black Hungarian Pepper: We’ve grown these once before. Perfect amount of heat in a smooth, small black pepper. The plants themselves are also deep shades of green/purple and the blooms are purple.
Yellow Monster Pepper: In the pictures these were HUGE yellow peppers with green striations.
Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes Pepper: Love the looooong name of this variety. Hahaha! These were one of Baby’s favorites for eating straight off the plants in the garden. Sweet and crunchy; these peppers turn yellow but we ate them before they ever got to that stage!
Thai Red Roselle: Very pretty plant we grew in 2013. Roselle is the tangy ingredient in the “zinger” varieties of tea.
Monstrueux De Viroflay Spinach: I always buy this variety. Good, tasty spinach!
Red Malabar Spinach: We had a small plant of this type in Squirrely Garden (the garden at Baby’s preschool) and I was intrigued. It looks like a succulent but you can eat the fleshy leaves.
Beleah Rose Lettuce: Baby picked this lettuce. Looks like a tutu!
Iran Squash: I bought this one because it reminded me of the show Homeland. I consider myself a master of diplomacy; having a symposium of seeds from many nations represented and all getting along famously right in my own front/side yard. Hahhaha
Triamble or Shamrock Squash: I have tried unsuccessfully to grow this variety of squash 2009-2013 and am still determined to grow it. It is a blue winter squash that has three lobes (like a shamrock). Maybe 2015 will be its year!
Victor or Red Warty Thing Squash: I don’t know if I’ll try to grow this or not; it was sort of an impulse buy. I want to get some pumpkin seeds from some 700+lb Atlantic Giants (from specialty pumpkin growers like this one) and try for some giant pumpkins. So may not have room for these bumpy round red fruits. I also had great success with Rouge de Vif d’Etampes pumpkins so am tempted to grow those again.
Delicious Tomato: We’ve grown these before. And yes, they’re delicious.
Wagner Blue Green Tomato: Because it looked very colorful in the picture.
Copia (Tigercopia) Tomato: A pretty yellow/red striped tomato.
Hyssop, Blue: I’ve grown this before. Lovely deep royal blue/purple blooms that grow on stalks (similar to lavender). It is supposed to be a natural cough suppressant.
Lion’s Tail or Wild Dagga: I’ve grown this one before. It is a perfect Halloween plant; orange and fuzzy flowers peek out through sharp and spiny seed pods. The time we grew this it was 10+ feet tall.
Dwarf Coral Garden Mix – Cockscomb: Perfect for the “coral reef” (an area of the garden which has ever-bearing strawberries).
Celosia, Pampas Plume Mix: So colorful! Very similar to the magenta amaranth we grow (Hartman’s Giant) but shorter (about 4 feet tall).
Alaska Red Shades Nasturtium: A deep red nasturtium; seemed unique to the usual bright, tropical shades of nasturtiums we normally grow.
Yellow Canary Creeper Nasturtium: A very weird looking flower (on the seed packet drawing); I’ve tried growing this twice before but it never made it. I’ve since found that nasturtiums do best with a fair amount of shade.
Yeti – Nasturtium: Because it’s Christmas! And don’t Yeti’s live near the North Pole?!
A (three hour!) hike through Shaw Nature Reserve today…
Imagine grade school if Ranger Rick were the headmaster…the state’s only Forest School emphasizes the outdoors. Children from ages 2 to 6 play on logs and boulders, rather than slides and monkey bars. They help grow their own food on-site, and prepare it in a teaching kitchen led by a chef. They follow the Reggio Emilia approach to learning, choosing their class projects and gaining essential skills along the way. “Our belief is that if you can learn it inside, you can learn it outside,” says president Ilya Eydelman. “It’s more than just a school with trees around it—although we do have more of that than most.” (from stlmag.com)
In the above photo the frothy yellow plant is asparagus (which we also grow in Spy Garden). I would actually like to dig up our asparagus and relocate it before spring but it has been VERY rainy/snowy/cold and still haven’t even gotten a chance to plant the garlic yet.
And because I am a sucker for the abstract…
After walking through through the Garden Glow we also visited Gardenland Express which is an indoor display of holiday flowers and plants and trains.
Click to learn more about Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Gardenland Express Holiday Flower and Train Show (both running now through January 3/4, 2015).
Click here for a direct link (it will open in a new window) to the article in the November/December issue of the magazine!
Here is an excerpt from the article about the pumpkins pictured earlier in this post…
Bright-red ‘Rouge Vif D’Etampes’ pumpkins dangle from a lattice arbor that also frames a garden vista centered with gray-green eucalyptus and frothy asparagus foliage. The decorative and highly edible squash were the most popular pumpkins in the Central Market in Paris in the 1880s and were used as the model for Cinderella’s coach.
I like to leave some carrots in the ground through winter to dig up for snowman’s noses. You can see in the above picture where the carrot greens have been gnawed off by deer. The deer fence has a large opening that we have not repaired yet, so they are sneaking in and taking what they can get (which at this point is not much!)
He was moving very slowly (cold blood!) so it was easy to catch him and bring him inside for a closer look (and photoshoot of course haha) before releasing him.
Happy Friday friends! Hope you all had a great week. Cold and darkness has enveloped Spy Garden as of late and we’re a bit behind in the raking, garlic planting and other fall garden to-dos…But one highlight of our week was watching Disney’s The Humpback of Notre Dame. Makes me want to read the original by Victor Hugo. As we watched it, the Spy (he’s 9), remarked,
“This is a little dark for Disney.”
Speaking of darkness, here is an excerpt from an interesting article about a new invention called Vantablack…
…the blackest black ever seen, or, actually, not seen….
Vantablack, for Vertically Aligned NanoTube Array, is made by “growing” carbon nanotubes on a metal surface. (A nanotube is a billionth of a meter thick, or about the width of three gold atoms.) Light is trapped between the tubes and bounces around until it’s absorbed, so almost no light gets out.
Vantablack has enthralled not just the tech world but also artists and architects. Ben Jensen, 48, a founder and the chief technology officer of Surrey NanoSystems, spoke by telephone from his laboratory in Newhaven, England, about the material’s applications and why it might not be quite right for your home. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Q. Why are people so excited about Vantablack?
A. The coating reflects so little light, three dimensions seem to disappear. When you look at Vantablack on some wrinkled aluminum foil, it looks like a black, flat, featureless void, even with your eyes right up to it. That and the fact that it’s the darkest material ever created.
How did all this start?
Growing carbon nanotubes isn’t new. But typically they’ve been grown at a very high temperature: 750 degrees centigrade. That would destroy most underlying materials, so they grew them on things like silicon, diamond and sapphire, which can stand high temperatures. We’re building on work to grow nanotubes at a lower temperature for microelectronics.
What’s special about carbon nanotubes?
It’s almost like an alien material from “Star Trek.” Imagine a drinking straw, closed at one end, with a wall one-atom thick. This straw is one-ten-thousandth the diameter of a human hair, but it is 10 times stronger than steel, and 10 times better at conducting heat than copper. It’s been known to exhibit what is called “ballistic transport”; electrons travel through it with almost no resistance. Vantablack packs billions of these straws together. (to read the full article in the NY Times click here)
Fascinating concept; and imagine the possibilities for artistic application of vantablack! In other color and light news…We are excited to visit Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden next week. Garden Glow is expected to sell out, so get your tickets soon!
I hope I can get some cool shots at Garden Glow; I always struggle trying to take decent photos at night. I’d also like to make a Spy Garden Garden Glow one day!
I’ve also been doing a little crocheting this week. Crocheting is such a great thing to do when it is frigid out!
I made the same shaped hat for myself in black wool. I’m making some leg warmers for Baby out of the same purple (super soft!) yarn. Baby demanded the leg warmers. Then she demanded I unravel them (a request I did not accommodate) Hahah She also demanded this morning…
“I want to listen to Taylor Swift RIGHT NOW!”
And some “new” music for the Spy too…
A few more random shots from the week…
Have a great weekend!
Circus Harmony does weekly circus training classes at Baby’s Forest School. They offer flying trapeze lessons and other fun classes. Here is an excerpt from their website:
RUN AWAY & JOIN THE CIRCUS & STILL BE HOME IN TIME FOR DINNER!
At the Circus Harmony Center on the third floor of City Museum and at numerous outreach locations throughout the St. Louis area, we offer a wide array of circus arts classes for ages 5 through adult. We have Fall and Winter/Spring and Summer sessions. You can also book workshops and private lessons any time of the year at City Museum or to come to you. Click on the link below for our current class schedule.
Our staff is headed by Jessica Hentoff, who has over 39 years of circus teaching and performing experience and includes Honored Artist of Mongolia, Rosa Yagaantsetseg, International Jugglers’ Association Excellence in Education Award Winner…(source)
Sounds fun, right? We have juggling clubs here (and I can juggle six with another person!) and our have some “circus” equipment; but I think I would like to add a Cloud Swing and Slackline and maybe a tightrope…;) haha
Still haven’t planted our garlic yet: maybe this weekend! Each one of the cloves will grow a whole head of garlic by early summer if planted now.
Mmm apple season! Here are some descriptions of locally grown apples…
Jonathan – Thin skin, creamy yellow meat with a great snap and wonderful balance of sweet / tart flavors and natural spiciness. At home raw on a fruit plate or baked into pie.
Fuji – Firm, dense flesh, reliably crispy, juicy and sweet with great shelf life. Excellent chopped in muffins and cakes; one of the best for serving raw. I served thousands of them on cheese plates raw, sliced, dunked in lemon water.
Granny Smith – Very crisp, tart, refreshing apple that combines well with sweeter varieties in baking, clearly preferable for use in salads.
Golden Delicious – Mellow, sweet apple suffered from years of mass-production abuse. Google it today and you see “very good flavor when home grown”.
Arkansas Black – Pretty dark red right now, they are good storage apples and the skin darkens in storage. A very solid apple, the slices will remain crisp in baking. Good acidity and a touch of astringency make a great back drop for fall spices.
Rome Beauty – 19th century heirloom originating in the township of Rome, Ohio. Very crunchy which makes this an outstanding pie apple for holding its shape and not weeping in the crust. Not super-sweet so takes well of apple pie spices and compliments without clashing on the cheese plate.
Winesap – Hard to find heirloom, very juicy, sweet-tart, deep, rich, spicy and, well, winey flavor. Eat raw, bake, excellent with cheese.
Empire – I see the flavor described as “vinous” but I would say melon-like, even elderflower. Great for raw applications or baked in a mix with other varieties.
Cortland – A McIntosh cultivar, red skin blushed with green and white to pale pink flesh. Nearly all US production is in New York State, almost within sight of Cornell University where it was developed at the start of the 20th century. Sweet-tart, all purpose apple good for jelly, pies, apple sauce, cider, fruit leather and all around eating too. Slow to brown when cut.
Crispin – Also known as Mutsu , a green apple with very sweet, honeyed flavors, juicy, crunchy and crispy. Excellent eating out of hand and very good baking.
Braeburn – Great eating apples originated in New Zealand in the 1950’s. Thin, yellow-green skin with a dark scarlet blush, its very juicy and moderately sweet with a remarkable depth of, well, appley flavor that suggests cinnamon before you add any.
Firm Gold – Related to Granny Smith, green skin, juicy flesh with a firm bite of acidity and a caramel-y sweetness.
All Apples mix or match – $2.50 / pound – 20lb case of a single variety – $2 / pound
These descriptions are from Baby’s school: they email out a LOooooong list of locally grown foods each week and you can order things and pick them up at the school. I’ve never ordered before (can’t believe I missed another fall opportunity to sample the elusive pawpaw!) But I do love reading the descriptions…
Missouri Seckel Pears – The Seckel (SEHK-uhl) Pear (aka the Sugar Pear) is superb for salads, sliced on sandwiches, for pickling or spicing. It is a true open-pollinated heirloom variety so there are lots of genetic variations and these, from Berger, Missouri are much larger than the standard Seckel. Like most pears, they are harvested pretty hard and ripen after picking. They are great for poaching right away, soften and sweeten in a paper bag in a few days to make a wonderful tart or pear sauce.
$2.75 / pound – 20lb case – $2.25 / pound
Illinois Asian Pears – I haven’t had local Asian Pears before so I’m looking forward. They arrive Thursday morning and I’m expecting juicy, crunchy, creamy white flesh with a sweet tang and lovely aroma. $2.75 / pound – 20lb case – $2.25 / pound
Fall Rhubarb – There doesn’t seem to be any commercial Rhubarb productions around here, so you have to find fanatics who love the stuff so much that they plant way too much for themselves and have extra to sell. If you are determined to use it with Strawberries, you are in luck. I have beautiful sweet local Strawberries in my freezer from the height of the dearly departed summer season but lots of good Rhubarb preparations do no need the crutch of Strawberries. 6.50 / pound
Frozen Elderberries – Big flavor, deep color, tiny berries, huge anti-oxidants. Associated in European folklore with fairies and elves, here is 100% edible frozen Elderberries packed into zip lock bags like buckshot in a shell. Very good for jam, great in muffins, excellent sauce for game meats. See what you come up with.
Apx. 4.5 lb. bags – $9 / pound
Aren’t they fun descriptions? Maple syrup, milled sorghum flour, flavored vinegars, pickled peppers, brown rice…It goes on, and on and on…for seven more pages! And ALL of these things are grown/prepared right here in Missouri! The descriptions remind me of those in seed catalogs (which we will soon be receiving in the mail)! Reading seed catalogs is a good cold weather activity: and we need lots of those because Baby, it’s cold outside! There were flurries here today. My poor silver dollar eucalyptus; it’s a huge plant in the garden I plan to dig up and bring indoors: hopefully it will survive until I can get out there and brave the cold and dig it up! But not tonight: Brrr! It’s in the 20’s (F) and windy. I prefer swimming laps in a warm pool to gardening while I adjust to the earlier darkness and the weather! Baby and I are also working diligently on our ballet. It’s more like yoga + ballet. So yollet. Yollet TM haha
Yollet. It’s a thing. #arabesqueallday
So inspiring! And check out these three pretty ballerina pictures below. They are from the ballerina project
The majority of ballerinas who have posed for the project are currently or have danced for companies such as American Ballet Theater, Boston Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Dresden Semperopera Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Ballet West, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet… (source)
And one more priceless ballet picture I came across this week…
So yes, Yollet, that is how Baby and I are celebrating the beautiful art of Ballet. More on our arabesques soon. But for now, I would like to define the helfie. That’s hair + selfie.
And a few more random things to share…
Happy Thursday Friends!
Right up the road from Spy Garden, friends of ours have a whole adorable herd of llamas and alpacas! We enjoyed our first (of hopefully many!) visits recently…
The owner of these llamas/alpacas uses the fur and spins thread and wool with it! I look forward to talking with her to learn more about this process (and see some of the things she makes with it!) For now, all I really know about llamas and alpacas is that they are a combination of a cuddly stuffed animal, a camel, and a pony and are SO much fun to play with (and photograph!)
Apparently mastodons used to roam freely in the land of Spy Garden. I didn’t even know what a mastodon was! It is like a wooly mammoth, but a bit smaller and with a less lumpy head.
That, friends, is a giant ground sloth: a Jefferson’s Ground Sloth.
After checking out the museum and watching a short video that taught us all about the history of the site, we hit the…
The “Bone Bed” sounds more exciting than it was; there are no public excavations at this time (so basically it was “the woods” haha) but still a very…
“Mastodon State Historic Site contains an important archaeological and paleontological site – the Kimmswick Bone Bed, where scientists discovered the first solid evidence of the coexistence of humans and the American mastodon in eastern North America.” (source)
Click here to visit the park’s website and learn more about this cool place!
Brrrr! Baby was going to be a pumpkin but opted for this cozy skeleton costume instead. She had long underwear and a full fleece zip up onsie under there; kind of like a Christmas Story Halloween haha.
We went to the Spy’s friend’s house in a nearby neighborhood for trick-or-treating.
And check out that golf-cart in the background; that is what we rode on while out-and-about. It was frigid and windy; but we all dressed warm and stayed toasty!
Back in the garden, Halloween brought with it…
Hope you all had a happy Halloween! I am already dreaming of next year’s pumpkins…
And one more link for you: the digital version of the Spy Garden article in St. Louis Homes and Lifestyles Magazine! (The article is on page 54!)
Baby was indeed behaving but showed little interest in the carving until all the pumpkins were lit up in the dark. She was busy breaking in her Halloween costume for tomorrow. What will she be? A pumpkin, of course!
I wanted to carve the name “Rouge Vif d’Etampes” and “Atlantic Giant” into two of the pumpkins, alas, I didn’t have that sort of patience within me aujourd’hui. I tend to employ (and enjoy!) the rough, impulsive and unplanned form of pumpkin carving. But feel free to just imagine it. Lovely, right? HHAhaha Both of these two varieties of pumpkins are “curcurbita maxima” so there is a possibility that they cross pollinated, which would mean the seeds contain a combination of the two varieties’ genetic material. I think I had fully intended to only grow winter squash of different species within the curcurbita genus (there is maxima, pepo, mixta and moschata) so that they wouldn’t cross-pollinate so that I could save the seeds. The seeds look unique to each variety; but what do you think? How likely is it that they two varieties mixed and my seeds will grow Rouge Vif d’Atlantic Giant Etampes pumpkins?!