We ended up with about an inch and a half of snow overnight. It didn’t affect the roads much, so after we dropped Riggy off to have his teeth cleaned this morning at the vet’s office, we headed up to Ste. Genevieve to pick up some odds and ends from the Brew Haus and have lunch at the Anvil.
While we were there, I saw something I’d never noticed before:
I was a little reluctant to take my eyes off of it, because from a distance, it looked suspiciously like:
When we got back, we picked up new tags for the dogs and a new collar for Riggy and met a nice young man who was having a tag engraved with “MARRY ME” so he could put it on the puppy he was getting for his girlfriend. He said she told him she wanted a puppy and a ring, so he was getting her both on the same day.
After another errand or two, we went to the vet’s office to pick up Riggy, who was well and truly stoned from the anaesthetic. He cried on the way home because he hates riding in the car, but when we got to the Hardee’s drive-through to get him some chicken strips for dinner, he whimpered once or twice and then started literally nodding off:
Poor little Riggy. He enjoyed his chicken, though. He’s got some more waiting for him when he wakes up.
Y’all know how much I hate winter. I spent most of today trying to ignore it: making avocado-and-quail-egg sandwiches for brunch, starting a batch of yogurt in the Crock-Pot, picking up a couple of gallons of sweet cider at Rendleman’s Orchard, sanitizing the keg to ferment the cider (I will have a post on the glory of homemade hard cider in the not-too-distant future), installing plastic over the windows, finishing up the second Roman shade for the living room, and having dinner at the Pilot House, which we’d never been to before, and which we really enjoyed.
We’re fond of stopping at promising-looking roadhouses when we travel, and the Pilot House, which is tucked next to a little creek on one of the back roads to Jackson, was a nice find. It might be all of five miles from home, but it felt like the sort of place we’d stop on 66 or 61 or maybe the Lincoln Highway — sort of like the Elbow Inn or the Luna Cafe or that crazy place we found out near Middlegate, Nevada, on the Loneliest Road where they serve the “Monster Burger” with olives for eyes. They’ve got the wheel from a riverboat mounted on the ceiling above the bar, and the bar itself is covered with pennies embedded in resin or something. I had a ribeye sandwich that tasted exactly like a ribeye sandwich from a bar is supposed to taste, and Ron had a barbecue sandwich that I will almost certainly order next time we’re there.
They also had Stag on tap, which is invariably a good sign. Stag on tap at a roadhouse is like sweet tea at a barbecue joint or horchata at a taqueria: If they have it, you can safely assume you’re in good hands.
In the Southwest, xeriscaping is popular, as it involves planting only native and/or drought-tolerant species in your garden so you don’t end up draining every aquifer west of Amarillo in a misguided effort to keep some delicate green thing alive.
Here in the Midwest, I practice a variant I developed by accident, which I call “Darwin gardening.”
The original Darwin Garden was located in our backyard in Belleville, Illinois, and it happened by accident: I started with a neat garden divided into four-foot squares delineated with old bricks I’d found in the garage, with neat mulched paths between them, and by the time we left, my laziness and absolute refusal to coddle weak plants left me with an unruly but outrageously productive tangle of perennials and vigorous self-seeding annuals that included echinacea, parsley, Roman chamomile, chives, dill, sage, spinach, cilantro, mint, marjoram, oregano, carrots, blackberries, and waist-high collards that thought they were perennials.
The Darwin Garden wasn’t neatly manicured, but it was healthy, low-maintenance, and completely organic. When you let natural selection dictate your landscaping design, you don’t need pesticides, heavy watering or other environmentally questionable practices to keep your garden thriving. You also don’t need huge blocks of time to take care of your garden, because your plants will be sturdy enough to survive without constant coddling.
We have a similar garden here. When we moved in last year, I planted a small garden, watered it occasionally, and otherwise ignored it, knowing the fastest way to find out which plants were suited to the local growing conditions was to neglect them and see whether they survived.
A year into that experiment, I’ve got sage, strawberries, mint, basil and Shasta daisies that came up with no help from me, and next year’s arugula and cucumbers have already planted themselves.
If you’re a little bit concerned about the environment and a lot lazy, consider planting your own Darwin Garden. If you can tolerate the frustrations of that first year, you’ll find it pays big dividends in subsequent seasons.
I spent part of today working on my pond filter and starting a few small indoor projects, including some sprouts and a worm bin.
While I was outside, I took a few pictures of the garden in its more-or-less dormant state. Fall and winter always make me sad, because I hate saying goodbye to the garden, but I’ve got a few projects planned out there for this winter, and I think we’ll be in good shape come spring.
So far, I’ve bought four 36-inch fire rings to use as compost bins this winter, with the intention of planting directly into the compost this spring to make incredibly rich, easy-to-manage raised beds for my tomatoes.
That pond filter I built out of an ice-cream bucket looks as if it’s going to work pretty well. Time will tell, of course, but so far, it seems to be working. I’ll have a tutorial for you in an upcoming Eco-Saturday entry. The picture above delights me; I can’t believe how big that lemon balm has gotten. The oregano, meanwhile, apparently thinks it’s an aquatic plant — I found some of it growing roots right down into the water. Leave it to a mint to be audacious enough to try to compete with water hyacinths on their own turf.
The arugula I allowed to bolt this summer has scattered seeds all over the small bed in the center of the yard and halfway across the yard around it, so I’ve got salad growing all over the place without having to do any late-season planting. The sage and chives are still hanging in there, too, although my Genovese basil succumbed to the light frost we had the other night. I’ll have an Eco-Saturday entry on Darwin gardening sometime in the next month or so. If you’re willing to let Mother Nature run the show, you can have a remarkably productive garden with virtually no effort.
We just got back Monday evening from a much-needed vacation, and I’ve been covering a murder trial all week, so I just got a hand free to start Photoshopping some images.
We left as soon as we finished up at the copy desk in the wee hours of the morning Aug. 10 and drove straight through to Tucumcari, because I hadn’t been out there in 20 months, hadn’t had a proper vacation in two years, and simply could not be bothered with such niceties as sleep until I got a lungful of high desert air.
We’d been on the road somewhere around 12 hours when we rolled through Erick, Okla., on Route 66 and passed a familiar rust-covered sign standing sentinel over a pasture near Texola:
At Vega, Texas, I insisted on stopping for a photo op with the mascot for Rooster’s Mexican restaurant. If you’re a fan of The Bloggess, you know why this was important.
As soon as we reached New Mexico, I insisted on stopping at Russell’s Travel Center in Endee so I could pick up one of their awesome green chile burritos before we went on to Tucumcari. Do I even have to tell you where we stayed?
Despite having been up for 38 hours — and on the road for a good 18 of them — I woke up at 6:30 the next morning, feeling more refreshed than I had at any point in the past two years. Once Ron got up, we loaded the car, grabbed breakfast at Kix on 66 (green chile breakfast burrito) and headed for Santa Rosa.
We visited the Rudolfo Anaya monument, where I sat under a tree, quietly playing Bob Dylan covers and singing to myself. We also wandered down the park trail, trying out the outdoor exercise equipment the city has put in since my last visit. (I was, of course, inspired to add “build outdoor gym in backyard” to my to-do list for my next creative outburst.) After Santa Rosa, we took the old alignment of 66 up to Santa Fe, making a short detour to Las Vegas, N.M., to see Allan Affeldt’s latest project — an old Harvey House called La Castaneda that he recently acquired and plans to restore. We spent some time poking around the interesting little shops downtown, which I highly recommend.
We got an order of green chile cheese fries — which I’d been craving for two solid years — at El Parasol in Santa Fe before heading to Albuquerque, where I broke my green chile streak with a trip to the Dog House for a (red) chili dog. We stayed at the Monterey Non-Smokers’ Motel, which was comfortable as always, and grabbed green chile breakfast burritos at the Frontier Restaurant before heading out of town.
In Gallup, we went to Aurelia’s Diner, where I consumed what might be the greatest thing ever invented: a “green parfait,” which is a parfait glass full of mashed potatoes layered with green chile stew and topped with shredded cheddar. GLORY.
We’ll pick up this saga there tomorrow, assuming I can shake free to work up a few more photos. I’ve got tons of images from Amboy Crater to share.