Upon further inspection…

25 08 2008

After I took the photo in the previous posting, I started watering the backyard garden. In the area that I call “The Scary Tomato Jungle,” there is a free-for-all fight for space among:

— now-defunct lettuce plant remnants (Can you do some weeding, Cindy? Seriously.)
— several don’t-produce-enough-to-warrant-keeping strawberry plants we hauled back from Sequim, Washington on vacation a few years ago
— a very complacent hollyhock plant that just won’t put out
— an ill-placed butterfly bush (but it was only $5). When the books tell you to leave 8 feet x 8 feet of space for a butterfly bush, don’t question their authority. Learn from my (four—count ’em) experiences.
— a thumbergia vine

And…gasp! Pole bean plants I forgot I had planted (refer to photo for proof). When I went to water The Scary Tomato Jungle, I came across one lone bean. And then another. And so on and so on. Beneath these forgotten beans were more grape tomatoes. (Oooh, I get to use another pretty plate for this photo!)

Sigh. So much for the posting below on today’s “meager harvest.”

What did we learn in class today? We learned that maybe a butterfly bush, two vines, two pole bean plants, two red tomato plants, two grape tomato plants, one yellow tomato plant, two strawberry plants, one hollyhock and eight different kinds of lettuce might be a tad too much for a 3 foot x 20 foot bed. Ya think?

© Cindy Dyer. All right reserved.

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Tomatoes, nasturtiums, herbs and Alzheimer’s

25 08 2008

Hey, I finally found a use for all those plates I’ve collected throughout the years. Photo props!

This is my meager—but no less lovely—edible harvest from this morning. And yes, the Nasturtium flowers are edible, too. These rapidly growing annuals are easy to grow from seed, like full sun to partial shade, come in an array of colors (yellow, orange, pink, red, butter yellow, cream, and mahogany), and have a peppery taste. There are climbing and trailing types available. Nasturtiums are also called Scottish flamethrower or Indian cress. Both the lotus-leaf-like leaves and flowers are edible.

Read this funny and informative post titled, “Nasturtium: The Flower Growing Under False Pretenses,” on Hanna’s This Garden is Illegal blog.

You’ll find growing tips and recipes for Nasturtiums here and here. I cheated this year and bought my tiny seedlings from DeBaggio’s Herb Farm and Nursery in Chantilly, VA. Yes, sometimes I am not a patient gardener! My also-gardening-crazy friend, Karen, introduced me to this family-owned nursery several years ago. We buy most of our herbs and heirloom tomato plants there. (They sell 100 varieties of tomatoes!)

Time for the serious stuff…
In 1975 Tom and Joyce DeBaggio started their family business selling home-propagated herb and vegetables from their backyard in Arlington. Author of several herb books (all of which I own—duh, no big surprise), Tom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 1999 at the age of 57. NPR interviewed DeBaggio on their All Things Considered program in May 2005 here and April 2007 here. The Alzheimer’s Research Forum wrote about the NPR Audio Interviews in May 2007.

I read his first book, Losing My Mind, published in 2003 by The Free Press/Simon & Schuster, Inc., after my father shared his observations about conversations with one of my uncles, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My father said most of my uncle’s waking hours were spent in the past…in his early years…as a teenager….as a young man…repeating the same story over and over. My uncle passed away a few years ago.

DeBaggio’s follow-up book, When It Gets Dark: An Enlightened Reflection on Life with Alzheimer’s, was also published in 2003. Both of these books, as well as his excellent herb books, are available online here. His son, Francesco, now runs the family business.

A review of Losing My Mind from Publishers Weekly:
“I have a clear sense of history, I just don’t know whether it is mine,” writes DeBaggio in this moving and unusual memoir. The author, who has previously written about his gardening business (Growing Herbs from Seed, Cutting and Root), documents his mental deterioration from Alzheimer’s. Diagnosed with the disease in 1999 at the age of 57, DeBaggio undertook this project in order to increase awareness of this devastating illness from a patient’s point of view. He describes how his gradual loss of memory has impacted his life. For example, after he became confused about how to get to his niece’s house, he realized he had to give up driving a car. The increased loss of language has been extremely difficult for a man who once worked as a journalist and a freelance writer. Interspersed throughout the narrative are DeBaggio’s recollections of his childhood events that may soon be lost to him. He also describes the disease’s negative effect on his wife and grown son. Although DeBaggio provides information on the medical advances that are being made to treat this disease, it is clear that a breakthrough will come too late for him. With this rare first-person account, DeBaggio has made a significant contribution to literature on an illness that currently affects four million Americans.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





My morning harvest

21 08 2008

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Now that’s more like it!

11 08 2008

Over the past three days, I have picked 47 grape tomatoes from my garden. Now that is a harvest by townhouse garden standards! I photographed them in this beautiful ceramic bowl my friend Carmen gave me a few years ago. I also picked five more of the yellow tomatoes shown in this posting (a very meager harvest that day) and this posting.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.