Garden Update–Early Summer 2011

After an unusually wet, cool spring which seemed to linger forever, and which stunted vegetable plant growth, I do believe summer has arrived.  This week will be almost totally sunny and in the 90s.  Since I watered two nights ago, I can see noticable growth in the cucumber vines and bean plants.

Out here in Utah, one must wait until a few days after Mother’s Day to safely avoid frost to plant more fragile plants like tomatoes and peppers.  We dutifully did, and then the rest of May and three weeks into June it remained cool and rained a lot.  The lettuce, spinach and peas loved the weather, but the rest of the plants languished.  For all you backyard “farmers” out there, you know what I mean.  Tomato plants looked sickly with yellow leaves and brown spots: too much water!  They definately are a hot weather plant.  Ditto for the peppers and basil.  We even had to replace a few.

This year we’ve rotated the crops and returned the peppers to the bed against the back of the house.  Two years ago we had more peppers than we could handle; last year we moved the peppers to the separate garden and the crop (what crop?) was awful.  So we’re hoping, once they get started with the hot temperatures, that we’ll have another good pepper season.  The tomatoes are in the separate garden, and NO, we did not plant any yellow tomatoes!  If you recall, they took over the garden and we didn’t quite know what to do with them all.  Yellow tomato sauce has zero eye-appeal.  An image of the back garden as of June 28th is below; I managed to include Charlie’s butt in the photo!

Our back garden

We’re enjoying a bumper crop of fresh lettuce (some really unusual varieties), peas, spinach (the big leaf kind that actually has some crunch to it), and radishes.  We’ve got a row of healthy-looking beets, as well as carrots, and scallions.  We had Burssels sprouts last year, so we put in a row of them as well.  They’re the big leafy plants near the tomato cages.  The peas will finish soon and we’ll pull them to make room for the root vegetables to expand.

Bean, basil, pepper and eggplant rows

Our basil plants finally took hold and are coming along.  We plant more than we can use fresh in summer so that I can put them in a food processor, and then fill ice cube trays and freeze them.  Great to pop out in the winter to put in sauce or an Italian recipe.  We have some herbs in an area of the yard that gets full sun, so it’s almost a Mediterrean climate there and sage, Greek oregano, and parsley thrive.  We’re also having luck with cilantro this year as we put it in a part sun/shade spot. 

The herb garden

The yellow squash and zucchini are slowly coming along with 2 eggplants and the cucumbers.  We tried the lemon cucumbers last year and they were prolific, but had too many center seeds for us, so we’re back to the green slicing kind.

As for the flower beds, we had lovely spring blooms (I missed them last year being back east for June).  Lara and I planted tulip and daffodil bulbs in the fall and we enjoyed them for most of late April and into May.  Thanks to the cool spring, they lasted.  About a week ago, the front garden blooms were spectacular: poppies (Georgia O’Keefe would have wanted to paint a blossom close-up!), multi-colored daisies, and magenta and pink lupine.  Now the pansies, sweet alysum and devil’s pokers are main stage.

Front of house garden

I’ll plan on an end-of-summer posting with photos so you can see the end result.  Hope your gardens are further along and pretty with flowers.  At least there’s plenty of water (no water shortage this year!) to use in the lawn sprinklers so the grass stays green.  Got to keep Rob, our English lawn mower person, busy!

Pink daisies against pine tree


Red and purple daisies


Poppies swaying in the breeze


O'Keefe poppy


Familiar pansies

Mixed blooms, including a lupine spike

Published in: on June 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thanks to the Civil War…

It’s newspaper deadline time again today as well as my weekly blog posting, so this time around, inspired by a published list of things and changes caused or inspired by the Civil War, I decided to make that topic my newspaper article.  Even though the Civil War barely touched life in Utah, there are connections and we even have a few of the items developed in our local museum.  So it seemed a good fit, since the 150th anniversary of the war just started in April of this year and will continue for several years.  Here’s what I submitted to the Syracuse Islander.

Thanks to the Civil War…

In April of this year, the United States began marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, fought between 1861 and 1865.  Obviously, the states in the eastern part of the country have the lion’s share of historical sites associated with the war, but the conflict did leave its mark on the entire country–even to this day.  This realization was driven home to me by a recent article I came across which listed 50 ways life was altered forever by the Civil War; some items on the list were things I never connected to the war.  Even more surprising, the list provided connections to life here in Syracuse and to items we actually have on display at the Syracuse Museum.

Most people are aware that important federal legislation, beyond the Emancipation Proclamation–changes to our Constitution–sprang from this time period: the 14th Amendment, giving citizenship to anyone born in the US (it’s a point of argument even today) and the 15th Amendment, offering the vote to all males, regardless of race.  Women would have to wait (in most states) for about another 60 years for the voting franchise, but the Women’s Rights Movement did get traction during these years.  And, although not as successful as anticipated, the Homestead Act Passed on May 20, 1862 accelerated the settlement of the western territory, including Utah, by granting adult heads of families 160 acres of surveyed public land–at $1.25 per acre–for a minimal filing fee and 5 years of continuous residence on that land with improvements. 

Continuing with grand national events, Memorial Day was started, with many US cities laying claim to being the founding location: Charleston, SC; Washington, D.C.; Boalsburg, PA to mention a few.  A national paper currency followed the war years, as did home-delivered mail.   President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Bill on July 1, 1862 to begin the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.  Few of us realize that as the war raged in the east, tracks for the nation’s connecting railroad were being laid in the west; the Golden Spike to be driven on May 10, 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah.  About 15,000 miles of new telegraph lines were strung establishing, on  October 24, 1861, the first transcontinental telegraph spanning North America.  An existing network in the eastern United States was connected to the small network in California by a link between Omaha and Carson City via Salt Lake City.  The first telegram on that line was sent by Brigham Young, then governor of Utah which affirmed that the Territory had not seceded. It read: “Utah has not seceded but is firm for the Constitution and the laws of our once happy country.”   The slower Pony Express system ceased operation two days later.

Changes in life stemming from the battlefields included: advancements in surgical techniques, improved anesthesia, and, grimly, better embalming techniques.  Warfare strategies and equipment also advanced and would resurface in World War I: repeating rifles; machine guns; land mines; and trench warfare, used by the Confederates to great effect at the Battle of Petersburg, VA.  Soldier ID (“dog”) tags were also developed.

Life for the common person changed too.  Standard pre-made clothing in sizes S, M, & L became widely available.  No longer were shoes made to fit either foot.  Left and right shoe lasts were developed and patented, allowing for more comfort.  (The Syracuse Museum has examples of both types on display.)  Commercially produced canned food hit the market and inspired canning plants to be built nearer the fields, some of which were here in the Syracuse area.  The museum has examples of items from the local canning facilities as well as wage tokens given to the workers as pay.  And of course, if you develop canned food, someone had to invent a can opener, and that was the kitchen marvel of the day!

Finally, as with any event which alters a nation, new vocabulary words and phrases found their way into the lexicon: greenback; smart like a fox; horse sense; skedaddle (to run away); shebang (hastily constructed shack); shoddy (inferior quality material, originally fabric); and for all newspaper reporters, the ever-present deadline.

Come and visit the Syracuse Museum,  our Civil War connections and all the other exhibits sometime soon.  We’re open Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5 and by appointment (801-825-3633).  The museum is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West.


Published in: on June 21, 2011 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Last of That Generation

Well, I guess officially my brother and I are orphans–if adult children can be called that.  As many of you are already aware, my mom passed away on June 6th.  It was a actually a relief, as her quality of life was non-existant and she was pretty much confined to bed. 

My brother, Ken, bless his heart, had traveled to upstate Pennsylvania from Tennessee regularly in the past months to be with her and assist with her care, mostly at mealtime.  The official cause of death was pneumonia–“the old person’s friend”–but she also had dementia and bronchitis.  Her age and several years of inactivity worked against her as well; she would have been 91 this September.  Her 2 brothers pre-deceased her by several years.

For those who didn’t know her, Jane was a trained singer with a lovely soprano voice in her younger years.  A possible career in opera was nipped in the bud by her father in the mid-1940s who wouldn’t allow her to move to New York City to coach for operatic roles: “Nice girls don’t live in New York on their own.”  I always felt she was frustrated at being denied this chance.  Marrying Dad, whom she did love, was a way out from under her father’s roof.  She did offer her vocal talents at church and community theater, but it just wasn’t the same.

She grew to love upstate Pennsylvania, where she and Dad are both buried now (in a little country church cemetery) and summered there many years in the mountain camp Dad built and she named Halcyon.  Many exchange students enjoyed that bonus for vacations along with family and friends.  Meals on the porch on the old folding Navy table, fires in the raised hearth fireplace, swimming at the lake, pinochle and cribbage games on a picnic table, and the occasional deer and bear wandering down the driveway create memories for all of us who knew her and spent time upstate in the woods.

She had her quirks: no microwave in the camp (she was emphatic about this), don’t let the screen door slam, rake the leaves in the forest so there will be a clean area near the camp, bring flowers up from Delaware County to plant in the woods near the camp to beautify the place (improving on nature?). 

Now she’s finished her earthly journey and has joined Dad who has been waiting for her since 1975 when we lost him.  She soldiered on alone for 36 years without complaining. 

Rest in peace, Mom, rest in peace.

Published in: on June 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Home on the Range, Where the Deer and the Buffalo Roam…

This week, for my newspaper deadline, I’m focusing on the big bison head hanging in the Syracuse Museum.  You may recall seeing it in a photo which I included in my virtual tour of the museum in a posting from January, 2011.   It’s fascinating for both kids and adults alike.  The head is on loan from the young woman who dropped it (I guess it’s a bit big for her house walls) and I have to admit, it is awesome, as in sheer size.  Thinking about it and the large bison herds that once roamed the high plains, I wondered if Utah had herds centuries ago or if buffalo were more of an east of the Rocky Mountains animal on the grasslands of the far mid-west states.  So I did some research and here’s the article I’m submitting to the Syracuse Islander.  I thought something more masculine to follow up the hat article was in order….

Home on the Range, Where the Deer and the Buffalo Roam…

 The one exhibit item that seems to fascinate both kids and adults alike is the bison head which hangs on the Syracuse Museum’s wall.  It is huge, and the whole animal was surely impressive.  On loan from the hunter who shot it, Janice Lansing (yes, a woman!), it silently presides over the entire room of local artifacts and cabinets of other curiosities.

Looking at it, I know I started wondering if bison, or buffalo herds once roamed Utah’s flat lands as did the herds east of the Rocky Mountains on the high plains in places like Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and the Dakotas.  The Native American Indian tribes who lived on the plains, and who called these animals, katonka, relied on bison for meat and hides.  So, did the local Indian tribes in what is now Utah have access to bison?

Apparently so, if the rock petroglyphs found carved into cliffs are proof.   More than 1000 years ago, the early Fremont Indian Culture left evidence scratched into rocks of buffalo in this area.  In fact, scientists are certain bison ranged as far north as Alaska down to northern Mexico and east to Pennsylvania.  Once the horse was introduced by the Spanish in the 17th century, both European explorers and Indian tribes alike took advantage of this advancement which made hunting parties more efficient and wider-ranging.  It is estimated that before 1700, there were 25-40 million buffalo living on just the Great Plains.  By 1820, bison were extinct east of the Mississippi River.  With the advent of the train and the linking of the nation in the late 1860s, the death knell for these great herds was already tolling.  Hunting parties of wealthy men were now shooting bison, sometimes from moving trains, merely for the sport of it, and in massive numbers.  No longer were these magnificant animals hunted only when needed for food, as they were by the native tribes.  Soon the herds had shrunk to just a few thousand and were in danger of extinction in the rest of the US.

Luckily, the few animals left were saved by the efforts of many people who didn’t want to lose a national symbol and they are now roaming again in small, but protected herds in about four areas in the west, Utah being one place.  Yes, there are buffalo on Antelope Island, but the protected, free-range herd in Utah is in the south of the state in the Henry Mountains.  This is where the museum’s mounted trophy head is from.

Just how does one get permission to hunt a bison?  Back in 2004, when at age 23, Janice Lansing shot this bison, it was via a once-in-a-lifetime hunting permit.  When weighed, the bison tipped the scales at 2,100 lbs.  It had taken seven shots from a 300 gauge Magnum rifle to bring the animal down.  Her trophy is listed in two record books: #16 in the Utah Big Game records and #110 in the North American Big Game records.

There are probably some folks who will feel that killing an animal like this for sport cannot be justified, but her permit fee–and those don’t come cheaply (about $450-$1,000) or easily–goes to help sustain the Henry Mountains’ herd for future generations to enjoy.

Come and visit the Syracuse Museum, the bison trophy and all the other exhibits sometime soon.  We’re open Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5 and by appointment (801-825-3633).  The museum is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West.

Published in: on June 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm  Leave a Comment