IMG_0729Here in the western Smoky Mountains, the rain has often skipped us this summer. No wonder when it started raining yesterday, we danced on the porch to the sound of drops on the metal roof. The garden turned its thirsty heads heavenward and drank in the beauty of a late afternoon shower. Our excitement was tempered by the thought of the folks in West Virginia who received too much too fast of the wet stuff.

Water is a stunning force and never doubt its ability to wield its power over anything in its path. It follows the road of least resistance, which sometimes means manmade things will never stand a chance. I respect its eminence and magnitude in our lives.

Early this morning found us in our kayaks on the Hiwassee River–yes, I’ve spelled that correctly. Here in western North Carolina the “a” is missing, but go ten miles into Georgia, and it is spelled “Hiawassee.” (From Chenocetah’s Weblog on Cherokee names: Both are from the Cherokee “a-yu-wa-si,” which means a meadow-like place, or a place with mostly low plants and few trees.) It’s anyone’s guess why. However you spell it or pronounce it, it shimmers in the morning sun and provides a peaceful cruise for two kayakers seeking beauty.

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Happy Fourth of July to all my fellow U.S. citizens and Merry Summer to all the rest of you. I hope you are enjoying blue skies, pleasant temperatures, and tranquil company.

Water Woes in the High Desert

Bamboo pond at Denver’s Botanic Gardens

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Sometimes I can’t keep my mouth shut; sometimes I need to say more. Recently, I might have found a balance between the two.

Recently we traveled to Denver. This region suffered a nearly rainless summer. They receive an average of 15.47 inches of rainfall each year, but as of September 26, they’ve only had 6 inches fall. This year is dry even for this high desert region.

The urban residential areas are on watering restrictions, and while the roadsides were brown and burned, home lawns were lush greens. Evidently, the restrictions mean they water as much as possible on the three days per week of allowed sprinklers.

A couple rode in the shuttle with us from the airport. They were returning home after a month in Europe, and they were worried about their lawn.

“It’s terrible around here,” the wife said. “We spend $250 per month on 16,000 gallons of water for our lawn. It’s a crime.”

“I think it’s a crime anyone would use that much water and spend that much on a lawn,” I said before I could stop myself. “Have you thought about planting something that’s more native that wouldn’t require all the watering?”

“If I wanted a lawn that looked like I lived in the desert, I’d move to Arizona,” she said. Then she pointed out a house we passed with no front yard or plants – just rocks. “See that’s just plain ugly.”

“There are other ways to make your yard look nice without filling it with only rocks,” I said.

Water Smart Garden – Denver Botanic Gardens

My husband decided to change the subject to something in his area of expertise.

“Where does your water come from?” he asked.

“We don’t pay attention to stuff like that,” she said.

Why should they as long as the water is there when they turn on the faucet? The next day I spent wandering one of Denver’s largest bookstores. An entire section was devoted to the problem of Colorado’s water and the diversion of it into urban areas lacking in the resource.

They both became silent when I mentioned I was an environmental writer. Then the husband surprised me as he pointed out the watering going on in the median of the roadway we passed.

“Now that is absolutely wasteful,” he said. “No one should ever be allowed to water at noon. And they certainly shouldn’t have the water spraying on the asphalt like that.”

A few days later, I wished I’d gotten their contact information so I could send them some photos. I visited Denver’s Botanic Gardenswhere whole areas are devoted not to lawns and landscaped perfections, but to beautiful flowers attracting bees, birds, and butterflies.

Dryland Mesa at Denver Botanic Gardens

The original mission of the Botanic Gardens is evident as a showcase for native plants that thrive in the arid climate of the region. The Rock Alpine Garden, Water-Smart Garden, and Dryland Mesa provide excellent examples of how residents can live with beautiful yards while contributing to the environment. Native plants do more than flourish in the climate; they are a part of the symbiotic nature with the land and wildlife.

I spoke to another longtime resident of Denver who keeps a beautifully manicured lawn and green grass. I asked her if she’d ever been to the Botanic Gardens.

“I have to admit, I’ve never visited them,” she said.

Let’s hope I said just enough to convince her to go.

Denver Botanic Gardens


In the Garden July

By P.C. Zick @PCZick

It’s beginning to look a lot like summer and the living is not quite as easy as you might think! Despite our lack of rain, the garden is still doing its thing. We’re watering about twice a week and hoping for the best. Here’s a glimpse for today, July 7.Who’s that lurking in the garden behind the tomato stakes?It’s the man responsible for all this! He’s picking beans.Tomatoes getting ready to explode!It’s very odd that we’re getting peas now in this hot weather. They just started producing in the past two weeks. We’re eating them every night. I’ve frozen a few bags (nothing like last year), and I hope to put up a little bit more before they say, “Wait, a second. . .we’re not supposed to like the dry, hot weather.”I thought this was a banana pepper plant, but it’s not turning yellow. Anyone know what it might be?This is the first year for our raspberry plants. I don’t think we’ll get many on this round. Also they don’t taste very sweet. A couple of the plants may produce in the fall. My husband assures me next year they’ll taste like the raspberries of my childhood!

That’s it from here, reporting live from Raccoon Township, PA. How’s your garden growing?

Garden Update

By P.C. Zick @PCZick and Facebook

The garden is really growing fast now despite our lack of rain. But nature provides and right after I came back inside to post these photos the rain started – our first in two weeks. It gently laps at my window pane as I type.

Last night, we grilled zucchini, small onions and potatoes and steamed green beans. Everything but the potatoes came from the garden, but my husband assures me we’ll be rolling in spuds very soon. He brought in some yellow squash too but I didn’t have room for that on the grill so we’ll have that tonight.

He also brought in two more zucchinis so I better get the zucchini relish recipe out and start thinking about putting up some jars of that. I’ll post the recipe and process when I do.

The tomato plants are outrageously big and green. I’m resting a bit right now because within a month I’ll be up to my bangs in toms ripening on the windowsill and waiting to be plopped into my boiling cauldron of herbs and peppers and onions. Or the best of all – sliced for a fresh tomato sandwich! The tallest plants below are a variety called potato tomato – you can tell them apart from the rest by the big leaves that look just like a potato plant.

The first tomatoes are beginning the work of turning red on the vine – slowly, but always deliciously.We’re also eating peas – a handful at a time. We just didn’t get the crop that we did last year.

How’s your garden growing this year?