Photo Challenge: Close Up–Container Garden Finds

Green Cherry tomatoes and flowersFrom the ittiest, bittiest cherry tomatoes (some smaller than a peppercorn at this point)
Dusty Miller monochromeTo the soft and mysterious Dusty Miller

Okra flower bud
I haven’t tried to grow okra before, just picked up the seeds on a whim this spring.

To the beginnings of an okra flower, these are busy days in the little balcony garden.

Things change in a matter of hours: tomatoes ripen, peppers swell, the occasional morning glory shows itself, mint tries to creep in every other pot it can find, kale leaves disappear into the mouths of voracious cabbage butterfly caterpillars.

Some changes are better than others but they are all interesting to watch.

In response to this week’s theme Close up

Cherry Pie Heaven

Cherry pieI baked this pie with some of the cherry pie mix that I froze after my cherry picking adventure last month. Fresh sour cherries are just fantastic, and I’m looking forward to picking them again year after year. Or to one day having my own tree, of course.

The crust comes from Simply Recipes. I kind of rushed through it and didn’t think it would turn out so deliciously flaky and light, but I was lucky. Great pie crust recipe.

Here’s wishing you happy baking with whatever fruit (or chocolate) is in season near you!

The Summer Half of the Color Wheel

Orange, yellow and green cherry tomatoesOrange, yellow, and green — three colors showing one of the best things that summer has to offer.
Orange, yellow, green cherry tomatoesThese cherry tomatoes are tiny, but they are filled with summertime flavor and make me happy. I love stepping outside for a little snack, and watching the colors change from green to yellow to orange.
Orange, yellow, green cherry tomatoes

#Cherished Blogfest: My Cherished Object

My cherished phone and an okra plant in the background.
My cherished phone and an okra plant from my balcony garden in the background.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t consider people as objects to be cherished, which is why I’m not writing about my family. I love and cherish my family above all.

As for objects, well, it’s kind of funny that someone who is such a packrat can’t seem to justify any of the junk that she holds on to as her most cherished object. Maybe that will aid me in getting rid of some unnecessary stuff. So, that leads us to…

My cherished object is my smartphone. I know the phone itself is highly breakable, stealable, and replaceable, but what my phone represents to me is freedom and power. Specifically, the freedom to connect/create and the power of knowledge.

With my phone I have the freedom to create, write, take pictures, stay in touch with people, connect with new people, use maps and directions to go somewhere, find recipes, and perhaps most importantly, learn new things.

We walk around with the ability to look up just about anything we could want or need to know. Information that in years past would be kept at a library, or studied for years by masters, or never released to the public, is at our command. The data is simply waiting there for our eyes to view. What do we do with this ability to access thousands of years of knowledge and human experience with a tap or swipe of a finger? What responsibility do we have to add to that body of knowledge?

For me it’s a little overwhelming, and I feel a slight pressure not to waste the opportunity to learn as much as I can. I feel as though I should at least try to make a contribution. On the other hand, I’ve never had to use so little effort to look at pictures of cute cats, so I may just stick with that for now.

I love the potential that my phone gives me–the potential to create something I like, to chat with a friend, to connect with a stranger, to learn something interesting today, to discover a delicious new recipe, to find an alternate route, to finally figure out what movie I knew that guy from but just couldn’t remember, to look up a word in a foreign language, to understand why a particular news story is important, to get a joke or a phrase that didn’t make sense until I looked it up, to name a few examples.

Not every day is filled with mind-blowing moments of education and beauty. Not every day can be amaaaaazing, after all. But there’s always the possibility, and the hope that all these things I see and learn are not instantly forgotten, but stick with me in some way. The good and the bad. And there’s also the hope that everything that I absorb will ultimately enhance my writing and long-term projects.

That’s why my phone is my cherished object.

Photo Challenge: Close Up–Aphid Day Spa

Ants farming aphids on a grape vine
Ants farming aphids on a grapevine. Not near my home, thankfully.

I’m currently losing the war against aphids and I can’t stand them. I was so happy to see a praying mantis recently and hoped all the tiny critters would be gone, but I think my mantis friend took off. They are destroying some flowers and herbs and it’s about time to get the spray. THE SPRAY! The mixture of dish soap and water is supposed to keep them at bay.

If there’s anything more disgusting than the thought of aphids chewing up my petunias and mint it’s this: the fact that some ants are farming and pampering aphids. Ants like to eat the sticky sweet substance that aphids leave behind, so they will keep them as livestock. The ants defend their pets from predators such as ladybugs and lacewings, and in return the ants get a constant supply of aphid poop.

Research from Imperial College London showed that ants can also drug the aphids into submission using secretions on their feet, making the aphids easier to manipulate. To quote the article:

Scientists had previously established that certain types of aphids live in colonies where they are used as a food source by a neighbouring colony of ants. The ants have been known to bite the wings off the aphids in order to stop them from getting away and depriving the ants of one of their staple foods: the sugar-rich sticky honeydew which is excreted by aphids when they eat plants.

Chemicals produced in the glands of ants can also sabotage the growth of aphid wings. The new study shows, for the first time, that ants’ chemical footprints — which are already known to be used by ants to mark out their territory – also play a key role in manipulating the aphid colony, and keeping it nearby.

You just can’t make this stuff up. Nature is endlessly fascinating.

This entry is in response to this week’s theme of Close Up.