i tiptoed out of the house this morning, hoping to avoid my roommates, leaving a note on the kitchen counter letting them know i wouldn't be back until this evening. i took the motorcycle, which made me feel guilty because i wouldn't get any exercise but it's 3-4x faster than by bicycle.

there's always food at my parents' place. i had some chinese crullers (youtiao) and a serving of fried chinese carrot cake. i was all ready for a day of garden work but my father wasn't feeling well so our projects will be postponed until tomorrow or monday. i thought today would be a sunny day with temperature in the 60's but it was mostly grey and surprisingly cold given our recent stretch of warm weather.

peony flower buds

during my routine plant inspection i was happy to see flower buds of various sizes already forming on the peony plants. there will definitely be flowers this season; the backyard has gone too long without peonies blooming. how big will they get though? i remembered seeing past buds the size of chestnuts. currently the biggest bud is about the size of a corn kernel.

but these peonies seem to be growing at an accelerated rate (i've been mulching with compost, which can only help). less than a week ago they were nothing more than reddish twigs poking out of the ground. now they've lost most of their reddish colors and are becoming bushier. in another week or two who knows how big the flower buds will get.

when i was squatting down to take a macro photo of the peony buds, my mother looked on my head and saw a single strand of white hair. this is the beginning of the end!

what's what in raised bed one

there will be plenty of arugula to eat in a few weeks. of all the leafy green seeds i planted, the arugula is doing the best, with two columns worth. the lettuce are emerging as well, with "vivian" being the best variety (in terms of germination success rate), while "iceberg A" and "roman emperor" tying for last place finish with just a small sampling so far. there are rabbits in the neighborhood but i don't think they've gotten to the raised beds yet if at all. i think the lettuce not doing well has more to do with the variety; it can't be due to the growing condition because the "vivian" lettuce is coming out pretty strong.

the mesclun row isn't doing too well either but that's mostly because i only had leftover seeds from last season's packet; that was sort of a bonus row anyway, i don't expect too much from it. on the back side of the box a few snap pea plants are emerging as well.

it's been 11 days now: i'm still waiting for the cilantro and basil to show up. i'm not too concerned. cilantro is late to the party but i'm confident it'll show up. basil i'm a little concerned, but i have more than a dozen growing in my closet in cambridge that i can easily do a transplant if i can't grow them outside from seeds.

in between the rows of leafy greens my sister and i have planted some more vegetables, mostly underground stuff. in interstitial rows 1 & 2 (see diagram) we have some carrots (they take a long time to mature though, i think 70+ days); rows 3 & 5 we have radishes; rows 6 & 7 some beets; and finally the middle row 4 a few nasturtiums (besides pretty flowers, the leaves are edible).

minibed (AKA herb garden)

so far in the minibed (AKA sister's herb garden) we have a lot of mint, one thyme, and one replanted rosemary. at some point 2 sage plants will be planted here as well. supposedly they're perennials, like the thyme and the mint and rosemary (although i bring the rosemary back inside during the winter).

the minibed doesn't get a lot of sun though, only from late morning to the mid-afternoon, afterwards it's entirely in shadows. it's sort of an experiment; at the very least it can easily become a mint box if we just leave it alone for a season or two.

elsewhere in the garden

indoor seedstarting

a lot of the seeds my sister planted have germinated, including a few lavender seedlings, which we thought would require as much as 21 days before sprouting. hoping the 2 remaining raised beds will finally be finished (i.e. sunken into the ground and filled with growing soil) so these seedlings can be moved out once they get big enough.

i finally got a chance to see the 2 new plastic barrels my father bought yesterday. it almost seemed too good to be a true, a local source of barrels at a great price ($10/barrel). he got 2 black ones which look pretty good, but i'm a little worried about the barrels getting too hot during the summer. spray painting the barrels isn't too difficult though, but we probably won't just because we want to put the barrel into rain collecting service as soon as possible (before the next rainstorm at least). the barrels looked clean inside, no odor whatsoever. one of them still had a shipping label that said phosphoric acid. sounds dangerous but phosphoric acid is used all the time in the food industry to acidify food (particularly in sodas).

there was still plenty of work for me to do in the backyard. for one thing, the neverending war against weeds, particularly dandelions. i started in one section and worked clockwise around the house, uprooting yellow flowers whenever i saw them. it was a bit exhausting, hunched over for about an hour, combing the lawn for anything that wasn't grass. when i was finally done though, i looked with a satisfied feeling across a green lawn empty of yellow.

right before dinner my father and i went to home depot for a supply run, some hose fixtures and half a dozen cinder blocks. these were items we needed to prepare the additional rain barrels. a new subset project is to elevate 3 barrels so they're of equal height and them connect them together so 3 separate barrels behave like one large super barrel. there are some flow speed and hose diameter issues that gives me flashback of engineering school days and my fluid mechanics course. i just wish i remembered all that stuff!

back in cambridge, i found my roommates huddled around the dim dining table watching a spanish movie on the laptop. the smell of their dinner lingered in the air (they'd heated up an oven-baked pizza). "do you guys get a chance to go out today?" i asked. last night i made a few suggestions, including the mt.auburn cemetery to check out some spring flowers. i wasn't that surprised when they told me they stayed home the whole day.