July Garden

Looking back at these photos reminds me that July was a good month in our garden, even though it doesn’t seem that way at the moment. Today we had to pull out two very dead, diseased cucumber plants, and I’m kind of down in the dumps about it, but I know I shouldn’t be. We’ve harvested quite a bit over the last month. Our summer squash plants may not have anything on them at the moment, but when they produce they give us more yellow squashes than we can handle, our cherry tomatoes are finally ripening up, and those cucumber plants (RIP) did give us a pickling cucumber a day for the last three weeks or so.

Somehow our kale plants are still fine, though the caterpillars are too. When it got really hot here this month I got lazy about picking off caterpillars, so some of the plants are pretty much destroyed. But the ones at the front of the garden are still good, and we’re still eating kale salads every week. Our zucchini plants are slowly coming along; we got one zucchini a few weeks ago before the plant decided to rest and take its time. And we have peppers! My sister Ashley gave us some plants, and even though the bed we put them in is on the shady side, they’re doing great. Two jalopenos last week, and a slowly growing green pepper this one.

Our herb garden out front has been taken over by the wildflowers I planted there, but the bees love it, so I don’t mind. And we still have herbs. Our cilantro and dill plants have gone to seed, but we still have basil and rosemary and way too much mint. I’ve been collecting seeds from the dried-out sunflowers along our fence. They’re about dead, but there are plenty of wildflowers left, and the nasturtiums I planted months ago have finally bloomed. Well, one did. And it’s beautiful.

I’ll try to think about that instead of the bugs. But, really, we’re overwhelmed by them. When we started gardening I knew I’d have to deal with the occasional pest, but I had no idea there would be so many or how destructive they could be. I’ve been picking off caterpillars and drowning them in dish soap and water, squishing cucumber beetles between my fingers, and throwing squash bugs on the ground and stepping on them with my boot, but every time I go outside there are more and I get frustrated. The cucumber beetle is the worst, by far. So far the squash bug hasn’t killed the plant—it’s still producing and doing fine—and the caterpillars are manageable as long as I’m not lazy, but the cucumber beetles managed to give our plants bacterial wilt. We first noticed some yellowed, drooping leaves last Saturday, and pretty soon the vines dried up, and the whole plant was dead in days. Does anyone know how to control the beetles organically? I’m nervous about using sprays—I don’t want to kill the ladybugs and praying mantises and assassin bugs we have, and, besides, I don’t even know if sprays work on cucumber beetles. Everything I read online about the subject is depressing: “your plant’s beyond help,” “there’s nothing you can do,” “plan ahead next year.” It’s sad.

But I really should stay positive about our garden. It’s still exciting to go outside every morning and see what’s new and what’s ready to harvest. I love being able to take in vegetables each day and to plan meals around them. We’ve been eating so much yellow squash: grilled for tacos and cooked up in curries, sometimes shredded up into muffins or pancakes. Tomorrow I’m going to julienne the last big squash we picked into noodles, and maybe have a ripe tomato or two to throw in along with it.

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Megan Huntz AW14

When we went to Atlanta last weekend we were surprised by how little has changed since we moved. Except for a few high-rise condo complexes that shot up and a couple new bike lanes on the roads it pretty much looked the same. We went to the restaurants we always used to go to (La Fonda and Yeah Burger), went to the same coffee shop (Octane, a few times) hung out with our friend Jamie, and sometimes it felt like we never even left.

One thing I’ve noticed that has changed a lot is Atlanta’s fashion scene. There’s a Steven Alan store (it was there before we moved, but still), and a brand new boutique/coffee shop called Henry & June that carries some amazing labels. We were too busy to do any shopping or sightseeing at all when we were in town, but on our next trip I’m going for sure. I’m also excited about Factory Girls, a sort of small-run factory and workspace for local designers. Atlanta had nothing like this when I lived there, at least that I knew of. So far there have been fashion shows and classes and a lineup of talented designers like Abbey Glass and Megan Huntz.

I’ve written about Megan’s work before. She’s creative and enthusiastic, and I love her approach to fashion and how she designs with women’s bodies in mind. (It’s important!) She’s been making silk, Grecian style wrap-around dresses that I’ve been eyeing for years, and now I’m also eyeing pieces from her new fall collection. Jumpsuits and cape-coats, and that draped pink dress below with the perfect shape. I love the photos too–shot by Jamie Hopper, and so good, as always.

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Books I Like: Biographies of Creative Women

I haven’t been posting as much fashion stuff lately because I haven’t been all that excited by it, to tell you the truth. It might be just a case of overexposure—seeing the same things on Pinterest and Instagram posted over and over again—but right now most things are looking the same to me, and not much of it is looking new. My theory is that fashion got so crazy and over-the-top and look-at-me! in the last decade that it had to calm down in this one. Which makes sense. Right now most of the clothes I see in stores and online are pretty and simple and tasteful, but maybe a little too tasteful. I’m tired of classic, I’m tired of heritage. I’m ready for the next visionary to come in and shake things up a little.

There are current designers and collections I still love, but for the most part I’ve been looking to the past for fashion inspiration. I love the weird, conceptual stuff from Japanese designers in the ’80s (it passed me by ’till now) and, as usual, clothes from the ’30s. And I don’t think it was intentional, but lately I’ve been reading a lot of biographies of female designers and artists from the last century, specifically women who were ahead of their time, and maybe a little bit eccentric. Definitely the kind of women who shook things up . . .

1. Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me by Patricia Volk

It’s not really a biography as much as a memoir. Patricia Volk writes about her experiences growing up as something of an ugly duckling who happens to have a knockout for a mother. As a kid, she reads the designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s autobiography and suddenly has a new role model to look up to. Schiaparelli was about as different from Volk’s mother as she could get: unconventional, far from beautiful, fearless. She was also endlessly creative—how else could she have built a fashion empire without even being able to sew?  I really enjoyed the book, but at the same time I kept wishing it was a biography of just Schiaparelli. Fortunately it looks like one is on the way . . . .

2. All We Know: Three Lives by Lisa Cohen

I’ve mentioned this one before, but I’m going to go ahead and talk it up again since it’s probably one of the best books I’ve read recently. It’s really a combination biography of three different women: the historian Esther Murphy, the writer/celebrity-chaser Mercedes de Acosta, and the ’30s fashion editor Madge Garland. I’d never heard of Garland before, or about how she and her lover Dorothy Todd transformed British Vogue from a stuffy society magazine into something modern and exciting. Like Schiaparelli, Garland was untrained in fashion, but she had a fresh eye and firsthand knowledge of the transformative power of clothes. As a girl she’s an awkward thing with a bad case of scoliosis, but her life changes when she tries on a simple (and stylish) muslin pinafore. As someone who grew up (and, who am I kidding, am still) awkward, complete with the scoliosis to match, I can relate. I was 18 when I fell in love with clothes and coming up with strange outfits that, if they didn’t make me stylish, at least made me feel more like me.

3.  Wild Heart: A Life: Natalie Clifford Barney and the Decadence of Literary Paris by Suzanne Rodriguez

Around the time I started loving fashion I went through a Belle Epoque-obsessed phase. Colette was my favorite. I loved her books, but I also loved reading books about her and her friends in Paris; it seemed that every other woman was a courtesan or an artist or an artist’s muse. They were all hedonistic and spirited, and maybe no one so much as Natalie Barney. She was an American heiress who moved to Paris to find acceptance and love, eventually setting up a famous literary salon that went on for over 60 years. During that time Barney became infamous for her love affairs with women and for her irreverence. She created scandal in her home country and raised eyebrows in her adopted one, riding her horse in the Bois de Boulogne astride rather than sidesaddle (as women were supposed to do back then), her wild hair blowing behind her. As rich as she was, Barney never really was into clothes or design. Rodriguez writes of how, after moving into her home on Rue Jacob, Barney haphazardly filled it up with whatever antique furniture she had, never redecorating once in all the 60 years she lived there. She just didn’t care all that much.

4. Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart

I avoided the Diana Vreeland documentary for a long time because, I don’t know why, but once I watched it I wanted to find out everything I could about her. I wanted to learn more about how she entered the fashion world and about her strange, but fascinating thought process. Most of all I think I wanted for her enthusiasm and excitement for the new to rub off on me. She embraced the modern world just about as much as Natalie Barney ignored it, and was always on to the next big thing, even in her 80s. She was eccentric and completely herself. As a fashion editor she dictated trends, but didn’t expect readers to follow them like lemmings–not really at least. Her pronouncement on style: “all who have it share one thing: originality.”

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June Garden

We got back from a five day trip to North Carolina a few weeks ago and the garden was suddenly huge. The kale was finally full-grown (and full of caterpillars, sadly, but they can be picked off), the lettuces that had fed us for months shot up and bolted, as did the arugula, though the flowers it sent out were so pretty that we didn’t mind. We had radishes, lots of cherry tomatoes on a plant we hadn’t expected much from, and our sunflowers were taller than the both of us.

While we were gone we kept talking about the garden (we missed it), wondering what would grow and what wouldn’t. The summer has been hot so far; too hot for lettuces, though I keep planting seeds and trying. The spinach and sugar snap peas dried up too, but the kale is still going strong. We have two kale salads each a week, and still have new leaves growing all the time. We eat something from our garden every day: mostly green onions and herbs, and radishes whenever they’re ready (which is pretty often; whoever said that radishes grow quickly wasn’t lying).

Mostly we’re excited about our cucumber and squash plants. So far we’ve been able to eat one summer squash—the rest of the squashes on the plant got blossom-end rot and died. But we have another plant in the raised bed that is huge and looking a little more promising. And the cucumber plants look even better; we think we might be eating cucumbers within a week.

Drew is excited for cucumbers, but I’m holding out for the zucchinis. We can’t have too many; I want enough to grill and give away, and I wouldn’t mind having another excuse to bake. Especially this, and maybe a vegan version of this.

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