Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

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Elizabeth and I spent a rainy afternoon visiting one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist attractions, the Zen Buddhist site  where the Golden Pavilion (金閣, kinkaku?) is located.  Nor originally built as a religious structure, the top 2 floors of this stunningly beautiful lakeside building are covered in gold leaf.

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Originally a secular building, it was purchased and occupied by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu during the 14th century, and at his request, was dedicated to the Zen Buddhists after his death. 

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The original pavilion was burned down in 1950 by a novice monk, and the current structure, which may have a bit more bling than the original, was reconstructed in 1955. Even on such a wet day, it is a very crowded site, as photographers jostle for a tourist-free shot.  Tripods are strictly and expressly forbidden everywhere on the grounds.

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Elizabeth and I spent most of our visit wandering around the gardens, which can only be described as harmonious. The lakeside position of the pavilion is a perfect way to maximize the impact of the gold.

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While obviously, much of the landscaping is designed to accommodate the pavilion, the garden is quite large, offering more subtle pleasures that were maybe even enhanced by the somewhat moody mist, with the rainfall increasing the saturation of the greens and browns.

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Considered to epitomize the minimalist garden aesthetic of the Muromachi Period (1337 to 1573), the garden unfolds in a series of tableaus as the visitor strolls along a winding stone path.

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Visitors leave by descending a long, stone inlaid stairway.  No longer narrow or winding, yet still attractive, it leads directly to the real world.

Onion sauce, onion sauce!

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Growing up in Northern Ohio, garlic is about the spiciest thing I’m prepared to deal with.

Last Fall, I planted one 4×4 plot, half with softneck garlic, and half with hardneck garlic (above).  I covered the planting with a thick mulch of grass clippings, and in the spring, the stalks started appearing.  Because of the thick mulch, I never needed to do much  in the way of weeding, and by mid-June, I was rewarded with a nice crop of medium-sized garlic bulbs, each composed of a nice set of cloves. 

After doing a photo session in an outdoor studio, I left them in the basement to cure, and other than a few that rotted, the rest of them turned out OK. If anybody had wanted to braid them, which nobody did, the softnecks would have been suitable.

 I also experimented with Egyptian Walking Onions this year. Like the garlic, instead of a flower, the top of the stalk grows bulblets, which can be planted to grow more onions.  The fun thing about walking onions is that the bulblets, which are shallot-sized and formed, and can be eaten like shallots, sprout new stalks, which get their own set of smaller bulblets. Eventually, the weight becomes too great for the stalk, and it falls over, usually setting root and forming a new plant. Around mid-Summer, I planted a set of the larger bulbs, and we’ve been treating their sprouts, which are still in good shape, as a sort of green onion. I picked a couple hand fulls of stalks last week, chopped them up, and froze them.  The original bulbs, planted this time last year, have multiplied and need to be separated.  This isn’t considered the most flavorful of onions, but its super easy to grow, reproducing itself year after year with minimal attention from the gardner.

My chives are doing well, also, setting bunches of big purple flowers.  There are two nice big clumps in the garden right now, and they might benefit from separation.  If I get ambitious, I’ll pick and freeze some before winter.

There were two other representatives of the allium family in the veg patch this year.  First were a set of disappointingly small bulbs that I planted from seed.  I thought that they were a variety that would provide green onions, but what I ended up with were a set of tiny little shallot-sized bulbs that might have best served humanity if somebody had taken the trouble of pickling them. I would take the trouble of making gin martinis to use them up.  Elizabeth enjoys anything small enough to be legitimately referred to as ‘cute’, and she took on the task of peeling and using them for kabobs or something.  The biggest onion was a single large bulb type.  A lonely onion in a petunia patch, it was either a volunteer, or one that escaped a previous and less successful planting the previous year.  It grew a huge and complex white flower at the top of a 3′ tall stalk. I cut the flower and spent a week marvelling at it and trying to capture it photographically. We ate the onion.

Thanksgiving week is the traditional time for fall planting of onion bulbs and I took advantage of a lovely Sunday afternoon today, that peaked at 70 degrees, and planted 5 different varieties: Elephant Garlic, Romanian Red (porcelain-type Rocambole garlic), Italian (artichoke type softneck garlic), French Red Shallots (multiplier type), and Yellow Potato Onions (multiplier type).  All of those are on the small side, and I don’t know what I’ll do with them, other than have fun watching them grow.

 Having lucked into one large bulb type onion this year, I’m ready to plant some more. The guy who runs the organic market in Vienna told me last summer that he can get me some onion sets if I contact him in December, so I’ll give him a call soon.

Now What?

Thursday, August 12th, 2010


Big Max pumpkin, 62 pounds.

How does my garden grow?

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Jay's Garden July 29, 2009
For the most part, I’m pleased with the way the garden has turned out. While it isn’t exactly providing a significant percentage of our family’s calories, most of it is doing alright.

I’ve got both dent corn and field corn tassling right now. They were planted at different times, but pollination has coincided to a greater degree than I’d hoped. I don’t know if my small blocks will be adequate for complete pollination or not–I’ll find out soon. I’ve got two more later plantings that are a bit thicker.

The beans on the right side of the picture, Genuine Cornfield, has turned on 8′ trellis into a vertical jungle. There must be 200 pounds of plant matter, but until this week, nothing looked like a flower bud. The Christmas Limas, behind the sunflowers, set a few seedpods, but nothing much came of it. Willowleaf Lima is not very lush, and still has no blossoms.
Last night, I picked enough hybrid bush Limas for several servings, serving them in olive oil with kosher salt and fresh sage. Elizabeth and Kirk are out of town, so that means another couple meals for me.

My attempts at planting onion didn’t work out very well. I harvested two very small bulbs this week. The smallest is just barely large enough for a double martini.

I’d saved a little more than half of my seed potatoes to plant for a fall crop, and I put them into the ground today. I’d left them in the basement, which was the coolest and darkest place I could find, but the potatoes had put a lot of energy into long stems and were looking more than pathetic. I wonder if they’ll grow.

Are these harmful insects?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

I found the above scene yesterday on the underside of a leaf on a lima bean vine.  It just doesn’t look good to me.  Maybe these are some kind of beneficial bug-eating bug, but I’m guessing no.

It isn’t even clear to me what is happening.  The white things are pretty obviously eggs. They are actually kinda cool looking, with little super hero masks carefully painted on each one (click on the picture for an enlargement).

The red things are too big to have recently originated from inside one of those eggs. I think these are the nymph form of some bigger insect, but I don’t know what.

Are they eating the eggs, protecting the eggs, or just hanging out with them?

Tomatoes boldly step where peas fear to tread

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Summer, which came unusually early this year, represents a shifting of gears in the vegetable garden. The delicate tastes of spring greens are replaced by the more robust impact of hot weather reds and yellows. Both through more carefully planning and the accidents of weather, this year’s garden managed to simultaneously provide lettuce and tomatoes.  I composted the last of the lettuce and spinach this week.

Although my wall of peas continued to flourish, June saw a significant reduction in sweetness and flavor. I pulled them down before they’d completely finished flowering, and planted Waltham Butternut and Green Striped Cushaw winter squash in their place.  Those have sprouted, and I’ll put up a couple trellis for them tomorrow.

I’ve been surprised by how some plants have flourished, while others have struggled. Before summer had even started, it had become clear that I’d ended up with a tomato thicket.  On the left of Kirk, you see the tomatoes I planted in early April, 2 weeks earlier than normal. The set of tomatoes on the right side of the photo were also started from seed in early March, but I planted them 2 weeks later.

The Early Girl, which Elizabeth bought for me at Merrifield, has done phenomenally well, with the first tomato arriving during the 2nd week of June. At this point, its providing a couple tasty fruit every day. Glacier has started fruiting, but I don’t think they have much taste. Both Dr Carolyn’s have started providing a small but steady supply of delicate yellow cherries with an almost lemony overtone.  The Brandywine on the left should have had ripe fruit by now, but they all suffer from some sort of end rot. The other Brandywine looks to be in good shape, but its 2 weeks later, so its hard to tell. Radiator Charley is still a week or two from ripeness, and the two Old Germans have pretty flowers, but I’m not sure if they’ve even set fruit, yet.   Its been so hot lately that all of them stopped setting fruit, which doesn’t usually happen until a couple months later in the season.

I’ve got 2 kinds of lima one of which is well over the top of the trellis, with the more delicate Willow Leaf tentatively topping it a couple days ago.  A hybrid bush lima and a bush green bean are both doing well now, after withstanding a couple weeks of grazing.  The Cornfield green beans have turned into a leguminous green wall, but unlike the Christmas limas, show no signs of flowering.

I’m mostly finished with my first attempt at potatoes, an exercise that was mostly successful.   Digging up taters is like finding Easter eggs, a form of mystery lacking with most other vegetables.  I plan on starting a fall crop next month, but the left over seed potatoes, moldering in a cool dark corner of the basement, are looking tired.  Some of the potato tubers I dug this week were trying to start new plants, so I just stuck them back into the ground, and maybe they’ll do better than the well-sprouted seed potatoes I’ve been saving downstairs for the second planting.

I’ve had mostly positive experiences so far with the squash family.  We’ve picked about 6 pounds of yellow crookneck, a favorite courgette of ours that we never found in Europe.  The vine borers have been out in force, though, and I’ve had to pull out several squash plants, and perform surgery on some of my pumpkins.  Pumpkin patch #1, taking over the former mulch pile in a clearing where a pine tree was downed, is mostly thriving, in spite of the occasional groundhog attack and some insects.  Big max has set several of its distinctively pale and ugly fruit, and one of the others, I’m not sure if it’s Jack O’Lantern or the pie pumpkin, has multiple dark green orbs that are approaching the size of bowling balls.  Patch #2, a pair of Big Maxes, is struggling, and has only set one pathetic little pumpkin. I try to remain organic, but a neighbor gave me a bottle of some sort of insecticide powder that I’ve liberally sprayed all over the base of the pumpkins.

This week I planted some more corn, fall cabbage, and, because you can never have too much zucchini, another yellow crookneck. I’m not confident that the 3 remaining plants, 1 of which has had borer removal surgery, will make it through the summer. Making up for 10 years lost time in my garden, I’ve sifted a dozen bushels of composted manure into the garden.

Apparently to no purpose, I had spread about $25 worth of imported Swedish pigs blood around my garden in the form of pellets. To be fair to the manufacturer, while they did claim to repel mice and moose (elk), the package said nothing about the American member of the Marmot family.  Hopefully, the cucurbitae and pulses will no longer have anything to fear, with today’s capture of Little Chuck in the charitably named Havahart trap.  I can’t imagine why he even wandered into the thing.  I don’t even remember when I last baited it with pear slices and peanut butter. After some debate over the most discrete way to euthanize our little weather forecaster, Elizabeth volunteered to treat him to a $25 permanent visit  to the pound, leaving with the smelly thing chattering away in the back of my Subaru.