Last year’s garden

Well, apparently I did not blog at all last year. I meant to. I really did. But I didn’t. Since I was so remiss, here are the highlights.

I started two types of cherry tomatoes from seed: sungolds (orange, hybrid) and coyotes (yellow, heirloom). They were delicious and the coyotes were ridiculously prolific. Unfortunately they are a bit too much for my small garden.

A plastic container half filled with yellow and red cherry tomatoes.

I divided a lot of perennials and all of the divisions I kept did quite well. It’s the first time I divided some of these plants, and I’m pleased with how they did. It turns out plants can take a lot.

We had a heat wave and drought and several of my plants (thyme, Agastache Morello, and a hot pink yarrow) did not survive that. They were all new, but I’d like to try again with them, since thyme is delicious and the yarrow and agastache were gorgeous.

Two plants in containers have bright pink flowers. The plant on the left has tube shapped flowers while the one on the right has umbel shaped flowers.

I got a clematis (The President) that just kept going, producing 3 rounds of flowering (of 1 or 2 flowers each, but it was the first year in my garden.

The bluestar I have (Amsonia Blue Ice) looked fantastic and is really filling out.

I grew borage for the first time, mostly for the bees. I… will not be doing that again.

My bee balm did really well.

Be balm flowers are soft pink and look like a muppet hairdo. In the right bottom corner is a bright pink echinacea flower with it's petals pointing downwards.

I’ve got some exciting plans for this year’s garden, and maybe I’ll even remember to post about them!

Philadelphia 2021 Judicial Elections

Yes, it’s election time again. Yes, we just did this. We’re doing it again. This time for the District Attorney, a whole slew of judges, and some ballot questions.

The resources I used were:

A white cat with brown markings on his head sits in a black office chair.
Leo would like you to know that he tried to help but his efforts were rejected.

Justices of the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, and the Commonwealth Court

These are the first 3 sections, and they’re pretty neatly divided into partisan lines. I decided that I would pick the Democrats over the Republicans and that it wasn’t worth leaving any blanks

Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court

For these, since there are no Republicans running, I voted yes for those endorsed by the Working Famil8ies Party and left the others blank (neither yes nor no). I’ll save you a click and list the candidates endorsed by the Working Families Party here:

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas
Wendi Barish
Chris Hall
Michele Hangley
Nick Kamau
Cateria McCabe
Caroline Turner
Betsy Wahl

Philadelphia Municipal Court
Michael Lambert
Greg Yorgey-Girdy

District Attorney

Also divided into partisan lines, but Larry Krasner (D) does have the Working Families Party Endorsements.

City Controller

There’s only one person running. Easy.

Judicial Retention – Superior Court and Commonwealth Court

They’re all Republicans and I voted no on all of them. Their party affiliations came from Ballotpedia

Judicial Retention – Court of Common Pleas

I left most of these blank since most of them will be retained. However, the ones I voted no on were:

Judicial Retention – Municipal Court

I left most of these blank since most of them will be retained. However, the ones I voted no on were:

  • Frank T Brady – allowed a delay that kept a kid in the school to prison pipeline. It’s only one case, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are others.
  • Patrick Dugan – he may have made disparaging remarks about the Peurto Rican community

I also voted yes on Craig M. Washington because the FOP appears to not like him.

Ballot Questions

I’d check out the Philadelphia Citizen’s article on the election for these. The info is towards the bottom.

Summer 2021 Garden Update: Vegetable Edition

Well, I’ve clearly been terrible about updating. It’s been a strange, but mostly successful year in the garden, so far. I’ve got a lot to catch up on, but for now, I’ll stick to the vegetables.


The tomatoes have been my biggest and most surprising success this year. Maybe it’s beginner’s luck, since I’ve never grown tomatoes before. I planted 2 each of the sungold and the black cherry tomatoes. Both have grown quite well and I’ve been able to harvest up to a cup of cherry tomatoes a day. I prefer the sungold for snacking, but the black cherry tomatoes are just big enough that I can halve or quarter them and use them on bagels or in tomato sandwiches.

The sungolds germinated much faster than the cherry tomatoes (5 to 11 days vs. 11 to 30 days) and also started producing earlier. (40-45 days from transplant to first harvest vs 80 days from transplant to first harvest)

I think I’ll save the seeds from the black cherry tomatoes. I love how sungold tastes, but there’s another variety called coyote I want to try growing next year. Sungold is a hybrid, so I wasn’t going to save seeds from it anyway, though do have a few left in the packet, should I want to try it again.


For all the babying I did of the okra indoors, the largest and healthiest plant I currently have of the okra is one I sowed directly in mid-May. I’m growing a variety called Evertender, and it’s delicious. I’ve found that okra does not like shade at all and wants to be in as much sun as possible, with good drainage and a fair amount of water. This variety doesn’t seem to mind being a little bit crowded, from what I can tell, as long as it’s still getting lots of sunlight. 

I haven’t gotten a great yield—my largest single day harvest was 2 okra, and I think I managed to get 3 in one week. I’ve learned a lot though, and I’m hoping I’ll have better luck in subsequent years. I’m going to try to save seeds from my healthiest plants and plant those next year—and I’ll simply sow them directly in their final spots. 


The chard I planted is the five color silverbeet mix from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. It’s doing surprisingly well, given that I’ve mostly neglected it.  It definitely needs sun though. The seeds I sowed in more shaded spots didn’t do as well. I’m probably going to do a final harvest soon, although I could just keep harvesting a few leaves at a time. 

I think next year, I’ll be planting a different variety, as I think I prefer to get baby leaves for salad rather than the large leaves and stems. That’s purely a personal preference though. I’d recommend this variety.


I only got 1 pepper plant to germinate. It’s a buena mulata pepper. The fruits are pretty but they were really overshadowed by the tomatoes. I probably won’t be growing peppers next year.

A buena mulata pepper that’s just a few weeks old. It’ll get larger and eventually change colors to orange and then red.


This year, I’m growing rattlesnake (or preacher) beans for dry beans, rather than as green beans. If you had asked me last month, I would have said they’re doing terribly. It looked like they had rust and were just not going to do well at all. I’m still not sure what they had, though rust seems like a good possibility. But I eventually stopped worrying about it and the beans are doing fine. 

I’ve got several pods of beans that are starting to dry out. I’ll probably collect them as they get fully dried. I have no idea what my yield will be like. I sowed 17 beans. We’ll see what I get in the fall. I’ll probably do these again next year, although I also want to try Good Mother Stallard beans.

Project Launch: Principia Prepostera

Well, I’m clearly not so great at this regular posting thing. So what have I been doing the last two months? Well, several things, but the most notable is perhaps this:

That’s right. I’m doing a podcast. The first episode was released today and you can listen to it here:

Season 1, Episode 1 – Safety Training Principia Prepostera

How do mad scientists at the Eastern Tennessee Clown Car Company stay safe? Mick Donald: Altay Akgun (instagram)Opal Fellings: Anju Kanumalla (website) Written and produced by Anju Kanumalla and Altay Akgun. Show art: Megan Rhodes. Opening theme: Amazing Plan, by Kevin MacLeod Closing theme: Whisky, by Crowander The script for this episode is available on our website.

Episodes will be released weekly. To make sure you don’t miss any, I recommend subscribing.

Thoughts on the 2021 Philadelphia Primary

Well, it’s primary season again here in Philadelphia. Now, you may be thinking, didn’t we just do this? Yes, we did. But there’s a whole new slate of positions and things to vote on:

  • State and Local Judges
  • District Attorney
  • City Controller
  • Ballot Questions

Voter Eligibility and Registration

If you’re eligible to vote in Pennsylvania, but haven’t already registered, you have until May 5th to register to vote in the primary. You have to register by May 5th to vote in the primary, which is on May 18th. You can also sign up to vote by mail, but you must do so by May 11th. Finally, for the primary, Philadelphia has 14 drop box locations, in case you’re worried the mail won’t deliver your ballot in time.

In Pennsylvania, you have to be registered with a party to vote for judges, district attorney, and city controller. However, anyone in Pennsylvania can vote on the ballot questions. So, if you’re registered to vote, but not with a particular party, feel free to jump down to the ballot questions. If you’re registered as a Democrat, read on. If you’re registered as a Republican… I’m not entirely sure what you’re doing here, but welcome! I’ll only be talking about the Democratic Candidates though. 

Leo is here to provide emotional support.

Democratic Judicial and Local Candidates

The following positions are presented in the order they’ll most likely appear on the ballots. I based my decisions mainly on the endorsements of the PA Working Families Party and Reclaim Philadelphia and the Judge Accountability Table. 

The following indicate which of the organizations endorsed them. 
* = PA Working Families Party
= Reclaim Philadelphia/Judge Accountability Table

PA Supreme Court (Only one Democrat candidate)
Maria McLaughlin*

Superior Court (Allowed to vote for 1)
Timika Lane*

Commonwealth Court (Allowed to vote for up to 2)
Lori Dumas*

Court of Common Pleas (Allowed to vote for up to 8)
Caroline Turner*
Wendi Barish*
Cateria McCabe*
Nick Kamau
Dan Sulman
Betsy Wahl*
Michele Hangley*
Chris Hall*

Municipal Court (Allowed to vote for up to 3)
Michael Lambert*
Greg Yorgey-Girdy*

District Attorney (Allowed to vote for 1)
Larry Krasner
(I’m not thrilled with Krasner, but his opponent, Vega, is running as a “law and order” candidate who wants more to bring more drug-related cases to trial. I suspect Vega’s policies will end up being disproportionately burdensome on Black and brown communities.)

City Controller (Only one candidate)
Rebecca Rhynhart

Ballot questions

There are five ballot questions, accompanied by my thoughts on them. The Philadelphia Citizen Guide has much more information about each of the ballot questions.

Disclaimer: I had a lot more time to think about the first 3 questions than the last two. 

Q1 – Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law and increase the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration—and the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity pursuant to that declaration—through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority, thereby removing the existing check and balance of presenting a resolution to the Governor for approval or disapproval?

My thoughts: No – This seems like a Republican reaction to state mask mandates and COVID emergency declarations.

Q2 – Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law so that: a disaster emergency declaration will expire automatically after 21 days, regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency; the Governor may not declare a new disaster emergency to respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution; the General Assembly enacts new laws for disaster management?

My thoughts: No – This seems like a Republican reaction to state mask mandates and COVID emergency declarations.

Q3 – Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?

My thoughts: Yes – Having equal rights matters.

Q4 – Do you favor expanding the use of the indebtedness authorized under the referendum for loans to volunteer fire companies, volunteer ambulance services and volunteer rescue squads under 35 PA.C.S. §7378.1 (related to referendum for additional indebtedness) to include loans to municipal fire departments or companies that provide services through paid personnel and emergency medical services companies for the purpose of establishing and modernizing facilities to house apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, and for purchasing apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, protective and communications equipment and any other accessory equipment necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the fire companies and emergency medical services companies?

My thoughts: Yes – This expands which fire companies and ambulance services to apply for loans from the state in order to upgrade equipment, which seems important.

Q5 – Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for an expanded Board of License Inspection Review that can hear and decide cases in three-member panels?

My thoughts: Yes – This seems like it would speed up these reviews.

More Garden Experiments

Spring is here, and my sargent cherry tree is in bloom. I felt like it was late to bloom this year, but for the last few years, I’ve kept notes. It bloomed two days earlier this year than it did in 2019, though about 2 and a half weeks later than it did in 2020 (which was unusually warm). The tree is mainly ornamental. I’m told that it can bear fruit, but that it’s only worth eating if you’re a bird.

I’ve had some limited success with my seed starting. I now have 1 okra plant that’s doing well, 3 baby tomato plants (2 sungold and 1 black cherry), and 1 buena mulata pepper seedling. In total, I had 3 okra seedlings germinate, but 2 had issues with the seed coat staying stuck on. That’s definitely something I’d like to learn how to manage better in the future. The flower seeds didn’t germinate at all, and I’m not sure if the petit marseillais peppers will germinate either.

I decided to experiment and also tried getting some okra and pepper to germinate using wet paper towels inside a plastic bag. So far, this got a few okra seedlings to crack open their seed coats. At that point, I put the seedlings into some potting soil, but they don’t seem to be doing anything more.

I have to say, though, that I am not known for my patience. That fact is only reinforced as I check my notes from previous years and realize that, last year, many of my plants returned from dormancy later than I remember.

Hoping to get some more seedlings, I put some seeds in plastic baggies with some wet paper towels.

When my vegetables are eventually ready to go outside, and assuming I don’t mess up with acclimating them to the outdoors, there’s a new raised bed waiting for them. I decided to go with a bed made of grow bag material over a PVC frame. I’ve filled it with Pittmoss, which I’m using despite the compression issues I’ve seen with it, because it was the easiest for me to get in bulk.

I’m planning to grow okra, peppers, chard, and dill in it. So far, the only thing that I’ve planted in it are and some okra seeds under a plastic cover and some chard seeds. No germination yet, but it’s still early. I don’t think I’ll get okra but it seemed worth a try as I had enough seeds and I’ve heard okra seeds don’t keep well beyond the first year.

We’ve had several days of warm weather this month, and I’ve taken advantage of them to work on the rest of the patio garden. Most of what I’ve done is cleaning up the old and dead stems and leaves from the perennials, pulling up last year’s annuals, and adding some plant supports to a few perennials that seem prone to flopping.

I also re-potted the Amsonia Blue Ice and Russian sage, both of which had been planted in Pittmoss that had compressed quite a bit. Now, both plants are in pots with a mix of Pittmoss and either coir or peat based potting mix. Unfortunately it turns out that re-potting plants that are in large pots is difficult, but I’m hopeful that both will recover from the experience and flourish in their new potting media. Interestingly, the pot with the Russian sage was full of (good) worms. (The worms often come in with the compost.) Most of the time, the worms don’t stay in the pots.

If you’re interested in a mini garden tour, see the video below.

Garden Tour: March 23, 2021.

Adventures in Seed Starting

This year, I’ll be trying to grow 3 types of food plants I’ve never grown before: okra, peppers, and tomatoes. All 3 need to be started indoors to get a head start on the growing season, so you either have to start them from seed yourself or buy starts from a nursery. Being a glutton for punishment, I’ve decided to try starting them indoors from seeds.

In addition to the vegetables listed above, I’ve also decided to start some cosmos and some bee balm as well. I’ve never grown bee balm before, so this is another experiment for the year. As for the cosmos, in the past, I’ve just scattered the seeds directly onto the soil where I wanted them to grow. I haven’t had the best of luck with this method, though, so this year, I’m going to try to baby the along for a bit before planting them outside.

A brief note: I’ll be mentioning some specific products in this post, but it’s not a sponsored post and I purchased everything I’m posting about.

7 seed packets are arranged on a white table.
The seeds I’m starting indoors this year.

Most of the seeds I’m growing are heirlooms:

  • Evertender Okra, from Southern Exposure Seeds, originally from India
  • Buena mulata peppers, from Truelove Seeds, an African American heirloom
  • Petit marseillais peppers, from Truelove Seeds
  • Bee balm, from Truelove Seeds
  • Black cherry tomatoes, from Renee’s Garden

The Sungold cherry tomatoes are a hybrid, and the cosmos are open pollinated but not an heirloom. Both are from Renee’s Garden.

I ordered a seed starting kit, pictured above. The set up includes a tray and vented cover, a heating mat, LED lights, a metal contraption for hanging the lights, and 72 discs of compressed peat. I would have preferred to avoid using peat, but it came with the kit.

A plastic tray with a cover and lights hung above it. Several rehydrated discs of peat are sitting in the tray.
The seed starting kit.

I’m only using 24 of the discs. My garden just isn’t big enough to fit that many new plants. As it is, I’m theoretically starting more than I’ll need. I figure if I have too many, I can thin them out and give away some seedlings. And if I have too few of anything, I’ll have learned something and can use that space to grow something else.

I’ve arranged my seeds according to the diagram below. Each row is 4 cells/discs.

A hand-drawn 'map' of where the seeds are located.
My “map” of the seeds I’m starting.

Row 1: Evertender okra, 1 seed per cell
Row 2: Buena mulata peppers, 3 seeds per cell
Row 3: Petit marseillais peppers, 3 seeds per cell
Row 4: Cherry tomatoes, 2 cells sungold, 2 cells black cherry, ≥3 seeds per cell
Row 5: Cosmos, 2 seeds per cell
Row 6: Bee balm ≥3 seeds per cell

The tomato and bee balm seeds were tiny, so i probably got a lot of seeds in each cell. I’ll just thin the seedlings as needed.

And now, I water and wait. With luck, I’ll have about 2 dozen baby plants in a few weeks. I suspect that’s when the hard part will begin.

Pitmoss Follow-Up

Back in September, I posted about my experiences with Pittmoss. I thought I should post an update now that a few months have gone by.

First off, the plants that I used the Pittmoss with seem to be doing quite well. Of course, I don’t really have a control, and most of these plants (except the Yarrow) came from the same source (The Growers Exchange). In particular, the greek oregano, sage, and thyme (lemon and french) are doing quite well. I would at the very least recommend the Growers Exchange. (One friend did get some tarragon from them that didn’t do well, but their other plants seem to have been fine.)

Clockwise from top left, the square bed contains rosemary Hardy Hill, Lemon and French thyme, Yarrow Richard Nelson, and culinary sage. The rectangular container at the bottom contains Greek oregano.

Now, for the not-so-good news: In some of my containers, the Pittmoss has compressed a lot. I’d say it’s reduced by a third to a half. I was expecting some compression, given how fluffy the Pittmoss is, but this is more than expected.

I am still planning to use Pittmoss in most of my spring planting. However, I may try to set up some beds and pots with it ahead of time and then let it sit a bit before planting/transplanting. I also want to try to add some growing medium to the Russian sage and amsonia, where the Pittmoss has compressed the most. 

As an aside, the pictures in this post were all taken in January. We just had a big snowstorm, so the sage and the other herbs are looking less green, but… Well, my garden was very confused about the seasons for a while. I’m blaming it on global weirding.

46 Under 46

Well, Biden is going to be our 46th President. In honor of that, I thought I’d come up with a list of 46 things I’d like to see happen under his administration. Some of these are probably more doable on a local or state level, but they’re at least things I’d like to see his administration support. 

This is not an exhaustive list. But I think it’s a pretty good list. 

Get ready. It’s a long list.

Food, Water, and Shelter

  1. Extend unemployment through the course of the pandemic and make payments retroactive.
  2. Restore food safety inspections
  3. Increase eligibility for and reduce requirements for food subsidy programs (eg, WIC)
  4. Create other programs to increase food security
  5. Eliminate hookworm in Georgia
  6. Adopt and Promote Housing-first approaches to homelessness
  7. Ensure that all Americans have access to clean water, including: access to running water for Native American communities; remediation in areas with fracking; restoring access to clean water in Flint

Voting Rights

  1. Restore the voting rights act
  2. Eliminate ID requirements for voters
  3. DC and Puerto Rico statehood

The Internet

  1. Restore Net Neutrality
  2. Ensure all Americans have access to electricity—especially in Native American communities
  3. Increase Broadband availability in rural areas
  4. Regulate Broadband like a Utility so that it’s affordable in both urban and rural areas
Keep going.

The Post Office

  1. Restore all Postal Sorting machines and service capabilities
  2. Remove the requirement for the post office to prepay pensions
  3. Implement Post Office Banking as a way to help for the underbanked


  1. Protect insurance coverage for birth control
  2. Eliminate the tampon tax
  3. Increase access to evidence-based addiction treatment and stop paying for non-evidence based programs
  4. Require healthcare cost transparency: what procedures costs, what is covered by insurance, etc.
  5. Eliminate ‘surprise’ healthcare bills
  6. Pass legislation that requires/implement subsidies that assist hospitals in such a way that all Americans are able to have physical access to healthcare
  7. Prioritize reducing maternal mortality in the US
Halfway there.

Physical Safety

  1. Ban assault rifles
  2. Go after white nationalist terrorists using the same tools used for international terrorists
  3. Prosecute mass shooters as terrorists
  4. Investigate all instances of police brutality
  5. Get rid of ICE and eliminate detention camps for immigrants 
  6. Ban use of rubber bullets and tear gas

Money Matters

  1. Redesign US currency so that blind people can identify the denomination of each bill
  2. Legalize and tax weed.
  3. Increase the prosecution of white collar crime
  4. Increase IRS audits of high net worth individuals
  5. Stop audits of EITC recipients, which disproportionately affects Black Americans
  6. Increase anti-trust investigations and enforcement, particularly in the tech sector
  7. Increase capital gains taxes
Just a little further.


  1. Create and subsidize a system of free city and state universities
  2. Student loan forgiveness
  3. Equiity funding for K-12 public schools to alleviate disparities based on local funding availability

The Environment

  1. Implement policies that reduce single use plastics
  2. Climate taxes on corporations
  3. Restore all pre-existing EPA protections
  4. Ban drilling and fossil fuel extraction from federally owned areas
  5. Phase out use of fossil fuels, including natural gas
  6. Improve municipal and national public transport systems
You made it!

November in the Garden

It’s November, but no one seems to have told my plants that. This does not seem normal. At this rate, I”m wondering if some of these plants will skip dormancy altogether.

I’ve been letting things go a bit, but I will try to harvest and dry some of the oregano soon.

Leo enjoying the cat grass and ignoring the catnip. The only plant with yellow leaves now is the phlox.
Mint and painted lady runner bans.
I only have one bean pod on the scarlet runner beans.
The herbs are doing well, and annual salvia still has flowers.
At least asters are supposed to be autumn flowers.
Nira, the other garden inspector.