Sunday, April 26, 2009

There's a new sound, the newest sound around...

I was hanging out on the patio with my sister a weekend ago and burning up the last of the old cedar shakes when over (or perhaps under) the snapping fire of that wasted potential and the distant roar of Friday night traffic on the freeway we became aware of a rustling among the leaves...something not unlike a small rodent scurrying, except that the sound was coming at us from every direction and in little fluttering waves...No way could we be surrounded by that many mice. Could it be the Spring growth coming up? Much too animated and widespread for that. Beetles, maybe? Too early. What?? I grabbed my headlamp and followed the noise with light until we spotted a movement under the leaves, and then we saw them: Night Crawlers. (Oddly, neither of us had really understood before why they're called that.) There were dozens of them, wriggling up from below to take part in this strange and slinky dance in the night. How many more were underground, in the the front yard, in the neighborhood? And how had we come to middle age without having known this?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I am a hideous murderous monster

So my excitement about my lovely little seedlings has been tempered somewhat by their rather untimely deaths, which not only set this whole project back at least a week or two but left me feeling incompetent, arrogant and murderous, as well as downhearted. If I killed these with such ease what's the likelihood that the rest will fare any better? Not great. With the entire garden depending on my success I am feeling somewhat less than confident about the outcome.

A little over a week after my first planting there were several strong eggplant and pepper seedlings and a few empty spots which I reseeded, hopefully. Just hours later, a number of the plants which had previously appeared to be perfectly healthy were looking weak and stressed. Feeling quite upset and culpable, I left them overnight in the vain hope that they might bounce back even though it was obvious they were done for. C Monkey suggested that they'd been lost to damping off, but I believe they may have drowned--or, more to the point, that I drowned them. It's the only reasonable explanation for why they would have gone from healthy to terminal in a matter of hours. When I pulled them the next day I found solid stems with surprisingly strong roots but shriveled leaves. No signs of damage at soil level.

This has taught me a couple important lessons.

plant considerably more than you need even if it seems like too much, because it's better to uproot a beautiful new life on purpose than to watch helplessly as your hopes shrivel and die...

Second, the deaths of a few tiny plants doesn't really make you a hideous killing monster but it sure can make you feel like one.

So that was a bit of a setback, for me and for them. Having no choice but to forge ahead, I started a flat of eleven varieties of tomatoes, many of which came up today--just in the last 12 hours or so. Still waiting on the peppers and eggplant...

Last night I suddenly realized that I'm way way behind schedule already, and I don't have enough packs or trays or room for all this, not to mention any knowledge or skills...but what can I do now? Only hope for the best, I guess, and try a bit harder.

Tonight: a flat or two of brassicas, some tomatillos and okra. (Okra?? What the hell am I doing?)

Oh, I almost forgot... Today the Trash Man brought me (as he told me he would) a wadded-up paper napkin containing about dozen melon seeds, of a variety which he tells me is Indian in origin, grows in the shape of a football but up to two feet long, and will far surpass in flavor any canteloupe I may have tasted before. Let's hope I don't kill them, too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Egg Moon

Easter weekend.

It used to be important, back in the day. An Event. Cherished friends from far away would come to visit, bringing food and dogs and photography and conversation and laughter. We'd spend hours decorating eggs, not just dipping them into a cup for a couple minutes but crafting works of art, batiks and watercolors and cartoons and song cycles and poetry, masterpieces and oddities, dreams and disappointments, arguments and afterthoughts. Not just a dozen or even two, but loads of them. (Buttloads, even: twelve dozen, one year.) Sunday morning, Dads rose early to hide all in the thin light of morning, in places we might or might not imagine--an egg tucked inside a tulip or resting in the cow skull on the old chicken coop; baskets on rooftops or high in the trees, hidden behind riddles.
The heavy-sweet smell of pipe smoke at dawn. Jelly beans before breakfast. Who will find your favorite one, the best one? For hours we ran, wandered, puzzled, grabbed, waited, hinted and traded until each had been accounted for and the thrill of the chase had begun to fade, like a pastel stain on April snow. Moms prepared brunch which, at least in the early days, was accompanied for adults by Bloody Marys, with just a drop of irony perhaps. The dogs always got a few--eggs, that is--and occasionally one or two would remain mysteriously unfound, artfully escaping our childlike lust and our parents' memories, only to rot away and turn to skunk food in the weeks to follow.

We never talked about Jesus.

Every year around this time someone starts in about what a rabbit has to do with eggs and what either of them has to do with Easter. If you are over the age of eleven and still don't know a little something about fertility and resurrection myths, I suggest you do some reading up.
Or spend a little more time without your clothes on. Or plant a garden. Which brings me back to the task at hand, which is to record our progress over the past weekend...

The weather was beautiful--sunny, warm, breezy and dry. I spent a chunk of Saturday afternoon playing Brahms and writing down a telling dream I'd had the night before, while C Monkey set to work clearing the infrastructure (fences, stakes, trellises, etc.) out of the front and back gardens.

Later we cut off the dead stuff, pulled old roots, and burned what was left.

broccoli skeleton


Saturday evening we gathered with some folks down the road for food and drink, a few poems and one song. We stayed for a fire and good company under starry skies, hunting for new constellations with new friends and new nicknames.
(And thank you, my dear A, for your many hugs and good ideas and reminding me that not only can I still hold a solid headstand but I'm not as old as all that... "You look like you're twenty."--sweet, that, especially from a radiant beauty aged ten.) On the drive home we were met by the egg-shaped moon, having just risen to greet us. While others slept, I walked the grounds and lay on the grass, alone. A good day.

Sunday we were busy:
- cut out the Birdbush (aka Red Elderberry) at the back of the pole barn, where it had grown through the axle of great-grandpa's wagon (which is now all but destroyed by time and neglect, sadly, although the wood-spoked wheels are still in good shape)
- planted some sunchokes I'd unearthed the day before (the rest to eat, in a gratin tonight. yum.)
- pruned the raspberries
- split (with great effort) the old rhubarb that's been rooted in the center of the garden for decades, planted some at the north end of the garden and the back of the pole barn, gave some to sis
- excavated an old tarp (also with great effort)
- kicked hack
- drank some beers
- walked around in the woods, hacky on the Big Hill
- burned the front garden again
- dinner, games, etc.

Big box of Fedco seeds arrived Monday, minus a few out-of stock items including my early sweet corn--a small disappointment. Started several more varities of peppers and replanted last week's empty spots.

Taxes are now done and I'm spent. Later dudes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Something New

For real, something never seen before: the peppers have emerged>>

In the background, the lettuces that C Monkey planted last Sunday are showing off, but never you mind them, my little pepper...You have risen, and you beat Jesus by three whole days. We'll see who's boss around here.

Oh, and also: last night I dreamed of Many Things, among them the arrival of two "extra" packets of seeds, an unexpected bonus. I came home this evening to find that one of them arrived in the mail today. Backordered beets--Lutz Salad Leaf, quite impressive last year--that I'd thought I'd have to go without until next season. Something's happening, I tell you. Good Friday, y'all.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


For some reason I woke up this morning dreaming about this little guy, who I encountered last August in our broccoli patch. Then C Monkey brought him up while we were out walking around today. Not only is it rather unusual to find a frog in the garden (toads, maybe) but neither of us could recall having seen a Gray Treefrog before. A good sign, to be sure, in garden and dreams.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

getting dirty

Maybe it has something to do with the weather this Spring but I've been fluctuating lately, between (among other things) a futile sense of reluctance about taking on the responsibilities of tending the garden and my growing desire to feel the earth in my hands again. I'm sure this isn't an uncommon sentiment among dirt-lovers, but as a novice gardener it's still a bit new to me, this feeling of being drawn toward the ground as the Earth comes around the Sun and the days get longer... In just a few short seasons my senses have been re-tuned to the rhythm of the garden, as if it's in my blood, my bones, each cell. (It could very well be that this is truly the case, considering how much of it I absorbed, breathed, consumed last year.) And I'm only getting started. So much to learn, yet to be shown.

So today I mixed up a batch in the basement and dug my gloved hands into it, as a prelude to warmer days ahead. Part coir, part potting mix from Mother Earth Gardens containing leaf compost, rice hulls and peat, part leftover houseplant potting soil with vermiculite--nothing particularly special (just what we had lying around) but certainly sufficient and probably a pretty good medium. It was nice to rub the soil through my fingers and breathe in some dirty goodness, although in the absence of the Sun on my back and a gentle breeze in my ear I was left feeling a little unsatisfied. I contented myself instead by setting up what I hope will be a good spot near a reasonably sunny window, on top of the new heating mat we picked up this afternoon. Into four semi-firmly tamped six-packs I planted peppers (Cal Wonder Bell and Joe's Round, plus some really old Valencia and JalapeƱo seeds about which I'm optimistic if not confident) and eggplant (Black, Rosa Bianca and Thai Green). Cut labels from an old plastic tub and marked with Sharpie. The first seeding is done and the excitement is palpable, at least for me... Cheap thrills, these--or maybe not so cheap--but a pleasure, nonetheless.

(yeah, the picture's blurry but it's really the best I can do with my piece of crap camera. changing that soon.)