Monday, May 28, 2007

Lady Slipper

this one came up overnight in the woods across the street

Friday, May 25, 2007

Celebrating Two Years

It was two years ago today during a blustery nor’easter that I sat down and entered my first entry in this blog. I barely knew how a blog worked. I had never been a reader of anyone else’s blog. I didn’t know much at all.

But somehow I uploaded pictures and kept writing in the wilderness. Then on June 10, 2005, Billy, from Hawk’s Wing Farm over on the Cape left a comment. My first comment! How exciting. Two weeks later Sandy from Vancouver left a comment and when I connected to HER blog I saw (in addition to the most AMAZING photography) all these OTHER blogs listed. Wow! There are OTHER people doing this?

By August of that first summer I had heard from Sabine, and Judith and Liz. I was no longer writing for myself. There was an audience out there.

Since that first summer many wonderful new friends have fallen down the rabbit hole and entered my world with me. When I am in the garden I am thinking how would Kerry build this pea trellis, or when would El turn this compost pile. Indoors I think about what movies Holly is seeing and what books Carol wants us to read. And these are just a few of the many wonderful online friends I have come to know from all over the country and all over the world.

To all of you who are reading this … thank you for dropping by. If you are a lurker, please leave a comment, so I can visit YOUR blog and learn from you. My time in the garden is richer because I get to share it “inch by inch row by row” with all of you.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

From the Garden Gate Wednesday, May 23

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What's growing this week

Inspired by my friends at Walatoola, I have decided to do a "From the Garden Gate" photo each Wednesday this summer.

Today was spent planting tomatoes and zucchini into the garden. It is a glorious time of year to be outdoors. Red-winged blackbirds chase each other across the hayfield and the magic aroma of Russian olives drifts up your nose on an unexpected breeze. I had that wonderful experience you only get at planting time of tucking plants into the ground today... of firming the ground with both hands. It felt a bit like a laying on of hands ... a transfer from my care to Mother Earth's care. Yes, it's time for the handoff.

And here's what's growing this week.

the garlic has yet to show scapes

two harvests each day of asparagus ~ this morning's pick

slowly but surely Brussels sprouts

kale for Caldo Verde

and finally Swiss chard

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The first fruit!

while I know it isn't a good thing, I spied this baby Roma tomato on the Viva Italia I put in the ground today

The first tomatoes are in !

Yesterday I put in the Sweet 100's which had gotten long and gangly. They are being supported by strings hanging down from a bamboo bar. On the opposite side of the garden I put in some Viva Italia paste tomatoes that were gifts from Walatoola. I never have grown paste tomatoes. How can that be?

the gangly transplants

climbing up the string

Then I went to the basement and brought the cast of thousands up for their first taste of fresh air and sunshine. Where will I ever plant all of these tomatoes? Sigh. Tomorrow will be our first day over 70 degrees. Surely they will enjoy this change.

Monday, May 21, 2007

the pale army

I wouldn't normally do this, but I found Sunday's Writer's Almanac so rich in garden metaphors I have to share it. The poem captures well that first shocking time you put on a pair of shorts to work in the garden and realize both the ravages of winter and just how pale your skin has gotten.

Poem: "Mud Season" by Alice N. Persons, from Never Say Never. © Moon Pie Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Mud Season

After a brutal Maine winter
the world dissolves
in weak sunshine and water.
Mud sucks at your shoes.
It's impossible to keep the floors
or the dogs clean.
Peeling layers of clothes like onion skins,
you emerge pale, root-like, a little dazed
by brighter light.
You haven't looked at your legs
in months
and discover an alarming new geography
of veins and flaws.
Last year you scoffed at people
who got spray-tanned
but it's starting to appeal.
Your only consolation is the company of others
who haven't been to Nevis
or Boca Raton,
a pale army
of fellow radishes,
round onions,
long-underground tubers.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The rain

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Rain and renovation

After an almost 2 week dry spell, the heavens opened on us yesterday and provided a real soaker. This morning the new rain gauge reads better than 2 ½ inches of rain. (2 and 19/32 inches of rain to be exact). I had fed the roses and the hydrangeas the day before the rain and have felt very good watching the rain soak in to the ground.

Seeds are starting to emerge. I have been succession planting green beans and have a small patch of snap peas. And the Brussels sprouts I put in two weeks ago are beginning to grow.

But there are parts of the garden that are starting to get tired. My asparagus has been growing in the same spot for almost 10 years. I can see signs of age as each year more and more discolored stalks push up and then yellow and dry out. So I am planning to start a new bed this year and would welcome any suggestions on varieties that have done well for you. I’m pretty sure this old bed is ‘Mary Washington.’

Signs of age

I also need to move and replant my herb beds. I haven’t done any fertilizing to speak of in these beds, and I could use the space. So the plan is to move the herbs closer to the house and rejuvenate these beds for other crops.

Eager to get busy … now if it would just stop raining.

herb beds need renovation
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Snap peas are starting to come up
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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Annual Haircut

Our trumpet vine got in the barber's chair today and had its annual haircut.

Before and ...


And the left over clippings

Apple Blossom Time

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Exercising our rights

Thanks to Liz for posting the link to Micahel Pollan's article in the Sunday NYT a few weeks ago. It got me fired up to write to my Senators and Congressman.

Dear Congressman Moran,

I am writing with regard to the Farm Bill which is up for re-authorization this year. I urge you to consider that this is really a FOOD Bill … a Food Bill that encourages the production of the least healthy calories into our nation's food supply.

I vote with my fork …. I go to the Arlington Farmer’s Market every Saturday and give thanks that I have such a resource nearby. But voting with my fork is not enough. I want a Food Bill that is in harmony with my environmental and public health values, not one that continues to make it easier to produce a TWINKIE than a pound of carrots.

I urge you to read Michael Pollan’s piece in the Sunday NY Times, April 22, 2007 titled "You Are What You Grow."

Please, do not trade your support for the Farm Bill lightly this time round. Please, consider it to be a Food Bill, that has implications for the nation's health and its security.

I always feel good when I do exercise this right as a citizen. I know that NOW is not the best time to send such a letter. But I will save it and send it again when the bill is up for a vote. I used to think that the typed or handwritten letter was the one most noticed by staffers, but now I realize that given the mail scares on Capitol Hill, email is the method preferred.

It's easy to do ... and you will feel better.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The first asparagus of the season
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"or I shall not get home tonight"

I was reminded of the story of the Old Woman and Her Pig as I made my to-do list yesterday morning. There is such a chain of events in the garden and they all come back to the compost pile. The cucumbers are not going to grow unless the beds have been amended and the beds can’t be amended until the compost piles are turned and sorted. So there I was with my compost fork working my way through my two slow piles of yard waste.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Lessons from Polly

A local treasure died this week at her winter home in Delaware. Polly Hill was 100 years old, and from her I have learned some important lessons.

Lesson #1 Starting an important life interest at age 50

Her legacy here in West Tisbury is the Polly Hill Arboretum. On the property of the old Barnard’s Inn Farm she began her experimentation with plants and trees when she turned fifty. I have at this stage of my own life taken great encouragement from a woman who began such a painstakingly slow process as growing azaleas from seed at such a mature stage in life. The 1,700 plant varieties that have thrived in these fifty years are a living testament to life’s passion as a horticulturist.

Lesson #2 An interest in testing the edges

Polly wanted to test the margins of Zone 6. She knew the island needed a variety of strong pines to act as windbreaks, so she planted 85 limber pines on the north end of the property. “It only took them 12 years to die,” she mused. She wasn’t looking for instant success, she was looking for endurance. And she found it in varieties of low ground azalea seeds she acquired from Japan. They have survived the New England winters and thrive inside her “Playpen.”

Lesson #3 Patience

Polly’s experiments took the long view. Had she done her work from cuttings, she would have seen faster results, but she did all her work from seed. And she proved over time that you can extend a zone of hardiness if the plant is grown from seed. She once planted a stewartia (Stewartia malecondenron – ‘Delmarva’) from seed and waited 29 years for it to bloom.

So as I go out to my garden today and mourn the fact that my artichokes did not over winter successfully, and rue the fact that my bones and muscles ache from moving the earth around, I will remember that answering to a passion can make life from age fifty to age one hundred very worthwhile. Thank you, Polly, for living your passion in this place.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Out of the shed ...

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...into the wheelbarrow

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... and through the garden gate

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Third Spring

As I drove north up the coast I was once again struck by the reversal of seasons. The nearly full leafed trees of northern Virginia diminished to buds by Rhode Island until here in coastal Massachusetts I spy only a winter landscape. Fruit trees and forsythia abound as do daffodils and shadbush.

I must admit to a bit of smug self-satisfaction yesterday. I had carefully prepared beds all fall, so that all I would have to do when I arrived was strip off the straw and plant. Well that is EXACTLY what I did yesterday with 6 Dutch flathead cabbage and 6 Brussels sprouts. It couldn’t have been any easier. And I am pleased to report that the beds abound in happy earthworms …

As a treat yesterday morning for breakfast I broke off the first asparagus spear a bit before its time and pulled up a green garlic and chopped it up to have with my mushroom omelet. Yumm.

My other garden task yesterday was to prepare for the onslaught of the winter moth caterpillars. Last year I was caught unaware to the sad detriment of my fledgling apple orchard. Today I shall spray dormant oil on the tree trunks and branches. And then when the critters start ballooning onto my apple trees, I will attack with Bt. I haven’t made a decision about whether to try to protect other trees on the property. I clearly can’t do it without investing in professional help.

I am pleased to repor that the garlic beds are sporting the greenest lushest foliage I can remember. I am giving all of the credit to the composted lamb manure .