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Way back in the early eighties, when I was working in the very last corporate job I had, I used to take a lunch hour every day. Often I'd take my company car, a Subaru Brat, over the big bridge to the old Westgate Mall, where there was a tiny little juice bar run by a vegan couple with three small children. Back then, vegan couples were rare, and juice bars even rarer! But we had one in little old Asheville, and I went there at least once a week, in search of the elusive carrot juice.
I remember sitting at the counter gleefully watching as a fresh two-pound bag of organic carrots was opened, trimmed, and fed into the chute of the magical, mysterious Champion juicer. My eyes would brim with delight as the freshly mashed carrot pulp oozed from the front of the juicer, and the bright orange liquid poured out of the bottom. Two pounds of carrots, one pint of juice. I'd take the glass and gulp that juice down in seconds. I could feel the vitality coursing through my body while that fabulous flavor still lingered on my tongue.
Two pounds of carrots, one pint of juice, ten seconds, three dollars. That was a lot of money to pay for a drink in those days, especially one with no alcohol! But at least once a week, I paid it, drank it, and wished for the day that I could grow carrots in my own garden, and juice them with my own Champion juicer. In those days, I was gardening in Georgia clay. You know what carrots do in Georgia clay? They suffer, that's what they do. They suffer, they split, they stunt, they rot, they dry out. One thing carrots do not do in Georgia clay: they do not make good carrot juice.
After the first few years of utter failure growing carrots in Georgia clay, I didn't even bother planting them any more. But I never let go of my dream.
Now I live in this incredible place, this tiny plot of Eden with deep, rich, loose, loamy topsoil teeming with happy, industrious microbes. Last year, my old carrot juice dream came bubbling to the surface, and I sowed a small patch of carrots to see what would happen. Ten pounds later, I was resolved! Next year, I decided, I would grow carrots in earnest, and when they started coming in, I would buy myself a Champion juicer and live my dream.
And so I have.
Much to my surprise, I got just shy of a pint of juice out of only 20 oz. of carrots! Maybe it's because the juicer has been improved over the past 25 years. Maybe because the carrots were so fresh, they were still vibrating. Or maybe because my carrots are the happiest carrots in the world, because I tell them every day that I love them.
Whatever the reason, those 20 oz. of carrots made the best glass of carrot juice I've had in many a year. I can feel the vitality coursing through my body, even as the fabulous flavor still lingers on my tongue. Looking at my two carrot patches in the back garden, I can't even see a dent where I pulled those dozen carrots out of the ground. And just last week, I sowed a third carrot patch.
My juicer is here! Life is good.
It's a sign I tell you! First day of summer dawned cool and breezy, heated up to a swelter only briefly, then succumbed to a refreshing shower. I had intended to spend the entire day working outside, but I welcome the break. First, though, I had to get a photo of my newly installed front pond, bedecked with a profusion of Esculentas, and sporting a brand new trio of pachyderms squirting from their probosci, with the indispensable aid of my new pond pump.
Yes, I broke down and bought a pump and filter for Felix the Catfish's solitary lair. I grew tired of toting the pump from our indoor aquarium outside every day for a few hours of pond duty. The elephants were an impulse purchase. With the strong support, I might add, of my Beloved - as in, pecuniary.
Water is a beautiful thing. This year, I am resolved that growing a successful vegetable garden uses less water than buying produce at the grocery, so I am entitled to use as much water as necessary to that end. I have no excuse whatsoever to offer for watering my elephant ears. As Kermit says, it's not easy being green.
My life is so good right now I have to be extra careful not to pinch myself lest I wake up. The wedding ceremony definitely had a positive impact on our domestic bliss. My work is going well - though not without challenges. And my garden is so happy!!! Here it is the first day of summer, and I'm still harvesting kale from a planting I made in October of 2007.
That's collards in the foreground. I harvested last week. Eight plants, five pounds ten ounces. I pulled up all my remaining bok choi to keep it from going to seed. I ended up with ten pounds.
I planted some mesclun and some more carrots in its place. Can't have too many carrots! I ordered a Champion juicer the other day. I can almost taste that fresh carrot juice!
Now it's sunny again, and steam is rising from the street. I've been improving my irrigation system this year, adding more soakers and control valves. I especially want my special babies to get plenty to drink. You know which ones I mean.
This year I have the most beautiful zucchini I have ever grown. I've harvested about a dozen fruits so far. We like them best when they're still holding onto their flower. Six to eight ounces. I intend to get many more.
Beans have been coming in as well. There's a pound and a half in the fridge right now. And I'll be harvesting my first two eggplants in just a few days.
It's been a while since I've written in my blog, but as you can see my time has been well spent. In addition to gardening though, and getting married, and going on a honeymoon, there was the four-day annual Gathering of Quakers from our region, stretching from Memphis TN to Berea KY to Columbia SC. As Site Coordinator, I was responsible for the logistics. But much more exciting than arranging room assignments or finding an electric piano at the last minute was the work I was doing to help the Gathering unite on a statement opposing the use of torture. Quaker business tends to move very slowly, but in this case there was a great sense of urgency and alacrity, and those present very quickly found a "sense of the Meeting". Here is the statement we agreed upon:
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) believes there is “that of God in every person.” This divine light, a universal principle of goodness and love, exists in all people, regardless of religion or geography.
Torture – in wars, in prisons, and in homes – diminishes this divine light in the victim and the perpetrator, and those who have knowledge of it. In situations where torture is used, one individual has power and the other is powerless. The misuse of this power against a defenseless person to cause pain, humiliation, fear and suffering is the ultimate denial of our common humanity, degrading and dehumanizing both the tortured and the torturer.
We Quakers of the Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association join with our fellow citizens who are taking action to bring the practice of torture to an end. Our condemnation of torture is not based on any political opinion or on the laws or treaties of any nations, but on the Golden Rule, the standard for moral behavior established by religious and secular communities across history and around the world.
I want to send a great big thank you to everyone who has over the past few days thought of me and my Beloved, wished us well, said a prayer for us, sent us a smile, posted on my "getting married" thread, or otherwise added to the aura of good energy that has been upon us since our ceremony last Saturday. THANK YOU! I believe your thoughts, prayers, smiles and good wishes MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Needless to say, I have no wedding photos to post since I was not taking pictures at the time. When they become available, I will share. Promise. I did however have a camera along for our honeymoon, and I took quite a few photos that are in fact appropriate to post on this forum.
So. Our Honeymoon Cottage.
This is in Hot Springs, NC, just 35 miles from our house, a lovely private camping area right along the French Broad River.
Legend has it that a brave native warrior was spurned by the local princess and leapt to his death from the bluffs on the other side of the river.
Almost every cliff face and bluff in Western North Carolina has a similar "legend".
Our first outing was a road trip to Roan Mountain, up in FrazzledApril's neck of the woods. We swashed our way through torrential rains both going and coming back, but while there, when we had driven to the very top of the mountain, there was a brief respite of steady drizzle. In a parking lot big enough to hold a hundred, ours was the only car. We hiked to the top of Roan High Bluff (the second-highest point on the mountain) in an eerie gray silence punctuated only by the steady droll of tiny droplets on the lush alpine forest. The mosses blazed with reproductive activity, and every living thing glowed a vigorous green.
Next day the weather was picture perfect, the air deeply cleansed by the previous day's deluge. Off we went to do our obligatory honeymoon tourist destination: Dollywood! Now you might be thinking just what I was thinking at the beginning of the journey, something like "Oh boy this is going to be overblown commercialism at its crassest, a theme park focused on a tiny woman with a great big . . . voice." But I was in for a pleasant surprise. Sure, the park was full of self-aggrandizements and scary rides.
But it included a great deal of authentic (not just replicated) pioneer artifacts, as well as a working blacksmith shop, a working wagon building enterprise, and a huge water wheel operating a four ton grindstone, among many other machines, all connected together with authentic looking canvas and leather belts, and watched over by a genuine millwright. Fred here told me he'd love to have a copy of this photo, but he doesn't have a computer.
We got to ride on the old-timey train, a century-old locomotive that had been painstakingly rebuilt by craftspeople in the on-site locomotive barn.
Along the ride was a diorama of pioneer life in the Southern Appalachians. "Hillbilly" life, if you will.
In addition, the park has used some of its funds to build a preserve for bald eagles that are unable to survive in the wild due to injury or prolonged captivity. Among the dozen or so birds we saw two nesting couples and a hatchling in one of the nests! They are magnificent birds.
And here we are at the end, posing for the obligatory promotional photo:
Well that's about it, folks. You don't get to see the rest. We're back home now, I gardened today as well as installing Win2000Pro on my second SATA drive, since my WinXPPro has now been installed one too many times and Uncle Bill won't let me use it anymore. Still installing software. Then I have to do room assignments for the conference coming up in two weeks, and get all the other site arrangements taken care of.
Busy times ahead. Thanks for reading my blog!
My little patch of urban paradise is really shaping up! Everything that's going in the ground is in the ground, everything that needs to be mulched is mulched, flowers are blooming in reckless abandon, and I have begun to harvest. Mostly radishes.
Radishes. I used to plant radishes primarily as marker plants, and used a few here and there in salads. Most of them ended up in the compost, until this year. This year, I discovered that my dear friend Virginia is crazy about radishes.
Virginia is more than a friend. I jokingly refer to her as my "surrogate grandmother", although I'm really too old for an 84 year old woman to be my grandmother. Heck, my father is 86! But she doesn't mind the title. Years ago, ten or twelve I think, she briefly attended the Quaker meeting where I am a member, but I didn't get to know her then; it wasn't until two years ago that a mutual friend suggested I call her because she needed help with her computer. She was in the midst of writing a memoir of her youth, and completely computer illiterate.
Now the book is completed, and in the hands of a publisher. In the time we've known one another, we've found very strong similarities in our outlook on the world, our views of theology, and our desire to make the world a more peaceful and pleasant place in whatever little ways we can. One thing we learned about each other, for example, is that we eschew drive-in windows. We always conduct business in person, and always have a conversation with the person we are conducting business with. Bank teller, wait person, CSR, grocery checkout, doesn't matter who. If I can get a person to smile, I feel I have accomplished something worthwhile. Viriginia feels just the same way.
I believe in the power of prayer to influence events in the world. I believe that if enough people are praying together at the same time for the same thing, it becomes much more likely to happen. I believe that if a person prays for something often and ardently, it affects the person's life. A few years ago, some of the folks in my Quaker meeting started getting together in the middle of the week for the purpose of praying for peace. We spend a half hour in silence, then a half hour sharing with one another our experiences as peacemakers. Mostly just little things. We're not rabble rousers, crusaders, or self-styled messiahs, we're just ordinary people making peace with one person at a time. After our time of worship, we share a big pot of "stone soup" and a small salad.
Over the years, the participants in this little group have changed somewhat, and a year ago, we began meeting at Virginia's house. She was delighted to have it, as she relishes being a host and because of a physical handicap is unable to attend Sunday meeting. And she was thrilled to have a big helping of home-made vegetable soup once a week, especially when it included ingredients from my garden. I try to have something fresh every week. A few weeks ago, I brought some radishes for the first time. The way Virginia reacted, you'd think she was a six year old just opened the gift wrap to find that Santa had brought her just what she wanted!
That's the way she is: no holds barred immersed in the simple joys of everyday life, never tiring of counting and recounting her blessings. I admire her so much, for having lived her life as she did, and being the person that she is. I hope that very soon, her wonderful book will be published and she will be a famous old lady author. I look forward to seeing her hobbling amongst her fans, autographing, smiling and laughing, asking them how they liked the book, and being really interested in hearing what each person has to say.
That day will come, I pray. But for right now, I simply look forward to bringing her another bowl of radishes, knowing that the sight, the smell, and the taste of them will brighten her life.
O! that there were more hours in the day! My work -- my "real" job -- has been taking its toll of late, coupled with planning for an upcoming event of great importance. Three weeks from tomorrow, our friends, families, and faith community will come together to witness me and my Beloved exchange our marriage vows. We're trying to keep it simple, mind you, but even "simple" seems insufferably complicated.
I keep on a steady keel by taking one thing at a time, and not taking it personally when it all gets to be too much for my darling Lynnora and she gets all disturbed over the details. We can work it out. There's plenty that's gone wrong so far that we've managed to work through, so why not face the future with confidence?
My main complaint right now is lack of time for gardening. In addition to the wedding plans, my business has been keeping me busy far too many hours. And worse than that, I've run out of mulch! In the midst of everything else that's going on, I have to find someone willing to loan me their pickup truck, and then get on down to the mulch factory for a fill up.
How can I garden without mulch??!!
After a light frost a coupe of mornings ago, it appears that our weather is ready to settle, with balmy temperatures forecast through the second week of the month. I am happy to report that our resident hillbilly's tried and true method for preventing frost damage has been tried and proven once again. I was out in the garden at quarter to six, Beloved protesting in her sleep, hosing down my tender plants, certain that anyone who saw me would think me a fool, especially with all the rain we've had lately. But everyone in the neighborhood already knows I'm a bit eccentric -- why should they be surprised to see me watering my plants in the dark?
Later in the day, the sun high in the sky, the still air warmed to the fifties. My potatoes were all just as perky and robust as they were the day before. My tiny baby beans, just this week beginning to pop to the surface, all pointed their baby leaves like happy little arms. Not a drooper among them! My zucchini, recklessly planted far too early, was unscathed. My Beloved, who doesn't often engage in gardening endeavors, did me a "favor" and planted several caladiums over the weekend, in a particularly cool and shady spot. They too, were undamaged by the frost, thanks to the Bill Mitchell Frost Insurance Spray Program.
So the garden is making progress on its own despite my lack of time and lack of mulch. I even had the delight of my first harvest the other day -- four ounces of radishes and a handful of swiss chard!
There's my little chard babies, all shiny and colorful . . . photo taken before I harvested that mighty handful!
Plump red radishes are bulging through the mulch, and my first legion of carrots have developed their first feathers.
The front bed is right next to the sidewalk, and chock full of perennial bulbs, annual flowers, and . . . potatoes! In the background, you can see the boundary between my yard and my neighbor's, where I've cleared out the boxwood hedge and planted my (our!) first three blueberries bushes, one barely visible at the left.
Sarawila is everybody's favorite little girl. She's cute, bright, glib, fearless, imaginative, energetic, and kind to all living things. Her mom, Adrianne, is one of my favorite people. Wila -- she prefers Wila nowadays -- delights in growing things, so her mom brings her over to my house to "help" me. How delightful for me!
Last week I got my irrigation system laid out in the back garden. Drip hoses all around. There's valves to control the flow in each bed, and one valve to turn the hose on and off as well. So far I'm just using the hose, since there is still so much unplanted space. But crowds of plants are pounding at my door!
Yes, it's time to start taking risks, as the soil is fairly warm but we are still two weeks from Last Frost. Two weeks! Hah! Four of the past five years, our last frost has been prior to April 15th. last year (we Easterners all remember don't we?) there was a deep, deep freeze in mid-April, but guess what? it didn't frost after that, either.
So now is the time to begin taking risks, planting beans and squash and putting out tomatoes and peppers, even though Last Frost is "officially" two weeks away. So what if it does frost? Some plants will die, and I will replace them. It's part of the Nature of Things. I don't try to fight it. I do have some 6 mil black plastic on hand though.
Last week I went to Greenlife for the express purpose of buying seeds and plants. They carry High Mowing seeds. First quality organic and heirloom varieties. Out in front of the store, there's always two or three tables overflowing with plants from some of our top local growers. Wildwood Farms. Full Moon Farms. Sandymush Herb Nursery. Strange name, eh?
And I needed toothpaste.
I hadn't decided what varieties of tomato I would grow this year. I only have room for two plants, and my Beloved has already requested that I grow three. One standard tomato, one Roma, one cherry. Browsing through the table laden with herbs and flowers and veggie seedlings, a word on a tiny signpost caught my eye: SWEET. Hmm. It could have said SEX and it wouldn't have caught my attention any more firmly. The rest of the sign said "This is a really _____ tomato. If you think you're old variety of cherry tomato is _____, let us convince you this one is _____er." Sun Gold Hybrid Cherry Tomato.
Would that every decision in life was so easy to make.
I bought the Sun Gold, along with a pot of cilantro and a six-pack yarrow. I had already prepared a space for my first tomato, in the upper bed in the back garden. I hadn't quite gotten around to planting it though, before I got a call from Adrianne. "Can Wila come over this afternoon and garden with you?" Oh yes! Wila can come over anytime! There's always something Wila can do in the garden. What could be more exciting than planting the season's first tomato?
What a joy to watch her carefully scooping out the hole! How happy she was to get her fingers dirty! How tenderly she placed the tomato in the ground and pushed the soil around it with the palm of her hand! "Is it planted too deep?" she asked. I told her it was impossible to plant a tomato too deep. If you cover its branches, each branch will sprout its own roots, and many new branches will burst out of the ground. She looked at me like I was kidding her, but then she saw that I was serious, and she laughed. Then we piled mulch all around. Don't let it touch the stem, I warned her. Might get too hot for baby.
I met Adrianne four years ago, but didn't begin to know her until that first summer, I heard her sing "Summertime" (the George Gershwin tune) in a talent show. I've been infatuated with her ever since. No, not quite infatuated. Almost though. Almost.
Wila is eight now.
Suddenly, there are masses of plants popping up everywhere! Flowers bursting all over the yard, perennials smothered in buds, potatoes popping up without warning, onions leaping forth, an avalanche of carrot babies, a flood of alstroemerias . . . an explosion of new growth! Spring has definitely, absolutely, irrevocably sprung.
I've turned all of my beds now, and found them teeming with earthworms -- fat, slimy, intensely happy earthworms. There weren't any earthworms like those in the back when I started gardening here four years ago, just an occasional, or even less than occasional, little puny squirmy angry red worm. For me, the whole point of nourishing the soil is feeding the earthworms. Everything I put in the soil is for them to eat.
I turned the middle bed in the back today. After I'd pulled up all the horsemint and creasy greens, I found three volunteer potatoes, and carefully raked around them, then laid some mulch. A volunteer is a gift from Mother Earth, and should not be squandered. I don't buy seed potatoes, don't have to. I always get plenty of volunteers. Thanks be!
My Beloved Partner is so excited about the lilacs! At last, they are going to bloom. She's waited a long, long time for this. First, she had to get a husband who could "husband" them. Twenty years it took just for that. From there, a mere three years to see these first big fat clusters of pink flower buds on her very own lilac bush.
This year I have officially dubbed "the year of the carrots". I intend to grow mountains of carrots, myriad carrots, magnificent carrots, marvelous tasty crunchy juicy carrots. And they're off to a great start! Just look at this patch, dense with perky little carrot babies.
Twenty pounds right there. Gar-on-teed. By August, at least. I can almost smell that carrot juice!
Next week I will most definitely have to trim the boxwoods, but today I was not in the mood. Instead, I wanted to work on my sculptured plants. My large Rose of Sharon, next to the front porch, I am training to form an arch over the porch entrance. My junipers, at the end of the walk, I am training to form an arch over the walkway. Once I thought I'd have an arbor there, but Beloved didn't favor that idea. In the end, I'm glad I didn't have to uproot those junipers. They are very well established.
ry year I find a prize in the junipers. This year is no exception. Nestled in a cozy, well-protected nook, surrounded by, beneath, and over a tangle of branches and needles, a perfect little robin's nest with three perfect little robin's eggs in it.
Beloved and The Boy have just gone off to the movie store. It looks like the rest of my evening is about to be occupied.
A day in the garden is a happy day!
So many good things being born this spring! I'm all kinds of excited!
My business got a new commercial client, a bus tour company. I've never worked on buses before, but apparently they've not been able to find anyone to do what I can do, 'cause they were about a half step over mighty friendly when I finished working for them last week. Took me almost five hours to figure the beast out - only because another tech had worked on it right before me and screwed it up - and when I was done, I had a cordial chat with the owner, ending with (my favorite thing to hear from a client at the end of a job) "thank you here's money".
Groovy. But it gets better. Read on.
I didn't get much gardening done this weekend, I was gone from Friday afternoon to late Saturday night - to Atlanta for a meeting, driving in pouring rain most of the way there and back again. New cliche for driving in heavy rain: "Why it rained so hard, it busted my windshield wiper!" True. I had to pull over under an overpass (much easier than pulling under over and underpass, and drier) and fix it whilst the tractor trailers whizzed heavy fans of rain spray over top of my car.
Thanks be for my Saturn! With two passengers and gear, I got 36 mpg despite the rain. WOOHOO! I love my car.
I had a wonderful time in Atlanta. Our hosts on Friday night were a young couple, very devoted to one another and to the practice of their faith, deeply committed to their community, accommodating to their guests, kind and generous to their neighbors, just generally a joy to make the acquaintance of. A sure fire way to instill hope for the future is to meet young people like these!
When I got home, there was a box waiting for me from Park Seed Company. Guess what? My blueberries! YAAAY! I unpacked them immediately, set them on the dining room table (we seldom eat on it because it's always cluttered with my crap), petted them and told them how happy I was to see them.
Sunday morning I couldn't wait to get up and outside. The rain had finally come to a end, and the sun was filtering through the thinning clouds. I could feel its warmth even so shortly after sunrise. In the back garden I was delighted to find that the incessant soaking rains had coaxed dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of carrots up through the mulch. It looks as though almost every seed I put down has germinated! In the front, my cream colored tulips were blooming, and I found a patch of violets crowded with deep purple blossoms.
In the front bed, my stand of flame tulips was just beginning to open. They are so spectacular this year! A neighbor passed with her dogs. "Pretty tulips," she said. "Aren't they!" I glowed, too gushingly proud to say thanks. Sheesh.
Over at the end of the bed, I'd prepared the spot for the first blueberry bush, the beginning of my edible boundary. I scooped out a crater in the mound of freshly turned soil mixed with leaf compost. I could feel warmth in the soil, warmth already and it's only the beginning of April!
When I got home from Sunday Meeting, there was no time to garden. We had to hurry up and get ready for a much more important event - the first Sunday afternoon home game for our semi-pro baseball team, the Asheville Tourists! We got there just in time to hear the announcer say that the game had been delayed one hour so the filed could be dried out a little further. Drat! but it was a terrific game. Our guys won it 6-5. The visitors were behind by two going into the ninth, led off with a homer, then got two runners on base with two outs before our big lanky closer ended the rally with a big fat K!
Best of all, who should I run into on the way to the concession stand but my new client, the owner of the tour bus company! We greeted each other, he told me he had an emergency and could I come out in the morning. I said I already had an appointment but I felt sure I could squeeze him in before noon. Later in the game, he came up from his box to our seats in the general admission section. He told me he had season tickets, and didn't use them very much. Call him anytime, he said, and we could use his tickets.
He likes me. My new client likes me!
Finally when we got home, I got a chance to plant the first blueberry.
It's a giant leap for stereoman-kind!
As soon as it was Spring, I started planting veggies. Almost to the minute! Before the sun went down on Mar 20, I was out in the garden with a little tiny bowl of carefully counted radish seeds (25) and much less carefully counted carrots (100?). Then again last week, on the 25th, another little tiny bowl, another two dozen radishes, another generous pinch of carrots, and suddenly one third of the upper bed in my back garden was planted.
I am all about carrots this year. The past two years I've been rubbing my eyes in disbelief over the size and quality of the carrots I've gotten from the wonderful loamy soil I inherited on this property. Lucky me! Years ago, I'd try to grow carrots in our native rocky clay acid soil, and you know what you get from that? Short, stumpy, split, sour, slow to mature and swift to seed.
But now I'm convinced that I can grow enough carrots to sacrifice huge quantities to make the ultimate beverage, the very elixir of the gods, the most healthful rush I've ever gulped down. Yes, I can! Last year, without really concentrating on it, I harvested twenty pounds of luscious, juicy, sweet carrots. This year, I'm trading half of my sweet potato space for concentrated carrot growth. Fifty pounds of sweet potatoes is enough. I want fifty pounds of carrots. That's enough for, hmmm, 3 gallons of carrot juice.
Worth it. If there's such a thing as thirst in Heaven, mine will be slaked with carrot juice. If there's such a thing as Heaven on earth, it has a garden in it that grows good carrots in abundance.
Carrots are very slow to germinate, but radishes aren't. Hello radishes!
Last weekend I paid a visit to a wonderful locally owned nursery, Reems Creek Valley, just up the road in Weaverville. Lots and lots of eye candy there. Ornamentals, exotics, aquatics, shrubs and trees, and the cutest violas I've seen anywhere. What I really went there for was onions, but I had to get some of those violas. And . . . AND! They had leek seedlings! My darling Lynnora has already requested leeks for this year's garden, so I was thrilled to bring her home two six-packs. They were so freshly sprouted the nursery folks had not even thinned them yet, so I got about fifty individual plants for four bucks. Oh, happy happy joy! AND . . . AND! They had so many colors of lettuce and chard, I almost bought too much.
I held back though. The voice of reason (O cursed voice!) reminded me that I had plenty of lettuce to plant from seed, and chard and kale, and collards for my Beloved, and this year I want to try beets . . . so. So, so, I bought one little six-pack. I got them all planted just before this endless drizzle began. The drizzle is making them berry berry happy.
Happy babies! See those needle thin leeks? I love them! every day when I go in my garden, I pet them and tell them I love them. Even leeks respond to affection. They do!
I can't remember a time when I wasn't equally fascinated by the texture of leaves as I am enamored of the sight and smell of flowers. For the first dozen years of my gardening experience, I was so fixated on growing "crops" and getting "yield", I hardly gave a second thought to ornamentals of any kind, but when I did start thinking about it, the first thing I thought about was foliage.
I started out growing the ordinary kind of caladiums, like you can find in any nursery, garden store, or toy store (Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.). Their handsome appearance, variety of colors, and resistance to overzealous watering made them ideal houseplants for me, but there was something I was longing for that ordinary caladiums didn't offer.
I wanted texture. I wanted a plant I could pet, and that would feel good on my hands when I touched it. That's what led me to Elephant Ears.
I was hooked on them from the first year I grew them. Since they are tropical plants, I began experimenting with ways to preserve them from year to year, learning by bitter experience when is the right time to plant them, what conditions they require, what they like, what they will tolerate, and what they won't tolerate, how to treat them at the end of the season, how they can overwinter outdoors, or when is the right time to bring them in, and how to keep them vigorous through the half year they are not growing outdoors.
At first I thought I could preserve them in the ground over the winter, if I mulched them deeply enough to prevent the ground from freezing. But soon after I began growing them, we had a January so cold that people were ice skating on Beaver Lake, and the ground froze so deep my entire baby collection perished, deep mulch notwithstanding. After that I began learning how and when to dig them up in the Fall, and what to do with them once they were inside.
The summer I sold my house in Oakley, I left my babies behind and started over from scratch at the little cottage I shared with Mary and her White-Eyed Conyer named Hook.
The summer I had a room at the old house on the magnet school campus, I got permission to plant my babies in front of the Administration building. I left those behind too.
When I moved to Candler with Amber in 1999, I brought a whole moving van load of plants with me, including about twenty pots of my babies. When we bought a house together in 2001, I brought a whole moving van load of just Elephant Ears. I left those behind too, when we split up in the Winter of 2003.
In the summer of 2004 I started all over again in a new place, the place where I am now, and intend to stay for the rest of my life. I think I am now fairly expert at care and nurture of Elephant Ears, and as testimony I can boast that my babies are the largest anyone has seen outdoors in this whole town.
I've pretty much filled (or, some might say, choked) all of the shady areas of my yard with them.
They go great with hostas.
And I've even planted them in sunny areas, like next to my pond.
I won't be doing that again though. The fish say it feels too crowded.
To keep them going through the Winter and Spring, I crowd the smaller babies together in four large pots on the windowsill in my office space. They spend six months indoors.
In the past, I've overwintered the larger babies in huge pots, but space being at such a premium, I'm trying a new experiment this Winter. I bought two of those plastic storage thingies that are designed to roll under your bed, filled them with sand (with a little homemade swamp muck thrown in), and put my big babies in them. Eureka! I found I had enough space to plant all the remaining small babies that wouldn't fit on my window sill as well. So now I have a basement jungle as well as a window sill jungle.
I plan for 2008 to be my babies' best year ever. When late May gets here, I'll have over eighty plants to set out, and after four years nurturing the soil on this property -- which was already terrific to begin with -- they're gonna be so happy, they'll reach the sky!
Okay, slight exaggeration. I can dream, can't I?
A few years before I moved into this house, there was a lovely red maple covering much of the front yard. One day, the power company, having determined that the tree was a "hazard" to the electrical wires feeding the house, came in and "trimmed" it. They cut it back so far that it rapidly lost its vigor, and by the time I came here in 2003, it was nearly dead.
I love trees, all kinds of trees, and maple trees are especially beautiful, and useful. But I was not inclined to devote much energy to saving this maple tree, because I was so deeply involved in so many other projects that seemed much more essential, and potentially fruitful, that it was hard to justify diverting my efforts to what would very likely be an exercise in futility.
Instead, my mind began to turn around visions of what could be in that spot if the maple tree wasn't there. I saw a Japanese maple in my mind, elegantly bonsai'd. I saw a bed of perennials. I saw another water feature. I saw a sunny space for my precious Elephant Ears. I waited. With each passing year, the maple tree deteriorated further.
Last Fall, I had a woodworker friend of mine cut it down. It was so far gone, he said all the wood was good for was the stove.
Now I must remove the stump from the ground.
When I first began digging it up, my neighbors scoffed. "You'll never get it out of there!" they said. "When do you plan to be done with that - next lifetime?!!" they teased.
They may be right. It's one heck of a stump. My brother-in-law, bless his deranged heart, has actually been coming over of his own volition to help me burrow, beat, lacerate, crush, and pummel the rotting wood. My next door neighbor offered to loan me a come-along when the time was right, but seeing how it looks now that I've exposed its gnarly underbelly, has retracted his offer.
Will I ever get it out of the ground? And, then what?
Spring has sprung!
Today was the first gardening day of the season. It felt so good in the bright warm sunshine, getting grit under my fingernails, spraying water in my face, the warm, dark clumps of mulch breaking apart between my fingers. The deep, musty smell of decomposing leaves.
Last week I borrowed a friend's truck, and my brother Rob and I went down to the Riverside Stump Dump and got a couple loads of leaf mulch - one for his garden and one for mine. Big hot moist vaporous mountains of leaf mulch! The giant earth mover shoveled a whole pickup load in one mouthful.
Yesterday I planted twenty radishes in the top bed in the back garden. First planting of the season! In a garden as small as mine, I count every seed.
Exception: carrots. Today I poured a teaspoon of carrot seeds into a small bucket with an inch of topsoil in the bottom, and stirred them together. Then I added an equal amount of leaf mulch and stirred some more. Then I added a pint of water and stirred some more. In a few days I will spread the contents of that bucket over a five foot by two foot section of the upper bed.
I used to have a lot of trouble getting carrots seeds to germinate. Not any more!
Today I cleaned the muck out of the ponds. Nasty anaerobic yuck EEUW! Poor fishies were terribly disturbed by all the commotion. Once I was finished with that, I cleaned out the pump filter and ran the pump for the first time this year. Yay! Waterfall!
Today I cleared away the unwanted plants in the perennial bed. There are no weeds in my garden, only a few unwanted plants here and there. Look at all those Peruvian Lilies peeking up!
The Quince has been in full bloom for more than three weeks now. Last March we had a severe cold snap that killed most of the tender young buds, but this March has been so moderate. Not all lambs, but no lions.
The Holly tree has begun to shed. Good thing I had my shoes on!
There's the whole back garden. Expansive, eh? The two back beds are half covered with Creeping Charlie and Wild Mint, but there's no harm in that. The honeybees love it.
Welcome, nectar sucker, pollinator, traveler!
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