Sunday, May 31, 2009

Roots in the ground

ALL of the tomatoes and peppers now have their roots in the ground and have been counted, as well. I'll post the counts in a day or so.

I ended up with a bunch of extra tomato plants of undetermined variety, from my friend Robin. Seems that one of the packets of seed she ordered produced plants with two kinds of leaves. There are two BASIC leaf types in the tomato family, Regular & Potato Leaf but any given variety is only supposed to have one kind of leaf. She planted this packet and got both types of leaves... so the potato leaf variety she has been calling "mystery tomato" and handed a bunch off to Ann and me when we went up to claim the seedlings she had grown for me.

Yes, having greenhouses and professional experience shows, but there was not nearly as much difference between the seedlings I got from Robin, from my seeds, and the ones I grew here, which both pleases and surprises me. Hopefully there will be a greenhouse in the future someday, too...

Meanwhile the lawn continues to grow. Ann and her husband (a professional landscaper no less) are planning to come over later today and take a crack at taming it, as we were turned down for the mower loan, at least part on account of my slipping through the cracks. So be it... I get a strong message that this is as it should be and I will continue to walk this path. Meanwhile, K has been scouring Uncle Henrys for likely prospects and has actually found a few that might be within reach and usable. Finding time to look at them (none are really LOCAL) may prove interesting as I work 5 days this week. But it will happen somehow, some time.

I find it very interesting to note that over the past few days, when it has been rainy and I could not get into the garden, I have once again begun hurting, my knees have bothered me at work and I have been unmotivated and blah and not even having the energy hardly to get into the garden once the weather was cooperative. Once I got going, though, things changed. I have always been connected to the earth, but this strong change amazes me.

So, back to the garden I go... there are some baby perennials and herbs from Robin yet to be planted before work.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On "just doing it" and why I hate loans

Been working in the garden a lot, finally getting to where there was time from planting to start weeding, then cold snap and now rain is promised for a few days so I was working madly to get some succession plantings in and maybe the tomatoes and peppers...

But I had to come in on account of the damn loan officer at the CU kept calling and so I didn't get done, not even close, and it's time to eat and go to work and my mind is a mess of thoughts about gardens and making do and how they did it in the old day, the pioneers on virgin prarie sod, trying to eek out enough food for the family while fighting the tough grasses. And I am reminded of why I hate applying for loans, and why I resist many of the fine points (or should that be financial points) of business plans. Stems from the 70s and my first venture at farming, when I was laughed out of the bank, several times...

mostly because I don't believe in putting myself in hock for big bucks and won't stop from doing (or starting) something just because I may not know everything about it and because I don't have all the "proper" equipment.

So here I am with an insanely grassy garden (mostly) that is getting weeded catch as catch can (beween all the other things demanding my attention) with a human powered high wheel cultivator, a hand cultivator and HANDS. And in the process the compost heap is growing with the pulled weeds and the driveway is getting filled with collected rocks

and the grass is growing higher and higher because the Credit Union can't find my credit reports and doesn't like disability and we don't make tons of $$ and so on, all the number-cruncher things that sooth the souls of accountants and loan officers, we are lacking in. (things like pictures of dead presidents, laying in a vault somehwere...)

And no, I will never have a "showplace" garden, but in a few years (tiller or not... ) it won't look like a neglected first year garden any more. And yes, the food WILL grow despite the weeds. Not as well as it would with no competition, of course, but we will eat and I am more than betting there will be stuff for market too. And more of that each year, you betcha...

You see, what happens while you are waiting is life... so I am not sitting around waiting for it to be perfect, as it might be in my imagination. When you do that, that's all you will ever have, and I prefer a few home grown 'maters and beans fought from the weeds now than stuff from the store in my bellyalone to augment the dreams in my head.

And somehow, it works.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Turning an unseen corner

I feel like I have turned some unseen corner in the last few days, and not in any way that I might have suspected even as much as 3 days ago.

On Tuesday, apparently, the warmth following the sudden overnight cold snap told the pine trees to WAKE UP and BLOOM! No, we do not have drifts of chartreuse coating everything, and the allergy report does not even list pine as a major source of tree pollen... but my sinuses were telling a far different tale when I awakened Tuesday morning. The phrase "like a ton of bricks" comes to mind... and I was quite thankful that K was feeling up to driving a bit after we reached Bangor as the trip to D-F and then down to the city were trying to my poor body. I had been feeling the "normal" aches and pains of an old woman gardener for some time and then to have the pine allergies on top made for a miserable day.

Even the Dayquil that I took after our trip to Sams didn't help much (I should know better by now... buy Niquil for at night and let day take care of itself with hot compresses, steam and pain relievers. (Anyone want a large quantity of sealed Dayquil packets... cheap??) but the Niquil that night (two doses, properly timed by the instructions) put me out for a good nights rest -- and unfortunately a good bit of Wed. as well. I managed to rally by afternoon and got some planting and painting done but not as I had planned.

Wed. night I took a single Niquil and was able to attempt to function Thursday after a good nights rest as well. Thurdsay, however, was Hell Day in Maine (temps in the very high 80s to low 90s) though I did work in the garden most of the day and didn't even feel THAT hot. Amazing what a good stiff breeze -- and the knowledge that tonight will be cool and tomorrow the high will be more reasonable -- can do! I am showing my time in the sun, though...

What surprised me was how I feel today, now.... after several days of pushing a high wheel cultivator, planting, bending, reaching, walking.. and 5 hours on my feet in the store with only a DayQuil in my system... I feel energized, free of pain (though I am a little stiff in a few places) and if I do say so myself "the way I should feel."

I accomplished a lot today... the last bit of planting until I put the maters and peppers in the ground, weeding (enough that it is beginning to show, though I am starting on the part of the garden that was NOT re-plowed this spring and therefore has the hardest soil) and cooking a roast and makind salad dressing for a noon dinner of pork roast, applesauce and salad. Oh, and I have two hex signs on order, so I have been applying paint to them every chance I get.

As much as I have hurt the last few weeks... months... I wish I knew what, why or how it is that I do not at present.

Early on in the season, K said that the garden would make things right (or something to that effect, I don't recall exactly, though I do remember wondering how -- through all the pain -- I would even do it. )

I hope he was right. This feels wonderful!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ugh! pine trees are in bloom...

After the cold snap of the other night (39 degrees on our recording therm.) the trees are blooming with a vengeance. My spring allergies kicked in BIG TIME yesterday, which was thankfully enough a day in town so I could get OTC meds. I don't think dayquil is all that great, but the antihistamines knock me for a loop so they are reserved for blissful sleep at night.

I will likely be sweating with the earthworms today and tomorrow, as the temps are supposed to climb and I will be out putting in the summer crops -- first another planting of lettuce and spinach and then the beans, corn and vine crops. I have two days off and then two short days at the store and I am hoping to get all the planting done during this period so I can begin the Herculean task of WEEDING.

I started that a bit day before yesterday, extracting the early peas from the grass. This being a first-year garden, the grass will be my nemesis for some time to come.

We also got our "peach" tree yesterday. No, peaches are not a common crop in Maine and this tree actually should produce Gala apples. We call it our "peach" tree as it was bought with a housewarming gift card give us by a Peachie friend (who, by the way, runs the Nook and Cranny Restaurant in Baileysville, ME with her hubby Steve). If you ever find yourself on Rte 9 (AKA Airline Rd) in the Calais area of Maine, keep an eye out for the little place and stop in. It can be easy to miss, but once you eat there you will find ways to keep coming back! Great food, wonderful atmosphere and the best hostess and chef around, bar none!

But back on topic... "Peachie" gave us this gift card for Home Depot when we moved into our new home last year and we decided to apply it to something that would keep on giving... an apple tree as the start of our home orchard. Now big boxes are not known for their variety of stock, so I was quite pleased to find something that was not a Delicious (red or yellow) as we are not fond of these apples. Getting tree into earth will be the first job on my list today (me, mattock, shovel, time...) and then I will get into the planting of veggies, despite sniffling running nose and full head.

Tonight, friends in the Calais area are holding a potluck supper for other friends, just arrived for their summer in Maine and I am sad that I will not be there. However feeling as I am, I am not sure I would have been up to the drive anyway.. it will be hard enough to make it to the Business After Hours in Dover-Foxcroft that I had committed to prior to knowing this was the day for the Calais potluck. I will go, though, wearing both Dutch Hex Sign and Vision IPD hats and do some serious "local" networking.

Then come home and collapse, most likely. Wish me well!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

digging dirt

I finally got to spend much of a day in the yard and garden. Three loads of wash out and in again and one in early on from a late night hanging, just to get it going, and then I was off to the garden.

Soil temp yesterday afternoon was mid-60s so the earth is telling me it is time to plant EVERYTHING. I got out 250 feet of row of cauliflower and broccoli -- which got mixed up and were poorly labeled for starters, as I had run out of proper wood or plastic label sticks -- so they are just planted together and I will not worry this year about varieties (though I will try to second guess who is who and will direct seed the small remainder of the packets as an experiment, so may be better able to ID the seedlings as they grow.)

I planted the ones that had got some good growth on at 18" apart and the smaller ones half that, figuring that half may survive.

I had been skunked on getting bare root strawberries, but found several packages in plastic -- 10 plants for under $4 -- at Home Depot so bought 3 as a promise to the garden. Sigh... I am not sure any will grow, I'll consider half a rousing success. The poor things were gathered up and roots wrapped about and bundled up with a rubber band, inside a plastic bag with some moss. The result is that getting crown UP and at ground level, roots DOWN etc was problematical -- and adding to the difficulty many had already started to grow in various directions, mostly sideways. But they are out.

I was also able to "shoot" the north star, finally, last night, to set the directions for the herb wheel. I'll shoot some pics of this perhaps later, after I get some herbs planted... I plan to plant it as 12 sections, with the sections on the directional lines, not the paths. Not yet sure who will go where, but I am sure I will be told when I get out to plant. I am going to eventually recycle the pile of broken cement block as "rocks" to separate the sections and surround the garden. No, I don't lack for rocks, but this is a way to use up the waste pile from the back.

I was going to ask K to help by carrying a wagon load around with the little lawn tractor, but the thing appears to have died. It made a strange "pop" day before yesterday and K has not been able to find the problem. All the obvious things are working so he is suspecting a broken part internally -- something not worth fixing, even if it were found. But we will take it to the guy who works on them later, he says. Meanwhile I am glad I do not think of having "lawn"... as it is up to nearly 6" many places now.

We did get a battery weed whacker, so I will take it out to the front ditches today and whack a bit, making places at least to plant some of the rooting willows and such. Also on the list for today along with willows and herbs are the forsythia and perhaps other seeds -- we will see how long the first part takes.

I will be going to breakfast in a bit with friends -- or at least a friend -- to talk about several of our cooperative ventures. I was accepted at the Bangor Outdoor Market. Apparently this market has a new location and a new manager ( from what I hear, politics is rampant in farmers and outdoor markets) this year, with many previous vendors not returning due to last year's bad location. Dutch Hex Sign will be there, vending my art as well as herbs and veggies, under the label "Stone Soup". I just was reminded of this market by a local blog site I read and found out that the market is open only on Thursday evenings, June and July, 5-8 pm. That day and those hours are perfect for my schedule, as well as the price fitting the budget.

Now to hope something grows!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

just another day

Generally, I don't make a big deal of out holidays that are not earth or moon related. And Mothers day, while good in intent (mothers need to be recognized and honored but in my opinion, more than just one day a year!) often fails in execution. I guess I got burnt out on sermons praising the impossibly perfect supermom, while giving us real, in the trenches, moms a good dose of downer.

So today is just another day in my world. A day off from the store which I appreciate. A day when hopefully I will meet friends at a garden center and maybe score some rhubarb and/or bare root strawberries. A day to hang out the wash in hopes that the 30% chance of rain will fall elsewhere, giving me a leg up on household chores so I can spend most of the 3 days off I get in a row this week in the yard and gardens.

For now I am a bit frustrated, as I want to make breakfast but K is fast asleep.. he didn't come to bed until Gods only know when, when I saw the light under the door and hollered. He got to hurting after taking his pills and did not follow me to bed, so his day is totally scewed and I am trying not to let it mess up mine. I'll likely make some eggs in a bit anyway, wash up the dishes and be ready to head to the nursery on time.

If it doesn't rain, I'll likely be in the yard today a well. I found the offset factor for the difference between magnetic and celestial north (it's been too cloudy for a long time for me to spot the North Star, and I want to mark and lay out the circular herb bed on a grid based on the directions) so when K finds his compass, we can do that part.

I still have more asparagus to plant and cole crops to set out and it is time to do another planting of spinach and flower seeds... I am thinking of pushing the season a bit as my "spidey sense" tells me there will not be any more freezes...

But all this takes time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Walkabout the back field

Yes, it is still rainy. Likely to be for a few more days as well, and I have been enjoying the time away from the garden and rejoicing in the natural moisture for the ground.

Yesterday was "lost" to monthly major shopping. In addition to groceries, I scored a couple of shepherds crooks which I will use for wind chimes. One is currently hanging from the garage eaves and is beating the corner badly. The other has been sharing my single crook with a metal sculpture dragon fly and the two get badly tangled which does not help either. Maybe I can get the hooks installed tomorrow and the dragon fly moved; I will have to wait for K to get the chime off the garage or haul out the ladder.

I also picked up a d-handled shovel. This will help considerably in the planting of the rest of the asparagus roots and the new order of same that just arrived. The ground is actually draining well enough that, if it is not actively raining, I may work on that a bit tomorrow. I also got a Spirea bush to plant. Spirea and Lily of the Valley were two of the early bloomers that I enjoyed as a child at home in MI. I planted the LotV today, to the west of the Craft room on the north side of the house.

I went out initially -- a day "late" -- to bury last fall's corn dolly in the garden and anoint the soil with apple juice in blessing. This fall, with any luck, my corn Goddess will be born and raised here!

While I was out I dumped the compost bucket and pitched a bit of the grass that had blown off the pile last year back on it. I am waiting for friends to bring me some pallets with which to build a real compost area, but for now I will tend what I have. After dealing with the kitchen waste and dumping the cat box leavings out in the back, I wandered around looking at the emerging vegetation. I need to learn the various plants in their infancy... "weeds" and not ... and I think I have decided which will grow up to be goldenrod and I have found many patches of a nasty ground-hugging creeper that will be the focus of my "war" this year. I need to go back through my Master Gardener notes and find out if this plant is a perennial or just a very vigorous annual, but in any case, I will be attacking it any where I find it, with my trusty mattock.

When I wandered out to the back (north east) corner where most of the little trees are growing I discovered ferns as well as the trees and other growing things. K had commented that his place must be more damp than the rest of the land and I have to tentatively agree, though I have never noted it to feel any wetter to my feet. I wonder if the water is just closer to the surface there? If we could possibly dig a pond? I know I want to walk about a bit with dowsing rods to see what they can tell me, and to research the plant life there a bit more.

Along with needing to tag the actual trees and bushes (with ID as well as just differentiating them from tall annual growth, to help K with the mowing) I will need to get back there with the mattock, as well. I was also surprised to find -- in addition to the ferns and the birch and kitty willows that I knew were there -- the "remains" of a maple that had apparently been accidentally cut in the fall mowing! That will be encouraged, for sure! I am also thinking about trying to dig and transplant some of the smaller trees, using my existing "stock" to expand the range of the proto-woods across the north boundary. We will see what happens in that regard.

Still no sign of any sprouting on the things thus far planted, though the transplants are holding their own and the ultra-early seeded row is growing.

Next year I want to try an experiment, to learn more about what the optimal early planting time is, by doing very small plantings of spinach and lettuce every week from the start until the first week of May.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Honoring the turning of the Seasons

This is Tuesday, and the first in the month, so we are off to town on a major shopping trip. We need groceries, odds and ends for around the place (shepherd crooks on which to hang a couple of wind chimes, maybe strawberries, definitely soil amendments... ) but my biggest focus is after our return.

This is the day that the Gods have decreed I am to bless our fields and complete the changing of the altar. I have the corn husk doll -- which I made last summer from fresh husks, a tradition that I shall keep this year hopefully with corn from our own field -- to bury in the field and some acorns as well, in hopes that they may someday grow into trees. And for the first fire of the season in my outdoor firepit, some greenery and twigs to burn...

My spring altar sits decorated with branches of "kitty" and weeping willows with the intention of rooting them. The weepers, and elsewhere in the house a glass of corkscrew willow, have started to show rooting, The kitties are lagging behind but we continue to wait hopefully.

I also have a large container of forsythia starts -- all with at least some roots -- that my daughter in Utah sent me after their yard cleaning this spring. Their seasons are a bit ahead of ours, so I am waiting with the starts in water, to encourage more root development, until the danger of frost is past.

There are a few asparagus roots remaining to plant, and more should be arriving any day, and I have yet to get the Lily of the Valley into the ground, so they are all on the list, as well as the seedling trees pulled from my friend's farm. They will likely go along the front ditch line, which has yet to be cleaned out... I think I am going to have to clear small areas and plant them, then come back to the rest of the work, just to get them in the ground. However, some hours spent out there already has given me insight into just where they will go. The town sends a tractor along in the fall, apparently (at least this happened last year) to cut "offending" growth too close to the road, so I need to make sure my plants are beyond that line. In one place, on the eastern ditch, they cut a 2" sapling this past fall. That could not have been just one year's growth, so I am going to put some metal fence posts out by some of the trees -- including that one, if it tries to come back again, as I hope it will -- to hopefully repel the cutter. Said tree was obviously ( to me at least) bypassed in previous years, so there is no reason it should not be spared again. I can use my added posts to make sure the trees stay upright and do not lean out towards the roadway.

I also will be putting some of my vine crop seeds into starter pots in the house today. I know they do not like transplanting -- they don't like having their roots disturbed -- but hopefully I can do this and give them a bit of a head start.

I am enjoying learning the seasons.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The tide continues...

Beltane tide -- or whatever you call the beginning of REAL spring -- continues.

While I was not paying attention, the bulbs in my first flower bed -- the one I sorta half dug last fall and into which I threw some "get 'em out of our sight" perennials from the Big Box, a couple of bags of bargain basement bulbs and some Freecycle plants -- went from showing a few sprouting bulbs and a wimpy crocus bloom or two, to a profusion of tulip color (well, more accurately a bunch of them bloomed and they are yellow and red), a couple of daffys in blossom and a couple of grape hyacinths as well. It also looks like the 10 cent mums (yeah, you read right!) are coming back as well.

And one of the lilacs along the drive is showing an inch of very purple budding on many of its branches! The other one looks to be following soon.

In the garden, though, we are still in that time of faith -- between the setting out of transplants and seed, and the moments at which they break ground or begin to take off into growth. My early-seeded peas, spinach and lettuces are up and growing slowly and the transplants are thus far holding their own. But each day when I go into the garen and see no sign of sprouting in the seeded rows, I wonder....

The main planting of petite pois peas and the flowering peas have been put into the ground and the laundry brought in from the line. While I was taking it off, K brought a shovel around and back filled the holes, in preparation to the first mowing of the grass.

I spent part of yesterday beginning to work on the ditch banks. This really needs doing, as I want to clear out around the brush that is there, to try to encourage it -- and some of the trees that I shall plant there as soon as I can find a few moments with the mattock and fork -- and to keep down the goldenrod.

I know fighting the goldenrod and to a lesser extent the milkweed will be ongoing, but I am trying to get enough of a start so I can see where they come up. In the back field, until we can begin to get it plowed and seeded with a cover crop, I am going to suggest that K mow (some times at least) very short, as I have learned in Master Gardener class that is one of the non-chemical ways to control weeds. We will see if I can stand it...

I am also looking to try brewing some dandelion wine -- taking a leaf from a friend's journal. Humm.. I wonder if I can find where she talked about how, as our crop is just coming on and Beltane seems to be the time to start this project.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Drive by posting...

Just a quick, drive by posting this morning before I start my oatmeal and jump more thoroughly into the day...

I started my Beltane-tide workings yesterday evening. It is sometimes a struggle -- since I often work Friday until 9 (and though I was scheduled to be off yesterday, I was thankful to be given the chance to work, though not thankful that several of my coworkers called in ill yesterday... It was fortuitous at least that my friend asked me to cover for her evening shift early on, as the boss considered calling me to cover a day shift and honestly, I prefer the evenings. I know the flow and the routine, even though Friday nights are increasingly over the top with food orders and last-minute shoppers). But a favorite TV show will be in re-runs soon (Numbers).. which will ease Friday night congestion. Nevertheless, once I take my offerings into the Craft room and begin thinking on what needs doing, I never have any trouble settling down to a chat with the Powers That Be.

Last night my time at the cauldron was one of "just being" and stirring the pot a bit for health/healing for several and financial stability for others, receiving assurances and guidance for myself as well. With the coming of this Tide the winter window coverings are coming off (part of my Working last eve included the removal of the plastic and tape from the Craft room windows) and the aux. heaters will be stored in the garage as well. In a couple of days, my cornhusk Goddess will be interred in the garden, to bless and fertilize it for the corn and other crops to come.

Today I plan to get the Brussels sprouts out into the earth, and if there is time, begin digging for the remainder of the asparagus roots. I have a handful of local ones to plant and have heard that the ones I ordered have been shipped. I also have lots of little trees to plant and rooting cuttings from other trees, but the cuttings will wait, I think, until they have a good set of roots on them.. The forsythia from Utah looks good, but because their season is ahead of ours in temperatures, I will wait until danger of frost is past to plant them out, I think.

Also on my list today is laundry! We will see how much can go out on my new long lines. It is nice to have them again after many years with the square "clothes tree." We have the room... and the poles came with the house. I will need to tighten the lines several times, at least and K suggests we may need to make prop poles. But we will see... at least if the weather holds -- and the stash of clothes pins is sufficient -- I will be able to get laundry caught up. It is great to be able to do darks, lights and whites all in the same day, instead of in small enough bits to hang on the indoor rack. I will need more clothes pins though... many of the old ones are wimpy and others weathered sufficiently to break.... another thing they "don't make like they used to!"

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Maying Tide

The Maying tide -- May day, Beltane -- whatever you choose to call it -- the tide rolls in and with in, the wheel comes turning on toward summer.

Here at Hearthfire Hill, the gardens are getting their first spring soaking rain overnight and this morning. I am, as usual, a bit behind, as not all the coles have been put into the garden. Even the Brussels sprouts -- which have been hardened off -- are still sitting on the porch and the broccoli and cauliflowers just went out for the first time today. I also put the tomatoes and peppers out to get a bit of the rain as the temp were warm enough this morning, though I will bring them in likely when I go to work at 1.

Most of the asparagus roots have been planted (though there are more on the way -- an order placed much earlier than is just getting shipped) so we will have more backbreaking trenching to do. With the soil only tilled to the depth of the spading fork, and with the Maine rocks to contend with, planting these perennial roots is WORK, involving shoveling out the trench and then attacking with the mattock and sometimes the pick axe. At least the crop of rocks is going to good use filling driveway holes.

Also planted thus far (in case I have not mentioned it) are several varieties of potatoes, onion sets (brown and red), leeks, green onion seed, all the cabbages, lettuce transplants, second planting of some peas (the petite pois are still in hiding, darn it!), carrots, beets and chard.

Yesterday, when I could have been planting, I took the day "off" the garden to take a shipment of hex signs to Growing Concern in Calais -- my first "local" reseller. I had a great visit about plants with Richard at the store and look forward to visiting again throughout the summer on my trips to the area. Their "NEW Farm Stand - Garden Center" will be opening May 2.

I also visited a friend, walked her yard (and brought home some clippings to attempt to start and plant matter with an condition I need to identify) and spent a delightful time chatting about this and that -- from spiritual stuff to gardening to kids and the current flu bru-ha-ha.

This morning I got the opportunity to pick up an extra (and needed) shift at the store, so my planned day of organizing in the house will be cut short., but this is typical for this time of year, which focuses so much on he out of doors and getting the gardens in and going. Some housework must be done, for this is Frigga's day and she would not be pleased otherwise, but as the tide sweeps over us bringing in the growing season, she knows that looking well to the needs of my household requires tending the earth as well as the hearth.

There will be a fire outside in my fire place at some point soon -- as the spirit and the timing of life move and allow. Working until 9 does make this more of a challenge, but it will be met. For tonight I think, my fire will once again burn in the cauldron in the Craft room, after I have reset the altar. In a place of honor will be the forcythia starts from my daughter in Utah -- soaking up extra water and growing additional roots in preparation for their voyage into my landscape. This wonderful living May basket (disguised as a priority mail box delivered by the postal carrier) washed in on the first lappings of the tide early this week.