Category Archives: weather

On spring’s progress


Saved from the frost!

Things are proceeding apace this spring, despite the small fact that it’s been a very chilly season this year.  I occasionally listen to Chicago Public Radio and am always struck by how much warmer it is on that side of the lake:  Lake Michigan is cold, see, and casts us still in its chilly embrace.  This “lake effect” is responsible for our humongo snowload, as well as our cool springs and summers; on the flipside, we’ve got warm falls and winters (comparatively speaking, of course).  I just have to hold on and keep wearing warm clothes.

I have not been tempted to put anything into the ground in the gardens yet.  “Anything” means anything leafy, actually; there are peas and favas growing greenly outside.  I also have some onion plants that I set out in a fit of madness.  Last night, I expected one of our last remaining killing frosts.  Blankets over those new asparagus stalks:  I didn’t want to lose our first potential harvest.

So, I have simply settled for the dirt of the greenhouses.  There’s so much growing in there for both our use and for the school garden that I am not tempted to rush the outdoor gardens at all.

On new harvests

Last weekend we were all due to be away from home:  my husband as an instructor at a swanky design camp, and we girls off to a weekend of cardplaying and gabbing with the women of my mother’s family.  Our daughter got sick, though, so she and I spent the weekend at home.

img_1043Yum.  But look at that nasty clay soil.

I don’t care how sick someone is:  if it’s beautiful weather, one really needs to go out to the gardens!  And look at what we found.  The beginnings of the asparagus.  Now, our daughter loves these shoots so much that I had to raise the latch to the gate so she couldn’t pilfer them all.  This was a couple of years ago and now she is tall enough to unlatch it and eat at will…but she was simply glad I let her have one, a tiny one.

img_1049She’s eying the rest of the patch

“Well, how is it,” I ask her.

“Good, Mama.  Do you still have that salt in your greenhouse?”

Wow.  I can’t put anything past her.  That salt was for tomato-eating!



I had what I consider to be a rather telling moment in the greenhouse this weekend.  I was planting out week-old lettuce seedlings that’d seen their first seven days under the lights indoors, when it started raining.  Actually, it had been raining all day, not hard, but now it started pouring.  As the downpour drummed the plastic, I realized I was getting wet:  it was raining on ME.  Looking up to see what kind of hole to expect, thus assessing what kind of greenhouse repairs need to be added to that growing list of spring chores I…laughed out loud.  Yep:  it was merely raining so hard that the ever-present condensation was simply getting knocked off the plastic, thus, raining indoors.

I haven’t had many laugh-out-loud moments in these last few months so this was quite welcome.

Nancy Bubel suggests that the tiny cold-loving seedlings like these lettuces can handle the stress of transplanting better than their bigger siblings, and I agree with her.  It is a bit of a tease pulling these little things out of their crowded pots but the longer I wait the more tangled their roots become.  The stems, likewise, on older seedlings are taller and weaker and thus are more prone to damage.  I simply pry the entire plant out of its cottage-cheese cup with a screwdriver and lift it gently by its leaves to plant it in a waiting hole drummed into the bed with my handy dibber.  The hole is about 2″ deep, as are the roots; the plants are maybe an inch tall above ground.

More false spring


Sunday, and today

The warmup continues here.  The heat is off, and it was in the low 60s last night at the time supper was ready to be eaten:  I was seriously tempted to set up a  table outside.

img_0449Front to back: Maggie, Pauline and Bloody Beatrice working the Three Sisters beds

Everyone is stir-crazy.  All the chickens escaped their pen and–don’t knock the bird-brain–ran right into the garden 100′ away.  I had no idea they were out, and, rounding the corner to see the garden, I thought I’d been hit by a plague of rabbits or something.  Nope; just chickens.  Worms are easily found below the mulch on the tops of the raised beds.

You know, though, it’s lots easier to get your chores done when you can actually feel your fingers.  I got lots of outdoor work done (fence-fixing, repairing the coop door, compost-turning) and it felt really great.  Surely this warm weather won’t last, but it was nice to visit.

On warmups

img_0378Engaging in a little light therapy in the old greenhouse, 4:00 on Sat. afternoon; 85*F and sunny.  (Light and wine therapy, I suppose, for me.)  The 5 gal. bucket holds melted snow, the cat is searching for voles, the dog is watching the cat and the child is happily watering the lettuces.

We had a bit of a thaw this weekend.  It got to be a record-setting 55*F on Saturday.  Though this is a nice change, it tends to make us all a bit stir-crazy and spring-willing.

I had not quite realized how much snow we had gotten until some of it melted.  There are now tufts of grass down at the bottoms of the paths that Tom had snowblown about the property:  the geese and turkeys have flown their pen in search of this greenery, and cannot be tempted to return until the sun goes down.  This is understandable.  But here’s a funny thing I hadn’t quite realized was happening until, well, until some of the snow had melted.

Have you ever miscalculated how many steps there were on a run of stairs and you stomped, searching for that last step that isn’t there?  It spooks you, doesn’t it, and your heart skips a beat.  Well.  The snow was so deep that, even in the areas we’d plowed, I was literally stepping down into every outbuilding, pen, garden, and greenhouse, and I had gotten used to it.  It’s kind of like a step had slowly grown at the entry into one’s living room, say, or one’s kitchen.  Well, I stepped out of the greenhouse, stomped, and nearly twisted an ankle.  Yipes!  No snow!

(And I can’t blame the wine because it was 8:00 a.m. at the time.)

On frivolity


Penny demonstrates that all girls like to feel pretty, even butchy farm dogs.

img_0233But like many girls, she hates having her picture taken, no matter how pretty she feels.

Things are so heavy and gloomy lately that I thought I would share this today.  Have a great weekend, y’all.

Yes, it is winter

img_9743Deep snow, friends.  Deeper than usual.  Not as cold as elsewhere but…somehow the geese don’t mind.  When I am doing critter chores I free the geese and turkeys to follow me around.  Such flapping and squawking!  Such freedom,  flying out of their pen.  And then they land in the snow, erp.  Er, a little help here?  Please?

On seeing the sun

Christmas brought some sun for us, which, quite frankly, was all I really wanted.  (N.b.:  anyone who says she doesn’t want anything for the holidays will not be satisfied with nothing.)  Sun here of course means salad.

img_9206Young arugula.  The wider-leaved varieties are the ones that do well in the greenhouse.  Avoid the yellow-flowered, skinny-leaved sylvetta forms, which don’t do as well (and also self-seed like mad).

I was able to have a harvest of lettuces!  Lettuces and a few other things, like onion greens, sorrel, radicchio and carrots.  The one rockstar in the greenhouses is arugula.  It will always grow, and still be edible.  The pimpled, bubbly surface of the tops of the arugula and (below) lettuce leaves is their defense to the cold.  This has something to do with extending surface area and spreading out the cell walls, but in plain English to me it means “you can eat your lettuces in the winter.”

img_9207Baby Grand Rapids and Red Sails lettuces, ready for a bit of a trim

The greenhouses in winter’s cold grip

img_2614Greenhouse shallots, chilly but fine.

I am so glad this is not my first year with a greenhouse.  This fall/winter season has been uniformly horrible as far as the greenhouses are concerned:  cold, sunless, and did I mention cold and sunless?  And the lack of sun? And the cold?

Had this been the first year, I would be terribly disappointed.  The root crops are fine, and the hardier chickories and escaroles and kales are all limping along, but those poor fleshy lettuces could use some loving sunshine.  The sun will eventually come out again, however, and our own household discussions about what constitutes a blizzard will cease.  I looked at my gardening calendar and realized that December ’07 was sunnily out of the norm, whereas January was spot-on as far as expected temperature and solar radiation (which is of course a fancy way of saying how much sun had shone).  The greenhouses’ very long January last year has merely moved up a month this year.  February was stellar, and March even more brilliant.

Here’s hoping we see the sun again.  I for one am glad we’ve made it through the darkest hours of the year.

Peace and warmth to all of you.

On a child’s-eye view to the season


That’s our daughter in the crazy-colored coat.  What you can’t see in this photo is that she’s dancing from one foot to the other in anticipation.

Today is the last day of school, and it’s a snow day!  Practically every school in the Lower Peninsula is closed due to snow and ice, and the child is horribly disappointed.  It was to be Pajama Day as well as a whole roll-out of Solstice, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas-related celebrations.  Poor child.

Seeing Santa yesterday was entirely her idea, or rather, an idea she picked up from school.  I certainly try not to feed into the myth (I tend to have a no-lying policy) in that if she asks, I say, “Yes, honey, some children believe Santa will come, and we’ll just have to see if he comes here too.”  In point of fact she’s a lot more interested in his reindeer and, according to her father, she didn’t ask Santa for a thing but grilled him about his flying sleigh-pullers instead.

This has nothing to do with gardening, I realize.

On frozen gardens


This was a hard-fought battle:  me, a garden knife, iced-over soil and deeply bedded leeks.  I won.

We had a bit of a warm-up this last weekend, and frankly I hate it when it warms up.  We get so much moisture, see, that a warmup means simply that the near-daily snowstorms will simply be rainstorms, followed by snow.  This is of course what happened.  Granted, we didn’t get the ice storms that hit much of the country and in all honesty I have nothing to complain about, as I could’ve simply lifted a few leeks out of the nice fluffy non-frozen greenhouse soil but NO.  Had to be up for a challenge.  The leeks’ gorgeous frozen green leaves snapped right off in the cold.

And so:  leeks + potatoes = leek/potato soup, my absolute favorite, joined by more sprouted-wheat bread.  Around here,  leeks are an excuse to eat potatoes, and soup is an excuse to eat warm bread, and warm bread is an excuse to eat lots of butter.  (Do you like my math?)

On what’s for dinner

Somebody mostly wise once said there are two kinds of people in the world:  people who wake up wondering what’s for dinner, and people who do not.

I certainly wake up wondering.  Tuesday I worried we wouldn’t be able to have our usual salads:  this cold weather, these cloudy days, conspire to keep our green leafies too chilled to eat.  (This is one of the sad truths of greenhouse gardening in someplace chilly like Michigan.  Give us a sunny day, even if it’s really cold outside, and the leaves will be fine.)  Sure enough, it was really cold and snowy.  Ugh:  what to do about dinner’s raw food component (i.e., salad)?


Carrots.  We are quite rich in carrots, both in the garden under straw and dirt, and in the greenhouse itself.  It’s so dark by the time I harvest that the flash went off on my camera.  The leaves, like I thought, were cold, too cold to harvest, but the ground is not (and probably won’t get) frozen.   Pulling these big babies then was quite easy.

So this year I have leaned a bit away from the root cellar and toward the idea of using the greenhouse and burying certain root crops under dirt and straw in the garden itself.   So far, this method of storage has worked fairly well, and our early snowcover has certainly helped.   I still have lots of cabbage in the root cellar and, on cloudy days like today, a nice slaw made with apples and walnuts and some of our apple cider vinegar is a quite-fine substitution for our greenhouse’s lettuces.  But a girl needs to mix it up every once in a while:  I wake up thinking about dinner, after all.


img_8044One thing is clear:  there will be more of this kind of greenery in our future.

I seem to be affected by a seasonal version of a need for a horizontal hold knob.  Remember back in the days of analog televisions?  You know, pre-cable, when the station wouldn’t quite tune in, and the image would flicker by fast, like pages flipping  in a book?  I kind of feel that the future is like that right now, no matter what the subject.  I can see the image, but it’s flickering by.

Maybe too much is expected of all of us in this season of Comfort and Joy.  Of course, I am the biggest Scrooge on the planet, at least according to my husband, so it could be that I am especially prone to dark clouds now.  So this inability to focus could simply be due to my lack of seasonal good cheer.

Maybe I just need more spiked eggnog.

On winter gardening

I suppose the title of this post is misleading:  this is not winter gardening, it’s winter harvesting.  Such is the case with the greenhouses too:  that’s also harvesting, but…I don’t need to clear the snow off of the goods first!


Purple-top turnips


Tools needed:  Garden fork, hand knife (hori-hori), warm gloves, boots, Mother of All Colanders; child and sled optional

img_8204A fistful of carrots

img_8220Peeking at us through a hole in the collards

It’s early December here.  We’ve had snow and cold weather but the ground is not frozen.  These outdoor goodies, therefore, have yet to be completely done in by the cold:  the water in their cell walls has not frozen, expanded, thawed, gone mushy. With the exception of the leeks and the collards, in a month everything will be too icky (and probably too buried in snow) to eat.  Gotta feast now then!

On thanks for small things

img_8018I am so thankful for gorgeous waves, beautiful skies, bracing winds, singing sand and….img_8003…wet dogs in early winter.  (Penny, the hardest-working critter on the farm.)

Early winter in the greenhouses

img_8043The daily greenhouse temperature swing on a sunny day

I love this time of year.  We are bridging the fall/winter divide.  It’s cold out, sure; it snows, but it still melts.  The ground is not frozen despite the weekly snow dump.  It’s been cold enough that the still-unharvested garden vegetables, mainly root crops, have converted their starches to sugars.  There is nothing more sublime than a cold muddy late-November carrot, a starchy white turnip washed and sliced on a plate.

img_8048Blanching the inner leaves of escarole with a rubber band

The greenhouses are also experiencing the seasonal bridge.  The slugs, though still present, are greatly reduced in numbers.  The *$#!% cabbage worms have finally bitten it thanks to the frosty nights, yay.  All the lettuces have stopped their rapid growth and now are just limping along, the vegetables likewise are slowing down and just hanging on.  Delayed gratification for the gardener, but that’s okay!


Little Edie’s only bad habit:  greenhouse climbing.  She spends much of her time snoozing inside the old greenhouse on the sunny path.

On the upside of snow

img_7722Broccoli raab flower and seed pods this morning

On Sunday these flowers were heavy with honeybees.   Toward winter’s beginning I usually let the few things left in the veg garden go to flower if they wish.  The native flowers (asters, mainly) are long gone, so the veg garden’s calendula, rapini and snapdragons were the only blooms the pollinators could find.  With those 70* days last week, I am sure more than a few pollinators were out doing a last forage.  I sure was!

Our snowfall was fairly light yesterday, only enough to hide the grass completely.  I was hoping for more.  Today it’s bright and sunny and cold.  I believe I love snow so much because of its ability to magnify the sun’s feeble winter output:  there are a lot more reflective surfaces if snow clings to everything.  Even if we didn’t get dumped on, seeing what’s out there makes me happy, makes me want to bake bread and drink tea.  It makes me think it’s not the end of the garden season, it’s the beginning of these beautiful light-filled indoor days.

One has to look at the upside of spending life inside, no?

On(ward) snow


Not yet but soon enough

While pouring my coffee this morning, I heard the unmistakable, inevitable rumble rumble roar scrrrrrAPE that is the snowplow.  Ugh, I thought.  Idiot Driving Season is upon us.

What is it about normally sensible drivers and the first few snowfalls of the year?  How is it they forget the immutable:  driving in snow is plain different than dry conditions, than driving in the rain?  I suppose I am glad I live in the country, where my encounter with any drivers at all is limited, but I do need to get on the freeway with some regularity.  Thus, my early-morning cringe.

Otherwise, I am quite happy that snow is forecast.  The radio’s words “lake-effect bands of a foot or more in some places” were welcome to my ears.  Yes, I enjoy snow, and even cold.  I got lots of outdoor work done yesterday specifically because it was snowing off and on through the day.  (Working in freezing rain, see, is not so nice.)  But yesterday I got all the birds’ fences moved or restrung, and the windows are now hung in the coop.  Bring it on, I thought.

No salad last night

Plastic-less greenhouse and…snow!

Yipes.  That certainly came quickly: the cold hammer that is winter.  We were very disappointed that bad weather prohibited us from putting the skin on the new greenhouse this weekend.  (Gale-force winds are not exactly ideal for plastic-hanging.)  The sleet/snow forecast wasn’t exactly welcome news for Monday, either.  This was the view today.

The wood 1×2 you see are on the ends of the greenhouse only:  you sandwich the plastic from the tops and the sides to this with another piece of 1×2.  The middle hoops have an aluminum channel into which you snap a bent wire to hold the plastic.  It’s a pretty slick system actually.  But no, I am not fretting overly about the green residents of the new greenhouse.  They’re tough!  I do have to tell myself I am not aiming for growth at this point.  I am aiming for simple greenery.  On cloudy days like this one (and presuming the plastic is on), it’s like a big fresh refrigerator of salad.

Dang, I do hope we get a chance to hang the plastic this week though.  The lettuces, broccoli, onion things and kales don’t exactly LOVE snow.

Help us!

On fall cleanup

Oh the horror:  tomato waste

Doing fall garden cleanup, I am always so surprised how much green STUFF there is afterward.

Not that I am complaining (necessarily).  This is the time of year the compost piles get big:  big because of the normal input of fall cleanup, and big by design (bigger piles are more insulated, and thus will continue their happy warm rotting without freezing, all the quicker for spring’s compost needs).  So more stuff is definitely a good thing.

But apparently there’s a question about what kind of stuff hits the growing pile.

My friend Michele, on her pre-dinner tour of the garden last Saturday, said “What is it with you farmer types, and all these rotting tomatoes on the ground?”  (For our kids’ school last weekend, she headed up a gleaning event at a cool organic farm nearby:  they got lots of free tomatoes for salsa for the school.  Evidently she saw a lot of fallen tomatoes and it disheartened her.)  I tried to explain that real farmers like the Arboreals have real customers who don’t really appreciate a spotty tomato, so the fallen ones were probably rejects.  And for fake farmers like me, my family’s needs were met fairly early, so I yanked the plants.  (The ones she’d seen were in or near enough to the compost.  Sometimes my aim is bad.)

I did understand what she was getting at, though.  It wasn’t so very long ago that I was a city gardener with Every Tomato Is Precious etched on my garden consciousness.  An example:  In the Minneapolis garden, the first ear of corn I ever harvested was so positively priceless (though quite small) that I ran it to the kitchen and I…ate it raw.  Like so many things in this life, it is a question of scale.  My tomatoes are still precious, though at this point I don’t know them all personally.  I kind of wish I did:  that I had that kind of time, not necessarily that I need fewer tomatoes to get to know.

Next year, though, I don’t need as many tomatoes.  I’ve learned my lesson.

On frost, or, a season’s rushed end

Everyone likes ladders at this house

Nothing concentrates the gardener’s energies like the first frost of fall.  Or I should say, nothing concentrates the otherwise season-denying gardener’s mind like the evidence of first frost!  Egads, it got down to 30* on Friday night.  (And yes, that’s early, by about 2 weeks, darnitall…)

So Saturday was spent running around like the proverbial headless chicken.  We erected the frame for the new greenhouse, I purchased the wood for the base and end walls, and I harvested the cabbage and the rest of the drying beans and winter squash.  I also planted garlic (inside greenhouse and not) and mulitplier onions inside the greenhouse.  And, well, I finally yanked out the very last of the big tomatoes out of the old greenhouse.  Sigh.  No more tomatoes.

The bell peppers, though, have been left in place in there.  They are huge, and reflect their tropical origins in their very size:  they have no signs of stopping growth, being now waist-high and bloom-covered.  I expect they’ll only get another month or so of temperatures to their liking before they, too, shall be composted.  Interesting thing to note, though:  they really did not like the high summer temperatures (110*) and stopped flowering.  I almost yanked them out.

Yay!  It’s up!

All denial aside, it has been a great garden year for us, despite the record rains and now early frost.  Our larder is filling, the greenhouses are filling, and we are in great shape for the cold months ahead.

Ah.  Such a rush of activity.  And I still haven’t touched the apples or the grapes…

On the upside to a lot of rain

So:  two weekends ago we got a record rain.  Has this rain done the garden any good?

You know, I think it is rather amazing that most things really just up and grow at all.  Unlike, say, a roomful of persnickety toddlers, most veggies and flowers have a wide range of what is considered acceptable to them.  Nobody really whines much about their conditions.  In fact, the only whiner is the gardener. And this gardener sure is whining, ruing the loss of her Brussels sprouts for the second year in a row.  And the rotten root crops in the ground.  Ah, the splitting cabbages!!

Well, the celery loved it.  I have always grown celery but it was mostly for taste and not so much out-of-hand fresh eating.  Celery is a water hog.  Park it under a drippy faucet and it would be happy (or so it would appear).  Otherwise, and usually for me, I get skinny stalks that are very tasty but you’d need to be a four-stomached bovid to be able to appreciate the fiber.  Cooked, though, they’re fine.  But now, with all this extra water?  I have nice crunchy celery!  One-stomach-friendly celery!

The autumn olive berries love it.  Granted, these are invasive shrubby trees that I shouldn’t encourage, but they got the rain at the right time of ripening that the berries are lovely and plump.  (I will post later about what I do with the things:  my mom is coming up again to do a half-day harvest soon.)  As far as the rest of the fruits, the grapes are kind of sad, and are taking longer to ripen than is usual.  Same with the apples.  I suppose this should fall under the category of “the rest of the things that hate the rain” but now is the time when I am normally buried in grape and apple harvests.  So I am…appreciative.  But that hammer will soon fall.

The Amanita muscaria (toadstool) mushrooms love it.  Too bad we can’t eat them.  We do have cepes (porcini) but those won’t pop up until it gets cooler…about Oct. 15th or later.  The grass looks lovely now, too, and all the birds just love it, especially the geese.

Otherwise, extremes plainly stink.  Luckily, most of the stuff in the gardens was winding down:  the rain was simply the push toward the compost pile. Could’ve been snow, you know…

On exceptional weather

Slow and steady makes the web

This morning on the drive to school we saw the moon for the first time in what feels like weeks.  The kid has always been a bit moon fixated, and the surprise this morning was a nearly full one, peeking over the woods at us.

Thomas Friedman said global warming won’t come necessarily as something we’ll see in our daily lives but instead will be something the post office delivers:  higher energy and insurance bills.  It’s not so much global warming, he says, but global weirding.  And “weird” is one word a person could ascribe to this year’s weather in much of the U.S.

I tried not to think about the record rain we have had when I put my boots on this morning.  Records:  what do they really mean to me, I thought:  I have only been here four years and every year we appear to have a period of record rainfall.  Who cares if it’s a record.  Its effects are the same.  Lots of rain (or its opposite, or heat, or cold) are not exactly welcome.  If one is a gardener, one tends to lobby for moderation.  I do not appreciate this weekend’s exceptionalism.

So, boots on feet, I step lightly through the gardens, wondering what all that rain really means to us.  My coffee is warm but the air is damp and chilly, and the week’s sunny forecast can only be good news for what I see in the gardens.  I have to stop myself from going into crisis mode, the mode which one jumps to to bail out one’s basement, say; or grabs the pellet gun at the first shrill cry of the chickens.  Slow and steady, things will dry.  Time to sit back and wait.

I’m not very good at sitting and waiting, though.  With the financial crisis, climate change, this election…I am more jumpy than ever.

On looking for silver linings

Chickens love their worms

My rain gauge says we have had 8.25″ of rain since Friday night.  My neighbor’s rain gauge says it’s more like 9.25″.  Either way, that’s a lot of rain.

“Could be worse,” neighbor said.  “If it were snow, we’d have about 90″ of the stuff.”

It’s good for worm hunting though.  And anytime is a good time to have a bagpiping session, no?

Friend Rob plays pipes:  moist weather is good for woodwinds, apparently

On a wildly productive season

I love seeing red:  Jimmy Nardello’s peppers and a couple bells

So yes, I ran out of canning jars Tuesday.  This is a sign that the garden has been quite fruitful this year.  I thank my lucky stars, too.

You see, so much in the garden is out of our hands.  It is complete hubris to think a good garden season has anything to do with the gardener:  it is due to about a thousand other factors, of which only one of them is me.  I really do believe so much about why plants grow (or don’t) is unknowable.  I read books like this one about soil and this one about microbes and my mind blanches at the thousand million cajillion variables that go into any one seed’s becoming one productive garden plant.  The dirt, the soil, is as vast as the cosmos above, and about as easily understood.  And then there’s weather, and then there’s the insect world, and then there’s wild fauna…there’re a lot of things, in other words, that work against that little seed.

Whatever the reasons, all things seem to have aligned to benefit this gardener this year. I just go to the garden and do my happy dance of gratitude.  And then I fill up the Mother of All Colanders and get to work on preserving the booty.

For I know what it means to have a shitty harvest.  Last year was such a year:  amazing rain in August did in so many of my winter storage veggies; bugs did in my winter squash.  There are some things in this gardener’s control, though.  So I did the Scarlett O’Hara thing and also dug a trench and buried pipe all the way around the garden beds and somewhere along the line also decided another greenhouse was in the cards.  I also, stupidly, grew too many seedlings this year:  many were destined for our daughter’s school garden, and we needed fewer than I optimistically grew.  Sucker that I am, I didn’t just compost those extra tomatoes and broccoli and cabbage; no, I planted them.  (For future reference, a family of three does not need 70 tomato plants.)

So I am gleeful this year, and feeling quite flush with garden goodies.  Our iffy harvest last year, the first of our complete “live off the farm” year, meant there were some rather thin meals last winter and early spring.  One should be thankful for what one has, and believe me I am.

If you drive by and see me doing the happy dance, though, just honk, okay?

August is the shortest month

Baby radicchio in the seed-starting bed

The nights have been cool recently. Not sweater cool, but definitely it’s-moving-away-from-summer cool. I suppose that is okay, though as ever it catches me by surprise. Cool, already? When life is this busy, the days and weeks tend to slip by.

The cooler weather is great though for all those fall crops. Also, a lower night temperature means a lower soil temperature, so all my salad babies are sprouting and growing happily. Ah. Another week or so I can start pulling the determinate Bellstar Paste tomatoes and transplant salad stuff into the greenhouse. Yay! Salad. We’ve missed it.

Of course, though, I am in no rush for autumn to come. Salad or no salad.

On sand

putting sand on the compliant pooch

Kind of like the tomatoes being in the greenhouse until last week, our dog has kept her winter coat until just recently. The spring has been that cold. “We need to wash that dog,” we said. Which means “let’s go to the beach.”

As the crow flies, we are a mile from the shore of Lake Michigan. We are not crows, though, so must commute 3 miles to get there. Did you know that Michigan has more miles of shoreline than any other state? Any other state than Alaska, that is, that great categorical bell-curve buster. Anyway, it’s true. We’ve got lots of shoreline, lots of beautiful beaches.

It was this lake that drew me back here. I grew up on this lake; having sand at the foot of the bed was just a huge part of my childhood. I wanted it to be part of my own kid’s life, so…here we are.

Incidentally, blue heelers (which is mostly what Penny is, that, and a little neighbor dog thrown in) are not the greatest of water dogs. She’s enthusiastic, though, especially if heavy exercise is part of any project. That water Kong though is just great.

On surprising flowers

The development and dispersal of the first flowering plant on this planet changed this planet. (Botany rules, baybee! Don’t you be doubting me!) But, well, most of us see so many flowers in the course of a normal spring day that we don’t really see them. Not really. They’re just a part of the landscape: the landscape of a normal spring.

In times of high stress, though, many things hurry up and procreate. We notice things like post-war baby booms in our own kind; we also (and maybe not quite so obviously) tend toward sex, period, after traumatic events. I am certainly in no position to state that we are the only species who have recreational sex; I do know, though, that not all human sex is procreative in nature. Plants, though? Plants have no capacity for simple whoopee. It’s all business, all the time…at least when flowers are around.

And it is a stressful spring around here for many of my plants. Many of them that never normally flower, especially at this time of year, think the world is going to end so they’re making babies NOW. It must be the cold. Many tap-rooted things, like these angelica above, really don’t appreciate my having moved them earlier this spring. Likewise, if certain seedlings are chilled sometime during their development, they bolt into flower.  (It’s called vernalization.)  Many of the smaller brassicas (tatsoi, bok choy, rapini) are doing this now in my gardens (sniff!). Even my rhubarb has had it.

Not that I don’t like a flowering universe: I do. I’m just curious as to why NOW. Why this spring. Are they trying to tell me something?

For once, wishing for average


The average last frost date in my area is the first day of May. Since we have lived here, there’s been a frost after that date, and sometimes weeks after that date. Is it time for an adjustment? Maybe it is, or at least this gardener needs to adjust her Can-Do gardening calendar.

On mountains of work

Here’s a perfect example of how behind I am: I haven’t had time yet to make the new greenhouse beds. Most of the leeks are destined for it, as you can see the difference between outdoor

and indoor leeks. The babies from seed were getting leggy and needed to get in the ground. Ding! it occurs to me that they can be transfered later (unlike onions they don’t hate being moved) so they’re now doing time, temporarily, crowded together in a corner of a lettuce bed.

It’s been cool lately, which has been something of a gift as far as the garden and greenhouse are concerned. Every day I spend about two hours outside doing various growth-related tasks: seeding, transplanting, mulching, weeding (which I realize doesn’t help the growth of the weed, but you know what I mean). I spend an hour before work, an hour after. And I am still behind. So the cool weather has bought me some time in terms of moving things out of the greenhouse. They get to stay in there longer until it completely warms up outside.

The cool weather has been a bad thing as far as the chicks are concerned. They are still indoors in the mini-coop and not outside in their tractor. (Today is Tractor Day: I will post about it soon.) I think I got them too early. They’re fully feathered out at four weeks. I have noticed their chests (breasts) don’t have a lot of feathers on them yet, so I worry about sticking them outside. They spend most of their times lying on those big chests of theirs, and, well, it’s been so cool so I am sure that’d chill them. So next year? I will not be in such a rush to get them.

Two hours of garden work a day sure sounds like a lot of time, I am sure, to many of you out there. The time to the task at hand is a constant thing. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but those two hours aren’t doing a great job of knocking down that mountain of work! Of course I am the only person to blame for this work… Either way, I think I need to take a day or two off of my job just to feel like I am pulling even.

And then, I will come up with another scheme, and then I will be back where I started….