Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Building a Garden Fence, Part II

Today I realized something that struck a little fear in my heart. There is a distinct possibility that the story of the garden fence could ultimately come in something over 12 parts. The process is going so slowly--or so it seems--that I occasionally doubt it will ever be complete. I imagine rabbits running wildly about the countryside spreading the good news that some twit is growing all manner of vegetables and offering them up to the beasts of the field, their assumption fueled by the lack of any deterrent erected on my part. These visions have led me to make some drastic but necessary decisions. The plan for chickens will have to wait until next year. The tasks for completing the garden are too time-consuming to give the chickens the time and attention (not to mention the gorgeous digs) that they deserve. I'm disappointed, but that's tempered by the deep relief I feel from eliminating something monumental from my ridiculously long to-do list.

We are slowly building one fence panel at a time and hiking it up to the vegetable garden to set it in place. Once we erect a whole side, I will stain the wood before we devote our time to stretching chicken wire across the bottom section of the fence and attaching it. I built the last panel for the back tonight, which Turfman and I will affix sometime before the weekend. The center section will only receive a temporary piece of chicken wire, as it marks the spot where I will build my greenhouse (likely in the fall).

What, exactly, will this fence deter at present?

Of course, this is also the season for getting vegetables planted out, so when I'm not cutting lumber (or grading essays for my real job), I'm planting seedlings. Today 13 tomato plants moved into their permanent home. More would have moved in, but I ran out of bamboo canes. Put another thing on my shopping list.

'Cherokee Purple' and 'Principe Borghese'
tomatoes in their new bed

The carrot and beet seeds I sowed two weeks ago have now germinated, and the onion sets are sprouting. It will be a while before we enjoy those, but while we wait, we'll be able to feast on all the lettuce that is filling another planting bed. Radishes and peas won't be far behind.

5 varieties of lettuce jostle with sugar snaps
and radishes

I rarely complete projects at the pace I desire, and they often remind me that I have terribly unrealistic expectations. This one is no exception. Just bear with me. Hopefully I'll be able to show everyone a complete garden in under 10 additional posts, fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April Showers and Flowers

Last year I prophesied the end of our pond, just a few months after we had moved in. With no appreciable rain for months, the pond shrank to a little puddle in the middle of a massive field of mucky mud. The UPS driver attempted to reassure me, saying that he had seen times in early spring when the water was covering part of the driveway. I looked at him with my incredulous, slightly annoyed expression that I reserve for people who are clearly trying to fool me. If he made the drive up today, I might have to apologize to him.

The pond is officially full

The rain has slowed our progress in the vegetable garden, so I'd prefer to keep its present status from the public for now. Instead, I thought I would share what's happening with the generally non-edible bits of the garden. Hopefully the photos will hold everyone over until I can show real signs of progress on enclosing the veg patch.

The second Dutch Iris to appear

Clematis 'Bourbon' blooming like mad

A little chap taking a rest on the ornamental plum

Things are springing up all through the front beds

We're working feverishly to get the vegetable garden finished and enclosed, but I'm not ready to share photos of our progress just yet. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reaping What I've Sown

When we first moved to the new house (still unnamed, I might add), I made the grand proclamation that I would attempt to start a kind of wildflower meadow where our property meets the road. I also made plans to plant daffodil bulbs across the gentle undulations of that space. My goal was rather simple--I wanted people to drive by our property and feel their spirits lifted by the flowers I'd planted. That's the reason Turfman and I spent so many hours on our knees last fall with baskets full of bulbs.

The result is not something especially grand this year, but I didn't expect much. That "meadow" is part of a five-year plan, so it will become a little more substantial with each passing year. The daffodils are visible from the road, but they might not draw attention.

Daffodils merely dot the landscape this year

Someone had noticed, though. Last Saturday, as Turfman was returning from a morning of golf, he saw that two female cyclists had pulled over in our driveway. Worried that they were having trouble with their bikes, he stopped and asked if they needed any help. Imagine how pleased I was when he recounted that they had actually pulled over to admire the daffodils! He must have been pretty happy, too, because he proceeded to tell him that "The Boss" (that's me, apparently) has plans for a wildflower meadow. They assured him that they would return to see the meadow's progress. I felt buoyed by that vote of confidence. It was more than enough to motivate me for the next phase.

Surprisingly, though, I received another vote today. As I neared our driveway on my way home from the college, I noticed something shiny on our mailbox. I pulled into the drive, walked across the road, and found a letter in a bag attached to the top of the mailbox post.

The envelope was in a Ziploc bag

The cyclists had returned sometime today, leaving me a card thanking me for my garden. They even included a thoughtful gift, writing that "maybe you could use our seeds, too" when I sow the meadow seeds. I meant to brighten someone's day with the garden, and apparently I did. I just never expected that the goodwill would return to me in the form of such a lovely surprise. Hopefully their seeds will take hold and have a similar effect on others who pass.

Seeds of goodwill

Friday, March 27, 2015

Flower Arrangement Challenge, March

I decided to look in new places for flowers. This is a trio of ornamental cherry and plum tree blossoms and the great structural sweet gum tree leaf blooms. I think they look like hops.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Building a Garden Fence, Part I

As the weather warms day by day, I am persistently reminded by the voice in my head that I must complete the vegetable garden construction soon. Kale, onion, and shallot plants now need a permanent home. I have visions of rabbits and deer munching on the lettuce that is beginning to sprout. The day job is now getting in the way of my plans. I don't have enough energy at the end of a school day to build planter beds or haul rock. Instead, work is mostly consigned to weekends, and as so many of us know, weekends simply aren't long enough. We continue on, though, weary but undaunted.

Turfman and I spent Saturday digging post holes for the fence. We had 24 to measure, mark, and dig. We were told in no uncertain terms by the woman working in Home Depot's tool rental department that I could not serve as the second person on a two-person auger. She rather sternly looked me up and down and said, "You'll get tossed around. You're too little. No way." So we rented the one-person auger, and Turfman gave his shoulders a monumental workout. We also gave ourselves an additional challenge: we had rented the auger for four hours, and the drive to Home Depot is 20 minutes one-way. We essentially started with 40 minutes less. At one point, we despaired of ever getting done.

Lest anyone think I just stood around watching, I did try to pull my own weight. I hauled the 4"x4"x8' posts from the truck to the garden. I lugged bags of cement. We decided it was best to set all of the corner posts so that we could run twine between them to mark where the other holes should be placed. Then we decided that we should set all of the doorway posts, too. In the end, I carried each post to its hole and checked it for level. Miraculously, we dug the 24 holes, set 10 posts, and returned the auger within the time limit. We were tired. Turfman's shoulders were aching, and I had a sunburn. But we made real progress. We set four more posts tonight. That leaves 10 left to set. Then comes the work of attaching the framing boards and the wire fencing.

It's starting to look like a garden

I've had the vision of this space in my head and on paper for some time now, but as we completed each planter bed and placed it, the garden looked less and less intentional. At times, it seemed a potential disappointment. It's surprising how the view has changed after this weekend. The posts now mark the boundaries and indicate where doors will be hung, and now the space feels right. I'm really excited to see the finished product.

Getting the gravel paths laid

Hopefully, everything will be in place and the garden complete by 17 April, which is our average last frost date. Then I can confidently plant the rest of the beds and begin tending my dream garden.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Caring for Seedlings and a Little Design Challenge

I apologize for the long gap in posts, but the Green B has been terribly under the weather. In fact, I suffered (and I really want to stress that word...I make suffering an art form, if I'm honest with myself) for two weeks, and I still have a few lingering effects at week three. I was not careful around all of my students who were coughing and sneezing and sweating all over the papers they were turning in. I should have worn a medical mask and rubber gloves and entered the classroom each time with grand bursts of Lysol, but I worried they might think me a little melodramatic. So I got sick and became melodramatic. I now feel as if I'm emerging, once again, from my germ-fueled hibernation.

This makes me feel all the more in tune with nature. After all, lots of things are beginning to come back to life around the property (which is still unnamed). We enjoy seeing all of the spring bulbs produce flowers and the fall-blooming Clematis plants in a sprint to produce leaves. Everything seems to have fresh, swollen buds waiting to burst open. We are even discovering that the previous owners may have planted some things that were not apparent last summer when we first arrived, so we'll be able to take full stock of what we have.

They're sparse, but we have a good show for our
first year growing them.

Things are also moving along in the productive garden. I received a notification email today that my seed potatoes are due to arrive from Seed Savers Exchange on Thursday, and a number of plants I've grown from seed are ready to be transplanted into the garden. I've been hardening off a lot of them now that the temperatures are getting warmer. 

A mix of seedlings getting a little time in the sun

Our average last frost date is in April, so some seedlings will have to continue waiting out the time indoors. By the time it's warm enough for these tomato plants to go out, they may be ready to produce. 

Principe Borghese and Moneymaker tomatoes under grow lights

We've been making progress in the vegetable garden, but I'm not ready to show everyone the full picture yet. In the interim, I hope that a photo of the garlic bed and the recently planted pea and lettuce bed will suggest that we are, indeed, working toward our ultimate goal. 

Let's hope that peas will soon start scrambling up the trellis
I made.

Speaking of goals, I've decided to set myself two little challenges this year. The first is a result of my reading a post on Margaret Roach's blog, A Way to Garden, about Debra Prinzing's books Slow Flowers and The 50-Mile Bouquet. Basically, she challenges us to take what's growing around us to make our floral arrangements. I'm horrible at seeing the potential of such things, so I thought this would be a nice way to stretch myself creatively. My first attempt is meager, but I hope to get better as the season comes into full swing. I'll try to do this every other week.

Flower Arrangement #1:
A duo of daffodils

The second challenge is to post on the alternate weeks something I've made in the kitchen from what's growing in the garden. This could get interesting. Or it could be an unmitigated disaster. We'll just have to wait and see.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Winter is always a guest that outstays its welcome. In October, I pull sweaters and scarves out of storage bins, giddy that I'm being reunited with things I haven't seen in months. By February, I'm sick of them all. Walking into the closet these days is as exciting as getting my teeth cleaned. This year is no different. I can't imagine how people in the North can cope, especially those who must now be wondering if they'll be buried in snow. I feel for them. Snow is uncommon here, but as I write this post the rain is falling heavily outside, and the temperatures are dropping along with it. By morning, we should expect to find a sheet of ice blanketing all that we survey, so it's hard to imagine the days when I can walk through a lush vegetable garden in the summer sun. 

Winter makes me fidgety. I've scanned every gardening book and magazine in the house two and three times. I just want to get outside. My seed starting operation is all that keeps me from losing my patience. I come home every day to fuss over my little seedlings and count down the days until they'll be mature enough to go into the vegetable garden. Sometimes it feels like the countdown has stalled, even though the seedlings haven't.

Greek pepperoncini seedlings

I suspect we all are desperate for a little green these days. Maybe we need something to remind us how wonderful the green can be. I've been looking back at last year's vegetable garden photos, and they do make me excited for the warm days to come. Seeing things growing in the garden, if only in photo form, renews my faith that spring is certainly on its way. Hopefully they'll do the same for you.

Last year's yellow pear tomatoes

Cherry bell peppers

Greek pepperoncini peppers