Category Archives: gardening

Cruel April

I just read the NOAA weather map for later this week. Oh my! Minnesota Baboons may get a lot of snow! Son and DIL could get 20 inches in Brookings.

It has warmed up sufficiently here that people are jumping into yard work, cleaning flower beds and mowing lawns (which they oughtn’t do yet as it is too early).  Husband and I are waiting to do any yard work until we return from a trip next Sunday.  We first plan to prepare the garden for pea, lettuce, and spinach seeds, which we will plant later in April.  Husband tilled last fall, so we won’t need to do that now. The tomato and pepper seedlings are coming along under the grow lights, Tulips are up and crocuses are blooming.  We have pruning and flower bed cleaning to do, too.

I always find April a chancy month to garden. One April many years ago I was awaiting the first blooming of some tulips I had planted in the fall, when, on April 28, we got 18 inches of heavy wet snow. The tulips had flower buds just ready to open, and there they were, frozen solid just above the snow line. I had to wait another year to see them bloom.   April is the cruelest month. Sometimes March is just as bad, though.

What are your favorite and least favorite months? Any favorite T.S. Elliot poems? 

 

Good Stewards

Today’s post comes from tim.

i take my compost to the compost drop off spot by bush lake near my house.

i knew there was something special about this time of year and the woods but i didn’t put my finger on it until yesterday.

during the winter the woods are trees standing in a white floor that makes the woods feel like a vista of strategically placed trees in the word of white.

In the summer the undergrowth fills all the available space with things springing forth and only the path that is well worn is passable in the city scape.

up north where the canopy is so dense that the undergrowth can be filtered so effectively that the walk through the woods is a dream like crunch of leaves and twigs and a graveyard of fallen trees and broken branches left to figure out how to deal in a natural way with restoration.

from mid march til may 1 the woods are brown and gray with subtle shades of yellow rust and green that allow you to envision what could be if the buckthorns weren’t devouring the available light and space,choking out the wildflowers and ferns and grasses in their way.

i see a new creeper in the ditches that is slowly but surely covering the adjacent space with a vengeful lust. A 10 foot run three years ago turns to a 50 foot run and then an entire landscape with the nearby former plants buried by the blanket of the new invader

a while back i lived near bush lake and loved walking my dogs along the trails and paths that are there. I was aware of the problem with the invasive plants and the choking out of the native plants that comes along with it. The buckthorn issue is one i have heard about but it wasn’t until walking my dogs that i thought about it.

now i wish i could figure out a way to inspire people to work the area within a block of their house. maybe a grading system for a buckthorn collecting contest.

documented progress and maintenance reports. grading that makes the neighborhood aware of the invasion the solution and the progress realized and aspired to

i can do a 10×10 area of the woods. it feels like something that can be accomplished but a milllion acres feels like too much.

stewardship is such a admirable thing. maybe free park passes to minnesota state parks for picking up after the invasion? lions, church groups, neighborhood communities  and pta organizations taking responsibility for a chunk of the woods like they do picking up a mile of the freeway today would be a start.

if you could pick a little corner of the world to fix what might it be (take 2 they’re small)

 

 

If I were I Carrot

Husband and I ordered all our seeds for this year’s garden, but still peruse the seed catalogs to see if we missed anything. We received a new catalog this year from a place in Missouri (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds), and we noticed they had the most delightful descriptions  of their seed varieties. You can tell they love the seeds they sell, and we thought the blurbs for some of the seeds sounded like descriptions of people. Here are some examples:

Cold hardy old variety from Denmark (Strawberry)

Earthy and spicy (Carrot)

Exceptionally sweet, tender, and above all-tough (Cucumber)

A Dakota variety,  so you know its rugged (Pole Bean)

Arrives fashionably late (Parrot Tulips)

A classic pear shape (Paste Tomato)

A reliable keeper (Cabbage)

Large and elegantly showy (Cosmos)

Husband just wants to be a reliable keeper. I like to think of myself as a rugged, Dakota variety. I want to avoid pear shaped.

Write a seed catalog blurb of yourself or someone else.

Grocery Store Guilt

I am aware that being a “Reward Member” at my grocery store  isn’t just a way to sell me discounted gasoline and get me in on sales. It is a way to track what we purchase and get data on the buying trends of customers.

Husband and I probably  purchase of some of the more exotic items at the Cash Wise store here.  Who else buys all the celery root in the produce department two days running?  Cake yeast? I  have bought every pack the store had  each week for the past month.

There is a limit, though, on how much celery root and cake yeast a person can store. We tried to grow celery root in the garden last summer but it didn’t work. We use it in soups and stews and roast meats in place of celery.  I found 14 lovely celery roots at the grocery store last week and diced them, blanched them,  and froze them. We have enough now until next winter. The store hadn’t stocked them for ages, and I was delighted to find them. I also have enough cake yeast to last for months. Now I feel irrationally guilty and anxious.

I worry that  because of our exuberant purchasing,  the store will stock all sorts of celery root and cake yeast and it will all go bad because we don’t need to buy any.  That will make me feel guilty because I hate the thought of food going to waste.  I also worry  that due to poor sales of celery root and cake yeast, the store won’t stock them anymore after this, and when I need them I won’t be able to find them.

I realize as I type this just how ridiculous this is, how very little I really have to worry about, and what a lovely life I have. I guess that is the hallmark of anxiety-the irrationality of it all. I have baked for years using dry yeast, and I can always use regular old celery in a pinch.  I think the marketing people who track our purchases will find us hard to fathom.

What would someone tracking your purchases surmise about you?  Would it be an accurate reflection of who you are?

Perfect

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

I recently posted about discovering several hundred scanned slides from trips my erstwife and I took in the United Kingdom in 1974 and 1975. Most of the original slides were good, but the company that converted them to digital files did poor work. After being scanned the images were badly underexposed and had harsh tones. I spent five weeks editing the slides, making each image look nice, or at least much nicer.

Last Friday night my daughter invited me to her home to deliver a marathon slide show. I presented about 500 edited slides and explained the circumstances of taking them. I talked so long I lost my voice. As my daughter drove me home I realized, with some surprise, that I had just experienced a “perfect” evening.

This surprised me because I am not comfortable calling anything perfect. That is such an absolute word. My experience of life keeps showing me that everything we experience is good or bad in relative terms. I am skittish about absolute words and absolute judgements.

And yet the slideshow evening could not have been better. For a storyteller, an ideal moment involves telling stories to an adoring audience. For a photographer, sharing images with people who are thrilled to see them is total joy. For an old storyteller/photographer what could be better than an evening sharing old images and their stories with family members?

Actually, I learned that there is a way that such an evening could be even better. Something already “perfect” can become nicer.

On our first British Isles trip my erstwife and I spent three days in the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds are a region of England where the countryside and the villages are unimaginably charming. Visiting there feels like stepping into a Beatrix Potter storybook. Perhaps the most appealing Cotswold town is Bourton-on-the-water. Its homes and shops were built centuries ago with locally quarried rock. The architecture is consistent, dating to the same period, and perfectly charming. A little stream runs through the heart of town, with stone bridges arching over it. The honey-colored stone used for all buildings is offset by many by countless lush flower gardens.

Bourton has a famous model village. Local craftsmen created a perfect model of the town that includes all the homes, churches and shops just as they looked in the 1930s. Each building was recreated with meticulous detail at a one-to-nine scale. Topiary trees and shrubbery line the tiny stone buildings. The stream is there, of course, along with those cute bridges. While the model town is accurate in scale, a few buildings have been given big windows so visitors can peer inside to appreciate how perfectly the interiors have been duplicated.

Because the model village occupies a significant area, logic dictates that the model village has to include a miniature model of the model. And it does!

The cherry on top of my perfect evening was watching my grandson grasp the concept of an infinite regression of models within models. “Wait, Grampy,” Liam cried. “So the tiny town has a tiny model of the town in it? Whoa! That’s awesome! And does the tiny model of the model have its own tiny model?”

Yes! Of course it does! Liam’s smile improved an evening I thought could not be better.

What kind of day or event would be perfect for you?

Leaf Vortex Conspiracy

YA and her boyfriend raked the leaves yesterday. If you live in the Twin Cities you’ll be saying to yourself at this point “the last yard waste pick up was two weeks ago – why did she wait so long”.  Well, I’ll tell you why.  I live next door to the tree that waits until every other tree in Southwest Minneapolis has dropped its leaves to start shedding its own foliage.  Every. Single. Year.

In addition, we live in a leaf vortex, right in the middle of the block. My neighbors to the south routinely have 5-6 bags of leaves, my neighbors to the north 4-5 bags.  My house this year – 20 bags.  I really think that my neighbors have figured out a way to get their leaves to blow into my yard at this time of year.

It doesn’t help that I detest leaf raking. Actually that’s not quite true.  I don’t mind the raking part.  It’s the bagging part I don’t like, especially now that we have to use paper bags; the paper bags are so unwieldy and hard to fill.  This is kinda how I feel about yardwork… I don’t mind the work, I just hate the clean up.  A perfect gardening day is when YA follows me about and bags up all the weeds and detritus from my work!

Anything you’re sure of, even if it doesn’t make sense?

 

Leaf Pile Loss

Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.

Have you ever lost your cell phone? If so, you know what it feels like to lose all contact with the outside world. A friend installed an ap on my computer recently called “Find my iPhone”. All you have to do is open this feature and it’ll make the phone sound alarms. I mistakenly thought I’d be home free with this feature, but without my phone, I couldn’t read what my password was in my contact list!

Today, I completed five days of blowing leaves into three very large piles – 3′ high and 15′ wide. Lots of leaves . Somewhere in one of those huge piles, my cell phone fell out of my pocket. Panic set in at the prospect of digging through the gigantic piles to find it.

It then occurred to me to then email a whole bunch of people, hoping one of them was home, labeling the subject EMERGENCY, and asking him/her to call my number until I answered it.

Mary, thank God, started calling me as I waited outside in the hopes of hearing the ring. It was like the old game of “Hot or Cold”. I frantically tried to follow the ringing. It took a few minutes to find it but not before tearing apart much of the work I’d done.  Last winter, I dropped my cell phone in a 2’ deep snowfall and had to dig up a lot of snow to find it. That time, I walked out to the country road, flagged down a car, and asked the driver if he’d call my number until I found it in the snow. He kindly did this.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s to never have my phone on me when blowing or snowing.

 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU LOST YOUR PHONE?