Saturday, February 28, 2015

Garden 2015. And so it begins.. .

We are eating green onion tops. The leeks just had their first haircut. The first seeds of hardy greenery are emerging under the grow lights. 
I hereby declare this garden season officially opened.
Leeks are one plant I can put in the window sill. They get trimmed when they get floppy, and the container gets turned around to keep them growing straight. Leek babies don't mind being crowded but love having vertical space for their roots. This narrow planter fits on the shelf and has a good tray to catch drips. The shelf space next to the onions has to stay clear for the sake of the cat. She insists. OR ELSE!
We are having an exceptionally early spring, unless winter makes a comeback. As mentioned elsewhere, the land can be clear of snow any time from early March to mid April, with snowfalls in late April or early May not uncommon. It looks like we will have an early start to the season this year. Even if we get more snow, whatever is gone now will not have to melt later. I am itching to get the new roof over the greenhouse, but there is still too much snow in the way. 
Go snow go! I get frustrated imagining how warm it would be in there if the roof were on and what a pleasure it would be to mess around in thawed out dirt. However, the soil will be healthier for the exposure to frost and snow, the cover will last longer and it sure was nice to have no worries about the works collapsing. We had one epic snow fall that would have been impossible to keep up with.

The vernal pond is trying to become just that. 
The grow light setup has new tubes. This necessitated taking the heavy frame off its stand and putting it back on. At first I thought something was broken, but fortunately my handy electrician friend and barter partner Rick knew exactly how to twist them into place. Phew! Rick will also give me a hand when the time comes to reinstall the roof in return for body work. Old Dutch did it 4 years ago, all by himself, but that was then. It still took me the better part of a morning to get the tubes back onto their metal frame thingy. I had to do it three times. Never mind all the details, I am a bit learning disabled when it comes to practical things. It is done and that is all that counts. 
The first planting is just early greens, hardy stuff that can go into the greenhouse ASAP. In a few weeks I will need the lights for tomatoes. If the roof is not on then we will enjoy them as microgreens.

And so it begins.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Asparagus to Zucchini 2014

The good news: We finally had enough for a delicious dinner for two. The bad news: that is all we had, just one dinner and some raw treats for the gardener. Some of the plants looked as if there was some pest trouble. The emerging spears were thin in places. Voles? Beetles? Slugs? Otherwise most of the ferns are looking fabulous at the end of summer, in spite of scanty water. They have received a fresh weeding, a generous sprinkle of COF and more mulch and are now ready for the first snow. Next year, right?

As mentioned the greenhouse gave us a delicious early start of haricot vert type snap beans. Blue Lake pole beans did well but were hit by an early frost in September. Just one quick light frost but it did in the beans and squashes. We had weeks of growing season afterwards. I had been counting on the pole beans for more beans later in the season and for freezing. Never mind, we can live with them being a seasonal treat. We ate lots for 2 months. Next year do start a succession of bush bean plants for a second wave. And DO prestart beans. It works fine and really gives them a head start.

Voled, as mentioned in previous post.

Broad Beans.
We have the wrong climate for them. They will not set fruit if it gets too hot, like, over 70F, around 20C. They thrive in places with long slow springs, like the Netherlands, Great Britain or the Pacific North West. I have fond memories of them as a special Sunday treat in June or September, the same season as cauliflower. Everyone ate with the seasons in those frugal post-war years in the Netherlands. Brother Jaap and I loved shelling them and playing in the kitchen sink with boats made out of the fuzzy aromatic shells.
This year I stuck some seeds in between the cabbage plants that succeeded the garlic, in early August. They were meant more as a cover crop and to have something to show for my efforts in case the cabbages failed. To my surprise they grew and bloomed profusely, in between the thriving cabbages. But that was all, blossoms. The temps should have been perfect. I don't know what they want. Pollination? I planted one whole bed in broadbeans as a cover crop quite late, well into September. They grew insanely fast. The frost just killed them but there is lots of loverly plant matter to be incorporated into the soil next spring.  Must buy a few kilo seed next year.
Packman hybrid is a great variety that will be planted again. They did well and kept giving sideshoots for months after the main head was done. They yielded till hard frost
but the shoots were minuscule towards the end. Next year I must have another batch ready as a succession crop.
Brussels sprouts
The mystery of the year. I always devote one whole bed to them. They got everything I have to give.  The bed received a generous supply of rotted manure and compost as well as COF before planting, and several top dressings of COF during the season. The plants were well mulched and reasonably watered all summer. During the worst of the cabbage butterfly season they were protected by Remay. They grew great. Huge whole leaves, tall plants. Look at this. Promising or what?
This picture was taken in mid September. By now they had outgrown the protective covering but most of the cabbage loopers were gone. In August I had started removing bottom leaves, right after this picture was taken I removed the tops to encourage the formation of sprouts.  I expected a bumper crop. NOT. Here is the crazy thing. The top sprouts are gorgeous. 
 About a third way down the stem they start looking awful. The transition happens suddenly and across the entire row.
I would sure like to know what caused this.  Meanwhile we have been enjoying what we have, after a hard frost that mellowed them to beautiful sweetness.

I had beautiful starter plants for the first spring planting. The final potting up was in one liter yogurt containers. The roots were just right.
 Then the slugs hit as soon as they were planted out. Look at this poor victim.
A planting that was started in the greenhouse to succeed the garlic did amazing once they were in the ground. Must plan better, with smaller plantings but in succession. Once again Alcosa hybrid Savoy cabbage performed like a champ, as did early Wakefield pointy cabbage. With a household of two it makes no sense to grow giants.

I grew some beauties but not nearly enough to satisfy the almost daily juicing habit. The earliest plantings were ravaged by slugs. Only one 3x3 square out of 5 escaped their wrath. Below, extreme close up of carrots slugged in infancy. I used to think the seeds had not come up, but when you look really close you can see tiny stumps of green. I suspect Arion Ater, the big black slug, sometimes kills them just by slithering over. I started saving all my egg shells. They might not be enough to deter the big one but it is worth a try.

Because of the slugs I cannot use the square foot method of spacing, which makes thinning so much easier. I seeded again later but those batches suffered from not enough watering and thinning.

It is a Prima Donna, but I like it so much I will keep trying to grow it. The spring planted regular ones were first demolished by slugs and then by heat. Below: my one spoon cauliflower.

I planted lots and it did great! Usually I just buy a few plants but this year I started some as well. They all did well, except for one dumb thing. The market buddy who had sold me some starters asked me how I had liked the red variety. Oops! I had forgotten there was such a thing, and had ripped them out, thinking it was some disease. Here is the funny thing. Several other local gardeners also had great celery this year and weird Brussels sprouts. It is not always something we do.

Chard was its usual abundant self. Bless the hardy reliable stuff. Rainbow chard looks so beautiful in the garden, and it brings out the collector in me. I want one of each colour. But really, for eating I prefer the lighter green Lucullus. It is mild and tender and an excellent subsitute for spinach. Slugs like it better too but there is enough leafy green goodness for all of us.

However! In the fall we had some nice Romanescos, love those crazy fractal florets. I wonder if this plant is easier to grow, or if it was the timing? Will play with both.
I tried growing some fat white radishes and failed miserably. They were woody and bitter. I suspect the sudden excessive heat is too blame. I did not feel like repeating the experiment in fall. I don't really care much for them anyway.

In spite of all the good care about 30% of the harvest was lost to the dreaded rot. It appears to attack just before harvest, when the temperatures rise. You see a perfect bulb with the yucky mold covering it, sometimes only part of it. There is enough left and the clean bulbs last all year. My best friend has a garden that keeps being invaded by deer, so almost nothing grows except garlic. She does not have the rot. This year we planted most of her garden in garlic. I just planted one small bed at home. Meanwhile I grow more than enough of everything else for both of us. Cooperation with neighbours is a good thing. Fingers crossed!

Many green leafy things were grown and eaten, dried and frozen. I don't feel like going into detail. In recent years kale, that easiest to grow member of the cabbage family, seems to have acquired near cult status among the young wannabe homesteader crowd. This makes me laugh. I remain the Queen of Kale but as mentioned, this year I also fell in love with Lucullus, a mild variety of chard. 

Basil did very well. I have a confession to make. I don't really like pesto. Fresh basil in tomato salad I love, pesto not so much. One large planter on the deck is enough. Yes, I have planters on the deck. You'd think with 10 acres that would not be necessary, but I love having the fixings for a lunch salad or some herbs for dinner right next to the kitchen. Parsley did spendidly, cilantro went to seed like it always does, why do I even bother? And somehow I never did get around to starting dill. I have a serious borscht addiction and must have dill. The medicinal herbs were sadly neglected. I really need a bed of echinacea again, not to mention growing mushrooms on stumps. SO MUCH TO DO!

To my everlasting shame I ruined my own seedlings and had to buy them. I did not get as many as I would have liked. One batch that I grabbed when I was in a hurry and had low blood sugar to boot turned out to be red onion, which does not like my land. But the ones I did plant did fantastic. I know what I did wrong. Seed for this year is standing by and the planter was filled with mix in the fall. Coming soon to a window sill near you!
I had Norli snow peas in the greenhouse in June, a first.
This was just a teaser row of 3 feet. Tasty but just a few. The main crop did not do well because it got too hot. I only grow edible podded peas for fresh eating in season. They don't freeze that well. Regular peas are on the list of plants that do not have to be organic, and they are cheap frozen. 

The best peppers ever! I had only 8 plants in the greenhouse in the same small bed that housed the early greens followed by the snap beans and some leeks.
Why oh why did I not keep better records of what went into that bed? That two and a half by eight foot bed was by far the most productive section anywhere. I do remember it was in tomatoes last year and received generous amounts of compost and COF.

I have come to love those crisp bitter balls. They are incredibly resilient and will bounce back after being mercilessly slugged like the one shown below, as long as there is a growing tip left. They resist heat, drought and frost.
Also, they look cute in the garden while growing. 
Winter Squash
I wasn't going to bother, they are such space hogs. My friend gave me one plant, a mystery acorn variety, that did amazingly well considering how late it got planted. It went in after the garlic. Also, I love their glorious flowering sprawling exuberance. Squashes are almost a bonus. I still have seeds and may will get seduced for 2015.

Once again there was too much plant and not enough fruit. 
Two plants in a boxed bed in the greenhouse got a mystery fungus in the stem when they were just starting to fruit. They got ripped up and dumped. There was also a tipi in the greenhouse with about half a dozen plants of different varieties that did so-so.
In general it was a good year for them. I had planted more than I normally do and there was enough for fresh eating. But my neighbour with only 4 Roma plants was harvesting enough to can! Towards the end the late fruits were cracking. I can't control the rain but I suspect a need for more potash. Paste tomatoes did suprisingly well, especially Principe Borghese.

Covered in previous post. Lots of seed left from last year, including an untouched package of hybrid mix. I loved the suprises.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Random notes from the year so far.

I got the pictures on a stick, which saves me the trouble of figuring out how Windows 8 organises them. So here goes, finally!
The year so far with pictures. This post is started on August 17. The day is cool and cloudy which suits me fine.
May and June this year were great growing weather, a nice mix of sun and rain. Not too cold and not too hot. Thanks to the greenhouse we were eating fresh salads in early May. For the umptieth time, I love my greenhouse! The picture above shows the abundance as of May 11. I must have done something just right with that small 21/2 by 8 ft bed. It yielded an anazing amount of food.
Early in the summer perennial flowers did their thing in the bed to the side of the lawn.  This is a poor picture, I had not figured out the camera's menu yet. The deer were relatively merciful.  Somehow they left the astrantia alone.
Of course I had to create some more work for myself by buying annuals to fill in the gaps.
Salmon coloured poppy is always a brief and uncertain glory. It bloomed during a showery period and we never got more than a few blooms at the time. I did get this one picture I am quite proud of.
Since I am a non technical klutz I was quite pleased that I managed to remove the dull, nicked beyond repair blade from the lawnmower in order to replace it. The mower  had cut the lumpy space that passes for lawn here for almost a quarter century and was otherwise working just fine.  It turns out they don't make blades for this sturdy model any more. I went to town for a blade and came home with a new mower. It works great and is lighter, but I doubt the plastic body will last as long as its metal predecessor. Planned obsolescence, don't get me started or I'll be ranting on the insanity of the economic system for hours.
By late June it got HOT and by the second week of July we were in a nightmarish heatwave/drought that defined much of the summer. That nice blue time of early July, when the rains have stopped but summer is still young and all is lush and green, that time was cut short this year. It soon felt more like August. The valley was choked with smoke from the many wildfires, fortunately none right here. It felt scary. At the beach the water was delicious, but the atmosphere was so weird I didn't even enjoy it. The sky was white, the mountains across the lake were barely visible in the smoky haze. A hot erratic wind made one worry about the fate of the many brave souls fighting wildfires. We had one week of respite, cooler temperatures and one rainy day around the twentieth of July. The heat soon returned with a vengeance and did not abate till August  14. It was often smoky/muggy, and more to be endured than enjoyed. In spite of the many weeks of hot dry weather I feel strangely unsatisfied with the summer. I was also very busy, a mixed blessing.

It feels like September now. The trees were weakened by drought and are shedding leaves, some of the bracken is yellowing. Our Saturday market yesterday was quite wet and nobody minded, we were all so glad to see some moisture.
On the plus side, harvests were early too. We had the earliest green beans ever, these beauties came out of the greenhouse on July 15. I had stuck them in between the Chinese cabbages, so when those bolted the beans were well up and raring to go. Better: just pre-start them in pots. They got a bit too leggy from having to fight their way up in childhood. One smart new trick: sticking bamboo poles in between the beans, one per plant. Even a bush bean likes some support. 

Continuing August 29.
Blame the Nexus 7 and the cat for the long interval. These days I spend more computer time in my comfy chair with the tablet, lap free for cat. This makes it less likely I will work on a blog post. Even my four fingered efforts on the keyboard are faster than the tap tap tap with the stylus on the touch screen and besides I have not figured out how to add pictures.
Once July was past the flowerbeds were TOAST, victims of drought and deer. The only late colour comes from the petunias, geraniums and marigolds in containers that are placed along the edge of the border and diligently sprayed with Bobbex. Plants the deer never used to touch, like sedum and golden glow, are now systematically demolished. 
The veg garden on the other hand is starting to look decent again after an interval when I felt like a total failure. I mean, if you can't even grow zucchini, what's the world coming to? It turned out the small fruits that started rotting in infancy were suffering from blossom end rot. The same plague hit many gardens in the area, even a professional grower. Extreme heat may have played a role. I removed one plant to improve air circulation, encouraged the other three to grow in a certain direction, removed all sick leaves and stems and gave them a good spray with liquid seaweed. The temperatures also moderated. Whatever did the trick, we are finally enjoying the usual zucchini season with lots to eat and plenty to give away.
We have carrot pulp to use up for all the things that used to soak up the excess zucchini crop. Muffins, sauces, veggie patties.  Last year I dried a bunch but we did not really like them. Conclusion: consider summer squash a seasonal treat and relax. It makes no sense to let them grow beyond tiny deliciousness.
Isis Loran posted a list of questions to ask ourselves NOW, while we can still remember what was what. Good plan. I try to do that with an almost-annual Asparagus to Zucchini post.
but I love these questions, especially 4 and 6. As the attentive reader can see, the beets were eaten up again. The dastardly voles are back. I had planted lots because we juice carrots and beets almost daily. 
Before they were eaten the beets were looking great, with the healthiest leaves I have ever seen. Credit goes to Steve Solomon's COF with a tiny bit of boron. The few we did get were delicious.
These golden beets came from the greenhouse. Could I have prevented the loss? Maybe. I could have planted them in a fortress bed, but that is what I did with the gourmet Sieglinde potatoes, supposedly a late variety. The plants started to die down quite early. When I pulled back the hay I found the vines had been chewed through. The varmints had managed to get in there. There were a lot of half eaten potatoes. Voles can JUMP and I had allowed the buttercups around the base of the bed to get too high. I saw a big fat culprit,  It took him or her a few tries before (s)he managed to jump out of the box, which gives me hope that with better weeding at the base the fortresses will hold. By the way, the few Sieglindes that we did get were delicious. Yellow, firm, waxy, will plant again.
My nomination for Plant of the Year goes to Lucullus Swiss Chard. It does not look as dramatic as Rainbow chard with its many colours of stems, but is it ever delicious! It is mild and tender, without that set-your-teeth-on-edge oxalic acid quality. Much more like spinach. Since spinach always bolts here this makes me very happy. At the end of the season I am transplanting it in any gap. is September 19. Forget the rest of this, I might as well start on the Asparagus to Zucchini overview!
Just one picture of the flower beds reduced to containers.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Gardening with an accounting principle

Many years ago, when my daughter was a baby, I took a course in accounting. The idea was to acquire a usable skill that might lead to flexible employment, perhaps as a free lancer from home. I didn't get very far. My brain was Mommy Mush, totally obsessed with the adorable 4 months old at home. She was extra special because it had taken two pregnancies to produce her.

But I did learn something in that course that has always stayed with me: The Principle of Ongoing Concern.
It means that no matter how brief the future of an enterprise may be, you keep the books as if it will continue forever.

You may be planning to declare bankruptcy on your startup next week, you still maintain those books as if the business is working towards its centennial celebration.

Right now I am applying that principle in the gardens. One moment I want to stay on this land forever, the next the village beckons. There is much to be said for having friendly coffee shops and the beautiful waterfront within walking distance. A friend is considering putting her home up for sale. I love her place and have often imagined myself there. It is right in the heart of the village, but the fenced sheltered lot is private and offers plenty of scope for the aspiring urban food gardener. No deer and a longer growing season. Dilemmas, dilemmas. 

But meanwhile we serve these gardens as if we will be here for years to come. We garden with the principle of ongoing concern.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Moments of truth

I came into the fenced veg garden on the top level and noticed that a wind storm the previous day had damaged two pole extensions. When the fence was built some years ago Old Dutch did a brilliant job of extending it upwards. Some of the extensions had snapped. For reasons I will not go into here any fixing is up to me. I did a temporary job using the material on hand: duck tape. 

But while I stood there taking in the damage and wondering how to keep the hungry hordes of deer out now it suddenly hit me: This is getting to be TOO MUCH. The time is coming to retrench instead of expand. 
For the first time ever the thought of a nice small house in the village with a decent size garden began to appeal to me in the middle of summer. In winter the thought has occurred before but once the snow is gone, never! I will die here! Or so I thought. People can change. The thought of the actual move is daunting. It's not like you can wave a wand and magically switch places. But there is much to be said for making those changes while we can and before we must. The offspring has a sentimental attachment to the place but it is unlikely they will want to live here again as long as the present geological and social order holds. It may not but that is another story.

Another moment of truth: I have run out of "If onlies" and I am still nowhere near the perfect garden. You know, if only my hips did not hurt. If only I was not side tracked by the farmers market, house guests or reflexology clients. If only I did not get tired halfway the day. If only I had a greenhouse.
If only I had a fence. If only I had enough manure. If only I had enough mulch.

Well, this year there are no excuses.
Body parts: working fine, thank you chiropractor and physio.
Energy level: great, thank you surgeon and bluegreen algae.
Time: In May and most of June I was available to the garden almost 24/7. I potted up a few plants for the market but not much. 
Greenhouse: check.
Manure: check. I started the year with an ample supply of sifted compost and COF.
Mulch: last fall a friend delivered 25 bales of hay. I can pile it on. Straw is better but hay is more easily available.

It is still not done. There. Moment of truth. I am trying to do too much. If I did not get it all together this year I never will. 

We have now hit the season of extreme heat as well as harvest. Keeping things watered and picked will take precedence over working ahead, framing another raised bed etc. I am also taking part in the farmers market again, getting reflex clients again, and the grandson is coming over for three weeks. The time of total garden obsession is over for this year. Either we relax in the wabi sabi of it and enjoy what is there, which is plenty! or we drive ourselves nuts. Wabi Sabi (the appreciation of imperfection) it is.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Garden seasons by state of mind.

June  2014. (started early in the month, finished later)

Surely it cannot be the sixth month of a year whose date still sounds slightly unreal? Ruminations about time must be reserved for the rants blog, or I get side tracked even more than usual.

I am behind, of course. On the other hand we have been eating home-grown salads since early May, which is pretty good, and I froze my first bags of greens for spanakopita and non-palak non-paneer. One of the reasons this blog has been languishing is the lack of good photos. I have never liked the Canon Power shot A1300 as much as its predecessor, the A560. We finally figured out how to access the menus in the first, and cleaning the lens restored bulky Old Faithful. Better pictures coming soon, I hope.

Meanwhile I have been incubating a post about the states of mind that seem to accompany each micro season in the garden. Today is the first cold rainy day in some time, a perfect time for it. No pictures.

March/early April: Re-awakening.
We have starts under grow lights, and are slowly shifting into garden mode. "Brown Time" is the time after snow melt and before the grass and bracken kick in. The soil is still too wet to work, plants are sleepily stirring underground but not doing much yet. There are aconites, crocuses and snowdrops in the small flower bed underneath the living room window, but otherwise every green shoot is a rare cause for celebration.

We can walk all over the land. In winter the snow is too deep, in summer the bracken too high. Ideally, Brown Time lasts from about mid-March to mid-April, and is a leisurely season of poking and puttering, collecting stakes from the woods, dragging messy branches to brush piles for burning, raking up some of the dead vegetation from the bracken field to use as mulch later on, tidying up the flowerbeds, moving some perennials around.

In a not-ideal year like this one March is still winter and snow lingers till mid-April. We have to hit the ground running.

Mid April/early May: The season of promise.
We are fully engaged now. Perennials are popping up in the bare flower beds. Hardy starts like leeks and brassicas have been moved into the greenhouse, tender seedlings remain under lights but have been potted up. We are preparing the soil, one of my favourite things to do. Changing a lumpy weedy bed to a smooth dark  seedbed is so full of promise. Everything seems possible, even crops that look like the glowing pictures in seed catalogues. Could this be the year we pull it all together? The land is like a park, a total joy. Daffodils and primroses are blooming in the flowerbeds. The open spaces are green, but the bracken lags behind the grass. We can still see everywhere. 

Mid May/mid June: Obsession and Panic
I live, breathe and eat gardening. It is truly all I want to do, all I can think about, all I want to read about. If this state of mind lasted all year I would be a very boring person. (I may still be) Everything is still possible, but we now feel a sense of urgency verging on panic as the Solstice looms ever closer. Nothing seems more important than to get those last beds planted, those yearning babies in the greenhouse potted up, the flower beds trimmed and finished with annuals. I resent anything that comes between me and the garden work. Peace in the Middle East would be nice, but how will it affect my cabbages and irises? I am behind, of course. I love the work, but I would be much happier if only it were late April instead of late May. Bracken is coming up and unfurling.

Later June: Disappointment
It is becoming clear that once again this will not be the year of the perfect garden. We are still behind, torn between flower beds and vegetable garden. The weather has been too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. Carrots may need reseeding, beans have rotted in the wet ground,  spinach and Chinese cabbages have bolted in the heat.  Slugs have taken their toll, or flea beetles, or cabbage moths, voles, or all of the above. The novelty of having green leafy things to eat has worn off, but the peas are not ready yet. Disappointment season is brief but it happens every year. Bracken is fully up and out now, closing us in. The obsession is waning a bit. We remember that there is more to life than gardening, that minds and friendships need cultivating as much as the ground.

July: Resignation and jungle.
Winter seems impossibly far away. We have always been in the garden and we always will be. Not all visions came true, but the plants that are growing are doing it so fast we can barely keep up. I call it jungling. Besides, it is getting too hot to get upset. Who needs perfection? Let's do some beach, or flop down on the shady lawn with a good murder. In the hottest months the garden has to compete for attention with summer guests, the farmers market and the desire to have some summer fun.

August: The fullness of harvest.
The fullness of summer. Even in a bad year there should at least be zucchini and snap beans. Watering may become an issue. We are starting to fill the freezer. There are early potatoes. In years we have chickens this means we can put an entire home grown meal on the table, I love that.

September to early October: More harvest, and thinking of  next year.
The climate seems to have shifted. These days spring is late to warm up, but September has become a true summer month. This has been the pattern for some years now. I love September in the garden. The summer guests have gone, and we don't feel torn between garden and  beach. The days are cool enough for serious work. We are enjoying the plenty of this year, and leisurely working ahead for the next season, when the garden will be perfect, right? In a good year garlic gets planted between September 15 and October 15. In a bad year it gets planted with clumsy freezing fingers with the first skiff of snow already on the ground.....

Mid October/early November: Wrapping it up, working ahead, maybe.
Once it gets cold the garden feels like work. I may still put in a few hours a day, but when the temps fall below 7 C my hands start hurting after half an hour or so. Guess I am allowed some signs of old age. Brussels sprouts get harvested by sawing whole frozen stalks off and dashing back inside. We start to look forward to the winter break. If the raspberries get pruned before the snow flies, great. If not, by now we know that a painful chore in fall is pleasure in spring.

Halloween to Imbolc: REST.

In May I may picture myself studying and planning during the off season. The reality is that by November I welcome a break from the whole thing. Once the snow covers everything the garden is out of sight, out of mind. The cycle starts again in late January or early February, when we seed leeks. You can't plant them early enough.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Let there be light! The trouble with trees.

As said before, what this land wants to do is grow trees. It is very good at it. While waiting for trees a lush cover of grass and bracken fern, interspersed with wild flowers, holds the soil on the slope. One of these days I will devote a post entirely to bracken.
June is tiger lily month.

It is hard to remember, but in our earliest years we were thrilled to find baby trees here and there. We wanted a fringe around the place for privacy in case neighbouring lots ended up being cleared. We got it. Indeed, we are now surrounded by clearings, but our neighbours are mainly invisible thanks to our own trees. We also wanted a few islands of trees here and there. They obligingly appeared. 

There is one problem: trees don't know when to quit. They just keep spreading and they just keep growing. I love trees but I also love sunshine and views. 

We have had several cullings when the price of timber was higher. The money we got for the wood paid for the work done by the horse logger. That was some years ago. It was time for a new round. I would have done it earlier but for two factors. Finding a way to get it done without paying anyone, and domestic politics. It seems that in every household in the woods one partner likes shade and privacy, while another prefers sun and openness. My own inertia is a powerful force to begin with. Add the desire to avoid conflict, and years passed with more shade than I like. 

What finally shook me up was remembering that non-action is a form of action. (Thanks for the lesson son Alex) We have never sat down to discuss the pros and cons of turning an abandoned hay field with stunning views into forest with a few openings. It just happened. So why do I feel guilty about removing a few trees? The culling done now is still a compromise.

One large tree shaded the greenhouse section. Every year I pictured it gone, but put up with it for one more year. Its time had come. 
The last blow to inertia was struck by a good friend who found an experienced faller to do the job. The friend pays for the work in return for the firewood. I know nothing about the value of wood, but apparently it is a good deal all around. Win/win.
Note the twin stumps in the center above. The extra light in this garden, just below the greenhouse, is amazing!
The only drawback is the mess of branches. 
I thought of hiring a teenager to deal with them, but after the chiropractor fixed my hips again I did my own shlepping to a central pile. 
And so it goes.