Dust, Dust Bunnies and Weeds

While recovering from recent hip surgery, I needed late-night diversion. Unfortunately, I had trouble sleeping because I could not find a comfortable position. So I sought distraction from magazines. As a result, I now have a large stack of woodworking, model railroading, and gardening magazines that I’ve read from cover to cover, ads included.

The fear that my sleep routines would be permanently affected created a tension that seemed to ease if I concentrated on intently reading every article and ad in the magazines, not the sort of thing I would typically do.

Usually, I’m skeptical of the way the magazines groom every inch of a photo presentation. In woodworking magazines, the shops are pristine. In model railroading, the layouts are incredibly complete and perfect, and needless to say, in the gardening magazines, the grooming is exquisite.

Mainly because I’ve been physically challenged, my shop is a bit ( Ha!) worse for wear than usual, my model railroad dusty and ignored, and the garden obscured by a jungle of weeds. It would take a generation or two of laborers to correct all the defects and make it magazine perfect. This sort of idiocy does not usually get to me. but this was different. I became fixitated on things I could not control.

While hobbling around on crutches, I’d stare out the door into the dark and imagine the weeds sadistically growing to spite me. Today my broccoli. Tomorrow, my porch. Once I could climb the stairs, I could barely stand the mess in my office/ storage/ train room. The dust bunnies seemed to whisper, “We are the future!”

The shop was a disaster. The dust had settled over everything, and it looked like it had been abandoned for years. I started up the air cleaner but could do little else on crutches.

As my sleep returned to normal, I paid less attention to the magazines. I’ve begun to make peace with the dust bunnies and the dust in the shop. My fixation on getting things perfect receded. We are now approaching normal.

The weeds, you ask? They have continued to grow and encroach on the porch, inch by inch. A particularly nasty clematis vine started to cover the gate. A rogue tomato joined the rebellion and made a common cause with a pigweed. I fear for the Brussels sprouts. I have not been able to make it to that garden section. The area still under my control is a small section by the workshop; it’s never been this bad in all the years I’ve lived here.

I ceased worrying about it; I’ll win in the end

I am in this for the long game.

The first hard frost is coming. There’ll be a rematch in the spring, 

I’ll be ready. 

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, but no Thyme, yet

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, basil, and no thyme, yet. Today I took the morning to harvest some herbs from the garden. I still have a considerable amount of basil and rosemary to do. The garlic has been in for a few weeks, but I’ll have to plant next year’s crop in the next week or two.

We’ll start the drying hanging like this but eventually move on to the dehydrators to finish. A few things are question marks. The Tumeric plant eas an experiment. So, too tender for the semi-heated greenhouse, or does it come into the house? Some of the bay plants are going into the greenhouse after a suggestion by a greenhouse owner about them being hardy for the temps they’d run into in my cool greenhouse. It’s easy to blunder with experiments. Then you forever commemorate them in memory as the year you grew so and such. The problem is the seed growers and plant sellers are always foisting, I mean tempting us with new plants that they assure us will be luminous successes and make this gardening year go down as a golden memory. Bull pucky!

Anyway, it’s time to wade through the weeds to see what happened to the potatoes. Their bags were last seen the day before my hip surgery. Since then, the weeds have grown in and obscured that section of the garden.

Please send a rescue party if you don’t hear from me for a while.

Good Intentions

The pumpkins have run riot and obstruct the path leading back to the tomatoes. At this point in the summer, it’s hard to recall my genius plan for keeping my small garden well tended. It failed.
OK, I do have an excuse. The hip operation has meant that almost a month has passed without suckering the tomatoes. The cukes need tending as well. Anything could lurk in there and probably does. August, a garden untended, only bad things could happen.

It would take a caped crusader to fight a way through the tangles. Even the dog hesitates to travel too far into our little “Heart of Darkness”; he knows that the tremendous wooly unknown could lurk anywhere. So I toss a treat into the jungle and say, ” go get it” he looks at me like I’m nuts.

I’m shamed at how it’s turned out. As usual, good intentions went wrong, but I’ll share a picture of how it looked in April, full of promise.

I might need a flame thrower to clear this mess.

Nip Season

Everything is growing well. Soon there will be flowers – cat hashish- and I’ll roll about in feline paradise. Father has refused to get rid of the weeds he calls food and allow the nip to grow wild. The ninny pulls young plants as weeds!


I guess he doesn’t realize that nip is the most perfect drug, I mean digestive aid, in the universe. It was a God-given gift. Yes, in her feline perfection, she gave the nip to all cats, great and small.

Humans have no taste. But this is not a bad thing. I’d hate to have to share with him. Vintage nip is too good to waste on two-legged nincompoops.

Let’s see. Who’s on my Catmass list for the holiday distribution to cousins?

The Storage Box Greenhouse.

A bargain in a cold frame starts with that clear plastic storage box that cracked or lost its lid. Try to recycle them, and you have a big job breaking the plastic up for the bin. I don’t know about your city, but in mine, if it’s not in the recycle bin, they aren’t taking it.

This spring, I had dual problems: not enough greenhouse and cold frame space, and about four of the storage boxes at the end of their useful life.
Moving things around one evening, I dropped the boxes in the garden when called in for dinner. The following day I saw the humidity inside the boxes, and one plus one equaled a mini-greenhouse or cold frame.

The photo shows several of them protecting a row of sugar snap peas and some cauliflower. If it’s going to get windy, I can place a brick on the top.

In a few weeks, I won’t need them for the season. Instead, I’ll store them for the fall growing season when I put in late spinach and lettuce.

You maybe have been using this idea for a couple of years already, but it was new to me and perhaps will be new to some of you.

Snow Day

It’s not about to be inducted into the Winter Storm Hall of fame. And it’s not a hybrid monster freakout “caused by Climate Change” event. No, it’s just a skim coat of white stuff over my freshly prepared garden beds.

I’ve worked to remove all the abandoned stakes, tomato cages, and debris from last year. The frost was out of the ground, and I could rake in the wood ash accumulating on top of them. A neighbor had contributed many bags of pine planer shavings, and these did an excellent job of mulching the pathways between the raised beds. In brief, I was ready!

Of course, it’s still March, and even into April, we can get much more than the dusting that’s on the ground now. And no, the warmer weather didn’t fool me enough to put kale or lettuce into the cold frames – that’s about two weeks out.

But I admit to being seduced; every gardener knows the jubilant seduction that a gradually warming season brings. It’s like my wife running her fingers through my hair – a promise of more yet to come.

However, if it’s less than pleasant to me, watching the cat sitting by the sliding door at a frozen prospect was tougher. Xenia is snow averse. She doesn’t mind water, but snow between her toes is another thing. Her face looks like some people get down on the coast when the tide is out on the marshes, and the brackish smell of tidal flats wafts about. You know… the nose all wrinkled up with a foul odor. Of course, she won’t be out doing her daily garden patrol.

Of course, now I have to put up with both the snow and a hissing cat. Lovely day.

Conceit

Every year, I delude myself that this is the year that it will all be different. I become an eager recruit to the conceit that I will keep control of the weeds, that by August, they will not tower over the vegetable raised beds, and the manifold glories of a well-kept and productive garden will be mine.

Dream on, beautiful dreamer. Sometime near the end of July, we’ll either go on a mini-vacation, work will get intense, or a commission in the shop will occupy my attention. At that moment, the weeds will leap into reproductive and vegetative super production. The paths between beds will erupt in non-edible greenery and, at last, spread to the bases of the squash.

One day, I’ll come to the garden and realize that the weeds are waving in the late August breeze, tall and triumphant. Yes, I’ll say that the garden is wildly productive despite the weeds. But the weeds won again.

However, it’s spring, and I’m allowed a few conceits. This will be the year that I keep control of the weeds.

Prepare

For the time being, all but the most resistant of the snow piles have retreated into the darkest and coldest garden corners. This would be a happy prospect. But the rain that washed away the snow revealed all the poles, planks, pots, tools, and general debris left from last year’s gardening.
It’s not really chaos. There are reasons behind why the pots are there. I was called away on another task and forgot them. Those poles and tomato cages were allowed to sit there after clearing out the tomato vines. So see, there is a reason, even if it looks like an abandoned archeological dig with half-exposed artifacts.

Now starts the harried season. It’s not quite warm enough to be comfortable working outside, but you know that all that “stuff” needs picking up so you can start preparing the garden.

Some things have to wait, though. Those items still frozen in place tumble to the bottom of the to-do list, and with frost still in the ground, I can’t spread the wood ashes.

Even though the temperature is not too far above freezing, definitely not a sizzling in the sun day to toss off the work shirt; this stuff needs doing. To put it off too long means more to do when you are ready to put out the spring sugar snap peas, kale, lettuce, spinach, or other early spring crops.

For the non-gardeners among you, It’s also essential to eliminate all that plant waste that you can’t compost because it might contain garden pests eager to eat their way through your young garden.

Inside I am fielding emails from the seed sellers inquiring if I am interested in their new extra special spinach – no, or their blockbuster new tomato? Once again, no. Seeds were purchased in January and February as part of my mental health routine to get through the New England winter.

Now I move on to my next phase, getting ready for spring.

Green

I am looking forward to one of the most restful parts of my year. I’ve purchased my seeds, ordered some new native plants for the woodland area, and even gone ahead and planted the oregano and thyme for the kitchen garden. It all starts slow and gears up. As March proceeds, the snows recede, and I can be seen pacing in my garden – waiting for small hints of spring in the woodlands – spicebush blossoms, trout lily, and other ephemerals.

In the vegetable garden, I plan beds. Right now, they are covered in snow, except where the buckets of wood ash have been dumped. The wood ash is the final gift of the tree that improves the fertility of the soil. The charcoal in the ash improves the water-retaining ability of the earth as well.

The fig trees and the rosemary bushes share the greenhouse with the carving tools.
Two shelves are reserved for seedlings. Those will get going at the end of March.

It sounds busy, but it’s the best of rest for me. It’s the enforced stillness of winter that I find non- restful.

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