the green-up


I’m pleased to announce that my mood and my yard are much improved since my last post. We’ve burned “yard waste”, which translates in our case to leaves, branches, all of the cedar we cut down last year, the slab pine that we mistakenly thought would make good firewood, the wood & cardboard remnants of the hallway and living room that we gutted and piles and piles of the thorny mess we’re clearing from the hillside.  We built a compost bin after a year of dumping into assorted piles, and Wyatt roofed the chicken coop! The whole scene is a lot less redneck than it was a few weeks ago. Mother nature has added her own touch as everything has started to “green-up”. Daffodils, trillium, tulips, forget-me-nots and the expansive lawn that I’m gradually turning into garden. The garlic has poked up out of the ground, and for each clove that didn’t sprout, I plunked a compost volunteer sprout into it’s place.

I finalized my seed orders and now a rather daunting pile of seed packets is staring at me from the dining room table.  The peas are in along with some cilantro (which the chickens promptly disrupted with enthusiastic dust baths) but I’ve still got a lot of planning ahead of me if I’m going to do that pile any justice.

The bulk of my seeds came from my current employer, Johnny’s Selected Seeds:  Lettuce, radishes, turnips, cukes, dry corn, wildflowers and herbs. From Seed Savers Exchange I’ve got a few rare dry beans, and I turned to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for some funky tomatoes, which my dear farmer friend Molly generously allowed me to start in her greenhouse. My hope for the season, which may be my hope for every future season, is that I will learn from my horticultural mistakes of year(s) previous. Specifically:

1) I will not sow a full pack of lettuce mix all in one go, a decision which resulted in 2 15-ft rows that reached a glorious harvest stage all at once. You can’t give away that much lettuce.
2) I will not grow carrots and beets. My summer employer, Peacemeal Farm, grows outstanding carrots and beets all season, and at least half of the carrots and beets I planted last May (again, all at once) sat in the garden all season, unpicked. They are now smushy remnants of their former selves, a wasteful reminder of my overzealous planting which only just made it to the compost bin.
3) I will not attempt to plant dry beans between rows of corn without first ensuring that the bean is actually a climber. The nice heirloom soup bean I’d chosen last year languished under the shade of the corn, and much too late I realized it was a bush bean. sigh. I reaped a harvest of 12 pods.
4) I will not direct seed watermelons in late June and expect a bounty of large melons to grace my garden in September. Watermelons originated in the fertile crescent, which is a touch warmer than central Maine.
5) I will fence my garden. This is perhaps the most important change, and also the hardest. I sincerely hope that a post doesn’t appear on this blog in July bemoaning the fact that I never got around to building it, accompanied by photos of tender plants devoured by deer.

Here’s the thing about Spring if you’re a farmer or gardener – it really does feel like your slate is wiped clean.  So you screwed everything up last year, who cares? Here’s a chance to start fresh.  The earth is patient and forgiving, plants are resilient, and all of those little packs of seeds are so full of hope and promise. And then there’s the “green-up”.  Don’t you love that phrase?  It’s jaunty and joyful and perfectly, simply evocative of what Spring means for us four-season growers. Just when everything seems to be at it’s grayest and dirtiest, just when you’ve reached the literal and figurative bottom of the root cellar barrel, little bits of green start to pop up everywhere, turning your frown upside down.  Fiddleheads, garlic, dandelion, daffodils, skunk cabbage, even bland, manicured lawns spring to life.  The Green-Up.

Thanks, Mother Nature. Thanks very much.

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