After I poured fish fertilizer on the newly transplanted baby tomatoes and was giving the rest to the ancient brussel sprout plants, I noticed a few caterpillar guys on my carrot tops. At that moment I also realized that the chickens were infiltrating the baby tomatoes to scratch in the (very undercooked) compost we just put down. I immediately plucked off the caterpillar guys and tossed them to the chickens, trying to distract the birds and eradicate the vegan predators at once. So ingenious!
Then I took the last caterpillar in to show my kids (and torture my eldest by putting it on his head) and then have a caterpillar photo shoot. I left the little wormy guy in some weeds with a “Bye, Falicia” and then went in the house.
So after a little while I googled this guy and realized he’s a baby black swallowtail butterfly, an important pollinator. Damn it! What have I done? I ran out to rescue him from the weeds and put him back in the carrots. Then I looked for his siblings and found only one, half squished in a bootprint. (So I finished that one off.)
Upon returning into the house I told Gordon what had happened. I told him that I really need to take a moment to educate myself before I just get scared and then go around immediately killing things. He chuckled and said, “Yeah, quit acting like a man.”
The veg garden is going to have to endure on its own at least for tonight (they’re crucifers after all) but we’re attempting to save the herbs with a warmed tent.
Tonight is supposed to drop below 25 for an hour or two, tomorrow we’re expecting a hard freeze, and I’m not certain about Thursday night, except that it too will suck.
I think the basil is already dead and the chives may be too, but we still have baby dill, cilantro, parsley, summer savory and peppermint that are worth saving. Not to mention the new rebirth of the balm, sage and oregano.
We didn’t work on the fence this weekend. Saturday was a pretty lazy day since we partied like rockstars Friday night. (The Wilmington trip reminded us how to have crazy fun, so we have been making a point to do that.) But Sunday we did manage to till up the garden some more and I put down a few radish and cabbage seeds (since they were right about cabbages not wanting to be transplanted) and also a bunch of turnip seeds my dad sent me.
I also got a lot of my main summer garden seeded. Timing is a bit weird since we are going to Florida for a few days mid-April, but I think (hope) I’ve got it figured out. (Except for how the chickens are supposed to fend for themselves, so I should probably work om that soon.)
And while I was off wildly dating (and then lazily recovering) some cold weather came and killed the zinnias:
And some basil died too. But I’m not going to replant the basil until later. And the zinnias, eh well they probably wouldn’t have liked that ridiculously thick mulch anyway (gotta figure something out in the beds around the house).
But the mullein and calendula made it alright:
My Sunday productivity also allowed me to transplant several baby dianthus next to the baby forget-me-not around my mom’s tree.
The dianthus are supposed to be black with white trim. I’m excited to see them.
As of two days ago, my early season babies are in the ground. Gordon and Eddie tore up a pretty big area of the back yard over the last month or so. Then for three evenings in a row, Silas and I shoveled and hacked and hoed until dark, to get a 13×15 area ready for the cool season transplants. We left the few kale and brussels sprouts that are still thriving from our fall planting. (Brussel sprouts are slow mofos! I seeded these in August and now finally have sprouts that are smaller than gumballs.)
88 new plants: Lettuce mix, mustard, baby bok choy, chard, curly kale, and black magic kale.
My first planting of baby bok choy and chinese cabbage bolted in their plug pots (live and learn, right?) So instead of composting them, I offered them up to the chicken garden for: Immediate Destruction.
The new, bigger area is for the summer stuff. It still needs a lot of love before it’s ready to host plants. The area beyond the planted section is our expansion.
It needs a fence to protect it from woodland creatures as well as my three dinosaurs and fast furry dragon. We started on it too.
It’s going to be awesome!
Better than last year’s:
This weekend I also transplanted about 25 baby herbs and flowers. Some dill, peppermint, zinnias (that apparently don’t like to ne transplanted so we’ll see), forget-me-nots, mullein, and calendula. My whole body is sore. That’s OK, I’ll waste away at my desk all week, exhausting my mind and resting my body instead.
I also weeded around my little memorial tree in the herb garden area with the help of my girls.
When I was ready for them to leave me so I could plant, I used Eddie’s suggestion of how to deal with a T-Rex: hold still or move very slowly. It worked! If they noticed me enough to start moving toward me, I’d just become a statue and soon enough they’d get distracted by something better and would leave me alone. Pretty cool chicken skills!
To invest in something – your money, your time, your learning, your effort and care – and then to take risks with it, is either stupid or brave or maybe it’s science. Well whatever it is, it happens every single go-round with this gardening thing.
You do your research, plan your steps, make your purchases, set it all up for success. But once you actually begin and cross that threshold, shit happens. It’s inevitable and so therefore is the risk factor. What to do now? Something or nothing? It’s a risk either way. And so here you are: weeks into a project where time really matters, staring into the face of a likely failure that could definitely affect everything going forward into the season.
Gardening is not for the faint of heart.
If you gardened your whole adult life, from the time you are 25 to the time you are 75, you would only get 50 practice runs. Imagine that in the context of a musician or an athlete. Nobody would be any good. So here we are, the make it or break it lot, the do or die bunch, the “eh fuck it, there’s always next year” sort.
There will be failure, death (of the plant sort), trial and oh-so-much error. It’s just how it goes. In order to do it, you have to be willing to lose what you’ve worked for because chances are pretty good that you may.
So here I am. Brave woman. Disturbing roots and replanting seedlings deeply. Hoping my Chinese Cabbage doesn’t immediately bolt when I put it into the garden (I read that was a thing). Hoping my skinny leggy mustard greens and bok choy don’t rot when I bury them better.
But truth be told, I’ve never had any problems with transplanting anything. The good broccoli plants I have now (that did survive the ice and snow, by the way) were initially leggy newborns that I re-planted up to their scrawny necks. So maybe I’m not that risky and brave. Maybe I have a bit of experience on my side. Either way, this old lady gets a feeling that teeters between exhilaration and terror during these dealings.
To elaborate on the ice/snow storm frozen broccoli/brussels outcome, we have some burned leaves but that seems to be it. Maybe the ice coating protected my green babies, but we got down to 12 degrees F two nights in a row and everything survived.
(Notice how healthy and green the weeds look. Wtf.)
Back to my present endeavors.
Three trays now hold various brassicas, herbs, and flowers. Here’s what I’ve got going so far:
And here is their normal home:
I was working with two lights initially and just added the other three a few days ago. Hopefully it helps with future legginess because I estimate having three more 50 cell trays before spring comes.
…I’m curious to see what happens to my garden after this. The kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli have done very well up to now. We’ve been into the twenties on several occasions, but have never had precipitation. Also tomorrow night is supposed to drop to around 10. I’m in zone 7b and will soon find out just how much my babies can take.
I honestly planned on spending most of the day on the couch today. It’s staycation day 4 of 4 and I wasn’t going to cook or anything – maybe just play with some seeds along with cuddling with kiddos. But my brave little chickens have been leaving the yard and when I went to hunt them down, I couldn’t in good conscience waste the beautiful warm weather. So with Silas’ help, I built the chicken garden.
The chicken garden’s purpose is to beautify the chicken coop / herb garden area while providing a place to grow things the chickens may like to eat. It surrounds the coop on three sides. I used about 120 reclaimed bricks that we are fortunate enough to have lying around, and soil from last summer’s potted vegetable garden.
I placed the large-holed bricks near the coop, in hopes that I can grow a single climbing edible in each (like a snow pea or nasturtium), to nourish and entertain the girls while they are confined.
Then, because I’m all into fermenting these days and because apparently fermented chicken feed has magical properties, I mixed up a batch to “cook”.
This concoction is their normal feed crumbles, black oil sunflower seeds, and some flax seeds. I covered it with water and I’m going to wait for it to start bubbling, adding water when it expands.
And now I’m going to play with seeds. My new journal for 2017 came today, so let the planning begin!
It’s been a week since my trees got cut down. After participating in a good old fashioned Flip My Shit Cleanse, I’ve recovered. I didn’t commit murder or arson, so I’m considering that a win. I didn’t even utter many regrettable words. I just threw a shoe, wailed and bawled, and took a bottle of wine (sans glass) to bed. And whatever parts to which my sons were unfortunate witnesses will perhaps help prepare them for adulthood, assuming they may marry women who have loud, strong hearts.
On Sunday I finished up the garden prep and seeding for fall. A few weeks ago I was questioning whether I could or wanted to do all the ripping and soil prep needed, but I ended up getting some plowing help from my guys and I’m very pleased with the results:
I moved all the plants I could outside of the fence. There are now beds alongside the fence, three down the middle, and row connecting them on top. I have yet to transplant my (dwindling) brussels sprouts and broccoli (which will occupy the top connector and the widest center column, respectively) but everything else has been planted. In the garden lying in wait for possibility to crack them open, are:
baby bok choy
black magic kale
carrots: orange, purple & red
and two herby things that my dad sent me
Silas specifically wanted purple carrots because he saw them in a community garden on PBS kids (does my heart good). The carrots did really great in the single bag we grew earlier in the year, so we just did that again, but now we have five! The carrots were the only way I could bribe that child to come out in the heat with me and when they were gone from the garden, so was he.
Back to the trees
The once majestic sycamore, lightning-struck and subsequently rendered a stump, offered up this sweet little glimmer of hope.
When I took this picture, it seemed like a very sad futility. Just one more piece to kill in a week or two when the stumps come out. But some time later an idea came to me: Can you clone a tree from a cutting? Turns out, you definitely can. By the time I have to harvest this little guy, he won’t be woody enough to be an ideal candidate. He has very little chance of becoming a tree actually. But maybe with very good conditions and a little magic, the sycamore could survive. So I will try.
Sometimes things look black to me. It’s in my blood and I’m probably too old to truly change that. Sometimes when things are at their worst in my mind I actually see a sort of kaleidoscope of thick blackness hovering around my bed at night. But you know what? Morning always comes and there are always glimmers ready to be seen if I’m ready to look. I have hope. I’m actually relentlessly hopeful.
Of course it’s worth it. So I haven’t grown more than we could use of anything, or enough of anything to put up or get sick of eating. But today I picked enough to share a nice little variety with my neighbor. So yes, that’s a nice feeling and I’ll just get better at it.