Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Small Fruits

The berries are in.  Yesterday we picked the first blueberries, and the first currant.  Noah ate three of the four blueberries, and I had to restrain him from picking off the green ones and gobbling those, too.  I saved the currant for myself - it was sweet and tart and broke open under my teeth with a little pop. 

Strawberries are wonderful this year - about a quart a day, now.  Yesterday I made strawberry ice cream for a Memorial Day get together yesterday, and another guest brought serviceberries he had gleaned, and they were wonderful together.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ancestoral Gardening

My greatgrandmother's primroses.  They grew in the garden in Little Compton, Rhode Island, where she lived with my grandparents for a while.  I called her Wrinkly Granny, and she taught me how to wiggle my ears.  She is still one of the most fabulous women I've ever known.  And here she is, bright yellow, growing in my garden.  They came to me via my dad and mom's garden, where they treasured them in the same way I do now.

The primroses are the only really antique plants I have - but I have plants from my parent's garden in Kingston - day lillies and peonies and perennial sweet peas.  There are other plants that are from the people I love in spirit only: hellebore, lillies of the valley, lilac.

I wondered recently why the hydrangeas out front seemed special to me, when they are really very common plants.  And I remembered a huge, wonderful hydrangea in my parent's back yard, and how when my grandmother lay dying I cut a huge bouquet of them for her room, and how glad I was to have those flowers so near to her at her passing.

I can't imagine a garden without memory.  It would be a sterile thing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rose Bower (and other sundry notes)

The front porch, overhung with roses.  Or at least screened by roses - the over hanging part may take another couple of years.

These are New Dawn, which for the time being are the only roses allowed in my garden.  Early this spring I pulled out an Alba that I loved because it got sick every single year, and by July it was hideous. 

Garden goings-on:
  • Planted some nicotiana in the front garden bed.  That bed is slowly being infiltrated by the very aggressive risomatic grass out front.  May need nasty chemicals to deal with it.
  • Peas have bloomed and set fruit!  Another week or so till pea time.
  • Let the asparagus go about a week and a half ago.  It is already six feet high.
  • Full crop of strawberries is coming in.  Yum.  Not so many rotten or moldy as last year, so maybe last year's trouble was the weather.
  • Breba crop of figs did indeed go the way of the dodo.
  • Planted a bunch of nasturtiums along the edge of the lilac bed and beneath the new fig, and they are up and growing like wildfire.
  • Dahlia seeds turned into seedlings, indeed, and they have taken hold in the garden and look to be doing fine.  Nothing like a dahlia planted from overwintered bulbs (or are they corms or roots?) but growing.  Must remember to lift the bulbs in the fall.
  • The old raspberries (the survivors of the Great Raspberry Plague of 2010) have set fruit, and we should have berries in another few weeks.  The new plants are slow.
  • CSA doesn't start for another few weeks, and the asparagus is over.  Must think of some green things for this period next year.  Lettuce?  Spinach?  Broccoli never seems to do well for me, and it is still a couple weeks from edible, anyway.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Simply Pretty

Sometimes there is deep meaning in gardening.  And sometimes there is just beauty.  Peonies are just about the beauty, with nothing deeper going on.  Kind of a relief.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Seeing the Berry as Half Edible

The first strawberry of spring:

Only someone else got to it first.

Whether bird or bug or bunny, I don't know.  Cut off the nibbled bit and gave it to the small boy, who asked for more.  Maybe the nibble added flavor?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

An Emptied Nest

Below this nest, on the grass, were two tiny birds with eyes that had never opened, featherless, fresh from the egg, dead.  We had watched this nest for weeks, I had held Noah up to see the robin sitting on the eggs.  And now the babies are gone, and the parents have flown, and they will start again with a new clutch of eggs later in the season.

Who knows what happened?  My guess is the wind shook the branches too hard, and the nest tipped.  If it had been a cat it would have carried away the babies, but maybe there were more, and it did.

I don't know what to make of all the death in life.  The more I garden the more I am aware of death, and how much it is a part of our lives, even if we choose not to see it.  Noah came in to the kitchen today when I was taking the meat off a chicken carcass and said "Oh, I don't want to eat that!  Poor chicken."  I told him he didn't have to, and he doesn't.  But I will make sure he understands (later) if he wants to be a vegetarian that eating plants does not absolve us of causing death, because animals die under the plow, too.  How much can we handle seeing the death in our every day lives?  I would prefer to see less, I know.  There is too much in the headlines already, and I'd rather not understand how close it is to the people I love, simply because all that lives can die.

But back to those baby birds.  I don't know what point their lives had.  Maybe none, beyond the biological imperative to pass on genes.  I do hope, though, that in whatever time they had out of the egg, that it was good.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Front Garden

For years the front yard was a rectangle of grass with one small spruce in the corner.  Now Otis oversees a much prettier domain:

Oh, Guano

I've worked hard to create a bird-friendly garden, and this is what I get?  Bird poop.  Everywhere.  It covers the cars, fouls the bird bath, drips onto the green strawberries on their way to ripening.  There has never been such a bird shitty year.  It is very strange.

I have been noticing birds more, in general.  Driving to work yesterday I saw two crows attack and drive off a huge hawk.  And the other night I lay in the garden and watched two hawks circle their way over the neighborhood, moving slowly up the street as their tight circles took them gradually to the West.  I wanted to see one dive, but never did.  I have seen one of that pair sitting on my fence post outside the kitchen window, perhaps eyeing the bird feeder, and wishing he could find some unsuspecting lunch perched on it.  It think it was a coopers hawk, but I can't be sure.

 There are two regular sounds in this neighborhood - the sirens of emergency personnel headed to disasters on Rt. 95, and the birds.  Strange that they should coexist, the very urban sound of human catastrophe and the rural twitter and song that I associate with utter well being.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May Flowers

Iris, the quintisential May flower.  Somehow I have yellow ones, but no purple.  These flower spikes are over four feet tall, and just glorious.  They also resist turning to mush in the rain, unlike the yellow and brown ones further down the bed.  I should replace those with purple, and then May would be something to see.

The shade garden I put in last year, under the kitchen window, is a great pleasure, particularly because that space was so ugly for so long - beauty that has alway been beautiful can be boring, but beauty that was once ugly never is.
The shrub I planted has surprised me. It was labled as a Calycanthus something-or-other "white."  I expected white flowers.  Nope.  Wine red.  You can see them above, just a bit, along with some heleabores, sweet woordruf, and hostas.  Really, the surprises are the best.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Yet More Cake

This one with chocolate mint and lavender.

I don't know who ate this cake, or whether they enjoyed it.  I made it for the church bake sale.

The irony of this bake sale was that it was held on mother's day, and the congregation was encouraged to buy something for the mom in their life.  Mothers baked treats for the sale, and fathers bought those treats to present to the mothers on their special day. I short circuited that loop by simply making two cakes, one for the sale and one for myself.  Tasty.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A long row to hoe

This is my other garden - the Cedar Ridge Community Farm, where what we grow is given to local people who are hungry.  I went out today to spend a couple of hours weeding.  The peas are up, and looking good, but surrounded on all sides by a soft green scuff of weeds.  I took a shuffle hoe and began to clean the rows.

It was hard work.  At first, it was just work.  Then it began to feel like labor.  Then my back began to ache, and I began to feel sorry for myself.  And that was before it started to rain.

So I began to talk to myself, or maybe to God.  I told myself (or maybe God) that I knew I really didn't have cause to complain, as I was hoeing for fun and to do a little good, and not because those peas would be expected to feed my hungry child, although he does love peas.  And as I gave myself (or maybe God) a good talking to, I began to believe what I was saying, and ended up enjoying the hour or so by myself in the garden.

I did spend some time thinking about the book I am reading, by pastor/writer/pop theologian Rob Bell, where he basically says that the Bible (both Hebrew and Christian portions) is series of stories of liberation from oppression, and of God always, always coming in on the side of the oppressed.  And at the point I got to in the book last night, Bell was essentially saying that we are, at this point in history, the oppressors.  Which is of course true.  And so I hoed, and hoped that by hoeing I could liberate myself from oppressing.  It is a fairly ugly mantle to wear, but I am quite sure we don't have to wear it.  We can change.  Can one wear a mantle while hoeing, anyway?

At the end of my conversation with myself (or maybe God) I had hoed three rows, and I was done.  Before and after:
I leave it to you to draw any moral conclusions you like.  I was just happy to liberate a few peas from their weedy oppressors.