Excerpt from chat between DH (at office) and myself (at home):

  • me: It’s soooooo windy I fear the hoop house will fly off.
  • DH: It won’t.
  • me: Really?
  • DH: Yeah. Really.
  • me: Check your email.

I had just sent him this:

Yup, that’s our hoop house, SPLAT.

Amie and I were outside for a while in the morning, trying to get the herb spiral going, but the wind got so bad we had to flee inside from the sticks and branches coming down from the trees. We were in the dining room drawing and reading when there was this loud flapping sound followed immediately by a whoosh. I ran to the bedroom window and it was so weird not to see the top of the hoop house where it had been for many months.

But I count ourselves very, very lucky, for many reasons.

  1. No one got hurt.
  2. No plants inside the hoop house got hurt.
  3. I still had little metal hoops over the garlic and rhubarb bed you see in the foreground, so none of these were crushed.
  4. The whole flapping mess got caught by the trees, so it stayed away from the road.
  5. The timing couldn’t have been better: it sheltered the tomato seedlings through last night’s frost, and we were going to dismantle it anyway over the weekend.
  6. And most importantly: THE BEES WERE NOT THERE. If they had not been delayed by a week, their hive would have been right in the path of the flying hoop house and indeed right where it landed. Now that would have been a mess. I can see myself running out there, in veil and gloves…

So there you have it, dear reader. Never say never.

My friend, Laura Medrano-Hernandez, has been nominated for the Ocean Hero Awards and I’m voting for her.

Oceana, which organizes the awards, was founded in 2001 and is the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation. Their website is a gem, with tips for play, research, activism and (if you’re so inclined) shopping (with a sustainable seafood guide).

You can vote for my friend too by simply clicking the button. Please do, she so deserves it!

This long flower stalk appeared over four hot days on one of the rhubarb plants. After doing some research I decided to pull it, as well as the smaller stalk on the other plant, as letting the rhubarb go to seed will reduce its vigor and next year’s yield. As the plants are only two years old, it’s necessary to force them  to concentrate on roots, rather than offspring.

Unfortunately the flower stalks are not edible, as they contain oxalic acids – same as the roots and the leaves, only the leaf stalks can be eaten.

Today there’s soft rain again and it’s chilly. We haven’t seen any of that snow, still I’m happy I didn’t plant my tomato seedlings out. They’re in the hoop house under grow cover. The downturn in the weather also got to Amie, who is home sick with a cold. I’ll be spending the day with her, investigating pruning and possible cherry tree guilds.

The sour cherry tree and a truck load of bushes are arriving on Friday, the bees on Monday. Busy times ahead!

The child is sick now with a cold – it seems to be going around in the schools. And it’s raining – a soft, welcome rain. But yesterday we were outside most of the day planting more seeds:

She wrote the ASTER labels. We sowed Asters, more Calendula, Monarda, and two more kinds of Sunflowers: 20 pots in all.

We’ve been charmed by the balmy, sunny weather these last few weeks, but tonight it will be 35F, give or take a couple of degrees depending on where you are. I gave a friend the tomatoes I had been growing for him, and he planted them out two days ago. I hope they’ll survive the night.

He was surprised to see the size of the other seedlings, the ones I started on schedule. They looked so small to him, compared to the tomato seedlings, which I started three weeks ahead of schedule, and compared to the weather. I had to remind him we were still a week away from May, and that, according to the statistics, there is still a 70% chance of frost. The seasons do seem to be shifting, so I don’t know how relevant those old-order statistics are now, but it is a matter of observation that the weather is also more prone to swinging from extreme to extreme. All the more reason to use caution. Not to be charmed, too much.

This weekend I did very little gardening. Amie and I did our daily chore of watering the garden that’s in as well as all the seedlings that are  inside the house. That was all. We had planned to recreate the hoop house but instead we saw many friends, attended a hive opening, waited for rain (still none) and relaxed a bit.

The hive opening was the perfect ending to the beekeeping class. It is good to hear the theory and the stories and advice of an experienced beekeeper. But it’s only when you press your nose (actually, your veil) to a frame crawling with honeybees that you know: Yes, I can do this! Three insights were reassuring for me. One, that the bees are so docile. Two, that they did not venture far from the hive (stayed within 10 feet or so) while we were working it, so I won’t have to run down the street to tell the neighbor’s kids to retreat inside the hive for 15 minutes while I work it. Three, that when you accidentally kill a bee while putting in a frame, it is like stepping on someone’s toe, and the reaction is mild.

That last one is what fascinates me the most about bees, that it’s not 10.000, or 40.000 bees, but 1 colony, 1 organism made up of many parts.  My bee package arrives next Monday and I can’t wait.

I am debating what to do with my evening: read poetry or paint more hive parts (I purchased a landing, a screened bottom board and an entrance reducer). Poetry or bees, bees or poetry…

The four vigorous kale plants that survived the winter in the hoop house are bolting. I am daily harvesting three of them, letting the biggest one going to seed for saving. Since all four plants are of the same kind, and there are no other brassicas going to seed within a mile, there is no need to be concerned about cross-pollination and seed that is not true. I wish Risa had a good search option on her blog, Stony Run Farm, because I remember (correctly?) an entry on how many seeds one kale plant can yield.

Kale is really one of our favorites, especially when overwintered, because then it is sweeter, subtler in taste.  I chop up the stems and saute them first, then add the leaves and saute till they turn that very bright green. Salt and pepper and you have a tasty, healthy side dish.

I am already harvesting seed from the Claytonia (Claytonia perfoliata, Miner’s lettuce, Winter Purslane, Spring Beauty, or Indian lettuce), which is  of the Portulacaceae family. The picture was taken on a cloudy moment: click to see the long, thin seeds at the end of the stems.

The Claytonia bloomed at the same time as the Mache (Valerianella  locusta, Corn Salad, Lamb’s Lettuce or Lamb’s Tongue) and the Minutina (Plantago coronopus,  Buckshorn Plaintain, or Erba Stella). This is hopefully not of concern because they all belong to different families (Mache to the Valerian family and Minutina to the Plantain family) so they (probably) don’t cross-pollinate.

On the other side, I’ve sowed, outside, three kinds of carrots, lots of marigolds, borage and calendula all over, and more summer lettuce mix. That’s a lot of beds to keep moist now that my rain barrel is empty. Running to the kitchen to fill my small watering can with filtered tap water is a nuisance, but good exercise.

Amie has been busy in the garden too. I don’t mention her help and advice as often as I should. It is so much fun to observe her in the garden, singing to herself as her little hands plants seeds, stumbling as she lugs the heavy watering can, but mostly just skipping and dancing. It is at such moments that I think: what an enchanted life we have!

Here she is with the 20 sunflowers she just sowed, and then again with all of “her” flowers (all flowers) in the hoop house:

The Morning Glory, Pink Rose Mallow, Sweet Pea and Zinnias all germinated.

(Yes, that’s pajamas. In the afternoon. Hey, it’s the holiday week, and the pajamas were destined for the laundry anyway.)

… of the rain barrel.

I had only one set up and it filled with the first rain, several weeks ago. Today, after many days of intense watering (intense for early Spring, that is), I used the last of it. This was good, as we wanted it lighter so we could move it in order to add another barrel to the setup. But the forecast was for a thunderstorm, and this has not materialized yet. So now I have no more pure water, and I balk at watering the garden with our chlorinated tap water as this would kill off all the innoculants.

Well, in any case, here’s our new barrel setup in the back:

The higher barrel overflows into the lower one via the smaller black tube on top. The lower one overflows into the drain via the larger, brown tube at the bottom.

I’m quite pleased to have replaced the cinder blocks. This is much nicer looking!

I like my two Earth Machine composters in that they’re contained and so inaccessible to animals, which makes me unafraid to throw in meat, cheese, bones, etc. They’re also, of course, portable, and not too bad to look at. But for those reasons they’re also a pain to turn, and just the two of them won’t give me the quantity of compost I need. I want to add horse manure, grass clippings, more coffee shop coffee grounds and perhaps even some kitchen scraps from neighbors.

So I am in need of something more extensive and easier to turn. Something like the  one at Drumlin Farm. DH helped me make it come true. He made his own design and we put it together, the two of us, over the last couple of days. Here is the almost finished product in situ, off to the side of the veg garden:

It really is huge: 3 boxes 3′ by 3′ by 3′.

It still needs a three-part lid, which we’ll make out of scrap lumber and the old fiberglass roof we ripped off our porch. Time and use will tell if we did well. If it holds up well, I’ll put our plans online.

I’ll still be using my Earth Machines for the kitchen scraps that the wild animals would love to get at, because even with a lid this one is not tight – for one, it has no bottom. So the Earth Machines stay behind the shed, close to the kitchen, and this one will receive their composted and half-composted contents once in a while.

~

I also lit my bee smoker for the first time. I gathered a bucket full of dry pine needles, dry rotten wood and old leaves from our garden, stuffed some of that into the smoker, and lit it on fire. It smoked really well for 20 minutes with only a few puffs. Success!

DH and I have been hard at work on our compost bin, based in part on the one from Drumlin Farm, which you see below:

More on that soon, once it’s finished (tomorrow?).

In the garden I sowed fava (broad) beans, more peas, lettuce, beets, radishes and a quick growing onion. I transplanted out the brassicas (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), onions, chives and kale. I moved all the huge tomato seedlings to the big window window in our guest room, where I think I can keep them for another week, by which time our hoop house should have moved – or rather been moved as, no, it doesn’t (yet) move itself – to its Summer position.

Getting those  seedlings out of the basement cleared some space for new seeds: squashes, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers and garbanzo beans (chick peas), all in coconut fiber pots – which I have come to like more than peat pots, because they take up water so much faster and seem to lose it slower, and because they’re more sustainable. I also sowed basils, more cabbage (don’t ask me why), marigold, elecampane, yarrow, sunflowers and sorrel. I have a long list of what else needs to be started, but I am again full up downstairs. I’ll start sowing a lot in flats in the hoop house.

Pickup of my bee package has been postponed to the beginning of May, due to cold weather in Georgia, where they breed them. Maybe it’s for the best, because so much else is due to arrive at the end of April: some twenty berry bushes, hazelnuts, paw paws, kiwi vines, cherry tree, mushroom spores, asparagus, new hoop house poly…Which means we need to clear and grade land, build trellises, planters and arbors, dig holes, put together sawdust and wood chip beds…

1 May is of course also – according to my wager wit the weather gods -  my Last Frost Date, at which most of the seedlings will find themselves hardened off and out there. Oh, what a glorious time is Spring. Mmm, and that smell when you fill up the hose that’s been stored away for winter…

Via Amie’s school I met a nice woman who lives a ten minute walk from here, and who loves to garden. We met for the first time today and discovered how different we are. She has a green thumb, comes from a family of gardeners and does almost everything by experience and common sense. I am a book learner, with no experience.We complement each other.

She showed me around her garden and dug up some plants for me: Columbine, Coneflower, Raspberry – of which she has many volunteers, which she will dig up for me when I am ready for them. She also gave me a lot of a (to my eye) umbelliferous plant which attracts a lot of bees, which she has all over, and doesn’t know the name of.

Does your mudroom look like this? It started pouring before I could put them, I’m thinking they might drown in their pots if I leave them out there. {UPDATE: I planted them out, mainly along the large herb bed up front.}

I offered her some Hosta divisions – she’ll come and help me divide them – as well as veg and herb seedlings for her small veg garden.

This is the mystery plant (along with a raspberry shoot).

Any ideas?