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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Visions of steamed veggies

Gardening Angel please use your powers
To guard and protect my plants and flowers


[risa] Beloved works in town on Saturdays and has days off during the week. I work during the week and pretty generally have Saturday as a "farm" day.

This week we are emphasizing fence work again; the south "pasture" has a very low fence: three strands of barbed wire on the neighbor's side and 3' welded wire, 2X3" mesh, on our side, which runs around the corner of the property and along the creek back to the barn. The welded wire fencing was installed sixteen years ago, and along the creek it is now buried in blackberries and Japanese knotweed. Now that the deer have, presumably, been fenced out of the garden, they are apt to try getting at it this spring by leaping the southeast corner, so it's time to re-fence in that area.

In the bright morning, after knocking ice out of the poultry's drinking buckets and blocking their access to the "south forty," I went along the east boundary cutting blackberry vines and piling them out of the way, then with the fence pliers, pulled the staples holding the three-foot fence to the rotted cedar posts. The welded wire pulled away easily enough, though I had to take some care not to disturb the pussy-willow and filbert sprigs I had put in along there last week.

It's always fun to reclaim an older fence, straightening wire and rolling up sections as neatly as possible, to install elsewhere around the place. And it's pleasing to see how well the wire has held up. I was forty-three when we hammered those staples in; I'm fifty-nine now. It looks as though our fences, in their latest configuration, will outlive us.

I rolled up about seventy feet of the welded wire and carried it down to the north end of things, near the mailbox. Here the pasture, in an "L" shape around two sides of the garden, came to an end a few months ago. Re-setting a few iron t-posts, I was able to extend the birds' domain up the driveway toward the house another thirty-five feet.

As I worked, the intrepid chickens followed me, ecstatic to explore the, to them, virgin ground along the driveway. Behind them, more cautious, came the geese, with their convoy of ducks in tow. Chicken feet stirred up the top layer of leaves and sod. Busy duck beaks plumbed the damp ground, catching grubs and slugs napping. Sylvester, the gander, stood guard over any dandelions he found, batting away away chickens and ducks alike until Sylvia had eaten all the choice bits at her leisure.

I watched awhile, then ranged around the lower garden a bit, checking frost damage. We don't usually bother to get this far from the house with our plastic sheeting, and the winter things take their chances. Some of the bok choi is okay to eat; the chard and the celery have pretty much given up for the duration. The beet tops in this area have had it but the roots are of course fine. Onions ditto; the leeks hold up better. Broccoli got through two freezes okay, but the third one got to them. The kale and red cabbages are as happy as ever.

After covering the upper winter bed for the night (a freeze is anticipated), I lifted out a leek, stripped its outer sheath to remove the mud, snapped off a leaf of bok choi and one of curly kale, pulled up a beet and a small elephant garlic bulb, and headed for the kitchen, visions of steamed veggies and whole wheat spaghetti dancing in my head. From the kitchen window, as I washed the beet and garlic, I could see the birds, as intent on their lunch as I on mine.

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