Monday, April 21, 2014

There is generally something

Fog in the morning presages a high -- sunshine, warmth. This is a time to hold off on setting out starts; they're fine in the potting shed/greenhouse anyway. I give them a shot of water, tell them their turn will come, and go to spread compost.

Our compost contains a high proportion of chicken manure, so we accumulate it in one of the three compost bins until about this time every year, then pull apart the bin (recycled pallets), haul the compost to the garden, and hide it under grass clippings or straw. Then we reassemble the bin and fill it with fresh hot bedding from the barn, which can't go on the garden without some rot-down.

Grass in the poultry moat that has gotten past Susannah the goose (who can't deal with mature grass clumps) is cut down before it goes to seed and spread over the compost. It's a little darker than straw, and I'm hoping will absorb more solar heat to warm up the soil. 

When spreading these lighter mulches (or for that matter top dressing with compost), we sometimes pop pots over young plants so as not to have to be finicky about not burying them with the material.

The new starts have inched nearer the garden at midday to get used to the weather -- "hardening off." It often clouds over by three, with a promise of new rain, so toward the end of the day I introduce them to their bed, kneeling on my gardener's kneeling bench and dragging their flat behind me as I go crabwise. The kneeling feels a bit like zazen. Getting up to move from an empty flat to a full one feels like kinhin.

When done in the garden I gather and clean tools, stack flats and pots, and return all to the potting shed. I invite the "gratitude bell," which hangs on a lilac near the path, to ring, then bow to it till the ringing sound fades away. I then gather eggs and think about dinner.

One way to feed yourself at this time of year, when most cool weather crops are not quite ready yet, is to forage around a bit, gathering dandelions, knotweed tips, chickweed, maple bracts, lilac blooms, leaves of still-young garlic and onions, volunteer garden greens and last year's potatoes or perhaps some volunteers. And maybe a French Breakfast radish.

Our wintered-over kale, collards, beets and chard are usually abundant but this was a tough year for them, down to -9F. Surprisingly a nice Fordhook Giant chard came back, and a couple of kale are up and flowering. There is generally something, even this year.

The solids (potato, radish, chard stems and the like) are steamed for half an hour, then I pop in the shredded greens for another 5-10 minutes. I may put an egg in with the greens, either to soft or hard boil, or just break it, pour it in, and let it poach. Season to taste. Add a bit of olive oil or homemade vinaigrette, and serve.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

You do that when it's raining

It's raining off and on, but I hear a record high may be heading our way, which would be a shock to my worn-out body if I tried to do the heavy stuff in it, so I get out in the grey mist and have a go at the remains of the big ash tree. It had loomed over the end of the driveway and the power lines and the main trunk had suffered from heart rot -- always very common in Oregon ash, though a friend tells me that all trees are suffering now from pollution. It was throwing branches in windstorms and in the recent ice storm, so the electric utility came to have it down and we asked for the wood.

We do heat the house and cook with wood, and it heats our dishwater. Our theory is at least it's not fossil fuels or nuclear. To the extent possible we grow our own on short-rotation coppice, but to get one these big ones is a real bonus. We have about eight more but won't go after them unless we have to. The replacement trees are already growing in their shadow, meanwhile.

You can see my little system pretty well here. There is a used pallet on top of the blue wheelbarrow, with a slot cut in the pallet, and an electric chainsaw reduces smallwood to 16" size for mixing with the bigger pieces.

I use a six pound maul (can't really handle an eight anymore) to knock slabs off the rounds, which I bring over on a hand truck, one by one, from the heap left by the workmen. It really helps that they cut the rounds to size. I stack twenty slabs and twenty small bits at a time. Many of the little pieces are actually cut with pruning loppers. They become part of the kindling routine at the woodstove.

Today, you can see, I'm done with the back row and have started the middle row. This woodshed is three rows of 16" wood deep. I built it in 1994, hence the moss. I'm taking lots of breaks. You do that when it's raining and you're a few weeks shy of Medicare.

Update. Day Two.

It's a little drier out and Son is here to help, as a few of the rounds from the main trunk of the ash are too heavy for me in my old age. He wrestles them out and rolls them to me. I bust them up. then he hands me the pieces to stack.

Second row in the woodshed bay is finished by the end of the day. We knock off to watch a Sergio Leone film together.

Update. Third day.

Now it's hot out. Well, to me it's hot: 75F, according to Intellicast. So I'm moving much more slowly, plus sore from the preceding two days.

Also, I'm working farther from the house. There are some big oak branches that came down in the ice storm. I can't get the ones in the creek right now, but there's plenty to do in the pasture. Which also needs mowing. So, first, three wheelbarrow loads of grass clippings to the garden, to make it easier to roll the wheelbarrow with wood, then saw up and transport four wheelbarrow loads of oak to the woodshed.

And that's a day:

These branches are quite mossy so I'm stripping and saving that, along with the usual sawdust. We have no log buildings to chink but it will come in handy for something ....

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

What we get is all we get

Beloved is cutting the flowering stalks from the rhubarb. I'm in the greens bed.

Seedlings. In February the shaker of mixed seeds was shaken across the flats and what came up, came up. Lots of lettuce, but as usual the eager beavers were the radishes and kale. There might be some spinach or joi choi, can't tell yet. Everything that looked better than halfway decent was pricked out in March, after the second pair of leaves appeared, and moved to its own three inch pot.

The pots were set into water-retaining flats and bottom watered thereafter, to prevent damping off. The flats were loaded onto the shelves in the big south facing "greenhouse" window and turned daily.

In April, the First being a moderately dry day after many storms,  the flats were set out along with the kneeler and the ho-mi (a right angled trowel). I'm, in spite of my best intentions, a bit of a grid planter and tend to space greens a ho-mi apart in each direction, about a foot. I'm making some effort to put kale and collards in the inner "rows" and radishes in the outer ones, because the kale will spread. Other than that, whatever comes to hand is popped into the ground in the order it came in the flat.

A little bit of mulch pulled up to a transplant will help with sunburn, especially at the root collar. 

The pots are all tucked into one another, as are the flats, and carried back to the potting shed for re-use, either right away (there are more greens not yet pricked out) or later in the spring, or for fall planting, or for next year. 

I'll run over the bed with some water, to reduce shock to the transplants, even though it is not sunny out.

There are flats of peas and flats of Egyptian onions and garlic (I don't mind spring planting garlic). But these are young yet. On to other things for now. 

If you plant, you may get to eat some things. Or not. If not, there is nothing to point to and say, I did not get to eat this. That which exists is what exists and that which does not is an abstraction. 

If I knew where the netting was, I might net this bed. Precautions are not a bad thing. I won't be poisoning, though. There has been enough of that, and a dead zone is burgeoning off our coast.

What we get is all we get.