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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.


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