How does my garden grow?

Lush and green and not contrary.

cucumber blossom

cucumber blossom

How does my garden grow?

Jelly Bean tomato, mesclun, baby kale, marigolds

Jelly Bean tomato, mesclun, baby kale, marigolds

Some plants plain and some plants fancy.

a head in the shade garden

a head in the shade garden

And tomatoes all lined in a row.

tomato row

Suburban Farming on a Shoestring

With all of the concern over GMO foods and pesticide contamination, suburban farming has become a big deal these days. Our family has been growing veggies in a small plot of backyard land for several years now. This year I decided to extend our planting areas to other spots around the house. Instead of flowers, I have planted veggies.

tomatopatchHere is my tomato strip, which runs along the fence that separates us from one of our neighbors. I am experimenting with this red plastic mulch which is supposed to make the tomatoes grow faster and better. It sounds a bit like sympathetic magic to me, but there also seems to be some scientific connection, based on light waves and such.

I have planted beefsteak, Paul Rebeson, yellow grape, and green zebra tomatoes, as well as one that will be a surprise because I lost the marker and can’t remember what kind it was. If all goes well, we should be in tomato heaven.
sidetomatovinewatercress garden
This is a small spot at the front corner of our house that gets nice afternoon sun. Before I took it over for a cherry tomato vine and assorted other edibles (basil, kale, mesclun, dill) it was a patch of useless grass. I threw in some marigold seeds around the tomato plant. Bugs and other critters don’t like marigolds.

A raised bed space alongside the back stairs to my rooms gets sun all morning, and so I planted watercress, purselane, parsley, and cilantro. I never heard of purseland before I went to the Farmers’ Market this afternoon and saw a plant on sale. I like to try a new edible every year, and this is it for this year. Last year’s ground cherries didn’t fare very well.

rosemarywelcomeAn old chiminea that wound up on the front lawn and then lost it’s chimney seemed to be a good place to plant some rosemary and hang a fuschia plant. I put the chimney section aside and will probably plant some kind of vine it by the divider my daughter erected to block the part of the driveway where she puts a table and umbrella.

Folks in our neighborhood never use their front lawns, never sit on their front steps. We do. But then, again, we do a lot of things that the other folks in our neighborhood don’t do, including home-schooling.

And, for me, the best part of our front yard is this, where I often sit late in the afternoon and read, knit, listen to a book on tape, or just snooze. And from this vantage point, I can watch the hummingbirds visit my little hummingbird garden (more on that another time). In another month, the long branches of the willow and the tall grasses planted behind the swing will seclude it from the driveway and the road. This is my little piece of heaven.

Still Knitting

I made one more try making the side-to-side sweater I posted about before.

caribbeanThis is my latest and final attempt. No matter how carefully I count and measure, it still doesn’t come out the way it’s supposed to and I wind up undoing and redoing. Like the other one, it’s wearable, and this one came out the cropped length that I wanted. Of course, I have to consider that it’s not the sweater’s fault that I don’t like the way it looks on me. It’s me.

The yarn is cotton/acrylic and is discontinued. I liked the feel of it when I saw it on sale a while ago, so I bought enough of this “Caribbean” color and of a gray and white color to make a cropped/cap sleeve sweater in each. But I’m going to use a different pattern this time.

It’s really “work in the garden” time of year, not “sit around knitting.” But I tend to do both, since I can’t seem to just sit and watch tv in the evenings. I have to do something with my hands. Thus, knitting.

“Common Living Dirt”

We were all out digging and clearing today.

I come from a family of Polish farmers on my mother’s side. (My father’s side of the family were more educated and tended to be white collar workers in old Poland.)

I love digging in the dirt. It has to be in my genes. And that’s also probably why my son is now part owner of a herd of urban goats and just loves taking care of them.

And that’s why this poem by Marge Piercy is one of my favorites:

The Common Living Dirt
by Marge Piercy

The small ears prick on the bushes,
furry buds, shoots tender and pale.
The swamp maples blow scarlet.
Color teases the corner of the eye,
delicate gold, chartreuse, crimson,
mauve speckled, just dashed on.

The soil stretches naked. All winter
hidden under the down comforter of snow,
delicious now, rich in the hand
as chocolate cake: the fragrant busy
soil the worm passes through her gut
and the beetle swims in like a lake.

As I kneel to put the seeds in,
careful as stitching, I am in love.
You are the bed we all sleep on.
You are the food we eat, the food
we are, the food we will become.
We are walking trees rooted in you.

You can live thousands of years
undressing in the spring your black
body, your red body, your brown body
penetrated by the rain. Here
is the goddess unveiled,
the earth opening her strong thighs.

Yet you grow exhausted with bearing
too much, too soon, too often, just
as a woman wears through like an old rug.
We have contempt for what we spring
from. Dirt, we say, you’re dirt
as if we were not all your children.

We have lost the simplest gratitude.
We lack the knowledge we sowed ten
thousand years past, that you live
a goddess but mortal, that what we take
must be returned; that the poison we drop
In you will stunt our children’s growth.

Tending a plot of your flesh binds
me as nothing ever could to the seasons,
to the will of the plants, clamorous
in their green tenderness. What
calls louder than the cry of a field
of corn ready, or trees of ripe peaches?

I worship on my knees, laying
the seeds in you, that worship rooted
in need, in hunger, in kinship,
flesh of the planet with my own flesh,
a ritual of compost, a litany of manure.
My garden’s a chapel, but a meadow

gone wild in grass and flower
is a cathedral. How you seethe
with little quick ones, vole, field
mouse, shrew and mole in their thousands,
rabbit and woodchuck. In you rest
the jewels of the genes wrapped in seed.

Power warps because it involves joy
in domination; also because it means
forgetting how we too starve, break,
like a corn stalk in the wind, how we
die like the spinach of drought,
how what slays the vole slays us.

Because you can die of overwork, because
you can die of the fire that melts
rock, because you can die of the poison
that kills the beetle and the slug,
we must come again to worship you
on our knees, the common living dirt.

just like in the bible

Well, almost.

Aaron stuck a stick in the ground and it flowered.

I stuck a willow branch in the ground and it’s budding.

budding willowJapanese willow

The branch is from our Japanese willow tree . It will be a bush rather than a tree, but otherwise will look the same.

I wonder if Aaron’s rod was really a thick willow branch, which roots very easily and buds quickly.

willowWillow trees are part of my Polish heritage; they grow all along fences and stables and wayside shrines throughout old Poland. I have a collection of translated prose and poetry from 1945 called “Wayside Willow.” It is a first edition, signed by the editor and all of the contributors. The dust jacket is missing, although the flyleaf portion is stuck inside like a bookmark. It was a gift to my Dad, who was very active and well-known in the downstate New York Polish community. It comes with me wherever I go. I have to admit that I have never read through the entire publication. Maybe today, Father’s Day, is a good time to do that.

The willow has a rich mythology, some of it controversial.

The above link says that I am a willow person….

Willow people (i.e. those born in March) are beautiful but full of melancholy, are attractive and very empathic, they like anything beautiful and tasteful and love to travel, they are dreamers and restless, capricious and honest, they are easily influenced but are not easy to live with being demanding, they have good intuition, but suffer in love and sometimes need to find an anchoring partner.

…but the truth is that I don’t like to travel, I am not easily influenced, and I’m awfully easy to live with. As for the rest, I’m not sure that I can be objective.

almost the best time of the year

The best time will be summer, when the vines are loaded with tomatoes and beans and peas and, hopefully, the couple of exotic edibles, the seeds of which I planted in March and the seedlings of which I planted today: peach/mango/melon and cucamelon.

With my bum knees precluding any dancing or even minor walking, gardening seems to be the best exercise for me, and I, along with the rest of the family worked up a good sweat today — they tilling and enriching the garden soil and planting some seeds; I tinkering with the little shade garden plots and tending my seedlings. The little orange birdhouse (upper right of photo, below) that my daughter made last year from scrap pieces of wood in the cellar, has just been taken over by a pair of Carolina Wrens.

The Northeast is a marvel-filled place to live this time of year.

the readied vegetable garden behind the bank of glorious spring blooms

the readied vegetable garden behind the bank of glorious spring blooms

basil, parsley, sage, dill, garlic scapes seem to be doing well; some tomato seedlings are iffy, but I haven't given up on them.

basil, parsley, sage, dill, garlic scapes seem to be doing well; some tomato seedlings are iffy, but I haven’t given up on them.

the little shade garden by my little porch is overrun with Creeping Jenny -- but that's just fine because I keep moving some to other parts of the yard that are bare

the little shade garden by my little porch is overrun with Creeping Jenny — but that’s just fine because I keep moving some to other parts of the yard that are bare

the prettiest part of the yard is always the Japanese maple and the Buddha statue

the prettiest part of the yard is always the Japanese maple and the Buddha statue

I took the photos with my new LG Optimus G Pro from AT&T. I figured I’d treat myself with the money I’m saving by not having to buy cat food and litter any more — and also not having the expense of dance/exercise classes because of my bum knees. One door closes, another door opens.

on mysteries, miracles, and metaphors

This afternoon, as the kid from next door sat on our front steps playing Mine Craft on his iPod, my grandson stood nearby, tracking the flight of our resident red-tailed hawk. Suddenly the hawk loosed a feather, and my grandson watched as it caught on a tree branch, and then let go, and finally landed in his waiting hand. He ran into the house shouting that he caught a hawk’s feather, wanting to share this miracle with the world.

Two kids, roughly the same age. One is home schooled. Easy guess, which one.

So, you could say that my grandson, Lex, received a message from his totem animal. Such is the spirit mystery of the natural world.

While the rest of the family is planning and preparing their vegetable garden on the more fertile side of the property, I have commandeered the side of the yard where the pervasive roots of the ancient maple that was destroyed during the Snowpacalypse two winters ago make it impossible to till soil or grow anything. tree stump Poppies have already spouted in the main stump container, and my mini calla lilies that spent the winter in the cellar are generating buds under the soil of the other.

I emptied the shed of all of the big pots and have begun a kind of container garden that will include herbs, flowers, and all kinds of tomatoes. And garlic. Lots of garlic. The pots are lined up along the nearby fence, which gets sun all afternoon. secretgardenThe soil there is not great, but hostas and wild violets seem to be happy there. I planted three sunflower seedlings and some Creeping Jenny and have lined up the pots, some of which already contain herb and flower seedlings. It is not yet the configuration I want; I will have a better sense of the aesthetics as the bloomings emerge.

In a month or so, it will be fun to compare this photo with one that boasts a more colorful and thriving container garden. There will be some re-arranging and adding to. My projects, be they gardening or knitting or sewing always seem to be continuous ones until something out of my control puts an end to them. Sort of like everything in my life. Circles. Now, there’s a metaphor.

buddhaI’ve been looking for some kind of statuary around which to focus the container garden. For the moment, I’m using a cairn that I found (oddly enough) at Home Goods. We already have a Buddha in a little meditation spot in a shady part of the yard.

In the meanwhile, the family continues work on the addition to Lex’s “fort.” (Original structure is on the right of the addition.) It’s going to be a fun summer around here.