Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Thursday, March 13, 2014


   The hatches were battened.
   The original forecast was for upper teens. We had the greenhouse sealed up, holes duct taped and doors shut tight. The heaters were primed, and I was ready to check on everything through the night.
   It was the winds that worried me most. High gusts were predicted. Gusts high enough to blow a door open. High enough to sneak under the drop down sides and blow the heaters out.
   The gusts died down even before I went to sleep, and as I write the thermometer shows a balmy 36. A case of the weather being better than the forecast. The sleet/wintry mix that was predicted even turned into a gentle layer of snow that fell without a sound.
   I see this as a symbol of the coming year. I see the coming year being better than anything expected or forecast. The winds that were to come and wreak havoc on everything that I planned will turn into a soft white blanket covered the farm, making all look new and clean.

Monday, February 17, 2014


   I'm trying to find some hope in the endless rain and snow, in the standing water in the fields, in the topsoil crusted in the soles of the boots, and the mud pit where the driveway used to be. The best I can come up with is the reflect that life came forth from the primordial ooze, and some how, by the end of this post, I will have us both convinced that these mudfields will give rise to single celled organism, a fish floundering up out of the sea, an Eden. I will take your mind of the impending doom being predicted by weather.com. You will no longer dread that nostril full of frozen air when you first step outside. Grey skies will not effect your mood. You will not be bothered by the simultaneous references to both evolution and Genesis in the second sentence.
   I will start - and bear with me here - by pointing out that our first farmer's market date is less than two months away. As you see, we are no longer feeling stuck in the middle of winter, but are consumed by stress, are convinced we will have nothing ready for market, and are wishing we could go back in time a few weeks. Early January would be nice. I could get some lettuce started, and could clean up the greenhouse. I now dread the sight of the first robin.
   Furthermore, there are not nearly enough plastic pots. I have enough to start a few things, but I need to step up a few hundred rosemary and a few hundred lavender, dozens of thymes and oreganos, and dozens each of various native perennial pollinator friendly homeopathic flowers. Should it get too warm and the plants start to outgrow their present containers, and should this happen before I buy a few cases of new pots, and nevermind that I should have done that a month ago, then we start to welcome a thick layer of ice on the windshield in he morning.
   Frozen pipes don't seem nearly as bad as burst irrigation lines. Frozen ground is preferable to frost burnt basil leaves. An evening spent huddled in the house wrapped in three blankets is relaxing compared to checking greenhouse temperatures at 3 AM. The coming of spring only means the coming of greenhouse season, and that makes a lingering winter so very, very wonderful.
   Doesn't it?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fire and Ice

   I just filled the pot in the incubation house. I have a set of seedlings warm in the incubation house, and another set frozen in the greenhouse. The incubation house is steamy, and the steam condensates on the walls and drip down the sides. The greenhouse is frozen inside, and has a layer of snow on top.
   The incubation house is a straight-forward homemade affair: a set of metal shelves wrapped in a sheet of plastic and a pot of water simmering on a hot plate on the floor. Its a tropical 75 degrees inside, just right to make certain little seedlings break dormancy and join you and I in the world. I check the trays everyday for little green heads poking out of the soil. It really sucks when you don't check for a few days and the little guys grow sideways for a few inches looking for sunlight.
   Brassica and lettuce seed are in the greenhouse, frozen solid at the moment. They warm and thaw in the daylight and freeze again at night, repeating the cycle every 24 hours, and they don't seem to mind a bit. In a day or two they'll grow up out of the soil and stretch toward the sun.
   We're right on the cusp of change in temperature regulation. As the seedlings in the incubation house sprout and I move those trays into the greenhouse, I'll heat the greenhouse at night and keep everything above freezing. Phases change, so things can't change phase.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


This year starts in a swamp.
Ankle-deep in rain-water, and looking for the chest high waders.
Potting soil comes tomorrow, and that in itself is a milestone. A milestone like the creek rising over Sam's sandbar, or the ditch flowing over in Walnut. No, more significant than that. A mile much longer than that.
Never before have I bought a season's worth of potting soil all in one swoop. This year I've done just that, and before a single brassica has been dropped into a sterile soilless mix and sent its little radical bursting through its thirsty, soaked seed coat. Before the grass has started to green, before the first dandelion bllloms along the driveway. This stuff might get snowed on.
It comes tomorrow, delivered yet. Big truck, big order, big plans. I've got a space cleared out in the shed near Julie's, pallets at the ready. I've thought ahead. I've planned for everything except the standing water at the lower end of the farm. Everything except the torrent of water that fell from the skies in the middle of last night, trying, yes, but not quite succeeding in washing away my careful preparation.
I hope they bring a forklift.

A Sane Revolution

DH Lawrence

If you make a revolution, make it for fun,
don't make it in ghastly seriousness,
don't do it in deadly earnest,
do it for fun.

Don't do it because you hate people,
do it just to spit in their eye.

Don't do it for the money,
do it and be damned to the money.

Don't do it for equality,
do it because we've got too much equality
and it would be fun to upset the apple-cart
and see which way the apples would go a-rolling.

Don't do it for the working classes.
Do it so that we can all of us be little aristocracies on our own
and kick our heels like jolly escaped asses.

Don't do it, anyhow, for international Labour.
Labour is the one thing a man has had too much of.
Let's abolish labour, let's have done with labouring!
Work can be fun, and men can enjoy it; then it's not labour.
Let's have it so! Let's make a revolution for fun!

Monday, March 25, 2013


   This time, it was done by hand.
   The fields lie fallow this year. No tractor will cross, no plow will sink, no disc will dice. It’s this time of year we plow. Wait for a sunny day in March, when the soil is kind of dry, and turn the fields you want for cabbage, lettuce and broccoli. Row after row, the soil turns over onto he row that was plowed before it. Worms squiggle around underground now above ground. Spiders scurry out of the way. Crows follow, looking for grubs. Turn the tractor around and plow another row.
   The grass around the fields is really starting to green up. The trees are just starting to bud. The sound of the motor fills your ears. The smoke from the exhaust fills your lungs and coats your clothes. You might finish by dark.
   This year I’m only going to have a small kitchen garden behind the house. That’s it. I turned two rows yesterday, by hand, with a spade fork. The rhythm was similar to plowing. The fork goes into the soil, foot drives it deeper, and turn. Fork goes into the soil, foot drives it deeper, and turn. The same worms are revealed. The same spiders scurry out of the way.
   You’re on the ground already, though. You can get right down onto the ground and look at what’s there.
   I’m turning the first few rows behind the house, and I’m not even turning the full length of the fields. I’ve got a few mini-rows on the south sides of the fields. They’re just for me and my dinner. I have no plans to fill the back of the truck with boxes of produce, no hopes to stack the market table high with the harvest of the fields. I’m taking this year off. I’m a nurseryman. I have only greenhouses; I grow only potted plants.
   The schedule is reasonable. I get all my work done, on time, on schedule. I have time to enjoy the Spring. I have time to enjoy my neighbors. The spade fork needs no maintenance. I need no diesel. I finish work before dark. I eat dinner. It’s growing on me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring 13

   I mowed the grass yesterday. Over on the North side of the house. It was a bit soupy in spots, but high and dry in others, and the little blade went round and round and  round and sent little grass pieces all over the place. After I was done it looked neat and tidy and smooth. The cut grass smell lingered, just about at nostril level. I imagined tiny bits of chlorophyll hanging in the air. It lasted through dusk and into the frozen darkness. I went out about midnight to check the greenhouse heaters, and the smell was still there. It was still there this morning, also, when I went out to shut off the heaters. It wrapped around me when I walked across the yard, reminding me of spring.
   My first real experience with the dirt smell came about a week ago. I was patching part of a greenhouse wall, and needed to move a rock, and then another, and then needed to pull up a clump of grass. There it was. Rising from the ground like, oh, a groundhog looking for its shadow. The smell of soil in spring. The smell is, not to spoil the image too much, that of rotting micro-organisms, and, as if that were not enough, micro-organism excrement. Be that as it may, it was a welcome smell, the first of the year, signaling that the soil had warmed enough to promote activity amongst the non-see-ables. It had warmed enough to make the soil microbes bounce around and eat and have sex and die. I couldn’t see them, but they signal their existence with their aroma.
   We’re entering the rush of plant season. The greenhouse is filling rapidly. Sunny days find a table set up in the yard, and I start plants. I empty bags of potting soil into buckets, and fill little pots and plug trays. The potting mix is peat and bark, ground up so much you can’t recognize it. The potting mix smell is, to me, the greenhouse smell. I know it doesn’t resemble a beat bog at all, but  I like to think it does. It’s another smell of spring. It stays in its plastic bag all winter, and you can open it up as soon as it starts to warm and pour it into a pot.
   It’s still too early for flowers, though they’re on their way. But there is still plenty in the air to tell your nose that spring is here.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

My Extension Has Not Been Extended

   The robins are fluttering in the snowfall, and so it must be time to order fruit trees.
   The catalogs are coming in the mail, as many different mail order companies as there are varieties of sweet cherries. And, as fitting these modern times, the mail order companies increasingly solicit me through email. Gurney’s, they of the oversized catalog with the yellow cover that doesn’t fit into any file or cardboard box or old milk crate, is emailing me every day. (I admit to be enticed by the Ka-Bluey blueberry and Ruby Monster tomato. I haven’t added them to my cart.) And every day, my anxiety level rises as Gurney’s tells me I have to act now or I won’t get free shipping or I won’t get  $25 off my order of $50 or more or the price of daylilies will go up. The next day my inbox has another warning that if I don’t act now the price of daylilies will go up. The next day I’m about to lose my free shipping. At one point their algorithm figured out that I wasn’t ordering, so they extended their offer of free shipping. A carrot. The next day they threatened to rescind their offer of free shipping. A stick. The subject line: Your Extension Will Not Be Extended.
   I play with the idea of lining the driveway with some pampas grass  for $2.99, or putting a climbing thornless rose against the house at $6.49 each, or shading the house with a Colorado Blue Spruce for $1.99 (3 for $5.50.) I picture myself strolling across the backyard on a warm summer evening and picking the lush fruit from my dwarf peach tree (luscious flavor, self pollinating.)  I want to bake a pie with the harvest from my Montmorency cherry tree (intense, sweet-tart flavor!) What I really do not want is an apple tree with five different varieties of apple grafted onto one trunk. This is not why I garden. I do not want to violate the laws of nature and the laws of logic. I want my extension to be extended.

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