Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Is This a Perennial?"

The elecampane has flowered, and the flowers have dried and produced seed. Elecampane is a tall, leafy plant with yellow flowers on top. It’s easiest to say that it looks like a sunflower. It looks more like a sunflower than anything else but it doesn’t look like a sunflower.
A few goldfinches were playing in the back garden the other day, mostly among the elecampane. They were after the seeds, I’m sure, but it looked like they were chasing each other from flower to flower.
That’s the best I can do to describe it, professional blog poster or no. That’s my full account.
My description to my customers is just as limited.
“It’s, um, real tall,” I’ll say. “About this tall. It’s got yellow flowers on top.”
“What’s it used for?” they will invariably ask. I have a reputation as the guy with the herbal plants.
“It’s an expectorant,” I’ll say. “The young roots are used. They’re dried or tinctured. And, um, they have these yellow flowers.”
Someone may consider a purchase.
Invariably: “Full sun?”
“It likes a lot of sun. Part shade, or a lot of dappled shade, and it will be happy, too. It doesn’t mind it moist.”
They’ll stare at the pot.
“The leaves are quite striking,” I’ll venture. “It’s an impressive plant. It has flowers on top.”
I can’t do any better than that. I can’t relate to a customer, at least not while I’m standing in a parking lot during market, the feeling that you get in the middle of summer, when it’s late in the day and the sunlight comes in kinda sideways from way over west of the farm, and you see the yellow flowers on top of the elecampane, some of them still fresh, some of them fading and some of them already dried and with seed. And goldfinches rush from stalk to stalk, and then disappear into the woods, and then they’re on the flowers again. One eats a few seeds, and then another chases it away, and then the first one comes back. They dart around, yellow birds among yellow flowers in yellow light. They chatter at each other, and you can hear their wings whoosh, and when they fly from an elecampane the stalk rocks back and forth. And you can experience that, too. That joy can be yours, right there in your back yard. I want you to see something like that. That’s why you should buy this plant.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Maize, Mayans & Mathmatics

   I’m starting to gather seeds for next year. Elecampane was today. I’ve already got little glassine envelopes of dianthus; agastache; rue; horehound; columbine … the list goes on. I find myself wondering, though, if these seeds will ever get planted. Will they ever germinate, ever grow up nice and straight in little pots and get to be planted in the garden? For this is a task for next year, and, next year, the world may be gone.
I don’t think about this often. It doesn’t alter my behavior. The freezer is getting full. I’ve paid next year’s property taxes. I’m about to buy new tires. All in all, the actions of a man who fully expects to be active during 2013. It’s the seeds that give me pause, perhaps because they are timeless. Perhaps because they carry information from antiquity, because they only exist to move their species into the future. Perhaps because seeds are past, present and future, wrapped into a speck in the palm of your hand. Or maybe I just wonder why I’m going through the trouble when we’re all going to die, anyway.
   How different this doomsday scenario is from the last that I remember. That was the turn of the millennia according to Christians. During that one, everyone was running around trying to save seed. Everyone was stockpiling seed, on the assumption that the catalogs would not be coming in the mail once civilization imploded.
   I’m thinking I should prepare myself a little ark that will carry me into the afterlife. I’ll need some seeds, of course, so none of this will be in vain. A talis or an amulet or two. Some gold. A buffalo robe. Some prayers written in heiroglyphics. A map of the underworld. Some reading material. Some snacks.
   No worries. I’ll be ready.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Revisioning Sissinghurst as Though It Were Overgrown With Buttercup

The milkweed is allowed to stay next to the raspberry patch. The yarrow does exceptionally well in front of the bus. The virgin’s bower was made for the stone greenhouse. Or vice versa. Iron weed likes the pond, joe pye the driveway.
It’s all well and good when the prettier of the wild things choose a place where they can be allowed to stay. I consider that co-habitation, though it is on my terms. I get accustomed to these things growing where they are, and would probably miss them if they didn’t show up one year.
I wonder, at times, what would happen if I didn’t tend to anything. No plows. No mowers. No mulch. Would the milkweed join hands with the yarrow? The virgin’s bower creep up next to the joe pye weed?
No. It would be dock and multiflora,  with a sprinkle of color here and there. Then sumac and poplar, growing out of brier so thick you couldn’t walk through it.
I am selective about what gets to stay. Most people are like that with house guests. It seems like a lot of trouble, sometimes. But I find that when I am thorny or colorless I am rarely invited over to stay.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bug Week

I’ve caulked the observation hive.
It’s Bug Week at the Hot Springs Learning Center, and Isiah is giving a bee talk tomorrow. To be followed by an extraction. To be followed by a tasting.
That’s alternative education for you. No Fruit Loops here. We get the kids jacked up on local, organic honey.
Things are well planned. Isiah has thoroughly researched his subject. We’ve pulled a few frames of honey from his hives. We’ve borrowed the extractor from the Extension office. We’ve a goodly collection of buckets and rags and jars and butter knives and magnifying glasses and butterfly nets and other things we think necessary. And we made an observation hive.
Not a hive, really. More a suitcase just big enough for one frame of honey. With plexiglass sides. The kids will be able to see the inner workings of a bee hive, with the bees safely contained with-in the observation hive. I’m pretty sure I’ve sealed all the cracks.
We’ll pull a frame from the brood box tomorrow. It’ll have honey, pollen, and little brood cells. That’s what I really want to happen: I want a little baby bee to be born during our presentation. That would be, excuse me, really sweet.

Sunday, July 08, 2012


   I’m combating the heat by planting hellebore.
   It came in a week ago, heralded by a evil looking red icon on the National Weather Service website. The little thumbnail heated up the whole screen, burning away the text on either side of it and sunburning anyone foolish enough to check the forecast. And it has sat on us ever since, blasting through open windows at dawn, baking the grass all day, and lingering in the center of the house well after dark. It sticks to you in the afternoon, even in the shade, and you may as well give up and head out to the heat and confront it head on.
   I do greenhouse work in the morning, potting things on at a little table I’ve set up in the shade. I stay cool as long as I move slowly and stay out of the sun. There’s no escaping  the heat in the afternoon. The gnats bring it into the shade. It sinks down through the leaves. It wraps around the house. I put on some sunglasses and go into the fields, preferring to be super hot on purpose than to be too hot and tying not to be. I weed or hoe until the sun goes behind the hill, and then I plunge into the creek. For a few moments I feel cool, right to the sore.
   I psyche myself out, also, by thinking about cooler times. I pull out seed catalogs and pretend like I’m around the fire in February. And I plant hellebore, in narrow little seedbeds on the edge of the farm. They won’t germinate until December, and that very thought cools me down. Once mature, they’ll bloom in January and February. The blossoms will snuggle with the snow. The thought denies the heat. The image of he snowy bloom extinguishes the red hot sun.

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