Tuesday, March 31, 2009

'too wet to plow, can't dance'

Another old New England expression about gardening vagaries in this neck of the woods, not necessarily exclusive to Springtime but most apt I suspect. If I have to explain the wryness of this saying, well, forget it..

So I thought of it today as I turned sodden sod, (yes, there's still snow lurking around), trying to get a jump on my schedule. I'm extending, enlarging some beds in hopes of having a running start by May. An ambitious plan for this old gal but what the heck? I added some potash to my future parsnip area cause boy am I in love with those babies. Following that I made a few jury rigged wire portable 'garden weeds holders' aka compost makers. After those high points an experience of great pride was felt knowing what a super rock crop I grew over the Winter.

On my list also is to hobble together some trellises for the climbers, (and there will be alot of climbing this summer), and also to save space. I kept eyeballing all sorts of junk to use for this purpose but my imagination often far exceeds my actual skill level.

Since virtually all my gardening is done on slopes I have to get creative about using space. I often feel envious of flat gardens but there is an upside to having everything on slopes and in raised beds and that is that the melting snow waters and rains drain downhill. I am continually amazed at what survives the flooding by providing a bit of drainage.

I plant very tightly so this is also a time of year my over anxiousness needs to be kept in check for fear of scraping, poking, ripping out or otherwise torturing those plants and self-sowers just below the surface. I constantly remind myself I would not have left an empty space anywhere...except, didn't I move a bunch of stuff around last Fall? Sheesh.

So, it promises to rain for a few days. Yippee.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

soggy leeks

Forgotten beneath the snow, what will become of them?

Last year was a departure for me as my gardening gaze shifted, complete with limited experience, to vegetables.
Everything was done pretty much on the fly with limited time and not nearly enough prepared space but, surprise of surprises, I became hooked. And even though I have a feeling my slap dash theme will continue through this season I realize I have not been truly this excited about gardening in 30 odd years. I came quickly to understand the difference between deer nibbling down a few hosta and any critters deigning to tromp through the veggie gardens, whole different ball of wax.
I had some dumb luck last season and some failures but even the least productive of my 'failures' was a success. Now I begin what I consider to be the fun stuff, deciding which varieties make the cut, what is best for storage/freezing/canning/trading. What folks will actually eat and what will be relegated to the compost pile.

I've loads to plant this year, way more than I have prepped beds but I'll squeeze in everything I can AND I am going to make a stab at some sort of labeling, something I've neglected in the past.
The 'to do' list is long, really long...but that's ok.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Monday, March 23, 2009

a tad cool

Endlessly discussing the weather is part and parcel of the gardening game. Whining about the weather is genetically encoded into the DNA of New Englanders. For each of us what's happening on our little patch is of paramount importance and it can be hard to wrap my head around others not giving in to that nearly obsessive past time.

That being said I kept wondering if there were a way to talk about what's happening today, horticulturally speaking, without acknowledging that it all spins of the weather.
Answer: NO.
And then unbidden comes that saying about never discussing politics or religion unless you want trouble and I wondered how I might bundle weather in there too. But isn't the climate/weather/atmospheric doins' my religion and my politics? hmmmm.

Today was wind chilly frigid, barely out of the 20's. It made me pay attention and give up a grudging respect. It also made me sort of glad the snow is still pretty much intact to continue it's insulating job at least until we have temps that are in the ballpark of normal for this time of year. It's all so tricky. Maybe that's why people really fall in love with gardening. The predictably boring, as often happens in relationships, rarely occurs, even though we may find ourselves longing for it.

But when does the good part start? The pics of cornucopia, the healthy farmers tan, the blissful minutes just staring at a bee and all that whadedoodah!? Answer: The good part already started...eyes wide open.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

How Do I Really Feel About Zone Envy?

Reading the blogs of others, maybe just a state away or a thousand feet lower has caused me to consider this expression, zone envy.
So I needed to take a moment, after a day of hacking at won't-go-away snow, to be honest with myself and my frustration and this is what I've come up with: No, I don't have zone envy because I get to live in my zone months other than March.
It's easy to slip into the moan and groan especially as gardening/growing/selling is as much my thing as impatience can often be but I try to tap myself on the shoulder and remind me that I get to live in Vermont. Not bad. Matter of fact, pretty good.
Time to employ more tricks of season extension and take a cleansing breath.

Friday, March 20, 2009

straining toward sustaining

barely maintaining,
often draining,
occasionally maiming.

Great day and though just creeping into the 30's I stressed not. Just moved where I needed to, happily welcomed the sun, and noted the mud beneath the very, very slowly vanishing snow. Things proceed apace and I managed a mindfulness seldom visited upon me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

slowly I turned, step by step

Fog rolls in to eat the snow.

Slow is the word of the day. I experience excruciating zone envy reading blogs where, though they live in the north, their snow has receded allowing them to access the damage, begin the clean up, in other words, DO SOMETHING. Time is a big issue as soon I'll have very little of it so a week of bare ground would mean alot to me. Ah well, maybe this promised rain will actually BE rain and not snow tonight and I'll wake up to the glorious mess that is true Vermin-ont Mud Season.

Otherwise I prick out seedlings, bump them and whistle a happy tune!

Monday, March 16, 2009

remains of the day

To get four or five sunny days in row in this neck of the woods is, well, unusual.

Today I did what many do this time of year in the north when one is limited by the still very present snow: lots of parts of bits of items on THE LIST. This activity is also known as 'puttering'. Foremost among the putterations was prepping a little raised bed in the baby hoophouse for occupancy, one hopes, next week. The seedlings are doing wonderfully thus far, knocking wood and hoping the mice don't discover the seed shack too early this year. It's funny what they choose to graze on so we'll keep an eye out.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

seed saving/seed buying

If frugality is becoming hip I'm in like flint, or is that flynn? I could never figure that one out.

I read alot about saving open pollinated seeds and heave a sigh of relief each time I discover a new saver, happy diversity. For me it began with the easy annuals I use for cutting and moved on to collecting anything 'just to try it' and over the years, with some patience when it comes to perennials, I've saved a heap of $...

Now, newly interested in vegetables, I am determined to sock away as much seed as possible. Of course the first couple years will require buying the seed to begin with and too there will probably always be things I'll have to resupply but I plan ultimately to reduce my seed orders.

Which brings me to my latest obsession: winter squash. Having had great success with the basics: buttternut, buttercup, hubbard and acorn I've determined the time is ripe to go whole hog. These are not all the varieties I'll be attempting this year, I think there are three varieties still AWOL, but frankly if all my gardens were just squash and pumpkins this year I don't think I'd jump off a bridge. And yes, my favorites are also always being described as 'promiscuous', (wouldn't you know?), and I'm not sure I can manage the time for hand pollinating just yet so right now it's trial time, find my winners and then worry about getting MORE seed..

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Just kidding - Bring it on. Managed to have a pretty productive day despite or because of the two feet of snow that has so compacted enabling me to amble right over it..technically I walked on water.

Little microclimates around the buildings are finally seeing the snow recede, lo & behold there are actually plants down there. Now, I'm not such an idiot to believe we've seen the last of snow falling but I'll go out on a limb and say Winter's back is officially broken, at least from my perspective.

Of course as I wandered about I've already begun thinking of next years wood supply. It never ends until you do. Though I did think of a cheering line from Bon Iver's song 'Stacks', "everything that happens is from now on". Yeah.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Doing the 'Heavy Looking On'

This stone wall panther has perfected the art of 'heavy looking on', adorably evil, ain't he?

Once upon a time I worked on an estate. I ran around and gardened, farmed and got into all sorts of trouble. Invariably whenever something was broken or a new strategy was required the hands would gather round in the barn and discuss what ought to be done. My first year there pretty much ended up being the last year for Old Harold, who'd spent the bulk of his life living on the estate and working for the Big House. He was sweet, funny and had the sort of dry humor I adored that seems pretty much to have vanished... Anyway, he used an expression I find myself using more and more as the years trip by and that is by giving minimal opinion and offering no physical labor Harold would choose to do the 'heavy looking on'. I loved that. So for me these last few cold, frozen, snow covered days find me frequently and choicelessly doing the 'heavy looking on' as well.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

dirt vrs soil


Along time ago, back in Jurassic Period when I first began landscaping, a very wise man corrected me when I referred to soil as 'dirt'. His argument was that since soil, in his opinion, was a thing of such reverence and importance to mislabel it as dirt was, well, an insult. Not to mention that dirt is not soil and soil is not dirt.

So, if I find myself listening to someone on a gardening video puffing along hurling instructions and telling folks to cover with dirt I just cringe.
OK, you could argue, "Randi, you're a nitpicking old bag", and you'd be correct but I still will never call it dirt.

I guess this thought came to me today as I was calculating how many days before I'll be back at 'work' in the 'real greenhouses'...soon. And I suppose my biggest customer pet peeve is the LAZINESS of the public to even try to understand that the common name their granny called a dianthus in Oklahoma isn't necessarily the same employed by their other granny in Arkansas. So yeah, botanical names ARE important, especially to me, the slob trying to find the plant you're gassing on about. And boy, I wish you could see my expression when they ask me for a bag of dirt!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When a friend sends seeds but the seed company doesn't

Another crazyass day meteorologically speaking, four different days of weather packed into one, what fun!

The bright spots were two: receiving seeds from an old friend and discovering, yet again, how surprised I feel every time I notice new seedlings emerge. You'd think I'd be used to it.

The low point was a solitary one: no sign of ordered seeds from one of my fave little seed companies who in the past have always been super-prompt. Compound this with a constant busy signal. I get a queasy feeling. All my other seeds have arrived from all the other companies. It's not the end of the world but it's important to me trying hard to truly diversify my varieties this year, having spent alot of time scouring through all the offerings and trying to time my seed starting. Ah well.

My 'black' poppy seedling emerged today. They were collected from these plants. I know many folks just hand sow poppies in the Fall or early Spring and of course many self sow and I have read endless warnings about how they hate to be transplanted but true to fashion I tend to ignore advice and in this case, for me in Vermont, my transplants work out nicely. It might have alot to do with the fact that I grow nothing on flat ground because there IS no flat ground here so everything is sort of terraced/raised in a laid back, I was about to say 'slobby', way. Direct sown seeds frequently have a habit of getting caught up in a flash flood and pooling in the pathways or just vanishing. I do however broadcast pink poppies over the septic mound and they do swimmingly!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

goji berries

Lots of things beginning to green up in the shack despite the cold, grim days. Kohlrabi, Kale, Lettuce, Pak Choi, SweetPeas, Spinach, Beets and then out of the corner of my eye I spy a sign of green in the goji berries flat, signs of life indeed. What a kick. I bought a pack of dried goji berries last June for about $10, which I thought even if they tasted like fill-in-the-blank could not merit the price. Of course I'd been reading and listening to the hype about them so my curiosity was piqued. Had to try them. They're ok. Just. Something I would not mind having a few handfuls around but only if I could harvest them myself. So I gave it a whirl. It's early days yet but what the heck? Need to do more reading and find a little corner for them somewhere and we shall see what we shall see.

Monday, March 9, 2009

what does 'had the radish' mean?

Well, what little info there was online confirmed what I already knew. It just means tired, pooped, used up. My great grandfather, the best gardener/farmer that ever lived in Vermont, used the expression and many more like it. What's become of such descriptive language? Sort of like food, seeds, buildings, music and everything else in this consumer culture - it's watered down, lacking diversity, homogenized and downright unimaginative.
I guess one might hear it's usage in pockets of rural New England. So I'll do my bit and keep it alive.

In other news we've had about 5" of heavy snow thus far with a forecast I should be used to by now: wild, unpredictable, wet, and cold over the next few days - sheesh!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

more victorious gardening!

Gotta laugh, still a couple of feet of snow but the sun was shining, the radio was VPR'ing and I'm already beginning to do a bit of bumping up in the seedling department. If the seed shack's a rockin'..wait a minute, that doesn't work. Unfortunately the next several days look pretty sketchy. Cold, mixed moistures including several more inches of snow, a total gloomfest. Yet even this knowledge could not knock out my Springish high today.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Why does every blogger 'randomly' muse?

Isn't musing by its nature somewhat random? Really I'm just spewing my own fears of employing the endlessly cliche expressions found in the writings/babbling of the great unwashed. I am drugged and bound and something of a willing hostage it seems to common parlance.

Every year I go through the same dance. I want, somehow magically, my efforts in the gardens to be catalogued under, not exactly fun, but free from stress, contemplative, smooth. To NOT feel put upon. I desire the impossible of the 'nearly' well tended, (maybe that comes from all those years landscaping for the wealthy who could afford garden armies for a 'look'). But even that desire leads me to conclude a sort of stunted mindset exists within me. I should be beyond that.

In any event this is that dangerous time of year when I begin to feebly negotiate and weave plans for a better me. We'll see.

On the green front, a slight rise in temp only to be flattened by gloomy skies. Started more seeds with good wishes and optimism and made some dahlia cuttings. Which brings me to the issue of room for all the new vegetables as well as all the cutting flowers. If the ground were bare I'd be prepping new beds!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Winter Sown Croc Crop

The sun seems to be playing along during these critical seedling days. Heartwarming to see the greening up inside the shack. The light alone gives a major lift and once the temps rise to where I can pry some frozen objects out of the snowbanks Ill be cooking with gas. Lots to do, critical, time sucking, stuff to do over the next couple weeks and a little cooperation weatherwise will go a long way before I start 'real' work at the end of the month.
Anyhoo, onward & upward!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

snow harvest

it's been very successful this year if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Ok, it's frigid today, town meeting day in Vermont, but I'm not complaining because I'll take what I can get and today that means a screechingly blue sky providing light to yonder seed hut and it's struggling occupants. So I've made a deal with northern New England weather and that is if it's grey and gloomy it's at least got to be above freezing but if it's frigid as all get out the sun has to be shining. dem's da roolz in randiville, let's see how it works out.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Yeah, I know the pic has nothing to do with hay but hay was the focus of today's trip to a nearby 200 yr old farm. Two trips for mulch hay and some small talk..going to do both permanent and temporary cold frames. Still gathering gear, imagining the ground minus 3' of snow. This is the time of year where the weather in all it's New England shiftiness makes me, well, giddy. There's no other word for it.
The pic is of a beautiful beach in Maine snapped on an earlier trip in January. I just love the ripples.