The next few weeks are the part of this whole “I’m going to grow things!” exercise that I have to admit I like the least: The part where I emerge from my cozy little den, blinking in the crisp light of late winter / almost spring, to find that, for the most part, my empire looks something like this.
This, friends, is the finest crop of organic weeds in the entire San Joaquin county. Yessir. We knows how to grow’em, we does.
Now to be honest…this is nothing new. I have had this annual groan-fest every year since we bought the Den. Every year, somewhere between February and March, I start dealing with the weeds and make all kinds of sweeping vows. This year (I will declare, solemnly, with the air of a knight pledging to do something all heroic and some junk) I am going to stay on TOP of this, even in the winter!
And then, well, it starts getting cold…and rainy…and there aren’t that many weeds anyway…aaaaaaaaaaand so I kind of…you know…whatever.
A few weeks ago, there were, eh, a handful of tiny weeds out here. But then we had a couple warm-ish days. And some rain. And then I looked out here the other day and went, “HOLY @*^&@ ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!?!”
…and then I thought of a few thousand other things that were way more important right now…
…and then I spent some time hoping they would, I dunno, feed the cutworms and die off…
…and then I finally motivated myself this weekend to get out there and deal with mah issues.
Pretty much ready for duty.
And this is what my city yard waste tote looks like now.
I still need to finish fixing the drip system along this row. We had a blow-out back there last year that we never fixed, so the manifold (the sticky-up-y bit where the tubing joins) needs to be replaced and then, of course, somebody has to sit around for, like, a hundred hours, clipping tubing, doing battle with the inline drippers, capping and then installing All That onto the new manifold.
I got the manifold done today, and about a quarter of the tubing. And then the husband said, “Hey, are you going to help me with the lemons?” …ugh…
I’d been leaving them on the tree until the last second, because, well, um, because…well, officially, because I wanted to extend the season.
Unofficially? Between you and me? Because…it’s a bumper crop this year. We had counted to 400-something before our minds shut down and we stopped counting.
Lemons don’t last well off the tree. I now have to do something with all this. The vast majority of them will be zested and juiced. Which is hard on my hands. I seem to recall a couple years ago when we had this level of crazy-awesome gifting from this amazing little tree, my hands didn’t bend right for a week after I’d done that. I am looking forward to it in almost the exact same way I look forward to seeing the dentist.
But, darned if I’m going to waste them. I go through a lot of lemon juice with all the canning I do (aside: if you’re planning to do the same, using home-grown lemon juice instead of ‘Real Lemon’ or what-have-you, invest in some pH strips to make sure you’ve got the right acidity…it matters a lot, and varies wildly in “fresh” lemons and their juice…you need it to be between 2.4 and 2.6 pH to be ‘right’ for home canning!), and the kids are very into lemonade and so forth.
But still…sigh…maybe if I ignore them for a while, they will process themselves…?
Oh well. Worth a shot. Moving on.
Something new this year (or, newly finished) is my compost system. The husband started building this for me last season, and then it sort of sat there more or less half done-ish, and then, the poor fool made the mistake of a) noticing that I was taking some time off around our anniversary and b) thinking this would mean we would/could go somewhere fancy and romantic.
Hahahahahahahahaha! I know, right? We’ve been married fifteen years, you’d think he’d know better! So instead of going somewhere expensive and sophisticated and so forth…we went into the backyard and he finished this.
Awwwww! Best. Anniversary. Present. EVER.
It has three bins with removable fronts on them – those slats lift out so that short people like me can get in there without a whole lot of drama.
The first bin is where the ‘fresh’ stuff goes.
After it has cooked down about halfway or so, I turn it into the second bin.
Eventually, the stuff in the second bin looks a bit like this – at which point, it goes into the third bin to finish up.
When I need “more dirt and/or compost” somewhere, this will go through the wire mesh sieve – what falls through is finished compost / dirt, and what won’t go through trots back to the first bin for a second ride through the whole process.
Most of the beds are empty right now, waiting for it to get just a little warmer, a little more reliably. Right now we’re in the unchancy bit; our “average” last frost happens around February 9 or so, and it has started getting warmer and warmer during the day…but, funny thing about California (which is, after all, a bit of a ‘dessert’ state). We will be nice and warm during the day, but then overnight we plummet. It got up to almost 60 degrees out here today, but will probably drop down to around 34 overnight, and if you dig your hand into the soil, even at the warmest time of the day…it’s still pretty cold underground.
Seeds don’t like to germinate when it’s cold. It’s kind of a thing with them.
So instead…I’m starting them in the bathroom. Because nothing says “country chic like turning your master bathroom into a greenhouse! Am I right?!
Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart!!
Now mind you, this is actually inconvenient. I like having a few plants around the bathtub – not the entire bathtub area including the bathtub itself covered in the things. BUT, it is also hands-down the single best place to get seeds started…it is sunny during the day, and gets nice and warm in there even when it’s not so warm in the rest of the house. It’s also a relatively high-Tama-traffic-area, so the plants have a much better shot at not dying from neglect.
Which is a thing that can happen to just about any living thing in this house that doesn’t make me trip over it regularly.
So I’ve got…a bunch of Roma tomatoes in some of the flats, and about five each of Cherokee Purples, yellow Jubilee, and Homestead (smaller beefsteak-type) tomatoes. I’ve got watermelons, butternut squash and pumpkins. There’s a ton of red onions, too. Jalapeno and bell peppers. Broccoli, cantaloupe and cucumbers. And brussel sprouts, which I’ve tried to grow three times now, only to lose all of them to one stupid thing or other. (Rampaging kids, a falling tree (!!) and Bug Attack of Doom + 10.)
A lot of these things could technically be direct-sown right now, but I am having a helluva time with Something chewing them down to the root out there. (I’m strongly suspecting it is slugs or snails…it might be earwigs, but frankly their numbers are way down this year, soooooo, I’m really thinking snails and/or slugs.)
And, I have had abysmal results with direct-sowing broccoli since the beginning of my gardening days. So I’m going to grow them inside until they are nice, big, hardy little transplants, and then I’m going to give them an extra-long hardening off, and I’m not putting them outside until everything is just right for them.
And then they’ll probably die anyway. But I will have given it my best effort.
Meanwhile, things are starting to slowly pick up. The artichokes are taking off – I had cut them right down to the ground to overwinter. You wouldn’t know it, looking at them today.
Some of the onions I thought had failed are actually doing just fine now.
The “dead” blackberries are also starting to look alive.
And then, there’s this.
The little 5-in-1 stone fruit tree has thrown out a couple of these showy pink blossoms – I looked out my kitchen window the other evening as the light was fading, and could see them from clear “over there.”
Those are the moments when I know there is hope for me yet. Sometimes I wonder if I’m losing my ability to believe in magic; I wonder if I’ve become, you know…a grownup.
And then, while up to my eyebrows in Very Important Adult Things, looking up from rinsing the dregs of my third or fourth cup of Certified Grownup Coffee© (now with extra bitter nastiness!) (sometimes I suspect it is the bitterness of coffee that actually wakes me up, not the caffeine), I see a tiny flash of pink – the first flash of color on sticks that played dead all winter.
And I feel like a kid on Christmas morning, when magically there are a thousand boxes – no, a million boxes!! – under the tree.
The magic is coming again. My empire will be fruitful. And vegetableful. Living, and giving life…rewarding my work with food.
The same old magic trick that we’ve seen since our kind crawled onto land.
Amazing that something as old as time…never gets old, for some of us.