Monday, June 10, 2013

Thousand-mile journeys and untied shoelaces

Last year was not a banner year for pretty much anything around here. From the garden to household routines, money management to personal hygiene, it can all be summed up in a single non-word: meh.

I have much higher hopes for this year.

Which thus far are not exactly coming to pass. MEH.

The first planting is largely a failure; what the earwigs didn’t eat (well, at least somebody is having spectacular year), a downright bizarre extremely-late frost followed by an equally bizarre “and now, it will be 104 degrees for two days in a row!” took out.

Of 25 strawberry plants, only about five are still struggling to survive. The rest are now little dried out lumps of dead plant matter. The first group of 30 green beans is down to nine survivors, grimly and stubbornly flourishing in the newly-arrived summer-like temperatures.

The spinach is dead. The broccoli came up in spits and spots, produced a couple half-hearted heads and then promptly bolted and set seed pods. Which turned out not to contain any actual seeds, even though they were (allegedly) an heirloom type that should have. But pod after dried-out pod cracked open to reveal…nothing.

It felt a lot like proudly taking that first step in your journey of a thousand miles only to trip over your dumb shoelaces, you know? Argh, forgot to double-knot those things!

Undaunted by such trifles as abject failure, I have begun systematically working my way around the available garden beds. I’m trying to do one or two per weekend in deference to my recently-flaring-up-rather-a-lot back and hip – which are pissing me off big time but that’s another rant for another day.

Weekend before last, I turned my attention to the Found Object Garden. First I pulled out all the onions that were still growing there, surprised to find myself with a few that looked like actual store-bought onions. Yay! It isn’t a complete wipe out there!

And then, I looked at what remained, and sighed heavily to myself.

The problem is what you can’t see in this picture, which is that other than the edges of this – which have been worked each year in order to plant pole-type beans which then vined toward the center to make a sort of teepee in the middle there – the ground was like cement.

Hard, unyielding, full of rocks and large roots, and otherwise needing a lot of work.

Which I dutifully did. And I have the limp to prove it because aaaaaah, my hip! my back! – I stubbornly persist in believing that this exercise is in fact good for my assorted ailments, and in point of fact the evidence does support this as when I go for extended periods without this form of exercise I tend to end up hurting even more in the long run…but sometimes, I wonder if my days of being able to do this level of physical work aren’t…rather numbered.

Also, it takes me for-EV-er these days. Things I used to be able to do in “an hour or two, maybe three at the outside” are now “all weekend affairs,” with hefty doses of ibuprofen or even {shudder} prescription pain medication to get me through it. Sigh. I’m not sure what I’ll do if/when My Beloved Physician tells me I “can’t” or “shouldn’t” keep this up…I know there will be tears and I’m deeply afraid that in the heat of the moment I may even call the nice man really foul names. But, I will burn that bridge when I get to it because until that time, I can turn that into this.

There are Roma tomatoes planted throughout the lattice (which is on the ground to discourage the neighborhood cats from using the newly-amended and beautifully soft ground as their new litter box), the bed is bordered with sweet basil and flanked with zucchini mounds, and there are golden bell pepper seeds in the two containers.

And along the fence, scarlet runner beans. (They’re the ones using the water from the big green thing, which is a combination of “city” water and “reclaimed laundry water”) (remember if you’re going to try this yourself: you can’t just start tossing your laundry gray water onto your garden. Not going to write a fifty page manual on it here, but do your homework if you’re planning to attempt something like this, lest you end up either salting your earth, or inadvertently poisoning yourself.)

Then I turned around and there was this.

Ugh. A great deal of work later, I had this.

The front half of this is planted with a blue “ornamental” corn that makes decent, and kind of fun, popcorn. The larger front bed is tightly-planted kidney beans, and the back bed (which was a bear to dig up and amend appropriately, just sayin’) is sweet potatoes. The big black containers have eggplants, and are flanked on either side by yellow tomatoes and red hybrid cherries. (Behind them, with the black plastic, are the surviving green beans, and the black containers next to those have some striped heirloom tomato plants starting to thrive their way up; there’s also a narrow strip between them planted with some lettuce that appears to be surviving now that the earwig invasion has ebbed a bit.)

BUT WAIT! Is that movement back there in the area where the Enormous Greenhouse Of Doom is supposed to go?! Behind the bed that was recently planted with watermelons that are just beginning to come up?!

Well, I’ll be! It would appear that somebody is starting to build frames and such for an eventual foundation pouring! We have started bandying around the idea of doing some aquaponics in there once it is up – if we don’t talk ourselves out of it, we’d be raising a modest number of Tilapia and/or channel catfish (allegedly more resilient against inevitable newbie mistakes than other fish such as trout or bass), as well as some crawdads (a.k.a., crayfish). Both of us are fascinated by the idea, charmed by the idea of the Denizens being exposed to both how the ecosystem works and how to raise fish in general (poor little things, always being subjected to our off-beat ‘supplemental education’ curriculums), and plus the whole idea…well…it amuses me (uh-oh, we’re doomed…next thing you know it’ll be yet another of our many “well, we raised 3,000 pounds of catfish, 1,800 pounds of Tilapia and 600 pounds of trout in here last year, as well as 32,000 pounds of spinach most of which is still in the freezer because heh heh, funny story, I’m really the ONLY person in the family who likes the stuff at all…?” stories).

Speaking of amusing me…I realized I made a tactical error in my plant selection for the curtains. I chose to grow beans intended to be shell beans. I was thinking at the time that I didn’t want something that might end up being “fiddly” (like peas or pole-type snap beans) because I have enough “have-tos” in my day thank you very much, let’s pick something that doesn’t require every-other-day picking in order to be kept happy and productive.

Yeah, except…once the plants begin to set pods, they tend to slow down in terms of growth.

Soooooo, this may be all the taller they’re going to get for me, since they’ve aggressively set pods and are now focusing most of their energy on making plump little seeds inside same. The bottommost leaves are starting to yellow, and once those pods are dried out most of the plants will die back; so we’re probably already more than halfway through their lifespan at this point.

Oops. Once I realized what was going on with the abrupt growth slowdown, I was a bit annoyed with myself because I did know that would happen; I just didn’t think of it at the time. Oh well. Live and (re)learn – next time, I’ll do something like snap peas or pole-type green beans where you “pick regularly to encourage continual yield” instead. (Or I could also get really crazy and plant something like morning glories, which might not make, you know, food but surely do make beauty like nobody’s business.)

Still. I’m very pleased with how they’re turning out. Even on days when my actual time outside in nature-or-something-like-it is next to none at all, they bathe me in that delicious, lush green glow.

And even on dark, stormy days they smile for me; they remind me that there is more to life than the struggles of the day, that life itself perseveres and repeats, generation to generation.

That the most humble and mundane places can also be made holy, if we choose to view them so; that we don’t have to be hemmed in by the “conventional” or the “normal” or even the “sane.”

We can bloom where we are planted. Even if we are nothing but an “extra” plant that “probably” won’t survive that was given an after-thought netting up the outside of a shower wall – we can jolly well bloom where we are, and to heck with what anybody else expects!

Bloom, unlikely survivor of a runty infancy - bloom!


Monday's Child said...

Wow, you got a lot done. I hope your body forgives you soon. And yay, you're (probably) going to start aquaponics! I can't wait to see how much you love it. We've pulled ours down to move, and I can't wait to get it going again next spring.

CeltChick said...

After reading a post like this, I always feel like I need to go lie down for a wears me out, just reading it! But you've given me an idea for keeping the feral cats out of the herb patch! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mama Chaos: I'm at the age where my doctor has said DON'T to many of the chores I'd taken for granted all my life. What has helped me is hiring someone to do the bed prep at the first of the planting season. It sounded like an unnecessary expense, but when I compare that cost to the cost of chiropractor, doctor, surgeon visits along with appropriate over the counter and prescription meds, as well as time lost flat on my back, it is worth it!! Give up the hard-on-your body tasks so you can do the ones that are fun.
Nancy FP in Ferndale