Saturday, January 29, 2011

probability, patience

The last weeks around here have been suspiciously spring-like.  Yesterday, riding to the Kennedy School for a swim, Z and I saw our first crocus, in the patch near the sidewalk on the East end of the park.  Cherry blossoms have been spotted on a few confused trees.  I predict there will be daphne by Valentines.  So it is hard to remember that it will be a while until the probability gods smile on my garden.  I started some things way too early last year.  On the other hand, I promised myself I would start sturdy things indoors sooner, have a cabbage-y May if that's what it came to.  But when will it come to?  How to know!?  Wouldn't it be lovely if we knew.  
Amber and Justin go ahead and start everything early, and let the chips fall where they may.  But they do their starts in a window specially designed and installed for the purpose, and I use electricity and a lot of running up and down the stairs for mine.  Life in the basement is ideal for no one, and I like to run the lights for the shortest span possible, while still spreading the season out.  So.  What I need is a strong relationship with a well functioning soil thermometer, and a good charting system.
Probably, the soil under the cover will be warm enough to sprout broccoli seeds . . . two weeks before it would be outside the tunnel?  What is the temperature differential between sprouting and sustaining a carefully transitioned seedling?  How low can I keep the heating pad in the basement and still get the seeds to go?  I have experiential answers to these questions.  I have the seed packets.  I have shitty records, but still, records.  And I do not believe, in my heart, that these things will save me, or make my garden grow.  Each seed, each plant, each spring: we tune in to the turn of the sun, the feel among our friends; we have trips that must be considered, slugs that must be destroyed; we muster our faith and our patience.  The probabilities say nothing of what will happen, only what probably will.  We hope, and we begin again.  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

the year of the plagues

We don't even have a worm bin any more.  Sigh.  No chickens, no worms, no greens.  Thanks be to: Raccoons, Rats, Slugs.  I like to think it got too fertile out there.

Really, I think it's mostly coincidence.  And the breakdown of temporary infrastructure, or the need for evolution.  Change, intentional or gradual, and all the chaos that comes along for the ride.  Basically, we have to get better at this.

We have high hopes, of course.  Big plans.  There are seed catalogues and lists.  Lumber to buy.  

But not for now.  Right now we are resting.  Watching out the window, visiting, occasionally giving the upended tire of the sleeping wheelbarrow a spin.  If you ask me the defining characteristic of Pacific Northwest gardening, I will say the dance of the seasons, for this is the poor-man's year round growing climate - barely.  Do it right, and you'll eat bright, firm, shining salad the year through; wrong, and you have a crop of green tomatoes in your closet.  I aim to do it right, and to only change the tone, slow the pace, when winter rolls around.  Last year, I was glorying in the tropical glow of the hoop house as I cut our winter Solstice salad.  This year, I removed the hoop just days after Solstice, having gone for a handful of parsley in the dark and come away with a sad bough, bearing a waving army of small, slimy taupe fingers.  Fucking slugs.  Let em freeze.  

I should have gone with the garlic.