Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Summer 2017

I pay for Lightroom now, which means I can organize my photos and I never have to open iPhoto again. (Related, but not to the garden: now our ten year old computer is breaking and the five year old ipad is cracked -- do I buy a Dell??) Today, having put "garden" labels on all photos of the garden since late June, I am able to see that I take more pictures of my plants than my people. Which is saying something. I am in a bit of a holding pattern over here for the next nine months, so I might as well try to make a habit of putting these photos someplace besides Dropbox.

This trellis/pumpkin-in-a-basket situation perfect encapsulates my favorite gardening strategy: try the first thing you think of, lean hard on mama nature, but with oodles of respect and love, and then try the next first thing you think of ... and be surprised when it not only works but kills you with beauty and generosity every day.

I fought hard for the back perimeter this summer, with mulch (more on that later) and whackers and drip hose. The apple trees are suffering like hell from the spot, but the wildflower seed I threw down in April ended up making the sweetest little world in a place no one ever looks. Flowers, man. Flowers make me think I know what the word "miracle" means for the first time in my life.

Good veg crops included: shallots, potatoes, favas, peas, arugula, basil, and now snap beans and kale. I did not bother with a typical summer garden and did not miss it except for a sungold plant. We got a couple volunteers and they are making a sweet, small harvest, but one sungold plant is way worth it. Also probably worth it: one slicing cucumber plant and a zucchini bush. They take up space but they are easy.

These are just random photos I like of the garden this summer. Not even in chronological order. I am so freeeee

I wanted to grow more flowers this summer, and I did. Flower seeds germinate very differently than veg seeds, was my take-away. In late June, a week after planting, if I don't see anything, I am starting to think that I fucked something up pretty badly, or the seed was old, or I should not use that seed company any more. But flowers just do it differently. I had seed sites (My First Dahlia, for example) that I gave up on and planted other things over, only to discover a three inch plant a month later, making herself at home in the mix, getting ready to bust a bud. I found this very humbling, in the sense that I do not generally think of myself as impatient in the garden, and also because I found I could not claim authorship or control when my sense of time and growth were so consistently wrong. Also, I did a lot of seed starting in the greenhouse, and then a lot of neglectful start-care, and then finally put the dried, frozen babies in the earth and they Loved Up that DIY Bunny Fertilizer and took off so fast it made my head spin. What? Flowers, man. Blowing my mind.

Clara has made bouquets for many people.

Yes, these melons ripened and yes we ate them. Taadaaaa. Also, nicotiana.

I wanted to stop pretending that construction on the garage was going to start any day, and just enjoy the garden as it is, now, without making every planting decision contingent on unknowns. I mostly did that. And, more than anything, I wanted to stop pretending that the garden is a Chore. The garden is, straight up, a choice and a blessing. And I really did that. I let go of other things (seated morning meditation for example) and gave myself the time to walk among the rows, water slowly in the cool air, feel goosebumps rise on my calves and prick my bare feet with mulch. I let the things grow that wanted to grow. I touched the leaves and dug my hands into the bunny fertilizer and ate the first of each thing without calling to a child to come and see.

I bow to this little plot of land and all the things that make their lives here, with me. It is a choice, and a blessing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May 17

Seeding in the shade. What? Basil. A flat of basil. And flowers. Because these are things I don't know how to grow and that's why they are interesting to me. And because of the ongoing mystery of how to use the greenhouse (step 1: get shade cloth). And because of what we are planning to do to the garage, which necessitates almost total destruction of at least one and maybe all of the garden beds and a totally new plan for the center of the yard. Which still feels up in the air. Risky, essential, confusing. So: flowers. And basil.

Peas, shallots, potatoes, kale, arugula.

Big beautiful child.

A rainy day bouquet.


A garden makes food. It provides solitude and solace. It connects us to the seasons, the rhythms, the beauty - of the world we belong to, rather than the world which we believe belongs to us. Also, it is a place to gather. Easter (which I prefer to celebrate as close to the Spring Equinox as possible) has been a thing in this garden ever since we stopped having big community gatherings for Zelda's birthday - maybe five years now? We have done it in the pouring rain in rain suits, and in our frilliest pastels. And each year I am delighted to see the kids get their faces right down in the wood violets, or under the tangle of bolted arugula as they hunt for their sugar fix. Spring really does feel like a million little miracles, and as we hide and they search, we find ones we hadn't known were there.

But this year, somehow, the garden seemed too small for all our people. The big kids are getting big, and the parties keep getting bigger. The Jesus version of Easter was a full month later than the Equinox, and I'm still feeling sensitive from the fuss that went down at Christmas when I said I liked celebrating the Solstice better. So I just didn't do anything about easter. And then it was the Saturday before the resurrection and I ended up with all five of my girls, and so we went to Fred Meyer and bought a Paas kit and some easter corn (green, pink, and baby blue candy corn. yes.). It was a bare bones event, but they were pleased. They wanted me to know that it mattered, I could feel it. I made them help me stuff the plastic eggs before I hid them, and they got the idea to put flowers and rocks and grass into some of them. April-fool-eggs. And then they hunted and we lolled about on the deck as they deeply indulged in corn syrup and did gross things with the melting candy.

We live in very weird times. I'm not sure how to show them what matters, or if what matters to me will continue to matter at all on this changing planet. But home does matter, and plants always matter. So, I guess, back to the garden.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Plant the peas when the crocus bloom. After the crocus bloom. See the daffodils - the first ones - in the background there? Tie the first string first, and seed underneath. Ideally after a mycorrhizal soak. Which they didn't get this year. I ran out of powder. But after the reading I've been doing, I'm buying more for sure. Never running out again. Gonna need a special fridge compartment for film and fungus powder.

Speaking of our most valued citizens. HELLO MOSS FAIRIES. (or lichen fairies? or hornworts or liverworts -- Patrick, we need to talk, but these are releasing spores either way, right?)

March is long and sometimes looks like February, but with longer arugula to match the longer days. 

Again, long month. From here (May) this looks like the saddest thing. But back then I can distinctly remember thinking that I never expected to see anything so hopeful in this garden ever again.

Re: daffodils and sunglasses and coffee. This was March 16th. 

Freak March day of t shirts and ice cream. Really I am so glad this didn't last.

First little guy. This patch is (clearly) overgrown with the stuff I let grow there to displace the grass I am always trying to kill. I dunno. This was literally the first thing we planted in this yard and it has been great - just eating raw, freshly cut asparagus is a #peaklifeexperience - but I wouldn't say that I understand what the asparagus wants. Or maybe I am not willing to give it what it wants. I might let the experts grow it after this. But whoa, eating ferns is rad. And it makes that amazing instant pee smell? I mean, asparagusic acid!? They made that up. Do fiddleheads make your pee smell? I am going to check. 


Plentiful harvests of corn salad and arugula from the tunnel, both planted (if throwing seed at the earth just before a rain is called 'planting') from saved seed in November. Clara remembered last summer's twelve foot tall sunflowers from their decomposing stalks. I showed her their root balls, chalky with fungal hyphae and reminded her how we left them there to help the soil grow. She spent the late fall hunting mushrooms all over the city (if not actually eating the ones we brought home from the market) so she was pleased to know that this micorrhizal relationship counted as Found Fungi.

The carrots suffered from all the cold (spongy, uk) so we dug them all up. I didn't mulch them back when I could have, though I should have, because of PNW winter mulch lessons I've learned in the past (read: slugs). Tip this way, tip that way. I roasted them, and cut them small for soffritto. Clara and I planted paperweights and crocus for forcing. Our fingers froze. 

Bunnies like to eat Camellia leaves. And flowers. And bark. They have made themselves a little fort by biting and nosing branch bits around. The frost killed the worms in my nascent bunny poo processing area under their hutch. It is lovely to have somewhere to throw weeds and grass - the buns come running in delight. 


It snowed, in an historic way.