Monday, March 18, 2013

The Garden Grows

Our kids help rake up pine straw.

This weekend was devoted almost entirely to yardwork around here. We finally had a couple warm, sunny days. It's a good thing we got it done, because today is cold and rainy again! I have been wanting to get my garden started for months, but the yard is so wooded it took a while to prepare. We went to buy a pole saw Friday so Jerry could take down some of the saplings growing all over the place. Then we had to rake up tons of pine straw so we could start digging.

The soil was so full of roots it proved impossible to dig, so our 14 year old loosened it up with a pickax and I followed with our hand tiller (not motorized!). So now I am sore and blistered, but I have a garden! It took about 6 hours total to clear and prepare the soil, install the fence, and plant the underground plants.

Jerry put the fence up for me. First, he trenched out a path for the wire with the pickax around about half the garden and then he started putting up the fencing.  I trenched out the other half with the pick axe. Jerry says I look nice wielding a pickax and tiller! I wish I'd done more upper-body exercise over the winter!

The garden with fencing installed.
The fence is necessary to keep rabbits and our dogs out of the garden. I also plan to grow cucumbers, peas, and other climbing plants on the wire to save space. I am still mourning the giant garden I had planned out at the Raleigh house we were building. There's not enough flat, treeless land here for a really big garden. Eventually we hope to be able to afford to take more trees down and then maybe we can grow more. The soil here is very good, though. I checked when we were house-hunting! I went ahead and put in underground plants and seeds for now. I planted two kinds of potatoes, a ton of garlic, scallions, rhubarb (though that takes two years to produce), and cucumber and tomato seeds. I hate that rhubarb takes so long. It is a staple food for me, and I guess for most Scandinavians. In Ohio where I grew up there is a regional side dish called "Spring Tonic" that's made from rhubarb and strawberries. It always was my favorite vegetable when I was growing up! I was going to put in peas but found I was out of seeds, so I will have to go buy some. Jerry said, "Oh have to shop for seeds? What a tragedy! I know you hate that!" I tend to get a little carried away in the seed department! Well, some girls buy shoes...I buy seeds!

After we got the main garden done I used the axe and tiller to loosen up the path to the garden. I planted 30 strawberry plants along each side of the path. I like to use strawberries as edging and ground cover with stepping stones in between. They jump out of the beds and grow all over anyway. They make a pretty edging and if you use stepping stones in between them they are good ground cover. And they produce edible fruit, so you get more bang for your buck, landscape-wise!

At our old house I had a big, three-tiered strawberry bed and then ground cover berries all around it. We had hundreds of plants and got tons of berries. I would usually pick a large colander full every other day in the early summer. We still have berries frozen from last year, luckily, because it will take at least a year for these new ones to really start producing. Eventually I hope to put another large raised bed in for berries, but for now I will grow them on the path.

I made a path with my "Famous Star Bricks" from Nelsonville, Ohio. The streets and sidewalks of the town where I lived were once all paved with these star bricks. When my mother was in high school the town tore them up and put in cement and they threw the old bricks in the lake to prevent erosion! "They tore up your high heels", my grandmother said, whenever I would mourn the old brick walks. A few sidewalks of brick remain and they're so pretty! Now that town has paid all kinds of money to rejuvenate their downtown by restoring the streets and sidewalks with sections of...guess what? Brick! Not these cool star bricks, though. Whenever we go home in the summer I climb around the lake banks and pick up star bricks, and last summer my teenager and two of my teenage nephews got me a bunch more. As soon as the plants emerge (I planted bare roots) I will pack them with straw and put pine straw around the bricks to level them with the ground. After 6 hours of digging and chopping, I was too tired to dig these in too!

Saturday night after all that work I decided to go running: not my best idea ever! My foot is really hurting today! But my fitbit doesn't count anything but steps, so I hardly get any points for just digging. When I was out running I saw a ring around the moon, always a bad omen and a sign of trouble coming. When you see it, be careful how you drive and where you step and be extra-alert for a while!

Sure enough, Saturday night Jerry was up all night coughing. He slept in until 10 yesterday, which I don't think he's ever done in the nearly 16 years we've been married. Then, yesterday we found a water spot on the bathroom ceiling. We also discovered someone who came to stay with us (probably my parents) brought a bag of dog food and left it, unbeknownst to us, on a shelf in the garage behind some stuff. Well, we didn't see it, but a mouse did! We found the mouse has been taking food from the bag and depositing it all over the place in the garage, in boxes, on shelves, even in the lining of my exercise trampoline! So we had to spend hours and hours yesterday unpacking boxes and shelves cleaning up dog food and mouse poop and wiping down everything with Clorox wipes. Our youngest son's palate appears to have opened up again as well. His cleft was so wide the surgeon couldn't close it all the way, but he hoped it would collapse (fuse together) on its own. It appeared it had, but yesterday our son was squirting milk and stuff out of his nose and he had a nosebleed on that side as well. So, it looks like we will be heading back to see the surgeon! We put out a trap overnight and the mouse has now passed away...I hope our trouble was just confined to yesterday and that we don't have any more heading our way!

The garden is finished except for mulching the path.

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