Thursday, August 28, 2014

It's a Cold Cold World

My little helper
Here I sit in my too-quiet house on the first full day of Kindergarten. Because of staggered entry, my son went one day at the beginning of the week and then again today. I'm trying to be positive. Today I had my first dental cleaning without any baby or kid in the room with me for 15 years. It would have been more exciting if I hadn't also been told I have the first cavity of my life! But when I get my filling I won't have a baby in the room, watching.

It's just so unnaturally still, though. I tell myself I have a lot to do. I should be up in the "sweat shop", as my husband named my sweltering attic office, sewing the endless procession of marching band cloaks. My son keeps bringing me more, but we are still only halfway done. I have a big pile of almost-finished dolls up there as well.

My little one wanted to be a "big helper" on his last day at home, so I took him out to work in the garden yesterday. Earlier this year my husband and teenager built me some cold frames from old windows my grandfather hoarded in his barn. I wanted these to start seeds, but lately I've been hearing so much about these "high tunnels" everyone's using to garden and I wondered if I could use the cold frames like that. A high tunnel is like a greenhouse, except that you plant straight in the ground instead of in shelves and there's no artificial heating. Most of them are thick translucent plastic stretched over a curved frame tall enough to stand inside. They can allow you to plant earlier and harvest later in the year. I know the HOA will never approve a real high tunnel in the backyard here! If I could only get on the good side of a farmer so I could have some land to work, I'd be so happy!

My patio with cold frames.

At any rate, I figure my cold frames are a more attractive, if smaller, solution. The problem is, we only get full sun on our gorgeous stone patio. I certainly don't want to mess up the design of the side yard. I've spent a full year working on it, trying to turn it onto a classic southern courtyard, like those you see in New Orleans or Charleston. I decided to line the frames up in front of the fence and rows of umbrella-pruned magnolia trees, and I think the result looks wonderful. I'm not all the way finished yet. The frame farthest to the right will eventually be moved in front of the spot where the wagon now stands, as it gets better light. All the kids' toys are kind of messing up my elegant vibe, but I only have to listen to the silence echoing through the rooms to be willing to overlook that!

Stones to re-use in the garden.

I can't imagine how much this patio must have cost to install. Some of the stones are enormous and they go all the way to the fence. At some point someone put soil right on top of them and planted over the patio. I can't stand the thought of that waste, however, so I've been digging up the stones under the soil along the fence and where I set the frames. I plan to use them in paths through-out the garden.

The strawberry border with new grass in front of it.

A few months ago I showed you the strawberry border I was planting along the grass. We dug up the yard and seeded, to give ourselves a bit more lawn. I want to beef up the stone edging I installed back then and transition those into a path to the garden. I really ought to be out digging up more stone and planting the last frame but it's 90 degrees and blazing sun right now. I went for my walk early and about expired. It's even hot right down by the water, which is most unusual, and I saw a dead fish floating close to shore.

A finished cold frame with seeds planted.

So, the last cold frame will have to wait until it's cool enough for hauling rocks and shoveling compost, maybe early tomorrow morning. I started seeds directly in the two finished frames. I planted lettuce, garlic, and cilantro in the first. I decided to try to use the greenhouse effect to eke out a last late tomato, peas, and cucumber harvest this fall. Those all need bees to fertilize them as well as staking, so I planted them together. I will open the cover to let the bees get to them and allow them to climb. I plan to grow cabbage and kale and maybe spinach in the last frame.

I sure hope the winter garden does better than the summer garden. We've had a heck of a time with our summer garden. Our tomatoes and peppers have been plagued by cold temperatures, fungus, and insects. Our rhubarb was really the only strong performer and it's done now. I plan to sterilize the garden soil by covering it with black plastic and letting it cook all the spores over the winter, so I'm not planning to plant a winter garden out there.

I am impressed with our strawberries. We are still harvesting about a cup each day, which is pretty good for August and the small number of plants we have. I put in a lot of Tristan and Ozark Beauty ever-bearing this year, and some Quinault as well. We just freeze the berries as we pick them so we can use them once we amass enough for a recipe. I'll keep you posted on how everything does.

My daughter is finally recovered, though it took more than two weeks. I decided to take her off gluten for a while to see if it helps her lingering symptoms. It's a ton of extra cooking, since it prevents her from eating breakfast and lunch at school as she used to, so I hope she's able to tolerate adding it back. I haven't felt wonderful myself lately. I've had a headache since Sunday, and it's Thursday now. I can't tell if I picked up her virus or if I'm just reacting to having to wake up hours before dawn to get everyone to school. Even our little five year old has to be on the bus before seven. I hope to someday have time to work on my store again. I'll let you know, of course!

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