May 10, 2005

Every time I sit down to write after a weekend, the words I want to open with are "all sorts of stuff happened".  While I will try to resist redundancy, it DOES always seem to be the case.

I’ll back up to Saturday, with its beautifully mild weather. Ken rototilled several planting spots for me while I rigged up my latest budget idea, "trellis a la baling twine". I have saved many, many sections of baling twine off of all the straw and hay bales we’ve used to mulch. The idea was to tie the twine between 2 trees, about ten feet up. Prior to the actual tying, a vertical strings were attached to the horizontal line, one every foot or so. These (if it works) will be the supports for a variety of gourds. Ken’s working the tiller helps me a lot. I can use the rototiller, but find that my arms ache for a day afterward. I’m not sure why, but I think it is the vibration and the weight. This is a great rototiller, a gigantic Honda rear-tine-ground-churning-workhorse. I am extremely grateful to Ken’s dad for giving it to us. I am even more grateful when Ken is the one hanging onto the handles. But tragedy occurred at last. We try very, very hard to make sure our friends the Mr. Toads [we designate every toad on our property as Mr. Toad; that’s just the way it is] don’t get into harm’s way but this time the worst happened.  A toad was hurt beyond repair, and with sadness I hurried him along his way. It didn’t seem right to leave him there to die slowly.emoticon

So anyway, the bowl gourds, cobra gourds, birdhouse gourds and dipping gourds have been planted. Next came the broom corn, which I bought for last year but never managed to get in the ground. I poured the seeds into my hand, and looked with suspicion at the large packet claiming that the contents of my hand were 100 seeds. "We’ll see about that", thought I. Every now and then my Armenian ancestry comes to the forefront, and I must determine at all costs that I have received a fair (or better) bargain.emoticon Previously I have caught this seed company in the heinous act of giving me 5 seeds instead of 10 in a packet. So I counted out each and every seed, sure that I’d find myself shorted. Quite to the contrary, I had many more of the colorful little seeds left after I passed 100. For anyone asking "what’s broom corn?", it’s exactly what it sounds like. Technically a sorghum, it grows variously colored bunches of broom straw. Why am I growing it? Who knows. It’s colorful, to see if I can, maybe there’s a killing to be made in the broom industry, Ken keeps ruining my brooms by storing them wrong-side down…..there’s no real answer. Around the broom corn perimiter went okra, and more okra still went into another long row. Next came some Jelly Melons, an exotic fruit from New Zealand which is supposed to look like a cucumber gone wrong but have citrusy, fruity taste with its jellylike texture. The Blue Lake bush beans were placed near the Jelly Melons. One challenge is trying to rotate crops around; not put the tomatoes, peppers etc. in the same place as last year. I didn’t get to the french climbing beans because I couldn’t decide where they should go. Planting the seeds, misc. weeding and haying took until dusk.

I find it interesting that I have developed a love/hate relationship with seed planting. I love poking in the dirt, patting and dropping the seeds into placeemoticon. The act of sowing seed is ubiquitous to almost every culture and connects all of the human family over millenia of time. I suppose what I dislike is HOW MUCH OF IT needs to happen! Planting one pack of seeds is a delight. Somewhere after 500 seeds, well, it seems more like workemoticon. And it’s not as if poking the seed in the ground comprises the only activity. There’s the hoeing and shovelling to create rows and canals and hills and whatever other waterworks one has in mind. Plant in haste, repent all summer long!

Sunday the forecast called for late afternoon rain. Uh-huh. I woke up Sunday to wet ground and realized I had mostly wasted my time watering in the seeds. (It’s an easy way to predict the weather. If you water your seeds or plants, it will rain. If you choose not to, it will not rain and additionally all your cats will perform unspeakable litterbox ceremonies in your freshly tilled soil. I like to think I do my part to keep the annual precipitation levels up to par.) Xerxes the house rooster was set outside to enjoy some hen company. Within an hour the rain recommenced, and a soggy shivering little ball of stringy feathers had to be rescued. He then sat on his basked shaking pitifully so we had to build a fire in the woodstove for him. The rooster and the Russian Blue cat sat on the hearth shivering and trying to ignore each other. It was pretty cute looking. I went outside in my sailing foulies to spread hay, nice alfalfa and grass hay (lovely but with kind of a lot of field madder [that’s a weed]) all over the property frontage. That is one of the few jobs best done in a pouring rain. It cuts the hay dust down dramatically and also helps compact the hay into place. I also planted the Grandpa Ott’s morning glory and moonflower seeds, which had soaked overnight. I’d never seen a moonflower seed before; reading about them hadn’t prepared me for the sight. They are really big seeds with an impressively tough seed coating. I had heard they needed to be nicked with a knife prior to soaking, which in turn helps germination success. I’d say they got enough water after planting. But the weather continued to worsen. I mostly gave up–the only other thing I did was wash some spinning gourds that were grown last summer, to clean them up for farmer’s markets. I did some review reading instead of being outdoors. I read the plant books over and over and I have to keep doing that because apparently myhead is full and it’s not possible to remember ever detail of care, planting and harvest for every single thing out there. I learned that I need to dig up the few berry canes that have stunted growth–it might be something bad so best get rid of it.

Monday the turkey chicks were bedded down in fresh straw, I didn’t want them on any damp bedding. They grow fast, and can already fly to about 3 feet. Ken and I found a plover’s nest in the orchard, with the olive speckled eggs and the mother bird doing the "come after me my wing is broken" routine. It’s hard to believe that this is a viable reproductive strategy around 6 cats. But, she and the eggs do blend in very well, and I am told that when the chicks hatch they come out pretty much running.

Based on the new rate of potato growth, that root-crop fertilizer must be doing something. The transplanted delphiniums started blooming, and the lemon grass arrived in one of those "a parcel has been left at your door" packages.

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