Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Truly Madly Spring

Let the games begin! What a beautiful day. It was just too gorgeous to be inside so I took a break from the keyboard and attacked the garden in an attempt to get the onions in. The Field Supervisor was on the job taking stock of my spacing. I think it's time to build a dibbler. It would really ease the process.

As it was I only managed to plant the shallots and red onions before total exhaustion took over. I've had some medical challenges this year and I'm not quite up to snuff in the stamina department. I've yet to get the Spanish onions and scallions in the ground. But in the process I dug up these two quite robust shallots (in foreground) which gave off a very oniony aroma. I suppose you could say it's the first harvest of the season.

Along with these two little carrots and a scallion that were hiding in the soil too.

Crop rotation is on the agenda this season in order to get the most bang for my soil buck. Carleen Madigan suggests planting onions after tomatoes and that's exactly what I am doing.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

San Marzano Heirlooms

Last summer my very sweet elderly Italian neighbor gave me some of his heirloom San Marzano paste tomatoes. My neighbor speaks limited English, so I don't always understand everything he shares with me, but our common love of growing vegetables puts us in daily discourse, comparing recipes and trading the fruits of the earth. He was very clear with me that if you plan to save the seeds of tomatoes, you must always pick the fruits that sit lowest on the vine.

I saved some of the seeds and just planted a couple, it seems only a week or two ago. Sure enough, the robust San Marzano was the very first seedling to pop its head above the soil. I expect great things from this little guy this summer.

San Marzano Heirlooms are prized by those in the old-country as the superior paste tomato of Napoli, Italy. They produce such an awesome tomato sauce you will wonder how you ever lived without them. Lower in acidity too. Goodbye Romas.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Seed Potatoes Have Arrived

This season I ordered Blue Russian, Purple Caribe, All Red, Red Pontiac, Norland, Yukon Gold and Burbank Russet. These, in addition to my seed potatoes from last year's crop and the TSP that are trying their best to hang on. One day I plan to have enough land to plant wagons full.

Aren't those purple shoots just gorgeous?  Absolutely regal. Should anyone be this excited about seed potatoes? I'm already looking forward to the fall harvest. It's like digging for buried treasure.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Freshening Your Experience

Nothing says spring to me like a new pair of gardening gloves. I picked up this "washable" leather pair yesterday for the bargain price of $9.99. They'll last me one season at best. I'm rough on gardening gloves. Seldom does a pair see two seasons. So I look forward to this purchase each spring as a sort of freshening of my experience.

It's an approach I've taken to any loss in life. Be it the demise of a pair of loved gardening gloves to the loss of projects, people, possessions or perceived purpose. With every loss comes the chance to freshen your experience. To live in the winter of "I don't know" for a while. Then to make bold new choices. Take daring new risks. Embark on wild new roads. This life is ours after all, isn't it? Reaching inside to unearth your deepest, most authentic self is the work. The renewal of spring provides a marked opportunity to do so.

The barren trees are now full of chirping red-winged blackbirds who are singing about the new nests they will build.

Buds that promise pink lilac blossoms are bursting forth from bare branches and neighborhood cats again stroll the warm brick paths that wind through gardens that soon will be lush with life. 


With so much turmoil in the world, how fortunate we are to be right here, right now, with the immeasurable possibilities that lie ahead.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Where The Wild Things Are

Sometimes you just need to be with wild things.

I headed out to my cousin's farm yesterday for some serious face time with the bison and wild boar. 

D.O.G. kept me company.

The Bison come right to him. He's of the earth. There's an understanding.

My cousin raises bison, wild boar and free range grass-fed beef. You know, the kind that's actually got Omega 3s in it. 

If you eat meat, as I do, free range and grass-fed is a healthier choice than beef raised in feedlots. It's a no-brainer that corn-fed cattle with acid stomach can't be a good thing, for the animal, or the consumer. 

Happily, everything on my cuz's farm is all natural, no antibiotics and free range. These bison travel all over the vast acreage at will.

In the past, his bison meat primarily went to customers on the nearby reserve, but today 50% of his business comes from city dwellers who drive up to buy direct from his farm shop. Farm to table. No middle man. People are increasingly concerned about their food sources and sales reflect that.

Bison meat is lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in protein. It's also hypo-allergenic. Roasted bison has 60% more calcium, 500% more iron and 350% more zinc than roasted skinless chicken breast. The bison burgers we ate for dinner were delicious. Filling, but without that heavy, bloated feeling you get after a greasy beef burger.

I heard there'd been trouble over at the wild boar enclosure. So I checked into their digs before dinner.

There was a lot of the regulation rooting around.

But this alpha sow had been up to no good.

She's the likely candidate responsible for the infanticide of a litter of four piglets in the last month. Wild boars have a gnarly look about them, but their piglets are just adorable. The piglets have similar markings to chipmunks. Unfortunately maternal infanticide is an issue with wild boar in captivity. They need a larger enclosure or separation during farrowing or the alpha females will kill off the other females' offspring.

In the wild, new mothers can try to escape to protect their young from the marauding alpha females, but not so in captivity if the enclosures are not large enough. It was too late to save the young mother's babies this time, but changes are being made. It's always a dance of logistics. Coyotes can take them all if there is no fencing.

Meantime this miserable old girl who has been terrorizing the others is headed for the butcher. Isn't it often the case, that leaders who kill off their own tribe to hold onto power often end up on the slab themselves.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

When Goals Collide

The Field Supervisor (pictured below) has been staging an intervention, and it's gotten really ugly. Property damage has occurred. The Field Supervisor wants me to stop working. To move away from the keyboard and reconnect with things that are more grounded and meaningful to her: the garden, playing ball, social interaction. The intervention began slowly at first: blocking the monitor, stretching across the keyboard, verbal reprimands, but things quickly progressed into a destructive assault aimed at disabling equipment altogether. If I wouldn't willingly leave the office, I would be forced to. Note the unsightly tin foil on the far right of the photo. It is covering up wires to a speaker and a graphics tablet. This is to discourage the razor sharp teeth of the Field Supervisor who has already severed the cables of a zip drive, a USB and two firewire devices, all while staring directly at me with a ferocity of malfeasance I have never witnessed before. This is new behavior. The act of one very frustrated feline.

I admit I tend to be a compulsive worker at times. It takes a while to get the creative engine running, but once it's gathered a head of steam, I hammer all the way to the station. I'm loath to leave the chair. The Field Supervisor is correct of course. We better flourish when there is balance in all things. I do know this. I wrote about it in my book The Emotional House. A balanced life is a happier life. Yet there are times when concentrated effort is valuable too. The muse can be a tough taskmaster.

Once the weather turns warmer the call of the soil will take over, which will make the Field Supervisor much happier. My patio always becomes my outdoor office. I drag the whiteboard, bulletin board and the laptop outside. Laptops are such a godsend. Freedom. Any time you hit a roadblock you can do a little weeding and in no time find yourself right back on track again.

I was hoping to get a jump-start on the spring seedlings for the garden, but that goal has been delayed due to the compulsive working. Today I'm finally harvesting all the delicate salad greens that have been thriving under the grow lights to make room.

Next on the list is plotting out a plan for the vegetable beds. I've been inspired by so many other bloggers who have been posting their plans online. What a wonderful asset the online gardening/farming and sustainable/frugal living community is.