Be Local

There are variations of bumper stickers around to remind us to keep our money close to home, to support local businesses, local farmers, local crafters. I particularly endorse this mindset. When we eat out, we try to go to the local restaurants, yes, they do have to purchase some goods trucked from many miles away, but many also support the local farmers and purchase their goods when available. We do a weekly trip to the local Farmers’ Market, where they can sell nothing grown more than 50 miles from it, so all meats, eggs, vegetables, and fruits are grown locally. The meat vendors prescribe to the practice of pasture raising their animals and do not use feedlots to “fatten” them up before processing. The produce vendors practice organic methods of growing, even if they don’t all go through the expensive and arduous process of becoming certified. Many of them do use big hoop houses to extend the seasons, so often, greens, radishes, and pea shoots are available long before and after my gardens can provide.

Every couple of years, I reread, Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, of her family’s one year adventure to only eat what they could grow or purchase from local farmers. It helps me to renew my resolve to try to keep it local. We aren’t as dedicated as they were, continuing to purchase fresh fruit and frozen berries out of season that has been hauled from Mexico or California during the off seasons. But we do have an orchard with 4 different fruit trees and 3 different berries to enjoy in season as well as Wine berries and wild blackberries growing around the hayfields of the farm that can also be picked when the hay is mowed and you can get to them. This year, it was harder to get going on the garden for some reason, though it is now all planted. I am currently rereading her book to jump start my motivation to stay on it. The loss of nearly half my hens in the past few months was difficult, but the remaining 7 are providing enough eggs for daughter’s family and our use.

As I go to deal with the hens in the morning, I walk along the north edge of the vegetable garden and note the first asparagus tips emerge, then the daily or near daily venture in to cut the ones that are 6 to 8″ tall. This allows me to walk past the garlic and see it’s progress, and up past the peas, spinach, carrots, and radishes. The other side of the asparagus bed are the beans. This morning, a large handful of asparagus was cut and the garlic had scapes, so they were snapped off to bring in as well. This sent me back out with scissors to cut the large spinach leaves with the idea that sauteed garlic scapes and spinach would be a delightful addition to dinner. I will also enjoy some of the asparagus (not hubby’s favorite). With an egg for my protein, that will be a wonderful dinner if a healthy starch is added in the form of brown rice, sweet potato, slice of local whole grain sourdough bread, or even a baked or roasted white potato. He will get some meat with his. It doesn’t get any fresher or more local than this.

The asparagus will soon come to an end so they can grow the tall ferny tops to provide the crowns with the necessary food to provide us with stalks next spring. When the weather gets consistently warmer, the spinach will bolt and it too will end until a fall planting can be made. The second crop of radishes is up, the peas are flowering, the beans are sprouting, and all of the starts planted out a few days ago are thriving. It took some self motivation to get going this year, but the garden is providing and will continue on for the next few months. The Farmers’ Market will still be visited for vegetables I don’t grow, meats for hubby and visitors, and an occasional loaf of sourdough bread or chunk of local cheese. We strive to be local, and are thankful for the garden, orchard, and local Farmers’ Market that is the best one I have ever visited.

Spring and Memories

One summer day about 20 some years ago, while visiting my Dad, he was showing me his gardens and what he had planted that year. He loved his flower gardens and had a vegetable garden at the home I grew up in and tried at the home he and my stepmom bought after they married, but it was too shady for too much success. As we walked around from bed to bed, tucked between a couple of large azaleas, spilling blossoms from pots was a tipped wooden wheelbarrow. I loved it and commented on it to learn that he had made it himself. Fast forward a couple of years, and we had just sold the house that we had owned in Virginia Beach in preparation for the construction of this home in the mountains and we had moved into a rental house. He showed up in early summer, maybe around Mother’s Day with a wooden wheelbarrow he had made for me.

I followed his example and a similar idea seen in a magazine, spilling a partial bag of potting soil from the tipped barrow with potted blooming plants cascading out and filling the remaining space. The barrow was used in that spot for two years, and then it was time to divide and move. Much of the furniture was moved with me to an apartment in the mountains, the rest to an apartment for younger son and his Dad in Virginia Beach until his retirement and move here with me. The outdoor items and gardening tools moved to the barn on the site of our current home. The barrow got broken as smaller items were wedged in the truck. It was 15 months before I got into the new house and fall and winter were looming, so the little barrow sat in the barn, mostly forgotten and in need of repair. It was finally brought down to the house, and repaired, but my repairs were not strong enough to last but a couple of years. Last year, a better, sturdier repair was made and it was moved up on the front sheltered porch and held the houseplants summering out along with a pot of a flowering something.

We had finished re-staining the porch surfaces and putting down mats to prevent the pups nails from marring the newly re-painted porch.

Yesterday, the year’s dust was hosed off the floor and wooden porch furniture and the summering plants put out on one of the folding wooden shelf units by the front door. The little barrow was wheeled off the porch with the plan to again fill it will flowers to help dress up the front that took a beating this past winter between the cold, wind, and scratching hens. All of the Nandina bushes looked like they had died. All are beginning to show some new leafing out but mostly are brown masses of sticks. This evening, we stopped at Lowes and purchased a flat of red and one of while impatiens and a flat of the trailing sweet potato vines. When we got home, all of the empty terracotta pots and a left over hanging basket pot from last year were potted up and the little barrow again filled with flowers.

It is going to take some TLC while they settle in and grow to fill the pots and trail over the edges, but it brings back fond memories of my Dad and his gardens.

The morning in the vegetable garden yielded a harvest of radishes and asparagus. The 7 remaining hens are providing 3 or 4 eggs a day and as long as they do, daughter and I will be okay.

As there was already a bag of asparagus in the refrigerator, these and enough of the refrigerated ones were cut to quart jar length and the first seasonal preserve started, a jar of fermented asparagus pickles.

While out mowing yesterday afternoon, baby apples and baby Asian pears look plentiful. Unfortunately, there will be no peaches, plums, or figs. The peach and plum trees are leafed out, but their blooms came out just with a freeze. The fig bush just did not survive the winter at all. Figs not in a greenhouse are very iffy in this planting zone. I nursed it along for 4 years and got fruit for one.

We are looking at contouring the beds in front of the north facing porch, adding more shrubs while hoping the Nandinas come back and covering with a good layer of mulch. For 16 years we have discussed a walkway from the front stoop to the driveway, so that too is being considered. We may have to recruit a couple of strong grandsons to help get it done.

It looks like spring is really here

Finally, it appears that we experienced the last possible frost a few days ago, and it didn’t frost, at least not in our hollow. With the past few warm days and a forecast for many more with intermittent showers, a full on garden event happened in the past couple of days. Grass, Creeping Charlie, and Smartweed pulled from around the edges of the beds and from where it was intermixing with the Comfrey. Soon the Comfrey will get large enough to shade out most of the weeds where it grows, except for the Bermuda grass. Whoever introduced that invasive plant should be exiled to a life of pulling it from garden beds forever. And Creeping Charlie too.

The peppers and tomato starts were planted in a bed yesterday, flower seed sown in areas that can be blocked off from the chickens scratching, and half of the bean bed seeded. The other half will be planted in a couple of weeks so there is a longer season of harvest. Last year, a late summer planting was tried and the bean beetles decimated them in short order before any beans could be harvested. The blueberry bed was weeded, the old, dead, canes on the raspberries and blackberries pruned off.

And for our daily pleasure, my favorite breakfast spot, the back deck was set up with new blooms and the umbrella. It is now warm enough most mornings to enjoy my coffee and some spindle spinning time in the early sun, and with the umbrella up, dinner on the deck. I will definitely keep an eye on the underside of the deck for a returning wasp/hornet nest. We don’t want a repeat of last summer when both of us were stung multiple times for pulling a chair out to sit and eat dinner there.

The flowers in the pots and in the near gardens will attract the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies to the back to enjoy while sitting out there. The intermittent rains expected over the next few days will help the seed germinate and the plant starts settle in.

After dinner last night, pumpkins, squash, and cucumber seeds were started in plantable pots to give them a head start. They will move in and out with the tomatillos until they are ready to put in the ground in a few weeks.

The line trimmer still needs to be worked on so edging around the fence of the gardens can be done. And the north side of the house needs attention. After years of growing Nandina in Virginia Beach and later here, all but one of them seemed to have taken a death blow this winter. It doesn’t help that the chickens prefer that area to dust bathe and have exposed shallow roots. New soil is going to have to be applied, new foundation shrubs planted, and some sort of barrier to prevent the hens from scratching there. The front porch needs a scrubbing and hosing off and soon the house plants moved out for a summer vacation there.

The little Wren in the front hanging pot is sitting 5 eggs. She is very skittish though and flies off every time the front door is opened. In the past, most of the Wrens that have nested there have been very tolerant of someone sitting on the porch or coming and going out the front. In a couple of weeks there should be babies. The swallow family set up housekeeping in one of the garden nesting boxes and have a babies in there. A peek at them yesterday show they are feathering out and will soon be fledging. The newer bird house at the other end of the garden didn’t attract the bluebirds as I had hoped and it sits empty this spring.

Spring is a favorite time. The emergence of leaves, new blooms, temperatures mild enough to enjoy working outdoors and for daily walks for our health and fitness. Too soon it will get too warm to want to be out except in early morning or at dust and the weeds will win the garden war for a while. Hopefully, before then, there will be peas and beans to enjoy, peppers and tomatoes to harvest and can, and the line trimmer functioning so the paths in the garden can be kept under control.