Feb 26 2009



The leeks have sprouted!  Who would have thought I could get so excited about a tiny green shoot?

Feb 26 2009

Country Living


“Just to live in the country is a full-time job. You don’t have to do anything. The idle pursuit of making a living is pushed to one side, where it belongs, in favor of living itself, a task of such immediacy, variety, beauty, and excitement that one is powerless to resist its wild embrace.”

— E.B. White

Ah, to be so fortunate!

Feb 24 2009

Gran Torino


Roger and I saw Gran Torino Saturday night. Some critics might say it is another Dirty Harry film or that Eastwood’s character changes too quickly, but we were so stunned by the story and dialogue that we were the last two in the theatre when the credits were finished rolling.

Roger pointed out the basil that Thao (the Hmong teenager) is mulching.  I wonder if our basil will grow shrub sized?

What I liked most about the film was the generosity of the Hmong neighbors despite Kowalski’s (Eastwood) obvious dislike.  They bring food and plants (chives in one case) to his doorstep to thank him.

In our not so distant past, it was customary to bring food and gifts to celebrate a new neighbor, a birth, a death and other events.  I think I had better bake some cookies for our manure angels. . .

We joked about whether to see the film at all.  I argued that perhaps it was Neflix worthy.  Roger thought the big screen was the way to go.  Now that we’ve seen the film, we’re taking the kids before it disappears from theaters.  It’s really that good.

Walter gives Thao the tools for a new job.

Walter gives Thao the tools for a new job.

Feb 24 2009

An Unlimited Source


After knocking door to door, we found a manure sounce in our own neighborhood.  Imagine the homeowner’s surprise that we wanted truckloads.

The homeowner apologized that the manure is mixed with sawdust.  Little did he know, this is Roger’s favorite kind!  (Little did I know that we had a preference.)

Feb 22 2009

Let the Planting Begin!


Today, the first seeds go in the dirt…in the basement.  We have plastic, eggcrate-type shelving (that was bought for, and will move to, the greenhouse); black trays and plant markers bought from Jung Seed; organic seed starting mixture from Lowe’s; and peat pots and saved yogurt cups from my inventory.  We’ll be setting up 4′ fluorescent lights, suspended from the ceiling on chains, so the height can be adjusted as the plants grow.  Ideally, the lights stay just 3-4″ above the plant tops.

We ordered seeds from Jung Seed.  I like them because they have nice varieties, and the seed packets are relatively small.  Like most obsessive gardeners, I have a very hard time discarding seeds; my “carryovers” no longer fit in even a large shoebox.

Today, We’ll be planting:

  • Broccoli, Packman Hybrid
  • Leek, Lincoln
  • Sweet Pepper, Fat ‘N Sassy Hybrid
  • Rosemary, unspecified
  • Basil, Sweet Italian Large Leaf
  • Basil, Jung’s Balcony Blend (free trial packet)
  • Delphinium, Blue Fountains
  • Achillea, Summer Berries (it’s just not a garden for me without yarrow)

As I was drifting off to sleep last night, it occurred to me that I should also start some tomatoes; I keep forgetting that we have a greenhouse.  Hopefully, I’ll get enough of a head start that we’ll be able to enter some in the Howard County Fair in early August.  BTW, with virtually no planning, last year we won second for sweet bell peppers and fourth for long Italian sweets.

Feb 22 2009

Manure Toss


Manure Toss 3.jpg, originally uploaded by rebetsky.

Flinging the last of a load. Note the smooth section near the front of the truck — this ground has been broken, tilled, manured, and then lightly tilled again. The chunkier part has only been broken once, by hand. We’ll have to wait for it to thaw and dry out some before it can be tilled. Good shovel form, huh?

Feb 22 2009

Black Gold


Natalie scored another Toyota pickup-load of manure for us from her cousin.  I picked it up this morning.  It’s horse, not quite cooked yet, but enough so that when it’s turned in, it will work its miracle.

It’s late February, and Winter and Spring are doing their dance, fighting over who will lead.  Today, Saturday, was cold enough that I could drive the truck over to the garden without too much damage to the lawn.

This was the second load, and we’ve now manured about 2/3 of the ground that’s broken so far.  Maybe today we’ll walk the neighborhood and see if we can find another load for the garden, and one for the compost and stockpile, from these little horse farms around here.

Update:  And today, Sunday morning, it is snowing.

Feb 15 2009

First Turn


Dirt2.jpg, originally uploaded by rebetsky.

Natalie’s photo of the future garden, turned in the Fall to be open to the winter’s freeze and thaw, ready for manure and tilling in the Spring.

Feb 14 2009

Weeping Willows


I saw another first sign of the arriving season (perhaps just wishful thinking).  A nearby weeping willow had transformed from brown to pale gold, wearing its first spring dress.

I was 8 or 9 when my uncle died. I stayed at my aunt’s house and met my New Jersey cousins for the first time.  I remember the four days of visiting as a glorious time of climbing the willow trees and cutting branches and weaving baskets and any other shape we could master.

One of my favorite AP Literature prompts is “The Centaur.” While my students struggle with the imagery and rhythm, I see it as an ode to the imagination and willow trees.

The Centaur
 by May Swenson  

The summer that I was ten –
Can it be there was only one 
summer that I was ten? It must

have been a long one then – 
each day I’d go out to choose 
a fresh horse from my stable

which was a willow grove 
down by the old canal.
I’d go on my two bare feet. 

But when, with my brother’s jack-knife, 
I had cut me a long limber horse 
with a good thick knob for a head,

and peeled him slick and clean 
except a few leaves for the tail, 
and cinched my brother’s belt

around his head for a rein, 
I’d straddle and canter him fast
up the grass bank to the path,

trot along in the lovely dust 
that talcumed over his hoofs, 
hiding my toes, and turning

his feet to swift half-moons. 
The willow knob with the strap 
jouncing between my thighs

was the pommel and yet the poll 
of my nickering pony’s head. 
My head and my neck were mine,

yet they were shaped like a horse. 
My hair flopped to the side 
like the mane of a horse in the wind.

My forelock swung in my eyes, 
my neck arched and I snorted. 
I shied and skittered and reared, 

stopped and raised my knees,
pawed at the ground and quivered. 
My teeth bared as we wheeled

and swished through the dust again. 
I was the horse and the rider, 
and the leather I slapped to his rump 

spanked my own behind.
Doubled, my two hoofs beat 
a gallop along the bank,

the wind twanged in my mane, 
my mouth squared to the bit. 
And yet I sat on my steed 

quiet, negligent riding, 
my toes standing the stirrups,
my thighs hugging his ribs. 

At a walk we drew up to the porch. 
I tethered him to a paling. 
Dismounting, I smoothed my skirt

and entered the dusky hall.
My feet on the clean linoleum 
left ghostly toes in the hall.

Where have you been? said my mother. 
Been riding, I said from the sink, 
and filled me a glass of water.

What’s that in your pocket? she said.
Just my knife. It weighted my pocket 
and stretched my dress awry.

Go tie back your hair, said my mother, 
and Why Is your mouth all green?
Rob Roy, he pulled some clover 
as we crossed the field, I told her. 

The bark of willows was used as medicine for fevers and aches.  It contains salicylic acid, used in aspirin.  A magnificent tree!

Feb 12 2009

iPhone Widow


On February 8, we marked 11 months of happiness as a couple. Then, Roger bought an iPhone. I went on line to see if there was a support group for newly neglected women like me. Several blogs mention the possibility of forming one. Melissa Summers, a writer in Detroit, posts this on her blog. “. . .My husband is ALWAYS on his, so I’ve been thinking of forming The iPhone Widows’ Club. With jackets and everything.”

Melissa, I am ready to be a charter member.
Roger would probably say this is another expression of my severe case of iPhone envy. . .

Feb 12 2009

A wedge of February sun


Our property is bordered by tall pine trees, a natural fence. Today, in the 40+ mile an hour wind, these trees were doing the mambo. I was waiting for one or another to come crashing down.

Luck or disaster? Maybe we would consider it lucky. Roger has been working on a plan to get more sun on the garden. Today, I was pleased to see that the result of the five trees he had cut down (and the resulting gaping hole that looks like we had our own personal tornado) yielded a perfect wedge of afternoon sunlight on the garden.

Roger dashed my enthusiasm when he told me that the angle of the winter sun is different than the summer sun.

Did I learn that in middle school? I forgot. Oh well. Enjoying the adventure.

Feb 8 2009

Spring in February


Today, spring arrived, for however brief a time. The warm sun drew me out to the garden to take photos of the brown clods of earth that will one day yield interesting results.

I’ve been driving the neighborhood scoping out manure piles and holding imagined conversations with my neighbors about the possibility of using some of their manure for our next garden stage. Isn’t it amazing how they always respond so positively when it’s just in my mind?

Feb 5 2009

Let it grow!


Welcome to the Idea Garden, place where Natalie and I will share our thoughts and wax poetic about the garden, life, politics, and whatever.  Check back often, watch the seasons change with us, and share your thoughts, too.