Mar 26 2009

Realities of the First Garden


Yay for the Obamas (or their, a-hem, servants) planting an organic garden at the White House.  An inspiration and example, even for those of us who have to do it ourselves.  This article from Slate offers an interesting perspective on the realities.

Of all the reasons to plant a garden, free food may be the worst. – By Jennifer Reese – Slate Magazine.

Mar 26 2009

Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo


Dead Aid:  Why Aid is Not Working and How there is Another Way for Africa.  Heard this author and economist on NPR and haven’t stopped thinking about her book.  She is going to be on CNN talking to Fareed Zakirha on April 5.  Check out her website.  Has anyone read this book?  I want to know more about her perspective. Maybe I can get Roger to Kindle this for his iPhone?  Did I just write that?deadaid_jpg_display

Mar 26 2009

Wise Advice I’m Just Learning


“We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell

Mar 24 2009

The Fig Revealed!



When we uncovered the fig on a semi-warm Sunday morning, the blanket of leaves and plastic wrap had conserved the heat.  The branches were warm, and small buds were forming.  This is our approximation of the Mediterranian climate they love.  Next, we move the fig to Taylor Park!

Mar 24 2009

Uncovering the Fig–Tah Dah!



This is Roger’s fig tree, wrapped for the winter.  It’s a combination of plastic sheeting, leaves and pole supports.  I remember reading Roger’s blog last year about this annual event, and I was pleased to be a part of both the winterizing and the spring revelation.

Mar 21 2009

Re-Marriage Bridal Show


Nicole, Emily, Shirley, Lauren, Evelyn and I made an interesting bridal party as we attended the premier Re-Marriage Bridal Show at Gramercy Mansion.

Each of us won door prizes that, more or less, were “just what we need.” Evelyn won the grand prize, an overnight stay at Gramercy Mansion, which she generously donated to the bride-to-be (emphasis on the “to-be-a-while-from-now”).

Surely, it’s a positive sign for our eventual union that on the grounds of Gramercy Mansion is Koinonia, the oldest organic farm in Maryland? The fresh herbs are used in the mansion kitchen and the rest are shipped to local Whole Foods and Wegman’s stores.

Mar 19 2009

A Dog Poem


Before I met Roger, I had no idea I would be a dog person.  Now, I can’t imagine life without all four critters.  I’ve learned that real love is being willing to clean up all sorts of dog and cat accidents. This is a great poem about life borrowed from the Writer’s Almanac.

The Meaning of Life

by Nancy Fitzgerald

There is a moment just before
a dog vomits when its stomach
heaves dry, pumping what’s deep
inside the belly to the mouth.
If you are fast you can grab
her by the collar and shove her
out the door, avoid the slimy bile,
hunks of half chewed food
from landing on the floor.
You must be quick, decisive,
controlled, and if you miss
the cue and the dog erupts
en route, you must forgive
her quickly and give yourself
to scrubbing up the mess.

Most of what I have learned
in life leads back to this.

“The Meaning of Life” by Nancy Fitzgerald from Poems I Never Wrote.

Mar 14 2009

Less Than A Week Away!


For those of you who like to be precise about these things, Spring officially arrives:

Friday, 3/20/09, at 7:44 a.m. EDT. Yay!

Mar 14 2009

Thanks For The Header, John!


Our special thanks to interactive whiz, colleague and good buddy John Fabrizio for crafting our beautiful new blog header.  We’re ready to go public now.  Thanks, John!

Mar 13 2009

Maryland’s Garden Writer in the NY Times


Always nice to read Anne Raver’s column to see what a fellow gardener is thinking and doing nearby.  I believe she lives in Frederick County.

In the Garden – At Last, It’s Time to Get Into the Garden –

Mar 12 2009

On Manure


Ah, manure! That glorious, odoriferous, precious shit that is both the beginning and end of the food production cycle. Securing a supply of suitable shit is a holy crusade for the organic gardening purist. And once we’re hooked up, we’re very selfish and protective of our sources. So don’t even ask!

The best option, of course, is to have your own supply handy, as I did when I had my own chickens and someone else’s cows on the farm in Taneytown (sigh). But we won’t be getting chickens here in Sykesville until next year.

I’ve used several different kinds of manure over the years, and have enjoyed stimulating conversations on the topic with fellow gardeners and farmers. Here’s what I know:

To compost or not: The safest bet is always to pile it up and let it age; that way, there is no danger of burning the plants with too much nitrogen. But this is not always a practical option. Often, you just can’t wait. You just have to spread the shit.

When to apply (uncomposted): Ideally, spread it on in the Fall, till it in lightly, and by Spring it will have broken down and the nutrients will be ready for uptake by your plants. Alternatively, as we have done (mostly) with this new garden, a lighter layer applied in the Spring and tilled in will do the trick. Not too much, though, or you’ll get burned. You can use composted manure anytime without worries.

During the season: If you have composted manure, or make up a manure tea, you can apply it in the holes before you plant, and use it as a side-dressing throughout the season. (More on in-season fertilizing in another post.)

We’ve done all with this garden so far: We manured part of it in the Fall, the rest over the past several weekends, and we have a nice pile in the back of the yard cooking for later use.

As far as types of manure go:

Horse: This is my favorite, especially when the horses are bedded in sawdust (vs. straw), as is the case with most of the manure we’ve scored. It breaks down quickly, the sawdust absorbs many times its weight in urine, and it also enhances the tilth of the soil nicely If not in sawdust, horse manure will be in straw, which is fine, but it takes longer to break down. In general, it’s rare to get burned with horse.

Cow: Good stuff but sloppy. Best when composted, but if you can handle it, a light layer of fresh can be safely worked right into the garden.

Chicken: Hot stuff! As in, high nitrogen, danger of burning the plants. It’s great, though, adding tremendous fertility for its weight (perhaps the highest ratio, though that’s just my conjecture), but by all means, compost it for a season first.

Pig: Never used it, but have heard it’s high in fertility, and probably best not used fresh.

Human: Yuck. Believe it or not, there is an “operation” on Route 407 between New Windsor and Taylorsville that I am is convinced is spreading human shit on the fields. It’s the worst thing you could ever smell. I know that landscapers use it. But keep it out of my garden…and yours!

Speaking of smell, my assessment of least-to-worst smelling manures:

5.  Horse

4.  Cow

3.  Pig

2.  Chicken

1.  Human

Mar 7 2009

Economic Crisis Hits Home…and Garden


Flower shows being canceled.  Ouch.

Economic Crisis Takes a Toll on Flower Shows –

Mar 6 2009



Natalie and I really struggled with Jane Hirshfield at the Dodge Poetry Festival last Fall.  Honestly, she got on our nerves.  But maybe that was a challenge to our graciousness…or to be more open-minded  In any event, here’s a nice poem of hers that I like a lot, lifted from the Writer’s Almanac:

Bees, by Jane Hirshfield

In every instant, two gates.
One opens to fragrant paradise, one to hell.
Mostly we go through neither.

Mostly we nod to our neighbor,
lean down to pick up the paper,
go back into the house.

But the faint cries—ecstasy? horror?
Or did you think it the sound
of distant bees,
making only the thick honey of this good life?

“Bees” by Jane Hirshfield from The Lives of the Heart. © Harper Perennial, 1997. Reprinted without permission.

Mar 3 2009

To a Robin in Lent


A perfect poem in honor of the fat robins I have seen this week.

You were the first one back,
the first one back.

You clung to a bare black branch,
your habit to choose Sundays in March,
wind whirling around you,
sky grey as a shroud, and wet,
to sing to the flowers, not there yet.

You were not loud.
No, not at all.
But you knew what you were doing.

by Elizabeth Spires

Posted by Natalie, not Roger

Mar 3 2009

Purple Martin House in the Snow


Purple Martin House.JPG, originally uploaded by rebetsky.

Right now, the house is at the very edge of the garden; but at the rate we’re going, it will be inside. Photo by Natalie.