Last weekend, since there were only pole beans and squash left in the garden, I carefully placed protecting barriers around them so the chickens could finally be allowed in again. They were all standing at the gate between gardens, hoping that a treat was forthcoming. Little did they know what the treat would be!
I opened the gate, and they just stood there. They looked up sideways at me to let me know they did not appreciate being teased, because it was clear they expected me to walk through the gate and then close it. When I instead stepped back and invited them into the garden, they hesitated, waiting for me to say, Ha! Just kidding!
But when that didn’t happen, they took a few steps into the garden, paused, looked at me inquiring, is this for real? I kept encouraging them, making swooping inviting motions with my arms, come in, come in, it’s ok. A few more steps into the garden, far enough to be past the gate and begin sampling some wood sorrel, even to dare a scratch in the dirt. I laughed and walked away to pick some beans.
I looked up a minute later and they had moved a little further into the garden, still bunched together, not quite believing where they were. I went back to picking beans. When I looked up a few minutes later they had lost all hesitancy and had disbursed to the far corners. As I carried my beans toward the house, I could hear their happy coos as they ran around exploring.
I am happy too. Seeing them in the garden brings me joy. And when I happen to look out just as Ethel or Mrs. Dashwood is running down the garden path I can’t help but smile and giggle. The absurdity of a running chicken is something everyone should have the privilege of seeing. It is on the list of my favorite things.
Now that the chickens are in the garden, Ethel comes to chat when I hang out the laundry. They all come up to the shared water dish on the deck. And one or the other comes up to look in the sliding glass door, hey, whatcha doin’ in there? And of course, there is the bobbing white bouffant that is Sia’s head popping up around bushes or in the midst of arugula gone to seed.
The potato patch was finally ready to dig up yesterday and, or course, James had a helper. Elinor kept falling into the holes, or standing in the path of the dirt as James dug. She kept trying to get into the hole to help dig too. And whenever a tasty worm or bug was unearthed she’d dive after it. She was happy, James was happy, I was happy. And the potatoes, best harvest we’ve ever had! So the trenching method we tried this year worked, as did mounding with compost from our compost bins. I think next year we will do the same, but keep mounding even more with straw after we run through our compost.
Friday and Saturday morning were both supposed to be frosty with no string of really warm days to follow, so I decided it was time to let the garden be done. Besides, the days have gotten short enough that the squashes were growing so slowly as to not be growing at all. Thursday after work I went out with a bowl and picked all the squash and pole beans. I made sure to tell all the plants thank you for their gifts. I told the bean plants I would see them again next year because I was going to plant their offspring. And I wished the whole garden a gentle passing and a good sleep.
Today I cleared the area the crookneck squashes lived in and planted garlic cloves and garlic seeds for next summer. The garlic seeds will not likely produce bulbs big enough to eat next summer, but will need to be “harvested” with the rest of the garlic, dried, and then replanted in fall for bulbs the following summer. I have never tried growing garlic from seed before, so this is a long-term experiment.
Something I learned this week. When digging up the potatoes we found a bunch of little green balls. Google tells me they are potato seeds. Most modern potato varieties do not produce seeds, though some do. Heirloom potatoes, I think all do. The potatoes we planted are Adirondack blue, and a yellow potato I have never grown before the name of which I cannot remember, nor can I find the receipt. I am not certain which potato produced the seed pods, they were on the ground and not connected to the plants any longer.
To get the seeds, I need to break the pods open and then put them in water and allow them to get a little fermented. The viable seeds will sink to the bottom of the jar. Then I dry those off and store them away until spring. I will need to start them indoors because they will, obviously, take much longer than a slice of potato to grow. The blue potato is a hybrid potato, the yellow, I have no idea, which means any resulting potatoes will not likely be the same as the parent. This could be bad or it could be good, since theoretically I could select the best from any resulting potatoes and possibly breed my own potato variety.
But, I get ahead of myself as I tend to do when it comes to gardening. I will get some of those pods fermenting, plant some next year and see what happens. Another experiment!
Speaking of experiments, you may remember I started some tomatoes indoors and direct sowed some other tomatoes outdoors in the spring. One of the direct sown tomatoes came up, a cherry tomato, and actually did really well. The plant got as big as the ones I started indoors, didn’t need staking, and produced more tomatoes than the other plants did. This is not saying much though since the heat kept all of the tomatoes from producing much. But I am going to say the direct sowing was a success. This means I will not be starting any tomatoes indoors next March. More room for the potato seeds!
But I may not grow tomatoes next year. We get plenty in our CSA box, and I have been reading J. Siegel’s posts about her year of trying to grow all her own food. Her part 2 post has me really thinking about what to learn how to grow on the regular, what provides the most calories for the effort. My garden isn’t even large enough to grow enough food for two people for half the year, so it seems increasingly important to me to make the most of what it can do. So between now and December, when I order seeds for next year, I will be doing some deep thinking about all of this.
For now though, it is time to make ready for the short, cold days and the long, dark nights ahead. To make sure the chicken coop roof is sound, to check the heat lamp and the water warmer, to bring home a couple of straw bales to keep in the shed to spread on the ground in the run through the winter so the chickens’ feet stay comfortable. Time to clear the cracks in the sidewalk of growing things to make shoveling snow easier. Time to slowly let go of the outside and begin to turn towards the inside.
It’s a gradual but inevitable turning, and at the moment I am grieving the end of the garden for the year and the waning days while also feeling the pull inward towards rest and the dark. It’s a jumbled up and down time that will, I expect, not work itself out until Samhain. But that’s what the wheel of the year is for, to help us sort these things out. And, as I get older and pay more attention to it, I realize the cross-quarter holidays are just as important as the flashier solstices and equinoxes because they are what guide and help us through the transitions of the year.
I take a page from the book of squirrels, running around doing this and that, putting away food, making my nest comfortable, enjoying the sunshine and the changing leaves while I can, still playing while I can, preparing for whatever might come.
- Thrust by Lidia Yuknavitch. I enjoyed her Book of Joan quite a few years ago, and so far Thrust, set in 2079, is strange and beautiful.
- Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. Back around 2015-ish I read Paolo Bacigalupi’s novel, The Water Knife, the plot of which turns on water rights in the American southwest. I had no idea water rights could be so thrilling! He did lots and lots of research, but leaned heavily on Cadillac Desert. I have intended to read it ever since, but you know how these things go. With the mega-drought it became more urgent, especially after hearing about a dust up in an Arizona newspaper’s editorial pages where someone suggested a water pipeline be built to siphon water from the Great Lakes. Someone from Minnesota responded by saying that we have a lot of dynamite in Minnesota and we know how to use it. Not so subtly implying, like hell you’ll build a pipeline to take our water. Having grown up in southern California and living there until 1994, the book is turning out to be utterly fascinating and horrifying at the same time. The land grabbing, the fraud, the utter disregard for science because the truth was inconvenient (ha, the more things change!), it’s gobsmacking. Plus, Reisner knows how to tell a good story.
- Podcast: Between the Covers: Ada Limón: The Hurting Kind. Limón is a fantastic poet and her book is amazing. I’ve been meaning to listen to this one for ages. It was recorded and published before she became Poet Laureate. It is a wide-ranging and wonderful conversation.
- Podcast: For the Wild: Tusha Yakovleva on the Invitation of Invasive Plants. The invasive plants they talk about are weeds, What is a weed? What is our relationship to weeds? Weeds only became a thing when agriculture became a thing. There was lots of ponder even though it seems Yakovleva is not used to being interviewed or having these sorts of conversations and so is not very polished. But she is authentic and Robin Wall Kimmerer is her mentor.
- A League of Their Own. We’ve watched a couple episodes and are enjoying this one quite a lot. It was driving me crazy trying to figure out where I have seen the actress playing Greta before, until James looked her up and we learned she was Janet in The Good Place! Now I am having trouble remembering her character is Greta, not Janet, but at least I don’t miss bits of the show anymore because my mind is off wondering why she looks so familiar.
- Interview with the Vampire. We watched one full episode and most of a second and decided nope. I could go along with updating the interview to current times, but I could not go along with how much they changed the character of current-day Louis, who, in the book, is a self-loathing vampire who gives the interview in an old run-down house, but in the show he is rich, self-assured, and giving the interview in the penthouse of his apartment in the Emirates. I didn’t like Lestat either, he’s a bit rough and blunt when he needs to be smooth and seductive.