James is healing from his surgery from a week ago Friday. He is getting his energy back. His incisions are now starting to get itchy. He still can’t bend well or stretch to get something out of a kitchen cabinet. And he isn’t allowed to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for another three weeks. He might be able to begin cycling again in another week or two, depending on how he feels. So that’s been my week, facilitating James’s healing, reaching, stretching, bending, and lifting to do the things he’s not able to right now.
We reached the ridiculous record-breaking temperature of 69F/20.5C on Thursday. Someone I know who moved here from Florida a few months ago told me, I thought it would be colder. Lucky you, I said, to have moved here after climate change is well underway and during a super El Niño year.
Saturday was sunny and 55F/13C and zero wind, which was good, because a huge pile of leaves somehow materialized on the street in front of my house. I’m sure some of the leaves are from my trees—the week was windy with a wind advisory one day—but the pile was enormous and full of several different kinds of maples, oak, elm, ash, and possibly some poplar. There were so many leaves, I wondered while raking them whether my neighbors might be playing a joke on me and piled all their leaves in front of my house. You like leaves? We’ll give you leaves!
What did I do with all the leaves? I have a big black trash bin I stuffed full and then hauled it to various locations and poured the leaves out. Three bins in various parts of the veg garden, half a bin on the nettle bed and Professor Plum, the other half plus two more full bins in one big pile in the chicken garden, and the rest I said eff-it, and raked them all into the yard under Melody Maple. When I went out to put the rake away in the shed, all the of chickens were happily scratching around the leaf pile. Good girls, spread those leaves out!
There are still more leaves piled in a large drift against my back garden retaining wall and my neighbor’s garage. None of those are mine, but the winds likely blew them all there. I don’t have the energy to tackle them so they will sit there and compost all winter and I can deal with them in the spring. Eventually.
Two garden seed catalogs arrived for me early in the week. I was not going to look at them, planning on saving them for a luxurious perusal over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend coming up. But I really needed to slip into fantasy land for short breaks during the week, and so I have already marked them both up. It was lovely, and what an amazing garden all those beans, tomatoes, herbs, and flowers will make if my neighbors don’t mind me expanding into their yards!
Saturday my most anticipated catalog arrived from Fedco Seeds. I’m still looking forward to Seed Saver’s Exchange and Baker Creek. I am going to try and save Fedco until the holiday weekend, but I’m not sure I have the strength of will. I can hear it whispering to me!
Meanwhile, on the Friends School Plant Sale Facebook Page—this is the annual garden sale I go to at the State Fairgrounds in May—they’ve begun posting photos of new plants they will be selling come spring.
They also posted this week that the USDA has released a new hardiness zone map and the Twin Cities has gone from zone 4b to zone 5a. This produced dozens and dozens of giddy gardener comments requesting zone 5 plants they’ve only ever dreamed of.
Sure, it’s nice to be able to more reliably grow plants that were only marginal or impossible here before, but it also made me sad. When I began gardening here in the late 90s, we were in zone 4a. We warmed into zone 4b with the 2012 map update. And here we are ten years later in zone 5a. In ten more years we will likely be 5b.
Two new zones, 12 and 13 were added to the map. These zones appear in Hawaii and Puerto Rico and are completely frost-free tropical and sub-tropical zones. Information about the map notes that it is generally one-quarter zone warmer across most of the United States. They say the zone changes are not reliable evidence of global warming and say that much of it has to do with the new map being created on a finer digital scale using GIS technology.
I’m sure the finer scale had an effect on zone edges, and perhaps pockets here and there, but to have almost the entire country shift to a quarter warmer zone? That has everything to do with global warming and needs to be acknowledged.
The new map does and does not change the way I will be looking at those seed catalogs. I feel much more secure about the quince tree I am planning on adding to the garden in spring, since it is a wobbly zone 4/5 tree. And now I’m also rethinking the possibility of a peach tree. Or maybe an apricot. And when it comes to perennials, I will be more willing to try zone 5 plants I would not have even considered before. I’m hoping to have more success with perennial herbs. I gave up years ago trying to grow culinary sage, it died every winter, but I think I’ll try it again and see what happens.
That said, I still have colder and warmer microclimates in the garden—places where the snow melts first and last, where the heat sits in the summer and where it stays a little cooler. With such a small garden, it makes it tricky to rotate the vegetables around. And it’s not like this last summer I was in zone 4b and suddenly I’m in 5a. I was already there, it’s just official now. And all the cooler and hotter spots in the garden are still the same.
The weather forecast shows temperatures getting colder and more “normal” as the week progresses. By Friday we might not even warm up above freezing. That means the tofu water dishes on the deck are going to freeze over for the birds to begin skating on instead of drinking and bathing. This weekend I have had to refill the dishes several times so the line up of birds waiting for a bath could all have a turn.
Saturday afternoon James called me over to the sliding glass door and bid me look out at the deck railing in full sun. There was a squirrel stretched out and sound asleep. They are such troublesome neighbors who I want to dislike, but then they do cute things like snooze in the sunshine, and I can’t help but like them. And now that the leaves have fallen from the trees, the industrious nest building work of a squirrel has been revealed in an apple tree. The nest is impressively huge.
Aside from some final anti-rabbit measures, we are ready for the sub-freezing days ahead. The pumpkins have been roasted and pureed, ready for pie later in the week. The new windows we had installed in August are amazing at keeping the cold out. I’ve got books to read, kitchen towels to finish weaving, mittens that somehow are not knitting themselves, a mending pile that has gone from mole hill to mountain, and seed catalogs to pour over and set me adrift in fantasyland. My cold weather cycling gear is ready to go, as is my snow bike once we get snow that sticks. Like the industrious squirrel, my nest is built. Any additional warm days are for stretching out and snoozing in the sunshine.
- Book: The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. Abram argues that the evolution of a phonetic alphabet contributed to humans being able to separate ourselves from the natural world. Instead of oral culture embedded in landscape or a written culture with pictographic or ideographic symbols that had obvious connections to the natural world and served as a constant reminder and contact for humans, our phonetic alphabet is abstracted and points us to nothing but ourselves. It’s a fascinating and compelling argument.
- Article: Humanitarian Crisis in Congo is the Sinister Underbelly of “Green Tech.” A good article and reminder that even green tech has externalities that are not accounted for, and that capital-colonialism is alive and well.
- Article: Forget ‘Man the Hunter’—physiological and archaeological evidence rewrites assumptions about gendered division of labor in prehistoric times. I always suspected man the hunter and woman the gatherer was a bunch of BS, and now there’s lots of proof. It’s what comes of having more women involved in the sciences.
- Podcast: Team Human: Jem Bendell. Bendell is the professor and scholar who published the Deep Adaptation paper in 2018. I read it a few months after it was published and was floored. I knew things were bad, but I hadn’t put them together in the big picture way Bendell did in the paper. It was a brave thing of him to do, and he has been both criticized and lauded for it. The interview is really good. James and I listened while enjoying our Sunday morning breakfast of sourdough waffles. We had to keep hitting pause so we could talk about all the things.
- Podcast: The Great Simplification: David Holmgren: “Small and Slow Solutions—Permaculture Design.” I have a love/hate relationship with Hagens’s podcast because he is so heavy on white male guests. Holmgren even mentions it at the end, which made me laugh. David Holmgren is a white male too, but he clearly has some awareness of things. He is co-founder of the permaculture design movement. He had lots of interesting things to say, and reminded us that while people mostly think of permaculture as being about gardening, it’s about a whole lot more than that.
- This week I requested we watch something soothing and Monty Don delivered. We watched the first of three episodes he did on American gardens. He began in Missouri with a prairie restoration project, then went to Pennsylvania and New York. I love Monty, he seems like such a lovely person.
Pattie Gonia, musician Quinn Christopherson, and Yo-Yo Ma team up for for a climate change anthem. I love Pattie and Quinn, but the absolute joy on Yo-Yo Ma’s face made me get teary. Watch the video:
And read a short interview on the collaboration.
In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter, war spreading, families dying, the world in danger, I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.Wendell Berry
James’s Kitchen Wizardry
I realize I have posted several pizza photos, but what is pizza but an empty canvas waiting to be filled? We have so much delicata squash from our CSA that James has to keep coming up with different ways of using it. This week it appeared in a stir fry. And this weekend, at my suggestion, it made an appearance on pizza. Roasted with black pepper before being cut up into small bits and baked on top of the pizza, it combined wonderfully with yellow onion, our homemade vegan sausage/brats, and a white sauce.