Monday, March 16, 2015

tomato notes

Started a bunch of paste tomatoes in tiny pots on a heat mat last month. Moved them up to 4" pots tonight. The Amish Paste from Baker Creek seems to be slightly better performing (13/14 vigorous enough to be worth transplanting) than the Sheboygan from Uprising (10/14). The Amish ones are in the colored pots; the Sheboygans are in the black pots.

Next repotting: april?

Friday, March 13, 2015

buried treasure!!!

Look what I found when I was digging a hole for the last of the blue elderberries:
Trowel included for scale. On the bright side, by the time I finally got it out of there, I had PLENTY of room for the bare roots of the plant.

The more sincere buried treasure that I've been turning up in all this digging is, of course, the worms. The dirt below the sod layer is pretty barren and compacted, but in among the grass roots I've been finding some nice fat earthworms. And they've already started to colonize the dirt I had trucked in, too, which I take it to mean that it meets with their approval. One of the ones I turned up the other day was so big I didn't recognize it at first glance. Onward, little detritovores!

This weekend I need to repot my tomatoes for the first time. They've gotten their first true leaves and are a bit leggy, so time to move them into 4-inch pots and bury some of that excess stem so it can get to rooting.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


I'm just not good at posts with pictures; waiting to get pictures of things means the things don't get posted. So here's a post with a lot of text instead.

 I have two big outdoor goals this year: to no longer need to mow the front slope, and to encourage more pollinators to hang out here. I've been working on both of them in the last few weeks! Saturday of last week was the annual King Conservation District native plant sale. I preordered a few things, and then went down there with H so we could both buy some stuff in the walk-up sale too. Now, looking at the prices on the website, I thought "well, that's a little high but reasonable," and ordered two blue elderberries and one mock orange. Then we got to the sale, and we discovered that I had ordered two bundles etc, and that each bundle was 10 bare-root plants. We promptly strategically divided our lists so we didn't repeat species, and bought bundles of a bunch of other stuff too.

 But then we have the best problem ever: so many plants that need to get in the ground! And it's a beautiful weekend! So for the rest of Saturday we worked in H's tiny back yard, where we moved around clumps of rosemary and oregano to make room for various exciting berries. She also gave me two of her rose bushes, since she's really short of space and I'm not so much, and when I got home I plopped those into the front garden bed beside the driveway, which has had a big blank spot in it ever since the old heating oil tank came out of its underground lair.

Sunday it was my turn.

Friday, January 9, 2015

buy less, make more

2015 got off to a bit of a rocky start for me -- I got food poisoning on the night of the 2nd. I'd never had the full-blown experience before, the fever and shakes and convulsive voiding of the whole GI tract by any available means. Now that I have, I think once was enough. I was mostly wiped out for the rest of the weekend and only started eating actual meals again on Monday. Food is still making me kind of nauseous most of the time, as my colonies of carefully selected internal symbiotes struggle to recover from the purge. I have been carefully applying small doses of kombucha and live-culture yogurt to encourage them. I miss my symbiotes. :(

This weekend, though! This weekend I'm going to sit down for real and make a plan for the garden. I think the rule is that I have to make a basic list before I open a catalog, so that I'm then shopping only for varieties instead of completely impulse buying. There are just too many beautiful things from Baker Creek otherwise.

Also this weekend, or later this month, making a plan for the front yard: the street-facing 1/3 or so of the yard is on a slope, which makes mowing it absolutely awful, so it's first on my list for replanting. I recently made a commitment to actively study and practice Druidry, and as part of that commitment I took a few vows to do things this year that would lessen my impact on the earth and improve the health of my environment. One of them was to rework that area from lawn (which supports very little wildlife) into a stand of native shrubs and wildflowers (which will support birds, bees, squirrels, butterflies, all the tiny unappreciated fauna that live in and around fertile soil....). I'm looking forward to the transformation so much. Even the part where it's going to take a lot of digging and grubbing in the dirt and digging some more.

Also also, I wanted to mention my one resolution for this year: buy less, make more. More and more, I find that consuming passively doesn't give me much pleasure, whereas the time and effort involved in making things to meet my own needs are immensely satisfying. Learn, make, thrive: the good life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Planning season

There isn't really an off season for the garden, is there? It's actually a prepare-for-the-next-growth season.

The Baker Creek seed catalog reached me this week, which means I'm now swooning over pages and pages of full-color photos of beautiful, unusual vegetable varieties. Currently I'm mostly in the ridiculous wishlist phase (what if I tried amaranth again!) and only just starting to consider more practical considerations (early snap peas in the bed near the strawberries sure would be nice).

I'm thinking a lot, though, about how to manage seedlings' light needs. I want to be able to do tomatoes again, because they're such a staple in my kitchen. Given how late the warm season starts here, that means giving them a good long indoor stay to bulk up; last summer, the plants I got substantial production from were ones I bought from a nursery, and they started their seedlings in January or February.

They also almost definitely used grow lights to get theirs going, which I fussed about back in May. I'm still committed on principle to minimizing the external energy inputs I use for the garden, though, so I'm wondering about what I could do with our existing solar power. I've been thinking about trying to set up a reflective/mirrored screen to set behind the seedling trays, so it could bounce back sunlight from the window to give them a second shot at it. Ideally, that would give them extra light and heat to encourage growth without taking constant infusions of electricity. In a worst case, it just fries them. Maybe I'll set up a control group so I can actually measure what difference it makes.

Much later in the year, I think I'm going to want to start my fall seedlings outside this summer, instead of leaving them in the spare room (where honestly I think they probably baked). If I can get the cold frame done early this year, which just means getting off my lazy butt and doing the job, then I'll have a nice set-aside space; I can leave the glass top open and rig some kind of screen to filter the south and west sun, so they get some light but not enough to overwhelm them. Bonus, this minimizes the amount of hardening off they'll need when it's time to move them out to the beds.

Friday, December 12, 2014

la grisouille

My dad, who lived in Seattle for a few years before moving back east, emailed me recently to tell me the French have a word for Seattle winter: la grisouille, the chilly damp darkness that seems to go on forever. Okay, actually it's a word for Paris winter, but we have a lot in common, with the high latitude and large water body to the west affecting the local climate. We are deep in la grisouille right now, though I at least take a late enough train that the sun is up (somewhere behind the clouds) before I leave the house. This morning, the storm was over and the weather was clear enough for the crows to be commuting at the same time I was—there's a substantial crow population that roosts down in Renton and flies into Seattle in the mornings to do their daily scavenging, just like people. I find them so charming every time my schedule matches up with theirs.

And of course we're almost to the turning point already, the hinge where the dark stops getting darker and the sun is reborn. I'm going to make it. This winter, like all the winters before it, won't undo me. I'll see la grisouille melt, the first daffodils pushing their way up through the earth, the first buds turning to blossoms on trees. The wheel turns. We're headed that way soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Note to self: first frost at the house this year was on November 10.

The Dark Season is well and truly upon us, which means there's little to no time for doing chores outside on weekdays; the sun's rising as I leave in the morning, and well down by the time I get off the bus home. But I found a warm red coat in the by-the-pound bins at Goodwill last weekend that probably cost me about $5, and now I am considerably more visible in people's headlights when I'm walking home in the dark.

We're currently having what passes for a cold snap in Seattle, the very edge of the freezing Jetstream produced when the remains of Nuri stormed into Alaska. Of course, "cold" around here means the lows are around freezing, which really shouldn't feel like a big deal after almost ten years in/around Philly and one terrible winter in Denver. That was practically a lifetime ago, though. Sometimes I wonder if anyone I knew back then would grok what I've become. The guy I moved to Denver with probably wouldn't. If anyone would, it's probably the Badgers; I hope they're doing well. Jimmi O'Badger, if you ever google yourself, we went to school together and you knew me as Lilith - drop me a line.

The me from back then was more brittle, I think, and also trying a lot harder to front about it. I was a surly little rivethead, who would have embraced news about this "internet of things" concept out of a sense of nihilism: if you can't fight the dystopia, you might as well take grim satisfaction in seeing it coming. Now I'm... well, maybe slightly less nihilistic. Still doing optimism wrong, because now I look at that and think, "It won't be able to last, between the people who refuse to be so intensely monitored and the increasing number of people who just can't afford all those toys. And they're depending on a lot of finite resources to build and sustain that stuff anyway." Which is more comforting than living in the consumer panopticon for the rest of my life, at least.

Plans for the rest of November: pick up the pace on making solstice presents for people; haul tomatoes and peaches out of the freezer and can some stuff now that it's cold out; mow the damn lawn one more time if it's ever dry on a weekend; jury duty; friendsgiving.