Sunday, March 25, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

A little reminiscing about last years garden, and working toward this year's.
Gardening here starts late and the season is short so I have to start quite a few things indoors. The only place in the house that gets enough light to grow anything is the big window in the bathroom, above the clawleg tub. Unfortunately, once things emerge, its not quite enough light or heat, as they sometimes stretch and become weak and leggy.
There is an old computer cabinet that I no longer use, as I have only had a laptop since we came here, and I see no reason whatsoever to go back to a desktop computer.  I decided to repurpose the computer armoire. Potting soil and peat pots reside in one cubby while my Western Garden Book and seed catalogues take up another. A grow light is mounted under the shelf and the seedlings get to live under that. There is room for quite a few, actually. Once they leave there, they will go into a cold frame or a temporary greenhouse outside.
I am hoping for a good spring, as I have a rather extensive list for the garden this year. I really need to get a couple of years canning done, as every year now, I get a bit slower and less constructive.
I have seed for tomatoes, peppers, green beans, peas, squashes, both summer and winter, corn, cabbage, cauliflower and brocolli, lettuce, spinach, pumpkins (mostly for the animals) hot peppers, pepperoncinis, green onions, shallots, garlic, carrots and I have yet to buy some seed potatoes. I also have basil and chives already growing and parsley, cilantro and thyme that come back every year. Then, of course, there are the raspberries, blackberries and strawberries we already have and I have a currant bush on order. A good year would fill our pantry and give me seed for next year as well, as most of the crops are from heirloom seed.
Working with a limited budget ( a great deal is spent on the animals) we make do with what is on hand. Old feed tubs make raised bed planters. Another raised bed for the raspberries is made with rock and dirt from on the ranch. A walkway was started last summer from concrete and an inexpensive form and an archway will be made with t-posts and a cattle panel for growing a vine on. Old horse troughs which no longer hold water have been repurposed as planters for both flowers and herbs. A few vegetables will be scattered in on the North side of the garden with the flowers, to fill in bare spots. This is the main view out of the house windows. The South side of the yard will be primarily vegetables with a few flowers thrown in for companion planting.

Winter hosts a stark and barren garden, but spring will return and the rock wall will come alive with climbing roses, trumpet vines and virginia creeper cascading up and down its face while sunflowers, liatris, coneflowers, 4 O’clocks and shasta daisies partner with annuals to cavort at its feet. The lawn will green up again and the hummingbirds and goldfinches will return. The quail, always present, will keep taking their little walks on the top of the wall, dropping down now and then to stroll through the garden and glean what they may.

Another day without the internet. I am realizing that I use that as my rest periods throughout the day. Without it, I cannot stand to sit still, as my mind goes 100 mph all the time. This morning, I went out and raked up leaves and debris away from the fences, picked up around the back yard some and filled the backpack sprayer with some Round Up. I sprayed all the upcoming weeds where the flower beds will be, as well as the edge of the lawn by the fence, where it can’t be mowed. I cleared off the rock siding of the raspberry bed and sprayed the cracks in the faux rock walkway. I put a pre-emergent in the raspberry bed, and around all the fruit trees, then mulched them so they will do better and I won’t have to fight weeds around their bases this year.
Randyman hooked up the springtooth harrow to my 4 wheeler so I used it to drag  Emma’s corral, the big corral and the small pasture, then I broadcast spring wheat in Emma’s corral for the chickens and pasture mix in the big ones for the larger stock. Then I drove the harrow around again to help cover the seed and got the sprinkler going. It was time to milk Em so I got that done, fed Stinky his bottle, let out the sheep and gave the calves their grain and cleaned up all the equipment from milking. I was feeling a little weak so I made a quick sandwich with homemade wheat bread and fresh eggs. It tasted just outstanding. Hunger really is the best seasoning.
Without the internet to play with so I could have a ‘recess’, I sat down for a few minutes and hand basted the hem in Abby’s new dress I made with the old treadle sewing machine. Nothing else was going on, so that got dull after a bit and I went out to visit the dogs and sheep in the pasture.
I trudged down there with Cider and we all met up just short of the ‘octopus tree’. My feet hurt pretty bad, so I laid down. The pasture is still that tawny gold color, but there is a hint of green all around with the newly emerging grass that is just now coming up. As I sat, I realized that it was utterly quiet. There was such an absence of noise it was as if we were in a living snapshot. Then, ever so slowly, sound began to emerge. First there was Cider’s gnawing on a bone, his total concentration on it, next was the twitter of a bird in the orchard behind us. Those were the only two sounds for several minutes and in the near silence I scanned the area with my eyes. I could see the form of EmmaLou far down towards the bottom of the pasture, nosing around for grass, closer by, the sheep laid all around, cudding contentedly while the lambs leapt in the air twisting and kicking their little heels up.  Bruno and Cletus sat rigidly, focused on something to the south that only they could see. As it came closer, I was able to see as well. A pair of Canadian geese approached and settled just yards away in the marshy spot where the spring is. Cletus stared at them, while Bruno quietly walked the other way towards the fence and circled around behind them, very slowly and carefully, trying to determine if they were a threat or not. The geese watched him approach and finally took back to the air, their great wings making a whooshing sound as they lifted those beautifully marked and graceful bodies to the sky. I considered, again, how wonderful it is to hear only these things. No sirens, no phones, faxes, boom boxes or tv...just the breathing of life around me. Cletus came over and dropped his big head on my chest for a hug. I buried my fingers in his deep thick coat and smelled him. He smells like comfort and the outside. I laid back and dropped my arm across my eyes to shield them from the sun. Cider dropped his bone on my stomach and I threw it for him. Time and again, he brought the bone, and I tossed it for him, never looking. The last time I reached down and found he had substituted an old cow pie for the bone. I dropped it and sat up. He looked at me expectantly. Always the jokester, he is.

I went back to the house to skim the milk. There were 5 gallons in the fridge that I needed to take the cream off of. I put some aside to make sour cream, used a gallon of milk to clabber and put 3 gallons in a pot to make mozzarella. There was already a gallon and a half of heavy cream in the refrigerator, so I put a little buttermilk in that and set it out to culture before making butter with it.
All the animals had come up to the corral. I fed the dogs in two bowls inside the sheep pen. The sheep ran over to try and steal from them, and Bruno snarled, warning them off. He is well within his rights to do so, and even though he sounds very scary, and will jump at the sheep, he won’t hurt them or bite them. It’s all a bluff, but very effective. Cletus, on the other hand, is the soft hearted one. The sheep came back to try a second time and Cletus jumped between them and Bruno to prevent the confrontation. I laughed, looking at big old Cletus, the peacemaker. He’s such a sweetheart. All done until tomorrow.


  1. Oh my goodness, I feel weak just reading what you had done by noon! That would requie a WHOLE weekend for me. ;) Oh how I wish I could join you and the dogs, laying in the sun in such quite and serene surroundings. *sigh* Your yard was lovely last summer and sounds like it will be even prettier this year. hugs..

    1. Thanks Carol Dee..I can't wait to see flowers and butterflies again!

  2. Thanks for this "spring" post. Cannot wait to see all of your vegetation when fully bloomed! Our garden is already digged up, just waiting for the right time to plant. Our terrain is also cold and planting usually take place on late April-early May.

    It is so similar how we all (farmers) looking to get to that computer to rest our body :) :)

    One of those days I might be asking you for more details on making cheeses, butter, etc.... That is if my goats EVER gone kid!

    1. What a clever use of an old computer cabinet. I'm impressed with your ingenuity.
      The photos of last summer's garden are lovely. I really like the concrete walk. All your plans sound ambitious but knowing your ability to push yourself onward, I'm sure that we will see a beautiful garden by summer.
      I understand "...every year now, I get a bit slower and less constructive." It's harder each year to do all the things that need to be done.
      I also understand resting with dogs. They are wonderful keepers of people, as well as other animals. I find tremendous companionship with mine.
      Take care of yourself.

    2. So true. Dogs are good for the soul

  3. Beautiful pictures. Slower and less constructive seem to be the norm here. Unfortunately!! I have lots of things I want to do, and not near enough energy to do them. I cracked up with the old cow pie that Cider dropped on you. Hopefully it was very old and dry! Sounds like you had a wonderful time with your animals.

    1. Lucky for me he can only pick up the old and dry ones! LOL

  4. Lol, how lovely of Cider to make sure you pay more attention when playing fetch :-) The garden pictures are so good for the soul at this time of year, aren't they.

    This weekend I was enjoying sitting outside before dawn, listening to the returning little birds as they called from the safety of the trees...that is music I can listen to for hours. I too am looking forward to the starting of the garden, with sunflower seedlings already sprouting in containers on my table. I look forward to seeing pictures of your summer gardens!

  5. I'm keeping my fingers and eyes crossed for an early spring!