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Big Banana Tree

I frowned when I looked at the pole beans. They weren’t a lush, happy green. Some of the leaves were turning yellow. A few had turned brown and fallen to the ground. This had happened last year, too. Were pesky insects or a virus damaging my bean crop?

Shaking my head, I leaned into the shovel as I dug a hole between the garden rows. When it was deep enough I picked up a bowl filled with potato peals, apple cores, crushed egg shells and banana peels, that I had brought out from the house. Dumping the compost materials into the hole, I covered it with dirt.

Leaning on the shovel, I thought about how I tested the soil several years ago, shortly after my husband Arnie had died. My son-in-law, Mike, had taken over Arnie’s Farm Care business. When he read the results to me, he advised, “You need to add organic matter to the soil.”

Because of his advice, every summer I bury kitchen scraps and in the fall and gather dried maple leaves for the soil.  Glancing around at my walkway vegetable graveyard, I announced to my garden, “The soil needs to be tested again. I have a feeling that something more than organic matter is needed.” Continue reading

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Vegetable Shaming

Waves of moist heat enveloped me the minute I opened the back door of my house and stepped out onto the deck. Purring loudly, my two cats Louie and Jonah wove back and forth, rubbing themselves against my legs. Despite their heavy coats of fur, they appeared to love the sticky July weather.

A pair of barn swallows spotted the felines and began a series of low, kamikaze swoops over the carnivores. They had instinctively recognized the cats as evil, baby-eating predators. Despite the risk to themselves they repeated the attack over and over. The swift birds with gorgeous tail feathers that made me think of an arrow’s fletching, chattered and scolded as they dove. All Louie and Jonah would have had to do was raise a paw to catch one. Instead, they stretched out full length on the sun-heated deck planks. I said, “You two are sadists! You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Louie lifted his head and gave me a happy, slow blink. Continue reading

Germinated Gardener

I leaned against my bedroom window, soaking in the beauty of a brilliant winter sunrise and wondered when the Mid West had last enjoyed a full day of sunshine. Yesterday was overcast and gray, so was the day before that and the day before that. Seasonal Affective Disorder doesn’t bother me, but after weeks and weeks of minimal sunshine, seeing the jolly face of our giant earth-star rising up in the east certainly made me feel very happy. I contentedly sighed, “The days are getting longer again.”

Despite enjoying sunshine peeking into my house that morning, I knew it was very cold outside. The furnace was running almost constantly. Pulling the living room drapes open, I checked the thermometer outside the north window. It read, ‘Ten degrees below zero’. Nodding, I remembered that the weatherman had said that it would ‘warm up’ to five degrees by noon.

As the morning passed, I went again and again to the windows to admire the sunshine. I wanted to go outside, but even at five degrees above zero, it was too cold to really enjoy being in the backyard. The only hospitable place would be inside my unheated greenhouse. When the sun shines though the plastic, it gets warm. Eyeing the drifts between the house and my greenhouse, I calculated whether the struggle to get there was worth it. It was. Continue reading