Thursday, October 23, 2008

Preparing the Gardens for Winter

But first:

A family photo of my brother, who, even at a young age, clearly recognized that chicken wire is insufficient for the containment of Velociraptors.

ALRIGHT, so last week I teamed up with a friend for a full day of Fall gardening. We started at 8 in the morning, downed some coffee and hit the road, going first to Home Depot where I wandered for ten minutes looking for a good pair of gloves. Note: Home Depot carries crap gloves. I gave up, and we headed to Sayers Fuel on Rainier to pick up a load of compost.

I chickened out on loading my little truck up with a full yard. Maybe I'm being too protective. It likes to think it's a big truck, and resents when I treat it like a child. But I couldn't do it. My baby! So I paid for ¾ yards (not ¾ price, but so it goes for the non-commital), deposited half of it at my friend's garden, realized I needed way more for my own garden, and ended up back at Sayers for another full yard. This meant that not only did I have to make two trips, but that in the end I drove away with over 1 ¼ yards in my little camioneta, which is even more than I'd originally feared.

Truck thought it was tough. (Yes, my truck is named "Truck," after my last truck) It cruised around like a low-rider. We made a stop at the taco truck just to let the poor little guy rest for a minute, even though it played it all cool, like, "Come one guys, what are we waiting for?" We pretended we just wanted to eat tacos so it didn't have to feel wimpy about resting.

Does everyone know the Tacos El Asadero taco truck on Rainier? If you don't, I suggest you get acquainted.

Friends are good for big gardening days. We worked in her smaller garden first, then went to town on my 200 square foot plot. We ripped everything out except the huckleberry--which I transplanted next to the raspberries in an effort to keep the perennials together--and a couple patches of greens that I will harvest throughout the winter. One patch was sown this Fall, and the other was sown last Spring. Does anybody know the reason all the experts recommend sowing a fresh crop in the Fall for the winter greens? My friend guessed that the old greens may go bitter.

After bringing in most of a yard of compost, I tilled it in shallowly to raise the overall level of our soil (not something we'll do every year), then scattered a bunch of lime and fava beans atop it and chopped them in with a rake. By the time I was done it was dark.

A couple days later, it was déjà vu on a smaller scale at my work garden.



Then, just a couple days ago, I returned to our P-Patch and found all the little fava beans sitting on top of the dirt, like they had floated to the surface, like they thought that's where they belonged. They were not allowed on the surface. So I took a hoe and stepped gingerly across my freshly-turned beds, hacking each individual bean under. Tough love, baby.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I USED to have skills...

See that: TWO chickens at once! When I was five and my own hair stylist (note the nick in the front) I was a bad-ass.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


There are little dinosaurs in my backyard. They weave when they run, necks stretched forward. They peer around corners with their heads turned slightly, watching you out of one eye. When a piece of food is presented, they pounce all at once and tear the morsel apart.

Chickens are kind of scary. They're also kind of cute. I let them out of their coop today for the first time, and they proceeded to spend a good couple hours wandering around the yard pecking at things. They like grass. They like hollyhock leaves. They like fingers when they're offered. They especially like blackberries, but they can't reach them, a fact that (as you will see later) can be used against them. They move in a cluster, drifting apart only until one of them startles, or dashes for something, then they all follow suit, converging together in the same direction. They're never sure if they're running for their lives or trying to get a piece of something edible, but they approach both with equal seriousness.

It was a lot of fun letting them out. It was less fun getting them back in. There's a step down when you open the front door of the coop, and none of them had any problem hopping out, but somehow as I tried to usher them back up the step, they just didn't get it. My housemate and I ended up having to catch each one. The last two were particularly difficult, having taken refuge in a corner of the yard where they could slip into the neighbor's yard if they wanted to. We had to lure them out with blackberries (suckers!), cut off their route of escape, and then corner them. I am scratched and wing-battered. I held each one after I caught her, legs and wings contained, and cooed to her and stroked her before putting her back in the coop.

Supposedly there is a secret ninja technique for catching chickens. It involves coming down at them directly from above. It is based on dragon-fighting techniques from times of yore, when dinosaurs and ninjas roamed the earth together. Hi-YA! I tried it and it did not work. Maybe it takes time to become a ninja. Maybe you need to learn secret techniques, and practice a lot. Maybe it doesn't just happen overnight like it did for Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. I need a teacher in the ways. I must learn the Technique of the Luminous Five Blade Eagle Claw Descending! I need to find the master. Can someone point me to the right cave?

("You needn't look far, young grasshopper...")

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October Morning

Seattle gets these October days sometimes: cold and bright. It's so un-northwest. Then again, who am I to be defining northwest, having lived here all of two years? I just have my preconceptions and my limited data.

The leaves take forever to turn in Seattle (this much I know), making the Fall show a long-running affair. Fall color doesn't happen in vast swaths like it does in the mountains of Southern Utah, where I used to live--whole sides of the mountains lighting up, or tracts of copper and blood red running among endless stands of evergreens. Here, everything turns at different times. One tree goes yellow to red (like a flame burning slowly down from the tips of its branches) beside another still lush and green.

Leaves begin to litter the streets, like scattered gold coins. When the wind comes, it heaps them into drifts against the curbs. Summer's riches spilled, given freely in the end, gorgeous before they pass away, ephemeral as all things. The light on mornings like this one comes slanting in and makes each exhalation a plume of smoke, passing rapidly up and away. I am a dragon. People wear vests, leave their cars running while they run in for coffee. I sit outside because it's dry, but my fingers get cold.

I am experimenting with moving chard. As I've thinned our winter beds, I've taken the thinnings and moved them into other beds. If it works, great! If not, bummer, it's my last resort. I asked my dad (yes: garden expert) if he thought it was a good idea to trim the little plants back like you do when you dig up and move perennials, and he told me that even the old wisdom about perennials has been questioned recently in this new book, which he highly recommends: The Informed Gardener by Linda Chalker-Scott.

The little plants are intact, and I hope the cold doesn't cause them to lose all hope in the midst of their difficult transition.

Monday, October 6, 2008


More coming soon....

Growing...As a Person

That's the excuse I'm going to use to explain why I haven't blogged for a while. Or gardened, for that matter. That I've been growing, a person.

Grad school applications are in competition with a Statistics class and a Psychology class, all of which are competing with a full-time job. Yeargh!!! There is compost to bring in, cover crops to plant, tomatoes to harvest, chard to get in the ground (albeit a little late), but all this must wait.

My life is overgrown. Not just the borders but the very beds. I planted everything when it was small and now it is out of hand and everything's crowding everything else out, and some things should really go but they can't. I need more space! (I am being metaphorical, get it? Like: I took on all these responsibilities when they were just ideas, but now they're actual things I need to do, etc....)

Precision timing and inter-cropping, those will be my strategies. Right now I am growing a blog entry between two rows of collegus prerequisitii.

And of course, there is the social life, which MUST BE MAINTAINED or I will get weird. The social life keeps the overall garden healthy; doesn't necessarily appear useful but attracts all sorts of beneficial insects. That's what I've always told dad.

Finding a metaphor is like shopping for an article of used clothing--you just find something that fits and then figure out how to make it work. Sometimes you have to stretch it a little. :)