Only Thing To Guide Them

Next week, Poor Impulse Control will turn a dazzling 14 years old. It’s leggy and growing like a weed, but not getting braces or babysitting for pin money. I draw the line at it dating until it’s older, but who am I to get in the way of young love?

Seriously, I see you.

I see you!

I’ve been working on the garden every few days, and it’s hard to see progress that way. The raised bed I’ve been adding sticks to now has a layer of composted manure over it, high, low and in between. Though that makes it sound deep, it’s not. I had three bags of composted manure and I tried to evenly distribute the crumbly manure over the surface I plan to plant. Picture a middle-aged Jersey chick in an orange neoprene jacket, perfect lipstick and violet gardening gloves throwing fistfuls of aged poop at a stick wall. Yeah, I did that in full view of all my neighbors, aware that some of them may have telephoto lenses.

branches

I got sticks. That’s all there is.

A few days ago, I noticed a neighbor had cut down some broken branches and zip-tied them. After work on Saturday, I grabbed my little red wagon, walked around the corner and rang the bell. An Asian man answered the door. They’re neighbors, I know the family doesn’t speak a lot of English. Suddenly flustered, I asked if those branches were extra.

Extra? Really, Tata?

Staring at me and smiling as one does at crazy people, he said yes, the branches were extra. I told him his garden was always beautiful, then I stuffed two bundles of branches into the wagon and carried the third the five miles or 150 yards back to my yard, where I started stuffing smaller branches into gaps in the berm. Eventually, my back convinced me to cut that shit out, but I still have work to do to plug gaps.

You have no idea what I’m talking about.

That’s okay.

What I’m saying is that for the last three weeks, I’ve been taking such small steps toward re-working the garden bed that on any given day I had almost nothing to say about it besides, “Where do I buy a buttload of organic potting soil?” But little by little, I’m getting ready to plant.

Today also marked the first day this year it was warm enough for me to bicycle to work. Spring is here.

How’s your lipstick?

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Hours in an Offhand Way

My raised garden bed has not been a source of unmitigated good news. Because it is four feet wide and I am a very small large mammal, reaching into the middle of a bed I can’t step on is a dicey proposition. More than a few backaches dampened my enthusiasm as recently as last weekend, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Two weeks ago, Central New Jersey had a crushing snowstorm that took down trees everywhere. I had an idea. It was a very old idea I’d come to on my own. It’s called hugelkultur, and the principle is to use what is on hand to solve problems.

Sunday, I dragged my little red wagon to the corner and turned left. Between two birch trees, I found a metric buttload of small branches. My neighbors watched from behind curtains as I filled and overfilled the wagon with branches and sticks. Don’t worry. When I see them do sketchy shit, I don’t make eye contact either.

Debris is your friend.

The raised bed, viewed with my back to the house, in the first stage of reshaping the surface.

Pete and I drove out to the feed store, where baby chicks distracted me from my worries and I spent a zany amount of dosh on seeds. Note to self: YOU ARE DONE WITH THAT. Anyhoo: we were driving around and broken branches everywhere frustrated me because I can’t operate a chainsaw and Pete says I’d be a total menace with a Sawzall. Which is true, and mostly to myself. Maybe. But Pete also said that right in front of our house, down a cross street, a fallen tree I’d reported to police might solve problems, but first, we both needed sandwiches and a time out because we were both grrr grrr bad kids.

This may be a thing where you live or not, but maybe where you live, jerks call the cops on Black teens who take pictures on their way home from high school. That’s happening in my tiny town. There’s no excuse for it. In fact, cops should call themselves on kids not taking pictures of every little thing and give themselves a stern talking-to about being the goddamn adults. Since I am what passes for an adult, I ate a sandwich and walked my red wagon down to the fallen tree with my pruning shears. I filled and overfilled the little red wagon with branches and sticks. Twice, I walked down my street three or four houses and filled the wagon again. All of this debris was collected within 100 feet of my house. The last time I went out, I saw a man in a car spy me from a distance and slow down, because no one expects to find a grandmother with a red wagon and pruning shears on his front lawn. He drew closer, then darted down the driveway I was not blocking, and stole into his own house. After that, I waited for the police, who did not, somehow, come.

The first step of hugelkultur is to create a spine of logs, branches and sticks. This is the first step of the first step. As soon as the snowpocalypse we expect tonight and tomorrow thaw and fade from memory, I will collect more branches and sticks to build this spine higher and wider. This is going to give me a backache. I should stock up on Aleve.

Seriously, I don't have the teeth for this.

The same garden bed viewed from the opposite corner. Not pictured: beavers. Not at all.

After I collect more branches and sticks, the next step is to cover it liberally with rich organic soil. It’s going to compact as the branches decay and enrich the soil. If I play my cards right, I will gain two square feet of planting space the length of my raised bed. The trick is to at this point make the spine high enough to prevent future backaches.

Note to self: buy a lot of Aleve.

 

The Killer Awoke Before Dawn

What are you looking at?

After a cold spring and a wet summer, we worried this might be the Year Without Tomatoes. Fortunately, the farmers are finally bringing them in. These roasted heirloom tomatoes will taste like sunny summer in darkest winter.

Seriously, grow some food yourself, buddy.

Sunday’s backyard harvest: potatoes, a cucumber, a hot pepper, green beans. I’d planted early, the squirrels ate everything, then I planted again, so in August, I’m gathering in July goodies.