Spring Forward

House with new roof

The first day of spring arrived, and with it almost 50-degree temperatures here in Massachusetts.  After two years of almost nonexistent (read: frigid) springtime weather, this year feels like we might get something resembling the real deal.  It’s hard to tell, but it might be time time to start packing the winter gear away.

Still, it’s March in New England, so I’m not doing anything about that feeling quite yet.  The adage of ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes’ is truly applicable here at Sithean.  Despite the unpredictability of the season here though, it’s definitely time to start making ready for the warmer weather.

The chicks are now almost 2 weeks old, and their fluff is starting to slough off and reveal feathers.  We lost two babies, including our beloved Peep, who just didn’t eat or drink enough to survive.  We buried her and her unnamed friend next to Aquarius the duck.  Losing animals is part and parcel of having them, but it never gets easier.  The other 26 are thriving though, and their mad cheeping fills the house.

I’ve been starting garden seeds.  So far, cool-weather crops and those that need a long time to germinate take priority – kale, broccoli raab, tomatoes, peppers and Brussels sprouts along with cucumber seeds are tucked into the dirt.  My goal is to plant at least one thing a day through May, and harvest one thing a day through October.

This year we’re going to add to our small orchard as well – we lost 2 baby apricot trees last year, so we’re trying again, and a dwarf Seckel Pear will be espaliered in the center of the new garden.  I was going to put a fig tree in there, but this land grew pears when it was first farmed, so it seems right to put one in a place of honor.  A fig can be added somewhere else next year.   I’m also looking for a spot for a few cranberry bushes in the hopes we can add ‘zero food miles’ to parts of Thanksgiving dinner.  I mull over raising a few turkeys every year, but it won’t be this year.  Biting off more than one can chew is endemic to gardening and raising food.  “Just one more thing!  How hard can it be?” is the gardener’s battle cry, there always – in my head – being space for just a few more flowers or vegetables or herbs or one more chicken, and of course, infinite time to tend and harvest.

Delusional, but in the best of ways.

“Where is this all going?”, you might well ask, and to that I say “Oh, valid question.”

If you assume that climate change is coming for all of us, which it is, you also have to assume that the limitless variety, packaging and options at the grocery stores will alter too.  In my lifetime probably, in my children’s for certain.  Making home for bees, butterflies and other pollinators, as well as building in egg, fruit and vegetable options for the future is our way of trying to create that ‘ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure’ here.  Sithean is meant to be a haven for all the generations that require it – and not just human generations.  I can’t control what the future brings, but I can certainly try to hedge our bets.

Climate change is not for one political party or another.  Denying science because we can’t imagine another way of life will not make it go away, nor make it not be true.  I can’t predict what the world will look like when my children are having children.  All I can do is hope that their world is full of apples, pears, asparagus and fresh eggs like my own is, and do everything in my power to make it so.  I can teach them how to plant seeds, pull weeds, tend chickens and cook from scratch.  I can teach them to want fewer things.  I’m still working through my feelings about travel – mine for work and ours for pleasure.  I’m a study in inconsistent application of my beliefs, and I know that.  I’m a work in progress, which doesn’t exculpate me from my own impacts on the environment, but it does give me room to figure out how to apply them.

Sithean has stood for 169 years on this land or the land nearby.  I hope what we build here outlasts us.  Spring, to originate or arise from – the perfect definition for renewal of this place, of the land and our approach to it.   This place, the garden, fruit trees and landscape around it is my version of church.  I thank the universe that my baby cherry tree survived winter and plows.  I rake knowing my life is a gift, this place is a gift, and I am it’s caretaker, as it is ours.

Spring leaves me feeling renewed, year after year, my hope and joy rising like the seedlings in the dirt.

I wish you the greenest of springs, this year and every one after.

 

Garden Dreams Part 4

I had hoped this would be my final installment of my series on building a garden, but of course it isn’t.  Melissa and I have been cranking on the fence, and making great progress, but the magnitude of this project, and our mutual schedules mean we need more time.   The funny thing is that it’s totally ok.  I want to be done, and the plants need to go in the ground, but right now we are both so busy that being stressed about what isn’t done isn’t going to do anything but steal joy away from what we have accomplished, which is a ton.  All of the 8′ fence sections are built, and we have 5 more and a gate to put on.

The garden ended up being 40’x18′, smaller than originally planned, but not by much.
Darn that fence is level

Because I have some work travel coming up, and some of the plants were no longer thriving in their temporary pots, today we stopped construction, and I went to work on building some of the brick beds and planted.   Melissa went off to do some weeding and I immersed myself in measuring, bringing wheelbarrows full of bricks over, and planting.  After a few hours, I had some help from Sithean’s newest resident, H, an Environmental Studies intern staying with us for the summer so she can be close to her summer internship.  She didn’t have to like gardening, or volunteer to help, but both happened.

I built 2 5×5 garden beds today.  On 3 sides are 20″ paths, which will eventually be covered in mulch.  On the fourth side, at the front of the garden, the path is closer to 3′ wide to accomodate Hollyhocks and other fence-climbing plants.  The measuring tape is my best friend these days, keeping my rows of bricks straight and with even distances.

Each bed will eventually be framed internally into smaller squares, but for this year, putting the larger beds in place is what can get done.  Once they were framed out on 3 sides, I added about 3″ of compost on top of the dirt.

5x5 bed

Then we planted.  Today, dill, basil, pickling cucumbers, ‘Livingston’s Best’ tomatoes and begonias went into the beds.

I don’t know that I would have chosen to plant as I build, but I’m still pretty satisfied with the result.

First Planted Beds

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Garden Dreams Part 3

The Peonies are in full bloom, and that means summer is coming, faster than I am ready for.  The air smells like floral perfume, it is green everywhere, and the garden…is still not done.

 

But this weekend was a marathon of effort, and it will be finished and planted in a week.  We started with an auger rental.  Last year, we dug post holes for the temporary garden with a manual post digger, and between rocks and time, barely were able to sink the posts deep enough to stay up.  This year we brought in the heavy machinery.

Auger.jpg

It still required 2 guys to help us in order to get all the post holes dug.  Thankfully my ex and Melissa’s husband were willing and more than able.

They also helped us measure, and remeasure to ensure we were going to be level and the posts would go in evenly.  We never would have gotten as far as we did without them, especially when we hit a buried stone wall, halfway through augering holes.

Yesterday, Melissa and I continued our assembly line prefab and build approach, and cranked out 5 sections in the ground before we had to stop for the day.


We chose a method of 8′ garden sections made out of 1″x5″ pre-primed pine boards, flanked by the big splurge of 8′ cedar posts.  Each section is pre-assembled and then attached, with chicken wire stapled on.  Melissa and I worked as a team to prefabricate, level each post and get it installed while the smallish people did other, equally important things:

Connor being cozy.jpg

In the end, we built a full side and part of the front and back of the garden.  We got faster as the day went on, it stayed level, which is an achievement in and of itself, and by the end of the day, we had gotten pretty darn good at fencing.  I can’t say it’s a skill we’ll have much use for going forward, but it’s a good skill to have.