Friday, June 11, 2010

Tomato Stakes and Garlic Scapes

Mulberries are ripe in Birdland, dropping their abundant fruit like black, juicy rain. The daisies are fading, but the Day Lilies have come, a whole bouquet on each stalk, opening, then closing, one flower every day. A bunch in a simple vase or jar coupled with Cattails make a lovely arrangement. The Curly Dock has gone to seed and has turned red, a tiny, whisper of autumn in my garden. Curly Dock is another “weed” that I like to leave a little of. In another week the seeds will be a rich, deep brown, perfect to set off the golden orange of the Day Lilies. They also work very well with various grasses to make a dry bouquet. I like to reward myself after a chore by picking a bunch of flowers. My friend, Barb, calls this my “non-calorie dessert.”

In Summertime my projects seem to multiply with the hours of daylight. Sometimes I have too many big ideas and I think I should just focus on a few small ones. It’s so easy to get sidetracked when the day stretches out until evening. I’ve been squandering the morning coolness by working indoors, then live to regret it when I have to go out in the afternoon sun to just pretend that I’m still trying to keep ahead of the garden. Indoors I have been making screens and organizing the art closet. The screens are my answer to living without air conditioning. We have double hung windows, which use natural air currents to cool the house. One day last summer, after reading about it, I tried opening the top and bottom of each window, upstairs and downstairs. It was a hot day, but the house felt very cool. The only problem was the house also filled with flies since we never got around to buying screens when we put the windows in. I found I could buy screen kits and make them for about half of what ready-made screens cost to fit my windows. I have installed them on the shady side of the house, and although the humidity comes in, the flies stay out. The air circulates and it’s noticeably cooler in the house. In times of low humidity, I like it much better than the window air conditioners we used to run. (No central air in this big, old farmhouse.) My power bill is lower this summer, and the reading on my guilt-o-meter has gone down. The Gulf disaster has showed me that it’s easy to blame BP. Clearly their practices are unethical, reckless, and treacherous, and their response to the “event” would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. But they were feeding our appetite for cheap energy, and we bear some of the blame. In addition to unplugging the air conditioners, I’m even more committed to hanging my laundry outside all summer and to my low-mow philosophy. Which brings me back outside.

I hadn’t given the garden coop much attention since I planted the tomatoes and peppers a few weeks ago. The Creeping Charley had crept in, carpeting the bed, in a lovely green, but I was afraid it would bury my poor tomatoes. I pulled all that out and discovered some cucumber seedlings I had forgotten planting, and a few volunteer beans from last year. Once again I talked myself out of ordering the nifty, but expensive stainless steel spiral tomato stakes and staked my tomatoes with a tripod of bamboo poles. I tied them up and pruned the lower branches. I want to train them up the poles to allow light in the floor of the garden. I was happy to find several tomatoes set on, like green golf balls. I mulched the whole bed with old hay. The garlic I planted in the fall and thinned earlier was putting out curly scapes. This morning I found a recipe at Terra’s Food and Farm Notes: I’d never heard of eating them before, but they sound delicious.

In June, especially with all the rain we’ve had, the grass grows tall and fast. I’ve modified my once-a month mowing scheme somewhat. Originally I’d planned to mow the whole yard each month just to keep the ragweed, hemlock, and trees from taking over. But the west pasture looked pretty choppy after being mowed, and I decided to just identify clumps of flowers, mulch around them, and then mow paths to create a winding walkway on the way to the pear tree. If I see noxious weeds in the tall grass, it’s easier to cut them individually than to mow the whole patch. Right now my goal is to create a few pockets of civility in the yard. My mulch pile slowly shrinks, and the weed pile slowly grows. Time will tell how many pockets I can keep up with.

Walk in Beauty; Work in Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in the intersection between community and nature.

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