Tag Archives: garden

The maddening wait

19 May

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t go into hibernation mode all winter here in Vermont. True, we do sleep a lot more, and we don’t go out as much. But we’ve still got to eat.

By the time early spring rolls around, potatoes and onions and sweet potatoes have pretty much lost their excitement (but not parsnips. Those are still delicious).

This is the culinary malaise of early spring, when the weather has shown us some warm, sunny days but the first plants haven’t yet begun yielding delicate spring edibles.

Hey, cow!

It’s a maddening time — as California moves into its second growing season of the year, over here we spend a large portion of the springtime just waiting for the ground to dry and the last chance of frost to pass. And although there’s enough sun to give me a sunburn from a half-hour long run (I simply must break out that SPF 70), there are still very few fresh vegetables.

So instead, we’re holding our breath in anticipation of abundant greens and freshly harvested asparagus, of fresh tomatoes and strawberries and blueberries.

But finally, finally, the Middlebury Farmers’ Market is outside again. Yesterday, I managed to snag some new red kale, some radishes, and a small tub of Blue Ledge Farm maple chèvre. Which, by the way, is exceptional and highly dangerous, in that there’s a good chance you’ll finish the entire tub in one sitting.

Yum.

Or maybe that’s just me.

So for those who actually do have greenhouses, spring vegetables are actually happening.

For the rest of us, well, there’s a whole lot of waiting.

Unfortunately, after our glorious week of sun and warmth, the clouds came back and the rain started up, so of course the only solution was to bake bread and brew beer through the rain. But oh, hey! All of a sudden the trees were budding.

At least something's growing...

Trees, great. But with the unusual amounts of rain, area farmers are falling behind schedule. And looking ahead, it’s not looking like it’s going to improve much:

Bleak.

Oh, well. What do weather forecasts in Vermont really mean, anyway? We saw some sun today, so…score one for unpredictable weather, I guess.

Still waiting for the day when we can plant these puppies outside.

Baby basil!

Rain, rain, gone away (knock on wood)

11 May

I don’t know where you are, but up here in Vermont spring’s been pretty darned slow in coming.

This means that the floodwaters are up on Lake Champlain — three feet past flood stage, breaking the previous record (set in 1869) by a foot. Roads are closed, homes are flooded, and Federal Emergency Management folks are hanging around the hard-hit areas of the state, evaluating the damage.

And though Middlebury hasn’t been in any immediate danger of flooding, the rain has also meant that our chosen backyard plot has been mucky and not much good for tilling, and we’ve all forgotten a little bit about the whole gardening thing.

A note to the spring season: you exist in order to to bring people out of their winter hibernation. Torrential downpours just don’t cut it.

This weekend we got some nice weather (see, for example, this photograph taken at Abbey Pond. Ominous clouds, but no rain.)

Abbey Pond

Of course, the ground was still to wet to do anything.

Today after work, though, we got a quorum of those willing and able to head out to the garden and take a whack at making those raised beds look less like wooden frames atop the grass.

Tilling began at five, though I was (as usual) late leaving work and didn’t get there till nearly six.

But the great thing about the spring? The sun was slanting across the garden on its downward trajectory, but it was still most definitely out. The air was warm enough for t-shirts, and thanks to our expedition to Agway a few weeks ago (the one that ended with granola pancakes. Yeah, that was it.) we had the shovels and hoes to put everyone to work.

Tillage

After hacking away at the damp clay earth for the better part of three hours, we ended up with two bare, grassless indentations within our wood frames. Tufts of grass poked in all around, and the ground looked naked and forlorn. Around the beds were piles of torn up grass and sod pieces.

But hey, you’ve got to make a mess to grow a garden.

The sky was darkening by the time we deemed the beds ready for the next step: a layer of gravel, then a truckload of soil and compost to fill the empty space. Those will happen over the next few weeks, before Memorial Day.

On the phone with Senator Leahy today (yeah, we’re tight), he told me the cherry blossoms have come and gone in D.C. already. Weeks ago, he said.

For us, the trees are just beginning to show the faintest little buds. Saturday was the first farmers’ market in Middlebury, but we’ve still got a little while to go before the tables start to fill up with more than early greens.

It’s springtime in Vermont, all right, but Memorial Day weekend will mark the real beginning. That weekend (or shortly thereafter) we’ll put our seedlings into the ground, if we’re lucky, watch them start to grow. After that, all our efforts will come together — the plants we’ve been coaxing to life in our separate apartments and the seed packets we’ve been collecting.

If we’re lucky, they’ll become vegetables that will feed us through the summer and into the fall and winter. Even if we’re not, we’ll still have learned plenty about gardening.

I sort of suspect that this fortune, a result of the Chinese dinner that followed our tilling party, has something to do with what we will gain through these endeavors.

So cryptic

But honestly, I can’t make heads or tails of what it means, so I’m just going to go back to nursing the blisters on my hands and call it a night.