Better with Snow

Walking out in the field recently has meant crushing the ice-covered grass stalks. I kept feeling like I was killing it, the fragile stems breaking under my boots. But now we have snow! It feels like we have had a hundred days of gray skies and damp air and chilliness. Dreary. Usually I take whatever weather comes. Complaining about the weather is a bit annoying, I have to admit. Why grumble about something that can’t be changed? I have been a bit more sympathetic lately, however. All that gloominess.

However, this past week has brought snow. It snowed heavily for a while–that beautiful white stuff falling to cover the brown and gray. It makes everything lighter. Even at night the world is brighter. Our boots don’t smash the grass but plow through the snow instead. It feels gentler, softer, quieter. The world around us is covered in beauty. The bareness of winter has its own beauty, for sure, but this is magical.

I have been thinking lately of what to plant in our garden. Now it is covered in snow so it will be a while before I can turn the dirt and sink in some seeds. But January is the time to dream of spring. Rosemary and thyme still grow in that cold soil. Last night I had to dig through snow to cut some thyme springs. Hard to believe it is still green. It made a difference to dinner. I managed to plant garlic in the fall and that sleeps, waiting for warmth. And there are all those empty beds to imagine full of plants–tomatoes and carrots and pumpkins and potatoes. What new varieties can I try? It is about time to order some seeds.

The trees are covered in snow. It falls now with more on the way tonight. It does not have to be much. A dusting is enough. Maybe fairy dust is really just snow. The Snow Buntings came back last week. They have been flying around the fields, although they have yet to discover the seed I keep leaving on the ground for them outside our windows. They are like fairies they way they float and appear from nowhere. Snow I tell you–magical stuff.

Camping Out Next to the Herbs

Freshly Planted Herbs Next to Established Herbs

Freshly Planted Herbs Next to Established Herbs

Memorial Day Weekend Lawn Campout

Memorial Day Weekend Lawn Campout

I planted a bunch of fresh herbs yesterday and the day before.  So far they are doing well.  I hope they grow like nuts, both to provide some tasty additions to dishes to be prepared and to offer some beauty in the garden bed next to the house.

Last night we slept in our big tent, on the grass next to that same herb garden.  My daughter slept well, turning in the night so she was sideways to the rest of us.  The rest of us slept less well than we might.  Despite that, we are planning to do that again.

We may not sleep well (then again, after one night of less than ideal sleep, we all might sleep like a charm) but at least we will be smelling the lilacs and the herbs.  We will, hopefully, drift off with fine fragrances and the sound of woodcocks and snipes in the field.  We had that last night, so two nights in a row?  Sounds right to me.

Herbs and Black Flies

I had a few minutes on my way home today to stop by the local nursery, Red Wagon Plants.  If you like plants it is hard not to like a nursery.  This place is a good one–lots to choose from, right around the corner, everything is healthy and bursting with greenness.  And the folks there are friendly.  I had been thinking about buying some herbs, plants this time.  Starting from seed takes longer and I have to admit I have been ready to get cracking.  So I picked out a few small plants.

The woman who swiped my debit card in exchange for these plants asked me with a laugh, “Are you a good cook or do you just shop like one?”  It was a most excellent question.  My answer:  “I suppose that depends on who is doing the dining.”  Eighteen bucks allowed me to truck home rosemary, thyme, chives, and two sage plants.

I planted the rosemary right away.  We had a plant that made it through our first winter and then kicked it after winter number two.  It put it in that same spot.  It worked last time, right?  Then I worked on the chives we already have.  I use lots of them when we have them but I am always afraid of cutting too much.  I split that clump and replanted the chunk I dug up.  Then I planted the new one near it.  The thyme, planted next door to the chives, will complement those visually when everything grows bigger.

I saved the sage for later.  I had to make dinner.  This was a good dinner, by the way–black beans with red peppers and onions, some of those chives, extra-sharp cheddar cheese (is there any point to using any other kind?) wrapped in tortillas and baked golden brown.  It was not as fresh as it might have been but it was a winner.  The sage scented the air in its four-inch pots while we ate on the deck.

Later in the day, after the sun ducked behind the knoll and shadows covered the garden, I took up the hose with my daughter and we watered.  The black flies were out.  I had conveniently forgotten how hard it is to stand with the hose and water the garden when the small biting insects are hungry for the blood flowing through my bare legs. The kid didn’t stick around too long.  The price one pays for fresh food…

I watered the new herbs as well.  The sage still waits for tomorrow.  In a couple of days I will add to what I have planted so far.  The garden needs to be filled with seeds–too much empty dirt at the moment.  The onion and leek seedlings are waiting to stretch out in the sun.  And the melons will need lots of time to produce fruit.  Memorial Day weekend is the traditional time to plant hereabouts.  I’ll be taking advantage of that extra day.

Pumpkins Up, Frost on the Way

The kids planted pumpkins in their corner of the garden.  A couple of days ago they busted through the soil.  We were close to a frost last night.  My daughter covered the tender sprouts with plastic potting buckets.  She uncovered them this morning on the way to the bus.  While temperatures stayed above 32 degrees last night, tonight it looks like frost for real.  We have a freeze warning in effect since our average last frost date has passed.

I figure we are safe from frost around Memorial Day.  Apparently our average date for that is sooner.  Planting things like pumpkins this early is a risk.  It means remembering to cover young plants.  The only other plants coming up at the moment are peas and carrots.  I’m not worried about them.  The rest of the vegetables are still inside, or I planted them two days ago.  They are safe.

My daughter covered the pumpkins again tonight.  She and her brother will get some early squash out of those plants.  Later this week the weather should turn.  We might have temperatures in the 80’s.  That ought to get the cucumbers considering leaving the womb.  Hopefully they won’t have to worry about frost.

I planted a few things this past weekend–cucumbers, pumpkins, butternut squash, lettuce, summer squash–and I wanted to plant more.  The freeze warning for last night kept my ambitions in check.  Next weekend I will get on it.  That will be Memorial Day weekend.  I want to plant corn and basil but the soil just isn’t warm enough.  That will have to wait until June.

We also cleared a spot for an herb garden.  We cut down an evergreen shrub (I never learned what kind it was) that was just about dead from a fungus.  I want to plant rosemary and sage and thyme and chives.  And perhaps some other stuff.  I can’t wait to get things in the ground.  But I can’t do it all at once anyway.  Not enough time and all that.

So the pumpkins are safe, as are the herbs plants I never purchased.  I will go on a planting spree later this week.  Later this summer I want to be able to paraphrase the LoraxAnd then Oh Baby Oh how my garden did grow.  Of course, I will say it anyway, but it sure would be nice to be able to mean.