I awoke at 6:30am this morning. I saw some sunlight peeping through the window blinds. Actual sun after several days of rain. Checking the sky, a front of clouds is slowly moving from the southwest. Rain on its way once again. I think I can manage to get to the farm 30 minutes away to check my garden bed in the greenhouse/screenhouse before the rain starts. I was hoping the county highway was open, no flood waters to prevent my route to Boone Hollow Farm. I stole the opportunity by myself as Dean was attending to his son’s dogs and house, and will be home sometime late morn. I left Dean a note on the table just in case he beat me back to the cottage.
I arrived to an overgrown gravel road. No mowing had been done for a couple of weeks. Too wet to mow. And the small creek was swollen and flowing over the rocks, so I parked right near the county highway, and walked into the farm. My sandaled feet relished the coolness of the fresh rain water in the creek. The walk up the gravel road and hill to the greenhouse was sopping wet, quite muddy. The arugula and leaf lettuces are wildly overgrown; bolting, flowering, and forming their seed pods. My herbs have finally taken off with the summer heat and humidity. The cherry tomato plants are doing well, a couple have had their tops nibbled off by the deer or coyotes. Plenty more started forming their little yellow blooms, the fruit to follow soon. This morning the wild and cultivated meet together at Deanna’s Cottage …
We were unable to get to our greenhouse last week due to weekend travels and heavy rain storms, including a tornado touchdown just 3 miles from Boone Hollow Farm where our greenhouse sets. Dean and I finally were able to get out there this mild late spring evening. Gorgeous green and peace surrounded us while we worked for an hour before sundown. Dean mowed the grass of our 1/4-acre plot. I cut flowers and picked the greens.
The seeds sowed late March have been very prolific. Greens, greens, and more greens. Arugula, soft leaf lettuce, and mizuna mustard greens. Dean and I cannot personally consume it all, so we are sharing the abundance with family, friends, and co-workers this growing season. The greens bolted with all the sunshine and warmer days, so I pinched those new buds off. A couple of weeks ago voluntary cherry tomato plants came close to being plucked and pitched into the weed pile outside of the greenhouse. I decided to have mercy on them and transplanted them into the huge tub of compost that sets on the edge of our 1/4-acre plot. Look, a whole nursery of them! All the rain and sunshine has done wonders. I will cage them anticipating a fruitful season for them as well.
April came and went. I realized I have not posted any pics or words about my gardens in over a month. I have been occupied with the employee wellness program at work, Easter, family birthday parties, mowing, and caring for the gardens and the yards between the rain showers and storms. We sowed lots of seeds the last week in March and first week in April. My first crop of arugula, Mizuna lettuce, and mustard greens were ready on Sunday, just 39 days after its sowing. What a lovely and refreshing salad it has made for Dean and I. Today I added boiled egg and roasted turkey for protein to a bed of my fresh greens tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette to make a chef salad for our lunches. Cannot wait.
My whole life is punctuated with green. Green color and green life is found in my meals prepared, the walls and art decorating my home, plants breathing life in my office, and voluntary as well as deliberate gardens of vegetables and herbs.
I recently read in a book about small houses and spaces, that one color needs to be threaded in every room in order for the space to feel bigger and flowing. I would say green is that color. My living room and kitchen walls are a subtle mint green. Blue and taupe tones on the bedroom and bathrooms walls are contrasted with green in the art pieces, textiles, dishes. As I read what the color green symbolizes, I understand why I am drawn to green. And yes, my whole person matches green. I think plants and me are inseparable.
Each week in April brought about warm days then yielding to colder, rainy days. This week, nothing but rain. Deanna Greens and Garden Art greenhouse/screenhouse protects a prolific bed of greens and herbs from severe weather and wildlife. We gather water from our rain barrel or the creek at Boone Hollow Farms before the water line is turned back on from the winter shut-off. Our garden greens continue to flourish this spring. The arugula actually bolted this week, causing me to pluck those flowering buds by lantern light between the rains this week. It is too early for these delicious organic greens to go to seed!
Lent season and Easter came and went too quickly. Beautiful flower planters and spring baskets of goodies reminded me of the fresh life Easter brings. Prayer at church during my lunch hour does the same. Dean and I were able to have some family over for our first dinner party in the new room addition, a family/dining area and extra bedroom added to our modest 3-bedroom home. The new fireplace mantle brought fresh color to the kitchen.
Dean and I’s two youngest grandchildren have April birthdays. Being a part of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives is important to us. 7-year old Eli had a sick sibling the weekend of his party, so the celebrating takes place early May. And baby Elise turned 1-year old this week! How can that be? Her family from the Netherlands came for the party, and brought her first pair of wooden Dutch shoes. I love Spring, and all the new life it births!
My not-too-old Rival crock pot has been put to use the past 3 weekends. I love this kitchen accessory. In the morning, I put in a roast or roaster with some herbs and beer or wine. This time of year dinner slow cooks all day while I work in the yard or garden beds. And the leftovers are awesome. I can usually get 3 or 4 meals for Dean and I from a 5 – 6 lb chicken roaster or turkey breast. Homemade chicken soup, chunky chicken salad, creamy chicken enchiladas. Beef and pork roasts are so tender slow cooked in the crock … Some meals are simple salads or wraps with goodies such as pecans, walnuts, cranberries, or roasted beets along with leftover slow-cooked meats.
I have my first tender leaves of arugula ready to be picked this week! This early crop was sown on February 20. So after about 50 days we will partake in this fresh peppery salad green for dinner, and probably an omelet for breakfast this Sunday morning. Spring is the time of year where my back, legs, arms, and hands ache from the amount of time in the garden and yard. Methodical movements are made the hours I work/play in the dirt. “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling. Mental toiling, perhaps … turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.” ~ Dominique Browning. The birds and fresh air call me to sit on the porch early morning, but pure exhaustion hits the pillow by 9 even on the weekends.
The “F” bomb will be coming to our neck of the woods soon enough. I am starting to think about improvisations to ensure a daily diet of greens. My palette has grown accustom to fresh organic arugula and lettuce since May. I think a fresh pot of microgreens seeded every 3 or 4 weeks throughout the colder months will do it. I have the ceramic tile floor in the kitchen to put my pot(s) with the patio door to provide light. My herbs feed me nutrients also. Smaller terracotta pots of herbs will be seated in the kitchen window. The 480 square-foot room addition extending the kitchen into a family room and a small guest bedroom will give a new place for my green friends. There is always a place for green life in my home. How about yours? Where do your green friends stay in your home?
Green swatches with flecks of purple and pink will completely cover this bed. Just need a few more sunny days and rain or well water. Our raised bed is a patchwork garden. One month ago seeds of the early spring greens, chives, and sugar snap and large pod peas went into the cold organic soil situated in this raised bed on the screenhouse side of our greenhouse. The lettuce and spinach are sparse. Either bad seeds, but most likely not enough watering and near freezing mornings a few days in April. We will reseed this week. One end are the early spring lettuces, spinach, and chives sowed in patches rather than rows. Then the 2 rows of peas in the middle. On Sunday I sowed a row of bush beans near the pea patch. At the other end of the raised bed are patches of herbs sowed into the soil; cilantro, a blend of basils, thyme, and marjoram. We selected Olds Seed Company organic vegetable and herb seeds bought at the local country store late winter.
The little pea patch is coming along just fine. This weekend we strung twine along the rows for the pea plants to climb. We have about another month until the date of maturity for both varieties. The delicate blossoms should be appearing soon. This legume can be grown just for the bouquet of flowers and fragance. Nutrients are provided for the soil as well. I cherish the fresh, delicious peas with a pinch of kosher salt and dabble of sweet butter. About as many varieties of peas there are, is about how many sweet sayings, poems, and songs referring to the pea. Babies, children and lovers have been called “sweet pea” for centuries. “Two peas in a pod” is a phrase I say when two people act alike. Mostly, sweet pea is a term of endearment such as from Amos Lee’s song…
Sweet pea, apple of my eye
Don’t know when and I don’t know why
You’re the only reason I keep on coming home.
Earlier this year I accomplished a major feat, paying off my debts accumulated from years ago before my divorce. Now my household budget is blooming, looking brighter everyday. I am determined to stay in the black with my green habit. Red blooms only, no budget in the red! Did you follow all those colors and what I am saying? It means I am gardening on a budget, small budget at that. With three grown children getting married this year outside of our town, cuts are made before the flowers bloom. Dean and I need to budget our time and funds with our growing adventures. We chose to not go to the farmers’ markets. We can concentrate on the redesign of Deanna Greens And Garden Art rather than the market. We will continue to grow organically. Dean and I’s health matters too much, so no short-cuts there. The founder of Missouri’s organic Mueller Farm, where our friends at EarthDance are housed has a sign displayed which says, “Health begins in the soil.” BTW: EarthDance has a class they are offering at a nominal fee called “Health Begins In The Soil” for St. Louis locals in May. Checkout their web page: http://www.earthdancefarms.org. Dean and I may see you there as we could use a refresher course. More vegetables and herbs than perennials will grow in our newly constructed raised beds made with 1 part good quality compost, 1 part good quality organic soil, and 1 part sand for proper drainage. The rich soil and the non-treated lumber to make the raised beds are our most expensive investment in 2014. Our hardy red geraniums will continue to bloom in big pots this growing season as they have all winter under our plant lights in our semi-heated garage. Sunny zinnia and marigold blooms will welcome parishioners and guests at the church once again this spring and summer. In about 2 weeks our gourd seedlings will go into the ground underneath recycled metal arches situated near the greenhouse, trusting we will be frost-free by then. If we have a bumper crop of gourds, we may venture to a farmer’s market or two this autumn. Gardeners and weekend farmers, how do you cut cost with your green adventures?
The winter time blues will not beat me. I live and dream of my garden with tonight’s menu: Crunchy Kale Chips, Baked Sweet Potato, Crushed Peppercorn Medley-Crusted Beef, and a glass of Mencia Roble, a red wine made from the Mencia grape grown in Spain. A home-cooked dinner this blustery night. The kale recipe can be found on my What A Dish Recipe page. Kale is a vegetable I never tried until working with EarthDance Farms as an apprentice in 2011. Nothing beats the bursting flavors of organic kale, except maybe arugula. The power-packed veggies I ate this evening were grown by someone else, though organically. My readings this week include a blog written by a Kentucky woman who gardens year-round. Much of her garden survived the subzero temperatures earlier this month. She used a plastic liner and low tunnel fabric to protect her plants. Several varieties of kale, arugula, and mustard greens beautifully survived the arctic air. I am growing three heirloom tomato plants in my semi-heated garage this winter. They are still producing delicious fruit. This week’s Purple Cherokee tomato will be sliced for tomorrow’s lunch accommodating my beef patty sandwich. This is not quite like the gardener in Kentucky, though a start. Locally grown greens … I am so inspired to expand my growing season here in St. Charles County, Missouri. So what are you growing this winter? How do you beat the winter? Please share your story.