Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's Springtime in Zone 6b

Or so I'm told...it's been cold, dreary, rainy...I know April Showers bring May flowers...but it's March and I haven't planted the darn flowers yet, so enough already!!!

Ahh, I lied just a little. I have started some seedlings in leftover cello-packs from the last couple years nursery visits.... Like some awesome "Pink Girl" tomato seeds that my grandma gave me. I've started some bell peppers, banana peppers, daisies, and some unidentified seeds merely labeled, "Pink, Red, and Purple" which are a mystery to me. Therefore, they HAD to be started so I can figure out where they go. I don't want to plant something that's 4 foot tall at the front of the border, after all. My back yard, lining the deck, looks like a nursery (before the seeds germinate). To the untrained eye, it might look like a plant cemetery, even. To me, it looks like GOLD! See, seeds are so much cheaper than the actual plants, and in cases like the daisies that are perennial, it's the gift that keeps on giving. It's also what over-zealous Spring gardeners like me have to do so that we don't plant $200 worth of flowers before the real last frost (like I did in 2007!).

Along with the gift of seeds, grandma also gave me a metal sieve so that I can juice tomatoes for canning in the summer. It looks like a medieval torture device but came complete with an instruction manual, so I'm hoping that it's idiot proof...after all, I did tell grandma I'd be giving her some of my canned veggies from the garden.

Last but not least, she gave me two books. One on canning produce, one on freezing produce. Now, I do have a large metal pot that should work for canning, but I don't have a pressure cooker, so I'm limited on what I am able to can. This being said, I'm super excited to learn the proper method to freeze veggies (this is more of an art than I thought.) Turns out that each different vegetable should be blanched for a different number of minutes prior to freezing. If she hadn't given me this book, they probably would have been washed, sliced, and thrown into a Zip-lock freezer bag with wild abandon. Food poisoning is one thing I don't want my family to have, so I really appreciate this new-found knowledge. Not to mention, both cookbooks are time-worn and stained. I'm so excited about that. I really believe that a clean cookbook is clean because the recipes suck, even to the reading, hungry eye. A well-worn, stained cookbook is one that is kitchen-tested and grandmother-approved. These books are an heirloom now, and I hope I can pass them on to younger generations myself one day. I'm just mushy like that!

Grandpa gave me a tiller. I've been piddling with it, trying to get it started, but as only a non-mechanical person can do, I'm failing. I've taken to asking strangers to come tinker. OK, it's not quite that bad yet...but it's getting close. I SO badly want to till up this garden plot, except not the shallow end...

The spot I've planned for my vegetable garden is actually only 4" of dirt, covering a boulder the size of Utah. Welcome to Rocky Top, ladies and gentlemen. Luckily for me, my aunt gave me landscape timbers. So...we'll build up the plot and pray for the best. Since roughly half of the garden plot is this shallow land, I'll plant the cucumbers, zucchini and butternut squash there. On the deeper side, I'll plant tomatoes and carrots and peppers. I'm going to try my hand at gardening the organic way, but I'm not so hooked on the prospect that I'm unwilling to use Seven dust if things get out of hand. I have been reading about the best companion plants and weed prevention methods. I have read that if you scratch the dirt once a week, you can keep your weeds at bay. I am going to try this method...but will confess before-hand that my gardening attempts start out like a blaze of fire in April, May, and June...but by July and August, I peter out a bit. I mean, I lose my desire to work my tail off. I make a stab at it. Oh, ok, fine, I simply SUCK at gardening when it's so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk.

(Side-note: Once, as a child of 5 or so years old, I actually tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk. I remember it was in Farina, Illinois in the "white house" behind Blombergs. Kids: If you try this at home, no problem, just 1) make sure you ask a parent to make sure you're not actually wasting food you can't afford to waste and 2) make sure not to try to fry your egg on the sidewalk leading to the main enterance of the house. I learned from experience that this type of experiment tends to irritate adults, especially financially broke adults that don't like stepping on semi-raw eggs. My experiment didn't work (and even if it would have worked, you can't cook eggs on a rough, sandy sidewalk and actually expect me to eat them).

I don't mean to be an alarmist, here, but if the economy does happen to fail, I want a little experience living off the land. I'm a fat girl, and the thought of starving to death drives me to extreme measures to prevent said starvation. Hence, the need for a garden and learning to put up the produce.

Fishing, I know how to do. I can bait my own hook, catch my own fish, clean my own fish, cook my own fish. (Thanks, Dad, for taking me fishing even though I'm a girl.) Once that's done, I'm going to need some veggies to go with it. ;) I think I'll be fine, although I don't know a thing about hunting, I am very fortunate to know people that do!

A few things I've learned from my relatives: Grandpa - "If it looks pretty as a picture, it probably tastes like one." (this in reference to store-bought tomatoes); Grandma - "Hate is not the opposite of love. Indifference is." (how true.) Aunt: Before you try to dig in the rocky yard, poke it with a wire coat hanger. If it pokes down a foot, go ahead and dig. If it won't poke down, there's a rock in your way.

Last fall, before the big lay-off and having the rug yanked out from me, I bought Spring bulbs on clearance at Lowes. Hey, they were 50% off and I'm a bargain shopper! I planted them (a little later than what was recommended) and now I'm beginning to see the fruits (ehh...foliage) of my labors. My garlic, onions, tulips, hycianths, and grape hycianths are coming up. Some of them are about to bloom. And my heart is about to burst with pride.

If this darn rain will quit it for a while, I'll get out there and take pictures of what's budding and blooming right now. I won't go out in the rain, because as you know, sugar and witches melt. I know each of you have an idea which I am, but I'm not open for comments on the subject!

Well, I could go on and on about gardening and the things I'm learning along the way, but it's 1 in the morning and my peeps get up with the chickens, so I better get my beauty rest. Goodnight, Jim Bob. Goodnight, Mary Ellen. Goodnight, Pa.

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