Broccoli heading for a new garden bed Photo by Eric Rouleau
Tuning in this morning to Ici Musique, the Montréal radio station, we were immediately reminded that it’s Earth Day. The theme of Eric’s favorite program was songs involving gardens. Appropriately, I had scheduled this weekend to be a full weekend of working in the vegetable garden. Rather than plain old Earth Day, though, I’d call it Earth Moving Day. The garden this year is, at least at the initial stages, something of a back breaker.
Spring garden preparation is always strenuous. It inevitably requires digging to prepare planting beds and hauling compost. This year, I’ve made the compost distribution an add-on to daily chores. After I unload the muck from the barn floor on the still decomposing part of the my compost mountain, I wheel the cart down the other side and fill it with already cured compost. I then wheel that to the vegetable garden (Doodle of course tagging along), dump the compost on a planting bed, and bring the cart back to the barn to fill it with the next load of muck, starting the cycle again.
In addition to the usual garden prep, there are other elements that render “making the garden” particularly strenuous this year. First, we are installing what I hope will be rabbit and groundhog proof fencing around a new perimeter line. Macho Matt started us on that process by putting in gate posts and gates, and installing the first two sections of fence along the lines we all laid out. We’ve continued the work, pounding in metal fence posts, then using twisted wire to affix three foot high rigid metal hog panels to the posts. This in and of itself is a relatively quick and efficient process, but it’s really only the beginning.
Once the hog panels are up, we dig a trench a bit more than a foot wide around the outside of the fence, and then attach four foot high chicken wire to the metal hog panels. The upper three feet of chicken wire is vertical against the hog panels. The last foot is flush to the ground, and then covered back over with the layer of soil we dug out. I thank my sister for this suggestion. She says the groundhogs start digging to get under the fence, but when they hit the chicken wire they get frustrated and go elsewhere. Determined as I am that this year the garden will feed us humans, not rabbits and groundhogs, we are going that extra mile toward impregnability.
In addition to new fencing, we are reconfiguring the garden beds. Last year, as Eric and I were feeling our way toward living as a couple, he had occasion to remark that I was a bohemian, while he was a cartesian. He was referring to much thornier issues than the garden, but it turns out he was correct up and down the line. You can see it in our respective approaches to garden beds.
Many of you have, when visiting in the past, remarked on my unusual use of round planting beds. Well, they are being phased out, at Eric’s suggestion. He acknowledges that there is a place for charm in the garden, but feels that vegetables are pretty charming all by themselves and that the quest for visual interest must be reconciled with efficiency. Rectangular beds will make mowing and other maintenance considerably less strenuous, and Eric convinced me that I should try to keep the work to the essential — and to what I can really accomplish.
Eric went on line and got a garden planning program, and we together this winter created a plan for everything other than the tomato patch. We’ve been assiduously following it. Unfortunately, this too involves a great deal of earth moving. To put the beds where we want them in the shape we want them to have, we are digging up large clumps of lawn in some places, and moving them, as turf, to other places that may have been planting beds before. At times it seems all the soil in the garden is moving from one place to another. It’s fun to see the transformation, but exhausting.
Do I mind? Not at all. A vegetable garden is not just a utilitarian tool. It’s a creation, an expression of value, and in some very real senses an act of love. One of the most beautiful songs in the repertoire of québecois music to which Eric has introduced me is by poet and songwriter Clémence DesRochers, the first verse of which is:
Cet été je ferai un jardin
Si tu veux rester avec moi
Encore quelques mois
Il sera petit, c’est certain
J’en prendrai bien soin
J’en prendrai bien soin
Pour qu’il soit aussi beau que toi.
(This summer I will make a garden,
If you want to stay with me
A few months longer
It will be small, surely,
I will take good care of it
I will take good care of it
So that it will be as beautiful as you)
While I would certainly have made a garden if Eric had not decided to stay, it would not have been this garden. This garden embodies what we’ve decided to try to achieve together, and to me it’s worth taking all the good care required.
The Garden Plan We Created Photo by Eric Rouleau
WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEK
Horseradish root: $2/lb.
Rhubarb: They’re still mostly short and stumpy, but ready to eat $5/lb
EGGS ARE BACK! Nature destroys but it also regenerates. Egg production is back in full swing. Choice of rich concentrated young pullet eggs or regular size eggs, either way $6/dozen
Lambs went to market. If you ordered, stay tuned for pickup.
Coming soon: Mint
Email us your order at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Because I’m now here full time, we’re abandoning regular pick-up times. Let us know when you want your order any day between 10 and 5, and unless there are unusual circumstances we’ll be able to ready it to your convenience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or text at 917-544-6464 or email.
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