By LYNNE IRONS
I am accused of setting unrealistic goals in terms of gardening. It’s true. It would work for me if I could shave 40 years of wear and tear from this aging hippie body. At any rate, it is barely spring and I am already behind. Those pesky bulbs are trying to emerge but are hindered by months of fall and winter debris. It is beyond me how often I harp about timely fall clean-up to prevent this very problem and yet do not get around to it personally. Last week I attempted to limit myself to clearing five square feet daily. I have already given up on weeding.
Mugwort is the most confounding plant on the property. Some 20 years ago I purchased a shrub alongside of the road in Dartmouth. It promptly died but the somewhat interesting weed survived. Little did I know at the time I neglected it to my peril. Mugwort is an artemesia. It is used in the acupuncture treatment known as moxa. Nevertheless I loathe it. I pulled back heavy weed mat covered with asphalt shingles to discover it growing happily with no color. I yanked a five-gallon bucketful of roots from a two-foot square area. I abandoned all hope and fixed myself a bowl of ice cream.
Tom Vilsack, the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has redeemed himself in my eyes. He is back in my good graces. I heard on NPR that he has taken a jackhammer to his Washington driveway. He is planting a home vegetable garden. He, a one-time supporter of the organic farmer’s arch-enemy Monsanto, has recently rearranged some rhetoric to say that farm subsidies should be a safety net for small farmers, not a given for Big Agriculture. Let’s see if he means it. Our subsidies to big farmers are devastating to small farmers both here and abroad, as no one can compete with the low prices Big Ag is able to charge thanks to their hand in the federal pocket. Go back to the early 1970s and learn about Earl Butts, Richard Nixon’s secretary of agriculture. He changed our food processing and distribution system.
I put in a few potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day. Bear with me as I give a two-years’ recap of the piece of land which received them. In the fall of 2007 I had a cleared spot with absolutely no soil — just orange builders’ sand. I put three baby pigs into a 12 by 12 foot moveable enclosure. I tossed them weeds, garden debris, and several bales of hay along with food scraps and grain. When the area became unsuitable, I moved the pen over a square repeating the process as they grew at an alarming rate. After an eventful New Year’s Eve escape, they spent the rest of the winter of 2007-2008 in the freezer.
I covered the entire area with more hay and a black weed mat. In the summer of 2008 I peeled back the weed mat and planted winter squash in their bathrooms. I harvested enough Tennessee sweet potato squash and blue hubbard to last all winter. I tossed some winter rye on Thanksgiving day and remarkably it sprouted.
Finally, I layered the potatoes on the rye last Tuesday and covered with more hay. They should take a while to emerge since it is still so chilly. Being Irish, I need to get a few planted on St. Patrick’s Day for good luck. I won’t be putting in the main crop for a month.
My Seeds of Change apple tree order arrived. They look great. They are three-foot bare-rooted saplings. I love the choices I selected. All are certified organic and old heirlooms. They are: Northern Spy, 1800, New York; White Pearmain, 1200, England; Calville Blanc, 1598, France; Spitzenberg, 1800, New York; Hudsons Golden Gem, 1930, Oregon; and Newtown Pippin, 1759, New York.
Once more, last Sunday a growing group of us met for Home Grown at the Agricultural Hall. We discussed optimum soil temperatures for various plants, ordering of fruit, and apple-cedar rust. Linda Ziegler shared the phone number (828-254-0708) of Sow True, an infant seed source.
Thalia Scanlon encouraged us to come over Mother’s Day weekend for the big heirloom tomato sale at COMSOG. Our next meeting will be at 4 p.m. on April 19 at which time we will swap dahlia tubers, raspberries, and starts of anything we wish to share.
What’s all this brouhaha concerning nationalization of the failing banks? I love how the far-right conservative types are laissez-faire in relation to government. To wit: Ronald Reagan’s famous quote, “Government is the problem!” Funny, how they insist on government involvement in our private lives — Terry Schiavo, gay marriage, and reproductive rights.