By LYNNE IRONS
Many thanks to my California friend, Tom Chakas — a great gardener, by the way. He read a few weeks back how I was coveting a coal miner’s lamp and promptly sent one along. This was just after my daughter gifted me one for Mother’s Day. Now I can bully a family member or friend to stay out late hoeing with me. I swear, I missed my calling in advertising. These headlamps, as they’re called, are very high tech. A tight fit is ensured with adjustable Velcro; the light can be positioned to shine straight ahead for 35 feet or angled toward the toes, and they are water resistant for those rainy nights. I was thinking about various applications — searching under the truck seat for the stupid cell phone, locking gates, rummaging in the chest freezer, and applying some Western justice to a loathsome raccoon who is raiding the henhouse. I’ll never use a regular flashlight again.
This may be the busiest week in the gardening year, especially for those of us in the business. It has been a delicate balance of priorities. I wish I could say I was getting window boxes and pots planted, but spring clean-ups are still happening. To my customers out there — I’ll be along!
With the help of young friends, Marie, Amanda and Rose, I put in a shocking amount of winter squashes and pumpkins. The area which received the seedlings (I had started them inside in 4-inch pots a month ago) was brand-new, and not at all hospitable. We dug individual holes, hindered by rocks and extremely hard-packed clay. Each hole was beefed up with Nip ’n Tuck cow manure, Vineyard Gardens compost, a hefty amount of North Country Organics Pro-Gro, and a sprinkling of lime. We tucked each plant into a collar of mulch and hay, and prayed for rain. I think the Native Americans survived on winter squash so we should be good to go if the economy heads farther south despite the best intentions of the Obama administration.
I planted some broom corn and its cousin, Texas sorghum. They resemble corn as seedlings and make an ornamental seed head. They can be used in dried arrangements for winter. Sorghum is a preferred sweetener in Appalachia. The syrup is made by pressing the stalks which are similar to sugarcane. Usually, the press can be run with the help of a mule walking around in a circle. That reminds me — it says in the Bible not to muzzle the ox while he is threshing out the grain (a handy rule for restaurant employees!)
A broom can be fashioned out of the stiff stems which hold the seeds. Perhaps I can start a new business making brooms? As if I ever use one!
I am determined to eat all the turnips this week and replant the area. They will start to split any day now and I want to enjoy them before that happens. I rough chop, greens and all, and saute with olive oil and garlic for a nanosecond. I favor them on homemade bread toast slathered with butter.
My vegetable garden has a green sheen of weeds. One can only hope I address them before they outgrow the vegetables. I have already given up in the perennial beds, choosing to call them “living mulch.” I am going to focus on what looks great instead, like the diamondesque raindrops on the bleeding heart leaves.
I hate it when I point out a particularly nice flowering tree and by the time the paper hits the newsstands, all the petals are on the ground. My apple trees are gone by, and the whole yard is covered in white.
I have to talk about the torture issue. It seems to be all over the airwaves lately. Are we debating whether it “works” and provides actionable intelligence? It is a crime — pure and simple. I laughed out loud cheering House minority leader John Boehner say this week, “I find it hard to believe that the CIA would lie to a member of Congress.” The CIA, for Pete’s sake! I thought they lied for a living!