Tag Archives: gardening

A Red Wheel Barrow

So much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.
-Poem by William Carlos Williams

I first read that poem in high school and promptly forgot it.  It was nearly 10 years later, after university as I worked in the “real world” that I decided I liked the ivory tower better and wanted to go back to graduate school.  Only after starting graduate school would I remember the rainwater glazed wheel barrow.

I was in Turkey for my first archaeology field season when Williams’ wheel barrow came to mind.  Maybe it was the pastoral setting with sheep, goats and turkeys rampaging across the golden countryside.  Maybe it was the horizon dotted by slow moving tractors harvesting grain that would feed most of the country.  Or maybe it was the fact that I’d discovered how intensely, mind numbingly boring archaeology can be at times.  I’m not sure what the impetus was, but I was in immediate need of poetry.

Don’t get me wrong, I love archaeology, but there are days when you’ve come across nothing, nothing, nothing, but more dirt, nothing to get your mind working on anything.  It was one of those mornings where I’d found nothing but more dirt… again… that I found myself quoting poems memorized in high school.  Emily Dickenson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.”  Random Shakespearean sonnets.  And what bugged me was that I couldn’t remember the one about the wheel barrow and the chickens. It just seemed to fit somehow, but I couldn’t remember the words and there was no wifi for miles and miles.

In fact, not only was there no wifi, but there was no electricity, no running water, no cars at the village across from our excavation site.  My favorite thing was to watch as the donkey drawn cart come trundling over the hill, dangling with plastic bowls, metal pots, children’s toys, and other paraphernalia that the local villagers might want to purchase.  Often on those same days we would see the ice cream donkey hoofing it over the hill.  The donkey was led by a young boy and had two large, orange, insulated drink containers strapped to his sides, both filled with the local ice cream that is blended with pounded orchids giving it a distinctively gummy texture.  It’s an acquired taste.  At the time I didn’t know that this was not the glorious rainbow sherbet that just the mention of caused my parched mouth to water.  When I finally gathered up the courage after weeks of excavation to get some ice cream from the lad… I ended up burying it in my back dirt pile the minute he was over the hill again.  Maybe it was just his local batch, but it had the overall flavor of what I can only imagine old tires must taste like.

My garden plot needed a bit of elbow grease, especially with the amazing kale finally going to seed after a mild winter.

My garden plot needed a bit of elbow grease, especially with the amazing kale finally going to seed after a mild winter.

What brought all of this to mind was me digging in the dirt of my garden patch.  After our relatively warm winter, my plot had begun to look rather… what’s a polite word for it… scruffy… unkempt… bordering on embarrassing.  I hacked away at the clumps of stubborn grass and filled my borrowed red wheel barrow to the rim twice with fluffy, green toupees to dump in the pig pen.  The pigs seemed to have fun tossing them in the air.  Or at least I think they are having fun.  They might have been vehemently stating that fluffy, green toupees of grass are not delightful pig snacks.  Just to be sure I brought them some wonderfully wilted vegetable scraps later.  Those pigs have long memories.

Getting the kale out was the easy part.  That grass toupee was obnoxious.

Getting the kale out was the easy part. That grass toupee was obnoxious.

But that brings me back to the wheel barrow, glazing rain water and chickens.  So much depends upon…  Still makes me smile.  As I swung my scythe of doom for weeds (aka a borrowed hoe that I likely should not be swinging like a scythe) poems from high school streamed through my mind.  Foremost has been the white chickens by the red wheel barrow.  Though in my mind this is followed by a curly haired little boy chasing the said chickens amid much cackling from boy and chickens.

The grass toupees are gone, and I've moved the parsley and chives to their

The grass toupees are gone, and I’ve moved the parsley and chives to their “new” garden plan locations.

Let the gardening games begin...

Let the gardening games begin…

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Adventures in Gardening: AKA Pig Manure and June Bugs

I’m back from my forced technology hiatus!  I’ve missed sharing things on the blog and am glad to be up and running again.  Let’s just sum up my recent silence with the worlds “mother board” and “fried.”  Enough said.

In the meantime, the most exciting thing going on here is that we FINALLY have our garden started.  This is my first ever “real” garden, and I’ve had to hold myself back so that I don’t try everything at once.  It was hard to practice restraint since I’ve never had this chance before, but I have to remind myself that I’ll have another chance next year.  So I’ve tried to give myself the permission to experiment, to learn at the trowel’s edge (that’s for my archaeo friends), and to try things that may not turn out as I’d hoped.  Chalk it up to trial, error and then more error.  Since the garden bed wasn’t completed until this last weekend, and since most of my planting was from seed, it will still be awhile before we see any fruits of our labors.  We’ll see what happens…

Our farmer landlords have been working hard to prepare what was our backyard for a massive gardening space.  Where once was a sketchy storage shack now stands the beginning of a greenhouse.  The rest of the space has been scraped of turf, massive piles of black gold (aka pig manure-compost) roto-tilled in, and multiple garden beds laid out.

Glorious pig manure compost getting raked and leveled into a garden plot.

Glorious pig manure compost getting raked and leveled into a garden plot.

The rest of our day was spent raking and leveling our square garden bed, then shaping it into the quadrants we would plant.  There is nothing like being coated with pig manure dust and being attacked by the cock roach like June bugs of the island.  Much squealing and dancing occurred to the intense delight of Little Man.  In opposition to what my brother suggested, I am very glad that he hasn’t been trained to video me in embarrassing moments.  Once the bugs were removed from the back of my neck, my hair and my t-shirt, we were able to get back to the garden.  The plot is over 20 square feet, so I’ve just now gone from a sometimes successful container gardener to a plot gardener with enough seed and good intentions to cause a lot of trouble.  It’s hard to imagine what the flat garden plot will look like once the seeds have sprouted, forget about what it will look like with full fledged plants.

Dave leveling our plot with the in-process greenhouse behind him.

Dave leveling our plot with the in-process greenhouse behind him.

I divided our plot into quadrants with a small hill for squash in the center.  I had a few seedlings for kale, basil, celery and nasturtiums.  Other seeds planted around our plot include lots of greens (kales and chard), scarlet runner beans, carrots, radishes, bush beans and beets.  That’s not to mention all of the amazing plants that our farmer landlords have planted in such abundance that they’ve offered us carte blanche to the fruits of their labors in exchange for help maintaining the plants in the many garden plots.

Little Man helps out by picking up rocks and transporting them with the blue bucket to Daisy the tractor. According to Little Man, Daisy likes rocks better than stones for lunch.

Little Man helps out by picking up rocks and transporting them with the blue bucket to Daisy the tractor. According to Little Man, Daisy likes rocks better than stones for lunch.

Now we’re into dirt watching mode, and trying to find the perfect location and angle for our mobile sprinklers so that we water the garden without wasting too much water as we head into what could be a long, hot, dry summer.  I’ll keep you up to date with garden happenings, and if anyone has any recipes or ideas for things to preserve garden produce I’d love to see them!  🙂

Our mostly planted garden plot.  Bamboo bean teepees will be set up in the back right quadrant, but for now this is a good start.

Our mostly planted garden plot. Bamboo bean teepees will be set up in the back right quadrant, but for now this is a good start.

And spoiler alert, we have a big party coming up to celebrate Dave’s recent doctoral graduation.  Keep your eyes peeled for some great recipes from the party!

The center squash hill planted with Little Man's sprouted pumpkin seeds from an Easter festival in Nanaimo.  We've also planted zuchinni on the north side and sunburst squash on the south.  A bit of squash overkill?  We'll see...

The center squash hill planted with Little Man’s sprouted pumpkin seeds from an Easter festival in Nanaimo. We’ve also planted zuchinni on the north side and sunburst squash on the south. A bit of squash overkill? We’ll see…

The celery square with nasturtiums planted at the point.  Radishes and carrots will round out this area once they sprout.

The celery square with nasturtiums planted at the point. Radishes and carrots will round out this area once they sprout.

 

 

A Sick Snow Day

This week dawned bright and sparkly on a few inches of unexpected (at least to us) snow.  These were the sights that greeted me when I stumbled out of the house on Monday morning with an old cardboard box to gather wood from our shed for the day’s fire.  I’d forgotten to tuck my pants legs into my sorely misused Uggs, and would have wet, cold ankles for a bit once I got back inside, but the beautiful pink light from the morning sun coming over the dusted pines made me forget about that.  The farmer’s dog hadn’t been let out yet, so our snow was still pristine, without dog footprints or other offerings.

Snow-frosted fencing curled up around the border of our back yard.  Just waiting for Spring so the garden beds and "real" fencing can be put in place.

Snow-frosted fencing curled up around the border of our back yard. Just waiting for Spring so the garden beds and “real” fencing can be put in place.

Unfortunately this was not just a snow day, but a sick day with our toddler totally knocked out with the flu.  It was almost with tears that we had to turn away the farmer’s daughter when she came to see if Little Man would like to go sledding.  He, of course, said “yes!” through a fit of fevered coughing, and almost succeeded in rolling off the couch towards the door.  We’ll have more chances for sledding later, once he’s fit as a fiddle again.

A view of our little summer "gazebo" bench, and the lone Canadian flag windsock.  A nice punch of color for our white and black landscape.

A view of our little summer “gazebo” bench, and the lone Canadian flag windsock. A nice punch of color for our white and black landscape.

In the meantime, when Little Man did have enough energy to roll off the couch he decided he wanted to “decorate the floor.”  He’s done smaller versions of this on the dining room and living room tables, but nothing quite to this extent before.  If anyone had the audacity to walk into the living room while he was working, they were greeted with a firmly outstretched toddler hand and a croaky “don’t step on my cars!” warning.  We’ll get back to practicing kind words later, but on this sick day we let the mini-artist have a bit more leeway as he looped and swirled his cars and other precious toys around the rug.

Little Man's rug "decoration."

Little Man’s rug “decoration.”

All in all, it was one of the best sick snow days I’ve had… especially since it wasn’t me being sick.  Now that we’re in February, we enter the anxious waiting period for Spring.  I know I can’t expect it to come too soon, but I keep waiting and plotting the things I want to plant in the garden this year.  Little Man has already requested that we plant carrots for his stuffed fox and Cheezies for his stuffed bear.  For some reason I think we’ll be more successful with one than the other.  I’m just trying to figure out something else we can plant that will get him excited to eat things from the garden, even if it won’t produce artificially cheese-flavored snack chips like he hopes.

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