"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Productive Day (Redneck Coldframes and Unnatural Apples)

When I woke up this morning, something was different. I wasn't sure what it was, but there was a semi-painful stabbing sensation in my eyes and I had a hard time keeping them open. The light was as bright as an operating room, seemingly, and a cacophony of noise assaulted my ears. It was rather like waking up with an epic hangover, but without having gotten drunk the night before.

Gingerly pulling aside the curtains, I saw a wall of golden light. Ah yes! I remember! the SUN! And that jangling noise? Why it must be BIRDS! After taking a few minutes to shake off the feeling of being a Morlock emerging painfully into the world of light, and letting my dark-adapted pupils adjust, I felt a wave of energy and joy. Fairly leaping out of bed, I decided that today was the day I had been waiting for.

Yes. First gardening day of spring! A caveat: I did, in fact, already plant a tree this year - a pussy willow. So today wasn't in fact the absolutely first time this year I have done anything garden related. But it was a very productive day. I seriously made up for lost time. Here are some photos of my activities today, activities which I will surely feel in my lumbar region later on tonight.

In the greenhouse, which is still unsealed and therefore not really a whole lot warmer than the outside air, I mixed up my special potting mix of two parts local topsoil (obtained from the construction site where Homero built his shop), one part homegrown compost (read: mixed animal shit and kitchen garbage left to gently rot for a year or so), and one part store bought pearlite. This sounds like an easy thing to do, but it actually involves lots of back aching work with a short handled shovel. Then I filled up a few large pots with the mix and planted snow peas. I also repotted a rosemary plant which has been languishing in the greenhouse all winter in a pot much to small for it. I don't know if it will live or not, but I've given it a chance at least. By the way, if you are wondering how I plant in milk crates, see: The Tippler's Garden

Walking around taking notes, I saw that apparently the Rhubarb corm my sister gave me last year (Rhubarb Ho! (Thanks, Sis!)) has survived the winter. Never having grown rhubarb before, I don't know how it behaves in the wintertime. I thought mine had died, because it lost all it's leaves and looked very yellow and forlorn. The ground where I planted it it is quite saturated (I don't hardly have any ground that isn't) and I thought my poor plant had drowned. But today I saw that the lovely crimson corm is swelling and putting out a few small shoots, so it looks like all will be well. I don't know if it will put out enough shoots for a pie this spring, but I hope so. I adore rhubarb pie.
Here we have a shot of my ghetto coldframe garden (Eat your heart out, Idiot Gardener!) . Out in the wide open spaces between the trees in my orchard, I have located the largest containers in my container garden: a couple of old clawfoot bathtubs. I don't know about where you are, but around here, old clawfoots are highly valued and not usually obtainable for under $75 or $100 each, no mater how crappy the condition. Several years ago, I managed to score these beauties for $25 apiece. Craigslist, of course. One of them had had its hole welded shut so it could be used as an animal waterer: that is the one you see in the foreground full of rainwater. I occasionally add a few shovelfuls of animal crap and call it "compost tea." This tub, together with a gallon sized milk jug, functions all year long as my water supply to the second bathtub and to the orchard, since the hose doesn't reach that far.

The other bathtub had a functioning drain, and so I created a layered system of river rocks on the bottom, sand in the middle, and soil on top so that the tub would have decent drainage.

This second tub has become, through the magic of scavenging, a tiny greenhouse. Or what I'm calling a ghetto coldframe. Every homestead worth it's salt has, somewhere on the premises, a small stack of glass in the form of old windows or patio doors. Ours is stored under the RV. After I worked the soil in the bathtub and planted it with spicy mesclun mix, all I had to do was ask my husband to drag out a sheet of glass. I washed the glass with water from the rainwater tub to make it less opaque (it was covered with chicken crap. Apparently the chickens like to hang out under the RV) and hoisted it carefully onto the planted bathtub.

Theoretically, the early spring sun, weak as it is, will provide enough heat, trapped as it is beneath the glass sheet, to let the mesclun mix germinate and give us salad a good two weeks before salad would otherwise be available. If we were dying of scurvy, these two weeks would be essential. Since we aren't, they are only bragging rights.

I wasn't done yet: I also planted two apple trees. I've gone over to the dark side: I bought grafted three-variety apple trees from Costco. A couple of years ago I did the right thing and bought fancy heirloom apple trees from a small locally owned company called Trees of Antiquity (New To Farm Life: Expanding Orchard). They were extremely helpful, but four out of the six trees I ordered died due to goats, mowers, or unknown factors. I figured that more well-grown trees might stand a better chance.

My children are being problematical and demanding (darn grade-schoolers, always needing hep with their homework!) so details will have to wait, but suffice it to say I planted two fruit trees today as well as a bed of mesclun and some snow peas. I feel industrious.


Laura said...

I'm jealous. It's unseasonably warm here (in the 50's), but the wind is blowing so hard it took a neighbor's horse panel fence down (pulled the t-posts out and everything).

My redneck cold frame is made out of strawbales and glass. I need to make one, since I'm hankerin' for some fresh greens...

Maybe this weekend!!

Laughter said...

We've just had snow, but it's almost gone already...
My redneck coldframe is an old drawer, with an old double-paned window on top.

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