These little guys are in. Transplanted in their New York Times paper-starter pots alongside many direct sown seeds they are the only little greenies showing yet in the garden. Boston Pickling cucumbers, Lemon cucumbers (which grow round and yellow), old fashioned White Wonders (which grow fast and white), classic slicing Ashleys, and one solo vine of Costata Romanesca summer squash. While we’ve been waiting and tending and watching and fussing over these precious little heirloom seedlings, we’ve also apparently been forgetting to turn the compost (whoopsie embarrassing). It seems that given half a chance, some cucumber seeds, composted leftovers from last month’s cucumber sandwiches, have sprouted over in the compost bin. Are these little guys from Brooklyn? Hardscrabble seeds flourishing, finding a place to put down roots amongst the Chemex paper coffee grounds and banana peels (and seriously digging the reclaimed-wood-shipping-pallet decor of the compost bin). Brooklyn Cukes indeed. A testament to the power of compost and that maybe we shouldn’t be so precious with our little plants. If they want to grow, they will grow. Can we keep ’em?
No post yesterday and just this shorty today because, well, we got a load of dirt delivered and spent the better part of yesterday day moving it from one side of the house to the other. The late bloom of spring keeps pushing our garden planting back (we got frost just on Monday!), and now as it finally warms up, the push is on! Sweetheart and I worked, sweaty, dirty, happy, until just before sundown, when one of those sky-opens-up-feels-like-summer-warm torrential rainstorms came blowing in from the west. Our little plants got a watering indeed. And when it was over, as soon as it had begun, the setting sun made a rainbow. The end of a good day, and one we hope to replicate exactly today. Lather, Rainbow, Repeat.
I was making lists. Things to clear, paths to make, planning Arcadia. Skirting around the perimeter of my land, just where it turns to woods, where wild honeysuckle and climbing rose (both way more insidious and terrifying than they sound) have covered everything in their path, where volunteers of privet and poplar and droopy maples have popped up unchecked among the brutal devil’s cane, it was there we saw it (well, Kitty, my botanist town mouse saw it). Alone and unnoticed amongst the bracken, just another overgrown old thing… until it flowered, an Apple Tree. A remnant of a forgotten orchard, or just a single tree someone used to sit under sometime, there it was, the branches with their perfect knobby geometry, the blossoms with their true sweet perfume. It needs tending to, but what thing of beauty and sweetness doesn’t? I don’t know if it will bear fruit, but I am in love with it, and so will be the bees.
1000 feet of vegetable garden. Perfect row upon row of standing onions, winter savory, bulbous dark cabbages, the beginnings of carrots the ends of broccoli, each variety labeled in a slanting hand with common and latin names (some of the heirloom types the very same varieties that we ordered from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for our own tiny-by-comparison plot), some under clay bell jars, some just noticeable from the brick and glass garden-flourishing observation gazebo, the spring-ready plants drawn out with compost-dark soil which, in this Albemarle clay you just KNOW took, well, about 300 years to look this good. That is what Thomas Jefferson has set up at Monticello. Oh Man. Talk about Garden Envy. We’ll just cross our dirt stained fingers and say “someday”…
This Saturday was Thomas Jefferson’s 270th birthday, so naturally, we went to celebrate it at his house. Monticello is smaller than you might imagine, a mansion on a hill, sure, but gentle in its proportions, the elegant, perfectly appointed rooms small by current American standards. My love affair with TJ has been long and generally University-of-Virginia-Statute-of-Religious-Freedom-Declaration-of-Independence based, but (especially in light of my recent bent of homemaking, garden digging, and general musings on having things just the way I want them) his house really had me in a swoon. A parlor full of antlers, bones, and special weighted clocks, a bedside hothouse with tuberose and gardenia, maps and feathers and natural specimens, a dumbwaiter hidden in a fireplace specifically for bringing wine from cellar to table? Mr. Jefferson, you are my kind of guy. And Albemarle County was in her effortless spring splendor, you can see why the man picked this spot, his little mountain, Monticello. Happy Birthday.
This week has been a big one! The fruits of our labor haven’t yielded any fruit, but rather two vast looking stretches of dark brown dirt, a glorious site, ready for fruit. The beautiful old fashioned bulbs and wild violets that had graced them moved on to greener pastures, and the spiny weeds that had all but taken over tugged and dismissed by Sweetheart (who, in his dirty white V-neck and busted old Levis looks as much the dirt farmer as he does at home on the last reaches of the A-train, le sigh le swoon). Our beehive boxes are built, we are moving on to the innerworkings of the hives, while our bees, as stymied by the cold snaps as the redbuds and forsythia, won’t get here til May, but we’re getting ready. All of this homesteading, though, doesn’t mean that when sweet Miss Lucy sends me the above video that BAM WANDERLUST HITS YOU LIKE VERTIGO and maybe I should leave all that dirt in the dust and hit the road. And thus is life. How sweet it is.
When we got down south in November, the ground was bare, the trees naked, the garden slumbering or perhaps dead, no way to tell in the dark months. Along the rambling front porch a patch of dirt with two old crookedy lopsided but suprisingly stalwart evergreen holly boxwoods in it, the two wide glorious recently re-ju-jued raised beds by the side porch more bald dirt (allow me to pause here and say, yes, my farmhouse has TWO PORCHES, and neither one of them is a fire escape), the topsoil stained permanently kind of red by the Albemarle clay. Then the world turned round and warmed up a little and she started to stir, sweet and ancient bulbs coming back every year for twenty years, or maybe a hundred. First the crocuses, then daffodil, and in a mad tumble hyacinth, grape hyacinth, tubery iris, and a rush of tulips, polka dotted strewn willy nilly like stars across the two 10×10 beds. And just when we can tell what they are, we decided to move them all, spade deep and turn soil delicately down down searching for the heart and root and oh so carefully extract like a tooth or a treasure. The plan to turn the wide side beds over to the kitchen garden, make the dirt strip in front of the house (where the dirt fizzled in the spring warmth), into a bulb paradise. And so we dig.