Friday, April 3, 2009


I found this photo last night when I was looking for a picture of Walter, the lost basset hound that lived with me for a month several years ago. Eventually, I will find Walter, but for the present, this photo fills me with yearnings for spring. It was made last year on my deck where I spend the majority of my time. Those are tomatoes in the background and one of those wooden "flying" redbirds that you can find at roadside stands in the summer. There is my coffee cup, too. All that is missing is a good book. (I'm getting ready to take on Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I still have fond memories of Robinson's Housekeeping.)

It is cold today, and the guy that picked up my rider-mower yesterday (tune-up and replace the broken blade) told me that it was going to snow. Again. Surely not! Damn. I've got out the seed catalogues (although I probably won't have a garden this year) and I was looking forward to spending the weekend on the deck staring at the Balsams and watching the new buds appear on the maple in my yard while I studied the subtle difference between Mammoth Red tomatoes and Big Girl. This picture makes me want to dig out the pots and potting soil. Maybe start looking for "patio tomatoes." Instead, I guess I'll fire up my little soapstone stove and make a pot of coffee. I'll have to read Robinson in the house wearing a sweater.

(Changed my mind about Robinson. I have decided to take on a book that his been making me feel guilty for two years - the biography of Mother Jones. I've read a good bit about "The most dangerous woman in America," and I am a fan. In fact, I have a yen to do a play about her, or at least, a dramatic monologue. This biography promises to reveal "the real truth" about this little, angelic white-haired lady,who liked "to have a drink with the boys" and loved a bawdy story, so I guess I will finally read the "definitive" biography.)

It is Monday, April 6, and I am half-way through the Mother Jones biography. The weather has turned bad again and it is blowing snow outside. The local prophets are predicting a bad night and a worse tomorrow. That alarms me since I'm supposed to go to Cashiers to teach tomorrow night. It also bothers me that the woods are full of spring flowers, all doomed to a withering wind tonight. I'm certainly glad i didn't plant anything over the balmy weekend.


  1. I've been feeling the same way about my garden. I can't seem to find a dry day to do some work but I did get a good start on a new compost pile by cleaning out the chicken yard.

  2. Now, John Quinnett down on Land's Creek, he is already planting stuff. Snow is predicted and he is planting onions, lettuce, carrots. I think i'll stay inside until the last frost.

  3. Hey, Gary hang in there, it can't be much longer!

  4. (Once more, this is Erdajean's comment which her computer refuses to post for her, so I'm posting it for her.)
    Would not doubt for a minute that we will have snow again in April. Remember a huge snowstorm on April 16-17, 1983 -- the late peach blooms were full of snow and bent near to the ground. Also remember one that covered McDowell County and on up the line, made a blizzard on the Roan, on May 27-- Memorial Day weekend, I think it was 1977. There is just no telling.
    Hoping to get some help to put in a raised bed for squash and tomatoes, etc. before it's too late. I can't STAND not to grow anything. It can't be summer without okra and the bootlegger in me HAS to see corn tassels a-waving. Last big garden I had, I dug it up with a spading fork and made it round, so I could drive around it in the car and sit and hoe weeds, out the car door. It made just wonderful. Now I can't dig with any heft atall, so the raised garden is the last resort.

    Have a big old mixing bowl of onions, growing on the porch, and will plant some pole beans where they will run up the banisters. They do great there till the deer come up and eat 'em, the first day they see the car is gone

  5. Well, I'm trying something new this year, new for me anyway---fennel. I had to order seeds online because no one sells them here. The Sweet Florence variety is supposed to be better for eating than the wild kind, and less invasive. Even so, I'll try not to let it jump its assigned plot.

    I'm waiting until after the snow, though, to plant anything more. I had babied some crabapple seedlings in the house all winter and set them out too early last week without hardening them off gradually, and now they're yellow mush.

  6. Yeah, I'm planting stuff. Rather, I managed to get six rows of Irish potatoes in the ground before those days of rain. Most of the old-timers on Lands Creek get their taters, peas,
    onions, mustard greens, lettuce, turnips, and
    cabbage (I go with brochli plants, as well) as early as March. I also have five kinds of garlic up a foot or so. The snow, freezing weather, etc. won't mess with these hardy plants much at all. Assuming the drought will continue, I plan to plant the summer crops as soon as we appear out of the woods viv-a-vis a late freeze. Last year we got lots of rain in spring and summer was dry dry dry. All my early stuff did great; the summer garden - especially beans, squash, and peppers - not so much. Since
    my cucumbers were planted on the site of the old barn we had to tear down, all that horse, cow, and chicken manure in the ground produced a bodacious crop of cucumbers. The corn did good because I planted relatively early. One of the reasons I like gardening is that every growing season is different and you have to keep going with the flow - of changing conditions.


  7. I think I will go for raised beds...something that I can tend standing up. It bothers me that I can't plant tomatoes in the same spot that I used last year. I'm going to assume that this taboo doesn't apply to those tomatoes in containers. So cucumbers flourish in old cow manure! Maybe I'll haul some 50-year-old manure from the old barn.

  8. I'm convinced beds, raised or not, are the way to
    go. The only thing I don't plant in beds are
    corn, beans, potatoes, okra, sweet potatoes, stuff that needs room to stand tall or spread out. With beds you can almost lay down beside
    the bed to work - plant seeds, pull weeds, have
    long coversations with the carrots, etc. Old cow
    manure, yes, but chickens and horses lived in
    that old barn on Lands Creek, as well. Not only
    the cucumbers, but tomatoes, peppers, kale, and
    some other stuff did great in those "foundation"
    beds. Gary, yeah, haul some of that cow do-do
    and what about them chickens? Granny Burns, my
    mother-in-law preferred scattering a little dry
    chicken manure when she planted lettuce or about
    anything else... I have been fighting multiflora
    rose these past couple of days. And have the
    bleeding wounds to prove it.

    Oh yes, with beds you can easily disperse various
    flowers, for aesthetic or practical reasons both.
    I'm not up on companion planting or know which
    flowers repell certain voracious bugs, etc. I
    just encourage some native flowers (some would
    call weeds) and plant and transplant domestic
    flowers my father sent me years ago, or I get
    at the store, or friends give us. So, I mix the vegetables, herbs, and flowers up in my beds.
    Also, I have various benches and chairs in the
    garden for resting and contemplation purposes.
    Basta! That's enough. Today is beautiful.
    I'm psyched today. Tomorrow, below freezing at night? Unbelievable. It's like riding a roller coaster for gardeners this time of year.



  9. Gary, you are an amazing man! I am glad to know you.

    Thanks so much for the work you do with Chautauqua AVE! and your promotion of Lessie Williams.

    Ann Woodford

  10. Gary, I enjoy reading your blog and all the comments from your friends. I'm learning much about gardening here, too. Although I grew up on a farm, I have never raised vegetables - only flowers. But this year I want to plant some vegetables I can grow in pots on my deck. Just can't work in the yard anymore.

  11. Glenda,
    You should try the Tomato Box. I had four last year and I gave away tomatoes all summer. I know you aren't supposed to raise tomatoes in the same place two years running, but I'm hoping that doesn't apply to Tomato Boxes.