Sunday, March 22, 2009

victories and defeats, part 2

As promised.


So, today I was supposed to do lots of things. Actually, I was supposed to do a lot of them yesterday, and that is not precisely a recipe for victory, is it? I'm going to start with the defeats. The DH and I were supposed to go on a rigorous 8-mile hike in the Shenandoah Valley with a group of friends today. The catch is, the fellow who leads the hikes is a madman, and so the day was to start off with breakfast at a local greasy spoon at 7AM - after the 90-minute drive from the DC metro area. (I.e., wakeup time: 4:30AM.) We weren't out that late the night before, but the triple-decker birthday party was 90 minutes away in the other direction, and we came there from another engagement, hike. I've never been to the Shenandoah, and I really wanted to go. The DH and I have promised ourselves that we'll go again soon - if not with this gang, then at least on our own.

Then there's a certain amount of defeat inherent in the fact that I did a lot of things that are rather like chores, or just are chores, on a Sunday. I do try to take Sundays off (and I used to be so much more conscientious about it!). But I never seem to be able to get much of anything done on Saturday, and we always have things we have to go to, and then there are still things that need to be done...

Beyond that, there's also the things that I won't have done even by tonight. I was going to buy a roast on sale (for dinner party next Saturday) and didn't; I was going to do my spring cleaning (boxes off the floors; extra boxes into the shed; things we don't need in the trash!) and I didn't. And it has to be done by Thursday. So I will have to summon up energy after work this week.

ALSO I didn't run today. I did get some exercise gardening but...I know, I'm not strictly overweight; but I've gained weight when I was supposed to be losing it; I can wear only maybe 25% of my clothes, and more than half of those are snug. I always feel unattractive, because not only can I rarely wear the things I want to, but the ones I can put on, I have to combine in some particular way to conceal the fact that they don't fit well, or are no longer's demoralizing. I need to just get myself about a really strenuous exercise regimen and stick to it. Ever since I got out of school and started working behind a desk, I have been in plain lousy shape and it really gets under my skin.


On the bright side, I did get some things done. I'll polish off some of the remaining chores (dishes, laundry) by bedtime, but I undertook - and to some degree conquered - an impressive project today. Are you ready? You're not, but I'll tell you anyway. I decided that I need a vegetable and herb garden. We have so darn much yard we're not using, and all produce in this area is both expensive and lousy, and I finally have some time to cook when I get my act together, so I want fresh basil and rosemary, my own summer squash, eggplant, and peppers, and sweet corn. I decided against carrots, onions, and garlic because they're root vegetables and there will be no conquering the numerous rabbits on that score.

Anyway. I borrowed the neighbor's spade and turned over - all by myself - a patch of ground about 4'x5'x8" deep. In case you haven't done this before, it's some strenuous labor. It took me maybe half an hour. Here is my patch of dirt (cultivator gives an idea of the size):

I then sat down for a breather and to read the seed packets (I read only one at the store). By this point it had occurred to me that my herculean dirt patch was on the small side. I initially resolved to pretend this was not the case, but when I read how far apart the seeds were to be planted, I did start to worry. Then it turned out some were to be started in pots 6-8 weeks before the last frost. I briefly considered a tantrum, but resolved on the following plan.
  1. Since it didn't need to be started in pots, I planted the corn. Supposedly, it goes 6-10" apart in rows 2-3' apart, but what does Burpee know? I put about 5-6 seeds in a cluster, in 1'x1' rows. As long as it grows some corn, I'm happy. These are supposed to yield ears "early and often," so we should be good to go.
  2. I planted the squash too, since that didn't need potting either. I planted those a little further apart - since there were fewer seeds, and as I'm already aware, squash breed like rabbits. If I get a 10% yield, I'll have too much. On another interpretation, I'll soon be more popular among my friends who cook well...this is not a bad thing.
  3. Because I am a genius, I also planted catnip seeds, on the left (as you look at the picture) and front of the square. We don't have a cat, but there is a neighborhood outdoor cat. It keeps the bunnies from my neighbor's flowers because it likes the goldfish in his pond. I figured I needed an attractive nuisance of my own to secure its services. Voila - catnip.
Meanwhile, some of the seeds are held in abeyance. Fortunately, there is a lot more arable land out there for my projects. Here is just the back half of my yard (the side and front yards together are about this same size. That's my garden patch in the foreground there):

My plans for the remaining seeds:
  1. The green peppers need to be potted, so I am going to the thrift store tomorrow, where I will find tiny terra cotta pots for a pittance, and start one plant in each. Sure, the last frost already happened, but it's March and Virginia is warm. If I lived in Minnesota, the last frost might still be weeks away. It's not too late to start them! Also, this gives me time to go to another store to look for a packet of artisan (white, red, purple - all sorts of great colors!) pepper seeds to add to my plantings. The store I was at had run out of this precious item, understandably.
  2. The eggplant likewise need to be potted before transplant - so, even more tiny pots. Also, oddly, there was no "normal eggplant" seed packet - just an artisan mix. I actually don't want artisan eggplant - I only ever make it cut into smallish pieces and broiled, so it doesn't matter what color it is. Unlike the peppers...ah, well.
  3. Also, this means I don't have to dig another patch, because if I start them in pots, I'll just make small holes the size of the pots and put them in. Less work for me. And I saved 1/2 of the catnip seeds to put around what will then be the rest of the garden perimeter - further evidence of my genius.
  4. The basil and rosemary could probably have been started outside (well, one of them wanted starting in pots), but there wasn't room in the patch I dug. And, frankly, I should have started them in pots in the kitchen six months ago - they can live indoors, and would be very handy to have fresh year-round. (I'm fine with dried thyme and oregano, but I'd like my basil and rosemary fresh.) So, the thrift store will have to yield some large terra cotta pots as well. They can live on the back patio during the summer (on a table up away from the bunnies), but they can come into the kitchen in the winter.
Originally, I also wanted strawberries and blackberries, but the store didn't sell any fruit seeds. Maybe a different store will. (Has anybody seen these for sale?)

Also, I made accomplishments on other garden-related fronts. I found several clumps of not-yet-blooming daffodil shoots in the yard, where they will ultimately fall under the spell of the mower. I decided to transplant them into the under-the-tree mulched area, in front of a statue of Our Lady of Grace that the DH found at a garden store last fall. It turns out my "few clumps" were over 50 individual daffodil bulbs (and that was just the ones I didn't accidentally kill with the shovel) - and one clump of crocuses (which haven't bloomed yet either - the ones in the garden already did, and I hope that these still will) was about 80 tiny bulbs. I separated all of these and planted them, and I would show you a picture, but they're still in transplant shock and they all look like a lot of overgrown, wilted grass. I swear in the next 1-2 weeks the survivors will be glorious, and the internets will be awash in pictures.

Also, I spread mulch today. And those bags are heavy. So, I was pretty good. As my deserved reward, guess what I'll be doing?

I know, that was too easy. Since I got all that dirt and mulch under my nails, I'll be giving myself a French pedicure before I go to bed.

Good evening, infertile internet...I hope you've had a good weekend.

Also, I should warn you, my post about lostness and purposelessness and infertility has been germinating in my mind for some time...and it's going to materialize here soon.


  1. I am starting a garden too! But I live in the South and my planting date is after April 18th (i think). That is when frost can't get your garden. So let's just say I have these window sill gradens and the squash is already needing to be re-potted!

    I have seen strawberries at Lowes/Home Depot. I hear that starwberries multiply, so one plant should do. Apparently when there branches hit the ground they plant another strawberry seed. ? Ummm I don't know I am just figuring this out myself!

    I found my zinnia's yesterday hunched over from dehydration! I watch these suckers like a hawk. :) Uggg, I wish watering instructions could be more clear! Whatever! I am just winging it! ;)

  2. What an interesting day! You might be a little sore today after all that yard work. You can plant the seeds in old egg cartons, free and the right size!
    I hear you about the clothes...I recently started weight watchers again and hopefully the metformin will help me as well.
    Keep us posted on the garden!

  3. I wish I could help you with the dog issue in your earlier post, but I'm a pet person, and we have a dog and a cat in our family. I've been surrounded by pets my entire life, so a house without them would feel empty to me. I will admit, though, they do take work and time, and it's absolutely heart-breaking when they die.

    As for your garden, it will be lovely. I do know how much effort digging out a new plot takes - you have my sympathies. That, coupled with the mulching, always takes longer than you expect. I'm not surprised you didn't get quite as much done as you'd hoped. To my mind, however, you were incredibly productive.

    Have you tried Lowes, Home Depot, or BJ's for strawberry and blackberry plants? I know they have them. I've never seen them packaged as seeds. They've always been rhizomes or roots, packaged in sawdust like bulbs.

  4. To make your life simpler, you can buy strawberry plants for very little (i.e. 10 bucks or so) and they do really well. They usually come in bundles of 25 plants, so you need to separate them out, not just plant the whole wad (I did that once, then had to replant). :) I recommend everbearing varieties, unless you're really into jam making or freezing. That way, you get a nice bowlful every few days for several months.

    For black or raspberries, you'll need canes. I've never heard of anyone growing them from seed. They aren't expensive either, though you may want to wait until next year. They really like it if you prepare the ground where you plan to plant the year before in fall. It will take a year or two before you see a sizable yield. They are wonderful plants.

    For the peppers, eggplants, etc., you might want to consider starting them in a sunny, preferably south-facing window. They LOVE heat, and actually need temps around 70 degrees to germinate well, so we often use heating pads (the drugstore kind) to really get them growing. Once they get a bit bigger, you can take them out in the day, then in at night (what's called hardening off). Do that for a few days, and you'll have some nice, strong plants that will give you lots of tasty veggies.

    Sorry you missed your hike, but hopefully you'll try again. You might even have a lot more fun, just the two of you. Between that and gardening, those clothes will start fitting in no time!

  5. Wow! You're a busy one. I'm having a hard time planting roses in my flower bed at the front of my house. I really want to dig up some dirt in the backyard and plant some flowers and shrubs, but it sounds like a lot of work.

    Now I'm seriously thinking about having the lawn service dig the dirt up for me. I know it's sad, but that's a lot of work!

  6. Wow, you people are some great gardeners! I did know strawberries were runners (i.e. form another shoot and roots wherever they touch the ground), but it didn't occur to me to buy seedlings. I'll be getting some next weekend for sure - the ever-bearing variety sounds perfect. Maybe I'll hold off on the blackberries - we rent, and I don't know how long we'll be here.

    I am indeed starting the peppers, eggplant, and herbs indoors, and hoping my outdoor seeds will survive tonight's frost (they can't have germinated yet). Apparently I was hasty.

    And lastly - yes, I am sore. Stomping on a spade is apparently an AMAZING workout for your behind, and it's all I can do not to walk funny. Now the question is, how do I get that kind of workout multiple times a week? I doubt the landlord would be amused if I dug up the entire yard...