Friday, November 18, 2011


Strong, gusty winds from the south make the thirty degrees displayed on the north side house thermometer seem more like twenty degrees.  I'm walking the dog in the event she rides shotgun on my afternoon trip to Lacrosse.  Mandy lives for road trips.  A short ride in the truck from the drive way to the woodpile is no exception.  The cat, on the other hand, dislikes wind. It's either a reaction to the noise it makes blowing through numerous species of conifers or that he gets cold quicker.

"I thought I told you to leave him alone," I tell Mandy.  The cat is stretched on the bed sphinx-like. His tail is pounding on the quilt.  Mandy abandons her blankie for a romp in bed with Pooch, the cat.  The two are like children, only with more fur.  The first thing in the morning, the cat races downstairs ahead on Mandy. He lies in wait for her behind the island counter.  Mandy is hip to his tricks and descends the steps more slowly.  She stops midway on the stairs and waits for him to spring out at her.  There are a dozen variations to the game.  The Pooch's favorite is "counting coup".  Like Native Americans who considered touching your enemy and walking away a show of valor more difficult than killing him. The cat will bounce off the dog's shoulder and bound away.

Wood-henge is my uncompleted greenhouse.  Lack of money, bad weather and busy carpenters have slowed my spring plans for starting plants indoors.  Yesterday in Wal-Mart I stopped to ask a friend who works in the garden center for a few tips on raising sweet potatoes.  Seventy some year old Matt and his wife are competent and successful growers.

"Oh, I'd didn't raise any this year," he tells me.  "Shoot," I mutter.

"Where do you get your stock?"  I ask.  He tells me most seed catalogs carry sweet potatoes, but I know for a fact the ones I deal with are sadly lacking. Like a lot of gardeners, he covets his sources. "Do you plant whole potatoes or shoots?"  I'm thinking of the jar of sweet potato plants I got from the Amish Matriarch one year.  My lack of knowledge and a weed filled plot gave me fingerlings.  They were disappointing to look at and were ignored until I found a moldy box of them in the summer kitchen.  I wondered if the stock was faulty or my growing methods in error. 
If you examine this shot, behind the bush and adjacent to the woodpile is the first location of an early spring cold frame.  It correctly faces south, however, I forgot about the silver maples when leafed out will shade the cold frame.  That was garden lesson number 32.  I rigged up a growth chamber in the summer kitchen which you can't see, save for the window that faces south above the wood pile.  A jerry-rigged glass and plastic box with a grow light and a heating pad produced many plants, but damping off-a fungus disease caused by too much water-plagues my results.  Growing vegetables indoors creates uniques circumstances.  Amish greenhouse growers, once the plants are started, need to bring down the temperature for the vegetable plants to encourage stocky stems and hardy plants.  Their hot houses filled with hanging baskets and flats of garden flowers have incompatible temperature variables with vegetable plants.  More and more the Amish are switching to plants that produce more profit.  Four packs of vegetables that sell for $1.00 or at the most $1.25 aren't as profitable as a hanging basket which can bring $12 to $20 each with a minimal investment in time and materials.

The same year I created a hot box indoors, I moved my young plants to a cold frame outdoors, repotted them and they did well in the garden. Too well.  That year I couldn't toss out cabbage plants I'd started.  I planted all the young cabbages and hedged my bets against early cold weather and tunneling moles by starting additional plants in the ground from seed.  We ate a lot of saurkraut.

For me, this is a tough time of year.  Used to being busy, it's too early to order seeds, too late or too cold to work outside.  I am fortunate that warmer weather two days ago gave me a window of opportunity to turn over the corn garden.  It's unlikely that I'll get the kale patch or the chard garden turned over.  I look at my gardens as works of art.  I stopped calling them "my pretty" after the wicked witch of the north dropped a silver maple twice right in the middle of my garden and a year later tossed in a flood for fun. 

I'm twiddling my thumbs hoping for progress on the greenhouse.


Snoring Dog Studio said...

I feel fidgety and edgy during a lot of the winter because my gardening chores are done. I'm not that interested in outdoor sports (I do like snowshoeing) so, my reasons for hanging outdoors dwindle a bit. I'm going to force myself to get outside and not wait for winter to be over. That's wasteful. What will you do indoors then now that your gardening is on hiatus?

Gavrillo said...

SDS-Gardening and art are two main interests, hence, why I follow your blog. I love your expressive watercolors. In the seven years I've been holed up in this badger den, I've done folk art and rustic furniture. Most of my creations end up in the pole shed. I have to admit, I was pretty successful with woodpecker doorknockers, but how creative can one be with variations on that theme? I may get back to carving satirical figures like, Our Lady of Indiscretion, but I might as well put a bulls-eye on my back for drawing the ire of people with no sense of humor.