As couples discover that a wedding with all the traditional frills can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, many are looking for DIY wedding ideas. Brides, grooms, and their families are taking on tasks that previously were hired out, everything from designing the wedding invitations to baking the wedding cake. For experienced gardeners, the DIY wedding can include growing your own wedding flowers.
I’m in the midst of that process myself right now, for my son and his fiancee, who are getting married in four months. I’ve been a commercial flower grower for more than 20 years, so I know just what to do to ensure I have a good selection of gorgeous blooms on the big day. In this article, I’ll break it down for people who don’t have a lot of experience with growing flowers for events. Let me repeat, though, this should only be attempted by the accomplished gardener; wedding flowers are not for the inexperienced.
Pick Your Wedding Flowers
Color and seasonality are the two most important considerations in choosing what to grow. The easiest choice of colors is whatever is blooming; you might call it the “wildflower” look — though you’ll actually be using carefully cultivated garden flowers. It’s an immensely popular look right now, and it certainly takes the pressure off the flower grower when the bride is going to be happy with any and every color of flower.
But it’s not that much more difficult to grow a specific color theme such as peach and coral or blue and yellow. Many good cut flower varieties are available as individual colors, so you can tailor your planting to your bride’s preferences.
Seasonality is little more tricky. As an experienced gardener, you will have a general idea of when certain flowers bloom in your garden — which bloom in spring, summer, or fall. Choose varieties from those broad seasonal categories and don’t try to force them out of season; for example, don’t count on zinnias for an early June wedding because they may not bloom till mid-June. Peonies are an exception to the rule because they can be held in cold storage for up to two months after they bloom. You can read more about holding peonies here.
Schedule Your Seed Starting
Here I’m going to send you to Johnny’s Selected Seeds for two crucial ingredients. First, Johnny’s is one of very few seed companies that publishes the average days to bloom for flower varieties. These are ballpark numbers at best because bloom times can be affected dramatically by weather. Still, they give you some guidance.
Second, Johnny’s has on its website a Target Harvest Date Calculator that I created several years ago when they hired me to produce useful resources for growers. I love this calculator for weddings because you can type in the date of your event, the flowers you want to grow, including the catalog’s estimated days to bloom, and a few other factors and -- voila! -- you have your seed-starting date.
Start Seeds and Plant Out
As an experienced gardener, you don’t need the details here. But I will caution you to do it right. Don’t take chances with sloppiness or shortcuts. Buy fresh seed and new potting mix, clean your seed-starting flats, use a heat mat and grow lights. Transplant promptly and fertilize appropriately. Harden off before you plant outside. Be prepared with row cover and hoops if there’s any chance of a frost. Observe all the best practices — then stand back and watch your flowers grow!
Have a Backup Plan
Things can go terribly awry in the garden, as you undoubtedly know. So be prepared to buy flowers in case you don’t have enough of your own. Find a local flower farmer at your farmers market or on www.SlowFlowers.com or LocalHarvest.org. As a last resort, ask a florist or supermarket floral two weeks ahead of the wedding to special order for you. (Ask for American-grown flowers — and be part of the movement to bring back our domestic cut flower industry!)
Learn to Make Wedding Bouquets and Boutonnieres
Okay, this part is a pitch for my new book, Fresh from the Field Wedding Flowers. I wrote the book to encourage the use of local flowers for weddings. My co-author, Erin Benzakein, is one of the top farmer-florists in the country, and she presents 75 minutes of video tutorials showing how to make a bridal bouquet, boutonnieres and corsages, a tall arrangement, and a low centerpiece. The book has photos from dozens of real local-flower weddings to provide design inspiration. However, if you feel intimidated about floral design, consider hiring a pro to do the "wear and carry" flowers including the bridal and maids bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages. Then focus your own efforts on centerpieces, altar flowers, and other decorations.
Lynn Byczynski is the editor and publisher of Growing for Market, a magazine for market gardeners, and the author of The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers and Market Farming Success.
If you love fruit like I do, you'll soon realize that you could break the bank buying enough plants to fill your belly. Luckily, many fruiting trees and bushes are very simple to propagate using no equipment except some potting soil and a heating pad (or even just a garden row). In fact, if you follow the techniques below, you can get a handful of cuttings for free from a friend during pruning season and end up with a whole homemade orchard.
Grapes are the first easy species on my list because they will grow in most parts of the U.S. and are a breeze to root from hardwood cuttings. (Hardwood cuttings are pieces of one-year-old wood taken in the late winter before the buds start to swell.) You can read my easy rooting method here, or, if you want to put in a little more effort and get even higher success rates, you can use the fig technique listed next.
Figs are just as easy to root as grapes, but I put them second on my list because northerners will have a hard time keeping the plants alive. (If you live partway north, you can grow figs as long as you choose a cold-hardy variety.) My method of rooting figs from hardwood cuttings is nearly as simple as the one I use for grapes, but I use a heating pad for figs to jump-start the process.
Gooseberries are simple because they just about root themselves. If you allow (or force) one branch to trail along the ground, then cover part of the branch with mulch, roots will grow on the submerged portion. Cut the stem free next year and you'll have one or more gooseberry plants to set out elsewhere. In case you're curious, this technique is called tip layering.
Hazels and rabbiteye blueberries are examples of another kind of self-rooting plant. After a few years, both of these bushes will begin to send up suckers from near the base. The suckers that are at least a few inches away from the parent plant will generally grow roots a year after emerging, at which point you can dig down until you've found several roots, clip the sucker off below the rooted area, and then prune the top back to match the amount of roots you found. In fact, if you're careful, you can propagate figs this way as well.
This is far from a complete list of the easy-to-propagate woody plants found on the homestead, but it should get you started. Soon you will have filled up your whole homestead and will be giving away baby figs and gooseberries to your friends and neighbors. Enjoy!
As a side note, if you're expanding your chicken flock as well as your orchard this spring, our Chick Bundle is on sale for 20% off right now - get them while they're hot!
I've had great luck starting peach trees from seed.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS has shared about growing stone fruit from seed before ... but to the best of my knowledge, we have never, ever posted a totally weird cartoon on the subject.
You can see the remedy below.
Whew. That needed to be done.
Don't let people tell you that growing fruit trees from seed isn't worth it. All of our wonderful modern varieties came from seed at some point in the past. In my experience, seed-grown trees may not produce the same exact fruit as their parents, but they more than make up for it in vigor and the sheer satisfaction of owning a cultivar that's completely unique to you.
Lighten up and start some peach pits this summer... it's totally worth the time.
Growing lettuce and other leafy greens indoors with an aeroponic system in a south-facing window in the basement seems like a wise move. Growing anything seems like a wise move, I suppose. However, the short days during this long winter has soil-growing 30-day Asian greens at only 2-inches in height, although they were sowed over 30 days ago.
I hope with the use of an aeroponic system, growing 30-day Asian greens can actually take somewhere around 30 days. However, I do not plan on using indoor lights to make this happen, just the south-facing window. Anything that makes the electricity bill go up is strictly forbidden at this time. Plus I don’t want passerby's to see an indoor light and some dude with dread locks. I’ll have the neighbors, riff-rats, and cops thinking I’m up to something. Or worse – someone will break inside and steal my Asian greens!
For right now I will explain the most simple, basic steps to growing lettuce with an aeroponic system. First, we will go over what aeroponics is and what our goal is, then we’ll talk about the initial expenses, touch on pH and nutrient solution, and last, we will hope the sun provides enough life-giving rays long enough each day to grow these Asian greens in 30-days.
About Aeroponics and What I Want to Accomplish
Aeroponics, like hydroponics, deals with growing plants without using soil. Once soil is taken from the equation, all that is left is water, air, and nutrients. The air becomes the growing medium rather than the soil. It is then left to me to measure the nutrient solution, or the fertilizer being mixed into the water. The lid must be secure to block out all light from hitting the roots dangling inside the aeroponic system; therefore, the humidity will stay at 100 percent while oxygen-rich nutrient solution sprays the roots all day.
The aeroponic system is simple. Advanced Simplicity 202-type simple. It starts off as a tote. A PVC pipe is then added horizontally a few inches below the top of the tote. This PVC pipe will have spray-misters drilled into it and a tube coming out to the bottom of the tote to connect to the water pump. Then there is the lid to the tote. This is where the top of the plants grow above as the roots grow inside the tote. It will have holes cut out to install netted pots that will hold the hydro balls, also known as expanded clay. The hydro balls help to hold moisture, nutrients, and oxygen for the roots.
I germinate the seeds in rockwool cubes, then place the rockwool in the netted pot surrounded by hydro balls. The lid should also have a hole for the plug of the water pump to run out of and an extra and larger hole in the middle for taking water out to measure pH and nutrients. Remember, when growing indoors all water should be below the waist and everything electric above the waist. (Growing Indoors with Hippies 101.)
One claimed benefit to growing with hydroponics is plants grow faster because nutrients are available for the plant as fast as the plant can take them. Growing in soil minimizes the amount of oxygen available to the roots in comparison to hydroponics, which maximizes oxygen. In other words, soil holds the nutrients longer and acts as a buffer zone; whereas, nutrients in hydroponics are instantly available. Growing indoors with 600-Watt lights at vegetative intervals of 18-hours a day and flowering intervals of 12-hours a day is some crazy productive stuff. It’s also goes way past my budget and free time. (At least until Pennsylvania becomes the next Colorado.)
The major advantage to aeroponics versus hydroponics is the roots have the highest potential to absorb nutrients through the air. In hydroponics, the water runs through the roots at timed intervals, always draining back into a main water chamber. In aeroponics, the main water chamber is the only chamber and it’s a daily, steady combination of oxygen, water, nutrients, and roots.
The major con to hydroponics is if something goes wrong the plants are much less forgiving than if their roots were in soil. And in order for everything to run smooth the gardener needs to be on top of stuff. Water pH, temperature, and nutrient solutions need to be checked, water needs to be changed every week or two, spray misters cannot clog and do not forget, the garden is growing faster than soil; therefore, the gardener must be fast too. Aeroponics is even less forgiving than hydroponics. And more touchy.
With all that said, it’s simple. Especially when you start off with lettuce varieties and avoid fancy indoor light systems. (I admit, I admire.) And that is my goal. I just want to grow greens indoors with my aeroponic system. Simply.
To follow the flow of simplicity, let’s assume the aeroponic system is ready to go. It’s even filled up with water a few inches above the water pump and it’s plugged in with soaked rockwool cubes germinating seeds. In order for plants to grow, the water pH must be balanced and nutrients must be added to the water. Other than the system, some minor purchases would be for the hydro balls, water pH up/down solution, and nutrient solution. Then there are the major initial expenses. One is a pH meter to measure the pH in the water and two is a TDS meter to measure the nutrients in the water. Fortunately, they are affordable.
I went for the most affordable of each and when I called the pH meter cheap the dude from the hydro-store looked at me crazy. “It’s a great pH meter. It’s not that sophisticated because you’re only growing greens,” he made sure to say. Sounded great to me because I don’t want anything unless I absolutely need it. The pH meter I chose is a Hanna Champ HI98106 and the TDS meter is made by HM Digital, the TDS-3. Both were under 50 bucks and both have worked great, even now after sitting in the shed for 2 years.
Every now and then the meters will need to be calibrated to be sure all measurements are accurate. The pH meter requires more attention to that than the TDS meter does. It’s a mind-numbingly easy process and the calibration solution is cheap. Technically, you are supposed to pour a little calibration solution in a jar, use it once, and dispose of it. The dude at the hydro-store let me in on a little secret; he said, “Use it once, put a lid on it, and use it a second time. They say not to do it but you can get away with it.” My man.
Most soil gardeners will be familiar with pH. TDS, or total dissolved solids, may be foreign - it is used to measure nutrients in the water. Those same nutrients may also be measured under different scales that look like this: EC, DS, or CF. I say chickpea, you say chana and the can on the store shelf says garbanzo. But I just want a bean! (I also just lied, it’s much more complex. But remember, simple.) Here’s an explanation from Gardening Indoors with Soil and Hydroponics by George F. Van Patten:
Pure distilled water has no resistance and conducts no electrical current. When impurities are added to pure distilled water in the form of fertilizer salts, it conducts electricity. Nutrient (salt) concentrations are measured by their ability to conduct electricity through a solution. (Don’t worry, it gets easier.) Simple electronic meters measure this value and interpret it as total dissolved solids (TDS). The TDS meter gives me a reading in parts per million (PPM). I then just need to know what number to aim for in the ppm measurement to grow lettuce.
pH and Nutrient Solution
Let’s keep talking about nutrient solution. In order to grow lettuce with an aeroponic system all I purchased is General Hydroponics Flora Gro. What I like about the dude at the hydro-store is he only sells me exactly what he thinks I need. Flora Gro is part of General Hydroponics basic Flora Series which consists of Flora Gro, Flora Bloom, and Flora Micro. I do not need Flora Bloom because I’m not growing tomatoes or chickpeas or any other vegetable that fruits. The Flora Micro are micro-nutrients that plants may need. This is what he said about the Flora Micro knowing I was short on cash: “You can probably get away without using Flora Micro since you’re only growing greens.” I observed his wording carefully noting I may want to purchase it on my return trip when I buy more hydro balls. We’ll see. I admired his wording for not upselling me like a dude on the brink of starvation. (Technically, he has a building full of food.) With this figured out, all I need to know next is how much Flora Gro to add.
Different plants require different amounts of nutrients. For lettuce I need my TDS meter to measure around 800 ppm. According to this chart, lettuce grows best between 560 and 840 ppm. Technically, I’m growing Asian greens – mizuna and tatsoi. I’ll aim for 800 and increase if necessary.
pH is pH and it is fairly simple yet the numbers a soil gardener may be familiar with are different. In a hydroponic system, vegetables do best with a pH range between 5.5 and 6.5, and it is even better to aim between 5.8 and 6.0. According to the book by Van Patten, the pH of the nutrient solution controls the availability of ions that plants need to assimilate. According to me, it’s much easier to stick the pH meter in water and adjust it with pH down or pH up to aim between 5.8 and 6.0.
Because the water needs changed every week to two, (more often with massive root systems), it is required to run straight water through the system to flush it out between nutrient changes. If the water is not changed the plants can die – the major con.
I start off with fresh water and germinating seeds in rockwool placed in netted pots surrounded by hydro balls – water pump plugged in. I dip a little glass bowl into the water, add some pH down and some nutrient solution, a little at a time and pour the bowl back into the aeroponic system. Then I forget about it for the day. The next day (or the next) I take out more water, measure it with my pH meter, then with my TDS meter and add more depending on the measurements. It’s O.K. to gradually build up to 800 ppm because the plants are still seedlings. The pH I want to keep at 6.0 or a little below.
As for organic, I don’t know. According to General Hydroponics, only unrefined minerals can be certified organic and unrefined minerals do not dissolve well enough for hydroponic systems. Products such as their Flora Series comes from high-quality refined minerals which means they cannot be certified organic. But I’m not after certifications.
For right now, I just want to see if I can formulate growing lettuce with the aeroponic system into my weekly routine year round in the south-facing window in the basement. Ultimately, I feel a deep connection with the soil and sun versus liquid nutrients and indoor lights, but I do enjoy each trip to the local hydroponic store where the owner is growing a ton of veggies all over the place. And selling weekly shares. Perhaps one day, we can take a trip. Until then, stay tuned to check out my progress.
Read more at MadLoveOrganix.blogspot.com.
Milk as Soil Food
Using milk on your compost and in your garden will probably come as a surprise to most. Upon closer inspection, however, it starts to make sense. The amino acids, proteins, enzymes and natural sugars that make milk a food for humans and animals are the same ingredients in nurturing healthy communities of microbes, fungi and beneficial bacteria in your compost and garden soil. Raw milk is the best, as it hasn’t been exposed to heat that alters the components in milk that provide a perfect food for the soil and plants, but any milk will provide nutrition and benefits. Using milk on crops and soils is another ancient technique that has been lost to large scale modern industrial agriculture.
Milk is a research-proven fungicide and soft bodied insecticide - insects have no pancreas to digest the milk sugars. Dr. Wagner Bettiol, a Brazilian research scientist, found that milk was effective in the treatment of powdery mildew on zucchini. His research was subsequently replicated by New Zealand melon growers who tested it against the leading commercially available chemical fungicide and found that milk out-performed everything else. To their surprise, they also found that the milk worked as a foliar fertilizer, producing larger and tastier melons than the control group.
Recently David Wetzel, a Nebraska farmer completed a 10 year study on applying milk at different rates to his pastures, and recorded the results with the help of the local Agricultural Extension agent Terry Gompert , a university soil specialist, a weed specialist and an insect researcher.
What they found was amazing- the grass production was drastically increased; the soil porosity or ability to absorb air and water doubled; microbe activity and populations increased; cows were healthier and produced more milk on treated pastures; the brix or sugar level in the pasture tripled, indicating more nutrients were stored in the grass than before. Grasshoppers abandoned the treated pastures- the sugars are a poison to soft bodied insects as they do not have a pancreas to process the sugars. This also explains why insects will leave healthy, high brix level plants alone, as they contain more sugars than the stressed and sickly ones. Milk Works As Fertilizer.
For the home gardener, the ratio can range from 100% milk to a 20% mixture with water, with no loss of benefits. Use as a spray on the compost and garden soil prior to planting, and as needed when insects appear. Spray directly on the insects and around the areas they inhabit. When combined with molasses, it becomes a highly beneficial soil drench. A proven solution is 20% milk – 1 cup of milk to 4 cups of water, or 2 cups milk to 8 cups water for larger gardens.
Molasses Feeds Micro-Organisms
Molasses is a viscous by-product of the processing of sugar cane or sugar beets into sugar. Sulfured molasses is made from young sugar cane. Sulfur dioxide, which acts as a preservative, is added during the sugar extraction process. Unsulfured molasses is made from mature sugar cane, which does not require such treatment. There are three grades of molasses: mild or Barbados, also known as first molasses; dark, or second molasses; and blackstrap. The third boiling of the sugar syrup makes blackstrap molasses. The majority of sucrose from the original juice has been crystallized and removed. The calorie content of blackstrap molasses is still mostly from the small remaining sugar content. However, unlike refined sugars, it contains trace amounts of vitamins and significant amounts of several minerals. Blackstrap molasses is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron; one tablespoon provides up to 20% of the USDA daily value of each of those nutrients.
Molasses is a very valuable addition to the compost pile, as well as to the garden itself. Unsulfured blackstrap is the preferred variety, due to the mineral content, but any of the unsulfured ones will do fine. The benefits beyond the minerals are the natural sugar content that will feed the microorganisms in the compost or soil of the garden.
Use 1/4 to 1 cup to a gallon of water and spray onto the pile or garden, or add to the drip system for the garden. For soils that are poor, stressed or need help use 1 cup, while those that just need a little “snack” use 1/4 cup. The readily available sugar content will skyrocket the microbial activity.
Blackstrap molasses is also commonly used in horticulture as a flower blooming and fruiting enhancer, particularly in organic hydroponics. Use the before mentioned mixture in the drip system, or sprayed alongside the roots of fruiting vegetables as they start to flower to increase their flowering and fruiting. Add 3 Tablespoons of molasses to the milk spray solution mentioned above and use to feed plants during the height of growing season. Hungry, high production plants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, etc. will really benefit from the consistent feedings, giving you more production that is more flavorful.
A fringe benefit of spraying the milk and molasses mixture on the garden is a biologically friendly weed population control. Many broadleaf weeds thrive on diets high in available nitrates and potassium diets, common with commercial fertilizers. Phosphorus is “tied up” or bound with calcium in the soil and needs biological activity to release it. The calcium in milk helps to compensate for what is unavailable in the soil, while the increased biological activity from both the milk and molasses releases unavailable phosphorus and create soil conditions that are unfavorable to germination of weed seeds.
Who knew that something as simple as milk and molasses had such powerfully positive, far-reaching effects?
For a more in-depth look at other proven but unique approaches to creating great compost and healthy, fertile and vibrant garden soil, read our article "Compost- Nourishing Your Garden Soil" where we show how to stack several techniques to super-charge your compost.
Stephen Scott is an heirloom seedsman, educator, speaker, soil-building advocate, locavore, amateur chef, artist and co-owner of Terroir Seeds with his wife, Cindy. They believe in a world of healthy soil, seed, food and people. Everyone has a fundamental need for vibrant food and health, which are interrelated. They welcome dialogue and can be reached at Seeds@UnderwoodGardens.com or 888-878-5247. Visit their website and sign up for their Newsletter for more education like this!
If you have snow in your area and you haven’t taken photos of the patterns of its melting, you might want to do that before winter is over. With snow it is easier to notice the mini-climates that are around your house and in the garden. In this photo, the rest of the snow had melted a day or two before, except in the shadiest spots. There was no cover on this cold frame and, as you can see, there is snow left from the shade of the short south side of the cold frame. You normally wouldn’t think of a cold frame casting shade inside the box where your seedlings are, but it does when the sun is low in the sky, as it is in the winter months. Earlier there would have been evidence of snow on the east and west ends from the shade cast by those sides. You can see snow on the outside of the cold frame on the north side where it is shaded. This cold frame had no cover for the winter for two reasons. I have another cold frame in use over the winter that has a cover and newly planted seeds, so I didn’t need this for winter production. The other reason is that I need to make a new cover and hadn’t found time to do that yet. Hopefully I’ll soon get that done and get this one planted.
Of course, it’s easiest to tell where the cool spots are in your garden by watching the snow melt. Lacking snow, you can pay careful attention to shadows. If I wanted to make maximum use of the cold frame in the photo, I could have slanted the bed so the soil was receiving more direct rays. I know, however, that the sun is getting higher in the sky every day and shade inside the box won’t be an issue soon. Learn more about watching the snow melt at Homeplace Earth.
In my blog post on phenology I talked of paying attention to the temperature of the soil and even what kind of thermometers to use. Even if you knew the temperature of the soil, it might not mean anything to you unless you knew what temperatures the seeds of different crops preferred. You can find that from two publications provided by Oregon State Extension. From their Days to Appearance of Seedlings at Various Soil Temperatures from Seed Planted at ½” Depth I see that when the soil is 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it will take lettuce 7 days to germinate, spinach 12 days, and peas 13 days. When the soil temperature is 41 degrees, lettuce will take 14 days to germinate, spinach 22 days, and peas 36 days.
By contrast, beans aren’t even shown to germinate at 41 and 50 degrees. At 59 degrees beans will germinate in 16 days; 11 days at 68 degrees; and 8 days at 77 degrees. Knowing that, you can understand why beans will rot in cold wet soil, rather than coming up, if you plant them too early. I remember seeing bean and corn seeds with a fungicide coating on them to keep the fungus from setting in and rotting them. That is a rather toxic way of starting off your food growing for the season. It makes more sense to understand the conditions each crop needs and to plant accordingly. No fungicide needed.
With the knowledge of what temperature each crop does best in, you can be more successful with your seeds and transplants this season. Warm the soil by pulling off the mulch a week or two before planting and letting the sun do the warming. Laying a sheet of plastic over the bed for a week or two will also help it warm up. Happy planting!
Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she's up to at www.HomeplaceEarth.wordpress.com.
I often think about and comment on the ease of rural living today. Compared to years past, our world is really only limited by imagination and personal resources, not geographic realities. Not to say watching live webcasts from Tuscany while eating olive oil purchased on Amazon Prime is the same as waking with the Italian sunshine glowing through your eyelids. However, ruralites and novice homesteaders such as my family can Google a solution to most any vexing country problem. I obsessively pin recipes to can and tidbits gleaned from gardening masters to my Pinterest boards. It was truly a red letter day that MOTHER EARTH NEWS starting publishing pins on Pinterest, so exciting in fact I texted all my homesteader pals.
While our reality is needing a tractor to clear our driveway of snow and marauding deer at every plant, we just downloaded the Mother Earth News garden planner app to my iPad. I simultaneously try to evaluate the pile of old power poles by the shop for garden bed edgers and browse High Mowing Seeds online catalog thanks to my 0200 insomnia.
The reality is we have chosen to live rurally, existing happily without bookstores, the arts and culinary variety. The reality is also that we can tap into information and entertainment from almost anywhere on the planet. These factors directly contribute to my grandiose plans for the garden this year. With newly expanded broadband in our neck of the woods, ideas from around the world, and the security of a worldwide support system and information available; the idea of failing seems far off. Worst case, my garden fails and we eat on the cheap from other local sources, learning from and sharing our mistakes.
Without fear of starvation and the global co-op of information literally at my fingertips I feel bold, brave and optimistic. So my insomnia has led to feverish bouts of seed ordering and subsequent dreams of pea vines encircling me as I dig and dig and dig potatoes in a never ending ditch, potatoes stretching to the horizon. In all seriousness, I read and scrutinize each flowery description. Getting past the initial overwhelming desire to plant and hold and taste each gorgeous specimen in the catalogs; I think about our eating habits, storage options and environment. Like many farm projects, our initial investment should be the biggest, financially speaking. I will save seed at the end of season.
Though the learning curve be steep, five years of hungrily reading the words of farmers, homesteaders, gardeners and other authenticity pioneers makes the language knowable and the landscape less foreign. As our temperature spikes from single digits to mid fifties, so does my excitement and momentary panics at how much is to be done. Our list of projects and hopes sort themselves into a calendar of need and resources. We could certainly just live at our place, plant a few annual flowers and mow a lawn never to worry about frost dates and number of seedlings, finances allowing that rain water irrigation system and the September madness of canning. Neither Dom or I are static beings. The midnight seed catalog page flagging and tractor supply catalogs in the loo are merely symptoms of our disease.
This aching, fluttery, excitable disorder I can only describe as glorious homestead mania. The symptoms become the norm as you live with them. Your delusions projected by your gaze out the window like a slide projector on that mown down meadow. Each bucket to the compost pile carried like offerings to the Maggi. Like any illness your sorrow at giving it to a loved one quickly gives way to relief at your luck in having a boat mate. At least we are crazy together, fantasizing about lush French cantaloupes and the riches of our near future root cellar. Happy seed fantasies friends!