Tuesday, May 5, 2015

impulse purchases, fedco 2015

When we moved to this house four years ago, the property already had some well established gardens and landscaping, mostly of the ornamental variety.  I have mentioned the tiger lilies.  

But I have come to appreciate just how much our small urban acreage has to offer in terms of plant, insect, and animal life, especially since we added our honeybee hives to the mix a few years ago.  It seems there is a constant emergence and then quick exit of bee forage here, and each wilting of a round of blossoms is quickly followed by the budding and blossoming of something else.  Last week it was the carpet of small blue flowers that covered our lawn.  And this week it is these small delicate flowers in the shady wooded areas.  So from the emergence of the earliest silver maple buds in the early spring to the last days of fall goldenrod, and through all the months in between, there is always something in bloom.

Though at one time likely quite magnificent, the gardens here had gone a bit wild and untended.  But when we really began poking around, we started to see that - before the overgrown but quite carefully planned and intricate gardens were put in - there had been a focus on growing food here. There are the remnants of a small orchard. And working in what has become a thorny thicket of blackberries and raspberries is, well, difficult. I recently discovered what I think must have been a vegetable garden down the hill from the barn a bit, with the vestiges of a small stone wall around it and remnants of some stubborn heritage perennial herbs and plants.  

So even without a plan for our land to grow food in more modern times, it all seems to work here. So many plants I am still learning to identify.  Different bees, insects, and creatures that all are connected to each other in surprising ways.  

In terms of what we plant now, I do have a eye toward its providing us with food, feeding the bees and chickens, offering shade. Plants to serve some purpose here, to become part of the circle of sustainability here.  And that thicket? Little did I realize that the blackberries that are here, and have been here for a very long time, would be such a staple for our honeybees, that the bramble would thrive and return to productivity for the attentions of what we introduced.  Little changes made, these seemingly small victories, can make such a significant difference.

I have been cleaning the gardens all up a bit with the warmer days.  Investigating what has survived the winter and what needs to be replaced, moved, or rethought.

In the garden, things are coming alive.

And we are seeding some beds.  Peas and early lettuces.

And therefore, the chickens are no longing welcome in the garden.

They have plenty of other places to be these days.

Our seedlings are coming along in the sun of the shed, but it is still a bit early to bring them out.

And then, quite suddenly, partly because I forgot it was this weekend, and partly because we found an unexpected slot of time between activities during which I could drive the hour and a half north, poke around, and then drive the hour and half home, I headed off to the Fedco Tree Sale.  

I picked up my pre-ordered trees, fruits, and potatoes.  And then.  Because I was alone, and because I had in fact driven 3 hours to get there and back, I made a few extra and unplanned purchases, as I tend to do.

Last year I had impulsively chosen to buy two grape plants and some wild blueberry plants.  Admittedly, largely because, when discussing grape and blueberry plants the day before with Jonathan, he had told me he did not think getting these were a good idea this year.  

I can be like this sometimes.  

They are doing quite well on the trellis I quickly fashioned for them last year.

And so, buoyed by this success, I stood in front of this chart for a good long time trying to decide how best to round out the our blueberry patch, given what had done well here and what was struggling.  

And I purchased accordingly.

I threw in some plants from the greenhouse that I have decided these skilled people nurture better than I can from seed.

And then I headed south.  And added my loot to the seedlings in the shed, and we have now begun bringing them out into the sun in rotation each day.

I love Fedco so.  One of the reasons for my devotion, honestly, is their packaging.  

Many items are stored in reused plastic bread bags, roots wrapped in recycled paper shreds, boxes re-purposed.  My potatoes were in a blueberry box, for example.

This week, we are attempting to get it all in the ground.

I have decided that, since everyone says how impossible it is to kill rhubarb, assuring me that it will take over my garden if I allow it to, and since I did in fact apparently kill rhubarb here, that I need to read the planting instructions a bit more carefully.  And then follow them.  Ahem.  My Fedco catalogue with its countless illustrations and planting, pruning, and plant variety information, which I pored over and dreamed about while ordering the plants and seeds a few months ago, is now a constant companion in the garden with me.

Digging around the old garden beds, we are finding treasures that are returning all on their own, some alive, some just remnants of last year's growth, or old objects lost long ago.  Elliott is rescuing the gourds from the compost bin and re-purposing them as cups.

Worried about the health of this worm, Elliott released it and instead put a marble in that cup, one we uncovered when digging in the rhubarb patch.

There is still a good deal to plant here, and we are working away at it each day.

At Fedco, no children or husband in tow, and again left to my own devices once I had my pre-ordered items in the car, I then wandered and found the plants I had discovered needed replacing after the winter's abuse.  And then I did indeed get myself two even more impulsive items this year.  A Fedco T-shirt, for inspired planting, I told myself.  And a book, for my next venture, into attempts to create my own chicken feed blend using local grains, and how to use what we have here already, and what we can plant here for them to provide more natural forage.  This book should get me started.

It did, after all, come in a re-purposed honey wheat bread bag.

And they are OK, these impulse purchases, because there is no better time than spring to remind us that sometimes the unexpected, the not tended, the forgotten, and the already existing is better to work with, and certainly more surprising, than the new.

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