Tag Archives: asparagus

First of June on the Fox Lake Road

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The wind was strong all day yesterday, putting a chill in the air though the sun was bright. It made shaking out the rugs an easy task, as long as I stood away from the dust storm that ensued. Sign painting was a messy job, out in the open air. Mowing the lawn was an adventure, with grass clippings, dried leaves, pine chips and sand flying every which way. Aunt Katie – who chills easily – was bundled in layers to sit on her porch to do her gardening. Fox Lake, when I took the dogs for a swim in the evening, was so active I almost expected to see whitecaps topping the waves!

Despite the chill, we are seriously moving toward summer, now. The sun is up so early, it fools me into thinking I’ve overslept. I rush out of bed in guilt and panic, only to find it’s not even seven o’clock. It stays bright later into the evening, too. I keep thinking I’ll take advantage of the extra daylight to get more yard work done…but my energy fades long before the sun sets.

We’ve had a little rain, but it’s still awfully dry. It was a mild winter without much snow, so we started this spring with less moisture than usual. I’ve been saving my burnable trash, waiting for the fire danger to be eased. It’s getting to be quite a big amount, in a box in the corner of the laundry room. I may have to break down and haul it to the transfer station with my garbage and recyclable trash.

My strawberries are still white, but if the birds leave them alone, there will be a good harvest. If we get rain, I’ll have a few more pickings of rhubarb before it’s done. I found six perfect asparagus spears last evening, and ate them raw. The snowball bush is loaded with pale green – soon to be white – globes. The iris are opening in the side yard. Peonies – three, at least, of my four plants – have many buds. Lilacs are in full bloom, and fill the air with their sweet perfume.

And that’s how it is, on the first day of June, out on the Fox Lake Road.

 

Frosty Morning

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I walked out this morning before the sun had reached the treetops, camera in hand and the little dog at my side.

My only intent was to photograph the asparagus; the ice-covered fronds were waving at me from their garden bed.

Grass crackled under my feet. A layer of frost covered everything.

The grapevines are bare, except for a few wilted leaves. I’ve been picking grapes for weeks, to eat and to share. The local birds have indulged as well. The Coffell family came last week, to pick the last few bunches. In exchange, they left two quarts of fresh apple cider and a jar of their homemade maple syrup.

The wisteria, climbing up the gate post, still has its leaves, though they’re dry and limp and flutter madly as I walk by.

The sedum, Autumn Joy, is undaunted by this crisp morning. I may get time yet, to go out and prune the stalks. If not, they’ll stand strong all winter, with their rosy dried flower heads peeking out above the snow.

A clump of “brown-eyed Susans,” the blossoms all covered in ice crystals, seem surprised by this turn in the weather. The already furry mullein leaves have just added another layer.

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There are apples that we pick in the early fall. Others – the winter apples, which are the best for storage – are inedible until we’ve had a frost.

Frost mellows the flavor of parsnips and kale. It halts the growth of carrots, so they’ll keep in the ground until they’re needed.

Frost signals – better than any calendar can – the end of summer.

It reminds me – a gentle reminder, as it disappears as soon as the sun touches it – that the seasons are changing. There are things to set aside, until next spring. There are things to do now, pruning and mulching and clearing, before the snow comes…before the cold is here to stay.

I came in inspired from my little walk.

I put a pot of beans on the stove, for soup that can simmer all day.

I mixed rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower nuts and almonds with a bit of cinnamon and a good swig of maple syrup. I spread it out on a sheet pan, and put it in a low oven to toast, for homemade granola. I’ll add currants and dried cherries when it comes out of the oven.

I made bread dough, and put it on the counter where it can share the oven’s heat to rise.

There are other things to do: housekeeping; bookkeeping; writing; laundry. They wait for me, year ’round.

It’s only in the fall and winter, though, that they are joined, in my house, by the smells of soup, fresh bread and cinnamon.

Sometimes a reminder to enjoy this present day is the very best way to begin the morning.

This Morning

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Children and animals don’t understand Daylight Savings Time.

They stick to their own schedules.

My nieces and nephews with babies in the home have been noting how they missed out this year, on that extra hour of sleep.

In my household, it means my little dog starts early this time of year, asking for her dinner. It means she’s ready for sleep earlier, too. She comes to find me – at computer desk or in the studio – and cocks her head. “Still working? It’s bedtime,” her look tells me. When she gives up and walks away, I imagine a shoulder shrug, head shake and a mumbled comment about how I’ll be sorry tomorrow.

In the morning, we get up on time, no matter what the clock says.

Even if it’s my day off.

Even if it’s one of those frosty mornings when the air is cold and the blankets form a cozy cocoon and I don’t want to move.

We get up because the little dog – unaware of the time change – needs to go outside.

I turn on the coffee pot; it will be ready when I come in.

I pull my white, fleecy robe from the hook on the bathroom door, pick up the camera from the desk, grab a few pieces of kibble from the dog food bin, and slide into the shoes that wait by the kitchen door.

Out we go!

This is our routine, year ’round.

Sometimes boots and winter coat replace the shoes and bathrobe. Other days, the big umbrella is necessary. Rarely, but on a couple summer days I go out in just pajamas and bare feet.

Some days the ground is so wet with dew, it dampens my feet right through my shoes. Sometimes, a fresh snow welcomes us.

There are mornings when I’m greeted by a big moon and a sky full of stars.

This morning, frost has turned the asparagus fronds to silver. Leaves crackle under my feet. In the trees, dark branches are revealed where the leaves have fallen. They form a striking backdrop for the color that is left: yellows have turned to amber, and oranges to rust.

Over it all, this autumn sky.

This morning, like every other, I hate to get out of bed. I shudder when my feet hit the cold floor. I grumble as I maneuver my sleepy self into bathrobe and shoes. I complain to myself as I walk around the yard and garden, waiting for the little dog to finish her morning constitutional.

This morning, like every other, I am enriched by the experience in spite of myself.

In the Garden

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Okay, here’s the plan.

Drawing up the plan is always the first step, and the most difficult for me: figuring out what needs to be where. I have to consider convenience of care and harvest, amount of sunshine and where the water pools after a rain. I think about what things look like as they’re growing and after they’ve finished growing for the season. I have to think about my path to the compost bin, and the trail of the hose for watering.I like to instill symmetry, beauty and a sense of order. I certainly don’t do this every year!

Since the early ’90s, when I started gardening in this location, I have changed the orientation of my raised beds, to take better advantage of the sun. I doubled, then tripled the size of my garden space. When deer became a big problem, I fenced in an even larger area, and moved day-lilies and other edible flowers into the fenced area with the vegetables. Because it had now grown beyond what I needed for vegetables, I added small fruits to my inventory. Still, most years it’s just a matter of maintenance, not a full-blown reorganization.

Two years ago, the garden was in this design:Image

It doesn’t show on this diagram, but the front and two sides of the inside fenced area are bordered with flowers. The back border is a combination of flowers, horseradish and rhubarb. It looked nice on paper, and was okay in real life, as long as I had time and energy to maintain it. Last year, I didn’t.

Knowing I would be away most of the season, I didn’t even plant a vegetable garden. I didn’t spend my evenings pulling weeds. Though I harvested my berries when I was able to, I did not train the runners on the strawberry plants, or edge the raspberry patch to keep them in control. I didn’t  add wood chips to my pathways, to keep the weeds from coming through. Left to fend for itself, several problems became evident.

Without supervision, the sod from my yard quickly took over the flower bed borders. Even the nearly wild orange day-lilies could not hold their place against my weedy grasses. The raspberry plants sent out roots in every direction, taking over the entire northeast corner with their canes. Strawberries laid claim on the southwest, spreading wildly through the pathways and every garden bed. My tart cherry trees had grown just enough to crowd my path to the compost bin. Weeds made themselves right at home everywhere.

Big changes are in order!

I’m moving all flowers into a large, rock-bordered bed that will run right down the center, between two rows of raised beds. I won’t be fighting with that fence to try to take care of my flowers! I’ll be able to get all the way around the area for weeding, dead-heading and otherwise tending them. The perennials will be far enough from the lawn that I should never again have such a snarl of quack grass roots and crab grass runners in amongst my flower bulbs and roots and corms. I’ll be able to mulch next to the fence on both sides, or trim, weed-whack or even mow if necessary. For now, I’m leaving the day-lilies in the front border, and the poppies, rhubarb and horseradish in the back.

My vegetable beds are going to be closer to the house, this year. The back beds will be for the berries, and for the asparagus. All of the beds are going to be boxed in, rather than just mounded. I’m building the frames out of 1″x6″ cedar, with 2″x2″ posts in each corner. That should help to keep the beds clear of the wood chips I use in the pathways. I’m hoping it also cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend weeding.

This has to happen in a particular order, though, and it all has to happen in quick progression.

Warm weather brings “black fly season” here in these north woods, followed closely by “mosquito season”. I like to be finished with the most time-consuming outdoor jobs before the insects arrive. Then there is “growing season” to consider. I’m as far from the water as I could possibly be on this island, so don’t benefit from the tempering effects that Lake Michigan provides. I usually have the latest frost in the spring, and the earliest frost in the fall. Tender crops have to be in as soon as the ground is warm enough, so they will have time to mature. Transplanting – of berries and fruits – is best done when the plants are dormant. This year, an extremely mild winter has caused many things to start their annual growth early. Everything has to be rushed!

For a month now, I’ve been working at clearing out the flower beds. Last week, I dug up and carefully moved one cherry tree. It was as traumatic for me as it was for the tree, but we both seem to have survived. Yesterday was spent digging up and moving raspberries and strawberries for give-away. It was hard work, but fun, with people stopping by to take away a few plants.That has cleared most of the center area, so that today I can start moving rocks to border my new flower bed.

The next time I write about my garden, I’ll have a real photograph!