Thursday is Planting Day

After Thursday, Raleigh's evening temperatures are predicted to stay above 50 on the ten day forecast, which is perfect for tomatoes. April 1 is also our area's last killing frost date. I still don't have enough spots ready for all seven breeds I've started indoors. To avoid cross-pollination there should be about 20 feet between breeds, or netting should be used to block access for bees that travel back and forth between closely planted tomatoes. I may isolate a couple flowers on each plant with some netting for seed harvesting, because I'd rather not completely shut out the bees. And I'm cheap - I don't want to buy netting for potentially 14 - 20 plants.

Not all of my seedlings survived. The strongest varieties (based on how vigorous their growth seems post-germination) are Mortgage Lifter, Paige's Green (aka a potentially cross-pollinated Aunt Ruby's German Green), and some of the pinks and reds. The Brandywine sprouts refuse to stand upright and show more sensitivity to sunburn when moved outdoors, which led to the relocation of the hotbox to a shady spot under the Carolina Jasmine. Omar's Lebanese is somewhere middle of the road. This assessment if just of their sprout conditions. Last year, I planted many of the sprouts very young and nearly half drooped over after planting before rooting and growing into giant monsters within a couple weeks.

Plants will be ready for pickup this weekend, and after Thursday I will post how many of each are available. If you are coming downtown for Raleigh Easter and requested a tomato plant or two, we'll be back at the house around 1pm for lunch and nap. We're about a mile east from Moore Square. Just email me for directions and come around to the back door. I may also have some squash plants and watermelon for sale, which should be tended to indoors for a couple more weeks. Suggested donation is $1 a plant. It's a pretty good deal. While my tomato plants are smaller than those sold at stores, they are heirloom varieties (which are hard to find) and are in peat pots which can be planted straight into the ground.

Balancing Act

Having arrived safely into the third trimester, I realize that my giddy glow is rapidly transforming into a grimace. Coming off of two miscarriages, I'm reluctant to delve into the general "waaah" that many pregnant women feel is their right as the weeks count down, but I also realize that I shouldn't manufacture a cheery disposition for the sake of proving my gratitude. I'm also learning there is a fine balance between being real and being rude. For instance, merging over into a lane when I clearly saw a car (plenty far behind me) flashing her brights at me to tell me she didn't think my merge was timely, could be interpreted as rude. Fussing at the wait staff for wanting to squeeze a booster seat between Joe and I, where we sat on a booth bench built for one-and-a-half adults (after they had said a highchair would be okay), might have been rude. I've been known to occasionally "teach lessons" to exceedingly impatient drivers on the road, but usually I am very gracious to wait staff and strangers in general, even if I do sprinkle my kindness with a little raw humor.

I was recently sharing with Joe how since we have Alzheimer's on both sides of the family, most likely we will wake up in bed together at the age of 82 and yell, "Who are you!?!" Then we will flick on our i-Geriatrics which will tell us our names and that we've been married since 23, and that we really should have bought that King-size bed back in 2004, since no doubt insomnia from a crowded combination of twelve feet of height has been pushing us over the edge of insanity.

My grandmother was always the kindest lady and it wasn't until her Dementia and Alzheimer's kicked in that I saw how clever and funny she was, which no doubt was cultivated over the years by the dry wit of my grandpa. In her final years, sometimes she could be a little mean, but inside, I knew Momsy was the sweetheart she had always been and was only confused and angry at her declining mental state and the general feeling of lostness after Popsy passed and she moved to assisted living. I don't think I'll ever be as kind as my grandma was. Joe will tell you I can be downright mean, and only God himself knows the depth of my cynicism and insecurity-fed pride. I figure my crotchety pregnancy persona is probably only a glimpse of what is to transpire as I age from fertile to senile. If Momsy could send out a flame here and there, undoubtedly I'll be fighting forest fires.

So I am walking a balance trying to reign in my nature. I may be uncomfortably large, but I am greatly blessed. Though my love handles may be spilling over my sides, I'd rather my jerkish tendencies not spill out on those who cross my path. The pregnancy card may be used to purchase things such as the large pizza I am about to go pick up, but it can't be used to buy back my words and actions. Moments like the one I had today with Scooby, sitting on the deck drinking chocolate chocolate milk with our backs to the warm sun, remind me just how sweet life really is and what little right I have to complain.

Birds, Buds and Blossoms (Pics)

Hot Box

We never did put hinges on the hot box (or is it a cold frame?), but I put it out yesterday and left the tomatoes in them for the afternoon and overnight. Not knowing how well the box retains heat, I was worried that the temperature had dropped too much for them overnight, but today they were still perky and even looked better than they did the day before. I brought them in this afternoon and will continue to take them in and out for the next several days until the night time temps are consistently in the mid forties or higher.

Asparagus For The Rest Of Us

After two or so years of asparagus curiosity, Joe and I have planted a row of Purple Passion Asparagus. Asparagus should be planted in this region from mid-February to early-March, so we were about a week late. After reading about optimum planting methods, we tried to stick to those but budged on the dimensions of the trench and had not prepared the soil a year in advance.

1. Joe dug a 25' long trench that was about 8" deep (give or take a few in places) and about 8" wide. Ideal width is closer to 12", but one man (recovering from a sulfa drug reaction) with a shovel a pregnant lady with a tape measure and a bossy pointer finger can only handle so much digging.

2. We covered the bottom of the trench with some of my soil mix from the veggie bed. Mix included soil, Black Kow, Black Hen, and a lot of peat.

3. I spread out the roots of each pre-soaked crown with the buds facing up along the trench floor at a 12" on-center spacing.

4. Joe topped with another inch or two of the soil mixture until the crowns and buds were fully covered.

5. I sprinkled some "Shake and Feed" down the trench length according to the package directions and then gently soaked the trench with water.

6. As the crowns sprout, we will continue to cover with the soil mixture until the trench is level with the ground and then top with mulch.

Purple asparagus spears are slightly larger than their green brothers and sister, are the most tender and have been claimed to be slightly sweeter. When cooked, the purple turns to green. Spacing plants closer yields smaller spears (personally, I like the skinny ones better than the thick ones). Asparagus plants shouldn't be harvested for three years. My two year crowns won't be harvested next year, but the following year. Allowing them to flower next year will help develop strong plants. While this will take some patience for me, these plants could give me yields for 15 - 25 years.

Risking Rain

On the way to the airport this morning, it started raining. There were just light sprinkles, but all the mamas started calling each other discussing rain plans and whether we'd brave the trip anyhow. Each of us had somehow managed to break what we know is an important rule if you don't want to inadvertently disappoint your kid - we had told our two-year-olds we were going to watch the airplanes. However, breaking that rule of not telling where you are going ahead of time is so much fun, especially when the kid's face lights up and they clap their hands and say, "Yeah! Airplanes!" So we went for it and as the rain began to pour, I smiled for a good ten minutes at how each of us was willing to potentially endure what could be a miserable experience for the chance that we just might have fun.

Sadly, one of the four of us didn't make it due to car troubles. Yet another got lost and passed the observation park and had to make a second loop around the terminals. But despite the downpour on the way there, the rain had stopped when we arrived, and the wind even began to let up. At one point we put the three kids up a spider looking jungle gym and serenaded them with "The Itsy Bitsy Spider". They thought it was great fun to have three goofy mamas singing and doing the hand motions. Tav joined in on the hand motions and Scooby then clapped his hands so vigorously I though he'd knock the other two off the jungle gym. Gibson had a look on her face that said she thought Scooby was a little crazy but the singing was swell. They demanded an encore (Scooby tried to special request a solo later from Regan) and Tav then sang us "Bob the Builder".

It's fun seeing the kids connect with each other and cheer when they see one another. I look at their friendships and see elements that I want to be sure to recapture or not let go of in my own friendships - fun, celebration, lack of pretense. Recently, I had a girlfriend paint my toe nails. I was nervous at first and made sure to let my feet air out a good half hour before she started, but I realized that friends don't mind sweaty feet. They celebrate each other. They might even hold hands now and then.

Dining Room Pod Invasion

Our dining room currently has no room for eating, but please answer me, who actually uses their dining room for eating? Not this family. Tiny little sprouts in half-dollar pods are all over my table, the window sills and the plant shelf. Some have been fortunate enough to be transplanted to peat pots, but the rest will just have to wait. The California Orange Bells have finally sprouted. I am still waiting on the Canary Yellow Bells, the Green Bells, the Anaheims, and a couple herbs. There are still several tomatoes that are stubbornly refusing to sprout, so they have been reseeded.

This weekend, Joe and I will build our first cold frame (read: Joe will build while I look on with a critical eye). Our friends gave us a storm window which will be mounted on and hinged to a slanted wood frame recessed into the ground. With the window closed, the box should stay warm enough for the young plants to grow until they are planted in the ground. Pictures and updates are to come!

Planting Trees

Last weekend Joe and I purchased a peach tree from Lowes and planted it along the property line next to the one we planted last spring. We planted the initial tree after my first miscarriage in March of last year. As we broke the ground with my parents, we laughed about how I always pick spots with huge rocks (these looked like cobble stones) and we dodged Scooby's wild bamboo-pole-ninja-chopping. Though it was left unspoken between us, I feel like this new tree was planted for the baby we lost this past June.

For awhile now I've reflected on the ability of planting trees to commemorate life in the wake of something else passing or the onset of blessings or a changing life season. When I ended my first dating relationship and was waffling in my decision due to the grief and insecurity of my overwhelming new-found singleness, a campus minister encouraged me to do something physical - get a haircut or pierce my ears - to mark that change in my life or pay it homage of sorts. I can't say at the time I understood the value in or heeded her advice; however, I have come to see how finding a physical expression of inner change can help define the experience and allow us to move through grief without fearing the loss of memories or the dissipation of our love and hopes.

As those trees mature, they will grow stronger, bear fruit, and provide shade. In choosing peach trees, I've decided that my grief will not bear bitterness in my life, but be a source of encouragement to others. I hope when I pause and reflect on them, I'll remember a season of pain and take great comfort in how God has brought new life - both in a new child and in strength that only comes from the tenderness of a broken heart.

Eventually I hope to have my two boys plant their own trees. I will share with them how while they are now like young trees - tall and lanky with shallow roots and fragile branches - one day they will be like the massive oak trees in our neighborhood. Their roots will be firmly planted and drink deep waters unseen by the eyes. Their branches will be strong to shoulder great weights and withstand furious storms, and their reach will be wide and shady to provide shelter and safety to the ones they love. And while they may still run around chopping like ninjas and laughing as we dig the holes, I hope the love in which is it done will take root in their young hearts.


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