Notes from Three of Earth Farm: Deconstruction

We here in SW Washington were on the edge of a Pacific cyclone last week. Heavy wind whistling across the side of the hill Sunday night finally sent me sleepless to the bedroom on the back side of the house where I couldn’t hear it. But the power stayed on. And thankfully no trees came down on the farm, other than a tiny one in the woodlot that’s leaning into a maple tree. I’ll have to fire up my chainsaw for it. There wasn’t even much fir branch blow down to clean up. Two nights later, however, with not even a whisper of wind, I heard something big fall nearby. When I went out in the daylight looking for it, all I found close by was a monster limb––a trunk, really—from the maple tree my father built a tree house in for the grandchildren. It wasn’t recent blow down, but a reminder that I live at the edge of a brittle forest.

There was little rain during the windy days, but it came down nonstop the rest of the week. I’m glad I got the roof and downspouts cleaned out just before it all began, but when the rain finally stopped, I headed up again and dumped buckets full of fir needles and cones into the wheelbarrow below.

While I cleared the downspouts (and discovered the one over the front porch is plugged and I’ll have to clear), a huge skein of geese honked their way down the valley, their bodies shimmering in the sun as they rose as one from a quick stop at the newly formed lake on the valley floor. Cleaning off the roof is one of my favorite tasks. Someday I won’t be here, and I renew my vow to embrace these days that I am with gratitude, in spite of the work.

Sun was forecast for the weekend, and I finished my garden project before the rains returned. My garden in the meadow, built in the spring of 2014 and enlarged a year later, with the help of my family, needs a major rehabilitation, or I need to let the land reclaim it. The original garden boxes have rotted, giving access to the buttercup, which had previously been marching from the driveway side of the garden toward the barn side, taking over unboxed flower beds and the grass, but not getting in the boxes. Now it’s having its voracious way with the vegetables too.

It used to be so pretty.

Back in July, before the strawberries and blueberries ripened and the tomato plants produced, after the emerging pea plants were eaten by a rabbit that breached the fence and the beans were eaten by slugs, I was ready to choose the “let it go” option. Even the reliable zinnia bed gave birth to tall alien weeds and not a single flower. The only question was should I remove the brick path that weeds and moles bury anyway, or just let the earth reclaim it. It wouldn’t take long to become buried evidence of previous habitation in a future archeological dig.

But then there was lettuce, and oh my those tiny ever-bearing strawberries are so sweet. They never even got to the house; I just stood there and ate them. There were more tiny tomatoes than I could consume, and tomato basil sauce from the plum tomatoes is in the freezer for my Saturday pizza this winter.

One has to weigh the exorbitant cost of growing your own vegetables and the high probability of failure to thrive, against the satisfaction gained at harvesting the crop and eating food you grew yourself. Rebuilding the garden will be hard work: new raised boxes to construct (and I do want to raise the beds this time, away from the buttercup and the moles, and for ease to my body that will be entering its eighth decade when the next growing season starts), new soil, and a load of gravel to be shoveled up and spread.

I made a plan. Or more accurately, I decided on step one for now, and I will decide in the spring on a rebuild or total annihilation.

So for now I am deconstructing, and not doing all the boxes at once, but just the original three. I will cover it all with black plastic for the winter to smother the buttercup. In the spring, I’ll decide what’s next. For one thing, I’m going to stop trying to grow what doesn’t produce.

I gave up on the Bs long ago: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bell peppers. It’s fun to dig potatoes, but I don’t grow enough of them to justify the space they take. Carrots and beets don’t produce, probably because I don’t thin them enough and my bed is too small. The spinach bolts almost immediately. I cooked lots of chard for my mother (and it’s pretty in the garden), but she’s gone and in the summer I prefer greens I don’t have to cook. Slugs have gotten the beans two summers in a row. Zucchini. Yeah. I don’t know why I can’t grow zucchini. Who can’t grow zucchini?

The fact is, I’m a lazy gardener. I would rather be hiking than tending to vegetables and weeds. So next year: lettuce, peas, tomatoes. And of course the strawberries and blueberries. I’m thinking I’ll put raspberries in the root vegetable box. And plant more flowers. But the buttercup. And the creeping oxalis. And the slugs. And the moles.

Stay tuned.

13 thoughts on “Notes from Three of Earth Farm: Deconstruction

  1. I could never garden on my own, no matter how raised the beds are. But I sure do love living with a gardener. Nothing like harvesting and eating in just a few steps. But letting nature take over and running over to farmer’s market is good too.

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    1. We will see what happens. The farmer’s market here is sweet, and very small. And yoga in Olympia is now on a day the bigger market there is not open. I would be happy just growing lettuce, peas, and tomatoes . . . and a riot of flowers.

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  2. I game up the garden plot I’d had for several years last summer. Someone else used it. The greenhouse that was the best part of the garden was demolished by a runaway car and an over-age driver, and hasn’t been replaced yet. I miss the the stuff I used to grow, but not enough to do it again.

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  3. I can’t grow zucchini. Or at least the last attempt failed. I can’t remember if I ever tried it before. Swiss chard yielded 3 meals’ worth. Farmers’ market for me! Except herbs. It seems I can grow herbs, or at least some of them.

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      1. You could also harvest it at baby stage and eat it raw. Microgreens! There’s a boutique grower at the farmers’ market who sells at least a dozen different microgreens. She clips off the amount people want to buy and I assume they re-sprout. Another use: chop fine and add to soup–or maybe even your pizza sauce.

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  4. I’ll look forward to seeing Garden 2.0 next summer. Those trees in the forest and the owl woods are so wonderful. Even the refuse is beautiful. I enjoy chard raw so maybe you don’t have to give up on it yet !!

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    1. Or not! Hah. I was so happy, and surprised, when the owl crossed my path. I love that trail so much. I thought about entering a photo in the FSHNA contest, but all the ones I love are on that trail, which is not officially part of SHNA. Raw chard, huh. Hmm.

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      1. Butter lettuce for sweet, arugula for nutty, mustard greens for sharp and swiss chard for bitter … the perfect salad. I fell in love with a salad we had on retreat: greens, beets and goat cheese tossed in some kind of dressing. It was divine. I love salad and the one I made at Three of Earth (with swiss chard) was great too. I even tossed in some fruit for good measure !

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