Monday, May 25, 2009

Let The Alley Grazing Begin

As those of you who read my blog know, alley grazing refers to both kinds- eyes on the ground and head in the clouds. Wandering the byways and back alleys of my mind is more productive with a specific earthbound goal directly ahead. Just ask any fisherman (woman), huckleberry or asparagus stalker, or mountain rambler. As each of you also browse the rich forage of your thoughts, either occasionally or constantly, so I find myself drawn to the harvest of thoughts and weeds when spring erupts. And it is, finally, erupting.

This year, a quick trip to California to pick up my Mom's furniture made me miss my favorite seasonal event, the scent of cottonwood. By the time I got back, my dog was covered with the sticky little bud scales, and the scent had been carried far away on prevailing winds.Here in the Mission Valley, we have had a long, teaser of a spring with the promise of sun, then with a few warm, languid days followed by snowy nights and visa versa. The warm and cold have been so seamlessly sandwiched together that everyone has been going loco with the ambivalence of it. Ah, not to mention the confused tomatoes , pussy willows and cherry trees.

For the month of April and most of May, I believe it snowed on the mountains everyday. That has to be some kind of record. I was on my knees rummaging in my under-the-bed summer/winter storage box daily like a nervous squirrel checking the cache. First, grabbing summer stuff and replacing it with winter togs; then grabbing the jackets again and putting away the shorts, with each new blast of cold.

Now, Memorial Day is upon us, the official opening of summer, and it is a tad frosty, but when the clouds part, it gets steamy and warm. The mountains produce the most interesting weather, if not the best for gardening.

Speaking of gardening, in a rare burst of enthusiasm, and with Al's help, I now have a raised bed garden, bristling with seedlings-lettuce, arugula, cilantro, some broccoli and basil plants and a few tomato seedlings. In the foreground are bunching onions and a 'lawn' of tiny collard volunteers.

I am currently reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, published in 1974 by Robert Persig, a cultural classic and metaphorical masterpiece of its time that sold 4 million copies.

He shows the error at the very heart of western thinking that creates most of the confusion and misunderstanding of our times. It is brilliant and sometimes difficult to follow as the author shows the errors in thinking through the narrator, a former philosophy professor who we understand goes mad tracking down an idea to some horrid dead end, has electroshock treatment and emerges as the current narrator. This narrator writes technical manuals and is attempting to trace the journey to madness of his former personality (without following him into the abyss), while taking a motorcycle trip with his son. Wow. That book covers a lot of ground both vertically and horizontally; like a non-fiction inquiry wrapped in a fiction story wrapped in an enigma? See for yourself. But does it ever start you browsing through your ideas and assumptions.

As for the earthbound alleys, chickweed is blossoming and spreading; lamb's quarters is up about 6 inches. Just the right size for picking. And, oh those collards! Once again, I have to rhapsodize about them.

Two years ago, when I threw some collard seeds into the soil here, they grew into trees with two foot seed stalks. Then those trees had babies the following season and I saved seeds from them in my garage and thrashed/winnowed them a month ago.

In the magnified photo below, they look like Montana river rocks. These seeds in my jar had siblings that fell on the ground and are now 4-5 inch seedlings. Within a few months, their gigantic leaves will be blanched, frozen, and put away for winter nutrition. Third generation. The beauty of non-hybridized seed, is the exact genetic vigor year after year. Bugs don't eat them and they withstand drought and flood. Collards, like chickweed, lambs quarters, dandelions and burdock (root & stems), contain stellar vitamin/content and are very tasty. I just love how that works. This year when I finally got around to making raised beds, I didn't have to buy anything but the seeds. Been avoiding it as too much work, but it wasn't. With scavenged wood, digging the paths, and shaping stakes to hold up the side boards, and screwing everything together, I was done. Oh yeah, and a great helper. Let's not forget that. A special place in heaven for garden helpers. Then Glacier Gold compost folded into the soil completed the job.

It wouldn't win a beauty prize, but I think we'll get some good eating this summer. I thought the long pea bed (foreground, 2nd photo from the top) was a stroke of genius. Sometimes I think we just channel the plants wishes, because the whole template just stamped itself on my brain and I started building. The vigorous little plants to the right are arrugula. I plant thick, then start thinning for salads. Looks like good picking right now, only two weeks after planting!

1 comment:

Angela said...

Julie - this is a fantastic post and your beds are gorgeous! I am so jealous! Please blog more and don't forget to stop by here if you're headed to Kalispell. Fabulous writing, kiddo.