Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dreaming of Warmer Days

We've been cold and gloomy with ice and snow and slush everywhere. My mood has matched the weather. I've been itching to get outside, to feel useful and productive. Part of it is a control thing—feeling out of control of the weather and the future, wanting to use my own energy to plant and push the world towards spring and growth and renewal. Antsyness and angst for the changing season, for hope and change in the wider world have been hanging over my head these days. Too much time to think isn't good for me: living inside my head breeds moodiness and obsessiveness.

Gardening gives me hope. The afternoon of 9/11, before I knew if my husband was safe as Bolling Airforce Base and the Naval Research Labs locked down due to the Pentagon disaster just miles away, before I knew if my then brother-in-law made it out of the Towers, having last called while in the stairwell, as I felt paralyzed to help those I loved, to make any difference at all, I found solace in my gardens. My gardens with their earthiness and strength, the reality of dirt in my hands and the connection to life and the things that really matter. This is what people mean when they talk about being "grounded" and "rooted," this feeling of deep connection with the earth, the solidity and stability it lends as chaos rains down.

Today, the weather broke. The sun was glorious and warm, and the last of the ice melted. I hung my laundry outside this morning—three loads. I watered in the hoop house where the baby lettuces were longing for a drink, yet I didn't dare wet them with the recent low nighttime temps. I planted in the low tunnel today: radishes, endive, tatsoi, chard, and kale. I cleaned up the yard, gathered kindling to help us eek out fires in the wood stove for as long as possible, tossed dog-poo popscicles into the hedgerow before they thawed, and spent the end of the afternoon enjoying a beer on our west-facing front porch in resplendent sunshine, all the while planning and envisioning my new medicinal garden in place of the existing turf.

So far outside, I've direct sowed three plantings of radishes, two plantings of tatsoi, and one of beets, hakurei turnips, endive, kale, and chard. The first radishes have already popped, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next. Not too shabby for mid-February.


El said...

This control thing you mentioned is really key, I think. I think it's why I go nuts if something around the farm ISN'T getting done: what the heck, I think: this is the one place I am supposed to have things in order.

We're all curious how your medicinal gardens turn out. There is a long history of having geometric, permanent beds of herbals, usually based on a circular form. There's a research project for the kids, and hey, at least yours are old enough to help you dig!

Madeline said...

Your excitement and energy about what you are creating there is inspiring. All of the farmers I know, who are in climates that allow for a forced break from the farm work, are so ready for it by the winter.

I love what you wrote about the specifics of how gardening grounds you.

Danielle said...

El, I'm getting very excited and have been drawing out my plan. I'll be doing things in big drifts rather than any kind of formal geometric pattern.

Now, however, you've just given me an idea: I wonder if I can use the walking paths to create a kind of labyrinth. Oooooh, that could be really fun! Thanks El!

Madeline, I love heading into the winter season, feeling the warmth of the hearth and the need to nest. But come February, that feeling is long gone, and I spend long moments gazing outside, dreaming, wishing, wanting to be outside working the soil.

It's a seasonal thing: my spirit always seems to lean forward into the coming season. I can't imagine living somewhere were there was no change of seasons; it's so deeply ingrained in my being.

karl said...

"This is what people mean when they talk about being "grounded" and "rooted," this feeling of deep connection with the earth, the solidity and stability it lends as chaos rains down."

nicely put.

Madeline said...

So I am back - you may know what that means....yes, I am tagging you. I realize that this may not be your favorite thing. But I couldn't help myself. Name six things about why you love a friend (rules on my blog).


jenny said...

I have an award for you, come and get it!! :o)

Ren said...

I've been in a funk all week....both from hearing the bad news on Monday and then all of us having the flu. It's been snowing, reminding me how little control I do have over my garden plans.

Your weather is similar to ours. So you can direct sow the endive and such right now?? I've been starting many things inside, but nervous about putting anything directly in the soil just yet, other than two apple trees we did plant Monday before the flu hit.

Danielle said...

Ren, I'm seeding inside tunnels, so that makes a difference. Everything's popping now except the beets and the latest sowing.

El just had a great post about her high tunnel, and she's absolutely right about the sunshine: cold-hardy plants can grow just fine without the warmth—it's the lack of light that's the difficulty.

Personally, I hate my low tunnels. They're way too much maintenance and blow off in really high winds, leaving the plants exposed. I'm planning to build another, slightly narrower high tunnel this fall up next to the one we built last fall. I've been quite pleased with it and won't be without a winter garden again if I have any say in the matter.

I think the low tunnels would be useful to overwinter a tender perennial, perhaps, but not for something that I'm trying to harvest on a regular basis.