Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish Potatoes!

   Top o' the mornin' to ya!  Too much?  Okay...Happy St. Patrick's Day!  I personally don't do much celebrating for St. Pat's, other than wearing a green shirt to avoid being pinched by rude people.  I am fairly certain that being a generic white mutt, I probably have some Irish in me somewhere, but it's never been a *thing* in my family to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  There is, however, one thing that my great-grandfather, and therefore my grandparents, insisted on.  You must plant your potatoes on St. Patrick's Day.  Lesson #2 learned.

Me and my Daddy-o

   So this morning, we headed out to the farm to get some potatoes in the ground before it starts raining tonight.  It's Spring Break here, so my mom and sis are out of school this week and my dad took vacation to hang out with us.  Somehow I talked them into coming with me to plant potatoes.  (C'mon guys, it'll be fun...)

   The seed potatoes had been cut and drying for a day or two, so they were ready to go in the ground. Dad did the hard part of raking up the soil into a little mound for me.  That way you don't have to dig so far to get your potatoes when they're ready.  

  My sister and I went behind him making holes and popping spuds in the earth.  After that, we covered them up and smoothed over the top of the mounds, and gave them a little drink.

   The potatoes were much quicker to plant than the onions.  Partially because there were much fewer of them, and partially because I had help.  We ended up with two rows of potatoes, and Grandpa says each plant will likely yield 8 or so small potatoes.  Not bad!

Two finished rows of potatoes!

My Seester and I

   It was fun to get in the dirt with my dad and sister.  Even though I finally live close, I never get to see them as much as I want.  Grandpa didn't get too involved today.  He showed me what to do, but then he went to fix a fence with a couple of youngin's.  I think they were looking to make a buck, and he needed some help, so he put them to work!  The farm was hoppin' today!  Abby Kate played in the house with my mom and grandma again today.  We had planned for her to stay down in the garden with us, but it ended up being much colder and windier than I thought.  She was perfectly happy to have tea parties and read books inside!

Arugula babies!

   I did get surprised by this bit of green on this St. Patrick's Day.  My arugula seeds have sprouted already!  Not even a whole week in the dirt and they're already popping up!  When they're a tiny bit bigger I'll transfer them to some big feed tubs out in the garden.  They're pretty cold-hardy, so they'll do fine.  Very exciting!

   I'm not sure what comes next in the garden.  I think I'm in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment, waiting until the frost danger is over, and waiting for my little seeds to grow.  I'm looking forward to getting them in the ground and seeing what grows!  What's growing in your garden?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring Has Sprung!

   I am officially declaring the end of winter!  (Hear me, Mother Nature?  No funny business.)  The past week has been gorgeous, even the rainy day seemed to promise changes and new life.  Sigh.  I love it.  I love the end of the bleak grey cold.  I love the end of darkness.  I love the end of a stuffy stale house.  I love the end of trying to come up with ways to entertain my toddler indoors...(only partially kidding about that last one).

   My new undertaking this season is a garden.  Not just a few bedding plants in the front yard--I'm talking grow your own food, mud up to your knees, need a tractor to till it up garden.  No, we did not move to the country, although that is my heart's desire.  My grandparents, however, already live out of town a ways, and have had a massive (half an acre?) garden that has fed the family, neighbors, church members, and anyone else who needed produce for the past fifteen years.  After last year, Grandpa declared that he was done gardening, said it was too hard on his knees and he just wasn't feeling up to it anymore--well, maybe a couple of tomato plants because, you know, the ones you get at the store aren't fit to eat.... He kindly offered his well-tended garden to me, said he'd plow it up if I wanted to plant anything.

Our blank canvas!  Love that red dirt!
   I have a not-so-secret desire to be Ma Ingalls and a dream of having a little land with a clothesline and chickens and a garden, so I jumped at the chance to learn from the master and see if I kill outdoor plants as quickly as I kill indoor ones. So Grandpa got out the tractor and tilled up the earth, and I bought some seeds.  He informed me that the first thing to go in the ground was onions, but we'd be planting sets and sprouts, not seeds.  Lesson #1 learned.  When it quit snowing and the ground dried out last week, we set to work.

Grandpa gettin' work done
   Grandpa had said he'd pick up the onions to plant when he was at the store next.  It never occurred to me that he never asked how many I wanted to plant.  When I got to the greenhouse where they were being stored, I saw this:

Baby onions!
   That, my friends, combined with the sets he had for me, is THOUSANDS of onions.  Did I mention that green onions are grandpa's favorite thing out of the garden?  Apparently they are.  So we got to work, poking holes and planting tiny little wisps of onions.  It wasn't too hard, and I enjoyed spending the time in the red dirt that I missed so much when we lived out of state.  The weather couldn't have been better, and it was a rare chance to spend some one-on-one time with Grandpa.

Putting in the elbow grease!
   I was tired at the end of the day, but it was so satisfying to look back at the work we had accomplished.  I'm sure I'm romanticizing things, but I kept thinking about all of the generations of pioneers who had come before me, who had worked this red dirt and survived by the sweat of their own brows and the strength of their own hands.  It felt right to be learning something so ingrained in the state I grew up in, sort of reverent for everyone who made it what it is.  But like I said, ask me in September how I feel about gardening and I may have changed my tune...

Look closely--can you see my babies out there?

  I also started some seeds for some other things I'd like to try growing this year.  I'm considering this my experimental garden year, learning how things grow and what does and doesn't like the weather and soil here.  I started carrots, spinach and arugula, green beans, zucchini, and corn.  I have seeds for a few other things, but it's a bit early for them, and I plan to buy young plants for tomatoes and strawberries when the frost danger passes.

Seed babies growing in the greenhouse!
   I snapped a few pictures while I was there because everything felt so alive.  Spring was whispering everywhere, from the bluebird that visited the garden to the blooms on the fruit trees.  Every time I took a picture I thanked God for making all things new!

Our colorful visitor

   Before we left, Abby Kate, who had been napping and playing with my grandma, convinced Grandpa that she needed a ride in the Mule.  It's one of her favorite things to do at their house, and there isn't much that she can't convince Grandpa of, so they loaded up and went for a ride.  I love that they get to know each other, and that she loves them the way I do.  I hope she keeps these sweet memories forever!

Waving at Mama!

   I'll attempt to keep things updated as to what my kill count is--I'm not sure these poor plants know what they're getting into!  In the meantime, I have several flowerbeds full of weeds that are mocking me... Time to get a little more dirt under my nails!