Monday, April 30, 2012

Dedicated to Anna and Mark

When I had the falling out with my face-to-face gardening mentors last year, I turned to Farmer Google for much of the food production knowledge I needed. Two of the best resources I found were Anna and Mark. Mark is actually the nephew of a good friend, so I knew about the blog long ago and occasionally looked at it. But within the last year I've begun reading it regularly and have learned so much from them.

They live even more in the middle of nowhere than I do, and have thus learned to be extremely resourceful. I thought of Mark yesterday when I was on the ground trying to fix my lawnmower. Because I don't have a workbench and am not much of a fixer, I had to scrounge around in every closet in the house before I found ONE wire coat hanger. Like duct tape, coat hangers (or any other kind of heavy-duty wire) are indispensable in the toolbox. I was able to elevate and tie up the rod which had come loose and finish mowing the front yard, making only left turns (the rod is bent and scrapes the right front tire if I turn right). The neighborhood lawnmower fixer will take a look at it – again – when he gets a chance, but for now I can at least cut the grass (and add the clippings to the compost pile).

The dill has self-seeded and is popping up everywhere. I sprinkled the center of the herb bed with saved seed, none of which germinated, but there are plenty of baby plants in two flower beds that I will be moving to the herb garden. This is something I think Anna would delight in as much as I do – free food! I planted dill from transplants two years ago, and it has been growing itself every since.

The onions are ready to walk. These Egyptian onion sets actually came from Anna and Mark's farm. I knew NOTHING about Egyptian onions when I planted them. Now that they're growing new sets on the upper leaves of the plants, I realize I probably should have been eating every other plant, rather than waiting to see what happens. But since they're maturing, I will wait until the sets are ready to share with other gardeners I know. There's something magical (to a gardener, anyway) about food that reproduces without human intervention. (See dill in the previous paragraph … heh.)

The big bonanza this weekend, and one I'm sure Anna, especially, will appreciate, was straw, the secret ingredient to a good garden. Straw enriches the soil, improves the tilth and cuts weeding chores to a bare minimum.

I bought 10 bales of straw from a local farmer last weekend, and he said I could rake up all the loose straw on the floor of the barn and bag it up – free – if I wanted it. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I enlisted the help of the husband for this job. We spent a good two or three hours moving pallets and raking the perfectly good straw beneath them into THIRTY-ONE garbage bags. I'm guessing each bag holds about a bale and a quarter. All we had to provide was gas for the truck, the bags and our own labor for a yield of about 40 bales of straw (plus the 10 I'd already bought). 

I feel RICH.

Two and a half bags went on the asparagus bed, which got a good kill mulch two summers ago and is just now sprouting a few weeds. I'm tempted to only plant tomatoes in the big garden this year (I put a kill mulch on a third of the garden last fall, in preparation for the tomatoes) and use this straw to improve the remaining unplanted parts. Except I really, REALLY want fresh edamame. And squash. And maybe a few green beans. Heh.

At any rate, it's too wet (still) to do any planting today, so I have time to think about Garden Plan B. I'd hate for all this straw to rot in the bags. It would do so much more good if it rotted in the garden!

Anyway. Thank you, Anna and Mark, for mentoring this old lady farmer from your middle of nowhere to mine. I'm grateful beyond measure. And if you, too, want to be mentored, be sure to add their blog to your RSS feed and pre-order Anna's book, which will be shipping later this year. (And/or download – for a buck each – any of her monthly titles or other e-books.)


Anna said...

Aw, thank you so much for saying such nice things! Your lawn mower story reminded me of what my mom was telling me last week --- that one of the wheels fell off her mower, but she just kept on mowing. "You just had to lift it up and scoot it like this..." she explained. She clearly needed a good piece of wire!

Awesome deal on the free straw!! And your volunteer seedlings, kill mulches, etc., look wonderful!

Shauna said...

Oh man never thought i'd see the day when i'd be jealous of a pile of straw, hehe! :) brilliant deal!