It’s warm and windy today in the Midwest, my favorite kind of weather, which we only get in the spring, usually in May; President Obama’s been out playing golf, while I’ve been gardening. A farmer’s favorite time of year is the harvest in fall; mine is the planting in spring.
Of course I like eating my harvest too, but my wallet doesn’t depend on it like the farmer’s does. Plus I don’t have to wait six months to harvest my grain all at once; I’ve already copped some chives, the oregano is amazingly big and pretty, and the radishes are thriving. Even the onions, planted the same day, are finally sending up shoots. I’d given them up for dead, so clearly, I’m still learning.
I like the planting as much as the harvest because it lifts my mood from the winter’s misery to be outside and not cold, cleaning out the dead wood from last year, working the earth with my hands, helping make something new. It completely fits the meaning of spring and Easter (which lasts 50 days, not just a one-time event). Besides poking little holes in the ground and dropping in seeds, I get to enjoy the rebirth of everything planted previously. My cherry trees are in full bloom today!
And if ever there was a flower more beautiful than a tulip, I do not know it. I just went out and picked some for a bouquet on my desk, five fat blossoms red and yellow, in a wine carafe. Tulips you don’t leave outside for the neighbors to look at, you bring them indoors where you live, so they can brighten your life every time you see them. These are a conventional variety much like everyone else has, while the Dutch bulbs Peter sent me from Amsterdam (four unusual varieties, but the squirrels got one) take a little longer; when these are gone, his will start popping in vastly different colors, some pink like roses, others yellow and fringey, and others bred to remind you of parrots. Wow.
Now the lilacs are coming on, surely the favorites of all native Hoosiers. Their perfume fills the air and they remind you of Grandma, bringing tears to your eyes.
The crocuses have passed on, leaving behind their sweet skinny leaves, green and white stripes, and in that same bed, the hostas grow half an inch a day; the nearby irises are stirring too. I may have to clear out the groundcover vine so they don’t get choked.
Two days ago I planted a dozen lily of the valley bulbs under my huge old maple tree, and pounded in a little plastic fence to mark their territory. They won’t bloom until next year, and I don’t know if they’ll shoot up some leaves in 2009, but if they do I don’t want them ambushed by the lawnmower.
I also bought $40 worth of starter plants at Murphy’s, including 20 strawberry plants for the new garden in the back. I’m hoping to go in with my next door neighbor on renting a tiller to break the ground; if not I’ll have to do the job by hand, and a $30 rental makes more sense for both of us. But one way or the other it will happen this year; the Great Recession puts everyone in mind of growing more food. I also bought four tomato plants, even though I’ve got my own seeds planted inside the house. I’ve never grown them from seed before, so I don’t know how they’ll do—but I must have tomatoes, my favorite food.
I also picked up four cabbages and four broccoli plants, but curled my lip at the nearby cauliflower. Yeah, it’s a recession, but I ain’t that desperate.
I got the peony bushes staked up; strange doings with them, all planted in front of the house with a northern exposure. The ones closest to the house have shoots three feet tall, while the ones in front of them are six inches. But maybe that’s because white peonies take longer than red ones or vice-versa. Peonies are for my oldest brother, while the azaleas for our middle bro don’t look so thrilled. Come on, guys, the Masters has come and gone.
The herb garden is finished now; I am delighted to see the chives and oregano, and the tarragon is lively, but four others have disappeared. Basil’s considered an annual here, and I got so much last year I don’t need more, but I was hoping for the thyme and rosemary back. Cilantro is a biennial, so I bought Italian parsley and two thyme plants, because they’re little things and one doesn’t give you a year’s worth. If my sage from seeds works, I’m going to have more of it than McCormick’s.
Meanwhile my biggest news yesterday is that the side porch is done, ready for the season, open for business, with four hanging baskets, two plant stands, a yucca tree, eating area and a clean grill. Impatiens do well under the roof, the area’s 8×24, and it’s my favorite place to hang out with friends in the summertime. Peter and I will spend a lot of time there a month from now when he visits. I grilled a couple of burgers for practice (and eating), my first fire of the year, and I’m always amazed at the details of barbecuing I forget during the winter hiatus. The charcoal grate is adjustable, dummy! I began to think of how to store common items so I’m not running back and forth to the kitchen all the time. I need a storage box with salt and pepper, hot pads, plates and stuff; a dorm refrigerator might be nice. But oh, it’s just so wonderful to be outside.
For today, I’m kind of stymied without that tiller; if we’re going to do it we have to wait until the hardware store opens on Monday. I think I’ll go buy stock for the marigold terrace. I want dirt under my fingernails, the sun on my back and wind through my hair.
Damn, those tulips look good. Thank you, God, for the world you have made.++