Rhubarb’s Many Happy Returns

It seems odd to write about rhubarb as summer draws to a close.

Rhubarb is one of the first vegetables to be harvested in the spring.* 20180805_120622158844458296092871.jpgIt’s an herbaceous perennial that comes back to life from rhizomes every spring. The timing is perfect for it to be paired with another perennial favorite, strawberries! I can’t think of anything else that marks the start of summer like strawberry-rhubarb pie. Unfortunately, that time came and went quickly this year and I never made that pie. I ended up putting all of my effort into something less fleeting; jam. I made strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb jam.

*That’s right, it’s a vegetable! The courts were able to declare it a fruit back in the 1940’s because of its culinary association with cobblers and pies, but it was mainly done to help businesses who imported the stalks from having to pay taxes!

The jam was good to make but, I did miss getting to bake. Here’s a Gardenkeeping secret confession: I love to bake as much as I love to garden! The only problem with baking is that, if you’re not careful, everyone gets chunky around the middle. It’s definitely not a victimless pastime. So, please, please be careful if you find yourself alone in a kitchen with flour, sugar, butter…!

 

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Smoky and Blue

The Woods a Blaze

There are wildfires burning throughout the western part of the United States. Here in Washington State there have been 470 fires in 2018 so far. I was surprised to find out that every year the fire season officially starts on April 15th with burn restrictions in place on all DNR-protected lands. It turns out that as soon as the spring rains stop, everything starts to dry up and is at risk of catching on fire. This year we had a wet spring but, once May hit, the rain stopped and they began predicting a challenging year for fighting wildfires. Then came the summer.

Summer’s Haze

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I’ve had to cancel work for the week. The air quality has gotten that bad.I tried to work a bit but, it was truly miserable. Last week I was out in it and ended up feeling pretty crummy. When I showed up at work the following Monday, K came out of her house and was amazed that I was there, “We’re not even letting our dog outside today!” That was when I realized how quiet it was Uptown: an eerie air. There were no other people outside and only an occasional car driving by. The smoke had driven everyone inside to hide from its ghostly presence. I said I’d reschedule and then left for home. My head hurt and I felt tired, so, after a bath I went to bed and stayed there.

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The Good Shit

It was a late start; April instead of February.

My work and the rain have made it difficult for me to get to into my own garden. If you read my last veggie post (Can You) Dig It , we left off with me planting a winter garden instead of a cover crop.  The spinach, lettuce and kale did a great job of getting us through the winter, but then a snow storm hit in February and left snow on the ground for a week, which is unusual for Port Townsend. That freeze was enough to kill off the last of my lettuce. Then the rain started falling and has hardly let up since. Gardening these last few months has left me questioning some of my life choices! Yes, it was getting bad.

 

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Opening Eye

The Mornings in December are dark

The curtains are kept closed for privacy and warmth. I’m an early riser, so there are hours of darkness that accompany my morning routine. Usually by the time I open the curtains the sun is up and I’m off to work, but not today.

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(Can You) Dig It

Or Not?

I know when it comes to cultivating the soil, everyone has an opinion about it. There are a lot of good reasons not to. The soil has a structure and its own little ecosystem of worms, fungus and bugs. Also, digging is hard work! A good reason to dig is if you’re putting in a new bed and you need to amend the soil. I would say that once the plants are in you’re better off spreading compost and mulch on the surface and waiting for the earthworms to work it all in for you.

The one area of the garden that I’ve found needs regular cultivation is the vegetable garden.

Maybe it’s that so much is demanded of the vegetable garden. If plants are slowly creeping along, it doesn’t seem worth the space and time. The first beds I dug over 20 years ago were the start of what is, to this day, my vegetable garden. At first it was exciting to pick a couple of green beans and a few small leaves of lettuce, even though bugs and dirt on my food were a new experience for me. Yeah, at that point I was still mostly a city girl and secretly grateful that most of what I planted barely grew.

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Peas Take a Bow

There was a week of nice weather sometime around mid-February.

The seed racks began to fill up at The Co-op and I started to feel ansy as my schedule got too busy to answer the call coming from my vegetable garden. Could it be waking up from its winter slumber or was it just my stomach grumbling?

Some winters are very mild, but this year has felt colder and wetter than usual. It hasn’t affected my work schedule too much, which is good. There is so much to do this time of year to get everyone’s gardens ready for the spring: pruning, mulching and of course, always weeding.

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The last of the winter spinach.

The weekend of the 18th I finally had time [and good enough weather] to make my way into the garden. The kale had seen better times, so, it got yanked.  The spinach and arugula that I had planted in the fall looked  good and seemed to finally be growing. The lettuce had overwintered, but not well. It hadn’t grown much before the cold weather hit and the outer leaves looked ready to rot.

 

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Don’t get carried awayyyyyyy

Now that fall is here you can feel that a shift has taken place.

We’re to that time of year. Everything is coming to a close, a calming of summers extroverted energies. The land will tell you if you care to listen, “We’re drawing inward, going deep into the dirt. Leave us be or you can join us in our slumber!”  The land can be that way.  A clever trick learned  from the fairies. So, be warned. They will take you away if you bother them when they want to be left alone….

…You’ve heard the stories. You go for a walk in the woods. The next thing you know it’s five years later and all you can remember is enjoying a lovely cup of twig tea with a wood nymph that you met while resting on that mossy log over there….

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Vegetables, my garden’s inner sanctum.

Once upon a time there was a garden within a garden within a garden.

I call it my vegetable garden. It wasn’t always this way.  Twenty years ago we moved into this house and inherited the usual fence around the perimeter. I liked this fence. It’s old wire and had gates to match at four different entry points.

The gate that led to the front door never really worked. I’m guessing it was because the previous owners who had been there 50+ years had used it the most. What do people love to do with gates? They love to swing them to close. What breaks a gate? People swinging them to close. We also realized that the only people that came to our front door were people we didn’t want to talk to; Jehovah’s Witnesses, salespeople,  politicians.  So, over time, I’ve let a rose climb across and now you really have to look to see that there is a gate there.

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