Unpacking my hoe and getting dirty

With the first part of the garden cleared, we're ramping up the readiness for planting.

This past week saw about 20 inches of rain fall in 72 hours. At one point, when the water was rising rapidly enough for our sump pump to emit a little whimper of dismay, and the flow of groundwater streaming in through the nearly 300 year old stacked-stone foundation of our farmhouse basement was creating a sopping mess of whatever we happened to have left on the floor (fortunately, all the meat in the cellar is hanging), I had to run down to a neighbors and borrow a bigger wet vac. When the rain kept up for another day after that, I began trying to lay in a supply of gopher wood and looking up how many feet there are in a cubit.

But eventually, the sun came out, and we're still (knock on wood) experiencing weather in the middle double digits. It's supposed to hit the upper sixties tomorrow!

However, this is Massachusetts, I remind myself, and it's only March. I have to be wary of anything Mother Nature promises before May. While my brother, The Historian, has been calling me from his home in South Carolina, telling me about the vegetables he's already set out, we are still some weeks away from being able to safely plant our garden. April blizzards are a not unknown occurrence up here so far north of the Mason-Dixon line.



To give ourselves some sort of outlet for our burgeoning spring fever, we've taken to poring over the half dozen or so seed catalogs that have shown up at our door in the past months. Everything from a gorgeous glossy heirloom vegetable catalog to the more mundane (but still enticing) list of crossbred-for-heartiness, might-just-be-genetically-modified seeds and seedlings.

If you've never looked at a seed catalog before, I highly recommend you go find some of your own. We had a few on the counter when we had our recent cider tasting party, and I swear to you, half the people that came by spent endless minutes thoughtfully flipping through the pages, oohing and ah-ing over the colorful images of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. It is probably a symptom of Northern Winter Life that our neighbors all find the same, almost sexual appeal in dreaming of seeing a fresh ear of corn again.

As much as we really fell in drooly love with veg like the Turkish Striped Monastery Tomato or Laxton's Progress No. 9 Garden Pea , we had to face up to the fact that we are really not skilled enough gardeners to attempt some of these more delicate, but no doubt delicious varietals. We need things that include descriptions like "hearty" or "robust," or maybe even "it doesn't matter how hard you try, you can't kill this."

We ended up with steady, somewhat less exotic Gurney's compiling a list that contains delicious looking, but somewhat un-inspired items like "Gotta Have It Hybrid Sweet Corn," "Improved Golden Wax Bush Beans," and "These Collard Greens Will Fill Your Freezer".

Ok. I might have elaborated on that last one. (But it's true.)

In a moment of organization inspired by my Bride and the home-bound limitations of the incessant rainfall, I carefully organized our order & vegetable plans into an elaborate Excel spreadsheet, complete with notes about what farmer's market stand we'll be sourcing our seedlings from (including getting all of our tomatoes from the Concord Tomato Lady. I don't remember her name, but we ended up making the most amazing home-made ketchup from her crop last year. Gorgeous.)

With that done, I dialed up Gurney's and placed an order for $350 of seeds and such (including 2 pecan trees, which apparently you can grow way up here at this northerly latitude. Where the heck am I going to plant those? And will my Yankee neighbors know what a pecan tree is?) Either we're going to have a bumper crop of goodness this year, or I'm pissing away a bunch of money on tiny packets of disappointment once again this year.

But either way, I can't wait for the weekend. The weatherman has promised us some more sunshine!