Hey, There’s a Bird in This Mirror!

Diversion Enthusiast Society, est. 2007

Crust over crust.

with 5 comments

I can’t take it anymore.

Remember when we were excited? When the snow was pretty and we were glad it was here? Winter began as a relief this year, a welcome change from the past few years of weirdly balmy, rainy, gray winters that made me feel as if we were all getting away with something. Then came frozen January and unrelenting February. We haven’t seen the ground in about two months here and, in that time, have been running on a two week cycle of snowfall-deep freeze-snowfall. I heard a meteorologist on NPR this morning say that this cycle will not end in the immediate future. We’re supposed to get 3 more inches tonight. The sidewalks are all under an inch of ice that hasn’t melted in weeks. I had almost forgotten that this is what winter does in the midwest.

I read O Pioneers! this week. This is what Aunty Willa has to say about these things –

Marie sat sewing or crocheting and tried to take a friendly interest in the [card] game, but she was always thinking about the wide fields outside, where the snow was drifting over the fences; and about the orchard, where the snow was falling and packing, crust over crust. When she went out into the dark kitchen to fix her plants for the night, she used to stand by the window and look out at the white fields, or watch the currents of snow whirling over the orchard. She seemed to feel the weight of all the snow that lay down there. The branches had become so hard that they wounded your hand if you but tried to break a twig. And yet, down under the frozen crusts, at the roots of the trees, the secret of life was still safe, warm as the blood in one’s heart; and the spring would come again! Oh, it would come again!*

I find myself unable to drum up the kind of enthusiasm and hope displayed by a young woman in a 150-page book with a tone that makes Camus look like Up with People.** But, yes, while I acutely feel the weight of all the snow, I can recognize that the sun is brighter and sticking around later, that the birds (including our gracious hosts) are singing louder and earlier, and that the air has that spring smell in it some afternoons.

In an attempt to remind myself of that “secret of life,” I turned to some of my favorite gardening resources this morning, even considered starting some seeds, only to discover that it’s just a little bit too early for that kind of fun in my hardiness zone. In the meantime, here’s my garden, two years ago:

My garden

Isn’t it pretty? Isn’t it green? Doesn’t the chick taking the picture have a huge head? City living does necessitate a degree of resourcefulness. I have been testing the limits of what can grow in a small space in a set of containers for two years now. I’ve discovered that, given my space constraints, vegetables (other than green beans of the bush variety and salad mix) aren’t really worth the effort, as I can only grow enough for a meal or two. It’s fun, but when I can grow three basil plants in the same space that it would take to grow a few carrots, it’s really no contest.

Last year, I added one more large container, a few more pots, and mourned the loss of my anti-squirrel Spider-Man pinwheel, stolen by drunken undergraduates. Gone were the beans, peas, and carrots; in went two more varieties of basil, two rosemary plants, lavender, parsley, and mint. I grew enough basil that we’re still eating last August’s pesto and I have more dried rosemary than we really need (I’ll only put in one plant next year).Good night, Spider-Man pinwheel, wherever you are.

I’m still not sure what my plan of attack is this year, but, even if I can’t take over the end table in the living room with a seed-starting tray, I can certainly begin to plot (HA!). Here are some of my favorite resources for the stubborn urban gardener –

The Bountiful Container by McGee and Stuckey – The absolute best go-to resource for container gardeners of all skill levels, regions, and resources. I consult this on almost a weekly basis during the spring and summer.

You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening by Gayla Trail and Leela Corman – Please, come with me past the cringeworthy name and into a truly useful book full of tips and tricks for urban gardening on the cheap. Less about the cultivation of specific plants and more a how-to guide about eco-friendly fertilizer, containers, and seed starting. Also visit the vast and helpful website by the same name, replete with forums, articles, and more helpful tips. I use their seed starting chart every year (it’s a pdf file).

Seed Savers Exchange: I’ll let them explain – “Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. When people grow and save seeds, they join an ancient tradition as stewards, nurturing our diverse, fragile, genetic and cultural heritage.” Vegetables and herbs you have never even heard of, my friends. Tomatoes that look like peppers! Purple stringbeans! Ground cherries! The catalog is awesome. Dave, they’re having a plant sale in April. Can we go to Iowa? It would be fun.

The Weather Channel: For forecasts, average temperatures, and more.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Hey, baby, what’s your average date of last frost?

Local Harvest: To my mind, being the kind of person who valiantly defends helpless parsley plants against squirrels and vile little undergraduates goes hand in hand with being the kind of person who goes to the farmer’s market every week and tries every year to convince her husband that we should get a CSA box. Find farms, markets, and awesome hippie grocery stores in your area.

* Yes, Dave, I did purposely make use of the formatting feature that nearly drove you out of your head last night. I like the giant quotation mark. Wanna make something of it?

** It’s good. Read it.


Written by Raina

February 28, 2008 at 1:00 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Oh, I don’t deny that the quote formatting feature could come in handy. It just completely screwed my bullet points. The tips were supposed to be bullet points, and the character names were supposed to be sub-paragraphs under a single bullet. Every time I tried to use the indent to do this, it would assign the goofy quote properties. And since this isn’t quite standard HTML, I couldn’t figure out a way to bypass this in the code.

    Iowa never sounds like fun.


    February 28, 2008 at 1:41 pm

  2. what is a CSA box?

    I woke roxy up because i laughed out loud (LOL!?) at your remark about your huge head. you should of let people know that, although you do have a huge head, most of the shadow in that pic is your pretty, pretty hair!

    we need those huge heads to hold our massive genius brains raina.

    you know i’m right.


    February 29, 2008 at 10:57 am

  3. oh, also!

    when you move to bayview maybe you can get a place with a yard so you can have a in the ground garden rather than a container garden!

    when you go to look at places to rent are you going to test the PH levels of the soil? that would be hilarious. do it.


    February 29, 2008 at 10:59 am

  4. and… (i’m being obnoxious in your blog here)

    what do you know about planting bulbs? I have tulip bulbs from the tulips mal gave me for my birthday, which i killed of course. they live on in bulb form though! do you HAVE to plant them in the fall?
    this summer you should help me start growing things in my yard. 🙂 i think we could make a nice garden in that weird space between the three houses to the left of our stairs. how does one get the soil right?
    teach me to stop killing plants.


    February 29, 2008 at 11:08 am

  5. Comment 1 – CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. You pay a local farm for a subscription and you get a box of fresh, seasonal produce (sometimes eggs, dairy, honey, flowers, herbs, etc., too). Follow the link, learn more.

    Oh, and, really, it’s mostly head. Giant brains or no, let’s just be honest. I just accentuate it by wearing my hair in a style that could only be described as Dana Scully meets Albert Einstein meets Sweeney Todd.

    Comment 2: Flowers in the ground, edibles in containers. No one grows a third arm out of their back that way.

    Comment 3: I know nothing of bulbs, but I know where we can find out. We’ll look into this and into putting in a garden into the weird space on Sunday.


    February 29, 2008 at 5:15 pm

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