Sunday, December 31, 2017

Gardening, traveling, and New Year’s

A search on my blog posts for New Year’s brought a number of musings about winter vegetables,  traveling, and other thoughts. I’ve been writing posts since 2007, so I’ve had a lot of time to comment over the years.

This has been an unusual year, in a new pattern, as we’ve stepped up our traveling, and my vegetable gardening has become more focused, as a volunteer at a local community garden, in addition to my own raised beds. Juggling vegetables, and seasonal change-outs in my four-season beds is a bit more challenging, when we’re away for 3-4 weeks at a time.

Our natural landscape is flourishing. My gardening companion is a brilliant gardener, and we keep adding native plants to the forest below the house, the side areas that we garden with neighbors, and to the pollinator meadow in front. (I do garden in the front and side of the house! Pollinator plantings and vegetable/herb beds are my purview, and I’m consulted on everything else...)

Full moon festival in Hoi An, Vietnam
In the year ahead, we’ll be traveling, too, quite a bit. We embrace being citizens of the world, and are glad to be ambassadors for America and Americans, regardless of what our government is like at any point in time.

I love this image from the Full Moon Festival, taken in Hoi An, Vietnam, in January, some years ago.   

It seems to me to embody hope for the New Year.  Wishing everyone a good year ahead.

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Cold weather

Brr, I thought it was cold this week (unusually so for the coast) as we’ve spent time in Charleston, SC from Christmas to this Saturday. It’s been even colder in Asheville — our HomeExchange folks have hopefully enjoyed their family time indoors!

But looking at the weather for next week. Ick. A low of 10°F will almost certainly take out my perennial herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, etc.). — a few years back, 15°F took care of them, not to mention the overwintering kale, collards, and chard that weren’t protected by frost blankets in those two years.

As I reflected at the time, it definitely gave me a clean slate for spring.

Hhrmph, I was hoping that my herb beds would be fine. I’ll toss my frost blankets over them Saturday night when we return, but I’m not hopeful.

Here’s a link to a hopeful post after those previous low temperature winters:

I had wonderful spinach and other greens last year!

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmases past

Sometimes it’s hard to improve on a reflection made, and written about in the past.

Facebook reminded me of this post, written two years ago.  The thoughts expressed then are equally true now.

We’re in Charleston for a week this year, exchanging our house in Asheville for a lovely flat in a large historic house.

Winter blessings to all.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter views

Winter is a slow gardening time, especially when we're planning to be away at various points. Otherwise, my winter vegetable garden would be active.

But, winter is not just about gardening, but marking the seasons.  And on this Winter Solstice night, I was glad to see a wonderful evening out from the back back. It's a special aspect of being in the mountains in winter: the light.  It's clear and luminous, compared to our humid summer skies.

Winter solstice light

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Garden transitions

Cleaning up the pollinator beds this afternoon in a warm spell was rewarding, as was tidying the spent Salvia guaranitica that had finally been frosted out by the big snow a week ago.

The snow brought welcome moisture;  the soil was spongy as I pruned dead stems.  We keep the stems on the back slope, potentially as host sites for stem-nesting bees and other insects and as vegetative ballast for runoff below the apartment building next door.

Facebook keeps reminding me of my wonderful spinach beds last year at this time (I had fabulous spinach through the winter).  Bah, humbug.  Not this year.  It was warm in the fall, and we were traveling, so I didn't have a chance to sow another round to replace the failed early sowing.
They were delicious.
But, there's always late winter; we'll be here in late February for sowing greens of all sorts.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Winter solstice and vegetable growing

I’m looking forward to the Winter Solstice and lengthening days ahead. It’s not just about my affinity for sunlight. It’s about vegetables growing again.

Here in Western North Carolina, we have a very short Persephone Days period (a term coined by Elliot Coleman to describe the less than 10 hour daylength period where cool-season vegetables stop growing and are in a holding phase.)

It’s less than 3 weeks, I think, here, much longer in coastal Maine, where Coleman and his spouse Barbara Damrosch live and have managed a thriving four-season market garden.

Years ago, when I read about this in Coleman’s books about Winter Harvest and Four-Season Harvest, I thought, well why aren’t we doing this more in the Carolinas? Thankfully, it IS happening more now, well past a decade or more when I read his books, and market farmers here are using row covers and hoop houses to produce lovely vegetables, as are home gardeners, too.

I haven’t set up my hoops and covers this year, as our traveling has disrupted my vegetable gardening rhythms a bit (not complaining about that, really). I’ve still got collards, chard, arugula and kale, if they survive the 11” of snow we had last weekend and the deep chill to <20° F tonight and tomorrow (not to mention all of the perennial herbs which hopefully will be fine).

And at the Southside Community Garden, where I volunteer, we have lots of beautiful kale, collards, chard, and onions under light row covers. This is an October view.

Southside Community Garden, October, 2017

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Thinking about early winter vegetables

I missed the window of fall planting for early over-wintered vegetables.  The spinach didn't germinate because of drought while we were away (and maybe the seeds were a bit old).

But I do have collards, parsley, herbs, chard, garlic, and leeks (currently covered with unexpected snow).

We'll be traveling this winter so I'll have to rely on early March sowings, I suppose.  Not a bad thing.

The red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, and titmice, not to forget about the doves, are visiting the feeder behind the house in a constant swooping parade.

It was fun to check out posts about red-bellied woodpeckers from previous years; they're regular inhabitants of the ravine woodland below the house, so I've seen them many times. (Click on green for the link).

There are other woodpecker posts included towards the end!
Sighting in 2012
Hmm, clearly, I need to get out my "old" SLR (or get a new one) to get a reasonably decent photo like this again -- my iPhone wouldn't have gotten this shot (or the other ones I posted at the time, too).

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Unexpected snow

Flurries were forecast, but the moist air had other ideas. We woke up to a wonderful blanket of snow and it continued snowing throughout the day.

In the South, everything shuts down for snow and/or ice. Today was no exception.

It was wonderfully quiet in the neighborhood, aside from the families heading over to sled at the local Community Center’s hill.

I took my cookies over for the pre-sorting for the Montford Tour of Homes this afternoon, and enjoyed helping plate up dozens and dozens of cookies for tomorrow’s tour (it’s a fundraiser for the Neighborhood Association).

The views out the windows tell the story, too.

View from the deck

Sassafras branches covered with snow (out an upstairs window)


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A quiet time in the garden

Although my gardening companion has been busy adding rhododendrons to our woodland garden, and moving around native azaleas and kalmias, my vegetable gardening activities have slowed down (along with the pollinator-supporting ones).

Because of traveling considerations (being away all of February and then April), I've been reluctant to resow more winter spinach seeds or other greens.  I'll need to think about the timing.

I had fabulous spinach last year.  I clearly was already harvesting spinach about this time (Dec. 8) last year, and did so through the winter!

raised beds with Remay last year

This year, we haven't had a really hard frost yet, although it's coming at the end of the week.

Oh, well.  I've got nice arugula and chard, along with some collards and broccoli greens (which never produced a head).  I'll harvest as much as I can tomorrow.

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