Than growing food I can imagine no worthier enterprise. It’s what I should have done with my life, what I would be doing if I didn’t have to work. I know, I just said that out loud to fully imbibe the insanity. Those of you who have followed this blog since early days may recall that we grew peas a few years in a row, and lettuce once before, and pole beans and pumpkins and cucumbers and tomatoes, but then the wave seemed to break on our heads and we’ve been awash in too much to do since then.
For several years now our yard has of all things most closely resembled a weed preserve. I can hear the voice-over for the conservation video:
Here in this suburban enclave nestled in the unlikely environs of North Seattle, vegetate supercompetitors such as ivy, clover, morning glory, blackberry and dandelion are free to flourish and reproduce without the threat of physical and verbal abuse (harm to both root and reputation) that they would otherwise face. Ivy clambers exuberantly up every vertical surface, morning glory and blackberry raise their periscopes to the sunlit world from below every square foot of garden, clover and moss sashay unchecked across every corner of the lawn, dandelions sink their carroty anchors deep among the grass roots, and the grass in turn moseys into every patch of cultivated earth…”
I can barely keep the lawn mown.
So it was something of a victory over entropy when Mara and I went out one day in February, pulled all the three-foot weeds out of the farm box I built years ago on the planting strip by the street, mixed in fertilizer and compost, and planted some peas and lettuce — two kinds of romaine, Valmaine (green) and Petite Rouge (purple) — from Territorial Seed Company seed packets we had purchased at City People’s the week before. I was careful to let Mara do the actual dropping of the seeds so she could feel she really had a hand in it, because I had no intention of making her weed the box later, inflicting the lessons of toiling at cultivation on her at her age — just the thing to kill her very real enthusiasm for playing in soil.
It almost didn’t happen, but we did it at the right time. Of course, with the maddening late freezes and pelting rains we get here ONLY right after you’ve carefully planted seeds, the peas were much disturbed. They’re hardy little buggers, but heavy rain turns them up out of the soil, and…well, I don’t know if the late cold really hurts them, but at all events half of them didn’t come up. I was so excited to have lots of snap peas this year, they’re so tasty right off the bush. We will still have peas, but not the lush bounty I’d planned.
The lettuce has so far fared better. We didn’t do any successive plantings, so it’ll just be one short crop, and you have to thin the rows to give the best individuals maximum room to grow, so you lose a lot there, too. I’ve purposely let Mara’s lettuce rows grow as much as I could before thinning them — you’re supposed to do it as soon as they come up — so that we could eat what we thinned. This past week the lettuce really put on weight, both varieties, and so Mara and I thinned the rows and took the thinnings inside and washed it. I let Mara use a very sharp knife for the first time in her life to cut the earth-ends off each clump, and tonight we enjoyed tasty, wholesome greens fresh from the garden in a little salad that we ate with our cheese pizza.