A few weeks ago a job announcement got blasted out through the Minnesota library mailing lists about two librarian positions open at the University of North Dakota. You know a place has trouble filling positions when they say things like, sure it’s cold here but the winter sports are great. Or when they tell you they have a low cost of living and are only 45 minutes from the “big” city of Fargo (population 113,000 — Minneapolis population is close to 400,000). I briefly considered, thinking I could afford to buy a couple acres and wow, think of the gardening I could do then! I told Bookman about it and how we could buy acres and he shook his head and said, no way, that’s too much digging. Poor Bookman, I guess I’ve been asking him do do a lot of digging lately.
On the bright side though all that digging is paying off. We celebrated Summer Solstice yesterday with a meal that came largely from the garden. We had salad with greens freshly picked. We had a sautee of garlic scapes from our garlic that also included green beans we had canned from last summer’s garden (beans are just now starting to flower so we don’t have any fresh yet), and a few leaves of sage. There was a bit of potato too that didn’t come from the garden but in a year or two we will give potato growing a try. Bookman made bread from scratch and I had apple butter on my bread made from our own apples last fall. And for dessert we had strawberries from the garden. It was all so filling and ever so very delicious.
Have you ever had garlic scapes before? I hadn’t. They are the flowering part of a garlic plant and only hardneck garlicvarieties produce them. Since hardneck garlic is the only reliably cold hardy kind for my area we conveniently had some. I didn’t know about cooking them until I was checking online recently to find out when to harvest my garlic. It was then I also learned about the scapes. You can do all kinds of things with them. They have a very mild garlic flavor. You can use them like you would green onions or roast them like you would asparagus or sautee them like we did. We sadly ate all of them last night and I find myself looking forward to this time next year so I can have more. Very soon we will be able to start picking peas. They began flowering early last week and there are big pods already but the peas haven’t fattened up yet. I love fresh peas. I can hardly wait! I planted a lot of peas this year, more than I did last year. And already I am wishing I planted more because, can a person have too many peas? Next spring I am planting the whole gosh darn seed packet!
We had so much rain over the last week. In one 24-hour period I had 3 3/4 inches (9.5 cm) of rain in my rain gauge. The day before that there was 2 inches (5 cm). We are in the midst of the wettest year on record in the Twin Cities. Lakes and creeks and rivers are flooded and roads and basements have standing water in them. Both my rain barrels are overflowing. It is really crazy. Most years I grumble about having sandy soil because it drains and dries out so fast,but this year I have to admit I am glad. I know a few people with clay soil in their gardens and they are having a rough time of it because all their plants are waterlogged. All the rain has encouraged an explosion of mushrooms all over the garden. I don’t know what kind they are but there are a number of different ones, some big white and puffy, others small and brown or tiny delicate and white, and others tan and flat.
Remember a few weeks ago I mentioned all the milkweed that had popped up in my garden? Well last week I noticed something was chewing the leaves on one of them. I carefully moved leaves around looking for what it might be. Can you guess what I found? Not one but two monarch butterfly caterpillars! I can’t even begin to say how thrilled I was. I might even have gotten a little teary eyed. Along with the caterpillars I saw a red admiral butterfly sunning itself on a rock in the garden. The dragonflies are still hunting in the garden. They are huge this year and there are plenty of mosquitoes to eat. There are tiny baby crickets everywhere, various kinds of spiders, and busy ants. I also have pollinators hovering everywhere there is a flower.
After just a week with plants, Amy Pond is beginning to clear up. The three goldfish are still hanging in there too. The watercress is getting past sprout stage and getting more leaves. It will be several weeks before we can eat any but it’s something to look forward to.One last thing in this wild ramble. This week I learned there is wisdom in planting regular garden rows at least when you have not grown something before and have no idea what it looks like. Case in point: parsnip. I love parsnip but when we buy it at the store it has its greens cut off. I planted parsnip in my polyculture bed and I have no idea what it looks like. Is that a weed or a parsnip? No idea. So unless I recognize it as a weed I am just leaving it alone. If it flowers, it is not a parsnip and I will pull it out right away. Parsnips are biennial, meaning they grow for two years and don’t flower until the second year (but you eat them after the first season). When we planted the polyculture bed we scattered the seeds all over, not in rows, so currently I suspect I am tending some weeds but I don’t know for sure.
Another case in point: leeks. I know what leek greens look like when they are fully grown but not when they are sprouting. They also grow really slowly I have learned. I know I planted leek seeds near the beans but again, I didn’t exactly do it in one recognizable row. So I am weeding and grab something that looks like grass and pull it out and there is a mild oniony scent and I realize I have just pulled out a leek sprout. Oops. As I weed I keep coming across little bunches of spindly looking grass and I have to pause, is this grass or a leek? I’ve left the bunches for now and will have to keep an eye on them. Eventually it will become clear what is grass and what are leeks, but if I had thought about it in the spring and planted them in a marked row I wouldn’t be wondering now. Note to self: next time you grow something you have never grown before, make sure you plant it in such a way that will make it easily identifiable when is sprouts. Save the random interplanting for things you are familiar with.
Tomorrow I head back to work and return to regularly scheduled programming. I’m really going to miss spending my early mornings in the garden.