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I could not help myself when the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog arrived. I ordered a few more seeds for the garden. Given what I have already acquired, you may be wondering what else could I possibly have gotten and whether I have expanded my garden into my neighbor’s yard. There are always more seeds to buy and no, I have not taken over my neighbor’s yard but if he offered I would not say no!

Here is what I got:

  • Gaillardia lollipop mix. I don’t grow many annual flowers but these struck me as both beautiful in color and interesting in flower shape and I could not resist.
  • Black garbanzo beans. Say what? I love garbanzo beans and eat a lot of them. They are long season, warm weather beans and it never made much sense to try to grow them because they can be had so inexpensively in bulk at my food co-op. But black ones? I didn’t know these even existed! These apparently tolerate cooler soil, which means I can plant them early enough to get beans before frost. This is more a novelty than anything, but you just never know what might come of it.
  • Mongolian giant sunflower. This one is for James whose loves sunflowers. How can one say no to a 14-foot tall sunflower with a head that might reach 16-18 inches across? If it truly gets that large, there might just be enough seeds the birds, squirrels and I can all eat some.
  • Variegated plantain. No, not plantain the banana, but plantain the weed. The regular variety pops up in the garden here and there, usually in a path so it ends up getting trampled. These are pretty enough to give them a place in a garden bed. Plus the crushed leaves are good for bug bites and cuts and they are edible too. I have poor luck when trying to grow domesticated versions of weeds so we shall see how this goes.

2019 garden planning

The garden may be frozen, but I have been planning out where everything is going to be planted. Some shrubs will be moved to new locations that will hopefully make them happier. Some beds and paths will be reconfigured for optimization of movement and planting. Poor James rolls his eyes and sighs and wishes for once that nothing had to be moved or changed. I give him a sympathetic look and say, Sorry Sweetie, not this year. When it comes to gardening, it is hard to say if there will ever be a year when nothing gets moved or changed but maybe I will be able to surprise him sometime.

Minnesota winters are no longer reliable. Oh, it’s still cold and they last a long time, but whereas I could depend on a continually deepening cold and snow piling up higher and higher until March, with the warming climate, there is much more thawing and freezing than there ever used to be.

Last week, it snowed about three inches overnight Wednesday. Then in the morning temperatures went up and up and it poured rain all day long. Rain. Given how much it rained, if it had been below freezing there would have been about a foot of snow. This is no consolation, however, because the ground is frozen and the rain has nowhere to go. When I went out to close up the Dashwoods at sundown and it was still raining, I needed to wear my wellies because the water in the garden was over the top of my boots in a few places.

Once the sun went down, the temperature plummeted and all that rain with nowhere to go turned to solid ice. The falling rain eventually turned to freezing rain and then a dusting of snow. When I went out Friday morning to let the Dashwoods out of the coop, it was a treacherous walk across the garden.

We have a combination lock on the run door that we lock at night and while we are away during the day so no one gets it into their heads to try their hand at chicken rustling. The freezing rain froze the lock so it wouldn’t turn.

Back across the icy garden I went. Indoors I rummaged around for a lighter and minced my way back to the chickens. There was a bit of breeze to add to the challenge. So there I am bundled up in my coat, standing outside the chicken run, holding a lighter against the metal lock to melt the ice and carefully cupping my gloved hand around it to block the wind while hoping my mitten didn’t catch on fire. If my life had a sound track, it would have been a good time to cue up Free Bird or something equally as ridiculous.

All this time the Dashwoods are closed up inside the coop, not in the run on the other side of the door I am trying to open. They are awake and hear me. I can hear them moving around impatiently, cooing, and probably wondering what the heck is going on and why I am not letting them out of the coop into the run so they can have breakfast.

Finally the lock is warm enough and the dial spins easily. I get the run door open, move the coop ladder, open the coop door and put the ladder in place. The Dashwoods crowd the coop door, all four of them trying to squeeze through a one-and-a-half-chicken-wide door at the same time. Eventually they push themselves out one by one and start down the ladder, grumbling and giving me some chicken side-eye.

I check their water and their food and leave them to their morning. Since I am on vacation, I leave the run door open even though they will not come out onto the snow and ice. With their run encased in plastic to keep the weather out, they can’t see through it. So an open run door, even if they don’t venture out of it, lets them see outside and keeps them from getting insanely bored.

By next weekend temperatures might rise into the 40sF. That will melt some of the ice and perhaps create enough clear patches for the Dashwoods to leave the run and wander around the garden; get some sun on their feathers. I might have to go out with them and get some sun on my feathers too.