Monday, April 21, 2008

MFC - Do Not Miss The Planting Time

I know the time is now. It's written in big letters right on my calendar: "Do Not Miss the Planting Time."

But then I look further at the instructions I've left myself for this week -- "prepare outside soil for cultivation" – and I look outside to see ... snow.

Something is wrong with my calendar. Or with the weather. And I have a sinking suspicion that although the growing season is pushed later with this seemingly endless winter, I can't count on the difference being made up at the other end.

If I wait for the weather to comply for my spring plantings, I'll be watching green tomatoes freeze on the vines in September.

I am especially eager to start this year's garden for several reasons. I wasn't able to do one last year because my husband was injured badly in an accident, and keeping him alive became our only mission.

Most of my garden never got planted last year, and I had to abandon the plots that I did start, as multiple trips to the nearest big city hospital in Spokane took precedence over weeding, planting, watering or harvesting.

It was a hard summer. For a time, I had no functioning car, phone, computer, plumbing, or husband. I wasn't able to can any fruit or vegetables, or raise any meat birds, and my husband didn't get to hunt or fish or cut wood. That made for a hard winter.

When things fall apart that badly, you really find out what you, and your relationships, are made of. Thankfully, I've never been overly attached to modern conveniences. When my husband and I first left the city, we spent nearly a year living in a one-room, off-grid cabin, trying our hands at various self-sufficiency skills.

It was one thing for us to take on those challenges by choice, together. It was a lot less fun this time around; I felt more like a pawn of the fates than a proactive decider. And while my newborn baby and two toddlers were great company, they posed their own challenges.

To get by, I adopted my husband's Marine Corp. training with the mantra, "Adapt and overcome." I started picking up more of the jobs that traditionally fell to my husband in our division of labor, and I had to ask for and accept a lot of help from family, friends and neighbors.

My husband is not back to full strength yet, but he is well on his way. And after our long, hard year, we are approaching this growing season with an eagerness, urgency and gratefulness like never before.

That's why the snow I see on the ground isn't going to slow us down. It can't. The planting time is now, regardless of what the reality is outside.

Starting seeds indoors or in greenhouses is already a necessary way of life in these parts. I just didn't expect to have to build a fire or put a heating pad under the seedlings to keep them warm indoors at the end of April.

Each day that this unseasonable coldness keeps us indoors is another day spent researching, developing and employing growing techniques that make us less reliant on good weather.
For example, we've found an impressive collection of cold hardy fruits at One Green World nursery in Mollalla, Ore. ( Many of those fruit varieties are imported from Siberia, where farmers are known for using another cold weather trick: deep composting. The heat put out from biological decay can dramatically raise the soil temperature when compost is buried under cultivation beds.

My husband is also back to his pre-accident endeavor: setting up low cost hydroponics systems. And our children are now old enough to participate in an exciting series of growing experiments as part of their home schooling curriculum.

One way or another, my tomatoes will ripen this year. That is something I am bound and determined to see after last year's missed growing season.

Angela Black writes on freedom and farming issues from her home in Lostine, Ore. She is online at


The Guy Who Writes This said...

After our storm in December we are still cleaning up. I planned to have our gardens ready, but I'm still spending time repairing fences and replacing glass in the greenhouse. Have to build a new chicken house before the new chicks get any bigger. My garden may be limited to the green house this year.

heather said...

FYI, I linked to you and wrote a post on my blog today based on your March 28, 2008 Capitol Press article.

Ever since reading that article, I have enjoyed visiting your blog on occasion.