- Living Their Faith
- Special Reports
- Maps & Data
- Dear Abby
- Games & Puzzles
- Events & Exhibits
- Food & Drink
- Arts & Music
- Movies & TV
Hunched over like Quasimodo the other day while I hacked a trench with a mattock and then dropped pinpoint-size kale seeds into damp garden soil (why do they have to be so blasted tiny?!), I nonetheless found myself humming "Garden Song," David Mallet's iconic folk song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary:
Inch by inch, row by row,
I'm gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
and a piece of fertile ground.
Granted, the song does mention the need for "pullin' weeds and pickin' stones," but by and large it implies all you need to produce fruits and vegetables – besides the aforementioned rake, hoe and fertile ground – are some seeds, sun and rain tumbling down. Oh, and it helps if you "temper them with prayer and song."
Would that it were so easy.
Not that I'm complaining – I knew what I was getting into years ago after having evolved beyond tossing a handful of zucchini seeds into a patch of dirt behind the house.
Loyal readers will recall my constant battles with voracious deer and catbirds, which for the time being I have prevailed only because I toiled for weeks constructing a 10-foot-high fence around the entire 500-foot garden perimeter, along with framework for netting that covers blueberry plants and grapevines.
These defenses may have stymied four-legged and feathered freeloaders, but were easily penetrated last year by another invader: a fleet of Japanese beetles, which almost overnight devoured all my Brussels sprouts and grape leaves. By the time I discovered the infestation the damage had been done.
Spraying insecticide is not an option, and I have neither the desire nor patience to pluck beetles one by one and drop them into a jar of kerosene, which some old-time farmers recommend.
All right, enough about failure and frustration – let's move on to reward and satisfaction.
First of all, I was thrilled – thrilled! – a few weeks ago to see garlic shoots poking through barely thawed soil. I had saved 25 bulbs from last summer's bumper crop, and then in the fall divided them into 100 cloves that I stuck in the ground and covered with composted cow manure and a 6-inch layer of ground-up leaves.
Planting always requires a leap of faith, especially before a frigid winter, but voila! All 100 cloves germinated into new plants, so by midsummer our home once again will be redolent with the intoxicating aroma of sautéed garlic – not to mention vampire-free.
After I planted four rows of kale the other day I also put in about a dozen rows of peas and onions. Later, when the weather warms, I'll add tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans and other veggies. As much as I crave broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts I'll skip the cruciferous plants, which seem to require more maintenance, and stick to ones that produce a reliable harvest.
Earlier in the week I also transplanted about 100 pine and spruce seedlings from a makeshift nursery adjoining the garden to various places in the woods where I've cut trees for firewood. Next week I'm picking up another 100 tree seedlings that eventually will find their way into the forest after they've had a couple years in the nursery developing firmer root systems.
Yes, you do grow a garden inch by inch and row by row, but another line from Mallett's classic song also resonates:
Mother earth can keep you strong if you give her love and care.
As we prepare to inaugurate a president who has repeatedly called climate change a "hoax," appointed as Environmental Protection Agency administrator an Oklahoma attorney general who is suing that agency, named the CEO of ExxonMobil as secretary...
Look, I’m not going to lie: While some longtime participants in one of southeastern Connecticut’s most enduring, challenging and madcap traditions insist that plunging into icy water after a run on Jan. 1 is a refreshing and...
When it comes to adventurous fun my philosophy has always been too much is never enough, so when I look back at the highlights of the past 12 months, as I typically do when the calendar is about to flip, I can honestly say that 2016 was a...
I guess I first realized the temperature had dropped a few degrees when I went out for a 5-mile run this morning and noticed that my eyelids had started to freeze shut, which loyal readers will recognize as Level IV on the Fagin Frigidity Index,...
The first time friends and I trudged up New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in winter the frozen peak might as well have been Antarctica – hurricane-force winds and blinding snow battered us, the only climbers that day atop the highest...
I realized long ago that you’re never really finished building a stone wall, even after you’ve dragged and hefted into place what seemed like the final boulder, exhaled mightily and stepped back to admire your work.
How often does this happen to you: You’re merrily tearing through the woods in your four-wheeler and come to what looks like a shallow stream but turns out to be a deep, water-filled ditch, so your beloved machine sinks like a stone beneath...
In spring we crawl out of our cocoons and celebrate bursting rejuvenation; in summer we play outside from dawn to dusk; during the dark, frigid winter we hunker down like hibernating bears – which leaves fall, when we try to set aside time...
Although for decades I’ve been living in a home surrounded by trees that is heated primarily by wood stoves, and I enjoy kayaking, mountain climbing, building stone walls, growing organic vegetables and many other active outdoor pursuits,...
Propelled by a swift current on the Colorado River earlier this month, my son, Tom, and I gazed at red rock cliffs gleaming against an azure, near cloudless sky. The rustle of aspen and cottonwoods in a gentle breeze mingled with the rush of...