On Knowing Your Limits . . .
Double Decker Farm, by all logical accounts, is crazy. What we have here is a two-level gardening situation and last time I checked, I am still just one person.
I can only be one place at once — no matter how much I try to clone myself. Thank goodness for Jared and his infrastructure help and emergency aid. But for the most part, it’s all me.
And the decision to not have kids? We need farm hands, forest workers and agricultural laborers — and lots of them — but that ship has sailed.
Most of the time, Nature dictates how I will work anyway. Because the higher elevation upper garden warms sooner and frosts later, things work themselves out. The upper garden is ready to plant far earlier than the lower one and I can get a jump on things that way.
In late February my farming instincts kick in and I start sniffing around for bags of bark at local box stores. Since you can’t do anything much this time of year yet, it is good to prepare, repair and refurbish.
Sharpening the pruners, locating all the hose timers. Reorganizing the seeds.
The lower garden really can’t get going fully until April with the exception of the squash row, which needs to wait and warm until I dare to plant the tender seeds. This is garden gambling, with me pushing for late May and Nature laughing as she renders the oil-filled squash seeds useless with wet, damp cold.
So, it is manageable because the guardrails are built in. I work within Nature’s parameters.
Until late summer, when harvest season begins.
Six blueberry plants (the hedge at far left) doesn’t seem like that many — until they start cranking out a couple of gallons every few days. With just two hands, I am now behind the eight ball.
And lo and behold – every last one of the garlic scapes is now turning a circle, just begging to be snapped off to give the bulb beneath the earth maximum nutrition. Jogging by, I get it done.
All of a sudden, the transparent apple is loaded, that dang early bearing so-and-so and that means it time to make applesauce . . . whether you like it or not!
That’s when I wonder just what I was thinking and that is also when Mother Nature explodes in a last hurrah of fruiting. Of flowering. Of food production. This is the Grand Finale for those of us linking our lives to the seasons.
Beans swell in their shells with wild abandon as I run past, eyeing them and thinking it is time to pull up the plants.
Onions lay over at the necks and give up the ghost — all of a sudden — demanding to be hung and cured exactly five minutes after I get the last garlic bulb cured, trimmed of roots and cleaned.
And guess what else? It’s time to make jam. Raspberry first, then raspberry pepper, then currant jelly, then blueberry jam.
Stone fruits and apples are weighing down the trees. Gotta get the support sticks under the limbs quickly before the apples gain much more mass. They’re just laden with possibility for culinary adventures.
Dahlias pop out all over and their heavy heads weigh down stems, begging to be brought into the cool house. I scramble for enough vases and realize some dahlias are four feet tall and will need to be lifted sooner than later for winter. Hard work, no way around that.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel 100% fortunate and a little full of myself at this time every year, when we are eating so much straight from our land.
But planning does become key. Let’s see: how many hours of daylight do I have to keep things watered? In late August, I run up against a wall. It is still blazing hot but there are not enough hours to of daylight anymore to keep my zones watered.
There are sungold tomatoes ripe here and there — and everywhere!
However, each year I get smarter and now sungold tomatoes are no longer located in the lower garden where I usually don’t have time to pick them. They do fine on the patio and in one small stock tank, where I am walking by already.
And you know, three sungold tomato plants seems to be the magic number for staying sane. Barely.
And you know what else? Nine cabbages may be too many. Ask me later when I make a 55-gallon drum of sauerkraut . . .
This needs to be weeded. Oh lord — now the gophers are going full tilt — so the place looks like it has been land-mined. I am out there cussing as I set traps and wait. Wily, they usually outsmart me and try a new route as I stay busy reseeding the orchard lawn . . .
But that isn’t the half of it.
Duplicate tools make their way into your life. You sleep five hours a night and wake up at five to move hoses.
You become accustomed to a certain level of body pain.
And then, with the first frost, it’s all over.
Over the winter, amnesia kicks in and you refine your plans for next year.
Bigger! Better! More!