a bright sun, almost too bright
snow slowly melting back from the edges of the driveway
ice crystals, matted plants
leaving patches of bare ground on southerly slopes
but I can’t get too comfortable
there’s still a cold wind
it refreshes but won’t let me stand still

plants visible
but the ground frozen hard
growing indoors – wheatgrass only now, for the cats (to keep them out of the houseplants)
hungry for green
hungry for growth
hungry for life
that isn’t here yet

j j j


38 degrees in the morning, 43 in the afternoon
I believe I can smell wet earth, and I dream of gardens – fresh seedlings just sprung from the soil,
green and growing, and of running water.
But after dark my dream dissipates into fog
and flowing water freezes again
and stops.

I bake bread, working the dough with my hands because I can’t yet work the soil.

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snowball moon

after first light, but before the sun comes up
the moon hangs like a snowball
not quite full any more, a little lopsided
waiting to drop.

J. makes a casserole with root vegetables and kale from some random bits of a Victory Garden episode we saw a few days ago. Good, and simple to make (especially for me, since J. did all the cooking).

I don’t want to complain too much, but it seems to me that there are no gardening shows left on TV any more, at least not during any time that I watch. Even Victory Garden isn’t what it used to be – very little coverage of vegetable gardening (which is what victory gardening is supposed to be all about), and lots of coverage of exotic ornamental gardening and visits to distant destinations. In other words, nothing I can use. And the so-called Home “and Garden” Television channel has no gardening shows at all. Maybe gardeners don’t watch television any more, or the long, slow, quiet process of gardening doesn’t lend itself to the instant gratification needs of TV. It’ll just drive me back to the library/bookstore, which is probably where I belong.

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moss green

Fog. Moss grows bright green, and lichens glow during a long, dark day. Air smells like peat bogs – cool, wet, organic, acidic. Lean into the shadows. Stay close to the ground. Soak it all in.

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cold frame

cold frame design

Jenny asked for a cold frame a long time ago, and I obliged a long
time ago with some quick-and-dirty plywood boxes with plastic sheets
over the top. In Minnesota, they don’t really do the job. We might
get another week or two of growing at the beginning and end of the
season, but beyond that we’re still reduced to a not-so-sunny indoors,
or grow lights, and shallow soil, and lots of watering – not the thing
for an enthusiastic-but-lazy gardener. And the plastic-sheet cover
quickly gets tattered from repeated openings and closings (to vent, to plant
seedlings, or just to check on the plants) – it looks shabby, and
(more important for the lazy gardener) it has to be replaced too

So when Jenny asked for a cold frame again this year, and I agreed –
who doesn’t like fresh baby lettuce greens in January? – I decided to
try to do it right. I wanted one that would:

  • really insulate the plants inside,
  • last for years,
  • require minimal maintenance, and most importantly,
  • be easy to build for a well-intentioned but skill- and tool-challenged person like me.

I looked around on the web (it occurs to me now that I should have
checked the library, too, but it’s
too late for that now). I thought about it. And I looked around some
more. I spent enough time looking around that Jenny gave up on me, and
frost overtook the garden, but I hadn’t given up.

I didn’t find one design that had everything I wanted, but I found two
that were close:

“Mother’s” cold frame is well-insulated, and the article explains the
lessons of experience behind its design, but the how-to instructions
were not specific enough for me. That’s what led me to the Garden Gate
design – I think I can build it from the materials list and picture
they provided. And I can always add extra insulation or a buried
extension later – so it will be more like Mother’s design, eventually.

I’ve gathered (almost) all the parts for my cold frame (with a couple
of splinters to show for it), but the most important part is still
missing: the clear top. I’m looking for a local source for structured
polycarbonate sheeting, but haven’t found it yet.

j j j

bright cold

A luminous early morning – clouds break up; sun breaks through,
bright and beaming – hope. It hurts my eyes.

I water our young trees again, though it’s barely above freezing. My
wet hands hurt from the cold, but it’s done.

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red-bellied morning

Everything – clouds, ground, walls – glows red before the sun comes up. Black branches scrape the sky like claws. But a few minutes
later the red fades. The anger dissipates into gray resignation, then brightening (faint) hope.

It warms up enough again today that I finally give in to the gardening urge. I dig up a few weeds, clean the birdbaths, and wait for real cold.

j j j

bottle-blue beads

Another unusually warm day, a sunny afternoon, but I feel unsettled.
Mentally, I’m ready to hunker down indoors, and stop working the
garden, but as long as it’s not frozen, and not covered up with snow,
it nags me. A weed (actually, lots of them) here, a bed to be
tended there.

Instead, I sit and watch the flowers. A few haggard mums hang on, prop
each other up – a dirty sundress that should have been cut into rags
long ago. Last-minute bees browse the clearance racks, looking for
deals, clinging to every drop of nectar they find. Flies come, too,
picking over the remainders. Their bottle-blue backs shine like bright
beads in the faded yellow glory of flowers.

j j j

hard frost

Finally, the inevitable drop into the low 20s. The garden is finished… but not quite. Without rain the past few weeks, our young trees could use a last drink before the ground freezes. So I spend an hour or two with them, and we spread leaves and composted manure under the asparagus and raspberries, around the rhubarb.

The garden seems so small now, wilted, shrunken to stems. A few weeks ago it had seemed so crowded, so full, so complete. Now I see there is so much more that could have been done, so much that could still be done, so much to do. Too much.

We bring our remaining leeks indoors, in a bucket of dirt, and I dream of the perfect cold frame. Maybe this weekend I will build one.

j j j

old beets

When we were cleaning up the cold-killed tomatoes, Jenny discovered some beets that had been growing in the garden since spring. They had been shaded by the tomatoes, so hadn’t gotten too large or woody, so today we ate them, boiled, cooled and chopped on a bed of our own salad greens.

I noticed right away they tasted older, but in a good way, like wine – a deeper, more mature, subtler flavor than the beets we harvested in early summer. I could taste our own garden in it – our soil, heavy with clay, a little smoky… the air above it, woodsy and moist… on the edge of wild weeds, garlic mustard, dandelion, pushing over each other to come in.

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