Wednesday, April 16, 2014


It is time. Even though there are still snow banks in the yard, the pull of spring has me. The day lilies are peeking up through the snow this year, their biological clock claiming that it is still April, no matter the weather. And just like it happens every spring, I look up and suddenly notice that my house is filthy, smelly, and seems to have accumulated way too much stuff. I’m honestly not really quite sure how this happens. It’s not like I go on a cleaning strike all winter or anything. But every year, it is the same. The thought of the garden starts to swell, the seed catalogs arrive, and suddenly I realize that I must be living with a troupe of trolls or something if the house really looks like this. And thus begins the frenzy. It drives the cats and dog outside. It makes the humans in the house scurry out of sight and into their respective corners, lest they be caught and forced to polish something. On the one hand, to be abandoned so irks me. I didn’t make all this mess by myself (just… don’t look at the stacks of books on the table by my chair… or at the baskets of fiber-related items behind it… and, well, it would be best if you stayed out of the studio entirely). But the larger part of me is thrilled to be left to my own devices, to be able to turn the music way up, throw my hair in a ponytail, put on my apron, and work without being interrupted. As odd as it sounds, to be left to wash, scrub, polish, vacuum, and oil my way through my house after a long winter surrounded by my nearest and dearest… well, it’s quite therapeutic.

In addition to that, it is time to solidify our plans for the summer. This is always an agonizing process. All winter long we spend dreaming, but when spring comes, it is time to set limits and be realistic about what time and money can accomplish.

A month ago, I was absolutely sure that my big project for the year was going to be the medicinal herb garden. Unfortunately, my food allergies have progressed to the point where I can no longer digest grains of any kind. Nuts are still on the menu, however. When I add to that the fact that the kids went through the apple sauce and dried fruit just about as fast as I could make it last year, it has become clear that a fruit and nut orchard has to be a priority in the near future. You know the old saying, the best time to plant a fruit tree was ten years ago.

But where to put it? We have been struggling with this question since we moved in. I have finally come to terms with the fact that there is no way to put even a tiny orchard in without cutting down some trees. I am consoling myself with the idea that I am at least replacing them with more trees, and that the trees I am replacing them with will have more nutritive value for the local wildlife, not to mention us. The trees themselves will furnish fencing, heating, and mulch. None of it will be wasted. I am certainly going to need a larger chainsaw. I’m not sure if I’m more nervous or excited about that part. Chainsaws are fun.

In addition to that, as the snow has melted it has become painfully clear that we have to actually make some compost bins. The kids have been taking the compost out all winter, and let’s just say that my tidy and clearly defined piles of last summer are not to be found. So, a three bin system will have to be built, and my husband has asked if it could have a solid front, so that he doesn’t have to look at it while he is washing dishes. I’m pretty sure that that is not going to be a problem.

Lastly, there is the problem of the duck house. You see, it floods. This is what happens when you put in structures before you know your land. Every spring, as the melting starts, we have to pile up their bedding on one side of the house, and it becomes a little island. You would think, being ducks, that this would be well appreciated, but truthfully, no one likes to sleep in a damp place. So, it has to be moved. The cutting I have to do for the orchard gives me the opportunity to cut a place closer to the house for the duck house, and a covered run. The run, I am hoping, will increase our egg production during the winter, in addition to giving the ducks and geese more room and better accommodations. Currently, there are too many hungry predators during the winter months for them to roam around unprotected. Being brown, they show up too well against the nice white snow, and the poor things spend all winter cooped up. The fact that it was such a cold dark winter here in the Northeast meant that we had almost no eggs since November. So, that project has made its way to the top of the list as well.

That’s a pretty big list. There is also the fact that fruit and nut trees tend to come a bit dear, which makes it an expensive list. You notice what isn’t on that list? Yeah, my herb garden. I fretted about it, I won’t lie. Then I got sad. The herb garden is a large enough project to suck up an entire summer, all on its own. I had such plans. I was going to fence the whole thing off, to keep it safe from the marauding geese. They ate last year’s garden to the ground. To the ground. I dug beautiful beds, and lined them with stone. They are like scorched earth back there. The great big budgies even ate my rose bushes, thorns and all. I’m still grumpy about it.

Ahem. Anyway, I was going to fence it all off, and then put in big curving beds, and a seating area near the back, with a fire pit. Beautiful basket cloches, wooden trellises, glass and wooden cold frames, pebble mosaics, statues, places for my potted plants, gravel and stone walkways, the works. We won’t even talk about the plants. A whole bed of lavender. Yum. I was going to put in a summer kitchen too, right at the back, where we already have power and water lines. No more heating up the whole house during canning season, no more listening to my patient husband slowly losing it all summer long, as he tries to make dinner day after day in a kitchen that looks as though a bomb has gone off, and working around three different recipes in various states of progress. Not to mention the ease of butchering out doors. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I dream big, what can I say.

It is just going to have to wait. I have promised myself a compromise, though. I am going to use some of the saplings I have to cut down for the orchard to make some fences for the beds I have. That way, I can at least have a few herbs this year, and stop all that well-composted soil from eroding. At least the ducks and geese hung out in the beds all last summer, so they are well-fertilized.

But the dream remains. Some day, I will have my garden AND my orchard. I will have beds bursting with veggies, bushes overflowing with fruit, and the orchard will be ringed in wild blackberry canes, trained into a hedge, with a gated arbor. I will take the fruits of my labor into the summer kitchen, and I will patiently squirrel them away as dried fruit and veggies, jam, pickles, soups, stews. I will have a cupboard full of tea and medicine grown and prepared with love and care. I will have all these things, even if it takes me a lifetime to get there. But the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. So the dream of my garden may have to sleep and wait for another spring, but every hour of effort brings me closer.


  1. So thrilled that you're back to regular blogging! I'll look forward to Wednesdays!

    1. Thanks Kerry! I had a bit of a rough winter, but I am determined to make time for this from now on.