Yes, spring is here

Note: first posted at 11:30 pm, Saturday, March 30, 2013, then edited on March 31.

Time for bed, yes. But I sit in my Lazy Boy chair with the plumpest, most cuddly of my four house cats, Jasmine, on my lap. Just checked the weather on my laptop computer. Yes, we are to get more snow. But I believe that it is fair to say that spring is here.

The signs? Going into Ace Hardware a few nights ago to get a timer for my grow lights that I will use this next week to start Black Aztec corn seed in pots in my basement. Seeing the aisles of the store piled high with large, colorful bags of turf seed and fertilizer. Yikes. It is appalling to see so much emphasis on well-groomed, chemically-treated lawns. It is hard to imagine how much money is spent on those products and how unfriendly such practices are to the environment. One of these days, I may calculate what percentage of my .35 acre residential lot on Burnett that I have converted from groomed, chemically-treated turf to fruit trees, vegetable gardens, rain gardens and other patches of native plants. That includes some natives in the area between the sidewalk and gutter near the street. I have been known to call that area “the parkings” or “the berm.”

Recently, I watched a TED talk on “gangsta gardening” in Los Angeles by Ron Finley, who grows food in his parkings. Although I was anticipating planting additional native plants in the remainder of my parkings, I am thinking about what food plants I could grow there. Nothing too tall that would be a visual hazard nor too rambling that would sprawl onto the street or sidewalk. Something colorful. Something that would be intriguing to people passing by. Something they would respect and yet that they might choose to sample. Yes, I could put a sign near the patches saying that people could help themselves. And hopefully, those people walking dogs would keep the dogs out of the patches.

Another sign of spring. Riding my bike to west Ames yesterday and seeing many more runners and cyclists than I had in the winter months–many of them wearing just a tee-shirt and shorts.

Checking out Amber Anderson Mba’s green house and under-construction raised beds. Hearing her tell me about plans for growing food in her front yard. Riding back east along Ontario and smelling the starter fluid that someone nearby was using to start a charcoal grill. Seeing a small crocus in bloom at a stop to see a friend on Ontario. Then stopping at Steven and Ethy Cannon’s place and seeing she was working in the green house. She waved me in and continued potting some young sweet potato plants that she and Steven had started from their own potatoes. I was impressed with how she and Steven had been reading some of George Washington Carver’s work and trying to apply his wisdom both in regard to sweet potatoes and a new crop–apios–that they are experimenting with and would love to share with other gardeners/farmers to grow. It is a legume, but the tuber is used like a potato.

Other signs of spring. My mood is lifting. I toured my yard to find that I have daffodil and tulip leaves that are poking up through the ground. There are also the brilliant red tips of rhubarb (merely the size of the tip of my thumb) that are poking through, too.

I pulled piles of leaves away from last year’s collard plants so the sun could heat the soil. Collards are biennial. My experience of overwintering them is that the stems of the old plants look blanch white the next spring but gradually, new green growth occurs from the roots. Then as the summer goes by, the collards are like a rambling bush with small, but excellent, leaves. And eventually, there are delicate small yellow flowers and seed heads.

Oh, and my chickens have loved being out in their large garden/pasture area, grubbing for whatever it is that they like under leaves and in the soil. Last fall, my handyman and I adjusted the location of the chicken hotel and rearranged the chicken run–a small fenced area covered with bird netting so that prey cannot attack the chickens, and the chickens can not fly out while I am in the house napping or away from home with no knowledge of their escapades. But one of our first snow storms piled a huge mound of snow on top of the netting, collapsing it and the fence. Once I repair the run, I will feel confident in letting the chickens out of the garage, cleaning it for summer use, and letting the birds be in their summer digs until winter comes again. That would mean nights in their hotel, hours in their small run with a miniature hoop tent for protection from sun and rain while I am not around, and access to the whole garden/pasture when I am around and able to peak out the window on occasion to check on their well-being. I do not want another eagle attack nor do I want to let DeElda, the only of my chickens who knows how to clear the pasture fence, wander into neighbors’ yards.

Another sign of spring is that I had lots of friends stop by in a way that is much different than the fallow days of winter when people are not out and about as much. A friend, Amy, is thinking about raising chickens and has signed up for a 20×40-foot plot at the City of Ames community gardens in the south part of town. She brought a lot of seeds she had recently purchased from Sand Hill Preservation Center. Other friends, David and Carolyn, had been out for a walk and stopped by–I think more to see my cats than me. We also checked out the new growth in the garden and herded the chickens back to their garage quarters. And tonight, at a dinner party, a friend from church asked about how soon she could start planting radish and spinach seed. I said I had seldom grown those but that I could send her a link for a growing guide. Seems like pretty soon, she could risk to plant some radish, spinach, and pea seeds. And at not a great cost if a freeze were to come. Simply plant some more seed.

Frost date information for Ames

Interactive gardening grow guide


2012-03-31 rain barrels

Rain barrel photo from 2012.

Oh, and did I say that I hooked up the larger of my rain barrel stations today. There was a little moisture–not enough to really call it a rain–this morning. The weather report says there will be more in a few days, and I hope I can have full rain barrels when spring arrives. Rain barrels will be of little use if we have a real drought, which is a possibility for this year. But if we have dry spells that are only a few weeks long, water from the barrels will keep the garden viable until the next rain comes.

It is hard to imagine that just two nights ago, I walked around the yard with five-gallon buckets and filled them with snow from banks located on the north side of buildings and had not yet thawed. I plan to use the snow melt this next week when I start my Black Aztec corn seed. And maybe later when I graft some new apple trees.

For now, Jasmine, the cat on my lap is weighing on my arm. Another is perched atop a high shelf. The other two are in nearby rooms. I believe all four think it is time to call it a day. And when we awake in the morning, it will be Easter Day.

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