Thursday, April 21, 2011

speeding up now

I was ticking through the to do list today and realized that despite 3 feet of lingering snow, it is garden season for sure. The house is full of starts and experimental bottles of chicken poop tea, which has been quite successful so far - the first guinea pig tomato plant is much, much greener than the others. Two days ago, I planted (with the help of Liam and Théa, of course) the first starts in the garden. Bok Choy and spinach went in the ground in the greenhouse, which got a fresh coat of plastic last weekend. I've got them covered with row cover and plastic at night, as the temps are still well below freezing, but they made it through a couple clear nights so I think we may be OK.
And the hoop house is uncovered from its snowy tomb, so I think on Saturday I will try to dig it out and get that started. Maybe this evening even. It's time to get the ball rolling.
The kids are even more into the gardening this year. Liam especially knows a thing or two about putting things in the ground and what results, and he's very intense about it all. I realized the other day as he gazed at a seed rack in the store in much the same way he gazes at a shelf of toys that I was raising a gardener. Liam was frustrated last week by Théa's flippant attitude about the earth they were preparing - he was making rows, she was filling them in, helpful as always. She later moved on to burying her doll in the garden. Liam had to leave the greenhouse, he was so frustrated. At bedtime he requested a Mommy and Liam day where he and I just gardened. You betcha, kid. You betcha.
The weather outside has been awesome this week. Sunny and mid-40s. Snow is melting like crazy up on the ridge, and in town, it is full-blown spring. I helped my friend Mike work on a studio he is building next to his house this week, which was wonderful because it put me firmly outside for much of each morning. I could no easier have sat inside at a computer than pulled my toenails off one by one. It's been a longish winter, even with the break in Hawaii in February. I'm ready.
Last week, I attended a forum on high tunnels. This is essentially what I did myself last year - planting in the ground under a plastic canopy - only the government is giving out huge grants to buy these things for us. $4.1 million has already been spent in the Homer area, they reported, on more than 100 tunnels. Nuts. The town is going to be floating in greenery come this fall if even half of them get up and running. So I applied for my own - won't know until next January if I get it, but I'm hoping. And in the meantime, I'm going to do another pvc number this year to keep costs low. I'll take the plastic off early this fall and then put the new tunnel up over the same beds if I can next year.
So beyond gardening, there is one other notable development in the wonderful world of Rancho Restino. Liam has found the piano in a huge way. He's been taking lessons with Lindiann - who lives at Mike's house - since January, but recently, he has really picked up speed. He practices without being asked to - and is reading music fluently. One night this week I actually had to threaten not to read him stories if he didn't stop playing at bedtime. What???? The last lesson is starting to get him to do multiple keys at the same time, a big leap and one you can see him grappling with, but he's intensely into it, like solving a puzzle. I'm inspired by him, practicing my fiddle more. I'm so excited. And at the same time, my father spontaneously provided help for the lessons last week at a point when I was wondering how exactly I was going to keep up with the cost. Things just seem to come together when you need them to. And the things you need, they find their way into your life. I'm so happy for Liam.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

easy come, easy go

Spring in Alaska isn't so much a season as a test of one's will to live here. Have there been beautiful days so far this spring? You bet. In fact, I have pictures to prove it - sunny, warm pictures. But have there also been plenty of mornings requiring a prewarming of the car as well as a shovel to actually reach the car. Yup. In fact, the last storm - wind and snow at my elevation, blew a 2-foot drift across my path. I'm refusing to shovel it on the premise that no one should have to shovel after April 1. But of course, that, too is flawed logic.

Yesterday was the big fundraiser event of the year at the library. It went pretty well, despite the usual chaos right before, and literal running with chairs, etc. For me, the best part about the event is that when it's over, I can focus on other things (like the other three events happening this month at the library....) Actually, what has sunk in today - the morning after - is that my prep time for getting these hoop houses up and going by May 1 is rapidly drawing to a close. I've got oodles of starts planted and they will require housing in due time. In fact, if I were a smart woman, I'd slap some plastic up over the "real" greenhouse and get that baby warming up for the bok choy and spinach that will be ready to plant in a week or two. Last year, I watched a friend grow wonderful bok choy very early in the season - granted, his greenhouse was a palace compared to mine, but still.

Today was a lovely day, indicative of how my life with my children has evolved. It started with a morning at home, the kids playing - and fighting - for several hours while I baked bread (a loaf of which my new dog, Zee, ...who is in heat, but that's another story... ate while we were in town), and then transplanted all the tomato plants into bigger containers. I posted a request for advice on facebook about using chicken poop tea for the fertilizer for the tomatoes. Got lots of advice, much of it conflicting, but decided to give the chicken poop a try, and filled a lovely bucket with 1/5 poop, the rest water. The article I read said to leave it for three days. I doubt I'll make it that long, but we'll see. Then I'll pick a plant out and try it and see if it turns yellow... Good strategy, I'd say.

So the afternoon was spent with my friend and his two children on the beach, where all the wonders of the recent stormy weather had washed ashore, and the leftovers were strange and unusual, we even went and had pizza at Fat Olives (1/4 of the pie sans cheese) The kids love the beach. It's like a giant playground and everyone seems to have fun - although wet feet - by the end of an outing there.

Then to Mike's for dinner and more play - Théa obviously needed a nap today but wound up refusing to fall asleep in the car (didn't want to miss anything) and was subsequently outrageously easy to get to sleep this evening. And Liam didn't complain too much, either. I wish I'd had a little more time with them, another day, perhaps...but it's all good. And now it's my turn as I fall asleep on the keyboard at the end of another wonderfully tired...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Early sunshine

It's almost 9 p.m. and I am trying to convince my children that it is actually bedtime. Unfortunately, the light is no longer working in my favor in that regard. The sunshine now lasts until 8 and the daylight well into 9 and when it is clear, like it has been the last few days, it is very difficult to get the brains of little people to go to sleep. For that matter, it will soon be difficult for me to do the same. This is the GO time of year for me. But I'm a little ahead of myself right now. See, it really shouldn't be spring yet. Spring doesn't happen in March, but the past few weeks have definitely felt springy. And when I put the coffee grounds out on the garden two weeks ago, it actually stayed and the snow is now a good foot and a half lower where the grounds are. Grounds to the ground. Very grounding. OK, OK, I'll stop. Also emerging in this great melt is the leftover pieces of the hoop house from last year. I have to choose if I am going to try to resurrect the plastic hoops or replace them all with conduit (bent metal). I may try the conduit if I can afford it, depending on how many of the plastic hoops were broken when it went down last fall. I should have taken the plastic off well before the snow started, but I saw a friends' house which stayed up all winter, and I thought maybe I could get away with it. No such luck up here at 1200 feet. Sigh. So back to square one, only not really. The beds are all in and the water system is in place and I think the front and back pieces will be easy to fix. So once I can get in there, the mess will be minimal, I think.

But what was I getting at? It's not TIME to be thinking about all this yet. There is still a whole month of winter potential here at Latitude 59. April can produce some substantial dumps, and I don't want to be the one jumping the gun and getting slapped back into submission by the reality that I live in Alaska. So I have not done things like shovel the snow off my walkway or put away any variety of winter wear. Skis are still out. I'm not testing fate any more than I have to here.

On the other hand, it is starting to sneak into my head that maybe, just maybe, this summer will be one of those summers - the kind where you actually drag the kiddie pool up on the deck a couple times and children voluntarily climb in. We are due, and if it happens, I'm totally ready. So much of the work I did last year will pay bid dividends this year. And though there is still lots to do, I'm not worried. I'm not starting at the beginning this time but at the mid-point. And it sounds like I will have a good bit of help from Wwoofers this year, which is exciting.

It's Saturday morning, and the children got up cheerfully this morning and are playing with puzzles. My return Wwoofer Srishti is here and my friend Jennifer and her daughter are coming over for coffee and pancakes. Then the kids go to Matt for the weekend and I get a bit of time to myself. Outside a scattering of snow has cleaned up the world and an eagle is circling. How is it that I get this life, really?