Saturday, June 30, 2012

Heart of summer

This morning I spontaneously woke up at 5 a.m. to a crisp blue sky, and the sun just starting to peak over the top of the mountains to the east. This time of year, one rarely sees the sunrise, and I actually got out of bed to witness it - the early sunlight and its rich color.

 It's the heart of summer right now - days that stretch on forever. If the sun is out, you feel like perhaps you could move mountains in a day. If it's cloudy, everyone tends to curl up, exhausted, and recharge. Manic Alaska summers. This year feels exceptionally manic. The long list of things that needed to happen to get the high tunnel up and running was so daunting, but today, as I wait for my sleeping children to rise, I feel like perhaps I am close to being caught up. It's been months.

Pretty much since the beginning of May, when the soil in the high tunnel got to be soft enough to work, my children and I and the Wwoofers who have come to stay with us have been sprinting. Setting up a 2,100-square-foot garden for the first time is no small feat. Add to that putting in an outdoor garden for potatoes and planting the old hoop house beds with cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli and you have quite a project.

And then there's the random factor. Like when the tractor came to till the soil in the outside garden and the well-meaning fellow who did the tilling tilled over the top of my septic tank, breaking it and causing a complete collapse that took a week and a half of very distasteful work to fix. I am grateful every time I flush the toilet, and have an indepth and hard-earned appreciation for all the inner workings of a septic system now.

The greatest surprise to me so far is the entire success of pretty much everything I've planted to date. Even the basil, which originally looked sad and unlikely to produce into anything of merit, has since taken off with ghusto after a generous application of lime. The tomatoes are crazy. Late-planted crops like squash and beets are up. The first generation of salad and bok choi are almost going beyond their prime.

This week, I put out an email to a few friends who live in the area saying that if they need salad greens, please come visit. I had my first visitor yesterday. What a joy to see her leaving with bags of greens and a smile on her face. I can see that this is just the tip of the iceberg. My zucchini plants are just starting to put out - tiny zucchini that will surely explode soon enough. Mysterious squash and pumpkin plants that I've never grown before are creating little yellow balls. The first tomato is turning golden in the tomato forest. We must learn how to prune. The peas are flowering. It's all happening at warp speed. Cucumbers. herbs. Carrots in beautifully-spaced rows.

 Liam and Théa are having a different kind of summer, too. Matt is gone on a fire, and more often than not, they seem to be staying home with me, friends coming in, and trips to the beach and adventures with Wwoofers dotting the days. And the wonderful Wwoofers! This year started with Joe, who was as wonderfully tolerant and often amused by the antics of my smaller people and did countless loads of dishes and runs up and down the hill collecting people and dropping people off. Then came the dream team trio - Sue first, with her worried parents in tow, and a strong spirit and dedication to knocking back the weeds that were overtaking the tunnel. Then, the day the toilet died, Jeff and Peter arrived simultaneously, and together, the three of them took on huge projects, like planting a huge potato patch and digging all the fence post holes for the new outside garden and weeding and weeding and weeding.

More often than not, I give out a stream of confusing and vague directions on my way out the door, and somehow they figure it out. And then there are the times that I come back and see amazing things happening like Peter and Sue galloping through the yard, donning dress up clothes and a tutu for a wig, and strumming a guitar with children in tow. It brings me great joy to see these vibrant young people enjoying my world and my children getting to see an example of young adulthood that is creative and lovely.

Théa's imagination and intellect is exploding, Liam's creativity and loving nature are wonderfully rich, both are growing like weeds, and desirous of snuggles and love and endless stories. And they are up. And there are many more stories to tell. Of full tables, and a community that I love, and of course, Craig, who enriches our lives on so many levels, mine especially with an influence that is both calming and inspiring. But for now, it will have to wait, because this day is launching and there's no stopping it! Onward.
So the days are wonderfully long and the world is full.

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's been over a month since I posted - but then, that's May. That's just the way it goes. I just spent a bit of time backtracking to see where I was a month ago and wow, that was a pretty big shock. A month ago, we were slogging through a snowy, ice-covered mud pit. Now, it's a lush, vibrant greenhouse with so much life growing in it, it boggles the mind. There was a LOT of work that went into the transition from then to now, but when I walked into the tunnel yesterday after being gone for 8 days, it was a shock to see how much growth can happen in a week and a day. A complete shock. Perhaps that's a metaphor for life, too. Growth is possible on levels you never thought could be reached. So what has happened since last I wrote? Well, it thawed, we planted, and planted, and planted starts. We built a door (a nice door). It dried out. We built beds, digging long paths out of the dirt and putting a wooden box onto the ground to serve as a form for the beds. We added stuff to the soil - blood meal and bone meal and green sand. We mixed. I built a tunnel inside the tunnel to hold in heat for the tomatoes and basil plants. And finally, around May 15, we planted. Tomatoes first - because they were crazy big in their pots all over my house, flowering. I read that they might not thrive if transplanted so large. I worried. Next, the squash and zucchini and cucumbers and pumpkins, which were so big in their pots that they became one disorganized snarl of greenery under the lights. Then we moved on - basil and lettuce went in, both looking like they had been socked in the gut. Then I decided to go visit Craig in Washington while he was seeing his father. I would be leaving for eight days in the heart of the planting season. That pushed the fast-forward button seriously. So there was a huge push to get all the seeds planted - especially the carrots, which I wanted to seed using a template which makes holes in the ground with even spacing and hopefully eliminates the need for thinning later. Then beans and peas and corn. Spinach went in, and all the lettuce starts and basil starts. Then, the final days before I left were all about making the tunnel easier to manage - a watering system went in, followed by two windows with special hinges that open on their own when it's too warm (you set the temp). Fantastic. I left, with some concern, but a general sense that whatever would be would be. And what would be was pretty cool. On my return, everything was up, amazingly. So far, the only plant that looks less than happy is the basil. But perhaps we can help it, too. Elsewhere in the world - Liam was in his first full-fledged production this month - he was an orphan in "little orphan andy. It was amazing to see him up there with no fear and total comfort in what he was doing. He did a lot of shows, and was consistently funny and energetic. what a kid. I'm glad May is over. I'm ready for the easier pace of June. I spent all day shoveling up dog shit and cleaning up the yard. It's so tough to stay awake right now, I'd better go and let this blog run. Would love to see you all!