Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Planning Season

I have a vision for a yard that is lush with delicious edibles always ready to submit themselves to my culinary ambitions.

Well, maybe "vision" is the wrong word. Vision implies a plan, or design, which I don't have. So far, I have, at best, a wish.

This is the season of planning, as opposed to planting, which will have to wait a few more months. Underneath the current blanket of white, I imagine various hues of green emerging, perhaps with some red flecks of strawberries or purple beans.

After a dozen years of failure, I'm conceding on tomatoes, acknowledging that our large shady oaks are like a hostile border patrol to sun-loving species from the tropics. Yet the shade and the short growing season will not deter me from growing at least a little of my own food. Surely, in the great flora biodiversity of this planet, there exists something other than oregano that will like my yard.

I'm currently highly inspired for this planting planning work after trudging through deep snow and biting winds Saturday night to hear a wonderful lecture from permaculture teacher and writer extraordinaire Toby Hemenway. I've read every word of his Gaia's Garden and will use it as my manual for transforming my small patch of inner-Traverse City into a regenerative oasis.

The task is daunting, but the time to begin is now, while I can make use of the indentured servant labor of my strong teenaged son. I will do as Julie Andrews sang and "start at the very beginning," which, in this case, must be with compost. For the entirety of the dozen years we've lived here, I've been composting with the less-than-ideal heap method. Basically, everything goes in the one big pile, and if I want to spread some compost in a planting patch, I have to dig it out from the bottom. My guru-of-all-things-eco friend advised me yesterday that I really need to start a second pile and just let the other one sit and rot until it is all compost. So the first task, after the snow melts, will be to set up side-by-side bins, which will require relocating the whole shebang. Of course, I can make another container out of discarded shipping pallets, which are free, but I'm sorely tempted to get an attractive compost bin like this. Why do they have to cost so much? Being a cheapskate, I'll undoubtedly nail together more pallets. That $170 could be better spent on a cheese press, or wine cellar, or cookware, or .... well, college tuition for the kids.

Now that I feel like I've accomplished some yard work, simply by thinking about it, I can move on to the next task of perusing online seed catalogs.


  1. Next year, ask Santa for a Compost Tumbler. It'll rock your gardening world. Once you get the mix of fresh-to-dead right, they say you can have a batch of compost ready in two weeks. In my experience it's closer to three weeks but stil far, far better than waiting a whole year.

    -- Kathy

  2. Great suggestion, Kathy! My neighbor has one of those tumblers and it seems to work very well for him.

  3. Sharon,

    I too, have a compost tumbler. My father-in-law connected me with a 90 year old neighbor of his this past Fall, and a well spent $50 later, I have moved on from the frustrating method from which you describe. It's amazing how much it holds, I keep adding to it all winter long. Put the word out for a used one...people get into, and out of things, like gardening, all of the time.

    Hey, love your blog. Thanks for sharing it. - Peace - Dags