After the “coldest, wettest spring ever”, May brought the sun and the heat and squeezed all the wetness out. Where we had only ever known mud, dry ground and grass filled in the girls’ well worn paths.
“Mother’s Day,” everyone told me from day one, “Mother’s Day is when you plant the garden.” I had impatiently waited 6 whole months, my longest non-planting stretch in 10 years without a newborn as an excuse, poking at the ground, squeezing hopeful, premature mud-balls, drawing charts and graphs, doing all the things around the garden, waiting for the day I could grow anything. I played with soil testing kits, I dutifully checked the temperature of the dirt.
(Now, if you’re from the north, and you’re a good gardener, you’re reading this going, “Well of course you did. This is what gardening is. Why is she whining?” But if you’re like me, and from the south, you’re like, “She checked the temperature of the what? How does a person even do that?” I know. It’s weird. They make a thing.)
Everyone was right. Mother’s Day arrived and conditions to grow things in the garden were perfect.
Conditions to grow things were right everywhere.
The earth, bombarded by 14+ hours of sunlight, goes a little insane. As a gardener and amateur naturalist, of course I had been paying some attention to life beyond the borders of my vegetable patch. Of course I’d made my kids sketch the drooping maple blossoms and the ferns as they uncurled. We watched in feigned horror as the blackberry shoots pressed up into the yard, and cheered heartily when Dado ran them over with the mower. I googled new things every morning, trying to decide if something was a weed or just another kind of geranium (it was often both, but once it was a calla lily).
Turns out that everything that’s so lovely and interesting to watch grow in March and April will swallow you whole in May.
By the time I figured out what everything was, it was clear that May was about six weeks too late for figuring to be very helpful. Weeds that were two inches high in April were two feet high in May. Grass that had just barely begun to wake up in March needed to be mowed three times a week in May (yes, you could sit on the porch and watch it grow).
From sun-up (4 something) to sundown (10 something), I fussed with the farm, stopping only to visit the chiropractor 3 times a week. We crammed school into a couple hours midmorning, then did the rest outside. When my body had to stop, I was in my notebooks, farming on paper. Whether with the pitchfork or the pen, I was digging, mowing, pulling, hauling just to keep up. It was the first time I had the thought, “My goals might be a little aggressive.”
But toward the of May, despite the shocking heat wave that helped us discover yet another way we could become millionaires in the PNW (after the breakfast taco stand), ceiling fan stand, I was feeling genuinely optimistic. I’d cleared and hand tilled three of the five beds, weeded the raspberries, blueberries (where I’d found rogue asparagus!), and grapes, skimmed two ponds, hauled 22 loads of compost, and planted the first round of summer crops. I was going to make it after all!
And then I got pneumonia.
Now the photos:
The garden in early May. Note how it looks like I’ve done absolutely nothing. This is a lie. The results of my mulch experiments are pretty obvious (never -don’t- mulch, maple leaves were best):
The garden on Mother’s Day. All the dry, workable soil ready for planting. Everything unworked is still very wet. Soil temps under cover just barely at 55 degrees:
Lest you think I do it all alone:
A morning hunt. The population reduced radically once the soil was worked and cleared:
Sweet Duck on the job. By the end of the month she was sitting on a nest. Look for updates on that soon:
It was all going so well: