Thursday, April 21, 2011

Progress, then Rain Delay

The garden's progress... April 17

So I haven't written in a while. It's not that I haven't wanted to, but here are a few excuses: Last week I spent a few solid days (really lovely, sunny & warm days) in the garden. I now have 9 plots dug & planted. Peas, beets, radishes, lettuces, spinach, purslane, broccoli, onions, cabbages, broccoli raab, spinach, bok choi, and some assorted herbs are all in the ground. The brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, collards, kale) are, for the most part, being grown underneath insect barriers. (In the picture, they are the two white plots.) Hopefully this way no detrimental insects will find their way to those plants. I know from growing collards last fall that the cabbage worms are plentiful in this area. It was two hard, but extremely rewarding days in the garden.

The few days after that, we had rain showers for much of the day, so I spent time planting even more seeds in potting soil indoors. Planted even more geraniums, marigolds, peppers, tomatoes, and basil.

Last Saturday, my friends Sherry, Andrea & Alex came over. Andrea & Alex (her son) just moved back to Charleston to start up an organic garden with Sherry. Before and after lunch, Andrea and I geeked out over our gardens. In the rain, we walked around the garden, bringing mud back in with us. And we traded seeds. I forgot to get pumpkin seeds, so now I have some, as well as some different types of parsley, tomatoes and peppers. It was fun, and felt ever-so-slightly subversive in this day and age of corporate seed ownership. Sitting at a kitchen table on a cold spring day, trading seeds.

The next phase is growing.
The front yard after 3.5" of rain
Since then, we've had pretty frequent thunderstorms. So far this week, I've measured over 4" of rain, with much more than that predicted over the next five days. The ground is far too wet to work. Even walking the dogs across the grass, I leave wet puddles in the shape of my shoes behind me. This is my first spring in the Midwest and I am still getting used to these thunderstorms. (I lived in Chicago for almost six years, but can only recall one two-day period that really scared me.) Monday morning the weather radio went off twice before 10 a.m., announcing imminent severe thunderstorms. During the second one, I huddled in the pantry with the dogs, all of us terrified by the frequent and close lightning. Monday night, the Weather Service had been predicting even more severe severe weather. During the afternoon, I re-checked our weather radio and discovered that our station was not broadcasting. I called the weather service who confirmed that their tower'd been hit by lightning and they were hoping to repair it before evening. They suggested I listen to the broadcast from the counties to our Southwest, and take cover when they do. As the day went on, the temperature rose dramatically, peaking at 81 late in the afternoon, on hazy winds. I took the dogs out for walks, as a reward and diversion. The creek was flowing fast. In fact, you could hear the rushing water hundreds of yards away from it. The dogs were glad to be out in the sunshine, and so was I. As the night came on, Rich was making us dinner and although the clouds had returned, it didn't look so scary. The weather radio, though, tuned to the counties to our southwest, was telling a different story. Tornado warning after tornado warning was announced. Just before the severe weather hit our area, our weather station got back online. Just in time to hear her voice tell us our county was in a tornado warning for the next hour. Still, though, from our house, things didn't look too bad. Just a general dark gray to the west. But things suddenly turned black, and very scary. A friend in town texted to say the sirens were going off, and Sherry texted to say that at her house, about a mile southwest of us, things had gotten bad. So I grabbed the dogs and some wine, Rich turned off our now-complete dinner, and we headed into the basement. Among spiders (including one black widow) in their webs, we sat with the dogs as suddenly the house was pummeled by winds. The general roar was intense and even the foundation was shaking. I think that for both of us, we thought this is really bad. We stayed down in the cellar for about 45 minutes. It wasn't too bad, really. And once the storm abated a bit, we headed upstairs. The house, and in fact, our yard, were completely undamaged. In the end, a tornado hadn't touched down anywhere in our area (although several touched down elsewhere in central Illinois). I know that won't be the last time we head down to our cellar this spring.

This afternoon, friends arrive from Chicago. They're coming down for a spring break farm visit. Unfortunately with all the rain, I'll barely be able to show them the garden. But we can walk through the woods, perhaps mushroom hunt or look for wild asparagus. And it will be great to have visitors. Especially folks who have only known me as a city boy! Here's to a good visit, and to the rain abating enough to do more work in the garden...


  1. Quite the farm drama, Joe! Can't wait to visit and see how your garden grows.

  2. The seed swapping party was sooo much fun. And the dinner was delicious, as always. Now on to the harvest parties and canning parties, etc!!

  3. Darcie, I can't wait to have you visit! And thank you, Sherry. I'm looking forward to those harvest and canning parties, too!