Two Years Ago: Another Wee Anniversary

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It is spring, isn’t it? The trillium which began appearing in late March have fully invaded and blossomed, blanketing the forest floor with a stunning array of white flowers and green leaves. And now, as the days have gotten warmer and longer, they are blushing pink with age, slowly disappearing as the emerald canopy broadens high overhead. Meanwhile, the tulips and daffodils in our front garden have scurried away — chased out by the warmth — and are replaced with stronger-willed flowers and greenery.

On May 19, 2010, I made my first post for Tales of Thyme & Place. I wrote that entry while feeling a sort of victorious high from having spent the previous weekend slaving away with James in the garden plot we were renting in Elgin, IL. We’d finally gotten the planting beds shaped, the weeds pulled out, the seedlings transplanted, and some seeds directly sown.

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Only two years later, we’re in Northwest Michigan, coming to the end of the cooler part of an unpredictable spring while staring down a garden plot that’s almost seven times the size of that “big” garden in Elgin. If I were reading this, I would be in disbelief… instead, I’m living it, and believe me it’s very real.

Are we done yet? Not by a longshot! We have 3300 square feet of garden. It is filled with a unique, sandy soil which happens to be chock full of rocks of all sizes (some about as big as your head) and quackgrass rhizomes (a particularly noxious grass/weed).

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Here on the peninsula, we’re in a unique micro-climate of sorts. Though we’re farther north than our previous home near Chicago — because of the sheltering effects of Lake Michigan’s waters — we’re actually in a warmer USDA Hardiness Zone. Still, when you factor in the odd mood swings of peninsula weather that make every day a meteorological variety show, this “warmer” place is actually about the same as where we were in Zone 5.

So, even though we’ve only gotten two-thirds of the planting beds shaped and our deer fence is still not up (update: it’s supposed to go up this weekend), we’re not terribly behind schedule. Yes, in spite of what my neurotic, Type A scribblings and charts insist on pointing out, the last frost date for our area isn’t really until mid-June.

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While waiting for help with the fence and waiting for the threat of frost to be past us, I’ve been busying myself shaping all of those planting beds. I use a combination of methods in the garden — some stranger than others. Raised beds are probably the one method that gets the most skeptical reaction from people. They are IMG_5044certainly more labor intensive than rows, at first — my back and shoulders can attest to that — but, they end up providing a much more hospitable environment for plants than narrow rows.

While broiling and simmering out in the open sun, lugging rocks, and pulling out weeds, I’ve had some very faithful company — a sweet feline companion from nearby I’ve nicknamed Tenderfoot. I dubbed her Tenderfoot because of her careful way of walking through the high grass and her complete indifference to the labyrinth-like paths of the garden plot. As you might expect, she’s no help at all in the garden, but she does enjoy watching my labors from the shade of a large juniper or nearby cherry tree. She also sees to it that I take several breaks from working in order to pet her. I’m usually not in the garden for more than five minutes before I look up and see her coming down the path. I’ve not yet determined whether she likes me or if she’s just entertained by watching me shuffle around in the dirt.

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When I’ve been too tired to work at shaping the beds or stressing about getting the fence up in time, I’ve been pruning the black cherry trees that abound in the clearing where the garden is located. Black Cherries — though perfectly lovely trees — have a nasty habit of cluttering themselves with branches, suckers, and other weak limbs that they have no intention of supporting. With a pruning saw and shears and some planning, I managed to turn all of them into more appealing trees. Now, Tenderfoot and I can easily huddle underneath them for some much-needed shade!

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James and I have also been busy planting some trees we received from the Arbor Day Foundation (more about those trees in a separate entry). Of course, planting trees in an area frequented by curious deer means erecting a small fence for each tree! Yay — more work!!

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~ by Jason on May 19, 2012.

10 Responses to “Two Years Ago: Another Wee Anniversary”

  1. Wow! It looks like a lot of work, but will be so worth it! I can’t wait to see more pictures of the progress.

  2. Thanks, Drew. 🙂 It is a lot of work! There has been another delay in the fence installation… but I’m hopeful it will be finished by the end of Monday. Getting the garden started this first year here has been like an impossible row of dominoes to knock down.

  3. Yow, that’s a lot of garden to tend! How tall is the deer fence? If they are like Pennsylvania whitetail deer, they have some serious jumping ability. Good luck with it Jason! I’ll look forward to seeing some posts on the “fruits” of your labor . . .

    • The fence will be 8 feet tall and will potentially have “extenders” reaching another couple of feet… but definitely not right away. I’ve heard tales of white-tailed deer jumping over 14-foot fences, but some of these stories must surely be akin to the whale-sized walleye stories. 😀 From what I’ve heard, the biggest problem we’ll have is deer trying to go through or under our fence. To them, that’s easier and their way out is guaranteed (they don’t like to feel enclosed).

  4. I am so happy that you have made friends with our Tenderfoot (who our daughter named Isis, but you may call her whatever you like!). She is a sweet, but rather unusual feline that I will have to tell you all about sometime. Please let us know if she becomes a nuisance! Your garden looks great — love the raised beds, but afraid we are row people. haha

    • She is a very sweet kitty — and we were glad to hear that you were able to figure out her predicament, yesterday. We were really concerned, but — since she was in pain and scared — she didn’t want to let us get too close. Personally, I think she’d probably answer to almost anything so long as you look like you’re going to massage her and dote on her. 😀 I doubt she’ll become a nuissance.

      Thanks for the encouragement on the garden front. Yes, raised beds are definitely an investment of work upfront. I’m hoping we’ll have as much luck with them as we had back in 2010. At least it’ll never be quite this much work ever again!!

  5. Sheesh! Your garden is bigger than my house! I couldn’t tend all that if I wanted to 🙂 You know very well that you enjoy every second of that work! Even more so once it all starts producing. Watch the rabbits, btw. They get to my garden all the time. We have a family of five attacking our veggies and some of my herbs. Miss you!

    • Well, fortunately, not all of the 3300 square feet are actual growing space. A fair portion of that square footage is walking paths and fallow areas to make moving around easier.

      I’m hoping we won’t have much trouble with rabbits. There are quite a few coyotes around here. When we go into the city we see rabbits, but we’ve yet to see one anywhere near our house. Now, raccoons… that’s another story.

      Miss you too!

  6. Happy anniversary, dear heart! Lovely looking garden. I can’t wait to watch the progress! Sending love your way. And rub that cute kitty for me too.

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