Archives for posts with tag: fresh start

It’s that time of year again (past time, actually):  Time to send the soil out for testing.

Why is it that time?  Because the growing season is over and the soil is as depleted as it will get this year.  Now is the time to add supplements or nutrients that the soil may need before the new season starts in spring.  And I won’t know what to add without an assessment of what is—or is not—there.  Also, the planters are (almost) bare so it is convenient to take samples.

Testing is becoming less critical for the east planter, which has just completed its third year of service.  Its soil needed adjustment after the first year (to increase its acidity) but received no amendments last year.  We did add a small amount of compost (to bring the soil surface higher) and may do so again this year.  Otherwise, I don’t expect that the soil’s properties have changed much.

Similarly, the soil in the west planter was nearly on the mark in terms of pH and nutrient concentrations, as evidenced by its first soil testing last year (see October 4, 2012).  It received the same treatment as the east planter (a minor infusion of compost) and in conjunction with the solid performance of this year’s crops, is unlikely to need any modifications.

The condition of the newest soil in the garden, the mounds where we planted the squashes and cucumbers, is another matter entirely.  We were not particularly careful in designing this soil and simply mixed together roughly equal parts of compost and peat moss.  It looked right and was good enough but apparently only just so.  While the summer squashes performed adequately (especially the yellow crookneck), the winter squashes and cucumbers did poorly (in fact, only one Kabocha and none of the Delicata squashes reached maturity).

Clearly, there is something missing from (or otherwise not quite right with) this soil.  Testing should help uncover what that is.

As in previous years, for each of the planters and the mounds, I dug soil from four locations, mixed it together and dumped it into a labeled zip-top bag.  I slipped each baggie into a larger one (to contain possible spillage) and packed the three sacks into a box for shipping.  To the box I added the testing lab’s forms (one for each sample) and a check to cover expenses.

Next week, I’ll send them to New Jersey and in another week to 10 days, we should have the results.

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This afternoon, while sitting by the pool and garden and reading the Sunday paper, we stopped to listen and heard…nothing.  As of today, the 17-year cicadas have gone silent.

The wooing is done, the females have chosen their mates and have flown, clumsily, off to nearby tree branches to lay their eggs.  Their simple task complete, the males have promptly dropped dead.  When I poke around the ornamental gardens or in the weeds at the edge of the woods, I find their bodies scattered about randomly.  Their eyes are still open (I don’t think they can be closed) but the life—and the buzzing—is gone.

After they lay their eggs, the females will also die.  Then, by summer’s end, the eggs will hatch and the next generation of Brood II nymphs will drop to the ground.  They will slowly burrow into the ground where they will spend the next 17 years feeding and—ever so slowly—growing.

The cicadas will be out of sight (a mere six to 18 inches beneath the surface) and, for most of us, out of mind until some time in early 2030.  I’ll place a reminder in my calendar, easily the first, and for about 16 years, the only, entry for that year.

We’ve never done much to celebrate Easter.  Growing up, the focus was on a family get-together with a spotlight on the food:  lots of candy, of course, and ham for dinner.  But now I live on the opposite side of the country from my family and few of my friends observe Easter rituals (or those of Passover, either).  We rarely do a social gathering anymore or anything, in fact, that might be considered traditional.

One year, we spent the afternoon helping friends move furniture.  I don’t recall why they decided to do this chore on a holiday but once we got their vehicle loaded up, they headed off to deliver the cargo (somewhere, presumably, not closed for Easter).  That left us hungry for dinner but too tired to cook.

We decided to swing by one of the restaurants in town and because we didn’t have a reservation, we ordered a couple of pizzas to go.  While waiting for them to bake, we sat at the bar and I had a glass of wine.  The proprietress thought I might like one of the Pinot Noirs that is not usually sold by the glass but opened a bottle for me anyway.  That’s hospitality!  It was a delightful—if unconventional—way to observe the holiday.

Another year, we decided to go to a movie.  When we got to the theater (co-located at a shopping mall), we found it and all of the other stores shuttered.  Unlike Thanksgiving or Christmas, Easter seems to be the holiday when everything closes.  We ended up back home.

So instead of planning a formal gathering or going out, we’ve made Easter weekend a celebration of spring and the rebirth of the garden.

Everybody talks about spring cleaning and making a fresh start but fall clean-ups are just as important.  As the warmth of summer fades, we are spending less time outdoors.  The chair cushions, umbrellas and hammocks need to be washed, dried and stored inside.  The grill, in constant use through the summer, wants to be tidied up and tucked away on the back porch.

At the same time, the windows that have been open continuously since June must now be closed at night (and, eventually, all day) to ward off the chill.  We will vacuum a summer’s worth of gnats and no-see-ums from the screens and bring in the fans that brought cool air into the house.  These, too, will be cleaned and stowed in the basement.

In short, all of the summer paraphernalia must move indoors for the winter.  And the more effort we take to get it all organized, the better.  It won’t get in our way over the next several months and when spring comes, and it is time to move it back outdoors, it will be ready to go.  I’d much rather deal with it now than later.

It’s also a good time for us to exercise the three Rs, which in this case are:  reduce, reduce, reduce.  Unwanted books go to the library.  Clothes that no longer fit (but are still in good condition) go to charity.  And the inevitable bag or two of unusable or unsalvageable items—things for which we can find no other place—go into the trash.

Our goal in the last few years has been to make these reductions permanent and only replace those items which we find absolutely necessary.  We are not minimalists by any stretch of the imagination (a quick tour of my workshop would prove that) but we have embraced a less-is-more mentality that feels good.

Of course, fall clean-up is also important in the garden (but that’s the subject of another post).