Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was a meat filled read as Ruthie had mentioned. Still, there was inspiration to be gleaned if you could find a way to leave the vivid imagery of butchering and the "meat is great agenda" aside. (Did it seem to anyone else that she was compelled to really justify her choice to eat meat?)

Inspiration turned to perspiration as 30 organic asparagus crowns arrived in the mail last week from Seeds of Change. Amid the flurry of obscenities swirling in my head (as in, Holy ___ how am I ever going to get these planted? What the ___ was I thinking? I'll never get my ___ together and get this done in time!) I tried to put on a brave face and make a plan. Jim puts it this way, he's willing to provide labor and capital but planning (ie. how to plant what where) is all me. He listens and participates but I read all the books on it and I used to help my grandmother in her huge garden so I've been deemed the family expert. No pressure at all! I suppose the cost of the asparagus crowns ($56 with shipping) didn't help alleviate any pressure either. Can you begin to see the root of all the obscene banter in my head now?

Saturday was deemed asparagus planting day and all other activities were suspended. We had picked out a patch of ground weeks before but done nothing with it. It was an area that had formerly held a flower garden. This was good news on one hand. I knew the soil was fertile from tending the flowers. On the other hand, the previous owners had used a lot of decorative gravel around their plantings and this plot was no exception. The soil was teeming with gravel which was certainly not ideal for an asparagus bed. I wanted to cry or break something. (I often hover between those two reactions.) How come we hadn't thought about this more?

Ultimately it didn't matter. Thirty asparagus crowns sat waiting in a cardboard box filled with wood shavings. They didn't care what my problems were. They just needed to get into the ground ASAP.

As when we built the sawbuck, our solution to the rocky gravel began with me trying desperately to describe a soil sifting device I'd seen my uncle use when I was a child. Jim was such a good sport, he listened to my rantings about hardware cloth, even though he'd never heard of it. (To further complicate things, even the guy at our local hardware store hadn't heard of hardware cloth. In the end, the label on the package he eventually bought said "hardware cloth" so I was vindicated.) Jim built ours to fit over our wheelbarrow since that was what we'd be sifting into. Of course a google search afterwards reveals that I could have saved a lot of breath. Here are instructions to make your own. This worked amazingly well for getting the gravel out.

Next the problem of size of plot and edging. We had a 20 foot roll of garden edging just sitting in the garage which became the edging on three sides. The fourth side is bordered by the driveway. We used all the graveled we screened out to make a gravel border around the asparagus bed. This left us with a bed that was roughly 5' x 10' which is too wide if we wanted to avoid walking on the newly screened soil. We needed a path down the center. We had some decorative patio block lying around so we used four of them to make a path down the center of the bed. Voila, two smaller beds which were easy to access without packing down the soil. Thank you Mel Bartholomew and square foot gardening for that knowledge.

I worked some worm castings into the soil and finally it was time to plant. I followed the instructions to the letter, reading and rereading them. Finally, I tried to channel the weedless, green thumb prowess of Ruth Stout as I topped the newly planted bed with mulch hay from a local horse farm.

I didn't have to worry about watering because we had a soaking rain that night and the following two days. Now I'm wandering around like an expectant mother. I keep finding any excuse to peek at the asparagus patch. They should sprout in the first week. I'm so nervous!

On this weekends agenda, setting up the other vegetable beds. I'm going to have a panic attack!


Ruthie said...

Good luck!

I often try to channel Ruth Stout. I'm glad your impression of the book was the same as mine. I was wishing the whole time it was better. It could have been so much better! Then I immediately wanted to try the same thing in a vegetarian/urban setting an write my own book.

To answer your question, they're 6' long, 1" thick, and 5 1/2 inches wide. They have a tongue on the top like most fence post, but I just ignored them.

Chile said...

Yes, I totally agree with you on Kingsolver's book. She went to great lengths to justify meat and vilify veganism. It doesn't help that nutrition programs teach the livestock industry's mantra of dairy is good for your health and meat is the only way to get protein so poor Camille is being indoctrinated despite trying to learn about nutrition. Too bad Dr. McDougall doesn't form a school.

I'm jealous of your asparagus! And I also have the urge to break things when frustrated. Chopping wood is actually a really good outlet for that energy, for future reference. :)

No one knew what hardware cloth was? Holy ____!

Anonymous said...

I agree that Kingsolver's book was full of meat, but I was still able to enjoy it. I still respect what she and her family did, even if I would have done it differently.

I cannot even begin to describe how jealous I am about your asparagus....yum!