The Odor Of Sanctity

Summer                                    Waxing Grandchildren Moon

Have you ever smelled fresh bees wax?  A smell that takes you right to the essence of the natural world.  It exudes a sense of well-being, freshness, vitality.  I harvested some honey today for the Woolly meal on Monday night.  The honey and the honey comb offer that same sensation; perhaps, as latter day Catholics might have said, it is the odor of sanctity.

The experience this morning took me back to two other smell, for me equally enmeshed with the natural world as our obvious home.  The first one, of the longest standing for me, I experience in the  produce cooler at Cox’s Supermarket when I worked there as a boy.  This smell combined apple scents, oranges, bananas, lettuce, watermelon, whatever was in season into a perfume that drew me back often.  I would sneak away from stocking shelves or breaking down boxes, push the plunger that opened the door, step inside and be transported to paradise, a place where everything suggested abundance, nourishment and fine flavor.

Another one of these scents came to me only this year as I harvested parsnips.  Lifting the tapered white parsnip out of the ground, I brought its roots, only just holding the parsnip in its intimate relationship with the soil, to my nose.  Ah.  Again, freshness, vitality, well-being.  It was as if, for a moment, I inhabited the parsnip’s underground world, the place where it truly lived.  There, with the scent, I could trace the connections between the parsnip and its source of nutrients in the soil around it; I could feel the back and forth of vegetable and soil as they interacted in a dance older than the oil beneath the Gulf, older than the iron ore on the range.

Yes, as I think of it, the odor of sanctity is it, exactly.  The sacred blossoms into molecules that excite this oldest sense, the one that relates us most closely to the rest of our animal brothers and sisters.  The sacred emerges from the sophisticated work of the honey bee turning nectar into honey.  The sacred emerges from the fruits of the earth as they await transport to our tables.  The sacred emerges within the top layers of  soil, that thin web of living things that supports the plants from which we all take our sustenance.  Yes, the sacred emerges in these places, and it sends out an aroma to draw attention to itself.

Important Document? Read While Driving.

Spring                                                 Awakening Moon

Warning:  Rant ahead.  Not texting, not brushing teeth, not combing hair, not eating cereal or drinking coffee, no, this young woman I passed on my way to the MIA yesterday read while driving.  By reading I do not mean look down, then follow the road, but eyes glued to page, peripheral vision guiding her used buick down Highway 252.  I encountered her three times on 252, each time her head and eyes had the same position, eyes on the page, head tilted down.  Each time.  Then, after I had put her out of my mind, as I drove on 94, the last stretch of the drive in until city streets, she passed me on the left.  Yep.  You guessed it.  Still reading.  At this point I honked several times and pointed.  Exasperated, she looked at me, then put the several page document on the seat beside her and drove on.

I have a clump of daffodils in bloom, tulips with broad leaves and iris beginning to peak back above the ground.  I put cygon on the iris yesterday.  This is my one remaining chemical. It kills the iris borer which lives in the soil and wrecks havoc on iris rhizomes.  If you’ve ever lifted iris rhizomes after an attack of iris borer’s, you will know why I continue to use this one pesticide.

The parsnip and the garlic look good.  I poked into the carrot patch where I left the carrots in past ground freeze last fall.  Sure enough I have carrots composting in the soil already.  Very mushy and yucky.   The garden and my spirit for it are gradually coming to life.  I hope we get some rain.  The plants need it.

Gnashing of Teeth

Fall                                    Waning Blood Moon

Back to the gnashing of teeth.  When I went out to plant the garlic this morning, I discovered Vega and Rigel had decided to become gardeners, too.  They dug up beds, they dug up around beds.  They moved a lot of soil, none of it in a constructive manner.

This almost made me cry.  After some unpleasant words and gestures, a bit of stomping around, I called Dan the fence guy and said, “Dan, I need another fence.”  When he finishes, this yard will have more fence than many cattle ranches.  It will take days just to walk the fence line.  And this all inside an acre and a half.

Anyhow, I planted the garlic, covered them with six inches of straw and protected them with left over chain link fence.  Later in the day I mulched the parsnips, which will over winter along with the garlic, and the carrots.  I’m going to try storing them in the ground with a heavy mulch to protect them.  In theory, then, I can go out in the middle of winter and harvest fresh carrots.

The potato harvest is now in, too.  I dug up the Viking Purples (no kidding) and the rest of the white potatoes, washed them off and left them in a large plastic boxes to cure.  They stay at room temperature for two weeks, then downstairs to the coolest storage we have.  That’s outside the house at the bottom of the basement stairs, but still inside the garage.

Got some nice feedback today on my organization skills for the Sierra Club and on my writing from a fellow Docent.  Also, a good nap.  That all helped.

Big dogs bring big problems and big rewards.  Can’t get one without the other.

Harvest and Preservation

Lughnasa                      Waning Harvest Moon

It changed.  The game.  After half-time most of the time, I expected to see showed up.  How about that 64 yard run by Peterson?  Wow.  Still, it concerned me that we didn’t get more pressure on Brady Quinn.  I’m looking forward to the analysis.

Kate has made grape juice, a lot, from the grapes I picked this morning.  Next is jelly.  I have a role in the preservation process this week.  We discovered last year that gazpacho is a perfect canned soup.  When chilled, it tastes like it was made that day.  A great treat in the middle of winter, a summer vegetable soup.

We also several Guatemalan blue squash.  They run about a foot and a half long and 7-8 inches wide.  Heavy, too.  Taste good.   We still have parsnips (next year), turnips, carrots and potatoes in the ground, probably a beet or two hanging around, too.  Above ground we have lettuce, beans, greens and some more tomatoes.  Kate’s put up 36 quarts of tomatoes so far.

Kate also made use of our dehydrator.  Cucumber chips.  I know, but they taste wonderful.

There’s a lot of room for improvement in next year’s garden, but we feel good about the production this year.  Next year we should get more fruit from our orchard.

A Cool Night.

Beltane                    Full Flower Moon

This is the kind of weather that can scare a Minnesota gardener.  Right now the temperature is 42.  It could, will, go lower, though the prediction says no lower than 40.  If I thought it were going to get down to freezing, I’d have to cover my new peas and turnips.  They have just poked above the soil and would suffer and most would die.

My baby plants from inside are now adolescents; they stayed outside six hours today.  Tomorrow, I’ll put them outside by the beds where they’ll be planted and give them one more day in the peat pots before digging them in to their permanent homes.

I cut up the potatoes today, readying them for planting, too.  They may be a little late, so we’ll see what we get.  A lot of new plants in this year’s garden: leeks, parsnips, turnips, greens, brocolli, cauliflower, plants I may not understand too well.  Again, we’ll have to see what we get.

That kind of experimentation is one of the joys of gardening, eating something fresh that you’ve only ever had from a produce section of a supermarket.  This year marks a large expansion in our vegetable and fruit crop.  That means a lot of uncertainty, a steep learning curve with some plants.  All part of the deal.

Peas, Turnips and Parsnips Oh, My

Beltane                    Waxing Flower Moon

Many daffodils bloom outside the writing area.  No tulips yet, but they should bloom in the next few days.

Snow peas, sugar peas, garden peas, snap peas all went into the ground this morning.  This took a while because there were several steps.  First, loosen the soil with a spading fork.  Rake smooth.  Create a taut twine line marking the location of the trellis.  Scratch a half inch to one inch furrow on either side of the twine.  Lay down inoculant in the rows.  Then, one by one, place the peas.  Do this over and over until 4 rows run parallel to each other.

In between the 1st and 2nd rows and the 3rd and 4th rows, reachable with ease from the bed’s edge, white globe turnip went into the same soil.  Turnips like pea companions.

Another bed, this one with a nice daisy and a star-gazer lily, got loosened up, too.  After a smoothing with the small garden rake, parsnip seeds fluttered down onto the scratched surface, tiny space ships with feathered brown edges and a cockpit containing the parsnip seed.  The parsnips, after thinning and trimming, get a mulch and then remain in the ground until next spring, achieving their nutty flavor through hard frosts and a hard winter.

At that point the noon sun had made me hot so I came inside to write, have lunch and take a nap.  Later this evening I’ll plant greens, beets and carrots.

One more thought on garage sales.  Here in Minnesota, after a hard winter, they are also the equivalent of a  social event for post-hibernation bears.  Minnesotans love the winter, but during the winter our travels outside of our home usually have a distinct purpose and almost always head away from the house.  There are no yard parties in the winter.  Well, not many anyhow.  Some folks just gotta barbecue.

When the weather warms up, though, lawn mowers come out.  Lawn chairs.  And, garage sales.  Neighbors drop by to say hi, see if you made it through the winter, and coincidentally, to check out your stuff.