The tulips have come early this year (thanks to the warmer than normal weather) and the Velush family took full advantage Sunday morning.
If I had grown up in a more hospitable place, I’m confident that I would have been a farmer. I love growing food. I have turned my backyard into a garden. The front yard too. Even the grass strip between the sidewalk and the street is a garden – I have raised beds there that actually are my best place to grow food.
Seattle is absolutely friendly to growing your own food, especially with all the extra sunny weather we’ve been having lately. I’ve already planted several different veggies, some of which are sprouting – peas, spinach, and carrots.
It isn’t as easy to grow food in the arid, windy, and soil poor part of Northern Arizona where I grew up. We called it The Land. I’m not sure how it got that name, but it fits. It’s in the rain shadow of the San Francisco Peaks between Flagstaff and Winslow up against the Navajo Reservation. It’s extremely dry and windy. Nothing grows there except a scrubby, clumpy yellow kind of grass and saltbush. The soil is red and short on nutrients.
The fact that conditions were poor didn’t stop my family from growing food. We always had a garden – sometimes small, sometimes big. We never grew all the food we needed but we certainly supplemented our diets with a lot of healthy garden plunder, mostly greens like spinach and Swiss chard.
We also grew corn, squash, melons and veggies, especially corn. A few years we went big, and fenced off a large plot of land to grow the blue corn that the Hopi Indians like to grow on their mesas just a few dozen miles to the north.
The Hopi watered their corn with springs that trickled out of their flat topped mesas. We didn’t have such mesas and certainly no springs on the 80 acres of high elevation desert that my dad bought in the 1960s. We did have a well and windmill that would pump water into the Big Tank, our swimming pool and watering reservoir. The circular tank, which stills stands today, is 6-feet tall and about 15-feet across. We lived in that tank all summer long – it was the only way to stay cool.
We also used it to water our cornfield, which we smartly setup downhill from the big tank. And while here in Seattle I just turn on a hose to water my garden (not that I have to do that all that often with the rain), and boom, my garden is happily watered. Not so at The Land.
We used gravity and a long black hose to fill up an old bathtub that we set up in the middle of the cornfield. We scooped up buckets (5-gallon doozies) of water out of the bathtub (two at a time – one for each hand) and watered clumps of corn one at a time.
The corn was planted in clumps Hopi-style because that way it had the best chance of surviving with limited water (and let me tell you, water was limited). If I remember right, we dug a small hole for each clump, put a little soil in the bottom (not much), poured a fair bit of sand on top of that (probably 6-to-8-inches), and then covered the very top with straw. The soil fed the corn, the sand held the water in reserve so the corn could slowly drink it up, and the straw helped keep the water from evaporating and kept the pests out.
Each clump got about one-fifth to one-quarter of a bucket. Pouring of the water was done very carefully as it would be quite a while before we got back around to watering again. And importantly, the windmill-Big Tank combo could only produce a limited amount of water that took a while to regenreate – you really had to spread things out and make sure you had enough for the entire field.
My brothers and sisters and I helped our parents plant the field, and more importantly, undertake their extremely labor-intensive job of watering. It was hard work – I can vividly recall the buckets banging on my legs, scraping the skin raw and sloshing water down into my shoes (when I wasn’t actually barefoot).
Growing a cornfield by hand like that was the hardest kind of farming I ever did. It’s all easy compared to that. I’m sure I complained at the time (not too much, I actually liked it even then). I think that work installed in me the desire to grow my own food as much as I can, and I think it did in my siblings as well. Most of them grow gardens themselves. There’s something about growing your own food that is really nurturing.
Each year my tulips tell me when spring is here.
Hopefully they’re not wrong this year – because my first tulip has bloomed and, despite all of the sunny weather, the calendar still says February. (Last year the first tulip bloomed on March 18.)
Like the tulips, I’m feeling optimistic. I planted a bunch of spinach, sweet peas, and carrots in hopes of getting early crops.
Here’s to early spring, let’s hope that we don’t get a sneak attack.
I dug through some old photos and found this photo of when I was a kid – lots to love at this age. My clothes were a little big, but I didn’t let that bother me. OK, just kidding, this is a picture of Lola trying on my clothes when she was 5 or 6… It’s amazing to look back and see what she and Tansy looked like only a few short years ago. Happy half birthday to Lola – she’s 9 1/2 today
The trees are budding, the crocuses are blooming, and the birds are fluttering – and it’s not even mid-February. I don’t know what’s happening here in Seattle, but it sure isn’t the deep freeze that has descended on the East Coast. My biggest fear is that everything will bud out and then we’ll get a big freeze. Either way, though, it’s time to plant some greens and peas – can’t hurt to get an early start on them. I guess it’s time to put my shorts on and go outside!
My kids really love fresh carrots while mostly just tolerating others so this year I decided to go big on carrots. I gave them the sunniest patch of garden. I even thinned them out. And I left most of them into the ground until now to give them a little extra time to get big. Despite that (and unlike in past years), they all turned out to be super stubbly? Why so stubbly?
The peas are poking through the ground, the spinach has squeezed out, and the overwintering broccoli that huddled there all winter has taken off since I transplanted it. The over Swiss chard is sprouting new leaves, and the kale is looking robust. Tiny carrots that I left in the ground are starting to grow. The tulips are about to flower. The plum tree (what limbs I didn’t prune off) are about to flower, and the raspberries are leafing out. Worms are looking for new places to live (and getting stepped on). I even saw ants swarming in the middle of the sidewalk. Yes, spring is here, and what better time to bring my blog back to life.
Maybe the fact that I got passed by somebody in jeans put me in a mood, but I just have to rant about the guy riding a gasoline-powered bicycle. He came cruising past me with a lawnmower-sized roar, spewing two-cycle raunchy exhaust all over the place. And you guessed it – he wasn’t pedaling at all. The pedals on that thing have probably never been used. At least I didn’t have to choke on his fumes on the trail. Apparently something is still sacred.
I look at government, whether federal, state, or local, and I think ugh – why can’t they get anything done? Why is failing to do anything considered doing a good job? Why are schools underfunded? Why are the roads full of holes? Why is there a system that lets our politicians not approve budgets and get things done? What happened to our government? All politicians want to do is talk about reproduction – what about leading?
It doesn’t have to be all bad – not at all. Service to our country is still alive. I can attest as I just served on jury duty for two days. I didn’t make it onto a jury, but I did go through the process – as did dozens of my fellow Seattle residents – of showing up and being prepared to do my civic duty.
We all went downtown, we sat in a room for two days, and we followed the rules and did what we’re supposed to do. When I got called to possibly sit on a jury (I finally heard my name called on the second day), I and the other potential jurors were carefully instructed on how to do things the right way, from getting in line so that we were in the right order, to how to answer questions by the judge and the lawyers, to how we must treat the defendant as innocent until proven guilty.
The city’s lawyer kicked me off the jury for reasons that didn’t make sense to me, but she was doing her job. Others were given the boot as well – we went back and waited and sat and waited and sat for the rest of the afternoon. Meanwhile six people stayed and had to prepare themselves to mete out justice – no easy task but something that had to be done. The system worked, everyone did what they were supposed to do, and work got done.
The buck didn’t get passed to the next session – the next congress, the next legislature, the next council. Although it was tedious to sit there for two days, responsibilities were fulfilled, cases are completed, justice was served. At least something is sacrosanct.