Thursday, July 29, 2010

que jardiner c’est apprendre á philosopher

Saturday, July 24 started dewy and overcast, but was sunny and bright by the afternoon. We harvested our first handfuls of cherry tomatoes and a couple of sweet peppers. We pulled a dozen or so turnips, a clutch of carrots, a bucket of cucumber, and a bunch of yellow summer squash. However, the bulk of the day’s harvest—as is usual this time of year—came from our beds of greens: collards, kale, and Swiss chard.

We await ripening cabbages, potatoes, and apples; based on the number of cucumber flowers, we'll soon be awash in gherkins.

While I delivered our produce to the pantry, the others tended the garden. Our pea and wax bean plants had finished for the year, so we composted the plants and prepared the beds for fall crops. We also turned the compost bins and weeded.

Earlier that morning, some of us discussed the garden’s yield to date. Our harvests seem to be smaller than they were the same time last year; in fact, we are concerned that our raised beds may have gradually declined over the last few years. We’re not sure whether the soil in the beds needs amending, whether our seeds were too old, or whether it has been too dry.

Because we have been recording our weekly harvests over the years, we have a body of data that we can interrogate to determine whether our garden’s fertility has, in fact, diminished. I am almost finished with a set of KPI (key performance indicator) charts that we can use for analysis, and which I plan to publish in the blog.

The fact that I use an acronym like KPI hints as to the day job that I generally strive to keep separate from my gardening avocation: compost is compost, and Excel is Excel, and the twain usually don’t meet. However, there is no need to rely on anecdotes when you have three years of data.

Je veux…que la mort me trouve plantant mes choux, mais nonchalant d’elle, et encore plus de mon jardin imparfait. —Montaigne, "Que philosopher c’est apprendre á mourir", Essais

Sunday, July 18, 2010

market basket of goods and services

After arriving at the Vital Bridges pantry on Saturday mornings, I arrange the garden's produce as artfully as I can, using baskets that the pantry provides. Just before I wheel out the cart that contains our gussied-up and food-styled donations, I take a few photographs to celebrate the fruits (and vegetables) of our labors.

The other garden volunteers do not usually get the opportunity to see glamour shots of our produce, so these photos are as much for them as for followers of the blog.

The photographs serve as a record of how the offerings of the garden change over the growing season. As spring yielded to summer, our donations changed from radishes and peas to cucurbits, beans, and turnips.

One thing that has not changed (and that shouldn't change for a few more months) is the weekly mess of collards, kale, and chard that we bring. If anything, the amount of collards is increasing.

June 26
: mostly leaves—collards, kale, chard; herbs

July 3
: collards, kale, chard; chives and herbs; radishes; snap peas

July 10
: massive amounts of collards, kale, chard; yellow wax beans; the last of the snap peas

July 17: yellow summer squash, zucchini, and cucumber; lettuce; turnips; yellow wax and green beans. We may need to start using a second cart.

The photos of the cart do not include the bouquets of flowers and containers of fruit that we also bring. During June, we were able to bring in red and black raspberries; last week, we brought gooseberries.

The Ginkgo fleet

The increasing yields from the garden are starting to tax the capacity of the bike trailer that we use to transport produce to the Vital Bridges pantry. On July 10, we were able to load everything into two levels of plastic cartons.

A week later, we had to move to a third level. And this is before the tomatoes arrive.

We are not worried that we will eventually not be able to deliver our produce by bike, for we now have two bike trailers. We anticipate the maiden run of the second member of the Gingko delivery fleet next week.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

making the earth say beans instead of grass

potato plants in tub
A full month has passed since the last blog entry. In that hot month, the garden has waxed verdant and fecund. You can barely discern our claw foot tub now through its raiment of flowering potato plants, and the dodecahedron bed is a jungle of striving bean tendrils.

Although we've been remiss in our blogging, we have been steadily photographing the garden, and keeping records of our weekend harvests. We'll gradually bring the blog up to date.

For now, though, a few pictures, and an excerpt from Thoreau's essay "The Bean Field":

Removing the weeds, putting fresh soil about the bean stems, and encouraging this weed which I had sown, making the yellow soil express its summer thought in bean leaves and blossoms rather than in wormwood and piper and millet grass, making the earth say beans instead of grass—this was my daily work. As I had little aid from horses or cattle, or hired men or boys, or improved implements of husbandry, I was much slower, and became much more intimate with my beans than usual. But labor of the hands, even when pursued to the verge of drudgery, is perhaps never the worst form of idleness. It has a constant and imperishable moral, and to the scholar it yields a classic result.