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Loss

One of my best friends died at the end of August.

I found out I have a (non-life threatening) medical condition that means I pretty much have to give up baked goods, chocolate, and alcohol, which followers of this blog know are pretty much what got me through the last six years.

There are rats in my raised beds.

MyFolia is closing down, I guess, today at midnight Greenwich time. I keep dropping in to see if it’s still live.

Those things aren’t equivalent. Obviously the death of a friend outweighs the loss of a website. Non-Folians would say that losing an app cannot reasonably be construed as a loss. I’ll empty out that garden bed and replace the soil. I’ll give up chocolate chip cookies and wine after a long day, no big.

It’s not that I can’t change, or even that I don’t want to. It’s that it’s tiring, exhausting, to always have the changes imposed. Sometime I’d like to change because I decided to change. And this all happened within a single two-week span, til I got to the point of screaming to the universe, into the darkness: CAN WE BE DONE NOW?

But, I suppose, as I have before I’ll just change, and move on. Or?…

I will not move on
I will move forward, backwards, sideways
I will move over and under and around and through

I will move

I will dance
I will run
I will walk
I will spin
I will glide

I will fall

But I will not move on

Move on means move along
Nothing to see here

You have no right, or agency, or ability
to affect what you see

You are just a discarded scrap, moved along by whatever wind chooses to blow

I will not move on
Because I will not be moved
Because I deserve to be what and where and who I am
Because I choose to be moved or not to move

And I will not move on

 

Fall, sort of

It’s not really fall, if you count from the Equinox. But September feels autumnal enough that I put away my collection of summer mugs, with their flowers and tomatoes, and pulled out the fall collection.

It’s cool and cloudy, and it rained overnight, about as perfect an autumn day as you could hope for. I have all the windows open. I went and picked about 2 pounds of thai peppers and roasted them for freezing, so I’ll have my own peppers through the winter. I’m making chicken broth, to freeze in ice cube trays, and will make some small zucchini breads with more garden bounty, to freeze for the winter.

I barely buy vegetables in the grocery store. An old housemate once admonished that all my food is “processed,” and I should eat more fresh vegetables. To which I replied that all their vegetables were grown in Chile, and how fresh is that, really?

There’s a little bit of extra broth that won’t fit into the ice cube trays, plus chicken meat from the backs that I used for the broth. There’s broccoli, chard, carrots, potatoes, and of course more zucchini in the garden, and some frozen puff pastry in the freezer. So that sounds like a pot pie for dinner!

When everything’s done, I’ll walk up to the grocery store in growing sunshine, and enjoy my sort of fall day.

(This is the sort of journal I’d have put on MyFolia in days past. Ah, well. Join me here, or on Facebook, now.)

My Folia, the wonderful database-cum-community blog for gardeners, is shutting down for good on August 14.

While the community part has been a critical reason for the success and value of the site, the rich community-developed database is going to be the part that will have many of its gardeners feeling the pain.

There are three critical pieces of this database: the plant list, the seed stash, and the milestones. They’re all interconnected, and used consistently created a years-long portrait of every plant in the garden. While the site’s owners have created a download option (but only for current plants, not for archived ones), losing this web of information will be hard.

Screen Shot 2019-08-02 at 3.08.24 PMSo Folians have been coming up with solutions. For my current gardens, I created Flickr albums with detailed information including botanical name, common name, cultivar, and how I acquired each plant. It’s not a database, but at least the data is preserved. I’ll lose the milestones (bloom dates, dormancy dates, harvest info, etc.) but at least I’ve got the plants. (And this is where I mention thank god Folia never did the direct photo upload we all begged for, for years. Because then I’d be losing all my photos, too.)

Carol's Access pageGardener Carol has been setting up an Access database (left; sorry about the size). Kelly, of Populuxe Seed Bank, has had a separate wiki for the seed bank for a while now. There are other tech-savvy solutions as well, which works best, of course, if you’re tech savvy.

I have no idea what I’ll do. I’m still stuck on the ease with which I could just click on the Folia plant link to see whether my bloom was later or earlier, how well a given tomato did, and is it really getting warmer earlier?

Guess I’ll go back to analyzing wooly-bears.

Are you a Folian? Please join us on Facebook in the new Folians group.

Countdown

I taught myself to garden in the early 90s, when my children were toddlers, and I thought it would be nice to grow food so these city kids could see where food came from. My father had just built a house, and I dug up a lot of prairie plants from his lot; we also dug a lot of plants out of ditches, which I later learned was illegal. oops.

I gardened in isolation until 2008, when I broke my ankle and discovered MyFolia, a new “Facebook for gardeners.” It was a community, and a database, and a log for every meticulous “milestone” of every plant.

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 I started using MyFolia the year I broke my foot.

And that’s how I “gardened” for more than a decade. The site retained years of milestones–plants that came and went; every plant’s growth and transplant and disease and harvest for all those years. You could link plant to plant through a “seed stash” and dividing, and trade with other members. The site would link you to those plants, all over the world.

And the gardeners. Hundreds of gardeners; we each had our mini-communities of people who, and whose gardens, we found particularly intriguing.

It changed the way I garden. I learned to relate plants to their cycles, and learned so much practical information. I learned about gardens in other parts of the world, and why people garden, and that people garden, because up until then I didn’t know any gardeners. I found the gardening community in Chicago, and started blogging, which led to this blog, written by a few Folians.

MyFolia literally changed my life.

On August 1 this year the site will close. We had always half hoped and half dreaded that the founders, “Nic and Nath,” (Nicole and Nathan), would sell it and become internet millionaires and really no one would have deserved it more because they were wonderful and the site was wonderful.

But the timing was off and the site’s infrastructure got old and clunky and was of a too-early version to really fix without rewriting the entire code. Their lives moved on, and now ours must too.

05- (3a) MaySome of the community are trying to retain some of what will be lost–connecting to each other, or creating databases in Access or One Note, or photo logs on Flickr, but it won’t be the same integrated motherlode of data and continuity and community.

Folians are gathering. We’re not willing to give it up. Watch for a future post with some guest writers on how they’re redoing their databases, and join us on the Folians group on Facebook.

See you in the garden.

A Year of Gardening

October 2018: A year goes by
The series starts here

You may notice from the date on this entry that I’ve skipped ahead: I’ve had another full year in the garden.

I made some adjustments, and watched things grow. I moved some plants around (which I’ll keep doing forever. For me it’s like rearranging the furniture). I know what works a little better. I got the spigots fixed and routed municipal water through a 100 foot hose into the farm so I can water properly when the rain barrels are empty. I’m getting a better handle on where the shade is, and I’ve had a second harvest. I planted more bulbs, more shrubs, and more prairie plants. I have a pear tree, an elderberry, and two pawpaws.

You’re never really done with a garden; even rooted, plants can, and need to be, moved, divided, pruned. Kind of like families. I do daily walkabouts all year long, carrying my paper journal and jotting down the little and big things that still need doing—finish the wall, reset the pavers, dig up the dandelions.

My last garden, which was also my first garden, grew over a 25-year span. It grew with my children, who were 3 and 7 when I first started to plant things, and were 27 and 30 the last time I walked through it. It grew, like the new one did, from plain grass to an elaborate mix of beds and paths and plants, much like children grow from a plain baby to an elaborate mix of knowledge, hope, and love.

I started this new garden several steps ahead of the old one. I had a good grounding of knowledge and experience that I didn’t have when I decided it would be fun if the kids could pick their own food from the backyard, and dug prairie plants out of my father’s backyard in a prairie town downstate. I knew how much space I needed for vegetables, and that it’s nice to sit and watch the world go by. I knew I liked berry fruits, and that they’re easy to grow. I knew how to build a retaining wall the right way.

I had a cherished fantasy about the old garden, of watching my grandchildren, still unborn, learn about the space. About where we used to plant so many snow peas that we couldn’t stand them anymore, and the story of the dog that is buried there, and where the secret entrance was that led to Narnia. To watch them nibbling raspberries right off the canes like their parents did, and make more grape jelly than we need from the vines on the porch.

 

Instead, we’ll make new memories here, in a new garden, where the stories are still to be born, too.

Take a tour around the garden’s second year here: http://bit.ly/2RsKQ5E

September: Equinox

2. September 2017
Planted: A Year of Gardening
The series starts here.

Of the lunar events that mark the calendar, the fall equinox is my favorite.

The garden balances between summer and winter. There is still food to harvest, and a few three-season flowers like cleome, sunflowers, and black-eyed susan that won’t give in to the cool nights. The main color has changed from summer’s neon to fall’s subtler reds and purples. The canterbury bells, whose blue insistence marks the beginning of the July peak, have formed hard seed pods; its leaves are turning yellow. The delphinium and baby’s breath sigh out one more bloom into the chilly morning air. The banes are flowering— bugbane, fleabane, wolfsbane, leopardsbane.

The goddess sends her winter scouts in the guise of spiders the size of a finger joint, and the cicadas scream out a final chorus before the chill takes them underground.

09-Sept (2a)The memory stones–repository for the things I have lost–sit in the heavy rain that impedes the work. The morning dew has that heavy cold sparkle that says “I want to be frost”.

Gardening becomes the mirror of the spring–long days filled with heavy tasks. In the new house I have to switch out eleven screens for the heavy old-fashioned storm windows. I empty the summer’s compost into the beds as I remove the spent plants , replenish the mulch, store outdoor furniture,  and empty and upend the rain barrels. Garlic and bulbs get planted,09-Sept (2c) potted plants are brought inside for the winter. When I was younger I would do it all in late October in a couple of marathon days. Now I spread it out over weeks, and wonder about the time when I won’t be able to do this anymore.

I tend to extremes, so it’s not really in character for the fall Equinox to be my favorite of the earth holidays. I’m not a compromiser. Libra and her scales just annoy me— it’s ONE way or the other,  f*ck compromise, I’m right. My brother, with an autumn birthday, is a classic Libran compromiser. I can’t imagine how awful it must have been for him growing up in a household with a dour and whiny Capricorn (me), a flighty, intense Gemini (my mother) and a choleric Ares (my father).

My birth family, come to think of it, matched the sun cycle–two Solstice and two Equinox birthdays: winter, spring, summer, fall. There’s a novel in there somewhere, or a mythology. Perhaps the eventual implosion of that family unit is the reason I’m a gardener–a garden matches the eternal with the ephemeral. It is something you can both keep and consume. A family that consumes itself, like mine did, has no replant; you cannot save the seeds and start again.

September: Harvest

1. September, 2017
Planted: A Year of Gardening
The series starts here

Through all of August 2017 we got less than 3 inches of rain.

The food garden was suffering. I went through all the water in the rain barrels, and had to start dragging the hose around from the other side of the house (there’s no spigot on the farm side, unfortunately). I got plenty of harvest, but not what there would have been in a better rain year.

Many years ago, on this blog and my old family recipe one Mahlzeit, I decided to see if I could grow enough food to preserve for a full cycle, really about 9 months from final harvest to first fruits. This was the main thing that expanded the garden as I learned how much and what to plant to make this happen.

It’s easier now with just me using the produce. When the family was together, I never made it past January, but now I routinely get through the year by preserving produce from 18 tomato plants, 3 eggplants, 100 beans, 10 potato plants, 10-15 corn stalks, plus four square feet each of carrots, onions, and beets. I can or freeze the tomatoes, roast then freeze the eggplants, blanch then freeze the corn and beans. My housemate remarked that everything I eat is “processed” but then, everything I eat is homegrown, so I’m not sure how it’s better to buy tomatoes from Chile in midwinter because they’re “fresh.” Plus, once you cook them into sauce, you’ve processed it anyway. Not sure it counts as processed if it’s not full of salt and preservatives.

In the first year of the new garden I ended up with 20 half pints of tomato sauce; close to my goal of 25 that I know will get me through the year. I lost the pumpkin vines to squash vine borers and inconsistent water. It’s tough to water this many raised beds by hand. You just can’t keep up; they dry out too quickly. Same with the second bean planting, my shelling beans that I dry for soups and chili. The plants died down earlier than in past years so that I didn’t get as much harvest from them as I should. I chose not to plant a third round, because if it doesn’t rain, they just wouldn’t sprout. A lot of the ornamental plants in the Botanic died too, as well as both cherry trees (planted from bare root stock just before the drought hit).

I always tell novice gardeners not to worry about stuff like this; after all, there are grocery stores. You won’t starve if the garden doesn’t produce. And there’s always the gardeners’ (and the Cubs fan) mantra:

Just wait ‘til next year.

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