Last week of February and Spring has sprung - more like a rusty pipe than April in the Fertile Crescent. Snow storms once again slamming in around us - Albany in Peril!! - and we laugh to the tune of steady rain. It is the music of days soon upon us.
Then we - actually just me, go to the basement and 4" of water mirrors my disgust from the bottom of the stairs. I turn away, feeling gnawed upon by necessity. The damn place just doesn't drain as well as it did a few years ago; the gravity feed sump backs up nasty as bad tuna. Weeds in the creek bed, I suspect, but I can't even find the outlet to clear it. I will, I must, I shall put in an automatic sump pump soon. This is about the fifth time we have flooded. It would be boring were it not somewhat like Fire Control drills aboard ship - all hands man the pumps!! Avast griping and bear a hand!
Up topside for a cuppa coffee and regrouped I headed back below to confront nature, geared-up in my ever-efficacious knee boots; unfortunately my YakTrax nonslip, spring steel ice gripper add-ons are still on my boot bottoms. Two steps and "oh, crap!"; no traction, my feet are sliding and not soon coming back. From my knees I confront nature even more closely than anticipated. It is cold and drippy. About half an hour to finally get the pump primed, the prime just would not hold, and I am now discharging basement-bane out into the snow. This will take ages on just one garden hose. The other pump doesn't seem to run any longer - would it having been on the floor underwater be any cause for refusal to hum? Come on, it's called a water pump! Where has quality gone?
Since my mood is good today I won't consider this a setback. I am simply preparing myself for the Apocalypse - but what if that sordid event doesn't include electricity? Might have to rethink. But I don't like to think about no electricity. It seems like the air we breathe, as necessary to our lives as -ugh!- water. I love electricity! I want it all my days - please...
The bright and streaming flow of 'good news' is that the greenhouse is looking fine. With the decks cleared below I turned my pex-hot-water-subsoil-heat-system on in the basement. Warmth was flowing. I felt pleased. I didn't bother to go out and check the other end of the system at the greenhouse end. Next day I found the greenhouse like a jungle, a fine mist of very hot water spraying everywhere, the plants thawed and leaping fecundly forward. I had let lie dormant the whole thing, undrained, undertended, and my intake and outflow manifolds had frozen to bursting. Nothing to get excited about; easily replaced, and I started the system back up. All was well in pexville, but the overwintered plants were not happy. I had stressed them extremely taking them from Maine to the Amazon and back to Maine in only a day. ZDS: zone displacement syndrome. Bad. Botanical jet lag.
Having not kept very good records when I transplanted the crops into the boxes last fall I am not now sure what is exactly where. I mean, how many of you can immediately tell the difference between a broccoli, a red cabbage and a brussel sprout when they are immature? Ok, so some of you can; I can't. One sort of brassica is doing just super; I suspect it is the Ruby Perfection Red Cabbage. The others are rather bedraggled. The carrots and root beets seem a lost cause. The spinach is coming back and the Bull's Blood beets, for greens, are doing great. My first winter greenhouse crop is a success. I have learned. All the plantings needed to be at least 4 weeks earlier, in July, to be ready for winter hibernation and harvest. Beets and carrots must be mature in the soil. Spinach and Bull's Blood should already have gone thru a couple of fall harvests before the dormant time from early November to early February, and be coming back now with the longer days. The Broccoli and Brussel sprouts should have been planted early enough to fall harvest by December and dig out.. If it is the Red Cabbage that is growing well right now then I will get some good heads early this year.
In the meantime I have planted my empty boxes with the early crops: Windsor broccoli, 3 sorts of lettuce - bib, butter and Romaine, Oregon Giant Snow Peas, more Bull's Blood greens, more Spinach, Kale, various radishes, Mache and Leeks. If my timing is fair I can thin and transplant outside into the garden at an appropriate date. The hot crops, like tomatoes and squash, will go in starting sometime in April for June transplant out.
My soil heating system is now working, but problematic. The heated boxes show soil temps up to 90F at a six inch depth. These are cool weather crops. I will kill them this way. I am running the system taking water from the oil furnace via the unheated wood boiler, which feeds the greenhouse directly. All the unheated water in the wood boiler gives me a buffer, but once it comes up to temp, about 120f, watch out. I isolated the wood boiler from the oil burner and am now pumping ambient water of about 60F to the beds from the basement. That should be good and doesn't require any extra heat source. With two valves closed the wood boiler works as a completely separate system from the oil boiler which it is in parallel with. On basement-ambient water my soil temps in the boxes range from 59f to 70f, depending where the boxes are in the system and if I have any cover on them. I can open valves between systems in a second and be shunting hot water into the pex if we get a really bad cold snap. It is easy to monitor the soil temp and shut the heat down when the wood boiler tank gets up to about 80f. I think I might have devised something that will work. (Two days later and my soil temps in the hot boxes seem to have evened out at 44f to 50f.)
Today at the gym I was manically riding the go-nowhere bike into a sweaty peace when my MP3 jumble pops loose with a Joan Baez album, Farewell Angelina. My head was driven back to when I first heard it. It was in Kibbutz Beit Oren and I was close to my 21st birthday. Someone brought a 33 1/3 LP up the hill and plopped it on a turntable. Epiphany! We were smoking wicked Arab hash and that voice of hers just pierced me. Three of us remained locked in a room for 24 hours listening to that album again and again, stoking the pipe and dreaming. The mixture is joy and insanity and life has no anchor.
It was one of those times in life when you simply take leave of all that is and vanish somewhere. The Sirens were calling and I was the quintessential pigboy. I look back at it now - from my go-nowhere bike seat, and recall how hard life was then. Everything was infinite. There were no boundaries. Life oozed at the edges and made no sense. Possibilities blinded. It just was and was so immediate and overwhelming that I cringed at the onslaught. I think I was always scared when I was young. I would not do that again for any reward. However we exit such trials, as being young and filled with inexpressible hope and longing, and we do well to leave them there. They are ashes on the tongue now. Terra firma calls. If that sounds stodgy, safe, too careful, then that is what I am. Those were the old pains. I have new ones to accommodate to.
Six days after planting and two of my crops are in full germination: Kale and Bull's Blood. That grid of tiny spears poking thru the dark soil must be a corollary for the 'breath of god', or whatever metaphor believers cling to. I am pleased to see these shoots, pleased that they assure me that all is finite. All has borders, limits and can be comprehended. These seeds have sprouted and now have so many days, and that span only, to bear fruit, to bloom, to die back; a course to run and no more. In this the seeds and I are alike and it is a comfort to me to know that limits do exist. I feel like proclaiming, quite nonsensically, that "I will yet get out of this alive!"
We would define what we are about and cannot. Definitions are elusive creatures on shadow wing and soft foot, and we hunt them with broken bow, dull knife and thrice-holed net. It is my desire to hunt no more and to accept only. I am pleased to be me, and here, and now. I am pleased to see the limits of my time explicated in vegetable beds. Spring is good.
I have sent off an order for 6 Muscovy ducklings to a place in Pennsylvania that only does USPS mail; I am guessing they are Amish. It may be a bit slower dealing with them but you do get what you pay for and in good shape.
I was thinking about the switches inside my head and Eric Hoffer came to mind. (If you think Wiki is a pos then forgive me and go read about him somewhere else; Wiki does cause some sensitive souls to toss lunch.)
It isn't that I believe we are exactly preordained to be one way or the other, or that when our switches get thrown we are helpless against the chemical onslaught of desire, impulse and feeling that wraps us. Often, we simply have a mighty fight on our hands in, as Nancy Reagan encouraged us, just saying no. The desire, inflammatory and encompassing as it may feel, is not the deed. Problematically we, each of us - not the ill-defined 'people in general', have within us both flights of beauty and great nastiness, consuming caring and absolute callous disregard. These are only sins in the old Greek way, that sin is a mistake, an error, not a black mark against you that consigns you to some hell. The error is to follow our worst impulses. The error is to do harm. Not that the difference between doing and not-doing harm is any too clear cut. Give that a few decades to percolate and get back to me. I would really like to know.
Hoffer came to mind because years back he showed me an aspect of myself that was very important to learn about: I am a true believer. I am one of those poor sods who will adopt any cause, religion, movement, or ideal and embrace it as if it were the lovliest of women and my passion unbounded and eternal. Once I learned this of myself I was able to back away from the constant sin of making very bad choices.
What is it in me that causes me to be this way? I dunno. Rotten genes? But I do know to watch my step and move with care when something looks too good to be true. Pat knows this of me and is presently, and for the last few years, on tenterhooks re my belief in the changes that are coming in all our lives. I mean the absolute f/u that all governments have become and our need to find the safe haven of sustainability in our dealings with both nature and each other. Her fear is cogent, but I am very cautious to stick to what looks really real: the failure of agribiz, the failure of all statist economic plans, the failure of our institutions to protect and nurture us; those are undeniable and real. I stay far, far away from the mighty cause of redemption, from the allure of TEOTWAWKI's school of apocalypse. I just want to do a little bit to smooth the ground under us. I don't want to build monuments. Better men than me will save the world.
So, the switches inside my head come to mind. How can I get so instantaneously wracked with enthusiasms? We may be prone to bacterial and viral infection, but it is the enthusiasms that infect us that are the most dangerous bugs we catch. What malign force is toggling us? Or is it just the way life works? Yeah, I think that's its. Assigning blame would just toss us back into 'original sin' or a construct of a malignant god. Don't need either.
One of the things I really hated about being young was my inability to attenuate; I was both the rock and the hard place. I was a sponge to all the crap that came along, and that is true travail. Pat recently read something about teenagers having incompletely myelinated brains, circuits not quite built out yet. I know something physiological and anatomical of that sort must go on. How else to explain the idiotic choices? My thought for years has been that if we can survive to 30 we will probably make it as functioning people. Would not surprise me at all to hear scientists soon declare that the age at which full myelination occurs is 30.
It is obvious that some stumble wretchedly into their thirtieth year and then stumble wretchedly out and away, learning nothing and ever being incomplete, the shaky-dudes. Their missing receptor site is, I imagine, a six foot hole in the ground; they will never achieve stability; they will follow every damn switch that is flipped on the brain-board. I am happy to have come up a survivor - even if I do appear to be a complete fuckhead sometimes.
I will end this. It gets tooooo looooong. later, y'all.