Tuesday, April 1, 2008

That Irresistible Urge

This time of year I look avidly at every garden I walk or bicycle past, wondering about the depth of topsoil, the variety of lettuce, the prospects for that garlic. Right now, since it’s dark and I can’t do that, I’m kibbitzing gardens from centuries past. I completely empathize with Rebecca Ebey, one of the first white settlers on Whidbey Island, who wrote in her diary on Jan. 17, 1853: “Another beautiful day has dawned upon us. It is so warm and clear that I
begin to feel like gardening though it is too soon for some vegetables.” How many times have I taken the lure of that premature late-January warmth and sacrificed some tender seeds and starts? (Actually, this year the greens I started during the February warm spell were far enough along to weather the freezes and snows of March, so I look smart instead of overeager.)

I’m trying to be frugal with my seed purchases this year. I made a list--it’s always a long list--of what I wanted from the Territorial Catalog, and then I forced myself to walk around the yard and the alley and remind myself how little space, especially sunny space, I actually have. I never sent the order. Then I rather spoiled my disciplined pose by spending $10.99 on a single bleeding-heart (Dicentra) plant at the Co-op, because the golden foliage would glow in the shade outside my dining-room window. I am vowing that all the rest of my bleeding hearts will be the natives that proliferate madly out in Sumas.

For serious frugality I can go back to Rebecca Ebey, of whom a neighbor wrote:

She had just half a cupful of seed corn which she had brought with her. This was very precious as nowhere could any be obtained out here. While she was digging the ground her old rooster sneaked up behind her and gobbled up the corn. When she saw what had happened, without any hesitation, she killed the rooster, recovered the corn from his crop and planted her garden.
Too bad we can’t perform similar surgery when the slugs beat us to the early lettuce.

The Ebey quotes are from The Way We Ate, by Jacqueline B. Williams, referenced in the list at right.

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