Edges

This week we had typical March weather—an edge between winter and spring. Temperatures hovering around freezing, breezy, some rain, the landscape muted and, to my eyes, beautiful with greys, browns, and other quiet colors. But underneath it all the sounds, smells and sights of Spring—pale greens and reds in the tree branches, green shoots in the fields and garden, peepers and migrating birds, furious honking and hissing matches of Canada geese staking out territory in the pasture, and that Spring growy smell on the breeze. Winter has truly departed, and we only glimpse the back of it as it disappears around some kind of edge.

Columbine March 17

Columbine March 17

I keep thinking about planting seeds, but it is always better for me to wait until the first week of April. When I start seeds in March, by the time it is safe to plant them outside they are root-bound or leggy. The parsley, onions and basil planted by my husband are all thriving inside now, but the flower seeds are still waiting in their paper packets. Soon, soon!

The edges in my garden are still not stable—in some cases I’ve had to retreat where I overextended (like the giant herb wheel on the south lawn—more on that another day), while in most places the garden is still expanding, pushing back the shrinking lawn. I have a lot of experience with garden edging. I think I have tried every edging method except for plastic kinds, which I just don’t want in my soil. The method I have settled on as the most effective is a steep sharp ditch and a packed down one-foot (at least) wide flat “path” or dry moat between the lawn and the garden. There is a picture of one here.

raked and weeded and edged

raked and weeded and edged

In some places, the garden is edged also with a low stone wall. I strongly recommend against having your lawn smack up right  against a stone wall. The grass happily runs through the stones to invade the garden and the stones only serve to protect the grass or weeds.

The stack of flower catalogs by my bed still gets some use–it is still dream/plan time, but gardening gear is out and my gardening jeans have fresh dirt ground into the knees. March is in-between time.

Orange poppies March 17

Orange poppies March 17

On starting a blog

You never know what doing something is really like until you’ve plunged in.  I started taking horseback riding lessons at age 43, because I have been a horse-crazy girl since age 5 when our neighbors acquired what I now know to be two very naughty shetland ponies. At the time, my sister, then four years old, and I would happily walk the mile of dirt road from our house to theirs just for the thrill of watching the ponies eat grass. I didn’t have the money or time to do anything about my horse bug until my 40s. I had nothing but romantic and mostly wrong ideas about what horses are, what riding and later owning horses would mean.

Casey and Salley at Honeydew Acres

Casey and Sally at Honeydew Acres

My husband tried to tell me it would be expensive (he knew–his first wife had horses, too) but I couldn’t imagine how much there is to buy for a horse. More significantly I did not realize how time-consuming it would be and how my new barn life would edge out time for other dear and valued friends–an on-going and painful issue for me. My heart was full of what I thought horses were, from the Black Stallion (Farley) series, the Billy and Blaze (Anderson) series , and of course the wonderful books by Marguerite Henry. Horses, for me, are both less and more magical than these books implied. But that is another blog!

Walking with Tundra last summer

Walking with Tundra last summer

Gardening has been like this for me as well, only it is, I admit, less expensive. I did not begin gardening until I was 39 and met my current husband who lived an old farmhouse on 100 beautiful acres of mixed hay fields, overgrown but productive apple orchards, woods, brush, and pasture, with a  band of wetland/string of beaver ponds going through the middle of it.  As an adult I had never lived anywhere with land–I lived in college dorms, apartments in the city or in town. The October before I moved into the house, (before he had even invited me to move in with him!) I had already planted a straight row of tulip bulbs in the lawn. I have since then learned not to plant in rows and not to plant tulips! (yep, too many varmints that adore tulips). My gardening passion was immediate and unwavering since then, 11 years ago or so. I didn’t know what I was doing and I made every mistake possible, but the land has been forgiving and the plants amazingly resilient (most of them, anyway).

me on March 17 weeding

me on March 17 weeding

Starting this blog is another adventure and, as with my horse keeping and gardening,  I am definitely an amateur. (I am a college professor by trade, teaching Asian history at a small private liberal arts college) Luckily, my husband is a web-designer and computer programmer, so I have in-house help. But I’m the one who has to figure out what to say, to remember to start carrying a camera around when I’m gardening without getting it dirty or leaving it out in the rain. But I have some very good advisers and some great examples. So, here goes!

First Day of Spring

Today, winter aconite, pansies, and crocuses are blooming. Pansies bloomed all winter long, this year, but still I don’t take them for granted. Daffodils in the sunny spot against the wall are budded out and will probably bloom in a few days. Everything is weeks early this year.

Today is the first day of Spring, 2012, and my plan is to post photos and comments about my garden once a week for a year. My garden is zone four, more or less, just north of the Adirondack Mountains in New York State, just south of the St. Lawrence River Valley.

Unearthed Toy

Unearthed Toy

When I moved in to this old farmhouse (built ca. 1880s) ten years ago there was an acre of lawn and a sprinkling of perennials thriving under benign neglect: some peonies, large vigorous stands of valerian, plantations of orange day lilies, forests of tiger lilies, and a patch of iris. On an overgrown hillside were dense clumps of white narcissus, along with exuberant billows of pink wild rose.

Since I moved in I have removed about 2/3 of the lawn and replaced it with perennial beds. One of the many magical things about this process is unearthing treasures: old buttons, nails, toys, shards of pottery, marbles. One of them sits here on a rusty piece of farm equipment next to an equally rusty iron kettle. I found a small chipped white button yesterday.