The Green Pepper Experiment

Saturday, January 29, 2011
Waning Moon in Sagittarius
Saturn Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Rowan
Snowy and cold

The other day, when I cut up a green pepper, I saved the seeds and am soaking them in water. We’ll see what happens.

I’ve successfully started peppers, cucumber, and tomato in the past from seeds out of plants I got at the farmer’s market — but this was from the store, and had a “4” starting its code number, which means it’s not organic (it would need an “8”). So it may not have the type of seed in it that can germinate.

Of course, when I started these from seed in NY, they died as small plants because of the toxins the scumbag landlords exposed us to. Since I have plenty of lichen growing around here, at least I know we have good air! I do have a citrus that survived the trip up that I grew from store seed (tangerine, I think), but it’s not very happy with the current weather, and I’ve had to coddle it a lot. It’s about four feet tall at this point, and I need to put it into a bigger pot.

I’m still going to buy organic pepper seeds and give it a go in the vegetable bed, but I thought I’d try this, since the seeds were right there.

I’ll keep you posted.




Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Waning Moon in Scorpio
Saturn Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Rowan
Snowy and cold

I’ve always liked flower pots, mostly the simple terra cotta kind you can find anywhere, but also the lovely, ceramic, decorated ones. It’s kind of like “fashion for flowers”, and, this year, I have to think about pots in a different light, since most of my gardening will take place in containers, especially the herbs. Inside, I have a lovely jumble of all sorts of clay pots, the traditional terra cottas, and pots that I bought at craft fairs or people I know made for me at some point or another.

And, when the Alberta Spruce trees in front wake up and decide to grow this spring, I want to put them in pretty pots slightly larger than the ones they are in now, so that they can grow and enjoy themselves. The plan is to put them in a slightly larger pot each year until I own a property where I can put them in the ground and they can live like, well, trees.

I bought five pots the other day — two in a faded, heathery bronze, two in a heathery blue, and one in a kind of a muted red. They’re different sizes, but the shapes are complimentary. The two largest ones, the bronze, will hold the tomato and basil plants. I’m not sure what the others will hold — I kind of like the idea of one of the blue pots holding the white poppy (provided I can find that seed) and mugwort and something else that works well with those.

In any case, although it’s still January, I am stockpiling pots when I find pots I like and they go well with each other and the deck — the roof of the deck is painted a bright, crisp white. The floor is a muted, heathery grey — hence the heather tone in the pots, which will compliment it, even if it place the pots in different places in the yard. I’ll have a mix of terra cotta, probably, but in the back, I think I’ll keep the tones muted.

In the front, around the Alberta Spruces, I may place more brightly colored pots. Another plan is to find a wheelbarrow to place in front of the Gemini Oaks (no, I’m not calling them that because I think there’s a genus or species of oak named Gemini; I’m calling them that because they are a pair of twin oaks in the front yard), and will place a variety of pots in that. I’ve wanted a wheelbarrow since I was six years old; now I have a reason to get one.

So I sit in the snowstorm with garden books and plan. I keep my eyes open for sales and on craigslist and elsewhere. Slowly but surely, I accumulate what I need and want for the garden — with an eye on budget that keeps me creative instead of stifling me.


The Sense of Being “Home”

Saturday, January 22, 2011
Waning Moon
Celtic Tree Month of Rowan

Now that I have a place in which I love living, I don’t like to leave it. I’ve always suffered from what friends call “itchy feet.” No, it’s not some kind of a fungus. It’s a need to travel. I love traveling, seeing new places. A place will “call” to me, and then I can’t rest until I’ve gone there and experienced it. Sometimes it stops calling. Sometimes — in the cases of Scotland and New Orleans and Iceland — the call gets even stronger once I’ve visited, and I long to go back.

I always felt that way about the Cape. My dad was transferred to NY for work in the late 1960s, and immediately, we spent time going to either the Cape or the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The Cape always spoke to me. I always felt I belonged here, in a way I never felt anywhere else.

Once I made the decision to go into the production end of theatre, rather than write full-time, the Cape was not an option. Yes, the Cape has a lot of theatre, and a lot of GOOD theatre. But it doesn’t have Broadway, and I wanted Broadway. There’s only one Broadway and it’s in NY.

I got Broadway, and I kept visiting the Cape as often as I could. For quite a few years now, it’s been my birthday destination. I talked a lot about wanting to live there, but, as long as I worked on Broadway, that’s not an option. A four hour plus commute each way each day? No. Once I left the city proper and commuted in from the burbs, three hour round trip, it was too much.

As I wrote more and tech’d less, the possibility of the Cape came up again. And, when the opportunity presented itself (okay, so I sort of created it) last fall, I jumped.

Now, I live on the Cape. I feel connected to the land. I’m getting to know the little patch I’m currently stewarding, and the surrounding area. I’m learning as much as I can about local flora and fauna, and how best to nurture them. I feel connected to the sanctuaries I walk, the beeches, even the small village sidewalks. Instead of a sense of longing, which I had for so many years, I feel a sense of BElonging.

It’s a wonderful feeling and I hope it grows, but there is a flip side. I don’t want to leave. As I drive towards the bridge, I can feel my home tugging at me. When I cross the bridge and keep going (as opposed to, say, going to Target in Wareham and returning), I feel the sense of longing again. It’s a physical sensation as much as a psychological one, and I spend a lot of my time and energy while away missing my home.

As someone who’s never been homesick (and never had much patience for those who are–stop whining and enjoy where you are already), this is a new and disconcerting sensation. I retain the capacity to enjoy where I am — and I take full advantage of it when I travel for work because you never know when the next gig is, so soak up as much as you can because someday, it will come in useful to the writing. But I always feel the house, the yard, and the Cape itself, tugging at me, reminding me to come home.

As I return to the Cape, I feel lighter and happier the closer I get to home. When I cross the MA border, my shoulders relax and stress lifts off and flies away like a bird. When I cross the bridge to the Cape, I’m practically giddy with joy. When I return to the house, I walk through it calling out to the cats AND the spirit of the place (both the house and the yard have very distinct spirits of place — call them Lares, like the Romans, or Devas, or whatever you want — they’re there and they want attention).

It’s a new experience for me — having a place where I truly feel “at home.”


Light and Weather

This isn’t my yard (unfortunately) ;). It’s a shot of Long Pasture Sanctuary, near by

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Full Moon in Cancer
Rainy and cold

I’ve stood at the windows a lot during the past few weeks and watched the light change over the yard, both front and back. Ellen Dugan suggests this in her wonderful book GARDEN WITCH’S HERBAL. I haven’t yet made drawings, but that will come in February, when the light’s around longer.

I need to figure out where the different growing areas are in regards to light. The slightly raised vegetable bed created by the previous owner still gets sun almost all day, sometimes direct, sometimes less so, even with the trees that have grown in the 20+ years since the owner lived here. Light streams all morning into my writing room, at the front of the house, and it’s still very bright in the afternoon, even when the sun is more indirect. The lilacs and roses and forsythia will be happy about that.

Most of what I’ll do is container gardening, but there are in-ground bushes and plants already there which I’d prefer to steward than kill, so I have to learn about them and what they need. It seems the previous owner didn’t pay any attention; most of the plants were on their own and seemed to do pretty well, so I don’t want to fuss at them too much.

Part of the back is terraced. The rest is both rather pizza pie-shaped (as opposed to, say, apple pie-shaped) and what would be the crust edge slopes past the terraced area. There’s a line of trees at the far end of the property, and a blotch of what wants to be a wood at the point of the pie, sort of between the line of trees and the neighbor’s curved back of his property (yeah, I don’t quite get it, either).

I’m also learning just how dependent I am on the weather. In New York, the weather would be awful. The producers didn’t want to lose ticket sales or have to refund money, so we had to trudge through blizzards so “the show could go on.” Trust me, it’s not noble, it’s all about the money. People look at the weather report, add another scarf, hope the waterproofing on the boots holds up, go out in it, get stuck in it for hours or days, and can’t get to where they were supposed to be anyway.

It’s not that people are intimidated by weather on the Cape. But they respect it, which is a hugely different attitude than back in New York. In New York, weather is an obstacle; here, it’s a partner, and it’s the dominant partner in your life. You have to adjust what you do and how you do it according to the weather.

When a foot of snow is dumped on the area, people stay home (unless they’re in emergency response positions or plow drivers), schools are closed, and they let those responsible for clearing the streets and keeping things safe do so — without interference. When a bad weather report comes on, there’s no mad dash to the grocery store — people stock up throughout. There’s no sense of panic. They hope the power stays on, but have enough batteries, or maybe even a generator, just in case. They have electronics, but there are a stack of books on the table and those old games they inherited from their parents that usually only come out to entertain guests in the summer when it rains.

They get on with it, but don’t necessarily force their way through it.

It’s much healthier, all the way around.

I have to make another round trip to CT in the next few days. The reports of the next snowstorm change every few hours. Soon, I have to make a decision on how to avoid it, where the window will be that will let me slip through in the best conditions, so I’m not one of the morons who ignored the report and “didn’t think it would be that bad.”

I’m learning how to partner with the weather.

What I learn now will help me steward the property and my garden in the coming months.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011
Waxing Moon in Taurus
Celtic Tree Month of Birch
Sunny and cold

Isn’t this cool? It’s a zodiac tile for the garden that I won on eBay. I’m pretty happy with it. I also ordered a couple of other inexpensive garden decorations, and I’m going to start stockpiling pots.

I got a lovely book out of the library called THE CAPE COD GARDEN, which I’ve now ordered and bought, since it will be invaluable as I learn how to garden on Cape Cod. I nearly put it down and away, because there was one of the types of errors on the first page of the introduction that makes me froth at the mouth as both writer and reader. “Addition” was used instead of “edition”. It’s inexcusable that the author, the editor, AND the copy editor missed it in the finished book. My feeling on something like this if I can’t trust them on something this simple, how can I trust any of the other information in the book?

On the other hand, as an author, I’ve been on the flip side, where I corrected an error multiple times in edits and galleys and it was still in the finished book and I wanted to commit hara-kiri. I hold the publisher more responsible for this than the author.

I pushed through, and was glad that I did, because there’s a lot of great information. And they mention the garden center nearby that I really like and plan to use on this journey. However, between composting, fertilizing, and mulching, I’m already completely intimidated.

I’ll have to get over myself.


How Do I Choose?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Waxing Moon n Aries
Celtic Tree month of Birch
Snowy, slushy, and cold

The seed catalogues have arrived. For years, I ordered seed catalogues, fantasized mightily about a lovely garden “someday”, ordered a packet or two of seeds who’d sprout and fade.

This year, I’ve actually got a place to put seeds and containers and all that good stuff. I also have a budget.

I could blow my entire budget on seeds alone.

However, I’ve also got to think about patio furniture and garden statuary and hoses and other things that will keep the garden alive.

On the Holly Walk at Ashumet Sanctuary back in early December, the leader mentioned that things often transplant on the Cape better than growing from seed. Which, to me, means that I should purchase the common herbs as much as possible already in small little pots and just transplant them to my containers. The strawberry plants will come as plants, and I’ve got my eye on a sweet huckleberry bush that is suited for container growing.

So now, it comes to the rest of them. How do I choose?

First, I want to pick a handful of vegetables that aren’t too hard to grow and that I will eat: Two kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, and I’ve always wanted to grow my own pumpkins. I’d like to also grow some sort of cress and maybe a lettuce.

Herb-wise, I need to grow the herbs that I use, which may not be easy to find around here as plants. I’ll buy rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, basils, the usual culinary herbs in pots and transplant them to containers. I want to try several types of lavenders, and I need bee balm, lemon balm, lemon verbena, a variety of mints, hyssop, and a host of other things. As I take herbal classes in and around the Cape, I’ll realize what I need more for my work. Also, some of the herbs have varied uses, some are kind of borderline and I have to check to find out which (if any) are illegal to grow in the state of MA. I stay away from most of the baneful herbs because there’s too much wildlife and too many domestic pets who might get out and eat something they shouldn’t — but there are a few that are extremely useful in a positive way but can be misused, and I just have to do some more research.

And then, flowers. I’m going to buy impatiens and petunias and the like as small plants, but there are a few I want to try from seed.

Correction: There are too many I want to try from seed.

I also want to have a container for a very specific purpose with specific shade plants in it, in whites, greens, and grays, in the one shady spot on the property. Most of those I won’t find from plants, and I’m having trouble finding some of the seeds.

So, I’m sitting here, making my lists, comparing catalogue to catalogue, making my “master list” and then winnowing things down.

Because Imbolc isn’t that far away, and the very first seeds have to planted in the ceremony.


Wednesday, January 6, 2011
Waxing Moon in Capricorn
Celtic Tree Month of Birch
Sunny and cold

My friend Costume Imp is here from New York. Although he’s a costume designer/wardrobe person, he grew up on a farm and also used to landscape. He knows his stuff. He’s going to help me buy a lawn mower while he’s here, and, yesterday, we walked the property, talking about its possibilities. He identified most of the shrubs and mysterious things poking up from the ground, although one or two remain a mystery.

I’m excited by the prospect of having forsythia, azalea, rhodedendron, and even some roses. The Cape has a very specific type of small, lovely rose that I adore, and I hope that’s what these bushes are — because they’re very hardy and I don’t know much about the care of roses. I would be over the moon if one of the bushes turns out to be lilac. The Cape has gorgeous lilacs, and lilac are one of my favorite flowers. It even looks like there are some irises planted — my absolute favorite, and not just because Iris (aka Princess Hellion) is the namesake!

We talked about what kind of pots and furniture to get, and where to put things. The back is a long, odd shape, but the bulk of the yard gets a lot of sun, which should make growing herbs and flowers easier. There’s holly in front and out back, and a third little bit seems to be determined to make its mark on the side of the house. I adore holly, especially after taking the Holly Walk soon after we moved, so that’s exciting to me.

We can’t figure out a good place to put a bird feeder, unless i get one that’s free standing and I can stick into the ground. Also, I’m worried that, trying to grow vegetables, supplying a bird feeder will encourage them to pick at the vegetables instead of going to the feeder. I’m not quite sure how that works. Any suggestions?

There are indications that hooks for hanging pots were once in the deck, which is great, because I want to hang pots of strawberries and maybe some other basket flower.

I’m looking forward to reading the stack of gardening books I bought in Niantic!

At this stage, there are a lot of possibilities. Even though I’m on a budget, I’m very excited by them. The garden is not a blank slate — it’s been well-loved and cared for by previous tenants. So it will be exciting to see what’s there and combine that with what I envision. I’m sure there will be mistakes along the way, but I’m delighted by the prospect of the journey.

Wish for the Garden

Saturday, January 1, 2011
Waning Moon in Sagittarius
Neptune Retrograde
Celtic Tree month of Birch

As I start a new year, a new life, and a new garden, my wish for the garden is that it be a place of “gratitude and growth” on every level, along with being an enchanted sanctuary.

It will take work, but so does anything that’s worthwhile.

Happy New Year!