Car moved to higher and less muddy ground, supplies stowed, everything battenable has been battened.

Now, if history holds true, we’ll get a bit of rain and no more. Which would be fine with me.

But it looks and, more tellingly, feels like snow outside. It’s still early evening and the snow’s not due until midnight or later.

And that means a few more hours to think about…snow day reading.

Early to mid-winter snow day reads tend to focus on fiction, generally big novels that I can sink into for hours at a time, confident that if the snows falls deeply enough and the temperatures follow suit, I’ll have several snow-read days in a row, and with them the possibility of several large novels.

But after mid-February or so here in southern Virginia, snows disappear quickly. We may see the upper 60s by the weekend, so I’ll be reading shorter, catching up on sf magazines and a couple of tight thrillers from the 50s and 60s (a Westlake and a McBain at the top of the stack).

And also, again because it’s mid-February, at least some of tomorrow’s reading time will go to seed catalogs and the literature of gardening. But which literature?

Time to scan the shelves for possibilities.

Before the snow starts to fall.


One more—or yet another, depending on your perspective—blast of winter headed our way, and as usual forecasts are all over the place. They all have in common the likelihood of some snow, a little (and from some forecasters a little more than a little) ice and freezing rain, followed by rain.

And best of all: the whole thing followed by a warmup that will see 60s here over the weekend.

So whatever we get we won’t get affected by for long, at least in its frozen incarnations. The rain, some of it projected to be heavy, will have lingering effects, but we’ll just add those to the still lingering effects of heavier rains (and one big snow) from earlier in winter. The ground is wet and is going to get wetter; the driveway is muddy and is going to get muddier.

But we’re not going to snowed in, at least not for more than a day or so. And if the ice keeps itself to minimal levels, the power should stay on.

Nonetheless, I’m battening down, as I always do. Eater for drinking and flushing all stocked up. Emergency radio—named Heidi by my wife—ready to be turned on. Kerosene heater ready to provide backup heat if needed. Plenty of food for us, for Millard the beagle, and for Lightning, Chester, and Mary Grace, the cats. In an hour or so I’ll move the car to a spot above the worst of the mudway that is now the bottom part of our driveway.

In other words, ready for pretty much whatever comes our way.

And even readier for the much warmer whatever that;s coming after it.


The season’s first seed catalog arrived today. While I have rarely encountered a seed catalog I didn’t like, today’s arrival is one of my favorites: High Mowing Organic Seeds.


There is, I suppose, a self-indulgence, if not an outright hypocrisy, in continuing to receive paper catalogs when the information they contain is almost always equally available online. Most seed companies have long since established strong online presences.

High Meadows is no exception. The company’s site is comprehensive, well-organized, easy to navigate. When the time comes to order, I’ll be doing my ordering online.

But I haven’t yet made the leap to canceling the paper catalogs. I enjoy them too much. I like being able to stretch out and leaf through the pages, putting check marks beside definite purchases, question marks beside possibilities.

Maybe I’ll get over this at some point, although it’s likelier that the companies will take the initiative and begin discontinuing their paper catalogs. Or charging a substantial price for them, which some firms already do.

For now, though, the first catalog is here and sometime this weekend I’ll stretch out and begin looking, thinking, dreaming about next year’s gardens.


April 1, no fooling--a Sunday, and one week after a Sunday snow that left us with 4-5 inches covering everything.

But only temporarily--the snow was gone by Monday afternoon and, thanks to stiff (and then some!) breezes the ground dried quickly and, by week's end, was more than ready for working and planting.

Onions are up and doing nicely, kale and cress patches survived the winter and and are starting to take off. Beets and collards should be making their appearance this week, and it won't be long before I have more radishes than we'll use. Peas in a couple more weeks, I think.

Will begin putting in potatoes this week. Tomato seedlings doing nicely and I will resist the temptation to move them to the garden too soon.

Those breezes that dried the ground last week, became strong and fairly constant winds (15mph and up, and occasionally way up) and haven't diminished noticeably in the last few days. Ready for them to calm down so that I can work more consistently in the garden.

The garden "office" that is. The gardens themselves are more than workable now, and I am getting in good and productive time in the dirt. But my little office where I write and read (and doze) is less than practical when the winds are pushing through. If I'm not careful I spend as much time chasing errant pages and index cards as I do putting words on them.

Still, there will be plenty of calm days ahead, and I intend to put them to good use, both ion the soil and on the page.

Unless of course the Chinese space station picks my garden spot as its landing site.

False Spring--Really False

Every year my impatience to start planting tests my sense and, by now, knowledge, of the reality of the seasons.

I know it's too early, I and I don't pretend that it isn't. 

Not even when it's close to 70 degrees outside and February's customary reality has gone into hiding.

Blackberries Soon

Nearly there!

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Maybe as early as tomorrow (and I will probably find at least one or two that are ready this afternoon), and certainly by Tuesday...Blackberries!.

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Just in time for the Fourth!

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And judging by how productive the plants are this year, plenty of berries for the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh, too.

The Snows of Yesterweek

Hard to believe, walking and working in close to 70 degree weather today, that just a few days I was walking and working in very different conditions.

Here's a photo taken during my return to the house on Tuesday, almost a week to the hour after the first flakes began to fall.

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The snow was starting to go then, but it had a ways to go before it would be gone.

I was returning from a snowy stroll to the creek, its banks still heavy with snow, though not so heavy as they had been just a day or two before:

The Calm Before

Is there ice coming?


Enough to knock the power out?

Won't know until the lights go off — or stay on.

But I've made sure there's plenty of water in jugs and bottles. The lamps and flashlights and book lights are all ready. Plenty of food. A big pot of turkey and rice soup taking shape in my mind in preparation for it taking slow shape in my stock pot starting sometime between midnight and dawn. Propane grill ready if needed.

The radios have new batteries.

The propane fireplaces are doing fine.

Nice stack of books beside my reading chair; some science and other journals to catch up on too.  Plenty of sharpened pencils for continuing to write books of my own. (And my pencil sharpener has a crank handle, and doesn't need electricity any more than the same model sharpener needed it fifty  or a hundred years ago.)

Good sweaters and heavy socks ready for whatever tomorrow brings.

Good flannels and a Hudson Bay blanket ready for the night shift.

Could be sausage and biscuits here sometime before the sun comes up.

Ice storm?

Hope it misses us — and especially hope it misses those for whom it would be a real and dangerous hardship.

But if not...

Bring it on.

Gardening in Suspension

Long rainy night, with more rain expected, on and off throughout the day, after a rainy day yesterday. Raining heavily now. My gauge shows just under two inches here since Monday night. Less than the three inches or more that the local TV weather clones predicted..

Still, more rain than we needed (not that we have any say in the matter), and more than enough to slow down work in the garden for a few days.

This isn't a complaint, or isn't intended as one anyway. The weather is what the weather is— as it always has been. (The climate is something else. The climate is becoming what we have made of it. And that, of course, affects the weather, a fact (sic) that the local weather clones continue to decline to mention.

Where weather is concerned, I have been accurately accused of loving it all — mild or stormy, clear or cloudy, too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. And, with the exception of the devastating and often tragic consequences of extreme weather, I do.

Even when it slows down or halts my garden work. I'm no gardening Goldilocks — I try to work with what I have. And what I have this year is a lot of mud.

Day before yesterday I talked for awhile with my good neighbor Jewell Brown. Central among the many things we discussed was the challenge of farming (for Jewel;) and gardening (for me) when the weather is as wet as it has been here this spring and early summer. No matter how well a garden drains, it can't drain this much rain coming this intensely and constantly.

I mentioned my father's comment that it was far easier to work land that was too dry than too wet, a sentiment that anyone who's sunk a boot — much less a tire or wagon wheel — into deep, and deeply supersaturated soil knows all too well. The kind of mud that can pull a boot from your foot while you're trying to pull the boot from the mud.

Jewel nodded his long-time farmer's nod. He's seen it all, and the weather is a far more serious matter for him than for me. He makes his living from the land; I am simply sustained by it.

I have been watching the mud in the garden pretty closely this year. trying to gauge the point at which my garden soil ceased being solid and became instead a suspension, a solution. And not the sort of solution that solves problems, but rather the sort of solution that is one.

That point, which has happened three or four times this year, is rapidly approaching once more. Another inch or so of rain today should do it — and we're expected to get much more than another inch.

Then it becomes a race as to whether or not the garden dries out enough to be worked before the rains return again.

I suspect that when I step out to the main garden a little later I will discover that this week's race is already lost — we have more rain on the way.

I will spend some time looking at the mud, the suspension whose only solution is time and dry weather.

"You get a better harvest from too dry than too wet," Jewell said to me before we parted beneath gathering rain clouds.

But you also grow what you can grow in the conditions available to you.

In other words, sometimes when I plant collards, what grows best is colloids.



Steve Janesick July 4, 2013 at 12:16 PM

I've been trenching around the northwest side of the house to help keep the basement dry. For just the second time in almost 30 years, we had seepage into the cellar. It looks like my work may have paid off, but now the outside look like a cross between a small scale Panama Canal mock-up and the movie set to "Brazil". Got ducts?

Sunday by the Creek

I spent some time this morning beside the creek that flows so gently through beside this farm.

As always, undiminished after nearly eighteen years, this flow captivates and restores me.