Now it's Feeling Like Summer

The weather has been unpredictable, and looking at the progress of my greens, I think I got a late start from seed. But look - some of this stuff is going to find the dinner table soon! There were some innocent young chard leaves that fell prey to what I suspect was a vicious band of hungry thug bunnies.

The pert jalapeƱo pictured below is from friends Brian and Ari, who donated some young poblanos and heirloom tomatoes as well.  I'm hoping the heat will send the peas quickly up their trellis, and warm the soil for the successive beans.

I will be buying my veggies from the grocery for a few more weeks. Patience <sigh>.


Greens. On the Way.


Update for the Memorial Day weekend.
There are now several distinctly different greens popping up. I think I even see some cilantro and parsley, but that's unconfirmed. Tomato and pepper plants are going in shortly. Neither lemongrass nor lavender have germinated as far as I can tell.

To do differently at the next go: sew fewer seeds, farther apart. I have a lot of greens to thin as they begin crowding.



Buttercrunch Lettuce sprouts.


Word on the Mets

This year's Mets. Fun. Their payroll is deceptive, because the bulk of that money is apparently being payed to players who have been traded or are injured or are victims of Bernie Madoff. Most of the roster comprises scrappy young dudes eager to make a mark. I miss Jose Reyes, but his replacement Ruben Tejada, who is maybe 14 years old, is fun to watch. I've liked Daniel Murphy since he came up. He's getting better - will never be a star, but is a good spirited player capable of clutch play (possibly). Seems like a key guy. David Wright is hitting like he's always been billed - a franchise guy. Ike Davis is a lefty Jew at 1st, so he'll have to be below the Mendoza at mid-summer before I criticize. And in place of some dude who was injured at centerfield on opening day, Kirk Nieuieuwenheyessses is totally killing it with diving catches and clutch hitting. Also he looks like a dude who hangs out at the local guitar shop. 

This is in comparison to the local Sox, who are at this moment on a tear, but up to this streak have been a lumbering, underwhelming disappointment machine. And to the Yankees, who are always on a Mets fan's radar, but geezis if they don't have an unlikable lineup (sorry, Yanks friends), especially now that Nick Swisher is their top character guy...blech.

I'm happy this season to take a shade over .500, if it comes with the vibe the Mets have been playing with thus far. Though I will wear my Red Sox hat too.


Seeds in the Ground!

120427_garden_0002I sowed some seeds in the dirt today. Yes! Let's see: since my last update, I got a little sidetracked clearing out some brambles and planting some ground cover on the woods-side of our house. The garden was dormant for a little bit after I threw a bunch of loam in the beds and doctored them up with compost and peat. I ordered seeds and received a rattling little envelope a few days ago. Very excited.

Here's how sowing went:

Added bonemeal to the carrot plot. I'm told this is good for root veggies. Apparently, it is also good for dogs. Guess I'll be dealing with that problem soon.

The directions on the back of lavender seed packet: cover 4x the seed depth [or something like that]. These seeds were flea sized. Poppy seed sized. What the hell does that direction mean, huh? I put them in the ground and covered them with some dirt.

Greens, squash, and a couple herbs sown. Cukes and most herbs wait a few more weeks for the soil to warm. Tomatoes and peppers are coming as transplants from a friend, also in warmer soil. Peas and parsley I 'm supposed to pre-germinate-soak before I put 'em in the ground this weekend. Okay.

If nothing grows, I did see promise of a lucrative venture with invasive beetle grubs.

So! Once all the seeds were in and the popsicle sticks were placed, I dusted off to check out my work. It looked desolate. Bonneville-Salt-Flats-desolate. I can really see the benefit of starting indoors - when you put the seedlings in the ground you have some miniplants to encourage your efforts.

Sure hoping to see some sprouts soon!


There's Two of Them!

Just finished the 2nd bed, which was a little trickier because it wraps around the corner of the deck. The slope of the ground made it necessary to have 2 tiers. The stack will also allow plenty of soil depth for me to unsuccessfully grow the root veggies I've planned. I wish I remember how Michael Pollan solved his carrot problem as described in Second Nature. I should probably read it again. Belated thanks to Ethan for that recommendation.
There's a really big garden center a couple miles away that has been great for all my questions and wandering-around-while-envisioning. I bought a bag of bonemeal which should give me the strength I need to do all this soil hauling that lies ahead. First, math. I convert cubic feet to cubic yards by dividing by 9, right? Ugh.
I imagine this is as excited as I'll ever be to pay money for dirt and poop.

Next up: filling the beds.



There's 2 kinds of wood available to build these raised beds: cedar, which is beautiful and rot resistant, and not-cedar, which is affordable for a normal person. I bought the lumber yesterday and it was delivered this morning, and with a couple of hours I was able to get most of the first bed done. Tomorrow I'll add some wire mesh inside the box to keep out gophers ["License to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations..."]. I didn't buy enough 2x4 to finish the mitered cap around the bed, which will be good for sitting and sipping lemonade while contemplating the bare patch of dirt that was intended to yield some crop.

  • My lovely wife took Caleb for a long walk so I could work uninterrupted on this sucker. xo
  • Surprisingly gratifying garden task: raking soil level. Oh baby.
  • Note to self: buy more ibuprofen.

Frame leveled and secured to 4x4 posts.
Almost there. Essbee loping over to look for edibles.
Spider with ability to become 1/10th its original size when picture is taken.
Next up: finish the cap around the bed, add mesh, figure out volume of soil and compost needed to fill


And it begins...

Yesterday I drove up to Westford to pick up a wheelbarrow from a dude for $10 bucks. He had some good hand tools he threw in for a few more. I wanted to get moving on building the raised beds. Oh yeah — raised beds! Why?

1) I'm planting two beds and they are both on a slope;
2) I'm planting over a french drain that I can't dig up;
3) I like the idea of more control over the soil content and drainage;
4) Harder for the dogs to piss in.

So there's going to be two of them. One will be between the deck and patio for the most sun-loving of the crop. The other is butted against the deck lattice (for peas to climb) and wraps around the corner of the house for a few more feet of space.

This morning I started digging to make channels for the timber. The soil is surprisingly loamy feeling once I removed the rocks, enough to fill the wheelbarrow. There was such a dense layer beneath the topsoil that I assume it was pushed-aside detritus from some major landscaping in the past or the house's construction in the 30's. Incidentally, if you'd like to buy some rocks. I have lots.
Here's a shot of the dug out and sifted-through footprint of the bed. 
I'm including a shot of Caleb because's he crazy cute right now.

Next up: building the first raised bed

Let's Get Ready to Bumble!

The unexpected appearance of May here in New England March has me setting out to plant my first vegetable garden. The weather has been so nice and my excitement such that I'm not even going to waste time giving a back story. I want home-grown salad and I want it now. Plants grow faster if you scream at them, right?

While I introduce the project, let's hold our tongues and assume I'm well aware of the potential disappointment lurking in a rookie's garden. Here's what I'm working with: my backyard has a sloping hillside across its width and is predominantly partial shade. There's a pretty sweet spot between our small deck and the lower lying patio that gets good (though not full) sun.

I'm going to plant lettuce (a few varieties), kale, chard, zukes, carrots, potatoes, cherry and slicing tomatoes, snap peas, some peppers, and a stacked crop of herbs. The over/under on how many full salads I get from this garden by the end of the summer...3....maybe 5? We'll see. The Feedbag will certainly benefit from documenting a new project, and I'm hoping I'll get some choice advice from you dear readers.

Next up: layout


Fandom in Massachusetts

Super Bowl VVVVVVVVVIIIIX is this weekend, and it's a weird one for me. As I've documented in the blog and by word of mouth, I've questioned my allegiance to the Washington Redskins and their mostly-reprehensible football organization. After moving to Massachusetts this past summer I was even more curious how regional ties and home-team coverage would affect me. I was able to watch 6 (or so) 'Skins games this season. They're still bad. I'm used to that. This season however, there was a tinge of scrappy youth that timidly emerged at points, peaking with Roy Helu's undersized explosiveness towards the end of the season. To my wife's dismay I'm still a fan.

The thing is, I also watched most of the Pats games on tv. They're cool. Most importantly: their owner is a mensch, not a slimeball; Belichick is brilliant; Tom Brady. A Redskin fan is so acclimated to sub-mediocre quarterbacking and coaching, that Brady/Belichick is shocking to watch on a regular basis. More than shocking, its enjoyable.

So what about this Super Bowl. I still feel more New York than New England, but as a Skins fan the Giants are enemies. Becky has insisted that the Super Bowl has never been as hyped and ubiquitously reported as it is this year. At our new jobs our coworkers show their Pats spirit to a degree we never saw in New York. Women! Women are bonkers for the Pats here, and it's not just because of Tom Brady's face. So, Becky is rooting for the G-men. I'm rooting for the Pats. But if they lose and I see pictures of New Yorkers partying in the streets, I'll probably get a little homesick. At least there's the Mets. Yipes.


Huh? Whuh? Where am I!?

It has been a year since my last Feedbag entry. Why so long, you ask? Never mind that. Aside from my occupation, number of children in household, and city and state of residence, little has changed. What's that you say – sounds like 2 lifestyle changes more than a sane person should make in a short span of time? If I heard you correctly in that assertion, then yes, you are correct.

Current state of affairs: dad to Caleb McCarthy Strauss; living in a Boston suburb where thin crust pizza is a fools errand; addition through extended borrowing of one dog, EssBee; substitute teacher in the towns of Belmont and Lexington; homestead situated next to large tract of wooded reserve.

So here we are. There is a simmering pot of chili to my left that tomorrow will be delivered to friends who just had a baby. Caleb is asleep upstairs, and every day he grows more lovable and entertaining. Becky is working late – she is a professional nurse now, deftly ascending a steep learning curve. She looks totally cute but no-nonsense in her scrubs and specs. There is a new bike project - the Cubmobile for springtime - waiting downstairs in the work room. Substitute teaching; the house and its projects; missing Brooklyn - I'll get to those.