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Yes, I have Bipolar II, and it is (mostly) well controlled. And anxiety, which is sometimes controlled. This blog is to document my successes and failures as I attempt to maintain a garden despite the above. Here's the pattern:

Spring: "Yea! I planted lots of vegetables that will grow big and yummy! I'm weeding! I'm watering!

Midsummer: I should weed. I should water. I should pick those before they're too big. (Insert anxiety here.)

Late summer: Weeds have eaten my garden, everything is overripe, and I let the stuff rot before I cooked/canned/froze it. I'm a terrible gardener. :( (Insert depression here.)

Despite my challenges, I manage to get a few good tomatoes, zucchini, and yes, pumpkins every year. Why do I torture myself like this? Because for me, this is profound therapy. Feeling earth in my hands, watching things sprout, digging, moving rock, and bathing in the early-morning sun nourish me. Nothing tastes better than a tomato, zucchini, or strawberry that grew despite all my bumbling attempts to kill it. If I can laugh through it, make others laugh, and inspire others, healthy or otherwise, to get out there and grow, then all the better.

Helpful: encouragement, support, shared stories of success or failure, and any and all gardening advice.

Not helpful: medication advice (I have great medical support); "try this great herbal stuff!" (I have a wonderful naturopathic doctor); or "quit complaining and just get over it!" (Believe me, I would if I could.)

Happy reading!

Friday, June 4, 2010


The bean poles I planted Wednesday night.

Scarlett runner beans. These should have beautiful red flowers.


One of eight pretty cabbages. The early sun was so glaring that the photo actually came out better in my shadow.

For some reason, Blogger wants this photo to be rotated counter-clockwise, but here is the compost mystery food five days ago...

...and now! Holy cow are we going to have a lot of something. This photo is after I pulled a dozen or so new little plants. They just keep coming!

Bushy, growing strawberry plant

A bean emerging through the mulch. All the beans, in all 4 rows, came up this year. Yikes!
Good thing I have a big freezer! Just remind me to pick them and freeze them...

Our first California poppy says "Good morning!"

The Fence that Keeps the Dog Out. But only Old Dog. Puppy could clear it by half a foot by the time she was six months old. Fortunately, she doesn't seem interested in tomatoes. She does, however, like chicken poop.

The Smell of Earthworms and Chicken-Poop

Reading back, I realized my previous posts were about what I've done, instead of what I've experienced. That seems to be the nature of hypomania--it's all about doing. When I'm all about doing, then I get anxious about all that needs to be done, so I get hyper focused. I've been focused on planting, watering, weeding, mulching, etc, but feeling? Smelling? Listening? Not so much.

This week we had a couple of beautiful, cloudy days. Those were good days for doing, since it was cool, and the sun wasn't blinding. The quick-and-dirty version of what I did: pulled weeds (of course), planted another watermelon (this time a yellow one!), hooked everything up and added chicken-poop fertilizer, and planted bean poles (yes, bean poles, not pole beans.)
I've been intoxicated by the smells: decaying wood mulch, rotting compost trying to find its balance (too wet, too dry, too wet, sigh, I'll get it someday), earthworms, and chicken poop. I came in the house Tuesday evening smelling like a barn. :.) The mornings sound bustley--like chittery joyous birds, dogs barking, lawn mowers a block away, the soft whisper of leaves quaking, and Puppy squeeking her toy ball.

This morning had a different quality--that still, silent calm that forcasts a still, sweltering day. Even the birds murmured quietly, punctuated occasionally by the cack of a distant crow. By 7:00 a.m. leaves were already wilting, despite being watered last night. I'll check them tonight, and give them a cool drink. Instead of that wet, earthy smell, everything smells dusty, dry, and thirsty.

The compost is patchy--mostly dry with clumps of wet, rotting, stinky leaves. I stirred it up well, and tried to break up the leaves, then added a little more water with the veggie scraps. I think this is one of those arts that just takes a lot of experience. Sometimes I feel like I need a PhD in agriculture to figure out composting. Mostly I just throw stuff in and wait for it to rot.

Emotionally, this is the time of year when I feel the most calm about the garden. Plants are planted. Watering is easy, because you can still see the base of each plant. Weeds are tiny, and still fairly spread out. Nothing is ready to be picked yet except a few lettuces, so nothing is waiting to be picked, peeled, chopped, canned, garbled, bundled, dried, cooked, frozen, or eaten. (Well, except apple mint. I should probably garble and dry some tonight.)

Does anybody else write blog posts in their head as they are going about doing whatever they blog about? I'm searching for that balance between experiencing gardening with each of my senses, and keeping each of my senses alert for something to write about later.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Garden Fatalities

Our most recent garden fatalities include a watermelon plant, and two morning glory plants that Hubby just planted to grow up the deck beam. The most likely suspects are Puppy and Squirrel. Digging up flowers I can understand; animals have been doing that to satisfy their own needs for ages. But a watermelon seedling? Who eats two-inch tall watermelon leaves?

Today was gorgeous! My yard and garden are looking so beautiful. I was able to get out there at my favorite time--7:30 a.m. The air is cool and damp, the world is quiet and sleepy, and the plants sparkle with dew. Last night's rain left the ground dark and wiggling and the plants tall and sturdy. The yarrow and poppies are close to blooming, and I saw the first bud about to open on a California poppy. All the herbs I planted, as well as the raspberry bush, are an inch taller, and I'm finding things coming up that I didn't plant. (Chamomile volunteers, I think.) It's easy to breathe deeply when the world is so alive.

Now that the planting is finished and the mulch down, there's not much to do except wait, and weed. I pulled a good gallon-bucket worth of weeds today. I changed my mind about the bindweeds--they are the Nietzsche of plants: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." If you don't pull the full root/rhizome out, they come back the next day, more stubborn than ever. I swear I'll see a 6-inch trail of bindweed that wasn't there yesterday. Too, they may be the most sentient plant I've ever met; they seem to know exactly where to embed themselves in such a way that I can never, ever dig them up, such as under the fence or right next to the stem of a pea plant. At this point, when they can't be dug up, one doesn't really pull bindweed, one harvests it. It occurred to me this morning that if bindweed were edible, I'd have a golden spot in the local food community. Think of the bartering possibilities! "I'll trade one pound of bindweed lettuce for half dozen eggs and a Cherokee tomato."

Little niddling anxieties are starting. I need to harvest another bundle of mint before it flowers (it's huge already), the micro greens are now macro and also need to be harvested before they flower (there may be some agressive greens in there that I don't want to let go to seed), and I need to build (or finagle) a trellis for the clematis against the fence, as the old one is too small and the plant is now falling over. Ugh. Tomorrow! Procrastination scares me because I never know how I'll feel tomorrow, but today is over, and I did what I could.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Planting, Garbling, and Hail

I have two reasons for going a week without posting. Reason number one: Gardening is hard work! Hauling compost, plants, and mulch left me too tired to sit down and think, let alone write a blog post. Reason number two: Embarrassment. Obviously the excitement of starting a garden and a blog at the same time was too much and tipped me over into hypomania. What else could explain the chaotic Metaphor Madness. When I read through my last post, all those metaphors exhausted me. So I promise, no more posting in a metaphor-happy hypomanic state. At least I'll try. ;.)

After I finished planting the last of the herbs tonight, I came in, showered, and bounced happily downstairs to start a new blog post, when I heard "plip. plip. Plip. PLIP. PLOP. BLOP. Bloppitybloppity Plunk Plunk Thunk Thunk THUNK..." Oh *(&%*&#! Hail! On my freshly planted herbs! Not to mention the hundred other things I planted this week, all cowering in fear against being pelted by marble-sized chunks of ice. As soon as the 20-minute storm passed, we all ran outside to check on the garden babies, and the poor things are fine. Boy are they hardy! Even the tiny little thyme and lavendar plants seem unscathed.

Should we go with the bullet list tonight? Yes, it's much easier to read.
Starting with the herb garden, south-to-north:

  • Catmint (aka catnip)
  • Apple mint
  • Oregano
  • California Poppies
  • Hyssop
  • Chamomile
  • Lemon balm
  • White Swan Echinacea
  • Lavender
  • Thyme

and in pots in the same area: sage, basil, cilantro, and more oregano.

We thought we had lost the oregano to the enthusiasm of the apple mint, so we bought more. When we pulled some apple mint aside, however, a few courageous oregano were struggling to poke through. So I pulled a bunch of the mint to give the little guys some breathing room and sun. What I have in the ground is Greek oregano, so I put the new common oregano (Oreganosum vulgaris) into a pot. If anybody needs some good oregano to flavor their spaghetti sauce or tacos, I'm your girl.

I brought in all the mint I pulled and garbled it. Yes, garbled is a real word! The Wiktionary definition: "(obsolete): to sift or bolt; to separate the fine or valuable parts from the course or useless parts, or from dross or dirt, as to garble spices" http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/garble

That's an herbalist's way of saying I brought the mint in, washed it, pulled off the mud, roots, and dead leaves, and bundled it for drying. Now somebody remind me in three weeks or so to put the dried leaves in the jar. The person to remind me at the best possible time gets a small jar of dried apple mint, and recipes. :.)

So much for the herbs. In the vegetable garden we have, from west-to-east:

  • green beans
  • eight different tomatoes (grape, yellow pear, supersweet 100s, jet star, roma, brandywine, early girl, and Fourth of July)
  • peas
  • garlic
  • red bell pepper
  • scarlet runner beans that I don't think will make it. :(
  • one hardy spinach plant that survived where 10 were planted
  • three rows of bush beans
  • multi-colored heirloom carrots (maroon, orange, yellow, and white)
  • beets
  • watermelon
  • acorn squash
  • delicata squash
  • zucchini
  • little pumpkins
  • big pumpkins
  • half a truckload of mulch started in the paths
  • and that mess of mystery viney plants in the compost pile. They're definitely in the squash/melon/cucumber family, and are very happy, and abundant. Did I mention that we are about to be over-run with something big and edible?

The strawberry patch looks lovely. Oh! Last week I bought a golden raspberry bush at the farmer's market! I planted it at the far east end of the garden, near the strawberries. I don't think it fruits the first year, so we all have to wait, but in a week it has grown an inch and has a healthy deep green to its leaves, so I'm sure it will survive being transplanted.

That's enough for tonight. I keep promising photos. Since the planting is finished, and only half a truckload of mulch to go, I may be able to take some and post them tomorrow. :.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Muscles are Bad at Math

I spent four hours today digging up the clay and adding compost to the bed so I can plant what I bought yesterday. The garden now looks very plantable. There's nothing like hearing every muscle in your body scream in agony to help you Feel the Therapy. Here's how it went:

After I dropped the kidlets off at school, I came home to a beautiful morning, a large desert, er, garden bed, a pitchfork, and a truckload of compost (still in the truck.) It rained last night, so the bed was pretty easy to turn up. This year looks much better than last; instead of solid, wet clay, I have solid, wet clay full of worms. Worms are a good sign! After I turned up the first two rows, Hubby came along happily and dumped on and raked in three inches of compost. A word about Hubby: he claims to hate gardening, except when I am either: a) doing most of the work; or b) doing it horribly wrong; then he will gladly step in and help. In this case the answer was a) I was doing most of the work, so he didn't feel put out by helping. So, as he raked compost into Section I, I turned over Section II. Which, by "turning over", I mean Digging Up Bindweed for two hours.

Bindweed is the Chuck Norris of weeds--you don't pull it; it pulls you. Along with a root, it has "Rhizomes", which is a fancy science word for "roots that grow sideways." I think mine has rhizomes that reach to Alaska, and create a network rivalled by The Matrix. On top of that, the roots go down Very Far. I tried to dig down to the beginning of one root, out of curiosity, so I dug, and dug, and about the time I heard somebody call out that dinner was on the barbie, I got impatient and snapped it. I picture it coming out the other side of the planet somewhere, like an alien tentacle waving through the ozone.

So I turned a pitchforkful of dirt, bent down, sifted out the bindweed roots and rhizomes, and repeated about 500 times until I was satisfied I had completely pulled up all of them, or the 10 % that I could see, anyway. You never really get rid of bindweed; it's like that one high school boyfriend that never goes away and keeps popping up at inappropriate times. Last year I put everything in the compost, because "if it gets hot enough, the compost will burn up all the roots and seeds and make beautiful plant food." Right. The weeds thought of my compost as a Spa Getaway. Since my compost gets about as hot as an old lady in March, this year all the weeds went in the trash can.

After digging for two hours, I ate lunch, napped (I'm a big proponent of napping), and Hauled Compost (the kind you buy) for another hour. We have a wheelbarrow, but since our garden has a little fence (that you have to step over) with no gate, the wheelbarrow was useless. (Some day I will have a Pretty Fence with a Gate, but right now I have a Fence that Keeps the Dog Out.) Instead, we filled five-gallon buckets with compost and hauled them two at a time from the front yard to the back, climbed over Dog Fence With No Gate, and dumped them on top of the wormy-clay-with-no-visible-bindweed. Think the veggies will like it?

Hubby planted the tomatoes for me since they are his favorite, and then it rained. Tomorrow I will plant: red pepper, little pumpkin (for soup and pies), big pumpkin (for carving), delicata squash, zucchini, watermelon (Daughter's pick) and green beans, beets, and carrots. In pots I will plant cilantro and basil. The herb garden will enjoy the addition of chamomile, thyme, lemon balm, and lavender. (It better enjoy them; they're perennials, and so are buying space, not renting.)

After Digging for ten hours and Hauling 80-lb buckets of compost (shhh....my muscles aren't good at math), I'm probably couch-bound tomorrow. I may have to plant remotely. Son has some great robots--I wonder...? Anyway--look for photos, but not too soon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Four hours desiging a new blog? Really?

So here it is.

I guess I'll start with the where the garden is today, one week after ideal planting time. My garden currently has: beautiful micro greens, tiny cabbages, little spinaches, little "market greens" lettuces (fancy salad greens, I think), tall, healthy garlic that I planted last fall, sweet peas that are yellowing, tall, and seem to need Something, mystery food growing out of the compost pile (cucumbers, we think), gorgeous blooming strawberries, and the ubiquitous apple mint.

Herbs and flowers that are thriving: the yarrow and poppies look grand, the California poppies reseeded themselves joyfully, and the echinacea has a stately beginning (it is the royal beauty of my herb garden.) Last year I managed to cut and dry the herbs, but never got around to crumbling them into a jar, so they fell like little confetti all over the garage and we didn't have the benefit of their medicines all winter. Maybe this year?

One extra row got turned over when I felt motivated this morning (where the beets never sprouted), and the rest of the garden is getting covered with bindweed that needs to be pulled, then turned over (the bed, not the bindweed.)

This afternoon I'm headed out to see what's left at the greenhouse. This year's plan: fewer than last year. Lots of tomatoes (hubby's favorite, so he takes good care of them); green beans, carrots, zucchini, winter squash, and of course--pumpkins! I'm also adding chamomile and lemon balm to the herb garden.

I'll start adding photos soon.