There’s little risk in becoming overly proud of one’s garden because gardening by its very nature is humbling. It has a way of keeping you on your knees. –– Joanne Barwick

I didn’t say all that much about my garden this year. I guess I was too busy being a Master Gardener… I’m still brown bag ripening the last of my tomatoes, have one butternut squash left, some very thin celery, and a bag of smallish potatoes.

But it’s November now and gardening is done. Outside anyway. Several plants from my herb garden came inside.

I don’t have any windows facing south and only a few facing east to get morning sunlight. Many of my plants have taken up residence on the ledges of my bathtub where they can catch what little bit of sun is available. A couple tomato supports are now supporting fluorescent lights. Obviously, not taking any baths with the lights plugged in…

This was my last harvest from my salad table.

The salad table has been moved down into the furnace room and restarted. I’ve added a Sun System grow light with a 400 watt bulb in it. It doesn’t throw off very much heat so I don’t have to worry about venting the area like you do with some types of light. This photo was taken right before I thinned the seedlings down to one plant per cup.

That sadly barren row is my spinach. The seeds are a couple years old so I knew they might not work. The basil is barely visible (the front two cups to the right of invisible spinach), but basil is very slow growing. Seeing anything at all makes me hopeful they will produce.

The decision to put the table in the furnace room was simple — the furnace room has a drain in case there’s a leak or spill. The worms in my compost bins are probably not very happy about the intense light. Fortunately, most of the time they are covered with thick dark plastic, which must do a darn good job of shielding out the light or some of the worms wouldn’t be resting on the surface of the dirt, unless perhaps they think they are vacationing in the Bahamas and catching some rays.

When I dig below the surface, you can see quite a nest of new worms. Sorry about the blur, didn’t want to use the flash on the poor guys.

Next Spring, I’ll be using quite a bit of this compost in the garden and thinning out the worm herd with a worm release. This is how the two bins are set up. The spout is for draining out the excess liquid (worm juice), which can be mixed with water and used for plant fertilizer.

So, if you’re not very interested in gardening, this has probably been pretty boring.

I’ll try to be more interesting in my next post. For now, I’ll leave you with a bit of a flowering sunset…

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“I thrust my hands into the cool rich soil,
the moss like fur between cracks of the bricks
I want to roll like a big dog and shake free.”
— Marge Piercy, “Shad blow”

I think “Shad blow” is my favorite Marge Piercy poem that I’ve read so far. It’s about the season of Spring and is worth reading the full poem here.  I know. We’re pretty much into fall but I’m not ready to let go yet.

As summer draws to a close, I’ve been busy squeezing out as much as I can of every moment that the sun touches hot on my skin and fresh produce from my garden keeps me busy chopping, cooking, and freezing. Truth be told, I’m a bit tired of cucumbers, even mutant cucumbers.

But I will never have enough of homegrown tomatoes. 

My favorite tomatoes out of my garden this year were Black and Orange Icicle tomatoes. They brought back memories of the way I remember tomatoes tasting as kid, before we hybrid them to death, juicy and sweet. But the Black Icicle didn’t produce near as many tomatoes as the Orange.

The salad table is back into full production. Once I’ve harvested all I can from this round of plants, I need to figure out how I’ll continue my hydroponic salad growing indoors. I’m not sure if I’ll do it with the table or use smaller plastic bins.

I’ll need to get grow lights and find a place inside that won’t sustain water damage if something leaks or spills. I’m thinking my furnace room might work. I’m going to teach a class called “Hydroponic Salad Anyone?” in April 2014 and would like to have some healthy plants to show to people.

Yes, it’s time to get as many last hurrahs of summer under my belt as I can before Jack Frost turns everything brittle and brown.

It could be that gray, storms are up ahead, which isn’t all that bad. On my way home from work, the clouds looked like meringue, the way it’s supposed to look, not the way mine looks.

One of those nights to cozy under covers, listen to rolling rumble, and soft taps on the glass.
(April 11, 2013 snowstorm)
Okay, I admit it. The weather is wearing me down. I know I’m not alone in this. Even Luke is cranky.

I try so hard to accept whatever weather comes my way. Otherwise, life in Minnesota is full of constant weather frustration, but there comes a time when you need a living color fix.

Anoka County (which is where I’m a Master Gardener intern), had their Lawn and Garden Show last Saturday. Gardeners, who are living on faith, came to the event.

I learned some interesting things from Dr. Vince Fritz, about the compounds in certain vegetables that help fight cancer. He’s done research with the Mayo Clinic on the phytonutrients in foods and how to increase the levels in the plants we consume. There are a few companies already starting to market their phytonutrient levels, which is good. Not so great that Monsanto is one of them, even though their new product Beneforté is GMO free. 
To get the most nutrients out of the vegetables you eat, have them raw or only slightly cooked. The less heat applied the better. And if you juice, drink what you make right away. Don’t do as some people suggest, make up a big batch and store it in the frig. It may be more convenient, but you start losing the nutrients pretty quickly.

This has been a public service announcement…

The second speaker I saw talked about raising various kind of berry bushes. I’d like to add some berries to my yard, but they sound complicated so this may not be the best year to take on that project.

Last week, I went to the first instructional gathering on the hydroponic salad table. My table is already built and waiting for me to start the seedlings. I plan on having photos of my progress once I get the system doing something besides sitting in my garage waiting.

Some people brought up concerns about the plastic liner or tubs used to hold the water and nutrient mixture the plants grow in, wondering if the plastic would leach into the water and thus the plants. According to his research, Professor Michaels could not find any evidence that this would happen because of the type of plastic we are using. If we wanted, we could use food grade plastic, but it would be more expensive.
We met at the U of MN St. Paul campus. It’s where I used to go for my Technical Writing classes. Somehow Technical Writing was part of the Rhetoric Department, which was part of the Agriculture Department. Go figure.
But I loved that campus because it’s where the veterinarians, horticulture, and agriculture students all study. So you can hear the cows mooing, smell the manure, and see someone working with a hawk, all on your way to class. Below is a night shot of one of the barns.

To ensure that this week is better than my über-crabby last week, I went to the barn to see Luke last Sunday. It was super windy so there were lots of invisible noises to be heard in the indoor arena — something that horses don’t like much. But Luke did fine.

Well, until I told him that I forgot to bring treats with me. He was a bit incredulous.

And it’s that time of year… shedding season. I put the broom down to provide some sort of scale to the hair mass. I think I spent more time grooming than I did riding.

I’ll just end with a bit of pictorial reminder of what Spring is supposed to look like. Cheers!

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