Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

The Perfect Storm

Posted on | April 21, 2010 | 5 Comments

Ready to go in the garden!

It’s second quarter moon in Cancer.

And almost April 22nd.

Plus, a gentle rain in the forecast.

To top it off,  the kids are home from school on an early release day.

You know what that means.

You do, don’t you?

Ready, set…if you’ve got it, plant it!

That’s right.  For those of us using the lunar calendar as a guide, the 2nd quarter of the moon in Cancer is perfect for transplanting crops that produce their yield above the ground.  All those tomatoes and cucumbers and squash and eggplant and peppers and whatever else is hardening off on your deck can finally go in the ground (strike up Handel’s Hallelujah chorus).  Unless, like me, everything except for the tomatoes and cucumbers died already.  Then plant your tomatoes and cucumbers with pride and sneak off to the farmer’s market for replacement veggies.  Hey, some farmer grew them.  It just wasn’t you.  Or me.

The tomato transplants are starting to flop over and form roots on the stems.

If moon phases are all Geek to you (Yes, Geek.  I imagine you think I am geeky for knowing this stuff rather than Greeky), then what do you do with winter time other than plan garden strategies? By the time the last frost date rolls around, I’ve had time to read up on the French intensive method, a three sisters garden,  Ruth Stout permanent mulch, and outdoor hydroponics.  After all, the chickens aren’t laying, the goats are dried up, the winter garden manages itself under row covers, and the animal bedding is left as deep litter in the barn.  If things on the farm got any slower, I’d have to start doing housecleaning.  Gag.

By the time it gets too hot for these carrots, they will be shaded by the tomato plants.

So, a couple years ago, during the winter doldrums, I stumbled upon the relevance of moon phases and signs for gardening.  By “stumbled upon” I mean I discovered a book at the library.  I do not mean “stumbled upon” as in that freaky browser on the computer that takes you to websites of interest.  If you’re interested in people with full body tattoos or hirsutism solutions (Why would you choose those sites for me, Stumble Upon?  Why??).  In my excitement I rushed over to a neighboring farm and, waving the book around, asked the farmer if she had ever heard of this idea.

Last year's seed potatoes have sprouted!

She looked up from pulling grass, which she calls winter cress for some reason, and gave the book a serious once-over.  “No,” she said solemnly, “I can’t say I’ve heard much of that modern science gardening.”  Then she bust out laughing and added, “What?  You young people think you invented everything?  You gonna ask me if’n I ever heard of canning bread and butter pickles, too?  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”  Don’t ever tell any farmer over 60 years old about your new ideas.  They’ve already heard it.  Really.

Ever since then I’ve been trying to coordinate my planting days with the proper moon phase.  Call me crazy but if it worked for people 100 years ago, I bet it can work for me, too.  Besides, is the lunar calendar any stranger than those upside down tomato planters?  What is up (or down) with that?

The last batch of spring cabbage is finishing up to make room for summer crops.

Of course, most gardening tactics work best in combination with other factors.  Hence, the added importance of April 22nd.   The last frost date for our area is generally considered to be tax day.  But to be on the safe side, many gardeners use April 22nd.  Being on the safe side means not having to run down to the garden at night with sheets to protect summer crops from frost.  Oh, and running back down in the morning to remove the sheets so the plants don’t overheat.  Did I mention all this running around is usually done in pajamas?

The cold winter never killed the feverfew or sage. Go figure!

I always think I’ll have time to cover the plants right after dinner, but then someone has to help the kids with their homework and someone has to scrub the enchilada pot before the spilled cheese hardens into concrete and someone has to feed the dogs before they help themselves to the trash can and someone has to switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer so there will be clean underwear in the morning.  Turns out my middle name is Someone (What?  You, too!  We should form a club or something….).  So someone doesn’t remember until she awakens with flashes of frost burned plants in her dreams that the garden needs to be covered.  And someone creeps stealthily down in pajamas to cover the precious tomatoes.  Which makes the neighbor’s dog come running out, barking.  Which sets off their motion sensor porch light.  Which leaves me standing in the spotlight, carrying a bedsheet, and wearing my nightgown with the unraveled hem, two top buttons missing from the breastfeeding years, and a slit up the side that was only sexy back when, well, let’s just say, back when I didn’t know anything about breastfeeding.  Which is why my neighbors discuss what the hell is wrong with me when they get together for potlucks.  Which is why it’s better to wait for April 22nd.

Hurry up, peas, we can't wait to eat you!

As if the combination of a 2nd quarter moon in Cancer occurring next to April 22nd isn’t enough, we’re expecting a gentle rain in the morning.  The soft kind of rain that will dampen the soil enough to keep the transplants comfortable without making a gardener work in clumps of mud.  Might even spare us the need to lightly moisten the soil after putting in the corn seeds.  So we might also be spared the hassle of collecting the seeds and replanting them after Middle “lightly” washes them out of the ground by putting the hose on jet mode.  He knows jet mode is too strong for watering seeds.  He just can’t resist.  I mean, it’s jet mode for Pete’s sake!  And he is, after all, Middle.  “You knew who I was when you handed me the hose, ” he  says with a shrug, standing amid the washed out seeds.  Which goes to show you that you can read too many books to your kids.  If they’re using the folktale of the biting rattlesnake to defend their actions, it’s time to go back to reading The Adventures of Captain Underpants.  There’s nothing in there they can use to outsmart you.  Trust me.

Blackberries are blooming!

But the kids being in the garden is what makes all these conditions the perfect storm for a summer garden.  Because there isn’t much point to a garden if there isn’t a child exclaiming in delight to discover potatoes pushing up through last year’s mulch.  Or examining the buds on the tomato stalks that will so easily form roots when it’s buried in the ground.  Cucumbers and peas taste best when little fingers have lovingly placed their tendrils on the trellis.  And little mouths will gobble up eggplant and zucchini when they were in charge of tucking their plants into the soft, damp soil.  Besides, Big can manage a full wheelbarrow and Pretty is finally tall enough for a full sized hoe.  I may spend more time supervising than planting this year.  That’s a promotion I’ve been waiting for!  So, send on the school buses.  Let the children come home early.  I’ll be waiting in the garden.  Where will you be?


5 Responses to “The Perfect Storm”

  1. Farmer Sharon
    April 22nd, 2010 @ 5:04 am

    With my morning cup of coffee in hand, I enjoyed visualizing the antics taking place in the Taylor garden. When they are finished there, you can send Middle, Big and Pretty to Tinn Top!

  2. Tanya
    April 22nd, 2010 @ 5:18 am

    This was awesome, well done. I like bread and butter pickles, so I liked the analogy..

  3. kmmykat
    April 22nd, 2010 @ 5:31 am

    I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the plants are…then my next thought was “where are the bugs”? Does lunar gardening deter the onslaught in any way shape or form??

  4. admin
    April 22nd, 2010 @ 6:01 am

    The nice thing abut the winter/spring garden (cabbage, peas, etc) is that by the time it’s hot enough for the bugs, the crops are harvested. That’s what makes that season of gardening so enjoyable. Using the lunar calendar doesn’t repel pests, but it aims to grow/transplant/seed plants in the times when they will naturally be most prolific/strong stalks/disease resistant. So at least they have a fighting chance against pests. However, my book “Raising with the Moon” by Pyle and Reese does have a method of pest deterrent that I am going to try this year. They suggest that if you are really having trouble with a certain bug, to capture a bunch of the bugs, puree them in the blender with some water, strain out the biggest bug bits, and then spray the plants with the mixture. Big laughed like crazy when I told him I was going to try this. But, hey, it’s free, and the malicious satisfaction of blending squash bugs may alone make it worth it! I have never found anything organic/natural to stop squash bugs!!!!!

  5. lisa d
    April 22nd, 2010 @ 8:30 am

    I’m afraid this dead bug juice may have your neighbor’s dog (and yours) sneaking in to roll around your garden — mine would.

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