Garden of Eating (Earth Whispers – Part 2) by Janine Donoho

In the beginning...

In the beginning…

Even as our beautiful living space known as Planet Earth heats beyond her best health, when spring comes to these highlands, my yearning turns to my annual Mediterranean garden. When we moved here over a decade ago, we immediately laid out our garden rooms with the most sacrosanct going to my vegetable and fruit space. That’s the only one I’m unwilling to share with the local wildlife. Deer, bear, moose, marmots, squirrels, and chipmunks don’t share when it comes to succulent cucumbers, basils, tomatoes, melons, and eggplants.

Planting the mounds

Planting the mounds

Last year’s attempt to grow melons outside my fenced area ended with humorously frustrating views of a doe and her two fawns standing on the boxes as they tugged leaves and melons through the bird netting. Since I grow perennial flower and shrub offerings specifically for native fauna in other garden rooms, it’ll be aromatic herbs and greens in those vulnerable boxes this season. Hoops versus netting may allow me some share of the harvest, too. Lessons learned.

Native browsers

Native browsers

Seed catalogs brighten winter and this year’s fresh delights? Sweet Baby Doll, New Queen, and Sugar Cube melons; Stars and Stripes eggplant; Dinosaur zucchini; Banana Legs tomatoes; Bulldog okra; Dragon Tongue beans; and Corno di Toro Rosso peppers. These novelties join the reliable varieties leading to baskets of harvest. Surrounding those will be the usual suspects of carrot rainbows, piquant radishes, robust spinach, kale bliss, luscious chard, and lettuces with plenty of marigold and nasturtium to act as natural deterrents to predatory insects.

I wish you a productive gardening season, my friends, and hope you’ll share your successes, too.

What do you love to grow in your gardens? Please share those experiments that led to ah-ha moments.

These beauties love my vegetable patch too much.

These beauties love my vegetable patch too much.

Previous season with garden helper.

Previous season with garden helper.

The why we do this.

The why of it.

Melons and salad

Melons and salad

Grouse Eggs & Kestrels and Seedlings & Soil (as sung to ‘My Favorite Things’) by Janine Donoho

Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitatta)

Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitatta)

In this remote conservation area of Washington State, vernal equinox triggers messy chasms brimming with snowmelt. Summer’s alkaline dust transforms into muck capable of entombing my 4-wheel drive eco-diesel up to its wheel wells. Days collect into weeks of treacherous roads.

Glimpsing spring in the melt

Glimpses of spring in the melt

I wait to plant seeds until after mid-May, since hard frosts shrivel tender cotyledons. After years of starting seedlings indoors, I reverted to direct sowing into compost enriched soils. The hardening process for young plants is fickle, and planting seeds works just as well. To stave off  my untimely itch? I turn to my daily writing habit and coax my Earth Elemental into bloom.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Still the promise of spring causes me to excavate lighter clothing and bury the thick layers of winter. I begin to wake earlier with a curious lift to my spirits. Fragrant springtime starts me along this path.

When wild grasses poke through the drying crust of alkaline silt in this high desert, I move into the bliss zone. Yes, these are the same grasses that require vigorous slashing to maintain defensible space around our home as fire season roars into being. Yet at this stage, the verdant color and lush bouquet—well, it makes me ridiculously happy. I breathe more deeply.

Okanogan Highland Grouse - MaleSpring is also when the dusky blue grouse male begins to court his harem, drumming ‘oot, oot, oot’ from his air sacs while he struts his stuff. Not long afterward, his hens lay buff colored eggs beneath Ponderosa pines and sagebrush. Incubation takes almost a month before hatching in late May.

This is the sweet time, when my drip system is optional and yellow jackets aren’t dive-bombing me in the gardens. Native arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitatta) splashes the steppes with festive yellows as raptors freewheel along Young Kestrelthermals. My particular favorite, the kestrel, sets up housekeeping in our nesting box. By late summer, the fledglings scream their fear and excitement as they take their first flight from one branch to another, then one pine to the next before departing to establish their own territories.

But today, it’s a scent and the promise of lush Mediterranean gardens while the quality of light fills me with hopefulness. Daylight hours have stretched from winter solstice’s threadbare eight to nearly twelve. By summer solstice we’ll enjoy sixteen hours of light. For now, I wander forests and sagebrush steppes, cherishing eggs tucked into grouse nests.Dusky Blue Grouse eggs

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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