Good things in small packages
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Last year at this time we were experiencing a heat wave. This year, as we’re all painfully aware, it is spring, but feels more like January. The crankiness factor is high. Shari, our office manager at the News-Chronicle, calls her lack of enthusiasm for this prolonged cold weather “grinchiness,” after the character from the Dr. Seuss book. It’s hard for me to imagine her being grinchy, but after what seems like nine months of window scraping and sidewalk shoveling, I don’t blame her. As I write this I am looking out upon the arrival of our latest issue of snow. It’s beautiful, to be sure, but enough already. Anyone who has the Mother Nature’s phone number has my blessing to call her and tell her so. She’s not taking my calls anymore. Maybe it has to do with the tantrum I threw on Saturday.
You will be pleased to know, however, in the midst of our collective misery, there is an antidote and it’s as close as your mailbox —vegetable seeds. Just looking at the catalog a couple of months ago put a spring in my step and filled me with joy. I felt like I did when I was a kid and the Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog arrived in the mail.
When I could actually hold the brightly colored packages of gold and crimson heirloom tomatoes and peppers, multi-colored lettuces, and emerald green peas and cucumbers, well, I was nothing short of giddy. Visions of salads, soups and jewel-toned jars of garden-grown produce swam through my brain.
“I think buying fresh food is really important for our health and the environment. Instead of buying food from boxes it’s so much more satisfying to buy foods and prepare meals that sustain our bodies and the environment,” said Heather Jellum, who coordinates the Two Harbors Farmers Market.
I’d have to agree. Last year my three garden beds remained empty. When it came time to plan a garden, I thought I was too busy. My daughter was getting married and I was gearing up for finals, so I grew a few herbs in containers, but in the fall when I realized I was down to just one jar of homemade bread and butter pickles, I was sorry.
Two weeks ago I went and spoke to Cree and Jason Bradley, who grow a staggering 25 different vegetables in 75 varieties. They sell shares of their harvest to members of their Silver Creek-based community supported agriculture operation. Shortly into our conversation I found myself thinking that I should go back to my catalog and order just a few more varieties. I had seed envy. Apparently I’m not the only one.
The Bradleys both said that most of their CSA members come back year after year to purchase shares of organically grown vegetables, which are meted over 15-weeks starting in July. They say, however, that some of their members are so inspired by the farm, that they decide to try their own hand at growing vegetables, herbs and berries. The Bradleys are ready for those DIYers, too, by offering garden plants for sale. I’ve decided to cover my bases. I’m growing some of my own, and after we published the story about to the Bradleys, I joined their CSA.
Granted, not everyone gets giddy about growing veggies, but it’s also gratifying to grow flowers, either in beds or containers.
When my son was born I planted a Dropmor honeysuckle vine on either side of our porch. At the time, they were just tiny little plants and although my research told me they would grow to 15-20 feet, I was skeptical. Now, they cling to the tall trellises and reach beyond the porch roof—a reminder of the 12 lb. 10 oz. baby I brought home from the hospital and the 20- year old man he has become. The previous owner of the house planted gladiolus and jonquils next to the house. Although they’ve been overtaken by the Virginia Creeper that covers the exterior walls, I keep them there. Despite the untidy tangle, I’m so tickled when the blossoms emerge in summer.
This seems like a particularly good time to develop a green thumb—food prices aren’t going to drop and if you live in Two Harbors, there’s a chance that a well-executed landscaping project could win a gardener a boodle of cash. The council is offering a total of $1,000 for the best efforts to improve the curb appeal of houses in town. That’s worth a little dirt under the fingernails, isn’t it? And it’s one of the few contests in which the real reward isn’t the prize money. It’s the color, beauty and fun of watching your efforts bear fruit—or flowers.