Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Summer means the time I spend in the studio painting is going to be minimal. My wife's family has a cabin a few hours from here. Its much more pleasant to be in the countryside than downtown so we spend our freetime by the lake.

My mother-in-law has graciously provided space for a vegetable garden, so my summer days don't have to be just reading and fishing - I can feel the soil just like the generations of dirt farmers that have contributed to my DNA once did.

Gardening is a great pasttime for anyone who likes to cook, and during this alleged financial crisis it can even help supplement your food budget. Even the Obama's are getting in the act with the first vegetable patch at the White House since Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt's Victory Garden.

I'm taking a risk by starting so early. Last year there was light snow and hard frost on the 22nd of May and I lost a few tomatoes. I'm gardening on such a small scale that the potential loss is minimal. The extra few weeks of growing season that are to be had make the risk worth taking.

First I turned the soil with my old friend, the shovel. I am far too familiar with the operation of this piece of equipment. Note the short handle.

I can't find a decent long-handled shovel anywhere in this country. If this was a job, I wouldn't go to work. Short-handled shovels don't even exist at the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

I managed to get the soil turned regardless of my shovel philosophy.

Using a hoe/3 tine cultivator combo and a rake I then broke up dirt clods and smoothed the rough areas.

No project is so important that you can't take the time to appreciate the things around you. In this case, birch leaves like mouse ears, a sure sign of approaching summer weather.

I started sweet corn and sunflowers in a sunny window at my studio.

Yours truly planting sweet corn seedlings. I am bound and determined to grow corn here.

The only corn on the cob available here is pre-cooked from Spain, which has no flavor whatsoever. Occasionally there is fresh flown in from Isreal, but according to my exacting standards "fresh" means you have the water boiling before you pick the corn and shuck it. The sugars of the corn start converting to starch (thus affecting the flavor) almost immediately after it is picked.

I've heard rumour that a few farmers produce and sell corn on the cob in Finland but I've never seen it. Weather conditions last summer foiled my attempt, but here I am, trying again.

After a few hours, everything is in place. Assorted seeds planted include various salad leaves, carrots, peas, and beets. The perennial herbs like chives and tarragon are making a comeback, there is space reserved for cilantro, basil, dill, etc. The corn is under a microfiber protective covering that I have decided to try this year. It allows moisture in, keeps warmth in, and protects the plants from frost. We'll see how it works. I'll keep you updated.


  1. Looks good Will. I too planted some sweet corn, but opted for direct sow because I planted about a pound of seeds and I'm not too worried about frost. There is no progress yet in its' germination and I am going to assume that I screwed it all up and it will all fail miserably until I see evidence to the contrary.
    I also planted a bushel of oats, wheat and barley. Several ounces each of amaranth, quinoa, sesame, flax, and millet. There are a few oat sprouts breaking the surface, but I am concerned that the swarm of grackles infecting my property are making a dent in my yield by eating their fill of what is essentially malted grain. I have been hurling stones at them and have considered picking off a few with my .22, but I have gained a deep understanding of the futility of it all in the past few weeks of trying to train my goats not to eat the tar paper off the wall of my barn. I could put up a scarecrow I suppose, but I have a feeling it would only scare my dogs, and I would have to suffer their constant barking at the oddly still human figure looming over our 2 acre garden.

  2. I can't believe there was snow on May 22nd! Fingers crossed that doesn't happen this year.

    A couple of years ago we bought tiny corn plants way too late in the summer, but they still yielded several very tasty ears. Good luck with the garden!

  3. It was the sort of half-hearted snow that melts before most people wake up. I was actually at the cabin and woke up because the swans were making so much noise. It was 5 a.m., there was a bit of snow, and the temp was -7 celsius, in other words, a hard, killing frost. That coupled with the exceptionally cold August last year made for zero sweet corn, green tomatoes, and only a 20 percent success rate on the sunflowers. I don't care about the sunflowers so much except they're kinda pretty, birds like to eat them, and my anoppi likes them alot.

  4. i love that tool...........who makes it?

  5. That would be the double hoe by Wolf-Garten - part of their multi-star line. I don't shill products that I don't like. I definitely like the multi-star tools. a wide range of interchangeable heads - hoes, rakes, cultivators etc, and a variety of handles of different lengths. I have two of their hoes and a cultivator. I only use one handle, a long one. I hate bending over and kneeling if I don't have to. I'm thinking of picking up some other attachments this summer.
    Here is their U.K. site . It's a German company. I guess their tools must be available in the U.S. They are super handy when it comes to storing them, way less space is taken up.