Monday, February 14, 2011

For Love of Vegetables

When Joe and I were preparing tonight's supper (a pasta dish known at our house as "oogli ogli"), I realized that we are almost out of the 2010 crop of garlic. Oogli ogli takes a lot of garlic. If the need for it hadn't sent me down to the garage to raid the basket in which the garlic is stored, I might not have noticed.

Since most of the little heads of garlic are beginning to sprout, its being nearly gone might not be a disaster, but if I want enough garlic to last an entire year, I will have to plant more than I did in October 2009.

This kind of planning isn't 100% simple. It requires careful record-keeping (how much do we really use each month?), and it requires calculations of the space required to grow enough to last until the next harvest. It might also require that the last several months of the crop be dehydrated and then ground for use as powdered or granulated garlic, since the heads tend to sprout in late winter/early spring. That all sounds as though it could be work.

Except, for people who love to grow food, the "work" isn't really a chore. It's just part of the whole process. The composting, the digging, planting, spreading mulch --it's all good.

Several years ago I wrote a poem about early spring work in the garden. Here it is:

Preparing the Way

Steam of my breath
and steam off the compost heap
mingle. The slant sun of early spring
leaves us cool but for our own internal
heat; the small controlled combustions
signifying life.

I fork black compost into the rusted
wheelbarrow, wrestle it to the front
garden, ready for planting. I work

without gloves, digging to bring
the smothered to air, breaking lumps
between fingers.

Most lumps are solid,
but some hold, as a geode, amethyst
worms that drop and then sink
back into soil. A fine, tangled wire
rolls from my hand, unknots
to a spider that staggers away
like Lazarus surprised.

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