It’s been a tough couple of weeks complicated by a lingering and persistent impulse to void the rheum of excess mucus. I don’t feel ill for the most part, but the coughing has been terrible.
Missing work without sick pay means less income and a further exploration of the life of low wage workers. Well into the experiment in alternative lifestyle, I don’t see how people can make ends meet, even working three jobs as I have been doing this spring. That said, I won’t give up and expect to continue hacking through this rough patch—literally.
I picked lettuce, spinach and radishes from the garden the last two nights and made a frittata for dinner with greens from the CSA, spring garlic and onions. It was satisfying served with a salad, and there were leftovers. Already garden production is worth savoring. Between now and Memorial Day, the focus is on getting the spring planting done.
For the moment that’s all there is to say except change is coming. To make this life more sustainable, to improve our economic base. How change will look is an open question. I look forward to seeing how it comes together.
LAKE MACBRIDE— After work at the CSA, and on a new sawyering job in the next county, I harvested radishes— lots of radishes. It was a reminder of how far behind the garden is this year. There are still seedlings planted in March that need to go in the ground, and now a third crop of radishes needs be planted. While it is cold comfort, every local foods grower in the area is also running behind— only the row croppers are on schedule.
As days fill with paying work from multiple sources, evaluating new opportunities has become a key skill. My main considerations are reliability of payment, flexibility of hours, and steady work that matches my physical capabilities. All of this at an acceptable rate of compensation. Mastery of time management and scheduling is also a key skill.
Yesterday found me explaining why services cost more if compensation was in money rather than bartered goods and services. Bartering income may be taxable, but the tax implications are not much outside bartering exchanges. If there is non-employment cash income, a tax of 13 percent comes off the top, hence the up charge.
These discussions with potential clients are not part of a person’s education and training. Most seek a single job, or maybe one full and one part time one, but that seems unsustainable, especially as one nears traditional retirement age of 68. Food for thought to compliment the radishes.
LAKE MACBRIDE— The weather was perfect today: temperatures in the high sixties and low seventies; sunny, then partly cloudy; and not a trace of humidity. Days like these are the harbinger of summer.
The lawn looks like a lawn, neatly trimmed and the grass clippings collected for mulch. A good part of today was spent weeding and mulching the garden. Everything is beginning to look good.
Because of the abundance, we’ve eaten fresh salads almost every night for dinner the last two weeks— spring fare that never gets old.
A simple and tasty salad dressing is to put equal amounts of balsamic vinegar and first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard in a small Mason jar. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and pepper to taste and shake until emulsified. Adjust to taste by varying the amounts of the ingredients. If available, add finely chopped herbs like oregano, thyme or basil before mixing. Serve immediately and make only enough for the meal. A millennial might write “yummy,” and so do I.
Today was the day to start reading “The Great Gatsby.” After the garden and yard work I set up a folding chair in the garage and upended a five gallon bucket to use as a table. From the refrigerator came a dozen spring onions and a handful of radishes. I poured a small dish of Kosher salt in which to dip them. From the cooler in the garage came a locally brewed beer. To the sound of birds in the lilac bushes and the engines of four wheelers in the neighborhood, I dove into the story of Nick, Daisy, Myrtle, Tom, Jordan and the rest of them. The dinner party at the Tom Buchanans took place two weeks before the longest day of the year, which is coincidentally what today is. It is a summer ritual in Big Grove to read Fitzgerald’s novel, almost since we lived here. At some point, I recognized it as an almost perfect novel of summer— an escape from the worries we found when propelled here so many years ago.
I’ll finish the book before the weekend is over, and get ready for summer.
LAKE MACBRIDE— These are the best days. Partly cloudy, temperatures around 70, low humidity and plenty of outside work. We enjoy them when we can.
It’s not to say there is complete escape from the troubles of the world. Yet, for a few moments, beneath the cloudy heavens, it is possible to forget— a reason to anticipate such times with great fervor.
Today was what local food is. There were major farmers markets in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Between the CSA and my garden, we have most of what we need for the week, so I passed. After an hour at the newspaper, I did go to the grocery store to buy provisions: dairy, out of season vegetables and a few special items— popcorn, chocolate, snack crackers. The bill was much lower than usual as a result of growing so much of our own food, combined with working down the pantry.
When I arrived home, the rest of the morning was yard work, pruning the pin oak tree and repairing the erosion near the ditch with bagged soil and grass seed. The majority of the afternoon was harvesting, planting and processing vegetables: radishes, lettuce, turnip greens and oregano.
I picked the rest of the first row of radishes and put them in a bucket. Next, I harvested all of the first planting of lettuce. This cleared a space to till the soil and re-plant two rows of radishes and the rest of the first crop of lettuce seedlings. My garden mentor said one of the biggest mistakes home gardeners make is failing to plant in succession. There will be more plantings of lettuce and radishes.
Near the herb garden I cut a gallon bucket full of oregano from the volunteer plant. Finally, I picked most of the turnip leaves, leaving only those plants that looked like the root would fill out. The turnips grow too tall, too fast, and block out the nearby spinach. I have been thinking about the turnip greens since winter.
At the end of the harvest, I had a bushel of lettuce, five gallons of turnip greens, and regular one gallon buckets of oregano and radishes. A gardener has to keep the produce moving to make optimal use of it. I spent the rest of the day processing the harvest.
The radishes were easy. I trimmed them and placed them in a glass of water. They won’t last long. The oregano was also easy. Since two plants wintered (I only had one last year), the plan is to dry the leaves and make a jar of oregano flakes for cooking. I washed the leaves on the stem, placed them on clean towels on the front step, let the sun dry them and put them on the shelves of the dehydrator to finish drying. I don’t turn the dehydrator on. The temperature is too hot for herbs.
The bigger processing projects were picking through the lettuce to find the best leaves— cleaning, cleaning drying and bagging it; and making a large pot of turnip leaf soup stock for canning. Turnips make the best base for vegetarian soup stock, although leeks, if I have them, are good too.
As the day ended, I turned off the soup, left it on the stove and went to bed. Sunday will be back to the realities of finding suitable paying work, putting up the soup stock in jars, and weeding the garden.
LAKE MACBRIDE— Today was the first real work session in the garden and I cleaned up two of the plots, built my burn pile, evened out the ground near where the backhoe dug to fix the waterline leak last fall, and planted Cherry Belle Radishes, Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach and Purple Top White Globe turnips. The arugula and lettuce seeds have sprouted and survived the gully washer of a rain a few days ago. There are chives ready to cut, and the garlic patch is growing well. Three types of bulb flowers are growing, and after they flower, will be transplanted somewhere else. That is, except for the daylilies, which will be dug and transplanted as soon as I get around to it: nothing can kill those things.
A neighbor messaged me on Facebook, and a group of us is planning to go in on a rototiller rental. I usually dig by hand, but am okay with community projects like this. Partly, it means three plots have to be turned by spade to get ready for the rototiller in two weeks.
Last week, an experienced gardener said we had missed the opportunity for spring turnips, but I don’t know. I planted a row today, and will likely do another in a week or so. She said if one misses spring turnips, the date is July 25 for turnip planting. I’ll reserve some seeds for then and attempt a double crop.
It feels good to work in the sun and soil in the morning.
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