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December 18, 2006

Fine Fettle

This unusually warm fall and early winter is keeping me cheerful long after I usually sink into the slough of despond--or, as we call it around my house, Mom's cranky mood when she can't garden. 

Thanks to a mind-blowing lack of frost, I'm still using earth-moving tools at both my houses.  First, I've been getting the last of my spring load of compost out of my husband's parking space in the city.   He gets cranky, too, but it usually involves his wife's attempts to farm an urban yard.

And in the country, I spent all weekend pitching shredded leaves over my vegetable garden.   The leaves were delivered by my lawn guy, and I suspect they are mixed with grass clippings, because the pile of them is the hottest compost pile I've ever seen.  I forced my big kids to stick their hands into it, just to experience backyard science at its most fascinating.  "Cool!" they said, meaning HOT--and then went back to whacking each other with sticks.

Anyway, I'm experiencing the kind of immense good cheer that's usually unthinkable by Thanksgiving, when, in a non-carbon-impacted year, the ground freezes solid.  Yet here it is, the downside of December, and I'm still digging.  Worrisome, all wrong, a world out of balance, and yet, hurray!


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Boy, can I relate to the warm-equals-good-mood feelings! It's been incredible here in Chicago. It's actually been warm enough for shorts some days and the grass is still green. This morning I was outside examining the pretty purple veining on the tiny leaves that have sprouted on our lilac bush.

Isn't it amazing how some good Dirt Therapy helps minimize even the big problems? :) Have a happy holiday!

I've got just the opposite problem. Snow - which is rare here - came in November, followed by hard frosts. Which leaves me feeling worried about our whacked-out climate!

And here it is, Jan. 3, and still no snow (I'm in NYC). write more, Michelle -- what are we gardeners supposed to DO for the next 2-3 months?? Here's to a lush and fruitful '07 for all:-)

Cara, we are supposed to scheme obsessively and spend absurd amounts of money on catalog orders. By the time they arrive, in April or May, we'll have forgotten half of them and be startled by the amount of biological material waiting to be stuck into the ground.

I'll post, soon, I promise about my friend Martha's garden, which is a blank slate beside a truly fascinating house.

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About The Blogger

  • Michele Owens, who bites off more than she can chew as a matter of policy, has two gardens: a town garden in Saratoga Springs, NY and a country garden in Salem, NY.

The Shoveler's Manifesto

  • This is the diary of a wildly enthusiastic gardener.

  • Here are my principles:

  • 1. Add manure. There. That's the only advice you'll get from me.

  • 2. Advice is ridiculous if it's not local. It's all about the terroir, baby.

  • 3. Advice also makes for very boring copy. Snoozy voice of God stuff. I recommend the New York Times on Thursdays if that's what you're looking for.

  • 4. No anglophilia. Ever. Sissinghurst! Very pretty, but what in God's name does it have to do with the collection of mostly plant-hostile places that is this democracy called America? Even the blue states are mostly tough going for plants.

  • 5. If I'm going to read about gardening, I want to read about a particular struggling gardener in a particular garden. And, of course, the garden's connection to God and Man and Pluto. So that's what you'll get from me.

Find Me Here

  • Ranting with Amy and Susan

The Garden Writers' Pantheon

  • Henry Mitchell: The Essential Earthman

    Henry Mitchell: The Essential Earthman
    These delightful essays were orginally columns for the Washington Post. Mitchell was a blogger before his time. He purported to offer advice, but the advice was so personal as to be preposterous. Feed the squirrels and build structures out of copper wire indeed! No, this is the story of a particular place at a particular moment as apprehended by a particular sensibility--warm, wise, and deliciously aphoristic.

  • Michael Pollan: Second Nature

    Michael Pollan: Second Nature
    A brilliant premise elegantly developed--that there is no such thing as an untouched wilderness any more, so the proper relationship between man and nature is gardener and garden.

  • Eleanor Perenyi: Green Thoughts

    Eleanor Perenyi: Green Thoughts
    Urbane and funny. My favorite thing about the book may be the author photo: Eleanor sitting on a garden bench with cocktail and cigarette.

  • Dianne Benson: Dirt

    Dianne Benson: Dirt
    Written by a former fashion-witch turned gardener, this is another blog that purports to be an advice book. But the advice is so unusual--be weird, be original, be stylish--that we'll take it. Dianne B., I hear that you are now a formidable 60 year-old lady failing to suffer fools gladly in the Hamptons. Stop casting disparaging glances at people's shoes! Do something useful! Write more gardening books!

  • Barbara Damrosch: The Garden Primer

    Barbara Damrosch: The Garden Primer
    Much more literate than it needs to be, this is the perfect book for beginners. For years, I never planted my vegetables without dragging this out into the grass to remind me that beans like acid soil.

  • John Stilgoe: Common Landscape of America, 1580-1845

    John Stilgoe: Common Landscape of America, 1580-1845
    Not a gardening book, but a history of the American landscape that explains why the world around us looks the way it does. As such, essential reading for anybody who'd like to shape that landscape even on a small scale. Like "Guns, Germs, and Steel," a big work of non-fiction that manages to be mind-blowing page after page after page.

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