I love books and collect as many as I can get on my wall to ceiling bookcase. There is much wisdom to be gained from books written years ago on the topic of gardening.
I think not everyone will be as excited about this topic as I am, but here goes. Nothing thrills me quite so much as seeing worms in the garden. Our recent drought relief rains have brought many benefits – green grass, 12-inch tall garlic and earthworms.
Finding earthworms in the soil as I work diligently to suppress the weeds that have thrived in our recent rains makes my heart leap. There are many ways to healthy soil, but seeing earthworms every time you put a trowel into the earth is a good sign. Having an abundance of worms in your garden help to recycle old roots, litter, etc., into much-needed nutrients. Earthworms also act as aerators tunneling their way to and fro.
Fishing aside, earthworms have two big jobs in your garden. Smaller worms live close to the soil's surface or around the roots of plants and don't mind the summer's warmer temps. And unlike my husband, these little worms don't mind my garden's crowded plantings. They eat organic matter. Like the left-over leaves from the fall, decomposing cardboard or newspaper mulch or anything left on the soil's surface that eventually becomes compost with the help of worms. Once that organic matter passes through the worm, it becomes richer in the form of worm poop – commonly referred to as "castings." You can purchase castings.
Fishermen dive deeper in search of nightcrawlers. My former brick bungalow in Mandan was constructed in the 1930s on a lot that the early settlers used to dump their grass clippings. The result was an uneven lawn filled with nightcrawlers. One evening I spotted a light moving across my yard and found some trespassing fisherman searching for nightcrawlers after the rain. I chased him off.
These larger relatives of the surface worms do not compost organic matter but rather aerate the soil and prefer the cooler temps and less crowding deeper in your soil. Rain brings them to the surface.
Whether you fish or grow food, everyone should welcome worms to their garden. Here are several ways to encourage worms:
It's been challenging to get the garden planted this month due to the sporadic rain showers and freezing temps of late. But, I welcome the worms, and eventually, we have to have summer. Here's rooting for the garden.
Someone posted a photo (Pam Adrian) on Facebook last week of her mother's blooming Hoya. It had more than 50 blooms. What? I'm envious. I have had a Hoya for years and years, and it has not once bloomed.
My plant came from a cutting of my grandma’s original in her mud porch. Being young and dumb, I never gave it much thought, but I remember it crawled across the window on the west side of the house.
One year, my Aunt Alice gave everyone a rooted cutting at one of her famous gatherings. She and Uncle Ed took care of my grandparents towards the end of their lives, and she inherited the original Hoya. That plant loved my Aunt Alice so much that it grew across their sun porch and hung down from the ceiling with its green waxy leaves.
When they moved to a smaller house, I inherited that original plant and promptly killed it off. My bad. I rue that day for sure. However, there's only so much space in my house for more plants. You see, quite by accident, I discovered if you lay a succulent leaf on the soil in the same pot, it will root. I was delighted to discover this, and not being the kind of person who throws anything green in the garbage, well, use your imagination.
I share cuttings of this and other plants I care for with anyone who asks. Somehow their Hoyas always bloom but my "Grandma Plant" doesn't. I'm trying to justify in my mind why this is so. Here is one theory. Perhaps the grandmother of these cuttings doesn't bloom because she sends her love with the cuttings.
Maybe someday I will be rewarded with 50 blooms, but I doubt it.
I'm also not sure when houseplants went out of vogue. I think people do not like "dirt" in their new houses. I'm not too fond of plastic plants. In recent days, I have seen an interest in indoor gardening bloom. Personally, my house has never been without a jungle of green. I rescue plants from the store that appear dead only to have them pop into life and respond to a bit of love and water. Our house has a porch on the east side of the house. One year we added a roof and windows, and it has become my favorite place to write, and my plants love it.
Hoyas thrive on neglect. One year we had to move out of our home for 95 days because of the 2011 flood. The only thing I took to my temporary home was my spinning wheel. When we moved back into our house in August, I discovered part of my Hoya was caught in that wheel and survived for that time. I planted it to reward that plant's will to live without water, soil or sunlight. It survives today. But it has not bloomed.
Why do I want it to bloom? The blooms of a Hoya are waxy squares that open into beautiful five-point stars. They also smell great and weep a little. They are said to bring wealth and protection to the owners. That plant also carries a bit of my grandmother to everyone who has a cutting. It's just a small way to bring a tradition to my children and grandchildren in the form of a pink blessing. I guess I will keep sharing my grandmother, and maybe someday, she will reward my diligence with some blooms.
Mother's Day was lovely. I hope yours was also. I spent most of the day with my green children outdoors. There was no wind, many happy birds, and warm sunshine made me change my plans to take the day off. Sitting outdoors with a cup of coffee only lasts so long till the call of the earthworms has me on my knees in the newly turned soil.
I noticed the lawn is a funny color. It looks green. And, it hasn't been that color for a long, long time. Recent snows brought much-needed moisture to our area. We will be cutting excellent chemical-free mulch shortly from the fields adjacent to the gardens.
I love this time of year. I tucked potato eyes, planted broccoli under Agribond tents, and poked onions into rows in time to receive the beautiful rain on Monday.
If you love onions and need a reliable variety, there is none better than Prairie Road Organics Dakota Tears. They are my all-time favorite. We have a bin full of onions from last fall that should last us until the new crop is ready for green onion picking.
My husband was kind enough to get the pump into the irrigation ditch and hook up my water. No more carrying buckets to and fro, although it was in my plants' best interest that I save snow water for them. There's something about blessed moisture in rain and snow that makes those plants thrive.
No Mother's Day would be complete without a trip to Runnings for some parts, and of course, I had to treat myself to some store-bought plants. I chose a couple of small lavender transplants because I cannot seem to get my lavender to overwinter. I use the cuttings for homemade soap and smudge sticks.
I didn't see any grandchildren Sunday, but we have a get-together planned next week over pizza. I hope they filled out those "all about Grandma" forms again. It's a joy to learn how they view my world from theirs.
At two, Oliver's answer to "Grandma likes to say" was, "It's time to eat." At four, Oliver's answer to "Grandma likes to say" was, "I love you." (Both are true.) But, he put me at 100 years old and said if we were to go anywhere in the world together, it would be to the market. (Farmers Market, that is.)
At eight years old, Lucy said Grandma likes to say, "Let's go outside." She got the age pretty close, whew, and said, "we like to plant vegetables together." According to Lucy, I'm good at baking bread. She also told her mom, "Grandma just wants us to come out to her house so we can work for her."
Sorry, grandchildren, but as my mom and grandmother (both are gone now, Mother's Day has changed for me) used to say, "work makes life sweet." And might I add, "But so do grandchildren."
This lamp is a very cherished piece of art. I was so delighted when the young artist from Fool Moon asked me to make a trade. I call it my Dr. Suess lamp.
It was Christmas, and I was home from college. My friend Larry had just moved into a small house a few blocks from my parents' home, and I had planned on visiting him. And, bring him a Christmas gift.
I have been crocheting since I was about eight years old. I mainly was crocheting, not making anything of note. It kept my hands busy, and for some reason, unbeknownst to me at the time, I believe the counting of stitches was relaxing to me. I still do many forms of counting today – weaving, knitting, crocheting and even baking bread.
It was a scarf in what must have been an unmemorable color because I somehow can't picture it. I'm sure Larry wasn't being unappreciative after opening the gift, but he did say, "Why do you spend the time to make a scarf that you could simply buy at the store?"
Why do we make things, work with our hands, and gift handmade items rather than purchase things made (today) overseas?
Handmade gifts are more expensive; why pay the extra cash?
Well. When volunteering to do art classes at my children's elementary school, I used to explain it like this.
When people visited me, they said, "Wow, your house has so many cool things. I love it."
I said, "Well if you shopped at art fairs, you too could have a house full of wonderful things."
I feel a connection if I am stirring kuchen pudding with a spoon that my friend Shuster made with his hands. A warmth. I take extra special care of the things made by friends as if I am taking care of them simultaneously.
I made new friends and acquired new art no matter where I went. One of my best friends from Bemidji, then New York Mills, made the most exquisite and funky jewelry. I always received compliments when I wore her earrings. My house in Mandan was full of original prints, paintings, photos, blown glass, ceramic and raku vases, mugs, rugs and mats – you name it, I traded for it. Everything reminded me of a face or a place in time.
I hope people who own my hand-loomed clothing or dishtowels feel the same. In purchasing something from me, they received a part of me.
After moving to the "farm, and a smaller house, my children received many of my art items. My walls are still full of photos and paintings, including several my mother did when she became an empty nester.
Whether Larry cherished that scarf or not is beside the point. It was given in the spirit of sharing. I hope the love I prayed into that scarf was a blessing to him. Sort of like I feel blessed that I have pieces of art from my friends who have since passed away. Hmmm, it's like a legacy, I guess. Not to mention, it's rare that someone would have the same piece in their house, and we all know how horrifying it is to walk into a gala with the same dress as the person across the room.
Sometimes people would say to me, "Oh, I wish I was talented." I replied, "Well, if everyone could do what I do, then there would be no one left to buy anything from me, and I would have to quit creating. So, we need you. I make it, you buy it, we are both happy."
Mother's Day is coming. Make your mom and your local artisans happy this year.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.