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We have achieved tomato sprouts! Given my severe lack of engagement with seed-starting this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if nothing came up. Luckily, as I keep saying, seeds don’t actually need me to grow. Now I just need to clean the seed rack off and bring it inside so they can get the good sunlight.

Planted today: Siberian and Red Russian kale; Little Caesar, Freckles, Buttercrunch, Lolla Rossa, and Cimarron lettuce; Monnopa and Baby’s Leaf x Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach; Hamburg Rooted parsley; mustard greens; komatsuna; choy sum; rocket; Detroit Dark Red and Chioggia beets; Red-Cored Chantenay and Olds’ Science Fiction Mix carrots; Hollow Crown parsnips; and flat-leaf parsley.¬† It’s been four dry days and it’s supposed to rain tonight, so it seemed like a good time. And it was; I remember liking this planting thing.

Pulled today: the year’s first weeds. Also a lot of last year’s last ones. I don’t expect to be any better with weeding this year–much worse, in fact. I’d start thinking about heavy mulch, or landscaping fabric (ugly as it is), if I could afford it. As it is, I know that I got a decent crop last year even without weeding, so…c’est la vie.

Watered today: the broccoli indoors, which is growing well despite my letting it get bone-dry. The cauliflower has just sprouted, but the solanaceae are still dormant.

Noticed today: the lilac tree has buds and the grass is starting to grow again.

Just so you know: the trick of freezing fresh herbs in a little water in ice cube trays? Works wonderfully. The other night I made a quinoa salad that normally has fresh tomatoes, dill, parsley, basil, and cilantro in it–I had to skip the tomatoes, of course, and the cilantro because I couldn’t find any (I can’t remember whether I froze any at all or if I used it all for pesto), but I used frozen dill, parsley, and basil and the salad tastes fabulous. Maybe even better, since I’m snatching a little summer from the jaws of winter. Well, spring technically–there are crocuses in my yard now, so I’m willing to concede that it might actually happen.

It was freakishly warm yesterday, so after Eric and I took a walk (and I discovered that I don’t walk as quickly as he does anymore–or he’s gotten out of the habit of slowing down for me, either one) I went into the gardens to poke around. The scallions made it through the winter, and I’m going to leave a couple for seed. The leeks did, too, but I’m not sure I want to worry about them–I didn’t use them much last year and I don’t expect to be doing a lot of cooking experimentation in the next year or so, though I could be wrong. On the other hand, it won’t take that much space, and if nothing else, they’d probably be good for trading.

I raked up old leaves and dead hostas and pulled out kale. The anise hyssop stood, brown but upright, with its seed pods entirely empty but still smelling faintly of mint. The chives are peeking out of the ground. So are some daylilies and daffodils and tulips. It’s early, but spring is coming.

I was pleased with my inspection until I arrived in my vegetable garden and scoped out the late rabbit fence. It used to be stretched across the lattice that separated my garden from the neighbors’ yard. They recently rototilled back there and knocked down the lattice. Apparently they also carefully moved the rabbit fence, rotating it on one side so that it double-lined the remaining fence between us. They also–and I don’t understand this–gathered up all the dead corn stalks I left in the corn patch and put them in a neat pile. Then they rototilled across the corn patch, destroying the rabbit warren. This was good. They threw the old posts into the old corn patch afterward. This was pretty inconsiderate, I thought, but I wasn’t too fussed about it.

They also mangled the half of the Asian pear tree that was closest to their yard. This, this made me angry. The Asian pear is several feet from the fence, well inside my property. I didn’t ask them to till up my garden, and if their aim was the rabbit warren they could have destroyed it without destroying my tree as well. It’s probably not actually destroyed, but it’s hurt, and it was completely unnecessary for that to happen. I was willing to take the good and bad they left until I saw that, but now that I have…those posts are totally getting thrown back on their side of the property line.

There: the tomatoes are started. Sixteen of them, along with two pots of Rosa Bianca eggplant (maybe they’ll work this year) and a single Alma paprika pepper because that was all the room that was left in the pan. Tomorrow I’ll do the peppers, cauliflower, and celery. I was planning to cheat and buy Jiffy pots because I just didn’t feel like making my own, but there weren’t any at Kroger yesterday and I also didn’t feel like driving anywhere else, so I made ‘em after all. I ran out of newspaper and came up with a viable substitute, old phone book pages. Actually it’s not an old book, it’s the “fake” yellow pages that Eric refuses to use, but either way it worked out quite well. Now I no longer have to beg newspapers from my mother-in-law.

Sixteen tomato plants! I mentioned to Eric the other day that I had to get started on garden work this week, even though I hadn’t figured out where to plant things or how many tomato plants I wanted this year. “Twice as many as last year,” he said, as though it were obvious.

“Twice as many?!” I said.

“Yeah. We barely had enough for salsa, don’t you remember? Not to mention the other things we wanted to do.”

That’s not the way I remember it, but I do know that we wanted more. I planted twelve last year, but the Romas did poorly and the Black from Tula didn’t do at all and the Principe Borgheses molded before they dried, so I subtracted those and multiplied by two and added a couple to account for possible failures this year and came up with sixteen, and he said okay. I’m not totally sure this is wise, since tomatoes are going to come in at just about the same time the baby does, but I suppose it won’t hurt to pretend that we’ll be able to keep some semblance of our previous lives going. And we have friends and relatives who probably wouldn’t mind helping tidy up our yard by taking away fresh tomatoes.

I have a feeling I’m going to have either a very slow or a very late garden this year. Or both. It’s, what, the 10th? I should have planted peppers and onions, what, 9 days ago? Of course this is only according to last year’s schedule, since I haven’t bothered to update it for this year’s plants. I hope I don’t have a lot that isn’t listed in last year’s schedule. I’m not sure why this is–whether it’s lack of energy or lack of interest. I do still want a garden,¬† but I’m not so sure I want to garden, not right now. I blame L.E.O. (the fetus). I can’t blame the dishes because they’re finally done, and the mice are, I think–I hope–finally locked out of the kitchen. (We got behind the stove and sealed up the unfinished wall back there with insulation and plaster. I heard horrible scritching noises this morning while I was making my lunch, though, so we’re going to have to figure out how they got into the walls in the first place, too.) Maybe I’ll plant this weekend. I can’t afford to buy pepper plants (and I wouldn’t find the ones I want at the nursery¬† anyway), but I could always start the onions outside. Exactly how lazy a gardener can I be and still be a gardener? Stay tuned to find out.

We have achieved seedlings! The purple sprouting broccoli has decided it’s not going to be stopped by any stinking mice. I need to plant more, of broccoli and of other things; but right now, I have seedlings in my window again and all’s right with the world.

So I left the broccoli pots on the counter with the alliums. The next morning I found that the mice had dug into three of them, scattering dirt everywhere. I don’t know whether they were eating or eliminating or just causing trouble, but this has now gone beyond threatening my food. I’ve moved the broccoli and I won’t put any other seedlings on the counters; but I will remember this, mice. I will remember.

Flowers and even fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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