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Friday, January 11, 2008

Kibbutz Goldstein-Clark...


Can you sing the theme song to "Green Acres" in Hebrew?

The vegetable garden has grown quite a bit since Dan first built it in 2004, & I am ever threatening to put up a sign in Hebrew that states "Kibbutz Goldstein-Clark, Volunteers please go to the Office", in the hope that at least one confused Israeli tourist will stop in...
The "yard" next to the Inn was nothing more than a rock-hard field of coal-lumps, but the Old Aggie in me had visions of a vegetable garden out there, and I began trolling the Internet for the Companion Gardening info I vaguely remembered from John Bowne Agriculture HS. I really had No Clue about the amount of Heavy Labor creating a garden out of a coal field would entail, however, and had I had to do it myself, the lot would still be a field of rocks. To shut me up, essentially, Dan built us a garden there with railroad ties, filling it with several tons of Real Dirt & a lot of eye-rolling hope that something might actually grow... In the spring of 2004 we put in a bunch of strawberry plants, as well as tomatoes and peppers and everything else we could find at Wal-Mart, Lowe's, & Eller's Quick Stop, and I Miracle Gro'd the dickens out of it, and that first summer we were literally giddy from our "harvest"! We not only had tomatoes and peppers, but cantaloupes & cucumbers & potatoes & onions & herbs! I planted giant sunflowers, and they shot up to the sky and rewarded us with something truly lovely to look at from the front porch. I'd be out there weeding the tomatoes in my high-heeled clogs & cars would slow down and honk... What a novelty- a crazy woman gardening on Route 52! Our friends G & M gifted us with a DVD of Green Acre's first season, which was actually pretty much on the money; as a child my "party piece" was to sing the theme song of GA in my best Hungarian accent. (See? Life imitates Art...)
Our friend Kathleen, who has the Gillum House bed-and-breakfast in Shinnston, WV, brought us a dozen oregano plants, we set them in as a border, & they took off like wildfire. It got to the point where we were harvesting a Silly amount of oregano, and by the fall we had so much damn oregano that Dan was creating what would become some of the Inn's "signature" recipes: Oregano-Stuffed Roast Cornish Game Hen, Oregano-Stuffed Roast Turkey... His turkey recipe was indeed inspired: after brining, he stuffed it with whole branches of oregano & garlic & then roasted it, & it was truly Divine... I entered his turkey recipe in Park Seed's Recipe Contest, and he won first prize: a $50 gift certificate with which to buy more plants!
But in 2005 the Japanese Beetles arrived with a vengeance, and literally ate everything in sight. They spent all summer screwing on the roses before devouring all the flowers and leaves, and they demolished the vegetable garden. I was literally in tears, hunting on the Internet in vain for JB Killers and spraying everything with "organic" insecticides (hot pepper/tobacco/dish soap concoctions), as well as Sevin & any other poison I could find. Nothing worked. Our harvest was dismal.
2006 was a continuation of 2005, only worse. My mail-order climbing roses barely survived the Beetle Feeding Frenzy, and the sweet corn was stunted & grub-filled. In May of 2007, with the fruit trees in flower (the apple tree across from the Inn looked like a magnificent, giant white snowball), the roses in bud, & everything green and gorgeous, we had:a ludicrously late frost, 4 inches of snow, & a week of 10-degree weather. the tulips & daffodils went into "suspended animation" and were fine, but we lost roses, butterfly bushes, and eventually our little dogwood tree. I was in tears and close to despair; It seemed like The Garden was nothing more than a toilet down which we were throwing 100 dollar bills & false hope. In desperation I ordered a giant can of Milky Spore and got it down in mid-May, but I didn't have much hope as it's supposed to take several years to get the JBs under control.
But lo and behold,.we didn't see a Japanese Beetle all year!
I assumed it was the Milky Spore, until the fall, when I read some Bird Watcher posts on a WV Yahoo Groups chat room, and discovered that No One in southern WV had seen any JBs... & it occurred to Dan & I that the hated late spring frost may have killed the beetle grubs!
We will know this spring...
The bottom line is that this last summer we had THE best garden ever! I put Cozy Coats & Tomato Cages around our tomatoes and set them out early, and we were rewarded with a bumper crop of tomatoes all summer- 8 different kinds! (The best were the cherry tomatoes which were literally as sweet as candy). . We had hot peppers out the wazoo, eggplants, okra, baby field greens, enough basil to make 8 quarts of pesto, and sweet corn what-to-die-for...
A garden is about dreaming and planning, as well as hoping & praying & weeding & digging & spraying, and so the dismally cold & gray winter is spent pouring over brightly colored Burpee & Park Seed catalogs (and websites), dog-earring the pages of the things you dream about seeing flower in the spring and harvesting in the fall...
We've learned in the last 5 years that some things just will NOT grow here- I've given up on petunias, for example- but that others do amazingly well- oregano & basil, for two. Last year I planted basil all over our property, and we had a Pesto Processing Party, freezing 8 quarts of what I call the "essence of summer". The marigolds, impatiens, & vinca did splendidly, too...
Back to the catalogs & dreams of spring.. and as Eva would say: "Vould you like a Gin & Tonic, Dahlink?"

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