Whether we are happy depends on inner harmony, not on the controls we are able to exert over the great forces of the universe. – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
If ever there was a year where mankind realized we have very little control over the great forces of the universe, it is this past year. A year soon to be in the history books and in our rearview mirrors, most would be happy to say. We have been forced to explore unwanted and uncharted territory that’s for sure. We can only hope that the strides science has made and the lessons learned will benefit us in the future. While finding inner harmony is often easier said than done, it truly is really one of the few things we have much control over.
The weather is certainly not in our control. Both Wednesday, and Thursday of last week, Christmas eve, were almost downright balmy and about 50 degrees. I had a few things still growing in my kitchen garden, some lettuce, Swiss chard, and carrots. The carrots and the lettuce had made it all the way to almost the end of December without any type of protection. The Swiss chard I had covered with plastic in November, as it was still growing so nicely. After covering it, it rewarded us with several more pickings and still had lots of fleshy leaves ready to be harvested. With 4-6 inches of snow and wind-chill in the single digits predicted for Christmas day, I decided it was time to harvest the last of the veggies in the kitchen garden. Or, almost all. I decided to cover the carrots with a couple of layers of insulation and see if I couldn’t protect them further into the winter.
With scissors in hand, I cut the Swiss chard back to the stem, picked the tender hearts of the lettuce, and pulled a couple of carrots. As you can see in the picture I made a pretty good haul, especially the Swiss chard. My high-tunnel is full of kale and collards and with the addition of some cabbage, this will all cook up into a delicious batch or two of tasty greens. While the carrots are a bit odd in shape, they too will be a tasty addition to our menu in the midst of winter. Not bad for a harvest on Christmas eve.
I do love my kitchen garden. At one time the spot it is in, just off the front porch, was a lovely water garden with plants, goldfish, and koi swimming about. We enjoyed it for many years. That was until our aging pup fell in the frigid water one winter. Luckily (his name was Lucky, by the way) my husband heard him crying and fished him out cold and shivering. Before that, during the summer months, the neighbor’s big black lab decided it was the perfect spot to cool off on those hot summer days. Sharp dog toenails aren’t very good for aging plastic pond liners. Our beloved little dog taking an unplanned dip in the midst of winter finally made us decide perhaps come spring, it was time to repurpose the pond area. So, it became a kitchen garden. And what a productive little plot it has become.
We grow a bounty of wonderful veggies just a few steps from the kitchen. Onions, leeks, carrots, peppers, squash, shallots, lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, broccoli, Swiss chard, and herbs. Not only is it productive but it is, at least to my eyes, beautiful. I always try to plant a few flowers around the edges to attract the pollinators.
Something we especially enjoy early in the spring before the plants have covered all the soil is to crumble sterilized eggshells on the beds and watch the variety of birds that come to eat the eggshells. The swallows especially, both barn and tree, swoop in, sometimes solo, sometimes four or five at a time, chattering away as they select the perfect piece of eggshell. Several often sit on the fence and they seem to have quite a conversation going as they take turns gleening eggshells from the ground. Then, as quickly as they came, they are gone. It seems that it would mostly be the females that would be eating the shells in preparation for egg-laying, but we see males of different species eating them as well.
Here are some other birds that enjoy the eggshells. A male Baltimore Oriole, a Great Crested Fly Catcher, a female Baltimore Oriole.
With the days growing longer, even a smidge that’s barely noticeable, just knowing spring is on the way is reason to look forward to the new year ahead. As the seed catalogs role in, the thoughts of planting the kitchen garden anew are already crossing my mind. Happy New Year to all and here’s hoping you find that elusive inner harmony.