Friday, May 26, 2006
Thoughts on gardening, spring 2006
I planted my peas on April 28. It started raining, pretty much nonstop on Tuesday afternoon May 9, Election Day in Carlisle, and didn't really stop until Saturday, May 20. On Monday, May 15, I asked my friend Marjorie if she thought my peas would survive the rain. She was optimistic and said not to worry. A few days later, on Wednesday, I took another look in the garden and there were the peas poking up out of the ground. Whew! I was relieved.
From May 9 until Monday May 22, Carlisle had 8.15 inches of rain, reported Marjorie Johnson of Ember Lane. With this information I started to wonder what all the rain had done to the gardens in our community. To find out, I called and spoke to several people around town — Ed Humm, who gardens with his wife Bev at Foss Farm on Bedford Road; Foss Farm Garden Manager Bob Dennison; Marjorie Johnson, who gardens at her home on Ember Lane; and Gayle Constable, one of the organizers of Carlisle's Farmers Market, who also gardens at Foss Farm.
"It hasn't been good, all this rain," said Ed Humm. "There is water standing on the edge of the field and it is worst towards the river. The ground is saturated with water, and you sink in the mud, in the garden." The rain, however, seems not to have deterred the Humms, for as of this past weekend they have already planted beets, carrots, onions, bok choy, and broccoli. "Rain may delay crop availability. Every year is different," added Humm, who has been gardening at Foss Farm "for 12 to 15 years."
Bob Dennison, who manages the town's Foss Farm garden plots, believes the cold weather at night is what is keeping the ground temperature below 50 degrees, which in turn keeps plants from growing. "The soil has to warm up before the plants can grow well," said Dennison. "This is a big weekend coming up. Prior to this weekend, plants grew poorly. By July, those planted earlier and those planted on the Memorial Day weekend — you won't be able to tell the difference."
Marjorie Johnson believes in raised beds for her plants. "Raised beds help with drainage and the seeds don't sit in puddles," she explained. "And they warm up faster."
Speaking of plants and future produce, I joined those who were wondering when the Farmers Market would open this year. To get an answer to that question, I called Gayle Constable, who along with Annette and John Lee, organized and ran the Farmers Market at Kimball Farm on Bedford Road last season. "We'll have a booth at Old Home Day [this year on July 1] and then open on July 15, at Kimball Farm," said Constable. "We'll have 42 vendors throughout the summer, but about 20 vendors per Saturday," she added. The market will be open from 8 a.m. until 12 noon on Saturdays throughout the summer and fall until Halloween.
"We grow organic and from July until September all the produce at the Farmers Market comes from Massachusetts," continued Constable. "In September and until closing, we will include crafts from Kenya and from Dr. Hendrie's orphanage in Cambodia." To support a healthy environment, Constable encourages folks to buy organic and to buy local. "Only eat what's grown within 100 miles from home. Our meals should be only what two hands can hold." And she added, "We should take time to savor our meals."
As our conversation was about to end, Constable suggested I read Staying Healthy with the Seasons, by Elson Haas. I countered with my own idea for a timely read, The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Both books are available through the Gleason Public Library.
So here comes this long Memorial Day weekend with plenty of time to set out the tomato plants and sow the vegetable seeds in the garden. And, by the way, don't forget to say a prayer for the sun to come out and stay around for a few days.
As citizens of the information age, we have been both blessed and bombarded with technology so ubiquitous that there's literally not a corner on earth that is inaccessible to our prying eyes and ears. In addition to the usual newspapers, magazines, books, television, radio and film, we've now got Google, blogs, Blackberrys, e-Bay, iPods, and even cell phone cameras to keep us continually informed and entertained. Want to know today's temperature in Calcutta or the price of wheat in Poland? Want to buy an antique jukebox or preview a hotel room in Santiago? Help is just a few mouse clicks away. The Internet has essentially become a vast public library, open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and we can find out anything we want to know at any time. Or so we think.
There's plenty of information out there, to be sure, but there's also a lot of junk. Between the two is an ocean of "factoids" of vague provenance that may, or may not, be (mostly) true. We often draw conclusions based on incomplete information or fall prey to opinionated sources. Even the tried-and-true dictum "seeing is believing" has become somewhat suspect. With computer programs such as PhotoShop, it's surprisingly easy to change the color or content of any electronic image; we can add (or subtract) Aunt Beatrice from family photos at will. High-tech computer animation and digital special effects have become so realistic that in the foreseeable future they may eliminate the need for live actors altogether. It seems that we have the ability to make "reality" anything we'd like it to be.
So how are we supposed to deal with all this? How do we know what's really real? We've all heard stories about gullible folks being ensnared by Internet fraud. ("I'm an exiled African prince who needs to move $50 million out of my country, and if you'll only help me, you can have half!") One such victim (a clergyman, no less) was recently given a lengthy jail term after he was sucked in so deeply he became a party to the fraud. You'd think that anyone intelligent enough to use the Internet could smell a rat. However, human nature being what it is, we tend to believe what we want to believe. This is the only reason I can think of for the continued existence of the National Enquirer. Apparently there are millions of people out there thoroughly convinced that aliens from outer space live among us cleverly disguised as our next-door neighbors. (Could one of them be you?!)
At my house, there are occasional debates about "what's true" and "what's not." I tend to quote information from the Wall St. Journal, whereas my wife will more often cite the Boston Globe. Each is a presumably reputable publication, yet both are capable of reaching radically different conclusions based on the same data. (For example, have the Bush tax cuts actually been beneficial for the economy?) More than once, the phrase "the truth as we see it" has been uttered in defense of a position. At times like this, I'm reminded of our friend Peter Gomes, who's the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard. Peter's a gifted preacher who seems to have an inexhaustible supply of stories with which to illustrate his sermons. When I asked him once whether a particular tale was actually true, he gave me a sly smile and a wink. "Well," he said, "it may not be exactly true, but it points to the truth!"
© 2006 The