Dear Carol and Dee, March 16th, 2009

March 16th,
Dear Caroland Dee,
Here we are, the middle of March, the Ides of March, the first day of the Roman New Year . In ancient history, the Ides coincided with a full moon. I am certainly restless enough to howl at a full moon.

I always liked my adopted dad’s take on the Ides of March. He called it the “March Yips.” His theory of the yips: people were constantly yipping about cabin fever, everyone was fit-to-be-tied, and suffering of ennui (he loved doing the crossword puzzle in ink, hence his use of the word “ennui”). It was his sage observation women tended to run out and get a new hairdo (many went blonder), a new purse and new shoes. Since this happened to all women – not just ones who were Easter Episcopalians – he issued his official proclamation that the March Yips were upon us. Right about now. So, it is with a heavy sense of ennui, an arched eyebrow at the promise of spring, I can still manage a little smirk, when I think of him and the March Yips.

March in my garden isn’t much of an event. It’s something to be endured. It feels like being yanked around at the end of a bungee cord. Snow, sun, hail, rain, cold, days like this: WAIT! IT COULD BE 75! NO! Tonight it will crash back to 27. I look longingly at the garden books I have gathered around me, almost in fortress formation, keeping myself focused on the PROMISE of the new season.

I’d venture you all are planting peas and potatoes this week., on St.P’s day. It’s not smart to plant them here this early.Potatoes don’t go in until April 1, and peas do better if you wait until April 15th . By then, the soil is warmed up and they don’t rot in the ground. I’m waiting. I will HAVE to do some cleanup if only to make room for the hundreds of tulips that need to get to the light. I see lime green sprouts where the daylilies should be.

Heck, Dee, you have already set out tomatoes, right? Hah! I have two months to wait for that ritual.

I know Carol is busily sowing, sowing, and sowing her vegetables for the garden. She is so guilty of EGG & S. Egregious garden gloating and sowing.

Full of the March Yips, I made a hair appointment for next week (cut and highlights). I also went in search of plant material. In particular, to find the very best raspberry canes I could find to add to my measly little patch. I brought home some Heritage and some Lathams –everbearing and single season varieties. I found some of the biggest, fattest rhubarb crowns and bought those as well (oh, yes, there’s a reason for these). And, while at the nursery, I decided, in the chill of the moment, in the rain, to grow asparagus. I picked five nice, spidery Jersey Knight, all male crowns. The sign said these are highly productive and don’t waste any time or space or energy on making fronds or setting seeds. Amen, those are for me.

I am soaking the canes in a B12 root stimulator to get them off to a good start. I can easily get the holes dug. Even easier if I sweet talk the under gardener (husband) into doing it for me. Don’t tell him. The plan, and I do have one, is to get the asparagus tucked into a big perennial border. Ditto the rhubarb. I am not going to waste space on growing ornamental rhubarb when I can grow the REAL thing. I intend to make pies and tarts and jams with that rhubarb, but I’m truly longing to freeze a boatload of rhubarb juice for making rhubarb martinis. Yesirrreeee.

I want to get a plan together for planting some of my own potatoes. Haven’t grown them in 15 years. I am thinking about using a couple of old plastic trash cans, ones where the bottoms have worn through, and tucking them somewhere they won’t make me crazy with their ugliness. I’ve been reading up on this technique, kind of a “piling on”, and think it might be fun to try.

A couple months ago, I heard Michael Pollan speak here. He told how he got started writing the Omnivore’s Dilemma after visiting Monsanto potato fields here in Idaho. The spuds are so full of nasty stuff, they have to be set aside to “off gas” before being sent to the grocery story. EGAD. Nowadays, I am all about organic potatoes.

This very minute I am watching Alice Waters on 60 minutes. She wants a big ol’ veg garden at the White House. And one at my house. I want to plant plant plant and eat eat eat out of my garden this year. I’ve been eating from my garden all my life – I grew up that way. My hope is to really get back to the whole foods, local (backyard is local) idea. It’s what keeps me going and planning while waiting for March to be over.

I’ll be direct sowing some poppy seeds around the perennial beds this week, but mostly still waiting for the weather to finally warm up. Go easy on me when you write back. You know I am green with envy. And plant lust.

Your Idaho gardening friend,