Here in mid Michigan, we’ve had a cooler than normal April so these lettuces in our unheated greenhouse haven’t been growing very fast. The left 2 are named Emerald Oak – a very sweet lettuce, and the 4 on the right are Red Deer Tongue – an heirloom that is heat resistant. Both are sold at Seeds of Change among others. I’m still in surreal mode, so they may have fallen down from the sky. We are due for some warmer temperatures, and none too soon, since the store bought lettuce is starting to have that 6th taste I call cardboard – in line after the newest 5th taste named umami.
Here in Michigan’s winters all that stands between utter oblivion and a flicker of life is a hunk of Bob’s plastic. Because of that exceptionally durable plastic we can eat from our garden while spring seeds are still dreaming in their soil cubicles of their future life in the sun.
But the price we’ve paid for such luxuries is a form so functional as to make any architect who touts the infamous “form follow function” dictum quickly reevaluate the meaning of function. Some functional structures are better left hidden, or placed in an out of the way tundra or other unpopulated area. There is such a thing as too functional – so functional that it squeezes out form to the point there is no form at all. This describes our greenhouse. All function, little form that could be properly called form. It could simply be called an invertebrate greenhouse, with its primitive semi-circle frame, looking as if it could slither away or eat a smaller greenhouse with its hidden mouth underneath.
But as discomforting as its appearance is, as “laughable” and “unphotographable” (as in My Funny Valentine), its 100% function has us eating lettuce well into December, or wintering over hardier vegetables such as kale, swiss chard, and parsley till mid spring. It has protected all kinds of potted plants through rough winters and turbulent springs such as Japanese Maples too small to set out, or without a prepared site. I usually sink these pots into the soil for added protection. In short, this greenhouse has been indispensable to a certain level of self sufficiency and soul sufficiency – in the case of Japanese Maples.
If I can find some time after fending off frost threats in the landscape, by covering Japanese Maples with a shaky edifice of slender bamboo poles and a roof of old sheets, I plan to make a recipe from The Splendid Table website called Masa Crepes With Chard, Chilies, and Cilantro using this newly regrowing swiss chard.
Just behind the greenhouse are some 4 x 4s – framing for a new greenhouse on a new axis. Formless things tend to have relatively short lifespans, although this greenhouse has lived for over a dozen years with the same plastic. It may take a couple of summers to complete, but we’re going to try loading this one down with form, form, form…….stay tuned…..
Snow is supposed to form delicate traceries juxtaposed with grass and pushed up tunnels leading the eye around and through new thought itineraries. Ragged disintegrating thoughts take on new shapes, colors and melodies. An hour later the brief instruction is gone, its pattern watering the grass with new warmth. This is spring: delicate, warm, and communicative. [continued below]
This is also spring – with a long memory of winter. The snow on the roof of our garage slipped and slid down the slope of the metal roof, first forming a dramatic overhang, then collapsing to the ground – ground that contains perennial roots waiting to grow. This narrow bed facing north houses a large clump of solomonseal, the lovely Japanese grass Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, a charming primrose, and a clematis companion to the ivy.
How much better if the snow had remained on the roof, evaporating when called upon, rather than forced to exit off its metal landing with a harsh thud. A green roof would have been beautiful, but even a shingled roof would have prevented our snow pack. If anyone wants to build an igloo, I have just the ingredient – I will likely be evaporating it with a shovel.
Since this week suddenly warmed up to the high forties, I ordered a few plants for the expansion of the fruit garden: 4 Triple Crown thornless blackberries and 2 Swenson Red grapes. They quickly arrived in two days from Edible Landscaping. Since I have never grown grapes (deliberately) before, I am eying the book, The Grape Grower: A Guide To Organic Viticulture by Lon Rombough. I’m planning to put them between two fat clothesline poles; I’ll have to dodge them when I hang sheets……..
Winter A mountain village: under the piled up snow the sound of water.