Ruth, a recently retired English teacher, has lived most her adult life in San Jose, California, but relocated to Taylors, SC in May, 2011, to share her mother's golden years and to be near three sisters. Now she's excited to have a house with a yard 10 times the size of her property in California, and can't wait to get digging! Follow her blog to see how a recent transplant experiences gardening, both ornamental and vegetable, in the hot clay of South Carolina.

Recent Blog Posts

May 22
Blooms and Beds and Garden Buddies   (2 comments)

Apr 08
Cardinals, Crows and Thunder Snow.   (4 comments)

Jan 02
Minding the Future Garden as the Old Year Wanes   (3 comments)

Dec 30
Brimming Well of Winter and Goblets of Ice   (4 comments)

Dec 16
The Garden Green, Deep in December   (3 comments)

Nov 26
A Taste of Cold November   (3 comments)

Oct 28
In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the (Garden)..I’ll Be There   (4 comments)

Oct 11
Summer Garden Residents: The Original Earthlings   (4 comments)




Brimming Well of Winter and Goblets of Ice
by Ruth Mason McElvain - posted 12/30/12

Yes, it's winter, for sure, with wonders to ponder on a cold morning, like an ice goblet sprung in a engineering enigma from the birdbath

hollow, and brimming with irresistible dipper to sip!

But the thermometer has lost it's ever-lovin mind!

And things are frozen bonkers:

The turnips and collards bow to the ice

and the stalwart crystal-coated alyssum shivers persistently, the only thing left of the summer okra bed.

So glad I grabbed a few tools in a warmer interlude a week ago

getting a hare to stob in some stakes by the peas

and macrame a string trellis, wearing a pair of sheers to clip the twine.

We've had rain in the Piedmont this colder week, several inches several times, and there's still

the fruit of the earth to pull: turnips and carrots and radishes, oh my!

But mostly the frosty garden slumbers, giving opportunity of course, for mad scheming in the warm tummy of the house..plotting to finally add the other two raised beds of my original plan for the east garden, and a second bed on the west grounds next to last summer's five sisters.  I have the lumber, cut to spec, in my shed even now, waiting only for warmer days to build them, my favorite Christmas present along with bags and bags of Black Kow.  I plan to use that new long bed for one larger favorite crop each year: maybe corn that likes leg room to grow it's dear gift, double room for tomatoes I can put up in vermillion quarts, or snaky stretches of pole beans, or cantaloupe and watermelon.  This summer, though,  it will be white acre peas.  I can't wait to see what sixty-four square feet of peas will yield when eight plants were so generous last summer--from them I got several pots.  The bed adjacent to it that now hosts greens, in the spirit of rotation will be tomatoes and basil and bee balm this summer.  On the east side, the future bed #6 will be a perennial spot for asparagus and strawberries. 

The insanity is deep rooted.  I troll online for garden lore like companion plantings, squandering delicious hours of cyber mania, stopping to leap from my computer chair only for a quick jig or fist pumping and cheers, thrilling with anticipation, and scaring my dogs into a fit of barking. 

This time I make sure I've ordered the necessary plants before they're sold out, knowing they'll ship in time to plant for my zone: asparagus, like this long-lived male version that's supposed to yield for years..till I'm 77 (?)..

and yummy Yukon Gold seed potatoes for east bed #4 where the okra once stood and the alyssum now reigns.  I ain't Irish for nothing.

Yes, I'm a Park Seed junkie, scheming for old species to pop in my garden, to add the tangy purple Cherokee to the tomato seeds I've saved (plus the Mater Sandwich and Money Maker varieties I don't show here), Virginia peanuts to buddy with corn in east bed #1 (mmm, salty boiled peanuts here we come), and something different like the sharp black radish in its garden tuxedo, though I already ordered it from a competitor.

I can't resist Burpee's lure, either.  Since I'm going for organic and open-pollinated, I lean toward heirlooms, especially ones with a southern ring like tobasco peppers and Country Gentleman, the shoe peg corn.  The kidney beans I'll dry for chili made from my canned tomatoes: just add rice, cheese and onions for a feast next winter, when I'll be scheming garden gates and a lantern-strung pergola.  Thomas Jefferson is my garden and mental model, so I'm proud I have seeds of his prized painted lady vine to bring bees and other sensual delight to my backyard dirt.  Legume innoculant will be a fun experiment to try.

One day next summer, maybe where these peas are, I'll photograph that Thomas Jefferson vine, the fragrant deep-pink and white blossoms twining up corn or tomatoes, or looping with the beans, squash, and melons.  Can't wait for those summer treasures, ornamental sirens to call the pollinators and veggies for great Southern tables.  Yes, like other gardener hearts, my blood pumps with water, earth, sun and seeds, even in winter.  California never gave me ice goblets nor crazy thermometers, and roses loved that black ground unlike the poor posies here that succumb to black mildew.  In one season climbing roses there were taking over New York, while here they shrivel and look ashamed.  Even so, I'm still thrilled to trade that wonderful western wilderness I spent forty years wandering for my South Carolina paradise now.  There's so much scheming and so little winter left.  Only eight more weeks till we start an early spring crop!  Maybe then I can get some English peas from the pretty, properly-timed planting.  I'm resolving to correct some blunders I made last year, and do things better this next one, in my glorious, Southern backyard dirt.



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Carolyn Choi - 12/31/2012

Winter is definitely a time of dreaming about Spring and Summer gardens. Thank goodness that it's so short here. My deck vegetable garden has survived a few frosty mornings but I keep the row covers handy just in case the temps should go really low.

Meanwhile I'm enjoying watching the cardinals, robins, woodpeckers and all kinds of birds at the feeder.
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Ruth Mason McElvain - 01/02/2013

Oh, I love the bright red cardinals with their smutty raccoon masks, especially puffed up fat in the cold on a white feeder eating sunflower seeds..none of these in California! I am enchanted by honkers flying over in their vees and sounding in the crisp air, so mournful and hoarse. After the rain, herds of portly robins graze like bison for worms. It's winter stark and beautiful, thankfully no snow. I ain't a snow bunny in any stretch. But I'm ready for spring. Born 8 days from the solstice, I am a child of spring no matter how many decades I roll along! Happy New Year Carolyn
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Carolyn Choi - 01/02/2013

Happy New Year, Ruth. While I love Spring I'm a summer gal born on the lst of May . I saw the flock of fat robins after the rain as well and they were joined by the blue birds and all sorts of feathered friends. It looked like a moving carpet.

Can't wait until the solstice, Ruth. Spring here in Chapel Hill is lovely indeed.
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Janet, The Queen of Seaford - 03/01/2013

If you are a fan of Park Seed you should come down here when they open this spring. I live about 5 -10 minutes from them.
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