Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring has sprung!

Last weekend was the Spring Equinox.  I had decided to plant spinach on my balcony, as it is both shade- and container-tolerant.  So I went to Home Depot to purchase containers, dirt, seeds, and tools.  I was surprised to find that, at least at my location, they did not stock large bags of potting soil, nor large containers of the type I wanted.  I decided to improvise; I bought a plastic tub of the type that is meant to store out-of-season clothing under the bed, and a set of power tools, including 18V drill/driver, 5.5" circular saw, flashlight, and dustbuster.  I used the drill to make some holes in the bottom of the tub (for drainage), but alas, I still had no dirt.  After a week of asking countrified friends if they had any dirt, the tub was still empty.

Today, after attending a baby shower in Chanhassen, I went to the Eden Prairie location of Menard's.  Their garden section is considerably more useful than HD's; not only did they have many different kinds of soil in large bags, they stocked gravel (to improve drainage), sand, watering cans, and other heavy duty materials and tools.  I have figured it out.  Home Depot is where suburbanites and urbanites go for their DIY needs; Menard's is where ruralites, farmers, and wanna-bes (like me) go.

I wish I could have taken pictures of the process, but my hands were rather dirty.  First, I took three trips to lug the gravel (very heavy) and two 2 cu. ft. bags of potting soil to my apartment.  Then I shoveled/swept the snow and most of the ice off the balcony.  I got the tub positioned and added the gravel, then a layer of soil.  When you use potting soil, you're not supposed to use it dry; you're supposed to get it thoroughly "moist", but not too wet.  I decided to use hot tap water, since it was pretty cold out, figuring that if the water started out hot, it would be less likely to freeze completely overnight.  I ended up doing three layers of soil, watering with hot water and mixing with the hand rake between each layer.  It felt amazing to dig my hands into that warm, moist earth.  My arms were black to the elbow by the time I was done.  Finally, I sprinkled the spinach seeds over the top and covered them with a little more soil.  I wish I had a big piece of Plexiglas to put over the top, to help it stay warm.  I hope they don't freeze.  Updates will be forthcoming!

After all that (plus getting up at 4:30am; long story), I was a little tired.  So I watched a documentary that I just happened to find at the library, The Farmer and the Horse, which Jenna happened to mention recently also.  It made me so excited!  All about farming with draft animals instead of tractors, in NJ, of all places.  Being originally from NJ myself, it was super cool to see the Howell Farm and even a shot of the Hopewell Borough train station and farmer's market.  Wow!  I highly recommend watching this if you can get it.  [Mom: I checked the MCL catalog, but apparently they don't have it.  Since it's about local farming, maybe you could suggest they buy a copy?]

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