You thought I was going to post a photo of a trowel or a spade or even a rake--right? Yes, they're essential. You can't garden without them. But over the years, I've learned that a notebook and pencil might just be my most essential tools.
I start a new notebook (or open a new section in the previous one) for each gardening season. Every morning, I take it with me into the garden and make notes about what's happening in every bed. I'm gardening in a dozen raised beds (numbered in my notebook), so it's easy to record the plant, the place it's growing, and what's happening in its vegetable life.
The garden is an ongoing experiment that teaches me something new every day, sometimes pleasant, sometimes not so much. This morning, for instance, I noticed a dead squash plant--fine yesterday morning, dead as a doornail today. There was a white fungus-y material on the stem. Yuck. Pulled up the plant and jotted down the description in my notebook, along with a record of the green peppers I picked and the health of the McCaslan pole beans that are growing gangbusters up their cane poles.
My notes don't stop in my notebook, though. Back in my study, at the computer, I enter the day's observations in my garden journal, which is organized not by day (like my notebook) but by plants: beans in one file, squash in another, and so on. I keep photos there, as well, and weblinks and plant info from various garden sites. It was on one of those sites that I found out that the white fungus is probably Southern blight, and that there's not much I can do about it except to let the area dry out a little. (Hermine romped through here last week and left the garden pretty damp.)
Gardening here in Central Texas is a huge challenge, especially if (like me) you grew up gardening in the Midwest. The seasons here are different from Illinois, the soil, the water--and the plants I'm growing are different, too. (No sweet corn, sadly: it's a water hog!) And of course, things change, year by year. This year's garden is nothing like last year's, when we were still in drought. If I don't write things down, I forget them. Hence the notebook and pencil, and the computer journal. And this blog, too. Essential garden tools.
Book report. The Tale of Oat Cake Crag is out, and the blog tour is wrapped up. Thanks for clicking along with me, everybody. (Drawing winners are posted here and the posts are still available, if you want to check them out.) I'm told that An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days will ship next week--fingers crossed, and sorry about the delay. I've got a couple of weeks more work on the final Beatrix Potter book: winding up the series has been an interesting experience, in ways I didn't anticipate. I'll have to write about that at some point.
Events. I'll be at the Lake Travis Community Library next Saturday, for a book talk and book sale. If you're in the area, come out and join us. Also, for those of you who haven't yet heard, David Thompson, manager of Murder by the Book in Houston, died suddenly on Monday. He was extrardinarily helpful and supportive to all mystery authors. He will be deeply missed. His many friends will be celebrating his life next Sunday.
Reading note. The problem with our current food system: it is a monoculture economically, as well as on the ground. We have to let a thousand flowers bloom. We want to have many different food chains in this country because some of them are going to fail. We want to know that if there's a problem with organic, that we have local. And if there's a problem with local, that we even have conventional. We’re not looking for the right answer, the single answer for all of us, in all places. It's going to have to be locally adapted. And the more different food chains you have, the more resilient your food economy and the less likely you are to go hungry.--Michael Pollan, NPR, "Science Friday," Aug 21, 2009