Tag Archive: winter gardening

State of the Garden (And Anecdotal Evidence of Extreme Weather Occurrences Due to Global Climate Change)

Scheduled to arrive some time tomorrow is one of those impossible to forecast until it is happening because how fast the storm travels and a variance in its track of even 50-100 miles north or south, or east or west can make the difference between just a bit of rain, a lot of rain with a little snow, and a little rain with a lot of snow, or perhaps the dreaded wintry mix.  What I would do for the garden would be different for the various scenarios.  The best for continuing to thrive would be a 2-4 inches of snow that didn’t entirely melt when it hits 50F on Saturday and acts as a blanket when it is forecast to get below 20F.  I harvested the tenderest of the greens and the last handfuls of unripe tomatoes (they need to be cooked and spiced–it’s way past the date they should have been able to grow).  I left the hardier greens and the root vegetables.  I will be watching for the true hard freeze right before which I will need to harvest everything.  The extreme weather occurrence is not, however, the coming storm, but the fact that I still have this much growing without a cold frame in the middle of January.

garden 1a garden 1b garden 1c garden 1d garden 1e garden 1f garden 1g

turnips, arugula, grape tomatoes, chard, snowpea shoots, kale, roses, assorted lettuce, cilantro, carrots [not shown, but also growing:  spinach, green garlic, mint, parsley]

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Sprouted Chickpea, Potato, and Winter Greens Stew

One of the first things I did when I got home was to start several kinds of sprouts. Soaking beans overnight is, if you think about it, just a prelude to sprouting. I often sprout beans for a few days even if I plan to cook them. Once they have just sprouted (usually after two+three days), cooking time to tender is only 10-15 minutes. I had some sprouted chickpeas, a couple of potatoes in cold storage (aka the vegetable bin in my refrigerator). Today was the first day I was really able to get into the garden since my return. In addition to carrots, I was able to pull a substantial quantity of various greens: kale, chard, curly endive.

The stew: saute in olive oil (or a mix of olive oil and butter), minced onion and garlic, diced celery and carrot until translucent. Add to pot peeled and cubed potato and sprouted chickpeas (if using only soaked chickpeas, cooking time will be 3-4 times as long; or you could use already cooked chickpeas) and stir to coat with cooking oil. Add a couple of dried hot chilis (optional) and some sprigs of rosemary and oregano (fresh is best). Cover with vegetable stock or water and cook until chickpeas and vegetables are tender. In a pressure cooker this took about 10 minutes. Chop whatever fresh greens you have on hand (anything, but collards; if all you have are collards, kidney or pinto beans would work better than chickpeas). Add the greens just before serving and cook only long enough to wilt greens. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. I used rind from a spanish rosemary-crusted goat cheese when cooking. This would be optional, but if you want just a hint of cheese flavor, cooking with the rind of a hard cheese is very nice.

Ah, it is good to be home.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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Winter Gardening, Vikalpa Samskara, and Bhavana

My cherished friend Cynthia for who there will be a memorial service on Wednesday often said that her favorite time of year to garden was winter.  She was not only a passionate gardener who had established an exquisite ornamental garden over a period of decades, but also a scintillating intellect.  In winter, of course, she would tend the houseplants and have flowers from forced bulbs, but that was not “winter gardening;” it was just having some beauty in the house. Winter gardening for Cynthia meant sitting in her nice warm house, reading stacks of gardening books and seed and plant catalogs and planning ways to enhance and develop the garden come the new growing season.  Cynthia did not practice yoga or meditation although she asked about yoga and exhibited her habitual, engaged and polite intellectual curiosity about my practice out of friendship.

After I took care of the house plants this morning, I sat down with a gardening book and read it while I had my morning hot drink and thought of Cynthia saying this was the best gardening time.  This time last year, I was marveling that I had chard to eat from the garden and espousing the joy of sprouting indoors in order to have fresh food year round (still sprouting and recommend it to all especially this harsh winter).  This year I cannot even see the containers (see picture below after five days of melting and before another coating to come this afternoon), much less any plants outside, so spring gardening will be a completely different experience than it was last year.  I go back, then, to my books.  I read about edible container gardening for climates where spring starts later than is typical for DC.  I think about what I can start indoors and whether I will want to start with different plants.  In the space of time when I cannot actually garden, I develop my intellectual knowledge so that my garden skills and experience can still develop.  When I am out in the garden this spring, digging in the dirt, watching things grow, I will experience with joy in my very being the subtle and not so subtle differences from a dry, warm winter and a cold, snowy one throughout the whole growing season.

This pulsing relationship among practical experience, study, and joyous understanding is our true practice (sadhana).  Steady practice includes not just actual doing of postures and meditation, but also repeated study for enhanced intellectual understanding of what we are experiencing (vikalpa samskara), and joyous, non-intellectual contemplation with heart and spirit (bhavana) of the burgeoning of combined experience and study.  When we appreciate on the mat and off that there will be times for practical experience, times for study, and times just to rest with a rich fullness of contemplation of the fruits of experience and study for the joyous recognition of beauty and consciousness, then we will never be empty.  We will not suffer from the confinement of a blizzard or an injury because we will know that it is time to shift our focus from being on the mat or on our meditation cushion or out of the garden (or whatever it is that is your work or hobby or course of study) and more to studying what others can teach us in words or demonstration.  We will know that the more we enhance our practice with both practicum and book learning, the more we can move towards an ever refined and steady abiding of whatever is our passion in our hearts.

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Hard Freeze Forecast (Heyam Dukham Anagatam)

My favorite sutra in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s is, II.16, “heyam dukham anagatam.”  This translates roughly as “the pain that is yet to come can be avoided.”  What does this have to do with a forecast of a hard freeze?

My chard, beets, and turnip greens are still flourishing.  They can manage with a night or two in a row in the high 20sF, and that is all we have had so far.  The forecast for later in the week, though, is for the first true cold snap since 1994 (you may remember that as the year when lots of people’s pipes froze).  My winter garden (which does not have a cold frame due to lack of space — maybe I’ll get more creative next year, and I’ll try an experiement with plastic bags on Thursday night) cannot survive lows in the low teens highs in the twenties.

I could suffer today by bemoaning the coming cold, worrying about the garden, and remembering that I don’t like cold.  That would be present suffering in anticipation of potential future suffering.  I certainly can avoid that.  I can also do what I did yesterday, which was harvest lots of the chard and most of the beets, put the beets into cold storage (vegetable bin in the refrigerator) and make pasta with sauteed garlic and chard.  Between now and Wednesday night, I’ll harvest most of the remaining greens.  I’ll make a big vegetable soup with the beets and the chard, maybe make chard pie or calzones (truly delicious), and eat the rest over the following days.  I’ll feel grateful that in the bitter cold, I can be eating fresh garden greens.  I’ll be even more grateful that I can just shop at the grocery store or the farmers’ market and don’t need to rely on my garden feeding me year round.  I’ll also be happy for the hard frost.  Part of the reason the aphids and the mosquitoes have been so bad is the absence of a hard frost in winter.

Some bitter cold in winter in a temperate zone is inevitable, as are sickness and death.  We can avoid suffering by not just getting anxious and unhappy and suffering in the present, but not taking action to alleviate potential suffering.  With preparation and practice, we can avoid some suffering.  Just has preparing for winter in the garden can allow it to be productive for greater parts of the year, so too, with a steady practice of asana, pranayama, and meditation we can avoid some physical and emotional pain and suffering.  Most important, with steady preparation (preparing for the potential for difficulties in the future is not the same as being anxious about it), when the inevitable comes, we will likely suffer less, at least in our hearts, if not in our bodies.

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