Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn...

...There is a season...turn, turn, turn, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap... a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.

I've been turning the earth for what seems like an eternity now, when in reality, it's only been a few weeks. But I am pleased to say that I have finally finished planting my vegetable garden. With the generous help of my son Will, I started cleaning and clearing the space for my garden in mid-March. Since the area is domintaed by a concrete patio, a crabapple tree, and a small, previously-unkempt lawn, I designated a three-foot border along the southern and eastern perimeter of the fence for planting my vegetables, of which there are an admittedly overly-ambitious variety, including tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, beans, peas, leafy greens, corn, and several different types of herbs, all of which I hope to employ in my upcoming Dinner & a Movie nights.

Being the Type-A, obsessive/compulsive over-planner that I am, I carefully mapped out a scale drawing of my planting scheme on graph paper beforehand, marked off all the beds with stakes and string, turned the soil with a hand tiller and fertilized with compost. But on that first sunny day of sowing, I only managed to plant about a dozen rows, which included dill, chives, basil, parsley, marjoram, leeks, radishes and jalapenos (and a few flowers in planter boxes along the edges of the patio).

I was somewhat disappointed at how little progress I'd made and how many things were still left unsown, since I had hoped to get ALL the seeds in the ground in a single day. Boy was I dreaming. And it's a good thing too, because the next morning, when I went out to sit in the sun and admire my handiwork, I suddenly noticed that the spot I had chosen to plant yesterday's seeds was still shaded by the fence. Not a good thing for successful germination.

So instead of getting any writing done, I spent the day doing housework and revisiting the patio at frequent intervals to study the light. As it turns out, the three-foot border along the fence was completely shaded all day long. Well...that certainly wouldn't do, so I went online to try to find out how many inches of sunlight are gained each day by the rising declination of the sun as it traverses its diurnal path. But my search was futile. There wasn't a single web page dedicated to the question. I even tried to calculate the answer myself by summoning my old geometry skills, but couldn't quite wrap my mind around the puzzle. Too many variables for this mathematically challenged backyard farmer. And although they are both mathematical geniuses, my son Will and my elder brother Michael offered no definitive answers either. All I could do was wait and observe.

At the same time, I also learned that mid-March was way too early to be planting summer vegetables anyway. So I had to be patient. Which is a good thing, because in the interim, I had plenty of time to rethink my planting scheme and study the light some more. As it turns out, in just three short weeks, I gained almost 18 inches of sunlight along the fence. So instead of planting row crops, I put the peas and beans there, with a string trellis attached to the fence. My logic being that, by the time the peas and beans grow tall enough to need the string, the space along the fence will be in full sunlight.

As for the rest of my vegetables, I replanted most of my herbs in large pots, I sacrificed a narrow patch of lawn along the edge of the patio for leafy greens and the rest of the herbs, and I designated a sunny patch along the wall of the house next to the gate for my tomatoes and peppers. For my melons and squash, I pruned back the outer branches of the crabapple tree to afford them full sun.

Another saving grace gained by waiting to plant the rest of my garden is the discovery of a snail infestation. The little devils ate the coytledons off all my flower sprouts as soon as they broke ground. So I have reluctantly tended to the problem with a potent remedy.

Spending a day playing hooky from writing to plunge my hands into the earth was a true pleasure, although at a point in the mid-afternoon I realized that I had failed to apply sunscreen, and upon taking a mental inventory, I also realized that I was out of sunscreen. So I got slightly sunburned in the process. A foolish risk for a fair-skinned lass like me, but somehow worth it to get my garden planted.

Long story short...the garden's in, can't wait to harvest the bounty for my summertime dinners.