Growing up in Shelton, I was introduced to the joys of gardening by my father in a simple, straightforward way.
Step one: work a lot of manure into the soil in the early spring.
Step two: Plant the cold weather crops such as lettuce, beets and broccoli on Mothers Day.
Step three: Plant the warm weather crops, including, corn, squash and tomatoes on Fathers Day.
Fifty years later, the joy of gardening is still with me, a lifelong hobby passed down from a father to a son, sort of a reverse Fathers Day gift that keeps on giving.
As Ive grown older Ive tweaked the garden tenets I learned as a child. I plant vegetables earlier and stagger the plantings so that harvesting is not such a boom-bust affair. As for corn, I never wait for Fathers Day its all in the ground by then. In fact, my whole garden has been planted for a week, and some of the first rows of cold weather crops like chard and spinach are almost completely harvested.
On Fathers Day 2013, my father will join us for dinner at Horsefeathers Farm in East Olympia. Despite his failing eyesight and unsteady gait, hell survey my garden, and offer his appraisal. Im guessing hell poke fun at my rows of corn, which were planted on May 18 and June 1. I must admit, theyre not too impressive the first planting is only several inches high and will not be knee-high by the Fourth of July. The second planting is just starting to show itself above the soil.
But he might be impressed with the lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, beet greens and arugala that will all be combined into a Fathers Day dinner salad, enhanced with fresh strawberries some from our garden and some from nearby Spooner Farms roasted almonds and feta cheese, topped with a light raspberry vinaigrette dressing.
Back to the corn, the capstone crop for most Pacific Northwest gardens. If I really wanted to feel inadequate on the corn front, Id head over to my East Olympia gardening buddy Ray Parkers place to look at his commercial corn fields. Instead, I just called him Friday for an update.
Just as I expected he got his typical early start with his first corn planting on April 22. Its almost knee-high already, he said of those 32 rows of Bodacious corn. The second 24 rows were planted May 15 and the final planting went in the ground at the end of May.
While the corn harvest is still a couple of months away, Parker will have peas ready for harvest next week, probably about 10 days ahead of me. Its a good growing season, everythings doing great, he said.
Id have to agree. Im especially encouraged by the sets of fruit on the blueberry, marionberry and raspberry bushes, and the apple trees.
Its also nice to see the grass growth rate start to slow down. During May, I spend way too much time mowing horse-less pastures with my John Deere riding mower.
What else is happening at Horsefeathers Farm? Well, we have 80 we counted them the other night big brown bats roosting under the roof line near the chimney. If Im wrong, and theyre in the attic, Ill deal with it after their young have taken flight later this year. Its no coincidence that were not bothered by mosquitoes when we sit on the deck at dusk. The bats take care of them.
A pair of band-tailed pigeons appear to be nesting on the property. We see them every day either at the bird feeders or perched in one of the many 100-foot-tall Douglas fir trees that line the south side of the property. Im guessing one of those trees hosts their nest. They are monogamous and the peak breeding season is right now through July.
Once over hunted, a 2007 publication prepared by the state Department of Natural Resources for small forestland owners reported a harvest of some 750,000 band-tailed pigeons in 1972 from British Columbia to California. That was an estimated one-half of the entire West Coast population.
Hunting seasons were subsequently shut down or restricted, and the population has slowly, but steadily, increased. I know Ive seen more band-tailed pigeons on my forested property in recent years. Theyre always welcome.
What arent welcome are moles. So it gives me great pleasure to announce my old Labrador retriever has caught two moles in the past two weeks. Way to go, Jake. Treats await you for each and every one of your successful mole encounters.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian