}

January 25, 2018

January Blues, February Brights

Time to get out of a mid-winter January funk. A record crop of Meyer lemons in the greenhouse might help.

It's been tough. I mean, I expected this. Book deadline looming and I just started writing. Even though I lost my job last winter I was fortunate to have a severance package, but it runs out in a month. I'm not ignorant to the fact that I am still quite fortunate, but I also know that changes are on the doorstep, and maybe I haven't prepared enough for them (hello? Health insurance?). Ive been trying to squeeze in doctor appointments and dental work before March.

I usually like January too - not only do I love snow, it's my birthday month. I should mention that I've officially reached that time in my life when it's like "birthdays? Really? I'm not talking about it.

Then there is this funk which is probably just a combo of everything. Not to mention Post-Holiday Diets, the unusually cold and snowy weather we've been getting here in the Northeast (bomb cyclone and the coldest weather in over 100 years).

This all seems to have manifested itself into a "might-as-well-just-wear-sweatpants-all-day-long-and-watch-Netflix" mentality.

Not healthy.

I have no interest in opening mail. In ordering seeds, or even for looking at nursery sites. I've kind-of lost interest in these things. I dont think that it's depression really, more like the fact that I feel as if I've grown everything and I cant find something new to be interested in. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

I am feeding the birds which is begining to really sound like a very old-man thing - (don't say it).  Still, I'm not doing much more.  Its really only a function. Thistle feeder is out again, dump more in. I'm not 'watching' the birds, which is probably worse now that I think about it. Guilt feeding.

They eat alone, (which they probably like).

I had little problem writing for the book however, so I suppose that is a good sign. Sitting in my office with the snow falling outside has been one of the most favorite things to do. Yet my problem still seems like that I don't feel like working, or not working for that matter don't dont feel like buying plants, nor watering the ones I have anymore either. Nothing seems interesting anymore, and I've lost confidence in what I am doing.

This week our weather seems to have entered another phase -  bit milder (fingers-crossed that it sticks). With these more average temperatures (highs near freezing and lows in the 20's) much of the drama from the early weeks of January has passed. I even am beginning to think about the future more.

I actually sowing a bit of seed today -some flats of mesclun.  I even smelled the first whiffs of the Sarcococca hookeriana in the greenhouse (which we need to grow in a pot here in Massachusetts - don't taunt me Oregon or North Carolina!).

I'm good with the potted semi-tender shrubs like Sarcococca because under glass on a snowy, January day the greenhouse smells just like Tahiti (OK, more like early spring in the Himalaya - whatever...). It warms my soul and I kind of need that lately. At least it provided some hopefulness that I'll 'like it all' again.


Some casualties from the cold include this Canarina canariensis, but after following lots of chatter on the Pacific Bulb Society newsgroup, its bulb-like root may be OK. Many say that I should plant this tender geophyte that has gorgeous orange bell-shaped flowers like in this post, in the ground in my greenhouse, and it might do better. I'm going to try this. I need something to do.

A few freezes didnt hurt the South African bulbs. I kept the soil dry through most of January, which helps the cells expand in case there is a hard freeze. We had the coldest weather in over 100 years with a week of night temps below -12° F.



My book on vegetable gardenings is underway, mostly photo editing and writing at this phase. So, that has been my focus - choosing the best pics, researching at the library at the horticultural society and writing.




The cyclamen are sturdy fellows, able to withstand some very frosty nights with no harm. As long as the roots don't freeze the more tender species like C. graecum, I'm OK. I was able to fertilize them this week on my first visit out the greenhouse this year,.


South African bulbs really don't seem to mind the cold and the wet. These Babiana fragrans may bloom by springtime. As you can see, I never cleaned up the foliage from last season. It's very fibrous and tough and needs scissors to remove it in when the pot is dormant in mid-summer. I figure that this is what happens in the wild (there are no baboons out there cutting the dead foliage down, just digging and eating the bulbs). The iris-like flowers will be pretty though in a few weeks.

Citrus like these Calamondin oranges are blooming, even though half of the plant died from frost.




Other citrus are just not handling this winter all that well. This is what is left of my big Kumquat tree. Not a victim of frost however, but of a misplaced electric space heater.



Tropaeolim - tjhe vining, high-elevsation tuberous types from the Andes seem to relish this weather though. They look so tender and frail, with thread-like stems yet after the hot, summer dormancy, take off covering little trellis' in just a month - blooms will soon follow.
Tuberous Tropeolum grow from round tubers like potatoes. Here is a new species I am growng -  T. ciliatum, a tuber that I acquired from a collector in September. Its  growth is still small and weak. I think that it will appreciate being moved to a sunnier spot in the greenhouse now that it is getting warmer in there.
Another tropeolum species T. tricolor  looked completely dead, and I feared its late emergence meant that something ate the bulb, but it was just last winters growth that I hadn't cleaned up in the summertime (see a trend here?). Not watered since May, I noticed a bit of thread-like growth earlier this week, and after carefully removing the dead foliage found these new stems twirling around.

Last weekend the sun came out, so after journeying out into the greenhouse - sweatpants and all - I coudl see that most of the Dutch bulbs and South African bulbs were emerging. I moved them all to a sunny sand bed, watered them and in just a few days, things have come back to life.

Scilla messeniaca a lesser-known scilla is beginning to show its buds.
The camellias that were planted in the ground always seem to bloom well even in the coldest winters.  One snowy night in a blizzard two weeks ago the gas man wanted to see what I had in the greenhouse around 2 am, but I told him that it wasn't pot - but I could tell by his expression that he didn't believe me so, I shown a flashlight through the frosty glass and this thing was illuminated. He said "Wow, what the Hell is that?". "Not pot, I replied."

Camellias in pots are hardy too if the roots dont freeze. More sturdy than the insulating bubble wrap it seems.

The South African plants are remarkable cold hardy. This Erica 'Winter's Flame' is just starting to bloom.


Narcissus cantabricus, a native North African narcissus species blooms early in the greenhouse sand bed. It is sweetly fragrant - like cottoncandy (which reminds me - when was the last time I smelled cotton candy? It's sweetly scented like a vanilla candle from Target.).


If I was to grow one Nerine, it would be this one - N. alata or N. undulata. I have six stems in bloom this year. It too didnt seem to mind a few light frosts in early January.


The chili peppers didnt like the frost. And while many people keep some chili pepper plants from year to year for a while (like Chiltepin type), these probobly wont make it. I do have some Chiltepin and Tepin pepper plants in the house, however.

The biggest citrus I have is a massive tub planted with a Mandarin orange tree. It was hit by the blast of the propane furnice, and I fear that it wont recover.





Moving forward, I have all hopes that I am moving out of this funk I'm in.  No worries, I'm a pretty positive guy and maybe I just need a challenge. I can't tolerate 'meh' for long.

You're probably thinking that I am just depressed.  Maybe - just a little, but most likely I'm not sleeping because I'm scared, bored and for some reason not motivated because of a combination of all of those things - which is probobly completely normal, right?

After all - this is a big life change I'm going through over the next few momnths. With my severance runnings out in march health insurance is my greatest concern (Cobra?).  IT seems that there is no shortage of freelance projects and consulting on my doorstep, but just how much and how fruitful or consistant it will all be, I dont know. I dont do well with inconsistancy - you know, used to that pay check every two weeks.

SOrry for thinking aloud here, but if you've read this far, you can probably see that this is just like therapy for me. Social therapy.

I've never collected an unemployment check in my life either, but ick - I may have to. I just feel like a failure too I guess.

Yet I promise to not let things get to me too much, this blog which I thought that I would have so much time to redesign and improve, will still go on.  I need to move forward and think about the garden again - and what's next on the horizon for my projects.

I have jsut started thinking about my annual 'special projects' list, which is a bit overdue.

 I am thinking about gladiolus again, a genus I have been putting off for a while now because dahlias got in the way - there are so many lovely crosses if you've even attended a gladiolus society show you know what I mean. Then there are fuschias to try again, but raising them in a different way - training them as standards or as large tubbed specimens, and then perhaps exploring how to create a mini-cut flower garden at home, designed to offer cut flowers for every week of the summer and fall, a mini-flower farm, if you will.

Last year I was reminded of how great coleus looks in group containers, and I am imagining an entire collection of coleus - growing them in odd or creative ways - espalier comes to mind. -

Asian gourds, a big chapter from my book has inspired me to try on a greater scale. Especially after visiting Chow's parents (a Vietnamese friend of mine) whos family grew so many types in their back yard near where I live. Those will definitely be on my grow list this year - including luffa, sponge gourds and bitter melon and how to grow them, because even though many of us know what a bitter melon looks like - who knows how to cook with them? I've learned this year, and want to share it.

Oh yes, and dahlias. And sweet peas. And the tastiest tomatoes - Amy Goldman Fowler's great book THE HEIRLOOM TOMATO has reminded me that the tastiest ones are not any of the varieties I have grown in the past. Thank you Amy! Get it and read it closely - it's fabulously rich with information and well researched.

See? I'll be OK.

There are then other projects which failed once again that I want to retry until I master them. More about those later. Those potted tubs of 19th century Miognonette are going to be mastered - I know it.


15 comments :

  1. I love your blog and have been reading it ever since I found you by searching "How to grow bells of Ireland" years ago. I think you are normally so super-productive, that if you slow down to a human pace, you feel subpar. Can't wait to read your book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, thanks Jenny. I still need to master Bells of Ireland, maybe I can do that again this year! I have some friends on flower farms who have great luck near me (although, they buy plugs).

      Delete
  2. Yes, another vote of support here. Transitions are tough and there's certainly enough in the daily news to dampen one's spirits. I look forward to hearing/learning from you about gladioli.

    Incidentally, I didn't post this before, but I think your new kitchen is handsome, with thoughtful and clever use of materials. Very nice colors, too. Hope you're enjoying it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks mlw, appreciate the support. Hey, maybe it's just a day length thing!

      Delete
  3. So sorry that you are feeling blue Matt, uncertainty is damnably wearing on the psyche. And the health insurance thing is infuriating. I hope that spring will be a time of renewal for you. Don't write off consulting-you have so much knowledge to share and the flexibility it affords may turn out to be a benefit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Im not really 'blue', just ever-so-slightly concerned about what's next - optimistic, really. Sure - health insurance is always a concern, but I'll get it figured out.

      Delete
  4. Anonymous7:20 AM

    Your blog is so important to me, and I'am worried every time when there is a long interval between your posts.
    Sometimes all we have to do is to rest and do nothing ;) I'm sure you will be happy and satisfied with your wonderful life when you regenerate yourself a bit. Best regards!
    Johana

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hmm, sounds like something of a 'dark night of the soul' (like St. John of the Cross went through). Sometimes you just have to wallow in that stuff. You'll come out on the other side eventually, after some inner realigning. COBRA, yes, or maybe Mass Health, if you qualify for that. Good luck with these challenges and the uncertainty!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Claire Fifi9:57 AM

    Oh Matt, I feel your pain. To quote the song "January, sick 'n tired you've been hanging on me". It's definitely a combo of the weather plus your circumstances. You'll start to feel much more positive when the sun shines again . Good luck. Take care and be kind to yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hang in there Matt, January is almost over. Just four more weeks to go until March. Being self employed is not easy, it's about inventing ways to motivate. I suggest making yourself get out to the greenhouse and cleaning up those dead leaves, even just for an hour. Also maybe try something completely different you've never done before, if it involves being with other people, even strangers, so much the better. Good luck writing the book. The world always needs new books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Paul. Thanks. I really should go clean up those dead leaves but the book is keeping me indoors. It's going well though, just running behind a bit!

      Delete
  8. It sounds like mild depression to me. But perfectly reasonable given it's a year of transition. I use light therapy every winter and it helps. But I also agree by the end of the post you sounded more upbeat than at the beginning.

    ReplyDelete
  9. wendi e.2:16 PM

    "Chin up, my friend, and go eat chicken"... oh wait, that's what you'd tell ME ;o). Perhaps a creative jaunt to sunny San Diego might be in your future soon... a hug, a beautiful ocean, and lots of blooming flowers to be photographed & enjoyed with your friend... ME!... awaits you. You're doing great!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous9:14 PM

    dear matt
    this post sounds more like Eeyore than sunny Mattman: go Mattman!
    you are so much better equipped to survive by the seat of your pants than many of us !
    (it isn't only you and your life, but general stagnation that is permeating the american gestalt. lots of stuff is at a crossroads, and the wheels look as if they might be about to come off. it is contagions, i'm afraid.)
    agreeing with Paul -- action always beats inaction. get out there and sweep up some of that depressing débris in the greenhouse. make sure those birdfeeders are cleaned. and get going on the sweet peas, for chrissakes.
    all best,
    ~ 02568

    ReplyDelete
  11. you nave been paying into unemployment your whole career. It's your money, not welfare. Think of it as a savings account.

    ReplyDelete

Oh yes, do leave me a comment!