My amazing little artichoke is flowering

Upon re-reading my title, I realized it might actually sound a little bit naughty…if you are the type that keeps your head in the gutter, that is (and apparently I am one of those people if I thought this in the first place.  Hmmm.).  Upon even further reflection though, I think the thought came to mind because years ago, when I was teaching biology, I was doing an internet search for an image of an artichoke to use in a lecture.  One would think that searching for “artichoke” is innocent enough, but I guess I was naive because I stumbled across an image of a very well-endowed woman wearing, well, not much of anything.  How exactly was that related to artichokes?  I’m still trying to figure that one out.  If you happen to know the answer, please let me know.

Anyhoo…moving on.

My artichoke–the plant…in my garden–the one that survived the -22 degrees F winter last year.  Oh, right…that one!  Yes, well, I let a few of the flowers bloom in the hopes that I can save the seed and propagate some Montana hardy globe artichokes.  Because starting the seed in January is sort of a pain and I would rather not dig up my plants every year to overwinter in the basement, only to have the aphids hatch out of the soil and suck them dry a few weeks before they were to be replanted (Harumph!).  You see, I would absolutely love to offer artichokes to our CSA members!  And I will make it happen.  Maybe next year, maybe not next year, but it will happen.

Have you ever seen an artichoke in flower?  They are BEAUTIFUL!

artichoke-bloom

And they are humongous.  And the bees love ’em.  This one actually has a bee on it (on the right side you can just barely see some its black & yellow fuzzy body tucked down in the purple petals).  Here’s a few more pictures:

artichoke-plant

And these were the small heads I let bloom!  I harvested the big ones!

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We have at least a month, and possibly a lot longer, before the first freeze is expected, so these babies should have plenty of time left to set seed.  When the time comes to clean the seed from the flower head, I’ll post some photos and/or video because it is quite a process to clean them!  The first time I cleaned the seed, I was surprised at how involved it was.  Teaser: needle nose pliers were involved.  That’s all I’m gonna say.

This weekend Hubby is continuing work on the fence.  It’s been on the wish list for a few years now, and I’m so happy it’s finally coming to fruition.  The deer will have to find other peppers, cucumbers, beans, strawberries, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, rhubarb, sunflowers, kale (the list is pretty much endless) to eat because this buffet is closing its doors.  The chickens will have a much larger space to roam, so that will make them very happy.  It will make me very happy, too, because it means the Girls won’t have access to the backyard and the deck anymore–which means: I won’t be stepping in chicken poop anymore when I go out on my deck!

Ah, it is the simple things in life that bring me the greatest pleasure.

Spring fever is sneaking in

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Spring fever is beginning to hit me.

It’s been so warm here lately.  The snow is melting in town and on the lower trails, which means the mucky-yucky season is just around the corner.  Right now the lower trails near town are ribbons of packed-snow-turned-ice laid out on bare ground that sees a lot of exposure to the sun.  As soon as these ribbons of ice melt, the trails turn into a muddy, mucky madness.  It’s best to just stay off the trails until they dry out because the trails are über slippery and ultimately you end up carrying half the trail home with you on the bottom of your shoes.  Not my favorite season.  Sometimes you get lucky and the higher trails are still in good enough shape for hiking and biking and trail running that you can stay high while the lower trails dry out, but there’s usually a period where you just have to either get muddy or hike elsewhere.  Or do something completely different.

Like read seed catalogs and dream of your garden this summer!!

Today I saw bare patches of earth that have not seen daylight since early December.  The snow has stuck around for a long period this winter due to a colder than normal (or recent memory normal) December/January.  I really have no complaints.  It made for good skiing, the roads in town were snow packed and my studded snow tires got put to good use, and shoveling the sidewalk is good exercise (TRUE farmgal fitness right there! No gym needed.).  Not to mention spending evenings sitting by the wood stove knitting and chatting with the Hubby while MaeBelle lays at my feet, happy that her pack is all in the living room with her.  But seeing these bare patches of earth made me think of spring: new growth marking the re-birth that occurs every year after a long winter.  The wildflowers that dot the hillsides make for incredibly scenic hikes in May and early June–probably my favorite time of year in Helena.  But it also made me think of my garden.  A few of my garden boxes are now exposed after having been hidden under the snow for months.  If this weather keeps up, it won’t be too long before my garlic and rhubarb and oregano start poking their sleepy little heads above ground to soak up some sunlight.

For me, spring is going to come very soon because this farmgal is traveling southward at the end of the month, heading back to the motherland to visit family and do a little bit of consulting work.  I hate flying, and my last experience was so bad with cancelled flights and what-not that I decided this time I’m going to drive.  Yes, it’s 1800 miles ONE-WAY to get to my destination, but I have decided to make a long road trip out of it and visit some friends, colleagues, and nature preserves along the way.  And, this is perhaps what I am most excited about, on my way home I’m going to stop in at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri!  I love their catalogs, their exotic seeds, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to love their farm set up they have in south-central Missouri.  I’m hoping to spend some time walking around their gardens and gorging myself on photography.  I may have to purposely leave my wallet locked in my car so I don’t go completely nuts buying vegetable and flower seeds (“I’ll take one of everything, please.”).  Then, I’ll pay a visit to the Laura Ingall’s Wilder home in Mansfield.  I was a HUGE “Little House on the Prairie” fan when I was growing up, so this will be a treat.

By the time I get back home, spring should be just around the corner and I can start some seeds in my basement for eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and a whole slew of other goodies I want to grow this year.  I’m really hopeful we can get our fence put up this year to keep the deer out of the yard, and I’d love to put up a greenhouse this year (that might be wishful thinking).  I really miss my greenhouse I had when I lived in Arkansas.  That was my happy place.  I could go out, smell the earth, get my hands dirty, and feel complete and total stillness in my life.  I believe playing in the dirt is good for your health, and there’s even scientific evidence to back it up (though any gardener will tell you that gardening is good for your health and well-being).  So will I be able to play in the dirt by the time I get home from my trip?  Outside?  Maybe.  It all depends on how much more snow we get and if the warm weather sticks around.  If nothing else, I can play in the dirt in my basement and tend to some seedlings until I am able to get my hands dirty in my garden.  I’ll take whatever I can get.