‘DEAR GAYLA’: Those two words are how each “letter” in this new occasional series will begin, each time I write here to my friend Gayla Trail of You Grow Girl [dot] com, a sort of “out loud” reality check we thought might be good for both of us (and maybe fun for you, too). We’re very different, but also birds of a feather in many ways (and those “birds” in the photo above are clip-on ornaments she sent me for the holidays, which I clipped onto a light shade in my kitchen). The first installment of our correspondence starts on the jump page:
SINCE YOUR VISIT last fall, I think of you every time I make pasta (brown-rice pasta, of course, because like you I try to keep the gluten to a minimum—well, unless someone bakes fresh bread and I simply cannot resist).
The simple act of salting pasta water got connected to you because of that amazing herbed salt you taught me to make, the unpronounceable “salamoia Bolognese” laced with fresh garlic, sage and rosemary. Divine. I keep a little Mason jar I filled with it right beside the stove (and sometimes confess I sprinkle it, intensely salty and crunchy as it is, on other things, too; it’s amazing for roasting vegetables). It’s also good for sticking one’s nose in when summer just seems so far away as it has some weeks lately; a pinch of warmer times.
We keep having little pinches of winter—a few inches of snow, a bout or two of deep cold—and then spring again, or at least mud season. In one warm spell about two weeks ago, the intermediate witch-hazels began to bloom, the first official flowers of my garden’s new year. I have lost count of how many times the on-off seasonal switch has been flipped, though. You must be all up-and-down in Toronto, too (though I am embarrassed to admit I can never quite keep straight your C versus our F and the relative temperatures).
Speaking of cold: The garlic and potatoes and onions I grew last year are staying nicer than ever since I moved them to the upstairs of the barn, where it’s much cooler than the cellar of the house, more like high 30s than high 40s. The room up there has a tiny bit of electric heat (just enough to stay above freezing, but not warm), which is what they all want to last better in storage, as cold as it seems.
I sometimes imagine you with all your marginally hardy things stuffed in oddball places at your house, too, probably tripping over them as I do here in some spots like the mudroom. Each of us could use a proper root cellar and a small greenhouse, but I don’t think either is in the cards here or there, right? Thank goodness that lacking proper infrastructure as we do, we are hardy and improvisational types.
I’ve thought about you, too, these last two weeks, in that “Gayla would understand” way, as I’ve raced from one book-related event to the next, feeling like the proverbial headless chicken but hoping nobody would notice. I know you have been through book launch several times, but at least you are a better traveler than I am. I mean, you even take planes and everything, like to Cuba. Me? I put 1,000 miles on my poor old car the last 10 days.
When I get home from each long haul, my reward is a binge of streaming TV—mostly British stuff, as is my usual—and I wonder if you have seen “White Teeth,” a mini-series about three cross-cultural families in 1970s England (though it released in 2002)? Loved it.
Do you feel as I do at this time of year—just before it all begins again in a giant whoosh!—that this will be the year that you (fill in the blank about some resolution or other that never seems to come true)? I’ve stopped committing to label every plant, which used to be my annual promise to myself but frankly would be a fulltime job.
One thing I hope I actually make happen: extend my food-growing season with some intentional changes—maybe one raised bed will get a proper low tunnel over it, and I really do need to run drip-irrigation tubing in the key beds.
Oh: and I must make a space for more herbs the way you manage to even in a smaller space. Encourage me! I scored some half whiskey barrel wooden planters on half-price markdown late last fall, so those may be the solution, carted into spots here and there where there is sunshine.
For now, though, I must finish my seed orders—and sow the banana shallots!
Talk soon; love to Davin and Molly. Meow from Jack.
P.S. — Thank you again for the bird ornaments! Serendipity: The grandmother who inspired me to garden decorated her holiday tree with bird ornaments, so I think with that genetics and upbringing, I am prepared to make them right at home here.
And also: I love the collage of seasonal photos you posted this week on your site, the same views seen at four moments. Must do that more deliberately myself, too. Thanks as ever for the idea.
Gayla’s letter to me
GAYLA’S FIRST LETTER to me in this series is here. They crossed in the “mail,” so I hadn’t read it as I typed this. Off I go to see…