I dozed off just moments after I sat down to write this, which means the rest of it doesn’t bode well or what I have to tell at the end has worn me out.
You can decide what’s more likely, unless you doze off now …
Garden dreams this time of year are shrouded in a blissful haze: sunshine glistening on the shoulder of a green pepper, dew clinging to crisp lettuce leaves, bees buzzing in lazy formation around the tomato patch.
In my annual seed catalog-induced trance, I have been busily ordering my seeds and tubers and supplies, imagining how amazing the garden will be and conveniently forgetting the bugs, mold and blights that plague my crops every summer.
Well, really, with house-high piles of snow around the yard and nary a grass sprig in sight, who cares about pestilence?
As I looked over my lists, I realized I have some strange fixation on the land Down Under — and slightly next door — because I have several oddities with links to Australia and New Zealand.
Take the Australian butter squash, for example. I suspect it was the butter part that lured me in, but this winter squash from Pinetree Garden Seeds of New Gloucester looked lovely with its muted orange skin and sounded scrumptious: “This old Australian variety is a great keeper, has a very small seed cavity and silky smooth quality after roasting or baking.”
It didn’t say how big it got, but it looked small in the photo. Needless to say, I was surprised to find it can reach 15 pounds in size.
Then I decided to get Triamble, a cute-looking winter squash that grows in a curious three-lobed shape that resembles a shamrock. This offering from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, was described thus: “Very thick flesh, excellent quality pie or vegetable squash.”
Again, I was shocked to find out it wasn’t actually shamrock size but tops out around 10 pounds each.
By this point, I was afraid to know much more about Crystal Apple, a cucumber from New Zealand. I’d ordered it from Seed Savers and couldn’t remember anything about its size. All I knew was that I’d tried to order it for the past couple of years, but it was sold out.
Hooray for little New Zealand because Crystal Apple is comparable in size to a small apple. I like that it is “very prolific” for I can almost taste the cucumber sandwiches now.
I kept south of the equator with a purchase of Piracicaba from Fedco Seeds of Waterville. Pira-what, you ask?
It’s a type of brassica pronounced peer-a-SEA-cah-bah and is halfway between a heading broccoli and a broccoli raab. It hails from a town of the same name in Brazil and has gotten rave reviews everywhere I’ve read. While I don’t want to contemplate this now, I will mention Fedco says it “freezes wonderfully.”
In my color-deprived state, I was lured into ordering a lettuce called Hyper Red Rumple Waved, also from Fedco. Hyper red pretty much sold me and a picture online confirmed I likely won’t miss it growing in the garden, so deeply red it is.
It will emerge much like me this spring: heavily rumpled.
Gardener in training
As many of you know, 2008 was a difficult year in my house.
One of our cats, sweet Katie, died unexpectedly in early February, the result of a thyroid problem.
A year ago, my Daisy dog was still in remission from lymphoma; she kept up the good fight until early June.
Another cat, our dear George, was nearing the end of his battle with mouth cancer. He died in April.
After that devastating first half of the year, our family was grieving — and hoping that we would not see another one of our beloved animals have any ills for some time.
It wasn’t to be. Our Zeb, a nearly 13-year-old border collie that came to live with us when he was almost 10, died unexpectedly two days before Christmas.
Zeb was devoted to Daisy and when she died, he grieved so badly that he stopped eating and drinking and we nearly lost him in June. I took him for 24 hours of emergency care at our veterinarian’s, which somehow seemed to break his cycle of searching for Daisy. But he never fully recovered.
With his passing, it left our house canine-less.
My sister — also known as the instigator — went online to petfinder.com and there, staring at us with soulful puppy eyes, was Pepper.
He was a rescue dog from Tennessee and living in foster care in New Hampshire. The rescue group Canine Commitment of Gorham was looking to find him a permanent home.
On Jan. 2, he came to live with our family.
It was a bit of a whirlwind I’ll admit, but for this little fellow, time was of the essence. For his future, he needed to get away from his dog-pack lifestyle and be an only boy to find his confidence. His only real problem is fear of new places and of men.
He’s now about 8 months old and is making significant progress. From play dates with other dogs to keep him socialized to visiting lots of new places to meeting understanding men willing to sit on the floor and hold cheese out for him, our baby boy is a playful, curious canine. (For video and lots of pictures, visit my blog at www.janinepineo.com.)
We decided to give him a different name, settling on Kai, which is said to mean “fire” in Scottish. It rhymes with pie, by the way.
As I write this line, Kai is stretched out beside me on his back with all four feet in the air, dead to the world and the picture of a content puppy.
I suspect from his dexterity at digging in the snow and his penchant for pruning everything from the apple trees in the backyard to the parlor maple in the living room that our Kai is a gardener at heart.
May he not wear me out in the process.