Of course, MeanMesa -- just like Voltaire's Candid -- keeps a small vegetable garden during the wonderfully hot New Mexico summers. The apartment which hosts MeanMesa Galactic Command provides only a very small area between the sidewalk and the building where garden vegetables can be grown. However, this year, a close friend has rented a house a few miles away -- close enough to bicycle there every cool morning -- and very generously offered the use of his yard for a fine, large, New Mexico vegetable garden.
We thought that maybe some of MeanMesa's visitors would like a quick, photographic tour of the effort. So join us for a few pictures!
Here we are with the roto-tiller. It turns out that most of the vacant land in New Mexico is composed of what we call caliche -- it is a type of silty clay which is as hard as a concrete sidewalk. We had to count on our young, weight lifting friend,and roommate, Greg, to fight his way through this crusty barrier. After that, a few dozen bags of steer manure and the compost we had been saving all winter went into the mix. You can see some of the caliche just outside the box.
By the way, the decal on the side of the rented roto-tiller was also fun. It reminded us of a line in one of our favorite Neil Young songs "...no pass out sign set me thinkin'..."
We dug some serious trenches for the seeds -- on hot New Mexico days, it's best to have a little water pooled up for thirsty young vegetables to sip in the heat of the afternoon!
And, we planted a few nice sweet onion sets -- the first residents of our garden!
With the compost and the steer manure tilled into the caliche, our garden dirt started looking better and better -- that is, more capable of actually sustaining plant life!
We had enough room to make two nice sized planting beds. all positioned in a great spot to get the morning sun from the east!
Well, all these pictures show what things were like in early May. Naturally, everything got muddy and messy, but a careful visitor could feel the throaty engine of Great Nature just below the surface of the ground coming up to full power! We were sure that we would have a great vegetable garden which would put all sorts of appetizing garden fresh produce on our dinner table.
The following photos were taken in June.
Yup. A great crop of squash, carrots, kale, onions, tomatoes, radishes with lots of lettuce (three varieties) and spinach. Yum! Two busy cantelope patches are already home for some yummy little baby cantelopes the size of tennis balls!
We even planted some nasturtiums and marigolds to discourage the bugs a little. We got the idea from Michelle Obama's garden plan at the WhiteHouse.
These are some squash flowers and the beginnings of a couple of delicious, garden grown Danish squash.
Here's MeanMesa resting in the shade next to this years compost pile! We've learned a lot about gardening in the dry, high desert -- compost is worth its weight in gold! The "watermelon patch" is just under the sign.
Thirsty New Mexico birds always come along right after the garden is watered. They stop for a quick, cool bath, eat a couple of bugs and keep the whole business cheerful with their excited chirps.
The side garden is filled with volunteer tomato plants, lots of carrots and a great crop of okra! Both garden patches have a promising crop of broccoli, beets and turnips.
Scoffing at turnips? Try a turnip sandwich with sliced fresh turnips on some well buttered home made bread for a light afternoon summer snack!
Of course, there had to be some of New Mexico's famous giant sunflowers! These will be making shade for our friend's front porch when the sun moves even further above as the summer progresses.
This fall, when the sunflower seeds are good and ripe, they will be lightly oiled and salted then roasted into a super-tender winter time treats! Done properly, the hulls of sunflower seeds prepared from fresh garden sunflowers are easily edible! No more "splitting and spitting!"
Now, a few words about the future.
The adults who were around during MeanMesa's youth had all experienced the great Republican Depression of the 1930's. This meant that there seemed to always be a vegetable garden somewhere nearby. In the fall, extra vegetables were bottled and canned for the winter. A pit was dug and filled with straw -- ready to store fresh carrots, parsnip, potatoes, turnips, horseradish roots and the like. It kept them dry and cold. When a few were needed for a winter dinner menu, they were simply removed, washed and cooked -- often a job for the youngest family member.
In case anyone missed it, our country came within a camel's whisker of having another depression -- probably worse than its historical comparison -- at the end of the Unelected Bush Autocracy. The treasury had been looted, the national debt had been exploded -- with no tangible results in the lives of the tax paying folks, ridiculous wars had been started for the autocrat's special war profiteering friends and cynical political ambitions.
Our country went bankrupt. Schools were (and are) closing, roads are in ruins, bridges are collapsing. Although things are improving a little under an elected President, the hard times are still slamming the middle class all across the country. Slamming them HARD. Houses are being foreclosed. Unemployment is sky high.
What's the point?
Well, it might be a good time to become familiar with the idea of a vegetable garden!
We don't know how far down we must slide before we can begin to emerge from the damage. Our national culture turns out to be far more vulnerable to disruption than most of us ever thought before!
MeanMesa visitors need to realize that they can feed themselves! Oh sure, you may not know much about it right now, but a couple of seasons experience will make an expert out of you! Gardening is one of the oldest and most important technologies which moved our human race ahead. Before beginning even the simplest agriculture, we were looking for dinner by finding carcasses of dead animals, eating all we could then running away.
The small garden shown in these photos can feed a medium sized family all summer and help out a lot all through the subsequent winter. Learn how -- and what -- to plant, how to care for the garden, how to can the surplus and turn yourself into a mini-farmer! All that's required more than that is a good healthy appetite for your own fresh food!
Over dramatic? Think about what has happened in the last three years.