Ongoing Education

I was talking to one of the local children the other day who somehow had the idea that getting out of high school or college was the end of the educational process. After all, you immediately go to a job at that point and use the knowledge you’ve gained to make a living. He seemed to think it quite funny when I corrected him by telling him that I learn something new every day. Of course, education is ongoing. Anything that isn’t growing is dead and a form of growth is the increase of both knowledge and wisdom.

Of course, I do obtain daily increases in knowledge. The art of writing technical books is embracing a strategy of learning all the time. I read voraciously, subscribe to word builders, and conduct experiments to see just how things really work (as contrasted to the theoretical discussions in the books and magazines I read). The very act of writing involves learning something new as I discover new ways to express myself in writing and convey information to readers. I’ve picked up books I wrote early in my career and am often appalled at what I considered good writing at the time, but it was good writing given my experience, even though it would be unacceptable today.

Learning is part of every activity in my life and I relish every learning event. So it was this weekend that my wife and I packed our lunch and sent to Get Ready…Get Set…Garden! We look forward to it every year. This year we took classes on hostas (for fun) and horseradish (as part of our self-sufficiency).

Before we went to class though, we just had to spend a little time looking at some of the displays. A personal favorite of mine was the gourds:

Gourds

I’ve always wanted to make some bird houses, but never quite have the time. They actually had a class on the topic this year and I was tempted to take it, but that would have meant missing out on the horseradish class, which I considered more important. Here’s Rebecca and me standing in front of one of the displays:

JohnandRebecca

Well, onto the classes. I found out that there are over 2,000 varieties of hostas, which I found amazing. They originated in Japan, Korea, and China.  It takes five years on average to grow a hosta to full size, but it can take anywhere from three years to ten years depending on the variety. I found out our place for growing them is perfect, but our watering technique probably isn’t, so we’ll spend a little more time watering them this summer. Our presenter went on to discuss techniques for dealing with slugs and quite a few other pests. Most important for me is that I saw some detailed pictures of 50 of the more popular varieties that are easy to get in this area. I’ll be digging out some of the old hostas in my garden and planting new as time allows.

The horseradish session was extremely helpful. I learned an entirely new way to grow horseradish that involves laying the plant on its side for the first six weeks, digging it up partially, removing the suckers, and then reburying it. The result is to get a far bigger root that’s a lot easier to grind into food. I can’t wait to try it out. Of course, our instructor had us sample a number of horseradish dishes while we talked. I’m not sure my breath was all that pleasant when we were finished, but I enjoyed the tasty treats immensely.

So, what are your educational experiences like? Do you grow every day? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Early Spring – The Garden and Orchard

Spring really begins to take off with the introduction of new growth in the garden. Our permanent bed has a number of items in it; some start early, while others wait a while to make their presence known. About the earliest arrival in the garden is the rhubarb; a favorite of mine. Nothing quite matches the sour taste of rhubarb, especially the first growth of spring. Rhubarb looks like little red balls when it first appears, and then you begin seeing leaves like these shown here:

Rhubarb

Of course, it’ll be a while before I’ll enjoy any fresh rhubarb. I’ll show you how it looks later. One of the ways I like it best is freshly picked with just a tad of sugar. It’s also good in rhubarb rolls and we make wine from it (among other things).

Another early arrival are Egyptian walking onions. They’re called walking onions because they literally walk from place to place in your garden. The top of the onion sprouts a seed head. When the seed head become too heavy for the stalk, it ends up on the ground and replants itself; no extra work on your part! Here’s what the walking onions look like in the garden:

WalkingOnion1

When these onions get large enough, I’ll dig up just a few and enjoy them very much as I would green onions. The Egyptian walking onion tends to be a little stronger and a little larger than the green onions you buy in the store, but you can use them precisely the same way. Here is a patch of ground that shows the seed heads as they appear in spring:

WalkingOnion2

Each one of those tiny little heads will become another onion. We should have quite a wealth of them this year. The Egyptian walking onion is our second taste treat from the garden. The first taste treat is horse radish. The horseradish isn’t quite up yet; at least, it isn’t far enough up to tell what it is. Normally, you’d dig it up this time of year though, grind it up, add some vinegar, and enjoy.

Another spring delight is asparagus. I’ll be sure to upload some pictures of it when it comes up. Asparagus is planted very deep and doesn’t make an appearance yet for at least another two weeks (probably longer).

Part of the springtime ritual is pruning the trees. We have 32 trees in our orchard. This last Saturday we pruned the apples. Each tree has a unique pruning strategy and you’ll find that pruning strategies differ between gardeners. Here’s a typical apple tree after pruning.

Apple

See how the apple looks sort of like an umbrella or perhaps a gnarled old man? The approach we use works well for hand picking. It’s an older technique that many modern orchards have replaced with a technique better designed for picking apples from a truck.

We prune our apples every other year; the off year. Apples produce well one year and then take a bit of a vacation the next year. Yes, we’ll get some apples from our trees, but not as many as on a good year. Of course, prudent canning techniques ensures everything evens out. What sorts of spring delights do you experience? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.