We bought our daughter’s car and made the decision that rather than let it moulder in her climate we would bring it home now. We have made the trip in the winter before and know that, if the weather is in our favor, and that’s a giant “if,” the road can be traveled with speed and determination.
On the day we left I started a flat of seeds: tomatoes, artichokes, leeks, onions (two kinds), shallots, lobelia, delphiniums, African violets, and an odd little pansy called a Victorian posy. I started them in three-inch pots, put them in a flat and entrusted them to the very best person I know who can handle the pressure of tending seedlings for me. Brave man. But it was odd to send off the flat without seeing any sign of life. That flat preyed on my mind for the entire time we were gone.
After a good visit with Andrea and her family we hit the road, the specter of weather somewhat assuaged by technology — being able to check the weather channel for what lay ahead was revelatory, something certainly not available 45 years ago. We met single digit temperatures and nice solid ice on the road most of the trip. We were prepared for the worse: chains, shovel, Arctic gear for John in case he needed to change a tire, warmest clothes for me in case I needed to hold the flashlight.
(Flat of seeds, anything up yet? …)
The farther north you go in British Columbia the less there is, of anything. Douglas firs that are, what — second, third growth? Pulp mills with acres of logs. Cattle ranches that are the epitome of lonely. Lots of gas wells with huge trucks dominating the road. And there is only one road. Everything hugs this thread.
Never pass a gas station. The accompanying diner/gift shops were all staffed by Asians with a limited command of English. What did these people leave behind that made northern BC look good? We saw fellow Homerite Paul Gregoire in Toad River, how cool is that? Other than him I didn’t get to talk to anyone but John. For five days. Hmm.
(Seeds — do they miss me as much as I miss them?)
There were two bright spots: Liard Hot Springs (never ever pass up this place, a jewel) and Teslin in Yukon Territory. I could live in Teslin. It has a huge lake, but, more important, it has the most excellent Nisutlin Trading Post. Here was where we found the best nights sleep, good food across the street. If it weren’t a million miles from here I would like to see it in the summer. I’m just sure there are gardens, that homeowners show pride of place, that there is a strong sense of community. So, if you are two hours east of Whitehorse, stop at Nisutlin Trading Post for sure. We need a store like this in Homer.
(How are those seeds doing?…)
And the rest stops in Canada are open and clean, every single one of them. Not so once we crossed in Alaska. Why is that? Why can Canada keep theirs open, plowed, maintained, and we can’t? Travesty.
If we decide to rally the AlCan again, it will be in a kinder season and we’ll take our time. We’ll have the camper in tow — the lure of seeing Yellowknife is strong.
Once home I snagged the flat and lo! the seeds were up (not the African violets but I don’t expect them for quite some time, they are a project unto themselves). The tomatoes are gorgeous, everything is gorgeous. What a relief although I had firm faith in my friend, he really pulled it off. I probably should have left them with him for the duration.
Yesterday I potted up the tomatoes. Feel free to do this as many times as necessary. Bury the stem each time so roots will develop, providing a nice strong system as the plant matures and starts providing you with outstanding tomatoes.
Which takes me all the way back to Bellingham.
Andrea and I were somewhere swanky for lunch and the waiter was touting “winter tomatoes,” which I countered with “there is no such thing.” His reply was they are grown in hoop houses in Canada. No. I don’t want a tomato out of season, no matter what a waiter says or how swanky the restaurant. Think about this. Grow your own. Eat a tomato that tastes like a tomato and when it’s winter find something else to eat. Simple.
Once again I have started too many artichokes. We really only need one and there are four excellent specimens under lights in the guest room as I write this. They will find a home, I’m sure, but really, why do I start too many of everything? When will I ever get a grip on how much is enough? I have cut down on how many onions I started this year. I do like to give them away but really, most of those I give them to are starting their own and don’t need mine. Phooey. Takes the fun right out of that.
I successfully stored the tuber begonias. There are various ways to handle these and the best for me is to remove them from their pots in the fall once the foliage has died back and store them individually in brown paper bags. They are now potted up in fresh soil, watered and on the windowsill downstairs. Each one is showing little pink sprouts, not leggy white sprouts. Excellent.
If you feel compelled to start seeds, get on it. Here it is March already, the heat in the greenhouse will be turned on about April 1 and everything under lights in the guest room will make the transition.
Think about that 2,556 empty miles between you and anywhere. Think about how Homer relies on boats and planes for EVERYTHING, including your food.
Reason enough to plant a garden, wouldn’t you say?
Rosemary Fitzpatrick has been writing KachemakGardener since 1990.