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People that have chickens sometimes have the terrible problem of having too many eggs.

 

E.B. White bought 84 chicks for his salt-water farm, expecting to end up with a dozen; however, he was a better farmer than a psychic and he ended up with 81 hens, producing about 20 eggs each day. He described his wife trying to keep up with the production, making all kinds of egg dishes, including “…all sorts of rather soft, disagreeable desserts, the kind convalescents eat doggedly and without joy.”

 

What a terrible fate for an overabundance of eggs!

 

I don’t have chickens (yet), but I do have a lot of time on my hands because it is winter in Maine. So when I discovered a blog and related article about preserving eggs yolks in salt, I was delighted – both at the prospect of something nice to eat in the future, and an interesting project to explore. The blog is Practical Self Reliance, by Vermont homesteader Ashley Adamant.  She’s on the internet, Facebook, and Instagram.  Here’s a link to her article on preserving eggs:  https://practicalselfreliance.com/salt-cured-egg-yolks/.  I can’t recommend her work highly enough.  I took one of her projects: preserving yolks in salt, and this is what happened:

 

 

It seems that eggs yolks can be preserved for a future date, to be finely grated over any dish you would otherwise grate Parmesan cheese over. In addition to this being an intriguing taste to try, it presents an option for lactose-intolerant folks. If you preserve the yolks in a 50-50 mixture of salt and sugar, you have a grate-able substance for desserts – I’m thinking chocolate pudding, or the like.

 

Salt preserves egg yolks in the same way it preserves meat: it inhibits the growth some types of bacteria that would otherwise spoil the food.

 

Here’s how I spent an hour yesterday:

 

  1. I assembled my ingredients. I decided to preserve 3 yolks in salt, and 3 yolks in a 50-50 mixture of salt and sugar. I figured this would give me a few to give away to adventurous friends, and not too many to waste if it turns out I don’t have any adventurous friends.

 

Here’s a photo of my kitchen table, with everything ready to go:

 

Yolk_AssemblingItems

 

  1. I filled one plastic container with kosher salt, and the other with the 50-50 mixture, both to a depth of ½”. My research told me that I should not use table salt, as it contains additives, and anti-caking agents.

Yok_SaltInContainers

 

  1. I used the back of a spoon to make 3 shallow divots in each container, carefully separated 6 eggs, and slipped a yolk into each divot. You will see I failed with one yolk, breaking it. I’m going to give it a go, however, and see what happens. Life doesn’t always have to be in a circle, right?

 

Yolk_InDivots

 

  1. I covered the yolks with more of the stuff they were sitting in: all salt in the first, and the 50-50 mixture in the second, again to a depth of about ½”.

 

Yolk_CoveredInPreservative

 

  1. I labeled and dated each container. I will let them rest in the refrigerator and will take them out in one week, on March 13th. And then I will tell you what comes next!

 

Yolk_LabeledForFrige

If you have read my blog before, you know that I will tell you if I fail. I hope not to, because it is winter in Maine, and I try to limit my trips to the store. I like to do big shops and then burrow in. But as I do love to eat, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I make nasty tasting salt-preserved eggs and have to drive to get some Parmesan. I’ll live.

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…and it is still too early to start seeds. This is the Testing Time, when gardeners are short on patience and long on yearning. When the seed catalogs are dog-eared, the seed packets are in-hand, and the garden is still under the snow and ice.

This has been an especially icy winter here in Maine. We have had a series of snows, thaws, and refreezes, so that the driveway, the yard, and most importantly the path to the greenhouse is covered in a thick unyielding layer of ice.

I try not to despair.

Instead, I am thinking about a few new techniques I am going to try this season, and I hope to document them and share them with you here. First, I hope to have 5 varieties of climbing vines that will appear at the end of our driveway: the first thing visitors to our home and Husband’s gallery will see when they arrive.

Grandpa Ott’s morning glories for early in the day, and Moonflowers for late. Cypress’s white blossoms, Cardinal’s red blossoms, and the Black-eyed Susan vine with its yellow blooms should be a colorful display. I plan to under plant with enough basil to stock my freezer with pesto this winter, something I neglected to do last winter and regret at least once a week.

These vines will take all of the saplings and poles I currently have for vining plants. But I also hope to have 4 varieties of pole beans, and so I will need an additional 16 saplings – I’m going to need 36 in total. The beans will include Ideal Market green beans, and Calypso, Charlevoix kidney, and Good Mother Stallard’s dry shelling beans. I’m hoping the beans will discourage the deer that have been walking through my garden this winter.

This is the first year I’ve seen hoof prints in the snow, most annoyingly on paths I shoveled for myself and my dog Gordon. I did NOT shovel for the deer! I try not to be offended.

I’m going to position the bean poles right where the deer are entering the garden from the woods – hoping to disrupt their path so that they make other plans.

The other new technique I am going to try is planting potatoes in trashcans. The cans are layered with soil and the potato eyes. When the plant is 6” tall, I will add more soil, and so on, so that the plant grows up and up, and fills the can with potatoes as it grows. Harvest will consist of tipping the content of the can out and putting the potatoes up for storage. (Note to self: research how to store potatoes)

I selected a russet and a red variety from Johnny’s Selected Seeds here in Maine – and I am trying to be patient until they ship in early April.

While I dream of this:

Greenhouse_midspring

My garden currently looks like this:

WinterTree

Hopefully my next post will have photos of seeds being started, and photos of my seed packets – the only color in my wintery life right now — and I am clinging to those packets as if my life depended on them. Because sometimes it feels like it does.

 

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1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

 

Or, if you are looking at my garden:

 

In the beginning the garden was without form, and void; and brown-ness was upon the face of everything.

 

Springtime in Maine. It takes so very long to arrive. It is discouraging to some. To gardeners, it just means the anticipation builds to a fever, where every tiny bit of green is heralded with hysteria.

 

This blog is the official “Before” series of photos. As the season progresses, I will update you with photos of plants emerging, blossoms opening, and a whole lot of hysteria happening. (Something to look forward to, yes?) Here we go:

 

This is a view of my garden, taken from the back deck. Brown, brown, everywhere. For now. Coming soon: the blues of hyssop and delphinium, the purples and pinks of poppies, multi-colored roses, lavender, Asiatic lilies, liatris, butterfly weed, and more.

 

Overview_Garden

 

These are two of my raised beds. The soil level has dropped over the last few years. There’s a layer of chopped leaves on top, and I will be adding some compost to that, but I also plan to buy some topsoil and dress the top of the four beds. These raised beds are for vegetables. This year: zephyr summer squash, sun gold tomatoes, kale, chard, and lettuce.

 

Raised_Beds

 

There is an area of the garden that used to be a tractor path to the lower level of a barn. Two walls of the foundation remain, and the path is mostly intact, but the rest has fallen prey to sumac trees (Husband calls them Devil Trees, because you cannot kill them), and tall weeds. I call this area the Trash Garden, but this year, I will be planting a baptisia and approximately 80 borage seedlings. It will be blue, it will be beautiful, and it will be filled with bees.

 

TrashSlope

 

I am currently enrolled in Bee School, thinking ahead to 2019. If I decide to set up a hive, it will go here:

 

WhereBeesMightGo

 

In-between my structured garden and the raised bed garden is Wildflower Alley. Actually, it’s Weed Alley, but I have aspirations. Here is where buttercups currently emerge, and I actually plan to leave them right there. They are lovely and bloom a good long time:

 

Before_Buttercups

 

Here is the main area of Weed Alley:

 

WeedAlley

 

Here is a garden my daughter planted last year. Mostly annuals. I’m pulling them out and planting wild bergamot this year:

 

Justines_Garden

 

Here is the entrance to Weed Alley, which currently has 5 mint plants and a few lupines in place. Planned additions: rue, lemon balm, and an extension of the herb garden, with Siberian chives, Good King Henry, basil, parsley, and dill.

 

Mints_Lupines_Area

 

This is a view of our orchard, currently under assault by brown tail moths. An arborist is coming in a few weeks to eradicate the nests. I will document this.

 

Orchard_Close

 

This is the Studio Garden, right outside of Husband’s teaching studio. I’ve since taken down the dead stalks, opening the space for the planted blue globe echinops, wild bergamot, lupines, and phlox to come back.

 

Before_StudioGarden

 

And this is the driveway edition of the Studio Garden, underneath the gallery windows. Coming soon: columbine, astilbe, and ferns.

 

StudioDriveway_Garden

 

This is only the beginning. Every week I hope to share photos that are much more interesting to look at! There will be a lot going on out there this year. And even though the hysteria that signals the approach of spring is consuming me now, I’m also feeling the solace that my garden brings.

 

Reaching for my overalls and feeling happy.

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This President’s weekend didn’t find me entertaining/hiding from vacationing college students or high school students. I was not elbow-deep in spackle from the winter home reno project. (I should have been, but I wasn’t.) Instead, I found myself with no necessary tasks on the Sunday of President’s weekend, and so I minced across the ice-skating rink formerly known as Driveway, got into the car with imprudently dressed Husband (sneakers for the snow and ice?), and we drove to South Bristol.

Every Sunday of President’s Weekend, the Thompson Ice house has its annual ice harvesting. The ice on the pond is cut into blocks of ice 12” thick, about 2×3’, and according to one of the men pushing the blocks up a ramp, about 250-300 pounds. As the event begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 4, I suspect that the ice blocks weigh 250 pounds in the morning, and weigh 300+ pounds at the end of the day! The ice is stacked into the ice house, with sawdust and hay above and below, “to the depth of a tyne.”

This was a commercial enterprise from 1826 until 1985. The building was deemed unsafe, but rather than sell the business on the open market, the house, property, pond, and dam were designated as a museum to preserve traditional ice harvesting. And visitors every year are grateful for this gift.

We arrived late morning, on one of those spectacular Maine days, when the white snow and blue sky compete for attention:

Landscape_Horiz

Here is the scene that greeted us: a motorized saw cutting grid lines into the ice, recently freed rectangles of ice floating free, and delighted visitors.

FloatRectPeopleSnowSpray

One of the young ones trying his hand at manually sawing the ice into blocks:

BoySaws_Still

The grid lines are precise:

Grid_Scored

A close-up of a floating block of ice:

Close_FloatingBlock

And of the floating rectangles:

FloatingRectangles

The first area of the pond to be carved into ice is the chute that leads to the ramp that leads to the ice house. Lining the chute are happy volunteers, mostly the kids, who man the long tools to encourage the blocks to float towards the ramp:

HappyBoy_IceChute

When the ice blocks touch the ramp, they are guided onto a simple wooden frame that guides them up out of the water and onto the ramp:

1GuideIceBlockOntoRamp

The block moves up the ramp until the floor of the ramp drops away,

2BlockGoesUpRamp

and the block tips forward and down, and slides into the ice house:

3BlockDropsOntoSlide

There is a gang of young men in cleated boots that greet the ice block with loud oofs and hollers, and they guide the block into its new home. When the day ends, the ice house will be filled to the rafters with enormous blocks of ice.

Then what? The ice is sold by the block or chipped, and a good bit of it supplies an ice cream party for the community in July. Good deal!

SaleSign

There was a small shed with a movie playing that described the history of the ice house, Thompson Ice House coffee mugs and sweatshirts were for sale, as were hot dogs and baked beans. I opted for the beans, and held the hot cup of amazingly sugary beans in my hands … I watched the ice chips fly into the air, listened to the dropped “r’s” of my neighbahs, and appreciated where I live.

 

WORDS FROM OTHERS

“Maine is a joy in the summer. But the soul of Maine is more apparent in the winter.”

Paul Theroux, American novelist (1941- )

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Oh, my heart. What a long, long 12 weeks it has been, with only the seed catalogs to cool the fever. I can finally start seeds now without feeling foolish. I have started two varieties of seeds in my office, and I am prepping the greenhouse to receive the first seed trays of the season on March 5. That tick-tick-tick you hear is not a clock. It’s my heart, ticking away all of the non-gardening moments in my life.

One positive accomplishment this winter was deciding on a name for my garden. I won’t erect a plaque or a signpost. But I will know my garden’s name in my heart, and because you are reading this post, you will know as well. My garden is “Solace.”

So, welcome! Welcome to my place of quiet, of blossoms and weeds, birdsong, bees, some food plants, all connected with winding paths and lots and lots of Maine rocks.

Let me share a few things: First, a few pages from my garden journal, my inelegant heap of scribbles, plans, and drawings. You’ll see designs for a formal herb garden that won’t be built until 2018, earliest, lists of what I want to plant this year, and where. Cross-outs.  Pages x’d out with an elegant “Nope!” in the margin. And lists. There will always be lists. In order, please find Research, Resources, and Who Goes Where:

book_crossouts

book_sources

book_roughmap

book_herbgarden

My garden is enormous and growing. My age is growing too. So my annual goal is to plant more perennials.  🙂  This year, my garden will see the first appearance of perennials I planted late last fall: 3 kinds of decorative alliums, 3 kinds of decorative grasses, and a summersweet bush.

This year the Perennial Roster includes purchased plants and purchased seeds. They are:

Plants: butterfly weed, cardinal flower, liatris

Purchased Seeds: hollyhocks, butterfly weed (Hedging my bets. If the plants don’t take, hopefully the seeds will!)

My potting bench is actually in my office — it’s where I work during the long Maine winters. Husband built it for me, and it is made even more beautiful by items made by friends, and little plastic farm animals (love the piglets, especially):

mypottingbench

Here is a photo of the first two seed varieties I started in my office, verbena bonariensis and butterfly weed:

seedtrays_full

seedtrays_close

I have a large rocky area between two cultivated areas in my garden. There are some lupines there, but mostly that space grows cranky grass plants and rocks. I call it “Weed Alley.” But I have plans for this space, and am working to change its name to “Wildflower Alley.” So the Perennial Roster also includes:

Harvested Seeds: teasel, wild monarda, queen Anne’s lace, lupine, milkweed, asters, blue globe echinops, echinacea (2 varieties), rudbeckia (2 varieties)

Annuals are the instant-gratification of gardening. These ephemeral beauties are also workhorses. They only get one shot at producing next year’s players, and so they are quick to germinate, quick to flower, and hardy as all get-out. I love them.

The Annual Seeds are:

Flowers: celosia (2 varieties), verbena, zinnia (2 varieties), tithonia, sweet Annie, fennel (2 varieties), mammoth dill (for looks)

Food: 5 varieties of squash, 2 varieties of pole beans, 5 varieties of lettuce, 3 varieties of so-trendy micro-greens, parsley, basil, dill (for eating), kale, broccoli, tomatoes

I bought my seeds from three sources this year. Because seeds are my favorite part of gardening, and because I think the packets are lovely, I’m sharing sample packets with you:

packets_fedcoseeds

packets_johnnysseeds

packets_seedsaversseeds

It is so irritating to have to wait. All of our Survive-the-Maine-Winter-by-Doing-Home-Reno-Projects are wearing on me. I’m done with drop cloths. I want to be outside.

I hold on to March 5: the day I put seed trays out in the greenhouse. Remember that. March 5. March 5.

I’m coming for you.

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Weigh-Off day dawned overcast and damp, and it didn’t matter a bit. The volunteer pumpkin growers filled the area quickly, the tent was buzzing with trophies, paperwork, Pumpkinfest swag-for-sale, and the monitors that would display the pumpkins’ weights, and the forklifts were at the ready.

Myrtle waited patiently, resting on her green tarp that we used to lift her into MH’s trailer.

myrtlewaitsonpallet

 

The trophies waited patiently:

trophies

 

The scales waited patiently:

clearscale

 

Some late arrivals came in pickups, and we were treated to the first view of the harnesses that would be used all morning long to lift the monsters.

another-pumpkin-arrives

harnessnewentrant

This event was run beautifully. I know, I seem to say that about every Maine event I attend (like the Common Ground Fair), but it’s true – these folks know what they’re doing. The event was conducted with professionalism, speed, and a flair for entertainment value.

And so it began. Bill Clark, of Clark Farms, was the Emcee, the Master of Ceremonies, the Guy with the Mic.

billclark

 

The forklifts started their ballet, moving one pumpkin on its pallet near to a scale, while the second forklift hoisted a just-weighed pumpkin off the other scale to be moved to the waiting area.

The forklifts started with the smallest pumpkins first, so that the anticipation of the Big Winner could build. (See what I mean about entertainment value?!)   And the smaller pumpkins were harnessed and lifted by hand onto the scales to be weighed.

whitepumponforklift

movewhitepumpbyhand

 

There was a Youth Division, and an Adult Division in this Volunteer Grower Weigh-Off. While I’m sure many of the kids had adult help in growing their pumpkins, they had clearly assumed ownership of the pumpkins, and their delight was palpable.

childwinner

 

MH, and all of Team Myrtle, was proud to see that Myrtle was the first of the pumpkins too big to be lifted by hand. The loops on her harness were slipped over the tines of the forklift, and she was lifted by machine from her pallet to the scale

Here is a photo of proud MH the Grower:

MH_DisplaysWeight.JPG

 

As the day progressed, and the pumpkins increased in weight, the forklifts exited and the green tractor appeared. The winner of the day had a monster fruit, weighing in at 1,711.5 pounds.

volunteerwinner

 

Fun fact: White pumpkins tend to weigh more than the orange pumpkins….hmm, something to remember for next year when selecting a seedling!

It was a wonderful day. And the news about how Myrtle would participate in the Pumpkinfest was another happy surprise: Myrtle will not be carved or painted for display in the town. No, this girl is going sailing in the river! She will become a boat in the Regatta on Sunday!

We are all looking forward to seeing whether Myrtle becomes a paddleboat or a motorboat, and just how sea-worthy she is! Stay tuned….

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Harvesting – it is always bittersweet. One moment a fruit you nurtured throughout its life is vibrant and still connected to the Earth. Taking in water and nutrients. Growing.  And the next moment, its lifeline is cut, the vine is severed, and so begins another phase of its existence, and for plants, this means the beginning of its demise.

All of this make me a bit weepy: Children going off to kindergarten, a daughter or son driving away to their first apartment, a pumpkin going to get weighed.

This post will be long on photos and short on captions and commentary. There is so much to show, and as tomorrow is the big Weigh-Off, another post is in the Offing, as it were. I will tell you what’s going on, briefly, and let the photos mostly speak for themselves!

MH the Grower, wife Kathleen, and Two Lifters of Heavy (sounds better than Two Heavy Lifters. I guess I’m sensitive after months of being consumed with Myrtle’s weight.), were due at high noon today. MacKenzie waited.

1_macwaits

As did Myrtle.

1_myrtlewait

MH the Grower had it all planned.  A trailer hitched to his truck. Inside, a pallet, or “skid” with a large piece of pink foam insulation board for Myrtle to rest upon, and a large piece of foam to cushion her on the ride from my garden to Pinkham’s Plantation and Garden Nursery.

1_thecar_trailerarrive

The plan was to roll the trailer as close as possible to Myrtle, lift her in, and hitch the trailer to the truck.  But one question needed to be answered.  Once Myrtle was loaded into the trailer, would those present be strong enough to roll the trailer out of the garden and close enough to the truck to be hitched?

MH decided there was only one way to find out: Place several humans in the trailer and see if MH and my Husband were still able to roll the trailer.  I suppose I, MH’s wife, and my daughter could have been mightily offended at being regarded as “just weight”, but because it took three of US to weigh one Myrtle, it seemed acceptable. We participated with good cheer:

2_testingwithweights_best

The trailer was rolled in:

2_MoveTrailerIn.JPG

We moved Mac away:

2_macinway

The trailer was moved into position:

2_rollingtrailernearmyrtle

And rocks were placed under the hitch to balance against Myrtle’s great weight.

2_levelingwithrocks

It was time.  MH used his knife to cut the vine 10 feet away from Myrtle’s stem.  This would allow her to continue to drink water overnight before the weigh-in.  My job, when it came to actually lifting her, would be to keep the vine in position so that it didn’t snap off.  MH also snipped off a few straggling vines to avoid the main vine being compromised or tugged in any way.  A few photos to show this:

3_massivestem_closeup

3_theknifeinhand

3_cuttingtenfeetout

4_MHTrimsSnaggyVines.JPG

The tarp was put into t position.  The idea was to roll the tarp up against one side of Myrtle, roll her onto it, pull the tarp through to the other side of her, and roll her back.  I held the vine, hoping I could keep it intact.

4_ArrangeTarp2.JPG

4_AmyHoldsVine.JPG

MH, my Husband and the Lifters of Heavy rolled Myrtle from side to side, maneuvering the tarp under her. Kathleen volunteered to support the leveling rocks at the other end of the trailer.

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5_Lift2.JPG

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5_Lift5.JPG

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5_lift7

5_lift8

I wish you could have heard the audio of that effort.  The puffing, the groans, were earned.  That pumpkin was So Heavy.

And after that enormous effort, the crew posed:

6_thecrewposes

I was happy to hold the vine, reluctant to relinquish it:

7_happytoholdvine

And the tiny little blue pad that had so bravely protected Growing Myrtle from the damp earth was now alone, with no job, no crushing weight above its head.  I think I heard a tiny little sigh of relief.

7_LonelyPad.JPG

And Myrtle was safely in the trailer.  Time to go to Pinkham’s!

7_myrtleintrailer

The road was smooth, and MH, my daughter, Myrtle and I arrived a Pinkham’s one day before the official weigh-off.  MH guessed correctly that the Nursery men would be grateful to have some of the entries arrive early.  Apparently, tomorrow morning will be quite chaotic.  Here is Myrtle as she arrived, foam cushion in place:

8_MyrtleArrivesAtPinkhams.JPG

A few earlier arrivals greeted us:

8_earlierarrivals

MH took the enormous jug was water and alfalfa “tea” that Myrtle will sip overnight to keep her strength, and her weight, up:

8_MH_TakesOutJuice.JPG

As we waited for the forklift, I noticed the sponsor’s sign (Sysco, a food corporation) on a tent — inside, the scales, tables, equipment and furniture for tomorrow’s event:

8_syscosponsors

And here came the forklift:

9_forkliftapproachestrailer

The next photos show the forklift picking Myrtle up and moving her into place, next to the Earlier Bird pumpkins:

9_ForkliftInserts.JPG

9_forklift_lifts1

9_Forklift_Lifts2.JPG

9_ForkliftMovesBack.JPG

9_forkliftpositions

9_myrtleisdown

And just like your second-grade class photo, with all those happy youngsters lined up for the camera, Myrtle was in place:

10_MyrtleInPlace.JPG

MH the Grower and Bill Clark, of Clark’s Farm (co-producer of Pumpkinfest along with Pinkham’s) chatted about cantelope “webbing” on pumpkins, shape and genetics, and other pumpkin-pertinent points:

10_mhbillclarkchat

It was time for Myrtle to be labeled.  I wish I could say she was graced with a silver plaque,but it was really just gray duct tape.

10_billclarkapplieslabel

11_label

And so this Harvest Day ended.  Myrtle was in place, and the pallets for tomorrow’s arrivals were stacked and ready.

12_palettesstacked

My daughter and I will join MH and his family at Pinkham’s tomorrow at 10 for the Volunteer Grower Weigh-Off.

Any bets of Myrtle’s final weight?  My husband and I independently came up with 403 pounds and 402 pounds, respectively.  From our lips to the Great Pumpkin’s ears.

I will report.  Stay tuned.

WORDS FROM OTHERS:

“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”

— William Blake, English poet (1757 – 1827)

 

APPRECIATING:

“Clark Farms is family owned and operated. We provide fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Jefferson, as well as local eggs, jams, jellies, pickles and award winning pies.”

Pinkham Plantation: “Our local nursery in Damariscotta, Maine has the gardening products and, sometimes more importantly, the growing advice you need to develop and maintain a lush, fruitful landscape. We’re familiar with the local Maine soil conditions and growing challenges and offer solutions to help you grow the best garden possible.”

 

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