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June 9, 2013

Why ‘Thank you!’ Is A Dirty Word
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:43 PM *

Raul Flugens, this morning’s Duty Gnome, just passed me a note listing the spams stopped by the “Thank” filter in the past hour:

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This is without getting into Thanxx, Thnx, Thxx, Tnks, and other variations.

Raul has gone off to eat some leftover baked ziti. The plums he’d been planning to have for breakfast were, somehow, gone. I’ve offered him some mocha-fudge brownies in their place.

Comments on Why 'Thank you!' Is A Dirty Word:
#1 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 01:13 PM:

Comment spam improves your wordpower.

In the first quoted spam "hebdomad" was the mad-lib substitute for, in other spams that come from the same generator, "week."

#2 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 01:24 PM:

So, Jim, given that we frequently have occasion to express gratitude here, are there alternatives less likely to get gnomed? Languages other than English? Or is circumlocution the way to go?

#3 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 01:27 PM:

My new blog has comment moderation turned on (because it has no readership and therefore no legit comments - it's all spam) and I have to say that I kind of enjoy the steady stream of incoherent praise. I don't approve any of it, of course, but it's better than messages chiding me for having inadequate genitalia.

#4 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 01:37 PM:

Jim@1: Huh. "Hebdomad" is actually a term from gnostic theology, referring to the seven powers who make the world (getting it progressively more mixed up as they go, somewhere on the spectrum from "God as Three Stooges" to "God as the crew of Jackass").

#5 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 01:45 PM:

Thx for the illumination.

#6 ::: Kip W, thanklessly gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 01:47 PM:

Am I to assume that tee aitch ecks is also watched for? Ta in advance.

[That would be a big Yes. -- Raul Flugens, Duty Gnome]

#7 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 02:05 PM:

Lila #2 --

Real people express gratitude far less often than the comment spammers do. And "thank you" by itself isn't flagged. When combined with certain other words, patterns of capitalization, or punctuation (notably exclamation points), however, it is.

The gnomes release the messages as soon as they get to 'em, which is usually pretty fast. (Raul doesn't even read Making Light the way the rest of the world does: He reads the raw comment feed, where posted comments and moderated comments all appear in the same stream-of-consciousness most-recent-first unformatted string.)

#8 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 02:21 PM:

Jim @7

I think Raul deserves a vote of, err, appreciation.

#9 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 02:28 PM:

The steady state of plums is "gone".

I think Raul deserves a round of applause (and the spammers a couple of belts of .50 BMG individually engraved "Unsubscribe").

#10 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 03:00 PM:

Reading that was definitely an education. It left me with an even-greater-than-previous appreciation for the work of the duty gnomes.

#11 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 03:10 PM:

@1, @4

It's not necessarily that esoteric:

"Hebdomadaire" is the french word for "weekly". A weekly newspaper, or weekly bus pass (for example), might be referred to as "l'Hebdo". While I've never seen "hebdomad" used to mean "week", it's a reasonable extrapolation.

#12 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 03:36 PM:

You are awing!


#13 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 04:08 PM:

Jim @1, Cheryl @11: French, eh? I guess the quality of merci is strained, after all.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 04:11 PM:

Wait a moment. I, for one, use hebdomad as a synonym for week. I do not thank the spammers for punishing me for having a larger than average vocabulary.

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 04:13 PM:

Edmund Schweppe #13: A bilingual pun is a thing of beauty.

#16 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 04:44 PM:

Gracious! I'm agog!
what a thankless slog
through a spam-filter log.
What gratuitous aggro!
Gratias ago!

(and for whom else does the phrase "I did impeticos thy gratillity" come to mind?)

#17 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 05:06 PM:

Cadbury Moose @9: The steady state of plums is "gone".

I read that and said, "I want that one on a t-shirt!"

Lila replied, "Or, more appropriately, a refrigerator magnet."


#18 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 05:27 PM:

Trying to prepare ahead of time ...

As a reward for being well-behaved in the yard, a while back we let Beka pick out four seed packets for 'her garden'. I filled a 36-hole flat with compost and helped (ok, she helped for a while and then she got bored and let me do it) her plant all her seeds, so 12 plugs per seed type.

She picked sweet peas, cosmos, canterbury bells, and canteloupe.

Most of them have now been repotted, but the canteloupe is waiting for us to empty the BIG planter (hopefully it will happen today). I'm presuming they'll grow roughly like all other melons (I've grown watermelons and squashes before). If they're not a grand success, that's fine; the main point is to get her used to seeing a plant progress through the year.


What if? What if we end up with twelve healthy, thriving canteloupe plants? I'm assuming they give more than one fruit per plant, on average. What if we suddenly have 18 canteloupes ripe all at once?

I figure worst-case I could cube it and freeze it for some later non-texture-dependent use, like pureeing with yogurt for popsicles. There's also fruit leather, though the last time I made canteloupe fruit leather people gave me odd looks at the taste.

What would YOU do if you suddenly had to get rid of 18 ripe canteloupe (and knew you'd get another 10 soon enough)?

#19 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 05:29 PM:

'Hebdomada' is Latin for 'week'. (Interesting that it has a Greek root; presumably the Romans did not have weeks before they met the Greeks.) Its basic meaning is 'set of seven', whether that be a set of seven days, of seven gods, or of other things.

#20 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 05:57 PM:

Elliott @ #18m thank the powers that be that it isn't zucchini. I can deal with 18 canteloupes, it freezes. Zucchini doesn't freeze very well, gets really boring after you have had 60 or so iterations of it during the summer (my mom was a champ), and just about can't be killed with a stick.

On the other hand, in a farm, on the ground, it can grow to the size of a footstool, and presumably briefly be used as such until it collapses into a pile of goo.

My father planted six hills of zucchini one summer, no one can imagine why because he had a green thumb. I still have flashbacks.

#21 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 06:05 PM:

Lila @ 2... I'd say 'merci', which has nothing to do with Ming the Merciless.

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 06:08 PM:

We usually stopped with three hills, but it was bush zucchini, so it was a little easier to live with.

Zucchini bread, zucchini chutney, zucchini/eggplant/tomato/onion something-or-other. Zucchini bread is a quick bread, and it freezes. Chutney gets canned (or frozen). You might be able to pickle it, too.

We always joked about sofa-pillow-sized zucchini, if you missed them two days in a row. Or turning them into dugout canoes, if they went longer than that.

#23 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 06:19 PM:

So we can no longer discuss George Lucas' first dystopian SF movie? Or a fictional city invented by Alasdair Gray? Curse you, spammers!

#24 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 06:32 PM:

Bruce Baugh at #4 writes:

>Huh. "Hebdomad" is actually a term from gnostic theology, referring to the seven powers who make the world

That makes sense. Hebdomaire is French for "weekly". It always sticks in my head because there used to be an anti-Gaullist weekly called "Charlie Hebdo".

#25 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 06:42 PM:

[I was going to write a post suggesting the use of a code phrase for the term of gratitude, and my suggestion was going to be for the most obvious of all Nigerian spam phrases. Then I thought, why make more junk for Raul to sweep up?]

#26 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 06:44 PM:

Elliott Mason #18:


When I was kitchen manager of a bakery-cafe, we once had an entire case of cantaloupe surplus to fruit-salad requirements, and I didn't want to waste them, so I made chutney. I remember onions, garlic, and red bell peppers being involved. I'm not sure what else.

It was very, very good on ham sandwiches.

I also made melon gazpacho. It was nice, and would have been nicer if the owner hadn't decided it needed a big whack of chopped scallions at the last minute. She thought she knew better than Jacques Pepin.

But, seriously: chutney.

#27 ::: Lisa Nohealani Morton ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 07:54 PM:

Elliott @18:

My excess garden product is usually zucchini and cucumbers, but usually I do my best to foist them off on the neighbors.

#28 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 07:54 PM:

Charlie Stross @23: KTHXBY 1138?

#29 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 08:44 PM:


#30 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 09:00 PM:

P J Evans, #22: Re sofa-pillow-sized zucchini -- I believe that at that point they become "vegetable marrows" of the sort that Hercule Poirot wanted to cultivate in his retirement. But that's only a speculation based on bits and pieces of data from here and there, and I could be entirely wrong.

#31 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 10:43 PM:

Elliott Mason #18:

> What would YOU do if you suddenly had to get rid of 18 ripe canteloupe?


#32 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 10:45 PM:

Vegetable marrow is sometimes sold as "white zucchini" but as far as I know isn't really the same.

Local-to-me fairs in Canada still have classes for largest marrow. I think I've seen a 40 lb example. Quite tiny next to the giant pumpkins, which now top 1000 lbs.

#33 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 10:45 PM:

Vegetable marrow is sometimes sold as "white zucchini" but as far as I know isn't really the same.

Local-to-me fairs in Canada still have classes for largest marrow. I think I've seen a 40 lb example. Quite tiny next to the giant pumpkins, which now top 1000 lbs.

#34 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 11:08 PM:

Fragano Ledgister: Wait a moment. I, for one, use hebdomad as a synonym for week. I do not thank the spammers for punishing me for having a larger than average vocabulary.

You could fall back on sennight...

#35 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 11:29 PM:

We did that. Every summer, the neighbors were grateful for the first batch, ambivalent about the second, and after that they locked their doors and pretended not to be home.

#36 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 12:32 AM:

Elliott: This seems like a good time to mention my dad's melon trick. He had a trellis made from a wood frame and a fishing net; you could probably make one with a wood frame and wire fencing. Just make sure it's strong enough to support melons.

The trick is this: You trellis the melons just like you would trellis cucumbers. When a melon starts, you feed it through the frame so that it hangs below. However, melons are much heavier than cucumbers AND have a tendency to release from the vine when they're ripe. Well, cantaloupe melons do, anyway. So to keep from having smashed melons all over the ground, you take a mesh bag (such as you might buy a melon in at the store), put it around the growing melon, then attach the bag to the trellis. The melon gets ripe, releases, and bags itself.

This keeps the melons off the ground so they don't get eaten from below. You'll still have to watch out for snails, slugs, and other climbing melon-loving critters.

#37 ::: Inquisitive Raven ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 12:40 AM:

I'd like to point out that if anyone here is low carbing, you can slice zucchini into strips lengthwise and use it as a pasta substitute. Somewhere I have a recipe for lasagna that uses zucchini for the noodles.

#38 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 01:16 AM:

Cadbury Moose @9: The steady state of plums is "gone".

elise @17: I read that and said, "I want that one on a t-shirt!"

This could happen, if enough people are interested. I checked with my partner and he said he'd be willing to do a short run, probably in time for those attending Worldcon to pick them up there. Specifics:

1) Price - $7 for pickup at Worldcon, $10 if shipped in the continental US, international shipping will have to be priced individually (and will be substantially higher than the price of the shirt in most cases).

2) Shirt will be printed with white ink only, but can be on any color shirt we regularly stock: black, purple, navy, brown, forest green, metro blue (aka Tardis-colored), red.

3) If you want a ladies'-cut shirt, you will need to send us your 100%-cotton blank shirt of choice in a color that contrasts well with white. We don't keep ladies'-cut blanks in any color except black, and styles vary so wildly that our blanks may not fit your body shape.

So... how much interest is there?

#39 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 01:26 AM:

I'd pay $7 for that shirt. Purple seems like the logical color; that in it I'd be stunning would be just a bonus.

#40 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 01:32 AM:

Serge @ 21:

An emperor's job is thankless.

#41 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 04:31 AM:

Andrew M, #19: planets, too, I presume?

#42 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 07:20 AM:

I remember back when I was banking with Citibank, their "thank you very much" ("have you been thanked today", et pluribus al) campaign was annoying enough that I started reading it as "spanked" out of sheer irritation.

#43 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 07:27 AM:

Elliott #18: IIRC, canteloupe can grow many fruits on one vine, just like its relatives. You are about to have piles and piles of melons. On the other hand, the flowers are gorgeous -- and edible, I believe -- so harvesting the flowers may be a way to cut down on the overload.

Just don't let them get fertilized by cucumbers or other squashes: The entire fruit grows from the hybridized zygote, and squash/melon crossbreeds tend to be spectacularly inedible.

#44 ::: Ceri ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 09:13 AM:

If I'm not mistaken, you can pickle cantaloupes, too - I'm fairly sure my basic Bernardin canning book has a recipe. (This one, I think, although my cover is different.)

This book also has a very nice sweet zucchini pickle recipe - which is tasty enough, and easy enough to make, that I pray for a big zucchini crop so I have extras to gift to friends.

#45 ::: Ceri ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 09:21 AM:

... and some quick googling shows me that the recipes seem to be available on their website. I can't confirm 100% as I don't have the book in front of me, but...

Cantaloupe Pickles (Haven't tried them, but I'm curious)
Zucchini Pickles

And apparently Marmalade Gingered Zucchini, which came up as I was searching and which I also haven't tried.

Here's hoping my links don't anger the gnomes. I will refrain from expressions of gratitude and instead offer them this jar of pickles...

#46 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 09:37 AM:

Many congratulations for solving the mystery of where the office of Hebdomadar came from. That used to be a position of authority in St Andrews University, or at least it was when I was there.
This spurred me to look up a book I have on the history of St Salvators college, and indeed the Hebdomadar was the college officer of discipline, and so called because each of the regents held the office in sequence fora week at a time.

Apparently in medieval times the hebdomadar was the priest charged with the celebration of mass during a particular week.

#47 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 10:22 AM:

Re: Canteloupes

Currently I have the 8 seedlings (so tiny! So cute! So unpreposessing!) planted in a circle nearish the rim of a fairly big, deep planter -- the kind you can put a midsized evergreen bush in on your patio -- with a tomato-cage stuck down in the middle for their eventual upward mobility. I reserve the right to 'thin out' later if Triffidness appears to be nearing; probably even just four would make a copious plenty. If it's two weeks from now and some of them are clearly more vigorous I can take the hindmost from the equation.

I like the bagging-themselves idea, especially since by the time this thing is fruiting the melonlets will be probably 4' off the ground, given the planter thickness and the trellising. :-> I have no idea if anyone in bee-radius is growing squashes, but I guess we'll find out. My hemi-cousins had a volunteer, vigorous squash plant in their yard (probably due to birds and what neighbors were growing) that made really, REALLY weird-looking fruit that was oh so tasty. Probably at least partly acorn squash, but they were white and green spotted with sort of lemony-yellow flesh, and not all of them were the same shape as each other.

Eating the flowers is genius and I'm surprised I didn't think of it. If timing works out well, I could even volunteer to bring tens of them to our Standing Friday Foodie Dinner thing as ingredients and have OTHER PEOPLE eat them up too. :-> My mom got into eating squash flowers (and daylily buds) when I was a kid, and there are so many stuffing possibilities.

I'm so, so glad John and I got off our duffs and did the Great Garden Switcheroo yesterday afternoon despite us both being wasted. We're going to be out of town all next week, so if we didn't do it today it'd be two more weeks, and that would have killed plants, both the canteloupe seedlings in their tiny flats waiting to be replanted, and possibly the cherry seedling that WAS in the huge planter, waiting its turn to be planted in the site of our former sandbox. Which itself was waiting on the creation of the NEW sandbox to free up the space ... etc.

I finished the new sandbox a few weeks ago, but we were both trepidatious about the amount of digging replanting the cherry would take. Luckily, someone must've used that end of the yard as a deep-dug garden plot at some point because it was fairly loamy all the way down, unlike where we put the OTHER three fruit-tree seedlings, which was solid clay almost suitable for pulling out and throwing pots from, with no stratigraphy at all. Did I mention we planted the other three trees in a tearing hurry, IN THE RAIN? Yeah. Digging deep holes in pure clay, in the rain. John's yard shoes ended up with over 6" of 'platform sole' built up on them, made of the clay; he said he felt like Frankenstein walking around. Scraping it off didn't help much, it built back up pretty quickly.

This one was much nicer: loamy humus with just enough clay in the mix to make digging the hole almost like slicing, with the clods holding together well and easy to get out on the shovel. Amazingly, the other end of the yard (the clay end) doesn't seem to have any particular drainage or puddling problems. Is there absorbent clay? If so, that's what we have.

#48 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 12:09 PM:

Lee, I'd buy that shirt. And if you could tell me the brand of ladies'-cut blanks you use, I'd know my size; I've bought enough concert T-shirts during recent years that I know how the different brands fit me. If it still requires sending you a blank, I'd probably go for purple as well, because I agree that it's the logical color.

#49 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 01:02 PM:

I LOVE that T-shirt idea. How much would it be to ship to the UK? Of course, almost nobody over here would get the joke, but...

Re. Zucchini, over here (UK), "Marrow" is what we call large courgettes (what you call zucchini). We never say "vegetable marrow", just "marrow". I presume we rely on context to separate it from bone marrow - or is there another meaning of "marrow" as well?

I tried to grow courgettes last year but the slugs kept eating them well before they got ripe. It was a REALLY bad year for slugs. Lack of time, as well as the awful weather during most of what we laughably call Spring, meant I didn't try to grow any vegetables this year, although I have a number of self-sown seed-fennel plants growing, some volunteer leeks (I didn't harvest the ones I started growing two years ago) and a couple of volunteer potatoes (I can only assume I failed to harvest a few tiny tubers), so we'll see if any of those come to anything. I -have- started some mixed salad leaves - rocket mostly, but some others (can't remember what was in the original seed packets, but most of what I harvested last year after it bolted and went to seed was rocket).

#50 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 01:16 PM:

I kind of love how this has become the gardening thread, though I wonder if there are Fluorospherians who would happily participate in it but don't know that's what we're talking about ...

#51 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 01:17 PM:

"Pleiad" is a nice word for a group of seven things, though it's not been applied to days, so far as I know.

#52 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 02:57 PM:

On zucchinis and canteloupes (and other surplus garden produce): try the Ball Blue Book, which contains recipes for pickles and relishes and such, or BH&G's 'You Can Can'.

#53 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 03:56 PM:

I just got in my tomatoes and peppers yesterday. Among other things I have a new purple tomato variety called "Vorlon", and yes, it is named after the B5 race. I may have a couple of plants available to DC luminaries.

#54 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 04:16 PM:

When you unexpectedly succeed in growing fruiting vegetables, it is always a good idea to take the excess to your local food bank. They hand out bags of food every day, and are often very glad to have fresh fruit and vegetables to include. The recipients, of course, are even more happy to get them.

They might even send someone to harvest for you. The year that our grapefruit tree unexpectedly burgeoned, we did that.

#55 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 04:18 PM:

Elliott #50:

You mean there are people who don't read all the threads? (OK, I skip spoiler threads for things I've haven't seen yet but plan to, and then catch up when I've seen whatever-it-is.)

#56 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 06:15 PM:

joann, #55: I often don't bother with spoiler threads for things I haven't seen, whether I plan to or not. And there have been some threads (not many!) that just didn't hold my interest, so I stopped following them. I know that I may miss something interesting by way of thread drift, but it's my choice to make.

#57 ::: storiteller ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2013, 05:24 PM:

The one thing that can absolutely destroy a zucchini or melon crop is squash bugs. I wrote about my experience with them last year on my blog, but the summary is that they suck all of the juices out of your plant before you have the chance to even figure out what they are. There's no particularly good organic way to kill them either, save picking them off and squishing them by hand. We had five or six healthy squash plants - a mix of butternut and zucchini - and got exactly 1 actual squash between all of them.

This year, our garden is doing very well, but we decided not to grow squash in the fear that there would still be some larvae around.

#58 ::: Tracy Lunquist ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2013, 01:43 PM:

@9, 17, et al.: and now I have an image in my head of Captain Jack Sparrow demanding of Elizabeth Swann, "Why are the plums gone?"

#59 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2013, 04:05 AM:

dcb @49

The Moon's my constant mistress
And the lonely owl my marrow

-Mad Tom o' Bedlam (traditional)

Marrow here is related to the Northern English dialect "marrer" meaning close friend, mate.

Marrows were always vegetable marrows when I were a lad in Sheffield.

If two (vegetable) marrows are similar in size ond appearance, one might be said to be t' marrer to t'other.

#60 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2013, 11:26 AM:

Back when I lived in New Jersey, where we had summer rain and I had some semblance of yards with sandy dirt in them, the standard rule for zucchini was to plant twice as much as you wanted, because the vine borers would get them some time during the summer. If you were unlucky, they'd get them early, or if you were really unlucky, they'd leave you alone and all your vines would be very productive. (Cooking squash flowers was probably invented for self-defense.)

I did have one summer that I tried to grow Chinese long squash, and made the mistake of fertilizing them and later going on vacation for three weeks. When I got back, half the back yard was covered in squash vines, there were baseball-bat sized squash on the porch roof, and squash hanging 10-15 feet up in the pine trees making it dangerous to walk under them, and of course they were too far gone for cooking so they mostly got composted. We took a picture of one of the squash standing next to a friend's three-year-old; it was taller than the kid and she looked fairly intimidated.

#61 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2013, 12:51 PM:

tykewriter @ #59, aha! That explains:

There lived a lady in the North, / I ne'er could find her marrow --The Dowie Dens o'Yarrow (Child 214)

#62 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 12:34 AM:

In regards to clay soil, my area is rather notorious for it and my dad spent years and years building up his garden soil. I did it in one season, because I'd heard a little about straw bale gardening and got the whole idea wrong. What you're supposed to do is spend a couple of weeks conditioning the bales and then plant directly in them—I'm doing it this year and I'm actually a little disappointed in the plants. They're healthy, but they're not very big compared to the stuff in the beds.

Because what I did do is take some old fence boards, build some raised beds, dig out the soil, stick the straw in the beds, and cover them with the clay soil and a little compost. All of that straw rotted down into the most perfect clay soil counterpart you can imagine, and the only down side is that my lawn is bermudagrass, so I'm always fighting the weeds. Oh well, I would be anyway; that stuff travels five feet in a couple of days and I'd have to rip out down six feet (and into the neighbors' yards) to get rid of it entirely.

I'm still withholding judgement on the straw bale gardening—it might work better in different climates. I am completely for adding straw to your gardens, though, because it rots while your plants are growing in it and they LOVE it.

#63 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 08:34 AM:

B. Durbin, I'm a big fan of How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back, myself. Less spectacular, but over time the effect is similar. What you do is, you apply a very thick mulch and from then on, rather than build a compost pile, you just stuff anything you want to compost under the mulch. Invented by Ruth Stout (sister of Rex, who wrote the Nero Wolfe books). She was able to keep gardening well into her 90s.

#64 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2013, 10:45 PM:

The straw would add amazing structure, suitable air gaps, and water retention, too. I bet it would be good for a lot of soils whose problem comes down to 'too little organic matter'.

I used almost-straight (cut a bit with clay from my yard) well-rotted composted manure as my potting-containers medium this year and I'm liking the results.

At some point we're going to actually have Real Raised Beds With Veggies In, but not this year and probably not next either. My stretch goal (in Kickstarter terms) for this summer, should we have the spare time/spoons/organization for it, is to find somewhere to set up our composter again and start filling it.

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