This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting to Blogger with such a large archive has become unwieldy. Also, your blogista, who is sewing a kesa, is not writing much at present. She has ceased adding new posts. Still-active links are here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

In high summer

We think of late July as high summer. It's a bit more droughty this year than even last year, as we did expect, and we are having to pay a great deal of attention to the mulch and water.

The potatoes should be lifted soon, as they have attracted the attention of gophers. Tomatoes and beans have set fruit but are not ready to pick. The corn is tasseling out and the pumpkins are greenly growing on the vines.

Risa has been cutting up excess vegetation from around the place and adding it to the compost heaps. She's moving irrigation and deepening mulch. She's also hiding a lot. There have been fourteen days at 90F or higher in this garden in July.

Birds have been trying to talk to Risa whenever she hand waters, so she's built an impromptu bird bath for them.

Last Son and Daughter were here. Last Son chopped and removed a lot of foliage from the creek (dry wash in summer) and Risa is composting it; Daughter will ferry our excess eggs (both duck and chicken) to friends and family in the Big City. She also foraged in the garden for chard, kale, potatoes, beans, cauliflower, and cabbage, as well as in the pantry. This makes us very happy; it's what we're here for.

Outside cookery, given the weather, has been a must. Pickled beets, beans, bread, chicken (the rooster, if you must know), potatoes, pasta, tea ...

Once a day, it behooves us to go, basket in hand, on a voyage of discovery. One of the ducks is a bit off her head, makes nests as far away as possible, and invites all the other ducks to contribute to her nest. We find it, and she follows us all the way back to the gate, complaining. But, hey! No drakes, no ducklings.

The last raspberries have been picked and the first blackberries. Geese fly over, talking among themselves of gleaning and rivers.

Turnips dehydrating
Solar tea
Garlic hardening off by a spud tub

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The lesson we gave in our home school, such as it was

You know things you do not know you know, just
as Plato told us through his mouthpiece, Socrates,
who died, remember, dribbling hemlock for telling

truths. So the risk is nothing new. Language,
before all, and so far as I know, this
is true of every language, is the same

as math. If you pick up a pebble, it
is only itself, first, and never a category
unless there is an observer; that is you.

You pick up another pebble. Once it has occurred
to you there are two things, thing one, thing
two, as Dr. Seuss told us, and they

are alike enough to have some equivalency,
you are doing arithmetic. 'One" plus "one,"
and then the idea "two" is introduced,

a great event in intellectual history,
as chronicled by Auel. So we have first
addition and subtraction, then multiple sets

of pebbles -- multiplication and division,
much later, but like the other, only
a little more abstract. A crow can do

this, enough to meet its needs. You like
a pea, so you look for another pea. Soon
enough, you know to go to the garden for

more peas. And a pea pod is parenthetical.
You are entering the realm of algebra, and a crow
can do that too. So it is with language.

A crow says to other crows, "Peas!" I have
seen them do it. There is a sentence implied;
"In this place there are peas." That is an algebraic

formula. "There are" is an operator; the subject
and object are operands. We pass along to others
the peas in our minds, so when they look they find

the peas we signified. This is portable;
that is, the same operation may be
performed on any like things, and also

to call some things unlike. Thus: A
equals B. Or: A equals not B.
"This apple is ripe." "no, it is not." That

is "assertion" and "refutation." The next step
is the exciting part, and is what we go
to colleges to learn. Before there were colleges

we learned it by song and dance, and by the telling
and retelling of old stories round the tribal
fires. Ready, now? Here you go:

A equals B, B equals C, therefore
A equals C. This is assertion by inference.
And: A equals B, B equals not C,

therefore A equals not C. This is refutation
by inference. Both are arguments, and both are,
together, all a university can tell you,

or, I must sadly report, tell you to misuse.
Thus: in business school, or law school, you
may be taught to subtly substitute a pebble

for a pea as one of your operands. Example:
"This is a new car. This blonde is with
this car in this image. Buy this car, and you

will get a blonde." And now you know, if you
will extrapolate from all I have told you today,
why your generation may not survive.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Smallholders the solution

United Nations report offers agroecology and smallholders as the solution to the developing food crisis. Reblogged from The Red Mullet. It's nice to have the United Nations confirm what some of us have been saying all along.

Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter
"...[I]ncreasing food production to meet future needs, while necessary, is not sufficient. It will not allow significant progress in combating hunger and malnutrition if it is not combined with higher incomes and improved livelihoods for the poorest – particularly small-scale farmers in developing countries. And short-term gains will be offset by longterm losses if it leads to further degradation of ecosystems, threatening future ability to maintain current levels of production. It is possible, however, to significantly improve agricultural productivity where it has been lagging behind, and thus raise production where it needs most to be raised (i.e. in poor, food-deficit countries, while at the same time improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and preserving ecosystems. This would slow the trend towards urbanisation in the countries concerned, which is placing stress on public services of these countries. It would contribute to rural development and preserve the ability for the succeeding generation to meet its own needs. It would also contribute to the growth of other sectors of the economy by stimulating demand for non-agricultural products that would result from higher incomes in rural areas." more

Season of drought

It is so dry now, my desiccated friend
spits in the bowl of his pipe before applying
flame to its bitter balm, for some kind of balance.

We tread on rustling mulch to study rustling leaves,
folded in desperate prayer, of what will surely be,
still, next year, an orchard and a kitchen garden

if -- large if -- the well does not run dry.
Everywhere flit wasps, sipping at beetles'
abdomens, having small aphids for dessert.

The birds have capped their singing, panting in
small shade. "Ninety, ninety, ninety-three and ninety,
ninety-seven today, and ninety yet

for all the week ahead, with this drying wind.
Don't you think things are getting out of hand?"
I ask him. He blows a little rueful smoke

but makes no answer. I anyway know from long
acquaintance his position: "there is a law,
and you and I and all these aching things

can never break it." It's that second law
of course, the one that is the silence heard
after all laughter, after songs and tears.

Soon the moon will rise, grand but red,
dressed in soot from a dozen cackling fires.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


When Polyhymnia sends refracted light
shimmering toward parched and shriveled roots,
seeking some semblance of promise kept alive
between her hands, her well, her seeds and soil,

A bit of fluff, a female Anna's, comes
to perch nearby, cocking its tiny head
and waiting. Waiting for the hose to steady
its cold blast toward some fainting eggplant

or tomatillo, ready for a burst of aimed
delight, catching one rainbowed drop of water
short, then flitting to the fence again,
shivering. To the Muse of hymns and farmers it's

a game, to the throbbing ball of feathers more.
Its heart will stop without the gift of rain.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

We need all the help we can get

Every few days, in summer and early fall, we cut some mint, bruise it, stuff it in a gallon jar, fill the jar with water, and set it in the sun all day. A pitcher of "solar" tea resides in the cooler, supplying a hot weather drink for, y'know, free. Sometimes we add a bit of variety: lavender, or oregano, or marjoram, or sage, or thyme, or rosemary. Beet greens. Spinach. Lettuce. Spring onions, dandelions, lamb's quarters. Perhaps a few Douglas fir needles. Add some homemade vinegar, ginger and stevia or honey, and you've got a great switchel.

I have pulled the garlic and it is resting near one of the spud tubs (we had too many seed potatoes for the spud bed, and even the chickens eventually tire of boiled Yukon Golds). Digging up sprouted elephant garlic and planting it in close ranks seems to have produced the desired effect, which is smaller cloves. We use these mostly in pasta and other cooking by pureeing a (small!) clove in the water or stock before adding the liquid to the recipe.

Tops are fading in the spud bed, so potatoes may need to be lifted soon so we can get a cover crop on. Beans, corn, pumpkins and tomatoes are coming on.

Gaps are appearing in the beds where the pea vines, garlic, and broadbeans have been cleared away. Old lettuce has also been removed and given mostly to the chickens and ducks. Good lettuce is still happening in the shade garden.

Repurpose broken resin chairs as shade blocks. These are protecting late-season hot-weather cucumber transplants.

There are a lot of ladybird beetles, spiders and wasps patrolling the vegs this year, for which we are grateful. I try to avoid knocking down webs and nests if they are not directly in my way. We need all the natural help we can get with aphids and flea beetles, and it looks like we are getting what we need.

The sun has been scorching even well-watered plants in what should be regarded as moderate weather. I have taken to affixing a sprayer attachment to the hose and offering the garden a tea made up of comfrey, plantain, herbs and garlic. The more we depend on producing our own food, the more we notice stress in the garden, and the more we try to offer assistance. Chemical companies have capitalized on this concern, but as I watch the garden predators return in ever greater numbers and re-balance our small eco-community, I realize what a swindle has been perpetrated, and am glad I have learned to do without them.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Green fullness

Polyhymnia walks between the beds
critical of eye, noting the way the leaves
of corn have curled upon themselves,
rattling in hardly any breeze at all.

They'd like to make believe it's Autumn now,
would they? Playing at getting past the part
where seed heads form, waving their silky hair,
and then depart, leaving the leaves bereft

of any purpose but to leave this world --
except, of course, they don't: that is the gift
of mulch. She brings the hose and couples to
its end a yellow whirligig, made to sing

the holy song of water to the leaves.
Today, green fullness. Tomorrow, living grain.

Monday, July 08, 2013

After the Fourth

Almost the entire family gathered this week, to spend the Fourth of July together and to carry out my parents' last wish, which was to have their ashes placed within view of the western side of a certain great mountain. The chosen site required a three hour drive and two-mile hike-in. The granddaughters, bless them, were up to this. Middle son carried my mom and dad; we ambled through dark woods along the north slope of a saddle and broke out into sun and view in the heat of the day ...

I have to admit I cried buckets on the way back, and oldest son stopped twice to give me long hugs. 

Having seen everyone off to their assorted Big Cities, I turned to in the neglected garden. 

The corn and pumpkins have gotten over their shyness and are engineering a takeover bid.

Green beans are filling out their trellis.

Runner beans are investigating theirs.

The last peas must be harvested, along with the last broadbeans and the garlic. And everything needs water desperately.

Life goes on, I guess.

Adding a structure

The day comes when you can't do it all by yourself, or as well as you used to. Beloved wanted to add storage space to be able to sort and repair stock equipment without aggrandizing the potting shed (which certainly sounded good to me) so I began to make suggestions: "I could ... " "No." "Well, I could ... "Nope, not that either." Alas.

What I could do was Google to find out who does these things that's close by. Kevin's Mini Barns is an operation run by a couple out of their home, less than a mile away. So we contracted with them. They set up their compressor in the chicken shed and their saw in the driveway on a cord from the garage, and went to work:

Kevin pre-framing the second wall.
Brenda running the nail-gun on the flooring.
Kevin prepares to cut in the door after spray painting the exterior.

Brenda paints the trim.
Done! ... in a little over eight hours.


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