Tuesday, February 25, 2014

To see another Spring


Here's a sample of the downage from the big ice storm. Millions of trees have been damaged or destroyed, and the "chips" fell where they would. Of our own trees, the fruit trees, cottonwoods, willows, ash, maples and conifers came through rather unscathed, but the big oak threw down five quite large and heavy branches, two more than a foot in diameter at the big end. We are pleased they did not hit the house, but some of our friends are now having their houses rebuilt. Folks will be digging out from under for weeks. The air is heavy with the snarl of hungry chainsaws and the whine of contractors' trucks and miter saws.

These branches will make nice firewood. But we have to finish the pruning and start the garden first.

I have shut the poultry out of the garden and heaped up the two 3X50' beds at the upper end. Each year I begin by hammering some stakes at what I think are the bed corners, then raking matter out of the "paths," where the chickens have thrown it, toward the beds. I tidy up the boundary between bed and path by tying a "rope" made of baling twine from stake to fence and dragging the straw, muck, old compost, and a bit of soil underneath the rope onto the bed.

The soil in the lower garden is still wet. If the rain stays away I may attempt the four beds there in a few days as well. There are six, really, but one is now all blueberries and another is raspberries. There's little organic matter down there for some reason, though I have thrown compost, leaves and mulch at it for twenty-one years. Such heavy clay defeats everything. So I may have to throw on the contents of the compost bins, some of which is hardly ready for prime time but it might as well finish on the garden as in the heap.

I see I am down to one actual seedling flat, the others all having self-destructed or are the kind that are just for holding pots. So I've filled the loner with potting soil --

-- lined it off, and planted some radishes, kale, collards,lettuce, chard, and spinach. Whatever comes up will be pricked out and moved to pots.

I like the 3" size. These will be given a couple of either broadbeans or sugar snap peas each, and watered in. I brought home a spare blender from the last Florida expedition, and it sits on the potting shed counter, awaiting various concoctions for the garden. To water in these peas, beans, and greens I put comfrey, grass, dandelions, willow buds, garlic and mint in the blender, gave it all a whirl, and then decanted green liquid through a fine sieve into the watering can.

I've made a "warming" shelf by adding a plywood skirt to one of the "greenhouse" shelves and setting a 100 watt bulb just underneath. We'll see what that does. The world, with its changing climate, still offers enough bounty that gardeners can afford to experiment. 

I'm glad to see another Spring, and I'm not alone. Though I am dressed yet for Winter, my bones are moving a bit more easily, and if that and the smell of the warming earth were not enough clues, the juncos, towhees and sparrows are making offerings of song just beyond the potting shed door.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Turning the wheel of days

Bees are in the crocuses and dandelions between the bucketfuls of hard rain. I'm trying hard not to get overexcited when I go out to the potting shed; it would be so easy to start potting up -- but there is still firewooding of the huge storm-broken branches, and pruning of  the forty fruit trees, and pulling the beds back together that were leveled by the chickens and ducks, all of which, every year, I am supposed to do first. 

And I'm just not finding comfortable weather -- whine, whine, but at my age even a little exposure can be an issue. So it's out to the potting shed to clean up, sort, and dream, egged on by a mighty chorus of unseen frogs along the creek.

For twenty-one years I've planted seeds in this room. It was a frightful mess when we first saw it in 1993, the tail end of a badly built shed with an algae-slimed chipboard floor both too slick and too punky to walk on. The kids demolished the floor and walls for me, yelping with joy as nail-studded panels crashed all round them. We brought home a load of antique bricks from a chimney that was free for the taking, and Daughter (then seven) helped lay a new floor in a herringbone pattern. When it was done we danced.

We scrounged fence boards for the new walls and put in windows that friends gave us from their scrap piles.

Two-by fours found around the place were leaned against the south wall and supported recycled sliding glass doors. For a decade this was our greenhouse for starts, then we needed one of the doors for a barn window and the present arrangement has a vertical glass wall.

Before I built the solar dryers, I sometimes set up our window screens in the greenhouse to dry apple chips. Worked a charm.

Soon, I suspect, I will give in to the call of the seeds. To the tune of whatever's on our local classical station (I hope it will be Chopin), I'll lean forward and back, rhythmically scooping soil into three inch pots and tucking tiny bits of life just beneath the leveled surface.

Another year will have begun.

And one can only hope.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Looking ahead

Garden blog? What garden blog? First it snowed again, but at least did not go below zero (F) again, then there was an ice storm, then branches and trees crashing down, then temperature up to 55F but raining hard. I stay in a lot. I eat soup a lot.

Our big oak threw down four branches that look to be in the thousand pound range, but none of them hit the house. For us that's a boon (we can put the fences back up with ease after firewooding) but across the street the neighbors will be rebuilding their shop from scratch.

A friend lost her garage when two mature cottonwoods smashed right down through it, with a noise that damaged her hearing, and also wrecked the roof of the house behind hers. I brought over some tools, since they can't get into the garage through the damaged doors, then brought home some of the wood that had been piled by the curb. There was a break in the weather, so I made a loose woodpile and began adding to it by cutting up ash and maple branches that had fallen in our driveway. It was my first decent outdoor work since about December 10. As the rainstorm began, I closed up the saw job and went to sit by the fire, watching the creek rise through the big dining room window. Then I gathered together some blog posts I've been making and produced this little thing, using a pic from, admittedly, our best farming year here at Stony Run, 2009:

Price: Free
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An attempt to meld the Buddhist Eightfold Path with Permaculture's twelve principles as formulated by David Holmgren and others. By the author of Starvation Ridge.

To, you know, encourage folks. Myself included ...

We've had some aggravation, but nothing like the eastern U.S., Australia, England, Ireland, Brazil, and a hundred other places, neh? From here on in, getting in crops will be more and more unusual, I think. I know city folks often don't think about this much, but to eat you must eat things that are either alive or have lived. What do you think that means in the midst of the sixth great extinction?

Ironically, if there's any future left, it's probably in the hands of farmers. No, not the ten-thousand-acre kind.

This kind.

So says an urgent report from the United Nations:

They show a rather large and rather plowed field on the cover, which is too bad, but don't let that put you off.

The UNCTAD argues that farming must return to small scale production for food security, water security, carbon security, and climate security. That sounds like a worthwhile endeavor to me. Interested? But don't own land? There are many ways to get involved; here's one.