Monthly Archives: June 2014

The luxury of failure

hobbit house garden June 2014

The hobbit house garden is coming along nicely.

Last year  I sheet mulched the front lawn and planted a guild of perennials around the crabapple on the right that included yarrow, strawberries, horseradish and borage. I put in a tomatoe patch on the left edged by native plants: obedience, virginia mountain mint, blue vervain, new england asters and white echanacea. The native plants weren’t very impressive last year but this year they are really taking off, all chest height and ready to bloom I can’t wait to see all the pollinators that will visit them.

I’m trying all kinds of edible plants in the gardens around the house, I have the luxury of failing. I don’t rely on surplus to sell and if something doesn’t grow I simply buy what I need. That is a privilege I don’t want to squander. Time seems to be on my side as I learn how to grow perennial & annual foods. The hardy kiwis on my back porch won’t bear fruit for 3 more years, but I have the luxury of time, I have enough cash to buy food too.

The UN published a report a while back that emphasized the need to shift away from large scale monoculture farming to small scale polyculture. If you want an idea of what that might look like applied in an urban setting I highly recommend reading Anni Kelsey’s book Edible Perennial Gardening and be sure to check out her blog.

So while the ants, squirrels, skunks, raccoon and hares have been having a heyday in my very edible yard I can rest assured we won’t go hungry thansk to On the Move Organics

Claire delivering my order from On the Move Organics

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My garden keeps working on me

Since the awesome Forest Garden Convergence in June I’ve been seeing my garden in a new light. There’s been a shift in my thinking about how densely to pack the plants in, about what’s being pulled and what I leave to grow. I’ve started thinking about which foods I already eat that are perennials (like asparagus, berries and nuts) and how I can get more perennial foods in my garden.

kale thyme sage garlic chives polyculture

More than that, my relationship to food is changing, I’ve started asking “how far has this travelled to me?” and “what does this food do for me?”. I’m appreciating how much work goes into growing food and I’ve become a bit more miserly, making sure nothing goes to waste.

I love growing things, something I discovered when we lived in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. Playing in the earth drops me from from hectic to reflective almost immediately and I’ve been looking for more things that trigger the relaxation response. I feel that deep sense of calm and well-being when I meditate, chant, work on my yoga practice, read and even staring into my aquarium.

.planted tank June 29 2014

I see my blood pressure drop as I eat a more plant based diet and I’ve been able to engage my self-discipline to mange my over-eating and use of alcohol. My blood pressure is dropping and my weight is shifting, decreasing by 6%, from simply being mindful.

As I try to apply the principles of permaculture to my garden and to myself. The most transformation has been on me, my thoughts and actions, what some folks call internal permaculture. I’m hoping to get a copy of this great book to keep growing my ability to nurture myself.

Stop eating beef?

A few weeks ago I saw an amazing infographic on shrinkthatfootprint.com that demonstrated how simply shifting away from beef could significantly reduce my carbon foot print. Carbon footprints are often on my mind, that’s partly why I walk to work and pay a little more for local, in season, organic produce.

For my family to stop eating beef would be a small change, we have it about once a week, but as the grilling season hits I’m tempted by the smell of steaks wafting from my neighbour’s yard. Time to check out Thug Kitchen for some awesome plant based grilling action.

My garden works on me

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I rent a cobbled together hobbit house that sits under a black locust tree. The blooms last only a week or two but it is amazing while it lasts. I love the look of this tall tree completely covered in blooms and the perfume is heady. I found out last weekend at the Forest Garden Convergence about the nitrogen fixing properties of this awesome tree and that the timber is known for it’s rot resisting properties.

I love that new blooms are always coming out so that as I work on my garden my garden works on me, calming me, nourishing me and healing me.

black locust at sunset

biodots, mood lighting and dandelion salads (guest post)

I love it when I get a chance to guest post on Fit is a Feminist Issue.

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

Dandelion Bacon salad. The trick is to make a roux from 1 tbl fat, 1 tbl flour then add a mix of 1/4c honey, 1/4c lemon juice, 1/2 c milk. Mix that still warm over 8c greens &4 slices of bacon (vegan option roasted pine nuts). Mmmmmmm Dandelion Bacon salad. The trick is to make a roux from 1 tbl fat, 1 tbl flour then add a mix of 1/4c honey, 1/4c lemon juice, 1/2 c milk. Mix that still warm over 8c greens &4 slices of bacon (vegan option roasted pine nuts). Mmmmmmm

Life has been a whirlwind since I was diagnosed with high blood pressure back in April and I griped about my feelings here and got some great resources from readers/friends/family.

I am learning to reign in my charming, yet not so good for my health, A Type personality and to be mindful of tension in my body. The good news, I’m making headway, so much so that after 6 weeks of blood pressure medication my doctor halved the prescription as I had lost 14 lbs and my blood pressure was too low at 107/72. This is good news. It means my arteries have…

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More than I can grok

I was not able to contribute meaningfully to the end of the day panel, I had no questions, it was, to use a term Lorenna had said, more than I could ‘grok’ (Don’t know that word? read Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein).

My head and heart were full of great ideas, wonderful experinces and the joy of being with awesome humans. I had left my house in the morning excited at what the day would bring. I had posted on facebook how much I was looking forward to a day with hippies, plant nerds and queers as I consider myself an neo-hippie-plant-nerd-queer and so rarely get to see all 3 communities together.

The day, while packed full, was calming and grounding, something I’ve needed more of recently with my high blood pressure diagnosis and the trips to my doctor and psychologist.

The next day, Sunday June 1, was equally gorgeous and as I went out into the back garden I was filled with a renewed sense of awe. Yes, of all 4 gardens the back yard is the shabbiest, dog dug saddest excuse for a garden but it is also a triumph of building soil. When we moved here 4 years ago the ground was hardpan clay, nothing growing sav a few hostas out front. The south side of the house was gravel, the north dark and funky smelling. While the north, south and west gardens are lush and filled with yummy goodness it was only this year I turned my efforts to the back yard.

There are now hardy kiwis, elderberry, nanny-berry, gooseberry, paw paws, hazelnuts, currants, scotia berries and high-bush cranberries in a yard that was only dandelions. Yes, there are still dandelions, garlic mustard and some creeping bellflower but there is also beauty and lots of bees, birds, butterflies, skunks, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks. They seem to hardly notice the concrete parking garage only 3 lots away and neither do I.

 

Forest Nutrition

Shantree made a compelling case for eating a diet primarily drawn from perennial foods in the late afternoon in the cherry grove. We sat in the dappled shade, surrounded by paw paw guilds and a variety of currant plantings.

He talked about how annual crops, like corn and soy bean, are in the ground for only a short amount of the year and therefore don’t have as long to establish the relationships with bacteria and fungi that Paul’s earlier presentation talked about. An excellent observation. He then went on to say that perennial plants can reach deeper into the soil to draw up trace nutrients and that made sense to me too.

At the beginning of the day Eric’s video referenced that perennial foods sequester carbon effectively and Shantree built on that noting how soil that is left exposed in annul cropping looses organic material to wind, water erosion and breakdown from the sun’s rays. He then walked us through a Paw Paw tree guild that one of his students had planted a few years ago. It was a lush planting of iris, mint, currant, lamb’s ear and about 5 other ground cover and herbaceous plants.

I walked away knowing more about aromatic plants, the 2:1 ratio for guild design 2 under-story trees for every canopy tree, 2 shrubs for every under-story tree, 2 herbaceous plants for every shrub. It’s all about the herbaceous and ground-cover layers, that’s were the diversity really ramps up in forest gardening.

There was so much information shared in such a short time I could write for hours, about the vast number of berries in the Carolinian Forest (I want to say more than 100 but it’s escaping me now), about how as we work our garden it works on us, on how seeing, smelling, tasting are all ways to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

It was a great way to end the seminars of the Forest Garden Convergence.