Mar. 9th, 2015 12:11 pm
ceelove: (Default)
It's been a winter of tribulations - seasonal, physical, monetary, personal - and also a time of awareness of how much worse it could be if-not-for. One of the biggest bulwarks against misery has been the greenhouse, where my tiny oasis of greenery stood stoically against winter's onslaught. Outside, it will be weeks yet before the ground is bare of snow and warm enough to germinate seeds. Inside, I did my spring cleaning, harvested the broccoli, and started a new round of greens and lettuces.
I spent a lot of money and time making the greenhouse happen, but being able to go play in the dirt now? Priceless. Even scientifically indicated to be happifying!
ceelove: (serendipity)
I wish I could make screenshots of my thermometers from various points in the last few days. I've been attending closely to the brutal cold, mostly because of how it might affect the greenhouse. Even when the low temp was down to 13 outside, and with no solar energy available to collect, just geothermal energy kept the greenhouse above freezing.

But last night, when it got down to -4, the greenhouse came down to 23 degrees. Oh noes, Cee, will it kill your plants? Maybe; but they're cold-hardy broccoli, leeks, carrots, Asian greens - it's not like I'm trying to grow tomatoes in there - so I'm not rushing in with a space heater, I'm just noting the data. And right now, the temp in there is back up into the 60s - while we're at the today's high of 16.

There's tinkering yet to do - I bet in years to come, I can do even better at trapping the heat - but I believe I have made my point.

Oh, and just because it amuses me: the broccoli was intended purely as an experiment, to teach me when I would need to plant it to get a yield. But now, in January, when it gets a mouthful of sunlight a day, it's producing heads. With salvaged glass and lots of insulation, I have turned the seasons on their ear.
ceelove: (Default)
Despite my best efforts, I have a substantial surplus of veggies. Local and in need of kale, chard, or kohlrabi? I'm your girl.
ceelove: (Default)
There is nothing like spending the morning preparing the garden for a heat wave to make one grateful.

As I got gross and sweaty setting up the watering system, it made me appreciate just how good I've got it, that I have the advance warning and the resources to mitigate the heat's impact - and that then I can escape into a/c. Even more than biking across America made me think on the settlers, gardening makes me think of the many who didn't (and don't) have a choice about toiling in the heat or lugging water around by hand to save the crops. Especially slaves: I spent my youth in the South, I know how miserably hot it gets there.

So even though I'm cranky from being gross and the watering system being broken in several ways and my fingers being cut and sore, I also feel humility, empathy, the urge to be kind for the sake of the billions who have it so much worse.

Now I'm going to go greatly appreciate another shower.


May. 30th, 2013 03:33 pm
ceelove: (Default)
How's gardening going this year? I think I've leveled up, though I've scaled down. For starters, the backyard is now a community garden plot, given that I've allotted raised bed space for my zombie-apocalypse friend to hone her skills alongside mine. That's about as permaculturey as you can get, right? (Admittedly, it's [livejournal.com profile] moominmolly's quail-coop-building project that's really going to sew up our status as bohemians of the block forevermore.) I've also been called in to consult on three other gardens getting underway this year, which is awesome: other people taking advantage of my ten years worth of mistakes! And I have, with help, successfully created the foundation for the greenhouse. Next up, framing.

I've pulled all the overwintered leeks, kale, scallions, carrots, and salsify from the garden, and most recently the winter lettuces to make way for other stuff. Just before the heat wave began, I gathered a little bowl of strawberries and the first handful of peas, from plants five feet tall and resplendent with purple blossoms. This year, the asparagus performed sufficiently that I ate a few - so tender that cooking was extraneous. I've had flowers brightening my eyes for the last three months solid. The raspberry patch is truly coming into its own, the blueberries are just starting to, the comfrey is a shower of bell-shaped blossoms, and the goumi berry plant smelled heavenly as it bloomed. I loooooove spring.
ceelove: (Default)
Fellow (Somerville-area) gardeners! My herb spiral yearns for many more things to be planted in it. Before I go searching to farmer's markets and online and such, can anyone give me cuttings (or seeds) from:

bearberry, bee balm, betony, chamomile, chervil, lemon balm, mint, oregano, penny royal, rosemary, sage, tarragon (French), or thyme?
ceelove: (Default)
I was ruminating on some kind of gardeny updatey thing, while I harvested this morning.

Like, there are tomato hornworm cemetaries, their innards becoming the stuff of parasitic wasp larvae instead of my plants becoming the stuff of hornworm innards. I encouraged the wasps with plants that lure beneficial insects. Permaculture: it works, bitches!

Or, ye gods, when I plotted this garden in the winter and planted in the spring, I expected it to be feeding, y'know, plenty of people. Now and for many weeks this summer, I'm the only one in the house eating measurable amounts of it. You can imagine the plotting I do to prepare and share my surplus, which is both great and surreal. I was going to take pictures of today's ridiculous bounty and mock-lament my fate of how to deal with it.

But with my hands full of harvested cucumbers, I met an old homeless Asian man on the sidewalk. I see him around, harvesting recyclables for the return fees. We found enough English and gestures between us to transfer several pints of cukes and tomatoes to his keeping. He was clearly very pleased, and I was very glad to give them to him, and yet the whole thing left me with an overall feeling of pensiveness and melancholy. I share so much food, but it goes to my friends, who are not undernourished. It was pure chance that I could give my fresh veggies this one time to someone who really needs them, and pure chance will not feed him well tomorrow, nor the hundreds of millions who spend much of their lives hungry.

So. Lots of happy ruminations on gardening going gloriously well. Rapture at the plants bejeweled with tomatoes, harmony with the pollinators so busy alongside me, a fair sense of awe at what my hands and some soil and the sun have wrought...all somewhat muffled by sorrow at how very rare it is for people to have this kind of luck and magic at hand.
ceelove: (Default)
A quickie, I think. What I've picked as of today, in absolutely no order:

"walking" onions
several kinds of tomatoes
four kinds of beans
three kinds of cucumbers
bok choi & tatsoi
mustard greens
scorzonera and salsify
many winter greens
husk cherries
flowers for the table
raspberry leaves for tea
comfrey leaves for a poultice to soothe a yanked-up toenail (worked great!)


Also, the backyard looks about as good as it ever has right now, given that it was greatly tidied for the arrival of a crew to film an episode on open marriage there. That was several flavors of surreal. Also also, I set up the rain barrel! Go me!
ceelove: (Default)
Thinning the greens from the polyculture (gosh, that sounds strange in the context of my community), I've got several pounds again. Who all wants some bok choi/mustards/kale/etc now? Those who are parenting infants or just moved or somesuch can request that the food arrive prepared, the rest of y'all can come nab yourself (or have a drop-off of) a mound of the fresh-picked.
ceelove: (Default)
I could say, you know it's verging on summer when we're getting multiple things from the garden, but, um, no. Now that's true all the way through the winter.

A few data points on the garden thus far: )

And here's the tally of what I've harvested already this year:
- winter lettuces, mache, claytonia, minutina
- old-world root crops of scorzonera (liked from last year) and salsify (don't like)
- pea blossoms and tendrils
- kale, chard, cilantro, chives (all returned from their roots)
- spring lettuces and mustard greens
- peas
- straaaaaaawberries
- bok choi, tatsoi, baby kale from the polyculture
- endless smiles
ceelove: (Default)
Hey, do you ever get so mad you could just pound concrete? Yeah? Great, then come pound some concrete for my birthday, April Fool's Day. No, really. I'm serious. (Can't you tell?)

Frequently Anticipated Questions:

What!? Yep. I'll be 39. Come swing a sledgehammer to celebrate. Oh, all right, the birthday is just a convenient excuse, come swing a sledgehammer because it's fun! In that Tom-Sawyer-whitewashes-a-fence kind of way.

When? Well, I'll be 39 at about 5 a.m. that day, but you needn't show up then. In fact, don't. No sledgehammers at 5 a.m. Between 1:00 and 7:00 pm, though, you'll be welcome.

Where? Oh, how about Moosecasa backyard, where (as always) there are projects that it would be awesome to have done. :P
More in the same vein )

Tl;dr? Come dig in the backyard, or just hang out, 4/1, between 1 and 7:00, with whatever combination of tools, kids, rubble, and food you can muster up.
ceelove: (Default)
It's strange, how quickly my ideas about gardening seasons have shifted, just by adding the cold frame last winter. Now I expect that there will be salad greens ready for picking in a month or two, which I hope will be available through the winter and early spring again. And then we could be eating the scorzonera and salsify (two old-timey root crops) in May that are just poking up now.

For now, there's chard, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, broccoli & romanesco, and raspberries still going, plus a bin of potatoes and basket of garlic dug up and cured. And the food we preserved? There are still beets to pickle, but apart from that, here's the tally, from our garden:
3 pints of pickled beans
3 cups dehydrated tomatoes
1 pint dehydrated husk cherries (believe me, this represents a huge amount of work)
3.5 quarts of roasted tomato sauce
1 quart of pesto
1 quart tomato-beet sauce
2 quarts green tomato & husk cherry chutney

And from local produce:
9 quarts of peaches
10 quarts of applesauce
1.5 pints sauteed mushrooms
4 baking-sheet sized rolls of fruit leather from foraged "autumn olive" berries

Oh, and almost 100 pounds of grain from our grain share: wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, and popping corn, with milling corn and several varieties of beans to be delivered when fully dried. So far, the grain share has its ups and downs: we had a lovely trip out to Belchertown, talked with the farmers about this first-year CSA attempt, got a personalized hayride, fed calves and a tsunami of 5-week-old chicks by hand (o god the tickle!), went foraging. But, this being their first year, there have been glitches, like about 12% of the oats not relinquishing their hulls and having to be picked out by hand. And of course, it'll be a big adjustment, storing and using these grains when I haven't previously cooked with anything like this much. But I'm excited, for increased nutritional value and hopefully flavor, for eating locally and seasonally, for exploring another avenue of playing with food.

For people who like numbers, here are a few from this season:
- 8 pounds of peas
- 17 pounds of beans - the plants produced for about 4 months
- one day, I picked 12 ounces of husk cherries, over a pound of beans, and 12 pounds of tomatoes, of which over 5 pounds were the little plum Juliets
- another day, 6 pounds of cucumbers, of which 4 1/2 of them were lemon cukes

So I'm feeling a goal shaping up for this winter. I want to eat at least one thing every day, and ideally every meal, that we preserved, that we obtained locally, or that comes from our garden. Half the time I have a little mental tally going anyway, so it shouldn't be that difficult to notice...
ceelove: (Default)
You know, I'm writing an entry in my mind pretty much every time I harvest the garden, which is daily for weeks now. Most of them, of course, don't make it to the point of transcription, but instead fade into the blurry past of other things I meant to tell you about.

Our tomatoes are ready to go head-to-head with Audrey II. The sungold vines are about seven or eight feet, and they ain't done yet. In fact, we're getting about a pint of sungolds a day, and this is still nuthin'. And that's to say nothing of the several other, larger kinds of tomatoes (which this year are not wilting with bacterial leaf speck because I've been spraying them with diluted cider vinegar) - which can add up, altogether, to several pounds a day.

A pint of strawbs a day, too, which must be at least as efficacious as an apple at keeping the doc away. I regularly have that little Kaylee's-eyelashes-fluttering-ecstatically moment when eating them. And about one ear of corn a day, some beans, basil, a handful of husk cherries... o/' "Summertiiiiiiiime, when the living is eeeeeeasy..." o/'

The brassicas are bustin' out all over. The kale is kind of scary - some of them have aspirations to treehood. The romanesco are heading up into little chartreuse fractals, we've had one kind of kohlrabi and another soon to harvest, and even the broccoli - little recalcitrant buggers that they've previously been - are just starting to head up.

Cukes, chard, leeks, scallions, potatoes all doing fine. Beans heading into their second flush. Four kinds of basil - the sweet getting all bushy, also the lemon, which smells magnificent; the Thai and purple basil are merely adorably pretty. Other herbs, not so much. I think that'll be the impetus for me to get a year-round herb garden started, in pots that can keep me company inside through the winter. Peppers and eggplants also likely yielding only a crop of object lessons for next year.

Compost pile rebuilt! I've been wanting this to be done since my first permaculture weekend last fall: acquired many bags of leaves then, and more recently some broken pallets to hold it all. Now it is much more attractive, accessible, capable of holding enough to actually compost rather than just burping methane, and located such that we can use that corner in designing the solar greenhouse. Hell yes, I'm proud.

A few stats: overall, gave away Asian greens to nine other people. Corn topped out at nine feet tall. Harvested 64 heads of garlic - should get us through much of the coming year! Asparagus, horseradish, blueberry bushes, goumi berry bush, pawpaws all well-established; three kinds of raspberries with consecutive seasons now flourishing.

Oh, and we accidentally harvested rye from our yard. No, I'm not kidding. It's part of the cover crop, and we just ignored it on the bed which is laying fallow. Then it dried and C cut some for a decoration, and I started messing with it, and it turned into a big homeschooly piece of tactile play and education with S, and then the next thing I knew we'd teased out about a pound of grain. And of course we're going to use it. We've got this grain mill, in case you hadn't heard...
ceelove: (Default)
So, you know that rule of thumb for growing corn (and who doesn't?), "Knee high by 4th of July"? What does it say that ours is, uh, chest high?

The tomatoes are already sprawling, by which I mean the vines are 5 feet long. Given that the sungolds have grown up to 10 feet in past years, I think we need to get up some trellises. And a watering system. Meanwhile, the first husk cherries will be ripening this week. Yes, really.

Peas are all done. Not that I've ever kept track before, because it wasn't really worth it, so I have nothing to measure against, but: this year I picked about 8 pounds of peas off the plants, and another 10 ounces of the tiny tender buds and tendrils at the end. Even more importantly, I finally identified what's plagued them several seasons here: fusarium. I am edjumacated.

Beans are covered with flowers, cucumbers taking off, kohlrabi/kale/broccoli/romanesco likewise getting mighty, four kinds of basil wonderfully aromatic. And I've had four solid months of all the salad greens I can eat.

And, having foisted it off on others six times already, we still have All the Bok Choi Evar. Take it!

ETA: I lied. We had Most of the Bok Choi Evar. I believe it is all quite spoken for now. :)


May. 31st, 2011 03:10 pm
ceelove: (Default)
So, you know how we had that ridiculously early, warm spring last year? And how we had this chilly, raw, gray "spring" this year?

Last year, first backyard peas picked on 5/28.
This year, first backyard peas picked on 5/31.

Last year, however, I was not handing out bags of salad greens in mid-April, nor bags of lettuces and Asian greens in late May. All hail the cold frame and the polyculture! (Which might suggest something different to many of you than the massively-productive gardening idea from within permaculture.)

In other news, Sleeping Beauty Wakes was just as awesome as it needed to be, to merit trekking down to NJ for it. I laughed and cried and goggled at their set & videography. For those of you still following along at home, it's very different from the demo recording that Groovelily made. Almost half of the original songs were gone or folded into other songs, which rather changed the story arc. As an appreciator of musicals and storytelling, I could understand the reasoning beyond their choices, but I still missed the songs. As a writer of musicals, I found the process fascinating. And as a big ole fangirl, I left a copy of Never After with the cast and crew and hope some of them enjoy it in return.
ceelove: (Default)
The course I took in Northampton showed me how social change (or stasis) is interwoven with my personal/ecological choices. It also showed me how a lot of my choices already reflect that concept, how I just didn't notice the connection. I'm happiest when sharing skills with my community: learning how to grow, cook, ferment, can, and pickle food, and then gather with others to teach each other or pass on our surplus. For my birthday last year, there was a "grubbing bee." Soon, there'll be a grain mill to share around. And of course, there are other examples, like throwing massage parties, which aren't about how we relate to food, but how we relate to our bodies and each other.

Now, what does permaculture matter to you? More than you might imagine, actually. There's a good chance you're recycling resources back into your community, like at a clothing swap, or sharing them, as in a group household. Pooling childcare. Attending bodywork & energy shares. Group art. Passing along sourdough starter. Teaching someone to knit. Selling each other local eggs and meat. Really, whatever things we do to put ourselves into our connections with other people and our surroundings, instead of handing a credit card to a faceless corporate fictional entity.

Yes, permaculture can get vastly more esoteric, simultaneously back-to-basics and cutting-edge. Yes, I'm excited about the idea of taking raw land and starting an edible forest garden, which might be years or forever away. Yes, I want a graywater system and a pond with fish and a root cellar (and a pony). I'll settle, though, for all the new perennial plantings (which, I didn't mention, will involve sledgehammering concrete to install), the rain barrels, a clothesline Carl's been building, remaking the compost pile for optimal performance, digging up and rebuilding our first depleted raised bed with a bunch of permacultural ideas, and designing a solar greenhouse for use next year. Well, okay, maybe I'll settle for a lot less, given all the annual crops to play with too. And, y'know, the vagaries of the universe.

My favorite example of permaculture-at-work in my life, right now, is the results of the cold frame, this first year of use. It has outperformed my wildest hopes. We had claytonia and mache, little salad greens, until February, of this winter. Then they sprang back in March, as did some of the winter lettuce that died off in December. Sylvana has been nibbling them like a bunny, and I've handed off large bags of greens to friends. Surplus to share in April. Meanwhile, the overwintered kale and scorzonera are thriving, getting a huge head start on the seeds planted in March/April. And next year, I expect we'll be doing a lot more winter harvesting, now that I know what's possible.

I'll leave this with a couple of recommendations, if your interest has been piqued. Gaia's garden is awesome as a means of understanding and applying permaculture at a small, even urban level. It's beautifully written and accessible, and I'm happy to loan mine around.

And if you'd like a taste of the overarching, holistically-different thinking that the course was trying to inspire in us, here's Andrew Faust, my favorite guest speaker. He spoke without notes for a couple of hours, tying ideas together in rapid-fire succession, so none of the clips available is going to do him justice, but they'll at least demonstrate how different a paradigm permaculture advocates, and what a shift in thinking it can require.
ceelove: (Default)
So, that permaculture thing. I've been trying to grasp and assimilate it, in class for one or two weekends a month since September, to get the gestalt beyond the concepts.

We spent a lot of time in class, which was formally titled "Permaculture for Social and Ecological Transformation", quietly scrunching up our foreheads around different ideas about doing things. We did exercises and had speakers to shake up our ideas about race and class and spirituality. We visited economic collectives, a backyard nursery full of about 300 kinds of plants you've never heard of, and an off-the-grid B&B. We examined the one-way process of human systems, from cultivating/mining a product's raw materials through disposing of the waste, versus the circular process of nature, where one entity's waste is another's raw material. We wandered snowy woods and fields to speculate on their history since the settlers. We talked of forest gardens which provide a host of human-and-other needs with very little human work for multiple generations. We practiced skills for differently seeing the potential of a place; we learned about reshaping the land to capture and hold the energy of water and sun and beneficial animal life.

I looked up the Wikipedia entry on permaculture, and while it's accurate, it somehow manages to be kind of boring.
Inhabitants’ needs are provided for using proven technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimised, "wastes" become resources, productivity and yields increase, and environments are restored.
How would I say it concisely? Permaculture is a way of re-seeing the human world by emulating the strength, complexity, and versatility of relationships that have evolved within nature.

What does it mean to me? I'm still figuring that out, and I imagine I will be for a long time to come. But it's gelling enough that I can explain it to others, or at least such that I'm feeling more pulled to try, so here goes:

Permaculture, for me, is the best mechanism for reducing my feelings of helplessness. )
ceelove: (Default)
It's been an amazing year for the garden - especially given that without modern plumbing, it would have been a horrible, parched year. And we're nowhere near done, even. )
ceelove: (Default)
It's amazing, the difference in how plants grow. For example, the fava beans are over three feet high and plotting to take over the neighborhood, and the cumin is about two inches high and delicate enough to make fairy gossamer furniture.

Today, Sylvana and I picked strawberries, lettuces/spinach/mustard greens, and the first peas. Yes, really. For the first time ever, there's been all the lettuce I want to eat. The mustard greens are yielding about a dozen different things, many of them yummily unidentifiable, some others delectable gourmet/mesclun varieties: tatsoi, kale, arugula, sorrel. chevril...

The potatoes are flowering. The tomatoes are budding. The shallots are going great guns, the garlic is two feet tall and as big around as my thumb, and the bok choi are tender and delicious.

The cucumbers are taking off, as are the wax beans and husk cherries, and to a lesser degree, the basil, leeks, kohlrabi, and broccoli. (Disappointments this year: the beets and spinach, as usual, have germinated very poorly, and the soybeans have either done likewise or suffered a 95% theft rate by the birds. But, *shrug*. That's a very low failure rate thusfar, overall.) Also, the plants in the front yard - blueberries and lilacs and hydrangeas - are doing fine, and two of the hydrangeas seem determined to give us lots of flowers in the coming month!

Put in the last of the seedlings today, in this springiest of springs - several kinds of peppers and eggplants and the last of the umpteen tomatoes. Whee! So many plants holding so much promise, and I'm already gathering a bountiful harvest of simple grubby pleasure.
ceelove: (Default)
Ye gods, [livejournal.com profile] starphire and I are doing a lot this year. And enjoying a good bit of the work of previous years. Of note thus far:

- a lovely succession of crocuses, irises, daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths now gone by
- strawberries covered with blossoms
- 53 garlic plants, about a foot high
- so many little lettuces, mustard greens, and bok choi that the last thinning provided a small side salad
- peas 6" and trellised
- fava beans a foot tall
- kohlrabi, purple potatoes, and shallots taking off
- something like a hundred raspberry canes up
- leeks and some of the tomatoes recently transplanted
- blueberries, lilacs, and hydrangeas all happily sprouting leaves in the front yard
- wax beans, beets, and spinach not yet doing much
- many trays of cumin, basil peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, broccoli, and tomatoes seedlings yet to plant, plus many more seeds
- two vanloads of compost lugged from Saugus, one more to go
- diseased plum tree transformed into gigantic hole and nearby mound of dirt (endlessly attractive to small people), on the way to being two more raised beds
- diseased cherry tree discovered to be dead, RIP poor beleaguered thing; oh well, more space for raspberries and such next year...


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