Douglas Adams fans will understand why one of my favorite numbers is 42, and I just turned 42 a couple of days ago, so I expect a lot out of this coming year. Bless you, Douglas Adams! Wherever you are now. To kick my next circumnavigation of the Sun off in the right direction, how about this: last week I renewed my drivers license with the same address for the first time in my life. Since I turned 16 I've never lived at one address for 5 years. OK, admittedly I still haven't. My 5 year Georgia drivers license started in Macon early in 2010, then moved to Tifton the following new year, and then to Ellijay 16 months after that. And OK, the remaining 39 months are also split roughly down the middle, when you consider the 3 month co-farming fiasco of fall '13, where we briefly lived at a different address (though we still owned our place and never changed the address on our IDs)! Yes, yes, the point is, it's the first time that's ever happened! As far as signs go, I think it's a good one ;p
But I have to dig my roots in deeper, of course. The upcoming decades might prove to be a rough time to be a rolling stone. And gathering moss is at the top of my to-do list. Just above planting apples, and peaches, and plums, and raspberries, and blueberries, and shiitakes, and, well, you get the idea. Make haste slowly. I have a hard time envisioning life on the road as adaptive in an era of volatile energy prices, contracting resources and budgets, and increasingly local economies. But hey, if riding the slide on a sailboat's your thing, bon voyage. Who am I to judge?
Speaking of plums, plums make me think of the late English author P.G. Wodehouse. I have a book, a really nice edition actually, called "The Plums of P.G. Wodehouse," who was, in my opinion, a brilliant social critic, all too willing to discuss the cultural landscape of an empire in decline. We'll be seeing more of that in the upcoming decades on this side of the Atlantic, too, I think. The Brits are just way ahead of us, on average, in coming to terms with contraction. Most people here in the States can't yet even entertain the idea that the period of explosive economic and technical (and growth!) growth - growth growth? yeah, why not, it fits - of the post WWII era (the official transfer of power from the British empire to the American one) in this country is temporary and self-terminating. Much less that we could already be firmly entrenched in the pattern of decline on the far side of the peak. Still, the great god Progress will no doubt think of something to reverse that trend, and lay waste to that pesky Second Law of Thermodynamics...
[Tongue, cheek, yes?]
Back to Wodehouse, over the years of being married to my amazing and Anglophilic wife I've become a big fan of the British ITV show Jeeves and Wooster from the early 90s, which was based on Wodehouse's writing. In one of my favorite episodes, Jeeves and Wooster find themselves in coastal Devonshire on Lammas Eve.
"Don't be out late tonight," the hotel manager admonishes the guests on their way to dinner, "Ol' Boggy walks on Lammas Eve."
That was the first I'd ever heard of "Lammas," But like the other quarter days, Lammas makes sense, has its place in the natural cycle, and recommends itself for observance, even if only because of its calendar position. But more than that, traditionally Lammas was the deadline for wheat deliveries to the baron. Then, as soon as the landlord was satisfied, it was also the Feast of August, always heavy on the bread from the recent wheat harvest, which had probably just replenished some pretty sad larders. It was a time to celebrate the grain harvest and the feeling of security a heaping helping of starvation insurance like that must have delivered to the village.
Today is Lammas, and with my birthday so close by, I feel a certain natural connection to it. If nothing else, it's a good excuse to keep my birthday celebration going for one more day! Yeehaw!! But you know, every year I get a little closer to a life that recognizes and appreciates things like Lammas, makes a special mead to tilt the next time it rolls around, and just rejoices in being alive and healthy. And well-friended. I am thankful.
Thanks for taking a little stroll down the virtual street with me.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Happy Summer Solstice...a little late, but it was Father's Day, big market day, and Summer Solstice, all rolled into one! Oh, and then Monday was Oliver's 5th birthday, and Tuesday was my garden day at the local Montessori school, where we built a big solar oven in our garden this week (more on that below). So I'm going to just pick up where we left off last time, and run through a bunch of photos. There are some nice garden shots, some new self-reliance measures, there's a tour of my elementary school project, and a wrap-up at the new organic cider orchard that a couple of my buds and I have been working on. Let's go, starting with my place:
|The ol' fire pit doing its thing, on May Day evening where we left off last time, Raised my glass of mead to summer, as promised, grilled a little local grass-fed ribeye, some garden 'taters and root veg, sauteed kale from the kitchen garden, and enjoyed the fire with my family.|
|Built a small front porch, which is about to get its roof.|
|My daughter Ella turned 7. Nice tea set from my mom, huh? Ella loves wearing fancy dresses and setting out tea.|
|First-year plum guild starting to settle in.|
|Separated the rooster from the hens while I introduced the spring pullets to the laying group. Just as easy to build garden beds with chickens as with rabbits, probably easier - just have to wait longer to plant in it.|
|I've never met an organic treatment that has more positive effects on fruit trees than the chop-n-drop comfrey strategy. I've used it for years now on all kinds of problems, with excellent results.|
|This nectarine is our first fruit tree to reach 12'. Probably time to do some heading cuts on it next major pruning session.|
|Second growth on this comfrey, following a fat harvest. The rest of the guild is coming along nicely, the greens are productive, and some young tomatoes are settling in.|
|This one's here to help balance out the utter dependency of the last photo! We're finally catching some rain. I mean, when it rains again.|
|This is the best greenhouse design I've ever seen. Thank you, Mike Oehler! Although his is buried even deeper in the ground. I only had so much hill to work with, and didn't want runoff water, nor cold air, pooling in the greenhouse as the low spot. It's buried deep enough, though, and has enough masonry thermal mass in the north wall, that I had tender young lettuce plants make it through a 5 degree night without any doors on...and one of the highest windows was out, being reglazed. It holds some heat. But because of the earth connection and open doors, doesn't get as hot as you'd think in the blinding summer sun. I've built this particular greenhouse to accommodate the flow of young children. During the heat of summer we're not growing anything in it, but it's a perfect place for my garlic to dry. Everyone seems to dig it!|
|Speaking of digging it, how about Boo boo #2?|
|The tea garden at school - various mints, lemon balm, bee balm, self heal. The kids usually pick and make tea once a week.|
|Alright, Boo boo #3. A giant billy goat at the farm next door to the school broke out of his fence and into our garden a few weeks ago. He broke fruit trees, munched raspberries down to stubs, and clipped this herb row down hard.|
|Things are starting to recover, like these young peaches, but man, between the billy and the tainted compost...|
|This is the new raspberry row, on a hugelkultur mound on contour. It was bushy and loaded with ripening fruit, just in time for summer camp-ers, when the billy broke in and demolished it. It's slowly recovering, though. I think we lost one Asian pear tree for good, but I think everyone else will recover. The owner actually sold the billy goat on account of this.|
|This is our rabbit/worm compost factory. Clover gets tons of attention from the kids, and tons of fresh greens to eat; they even let her out to roam now and then. The rest of the time, she's busy feeding the vermicompost bin below her with her droppings and food mess.|
|This is another of last summer's projects. We dismantled an old dilapidated play set, and reused the materials to make a chicken tractor!|
|Food door below, egg door above. Kids take care of them full time - feed, water, collect eggs. And they've collected LOTS of eggs. Usually once a week, eggs have to get used before they take over the kitchen!|
|The lower tier has the first 25 trees, and a bunch of elderberry that definitely has a home in our orchard.|
|The upper tier has the other 45 trees.|
Friday, May 1, 2015
In the comments section of my last photo update I told a commenter that I was making mead that afternoon - whole hive mead, specifically. The whole hive version is still on my list, I'm afraid, 'cause I just made plain ol' mead. But plain ol' mead is a beautiful thing - as much medicine as it is an adult beverage. (And I imagine the whole hive version is even more so.) All indigenous fermentations, like wild mead, are taken very seriously by everyone in the community, and they are always wild fermentations. And in areas of the globe where people don't have constant access to a wide variety of foods from around the entire planet, wild fermentations often serve the role of transforming a less nutritious food into something far more substantial. B vitamins in particular increase significantly in many indigenous brews, but the concentration of protein and other important nutrients rise as well. If you drink it whole, that is, as a living beverage. Not filtered, pasteurized, and zapped for good measure before being sold by the case to people who don't have any connection to the drink. I personally think that the more you remove yourself from the substances you put in and on your body, the more likely they are to hurt you. Drinking cloudy beer on its lees that I made fosters a wholly different attitude in me toward the drink than swilling a six pack of Budweiser purchased at the local stop-n-rob. For a really interesting read on this subject I recommend Stephen Harrod Buhner's book on herbal beers.
In my experience (admittedly only 2 years) the imbibing of mead is self-limiting, too. It delivers a light, comfortable, and somewhat dreamy buzz, and cuts you off when you've had enough. It's a lot like eating really nutrient-dense organic food (from your garden of course;) - you tend to not need to eat as much because your body obtains the vitamins and minerals it needs a lot sooner. I strongly believe that nutrient-density (or the lack thereof) is largely responsible for the obesity epidemic in the United States. But that's another discussion.
For now, let's just talk about mead.
Happy May Day.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Let's start with Easter...
|This is Tyson. He was a gift from some new friends just a day or two before he met his demise...|
|This is also Tyson, a couple of days later. He was a really fat turkey, but made fantastic stock.|
|Wide overview of the developing kitchen garden.|
|Asian pear, rabbiteye blueberry, rhubarb, horseradish, and comfrey polyculture below the bath house. Strawberries would probably match up well here too, as a groundcover, but the terrain is too steep for the tedious picking involved.|
|View through the Asain pear-blueberry polyculture back across the bottom of the kitchen garden. White flowers in the background are native dogwoods toward the end of their bloom. We are fortunate to have lots of them.|
|New white-fleshed peach polyculture under development on the near end of a strawberry-rhubarb patch.|
|My favorite! Dinosaur kale. Or Tuscan kale...or Lacinato kale...whatever you want to call it.|
|More of last spring's peaches and plums, with spring pullets in the little tractor in the middle ground, and pink native azaleas in the background outside the kitchen garden.|
|The new girls. They are the first stage of any new garden bed 'round here.|
|My doe rabbit trio in the process of building a new large bed above this Asian plum.|
|A new Euro plum whip backed by those pretty native azaleas I mentioned earlier. We now have quite a collection of colorful plums, and I'm just getting started...|
|Picture's a little shaky, sorry, but you've seen this garden before. Only, each year it moves more toward perennial fruit and herb production, and away from veggies.|
|Elephant garlic, old raspberries, comfrey, new raspberries, and a whole bunch of garlic (and a few vagrant broccolis that didn't get the message about the fruit/herb thing).|
|35' of raspberries in their third season. Should get a full yield this year, and last year's wasn't bad...raspberry jam for Christmas anyone? To go with the blueberry and blackberry of last year?|
|Big sweet blackberries coming along nicely, already in flower. I should be doubling or tripling them this season.|
|Lots of great blueberries. But this is not the big crop! This is the snack aisle...|
There's a long mound of strawberries to the right, and a long mound of asparagus to the right of that.
|Aren't these pretty? Just some native woodland irises.|
|View of the 'stead from down the hill. We haven't made a real impression on the landscape yet, but we're getting there.|
|And that's a wrap!|
Happy Spring! Enjoy those gardens.