The Almost Daily Thread

musings from the blue chair

My yard is alive!

It’s spring, a warm spring at that and things are growing! The veggies are happy, the weeds are happy. The lawn mower is getting used. The rains come with thunder and leave humidity. Some days feel like August in KY not May! Maybe those few warm weeks in February were our spring.

The oak tree in my front yard was most likely planted around the same time the house was built in the 1020’s. It is tall and shady and scrumptious and at some times really messy. I don’t mind raking leaves but when it dumps the green stuff that hangs from the gutters? It’s messy. The worst this year is the sap that has mandated daily trips to the car wash for a week or so. Annoying. Not the perfect urban tree, yet it protects my house from the afternoon sun, that hot brutal summer afternoon sun. And I don’t have to air condition until the temps get into the high 80’s or the humidity gets as sticky as that sap.

Guess I am about to describe my front yard! Since you readers already know lots about the back yard. I have shade and the challenge of shade gardening and color. Columbines and ferns and hosta and wild local “somethings” I have brought home from the woods grow rather randomly. Amid lots of rocks outlining the beds! Rocks line the gardens in front of the house and encircle the Oak.

My favorite scene from the Lord of the Rings trilogy is when the Ents come to the rescue. The giants who are the forest.

I believe the separation from nature has cut us off from centuries of a deeply rooted relationship where we have had a working familiarity with the natural elements to support, feed and cloth ourselves. Now we conquer, bulldoze and concrete and level. And I believe the separation has created much of the issues of poor physical and mental health issues that plague our current culture.

I’m reading The Findhorn Garden. An amazing story about how the founders cultivated growing space where there was only sand and rock. Also a fascinating glimpse into the connection between the farmers and the natural elements. The farmers learn to communicate with the devas of each plant, of the soil, the water. They grow to have a personal relationship with each, believing, respecting, honoring the life force of each plant as it grows in relationship to the other. So, they talk to the plants. They listen to the plants, abide by their wishes and instructions and the garden grows better.

I do feel the life force of my plants and am grateful for the nutrition and the beauty. I do speak to my oak tree. I pray for it to hold on tight when the winds blow crazy. I thank it for the sticks it leaves me for kindling. It is a live protective being that lives with me on this little piece of property I call home.

Where Hobbits meet Treebeard.

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Gardening of all flavors – an update

Hugelkultur. It’s my new gardening method! Adapted to my urban “farm.” Urban farm sounds so much more professional than backyard hobby! Really, urban gardener, sounds more like it.
Am I a farmer? Well, I suppose I kind of am on a very small scale.

What denotes a farmer? One who grows plants? And while I mostly grow to feed myself, I am still growing plants to harvest and eat. The title farmer takes too much from those who work bigger areas. I will keep gardener on my resume.

As my gardening knees get creakier, I wish to raise my already raised beds so there’s not so much bending and moaning when I plant and weed. And there is the issues of dogs and rabbits and other critters…so, rather than buy more boards which are expensive (I have a couple of beds that need replacing after only a few years), I am replacing with an adaptation of Hugelkultur Gardening. https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/many-benefits-hugelkultur

I have adapted the bed that needed replacing by digging it out (ughhhh) and removing the rottening boards. I end up with flat ground, a blank slate.

I then got fencing and chicken wire and posts. The dirt was soft where the boards were removed. I pounded the posts in and engaged the help of two of my grandchildren in to help me pull the fencing and wire around the posts.

And the layering began. I started with green oak logs in the bottom. I layered and built up with leaves, compost, sticks, and the dirt I had just removed! I used a layer of peat and dirt at the top. As I was filling I lined the outsides with straw to keep any dirt from falling out. And I put two old screens along the sides as well. Call me obsessive!

And then I stood and planted! YES, I stood and planted!!

As the boards of my current raised beds rot I will replace them with this layered gardening. I’ve read I can put my composting scraps right on top of the dirt this winter.

The aquaponics system is up and running. Plugged the pump back in and it worked first cycle. As soon as the water is warmed I will add fish. For now, I have planted Black Seeded Simpson and snap pea seeds. I don’t know it it’s too late for the peas but the system is in afternoon shade so I am taking a chance. Worth the half a packet of seed gamble. The peas I planted in Feb in the raised bed were about half successful. I’m blaming the weather, which every gardener can certainly do this weird spring.
Asparagus didn’t do well either. Sigh….

I also placed a basil, some celeric, and broccoli still sprouting from the latest microgreen tray into the rocks of the aquaponics tub.

In the dirt, the old fashioned way (!), I have planted arugula, spinach, broccoli, kale, lettuce, brussel sprouts, peppers, cabbage, tomatoes, yellow squash, watermelon, and cantaloupe. And strawberries. I have potatoes in barrels.

Here’s to eating so local it’s right from my back yard.

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One Pepper Plant at a Time

I am saving seeds from a Jingle Bell Pepper plant. cute, sweet red peppers. The seeds are easy to save. Eat pepper. You can eat them like candy. You can eat them raw, cook in any recipe or preserve them for later use and have a bit of delicious red in the dark, cold winter.  Dry seeds. Label to plant next year.  Freeze or keep in a dry cool place.

In the spring plant the seeds!  They make a great container plant. Lovely and decorative and etiable!!  Water.  Watch it grow.

Preserving the seed and replanting takes you our of the corporate food chain and lessens the burdens and control of feeding the people.  One pepper plant at a time we can gain some independence, taking a minimal amount of pressure off the system.

Need seeds?  i am honored to send you a few to get started.  One pepper gives 30-50 seeds and the opportunity to share. Abundance is inherent, grown in each fruit.

I challenge you, just like the manager of the Kroger challenged Uncle John with the Impatience in 1956.  Would you like some Jingle Bell pepper seeds?

Uncle John grew impatience from his own seeds until 2006.  And they were happy and healthy plants that held the love of Uncle John, the gardener, that I absorbed every season.  My annual Impatience are beautiful and splash color under the oak tree that shades my front yard, but they don’t have the same gift for me when I look at them.

They are tiny seeds, like a grain of black pepper.  Such a miracle that they grow to produce lively, colorful flowers.  Sadly, I didn’t get my greenhouse together to plant the Mason jar full of seeds we found in his basement.

So, I continue the legacy with red peppers.  They match my hair and feed my body and my beliefs in living with some degree of independence!

If you want some seeds, let me know!

 

 

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Prompt #7 – One great party

My surprise 40th birthday party. And I thought was old then!!

My second husband, Ian, and I had lived in Lexington for almost a year.  I was settling into a house bigger than I’d ever lived in before.  The spaciousness, no longer intimidating was filled up with “us.”  One daughter at UK and her best friend in the guest room for the semester.  My younger daughter in high school.  My stepson in high school.  And I was also in school at UK finishing my BA.  Lots of studying at our house.

Ian said we were having birthday dinner at a lovely spot,  Merrick Place.  My sister came for the weekend.  While we dressed up for a celebratory meal, the girls and Charlie chatted and giggled a bit more than usual.  “Let’s go,” Ian calls out. And to my surprise – a limo is parked at the front door!  Whoa!  I walk on air to take my seat.  Lots more excited giggling.  The crowd of us creates quite a stir as we exit in the thrill of the limo ride and present ourselves for the reserved table.  We happily laughed, talked and ate.  Ian had a remarkable way of entertaining and 3 teenage girls or Charlie never let the chatter lag.  And my sister has a way in injecting just the right comment to make us all laugh.  We ate dinner and did the whole candle thing for dessert.  People at other tables clapped.

Leaving the restaurant, many diners wished me a happy birthday.  One woman pulled me aside.  “It’s my birthday too, only I am older than 40.  Do you realize that September 30 is nine months to the day from New Year’s Eve?”

Well, fodder for thought!  “Then, I believe we were conceived in celebration and joy.”

Riding home the giggling didn’t stop in spite of the full bellies.  The driver drove down a street full of cars and was barely able to find a parking space. I walked up the sidewalk and into the house to find 20 or so familiar faces to greet me!  Surprise.   Peeps from our previous residence, Ashland, that I had been missing terrible traveled to help me celebrate.

The kitchen table was laden with food.  Beer in coolers.  Flowers smiled up the place!  My house transformed in a matter of hours into a party spot.

I quickly changed from dress up clothes to comfy so the weird Happy Birthday blinking necklace thing matched better.  And the celebration continued.

Long time friends in our new location.

Thank you all again!

 

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Prompt #6 The Perfect View

Certainly Paris from atop the Eiffel tower or from rock wall fortification in Montmarte.

Madrid’s night sky from the 23rd floor.

The Mediterranean from the hill road going into Monaco or from the sandy beach at Cannes.

The Atlantic from San Sebastian or Barritz.

The red roofs surrounding Caracassone.

The chickens outside my bedroom window at the Pension Eirexe.

From the cafe in O Pino the cows marching to be milked.

Or the eucalyptus trees from the room at the Headlands Center for the Arts where I could wander up the hill to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Or the real genius of Wendell Berry’s Window Poems, written from the inside the multipaned window in his studio.

As I look through all the pictures on my phone and am once again startled at the beauty and glory of nature and the creations of humankind, I believe the view I love best is from the futon on my back porch.  Looking into the yard I have, dug, raked, hoed, planted, harvested and maneuvered.  We have hauled dirt and compost to create six raised beds.  I’ve moved a rock walkway to create a 3-circuit labyrinth on  the left side of the yard and then hauled it to the right side so the grow beds and compost bin could be installed.  Now I’ve stacked them for a wall to line the walkway to the greenhouse.

Everchanging.

I have flowers along the garage with old metal window grates as trellising.  Red roses, pink white and purple zennias, orange Gerber daisys, purple phlox and a hearty tomato plant hovering over the thyme ground cover right next to the rain barrel.

It’s my little urban farm from and in which I love to work and play and plan.  And when the grass is cut and the weeding done, the raspberries trimmed back to manageable, the cucumber and squash contained, I sit and admire the plants that feed us food and joy.  And I nap and read and star,e surrounded by the quiet plot that holds the answer to many of my dreams.

Now for the aquaponics inside a bigger greenhouse….

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Prompt #5 Before and After

Sticking to the guidelines today. After all, the prompts are merely suggestions not rules. My issues of authority surfacing again!

Many items come to mind. I could go historical and do the automobile, refrigerator, dish washer, gas stove. I could describe my yard before and after the raised beds or the aquaponic system I am learning to operate.  I could describe the canner and go into my attempts to remove myself from the corporate food chain and chemicals in my own small way.  Yet I’ve written about these previously.

I am lead to the wood stove!  I love heating with wood.  I’m not totally sure it lowers the heating costs if we don’t manage to obtain free wood which we have had a lot of! We’ve cut, shopped and split several driveways full of wood.  Rest in peace downed ash, maple, oak, walnut and Osage.  We burned the Bradford Pear that didn’t survive the four tornado day a couple of years ago.  But the money to rent the splitter and gasoline and transportation…Am I saving resources?  The process of me or anyone getting the wood to the point of use and the smokey by-product wafting into the air has to factor in.  There is an environmental cost for everything.  I feel like the burning of the deceased trees is a part of speeded up recycling!

I feel strong when operating the splitter.  It’s fun!  And hard work.  I feel strong lifting and stacking wood.  I feel strong carrying wood even though I carry only 3-4 logs at a time.  Carrying wood forces me to get outside in the cold, damp, snow, fog, ice.  so I am still connected with the outside when the windows are shut and the daylight is in short supply.  And I am moving.  I am stretching and using my body.

I cook soups and veggies atop the stove.  Cast iron.  I dry our clothes on racks in front of the stove.  I sit and stare, my feet resting on the brick foundation and browse seed catalogues and read.

The whirr and hum of the furnace is replaced by wood crackling and popping as the fire dances life.  The heart light glowing from the center of my house.

 

 

 

 

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Prompt #3 – Paint a Word Picture

Today, I am to use all my senses to describe. Paint a word picture. I think I can stick to the instruction today!
Oh, the many things I could write about. Paris. The earth beneath my feet on the Camino. Closer to home, my flowers or my bee stings.

August is a ripe and sensory month. Humidity that drips from the air and is sucked up by the heat. Heat and harvest.

Then there are the trash men who deal with all of the senses all day. God bless those brave strong people who brave the smells and weights and shapes of what we throw away. The grinding truck rolls away and my cans are emptied, ready to refill.

I settle on the green and red fruits hanging from the tall vines, caged for strength, the power of their growth so focused the plant quickly outgrows its core capabilities. Tomatoes are over achievers! Roots suck nutrition and water from the composted soil, fed with worms and minerals with one mission – grow. And grow. And grow. Product fruit, their one specific mission. Until – the cold sets in and the seeds of the unused fruit fall on cold, hard ground, waiting out winter and the return of sun and heat.

The tomato is an ambitious plant. Started from a tiny seed, raising itself to a 6’ vine giant. Green, rich is the unmistakable smell of tomato goodness, even from a touch of the seedling, then the little white flower turns into a globe of red lusciousness, their smell permeates.

A green stem reaches outside the rim of a silver washtub where smooth, red, ripe goodness waits . Abundance, sustenance, summer time, like the magic of seed to fruit, like a pizza parlor, like the kitchens of gardeners in August. Fruit flies catch a whiff, follow the trail and indulge. I will blanche, core and freeze to add summer warmth to winter soups, stews and chili.

I suggest you carry the salt shaker to the garden and capture some of the sun’s warmth as you bite through the skin of this luscious goodness. Let the seeds run down your chin. Let that ummm escape from your throat, past lips reaching for another bite.

Salute to the Goddess of the tomato!

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