Barbolian Fields Blog – Welcome to the Ramble in the Brambles

Finished willow heart wreath

Easy Gift: Simple Willow Heart Wreath

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We have a lot of willows right now! So fun for crafting! Here is a quick tutorial on how to make a very easy willow heart wreath. Add as much or as little as you like. A great craft project with kids, too! An easy thing to share and say you care. Not just for Valentine’s Day—Any day is a good time to share a little love and kindness! Because what the world needs now, is love, sweet love…

Saturated driveway and rainwater runoff

Rainwater Harvesting – Part 1

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Rainwater is such a precious resource! How much do we get, where does it go, and how can we harvest it for later? In Part 1, I review the water cycle, calculate how many gallons we can get off our roofs, and look at different barrel, tank, and cistern options. 

Rat in the rafters

Greenhouse Organization and Winterization: Nov-Dec 2020 Greenhouse Report

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Greenhouse Report for Nov-Dec 2020: Greenhouse Organization and Winterization tips: Optimize shelving, mulching, grouping. Maintain access paths. Block air holes. Oh yeah, and run out the rats. Here is how to do all that and still leave room for flowering geraniums, just because they spark joy! 

Morning Glory Invasion2

Garden Burnout, Letting Go, and Grasping the Now

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What happens if at the height of harvest, you just leave the garden to fend for itself? Garden burnout – and overwhelm with life, politics, and everything else – is a real thing. Put down the to-do lists. Let it go. Escape to wild places. Live in the Now. Return renewed. It is possible.

Barefoot in the garden

30 Things that Make Me Happy

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30 Things that Make Me Happy – Because we need happy things right now more than ever… so – coming to all of us in the northern hemisphere – here are some sure signs of spring!

Pink Viola

Primer for Planning a Garden for Pollinators

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Although still officially winter, pollinators are already emerging from their winter havens. What will they eat? Here’s what’s blooming in my garden & pointers on planning a garden for pollinators.

Winter Greenhouse under snow

Winter Greenhouse Gardening: Strategies for Survival in an Unheated Space

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Definitely still winter here in the PNW! Here are some strategies for gardening in an unheated winter greenhouse and ideas on how to keep your plants alive, no matter what it’s doing out there! Also – here’s what we have going on in the Barbolian Fields greenhouse and some gardening tasks for January. Stay warm!

Barkley on hill in sunshine - Sense of Place

Sense of Place

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My dog, Barkley, taught me about having a sense of place. This happens, he said, when we develop a sense of belonging; it becomes an extension of ourselves. When we connect, we care; when we care, we protect; when we protect, we try to heal, nourish, and help grow. It becomes our personal truth.

Last-minute gifts: Bottled elixirs

Last-minute Gifts from the Kitchen

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Overwhelmed right before the holidays? Here are some ideas for some easy last-minute gifts using your fruits and herbs: vinegars, honeys, syrups, cordials, oxymels, herb & spice blends, jams & preserves. Most importantly: don’t let overwhelm get the best of you! Take time to enjoy the season! Happy Solstice! Happy Holidays!

November gatherings

November Gatherings – and a Recipe (sort of)

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November Gatherings – it’s a great word for this time of year. A gathering of fruits, roots, herbs, seeds, friends, thoughts. Here is a recipe for Black Hawthorn Syrup made with fir needles and assorted herbs. Happy Holidays!

Backyard-handstand

Garden Overwhelm, Equinox, & Finding Balance

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If you are like me and some 19 million other people out there (or more), you might be experiencing Garden Overwhelm. This time of year when night equals day (more or less) is a good time to think about our own equilibrium. This post explores how to get back on track, and when all else fails, your dog just might have the answers. Happy Autumn Equinox!

Daffodils

Spring Blossoms Return! Yay!

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Such a busy time of year! Sometimes, though, we need to set aside our To-Do lists and take a moment to breathe in the air of spring. Miracles all around us! I just wanted to share a few photos of some of the spectacular flowers blooming right now. SO gorgeous! So very much appreciated after the deep snows of this last winter! Take a quick look, and then go out in your own backyard and take a moment to wander and linger.

Willow Room needs haircut

The Winter Garden Site Assessment: Gaining Perspectives

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Spring is almost here! Yay! But before spring clutters the garden with a bunch of leaves, take a winter garden site assessment to evaluate whether your garden is growing toward your goals. Winter allows us to see the bare bones of the garden – the skeletal infrastructure – and a site assessment at this time can give us new insights into what works and what doesn’t. Identify sectors, look at how growth over the past year may have changed conditions, think about priorities for the coming season. Hooray for spring!

heavy snow on firs

Creating a Winter Snow Sanctuary for the Birds

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Wow. We got hammered with the snow! Mild compared with the Midwest, but enough to make me think about how the birds survive in this crazy winter weather! Here are some ideas on how to help them survive.

Seed Germination Experiment

Perennial Seed Germination Made Complicated (or rather easy)

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Perennial seeds, which often have several mechanisms for delaying germination until the timing and conditions are just right, can be difficult to get going. Here are some tips and tricks to wake them up. Also included is my working list of those seeds that like cold stratification, along with general methods for that time-honored “Baggie-in-the-Fridge” method.

So many seed catalogs

The Plant & Seed Purchasing Strategy

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Yay for Seed Catalog Season! In this post, I share the secrets of my Seed Purchasing Strategy, which enabled me to cut my seed wish list down to an almost manageable number! I also share with you my actual seed and plant order. Did I succeed? Or am I absolutely crazy? You be the judge!

Reflections and raindrops

2018 Highlights; 2019 Goals, Strategies, and New Beginnings

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It is that time again to reflect over the year’s ups and downs, an exercise that has become cliché but that can still be quite helpful. It was a busy year! Here is a quick summary of what went down (or up, as the case may be) at Barbolian Fields, along with a few goals and strategies for the coming year. What will 2019 bring? What will we be able to do to make the world a better place? How will we help one another? How will we heal our planet? We can start by getting back to the garden.

Frosty rose blooming in November

Blooming in November: Flowers for Bees, Pollinators, Feathered Friends

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I am always amazed at what is still blooming in November. Such gifts! The bees and other pollinators are especially grateful. So am I! In the midst of the leaf-raking season, be sure to take a break to smell the roses! Hope your Thanksgiving is full of blessings, your life full of gratitude, and your garden full of whatever it is full of. It’s all good!

Malabar Squash - King Size

Malabar Squash Hunt (Cucurbita ficifolia)

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Malabar Gourd, Malabar Squash, Fig-Leaf Gourd, Pie Melon: There are many names for the Cucurbita ficifolia. No matter what you call it, this is one of the most amazing squashes EVER. Tremendously versatile – it can be used in soups, stews, goulashes, pies, puddings, beverages, and more! Every part of the plant is edible. The biomass is incredible! Join me on this Malabar Squash hunt and be prepared to be amazed!

Green frog on a grape leaf

Garden Chaos – The Rest of the Story

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The rest of the story… the late summer garden has turned out nothing like what I envisioned in the spring, but in some respects, is so much more. It’s hard not to get discouraged when once again, I’ve truly lost the battle against grass, thistle, and bindweed. Garden chaos rules, but neatness and control are so overrated, are they not? Here were my “Ah ha!” moments.

Bee on hollyhock

The Return of the Bees and the Dreaded Dearth

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The bees have returned! Yay! Here’s the whole story. And with them, responsibility. Do they have enough food? Nectar is suddenly scarce when the fruits are fruiting and the flowers are done blooming. The dreaded dearth can hit a hive harder than winter. What can you plant to ensure they make it through late summer? In this post, I list the main bee plants that we have growing right now, including the bees’ favorites.

Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum

April Garden Survey: To Do or NOT To Do…

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It’s another drippy day in the Pacific Northwest. What to do … or not …  that is the question.

April is National Gardening Month. The blogs are full of To-Do Lists on what you should be doing if you had your act together (which is making this overachiever feel like a real slacker). What is truly feasible? How to find balance? Taking an April Garden Survey is a good procrastination technique. In this post, I explain my strategy for this year’s garden (and for minimizing my workload) and take a look around at what is up and blooming.

Indian Plum

On the Wings of March

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A garden walk in early March
We find on paths once dry and parched,
Now soaked; the skies have opened up
And pooled in leaves like a tiny cup,
Soft sponges ‘neath the rain of trees
That drip long after a passing breeze
Has chased the clouds on over.
Drip, drip, drip....Read More »On the Wings of March

Solexx Harvester Greenhouse Kit attaches to building

Solexx Greenhouse Kit Sale!

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Solexx Conservatory kit

The Solexx Conservatory kit is made for serious gardeners! Solexx Greenhouse kits are on sale through 4/15/18!

Adapt8, maker of Solexx greenhouses, is having a “tax refund” sale through April 15, 2018. As a Solexx Distributor, I’d like to pass the savings on to you. If you’ve been thinking about getting a greenhouse, now might be the time. In this post, I talk about how much I love ours and the pros & cons of the kit vs. the DIY route.

a cup of herbal tea

The Power of Tea: Herbs for Coping with Grief and Hard Times

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There are times in your life when you are blindsided by events that turn everything upside down and inside out. The path forward is not at all clear; the only thing you know is that things will never be the same. This post is about how a cup of herbal tea can help us cope with grief, get some rest when we need it most, boost our immune systems when we are most vulnerable, and get ourselves recentered. We dedicate this post to the memory of our good friend, Andy, who was hit by a drunk driver. Please don’t drink and drive.

Turning the Corner into November

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We turn the corner into November. It is amazing how much is still blooming and how many fruits are still available! Here is a quick autumn garden inventory. Lots of pictures of flowers, fruits, fall colors, and cute grandkids – plus an amazing bald-faced hornet’s nest that was revealed after the leaves had fallen!

Raindrops on purple goosefoot leaf

Rain!

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Rain! This post was written after we had gone 3 full months without a single drop. Living in the Rainshadow of the Olympics in the Pacific Northwest is sometimes a challenge for the garden. Now we begin our transition to a time of drizzle and gray…and I couldn’t be more thankful!

Travels in Ecuador

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We did something drastic this February to escape those drizzly grey days so typical in the Pacific Northwest: we ran away to Ecuador. Some might say that was a bit extreme…and indeed it was, in every way imaginable.

Why Ecuador? For the ecological diversity, the culture, the climate, the coffee, the chocolate… to name a few good reasons.Read More »Travels in Ecuador

Victory Gardens for Change

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The fact is, the greatest changes come from people, not from government. Now is the time to bring back the Victory Gardens of yesteryear. We can change the world, one garden at a time — together.

A Quest for Cottonwood Buds – and How to Make Cottonwood Salve

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Today, we are on a quest for the cottonwood – Populus balsamifera – and more specifically, the cottonwood buds on windfall branches with which to make a healing salve. Cottonwood is powerful medicine – the bees make propolis out of it, so that should tell you something – and now is the best time to collect the buds for making what is commonly known as “Balm of Gilead.” Prepare for a sticky adventure. The scent will make you swoon….

Garden Journal – Do You Have One? How to Make One – and Why?

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One of my main goals for the garden this year is to do a better job of tracking things. This post is about ideas for a garden journal, and I would be very interested in hearing from my readers as to what works for them.

It seems that garden journals fall into two categories: those that are more like Planners and serve as guidelines, schedules, and a means of recording results for production gardens and small farms – and those that are more like Art Journals that document not only observations but also a spiritual journey, sometimes with a bit of flair and whimsy thrown in for good measure.

In the past, I have been on the practical, production side of things – make that, borderline fanatic about recording stats on the garlic crops, but I have always fallen short on keeping track of other things. This year, I’d like to try something different and make something that will be fun to look back on.

Permaculture Resolutions (and Where Do We Go from Here?)

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Happy New Year from Barbolian Fields! We live in “interesting times.” This year, we are incorporating Holmgren’s Permaculture Princples into our New Year’s Resolutions. Our goals, in general, focus on reaching out, buying local, being prepared for uncertainty, optimizing our backyard ecosystems, and keeping things in balance by also taking time to enjoy life. We hope you will join us in making a difference!

Politics and PermacuIture: Is Permaculture a Political Act?

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We live in troubling times.

I admit. I try to stay out of politics. I avoid confrontation. I would rather be in my garden. But the recent U.S. election has made me re-think that position. Political turmoil has split our country in two. Rising powers threaten to put us on the brink of extinction. All around the world we see unrest, hunger, poverty, and extremists that thwart peaceful efforts. The Worldwatch Institute website presents a lot of data on where we are at in terms of food, energy production and consumption, climate and the environment, resources, and populations and societies. The picture is not pretty.

The question is, what are we – each and every one of us on a personal level – doing about it?

We are presented with a unique opportunity for change; and a permaculture approach can be a powerful lever for effecting that change.Read More »Politics and PermacuIture: Is Permaculture a Political Act?

Spring Equinox – a Discovery of Miracles!

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Dandelions shine like the sun!

Dandelions shine like the sun!

It is, at long last, the Spring Equinox. I love this time of year when each new bud is a discovery.

Cornelian and Nanking cherries, forsythia, daffodils, nettles and purple deadnettles, the first dandelions…

It seems that only yesterday, it was still quite wintery, and on a blustery day, I was picking the sticky cottonwood buds from the nubbly branches that break off in the wind, littering the forest floor, just begging someone to come along and recognize their significance.Read More »Spring Equinox – a Discovery of Miracles!