Barbolian Fields Blog – Welcome to the Ramble in the Brambles

Wild Harvest with Mac Smith: Seaweeds and More from the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Bull Kelp at Freshwater BayOutside my back door are vast Permaculture Zones 4 and 5, i.e., managed forests and those areas left (more or less) to be wild. It is a rare and wondrous place, and I am always cognizant of how privileged we are to live where we do. Continue reading

Travels in Ecuador

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. Continue reading

Victory Gardens for Change

Man tilling soil in his victory gardenThis blog is not intended to be a political commentary – and yet, in light of recent events here in the U.S., how can it not be – and as a citizen of the world on this lonely planet Earth, how can we not become political – or at the very least, outraged — when we witness so much destruction that could mean the end of our very existence?… Read more

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

Sometimes you just have to get away. Not that I ever need an excuse to take a walk down to the river – we are fortunate in that the Dungeness is just down the road. But sometimes you just have to turn off the news.
Read more

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

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.… Read more

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

Happy New Year, Permaculture Resolutions, and Where Do We Go From Here?

Willow Room on January 1

It is a cold and windy January 1 in the Willow Room.

I have never understood why January 1 is the day we mark off an old year and decide we are starting a new one.… Read more

Politics and PermacuIture: Is Permaculture a Political Act?

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. Continue reading

Spring Equinox – a Discovery of Miracles!

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. Continue reading

Seed Order Madness – and Indications that You Might Have ISOD

Alternate Title: Garden Visions and Realities: Creating a Practical Seed Order – or not.

Seed Order 2016

Do we have enough seeds yet?

I originally wrote this post shortly after Groundhog Day, when we were just praying for a ray of sunshine and a shadow – and here we are now caught in the middle of March Madness, aka the Ides of March, which is called that for good reason. Winds have been howling at 65 mph (I kid you not) and the rain hammers us in torrents. This is how winter quickly melts into spring.

The pre-spring storms give us a bit of time to flip through all the new garden catalogs that have arrived since the beginning of the new year. It is, indeed, the perfect time to create this year’s garden vision and a concrete plan to make it happen, if you have not done so already.

So – tell me – have you placed your seed order yet? Continue reading

Spring Garlic Woes

Dear Readers:

I have been receiving letters lately from folks worried about their garlic. It is understandable. With great anticipation, we insert these naked little cloves in cold soil, just as the season takes a downturn; we stress throughout the snows and storms of winter as to whether they can possibly survive; come early spring, we are elated when we see their tender tips emerge, apparently unscathed; then we plunge into worry and anxiety when, despite their rapid growth, they show signs of yellowing tips; we scrutinize them for other diseases, insects, “issues;” we feed them, water them, murmur soft nothings of encouragement; we marvel at the beauty of their gangly scapes, waving in the wind; and then with a certain amount of apprehension, we begin digging the bulbs, 9 months in the making, one by one; we cradle them gently, inhale the fragrant aroma as they hang to cure in gentle breezes, and then we, sometimes with great flourish and ceremony but without apology, devour them.

Who needs this roller coaster? We all do! Obviously. But it’s a slippery slope, my friends, very slippery indeed. Continue reading