September 8, 2017:

Willow room in September

Rain! The sound is thunderous on the canvas roof of our pop-out camper. My husband and I are like a couple of kids in the summer, camping out in our own backyard. We huddle in our bags in part wonder and a whole lotta gratitude that we have such a fancy “tent” in such a downpour.

Rain! In these wee hours before dawn, it is an orchestra to our ears. We have had none since June 9. Three full months.

It amounts to only 0.08” – that is 8 one-hundredths. Not even 1/10th of an inch! I can hardly believe it.


The willows bend low in humble gratitude under the weight of drops that still glisten on the leaves. I have watched the leaves of the willows yellow, worrying whether they had found enough water or whether they are just turning inward with the approach of fall.

The trees continue to drip, creating their own nutrient-rich rain after the primary storm has passed.

Bee on calendula flowerAhhh – the garden feels so cleansed, and we can feel it in every plant. Everything is bright. Alert. The bees are already out and busily working the flowers, hurrying to bring in the last of the nectar and pollen.

These last days of summer, wherein before, we complained of the heat, now we want just a few more days in which to ripen the squashes and tomatoes and corn. We hurry to bring in the harvests of blackberries and seaberries and wonder what we should do with them all. The pears are overripe on the trees; the apples are beginning to fall; and all this abundance reminds me of how privileged we are to live here, especially when at the opposite corner of the country, people are boarding up their homes and businesses and have nothing to hold on to but each other and a prayer in the face of the wrath of hurricanes.

Life is always full of such extremes, inequalities, and things over which we have no control. It is upsetting to feel so helpless in the face of such news reports, and I often have to turn off the sound bites of political hate, especially at a time when the world so needs humanity. My garden is my sanctuary – it keeps me grounded in the tactile senses of the present, always with an optimistic thought to the future. It keeps me in a state of wonder at the small miracles I witness every day. It also keeps me incredibly busy!

Ahhh – but in this moment – the swooning scent of lavender! I brush by a shrub on my walk back to the house. I always leave the flowers for the bees, and although past their prime, they still release a heavy fragrance after this rain. On my way, I pick yellow and orange calendula, red clover, and lilac bergamot blossoms. I will dry them for teas and infusions and oils.

I take a deep breath. The air is pure, rather than mingled with flakes of ash that have recently drifted in from the wildfires to the north and east, fires stong enough to turn our sun and moon an eerie glowing red, our own version of nature’s fury. I am thankful the rain has settled particulates back to the earth from whence they came. The rain has cleansed and calmed. I stop and listen to the songs of birds.

We welcome the beginning of the Pacific Northwest gray and drizzle season as we transition toward autumn and Nature’s rather riotous chorus before the quiet of winter.

“To say it was a beautiful day would not begin to explain it. It was that day when the end of summer intersects perfectly with the start of fall.”

– Ann Patchett

~ * ~

Postscript: Such a terrible fire season throughout the Northwest this year! It is now early October, and wildfires are now raging throughout California, burning hundreds of thousands of acres. Our hearts go out to all the people, animals, and forests in its path. We pray for rain and a respite from the wind. Our heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost loved ones, both in California and in Puerto Rico, where people are still trying to put their lives back together.

~blythe at Barbolian Fields

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