The Winter’s dance, a play with white, shadow, and stillness.
I might not have written much on the Blog in 2021, but I took a lot of photos. The pictures tell the story of what was a very busy year! In a sense, it is a Phenology Wheel in photos – a great way to track the changing seasons and interactions in the plant and animal world. … Read more
Those of you who have signed up for the Barbolian Fields Fan Club know that I have long been promising a secret decoder ring of some sort. Well, my friends… Behold the Barbolian Fields Earth and Sky Phenology Wheel Calendar! (click link above to order! Thanks!) It is not exactly a secret – but it IS a secret … Read more
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…
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
Walk along a soaked garden path in early March and what do you see? Raindrops, birds, insects, and the world waking up. So amazing, it drove me to write poetry. Herein a poem for March, the wondrous transformations in a garden, and the miracles of spring. They’re everywhere. If we build it, they will come.
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.
Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata): its red speckled fruits stand out like tiny Christmas lights against the bare branches, so bright beneath the snow – such a gift in mid-December!
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.
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!
Outside 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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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!
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.
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.
Alternate Title: Garden Visions and Realities: Creating a Practical Seed Order – or not.
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?
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.
Mystery solved! Daphne laureola, aka Spurge Laurel, of the Thymelaeaceae family.
As it turns out, this is NOT a friendly plant. Here are some of its unpleasant characteristics and side effects:
Case in point: for those of you who read my last blogpost all the way to the end (ahm…it’s ok if you didn’t get that far; unlike so many things in life, you can always go back), I was waxing philosophically about how wonderful it is to stumble across a new plant that you don’t remember … Read more
To get your seeds to germinate, you might have to “think like a seed.” Many folks in the Pacific Northwest are starting seeds indoors this month for transplanting later, but some seeds germinate better with a period of cold or fluctuating cold/thaw cycles. They might be better planted directly in cold ground.
LOVE the “firsts” that happen in January! First crocus, alder catkins, croaking frogs! This warm weather has brought out the bees, and they are returning with pollen! And look! The garlic shoots are up! Farewell January. Bring on Spring!
Rosemary! Blooming in January! You gotta love this herb! It is a great cullinary plant, medicinal herb, insectary, and more! You gotta grow it!
Early December already! I realize I have not posted anything on here since May, and the picture of those creepy-crawly caterpillars greeting me every time I went to the blog site was enough to make me turn away. I was starting to feel guilty. I had let down “my people.” I watched the site visit statistics drop precipitously.
I have squished them with my bare hands, blasted the nests open with a power hose, sprayed them with vinegar, burned them alive with a blow torch, and for those that survived all that, drowned them in soapy water. If you, too, have stood aghast at the havoc they have wreaked in your beloved fruit trees, have vowed to take action, if not declare outright war, and have been somewhat taken aback by their tenacity – yes, we are talking about tent caterpillars – read on. But fair warning: this post is not for the faint of heart!
This Bee Swarm Saga is, as some short stories are, rather long. If you want to skip to the lessons learned, go ahead to the bulleted items at the end. If, however, you want to grab a beverage of choice and hear a true tale of determination, courage, against-all-odds survival, instinct over reason, fate, and loyalty to the point of willing to give up one’s own life for the protection of one’s brethren, then this is the story for you.
Earth Day! Such an opportunity to do something positive for our planet! Whether you recycle, upcycle, bicycle, reduce your footprint, make a footprint, go for a simple walk, plant a tree – so much we can do to celebrate another day of living on this incredible planet that supports life as we know it.
Sometimes I just have to step back in amazement that any of this exists at all!
Do you keep a record of what is bloom throughout the year? Since we started providing homes for bees, I have become much more aware of what is blooming when – particularly during those months on either end of the warm season, when the weather is unsettled and food for them can be scarce.
It seems many of the first to bloom are some of our natives. Perhaps it is Nature’s way of taking care of her own.
I’d like to share a little identity crisis I went through recently that ended up being quite useful.
It started in mid-January when I signed up for a booth of my very own at the Soroptimist Gala Garden Event. It was the first time I had ever done such a thing, and it was one of those after-the-fact flashes: “OMG – what have I done?” Nothing like laying out cold hard cash to make you feel committed!
Ahhh! At last! Whether it looks like it outside or not, we are assured that warmth is on its way! We have reached that tipping point: the day of the Vernal Equinox – when day and night are held in equilibrium. Symbolically, it provides a moment to think about balance in our own lives, too – and what we might do to bring tipping scales back into alignment.
Not to worry – I won’t delve deeply into the woo-woo here.
It’s Garden Planning Season, and you know what THAT means: deep introspection to determine what worked and what didn’t, because unless you incorporate what you’ve learned into this year’s garden, you will be going forth with an impending sense of doom….
The winter is not that dark. Seriously. Lighten up already!
A reader from Texas posed some very good questions relative to my recent post on the importance of building the soil and, in particular, the essential role fungi play in the process. (Read: To Convert an Orchard to a Food Forest, Start with the Soil)
Specifically – How do you differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys?
She asks, “Don’t we always seem to be spraying trees against fungus?” “What about all the mildew, fire blight, early blight, and other diseases that can take down tomatoes, squashes, and cucumbers seemingly overnight?”
Where do you start?
How do you help one without helping the other? Or the converse, destroy one without harming the other?
Can you introduce good fungi? And can good fungi fight off the bad ones?
My response started to get a bit lengthy, and I decided it would be better as its own blogpost. Maybe some of the other readers out there can shed some light on this as well.
Because I couldn’t agree more on how confusing some of this is!
I thought I might write you all sooner. At the time of the last full moon of the year, for example, would have been appropriate, but the great white orb managed to boldly rise in the cold night sky and then set in quiet serenity the following morning without any website fanfare on my part (although I admit to a certain amount of cavorting in song and celebration, which is usually what happens when I whip out my harmonicas under a full moon….). (Not to draw correlations, of course.)
We have this old orchard on our homestead – how old is anybody’s guess. The house is over 100 years, so perhaps the trees are as well? How long do they live? It comprises 9 trees (apples, pie cherries, and an Italian prune), and despite its age, produces more than we can use, but not really enough for any kind of commercial enterprise.
The trees, like a lot of neglected orchards, are fraught with a tangle of suckers and twisted branches growing contrary to common sense. Gradually we have been pruning them back into shape, opening the centers to more light, and mowing the grass around and around. We are not ones to spray copper, sulfur, and assorted pesticides; nor have we added any fertilizers. In fact, we have rarely even watered them (they have obviously survived quite well on their own thus far, being situated alongside an irrigation ditch). It has been a learning process for us, too, and sometimes there is only so much you can do. The apples have a lot of scab. Pill bugs and earwigs enjoy them a lot. I think 4 of them are heirloom Gravensteins. They taste great.
And then one day, in reading Michael Phillips’ “The Holistic Orchard – Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way,” I began to realize that the typical orchard, planted in rows and surrounded by grass, produces in spite of the conditions we put them in. The descriptions were painfully familiar. It struck me that with a little help, this orchard could be so much more. Toby Hemenway’s book, “Gaia’s Garden,” was another eye-opener. Obviously, there are simple things we can all do to work with Nature, rather than against her.
Thus began the mission to let Nature “reclaim” the orchard.
The end of November! How did this happen? It appears that we were so busy during the flurry of harvest activities and making sure things were getting tucked in before the coming chill, we forgot to look up! The days are not as long, you know; they are gone before you know it! We hardly noticed just how swiftly one turned into another while the sun skated low across the sky. What happened to high noon?
The temperatures are dipping into the 20s, and yet… such miracles! The bees are so very grateful!
I think we, too, appreciate them all the more!
This is my final post in this Garlic-Planting Conundrum series – and by now you probably think I am beating this whole thing into the ground. But I wanted to share a few practical things about figuring out your space needs and preparing the planting area, particularly under less-than-ideal conditions. Now is the time to think about next year, and with some forethought, you can save yourself a lot of work!
In this post I talk about
- Figuring out how much garlic you should grow and how much space you will really need
- Mulching and tilling – or not
- What kinds of tools will help you get the job DONE (and which ones can you throw in the brambles)
- Alternative planting methods, and do they work?
- The nitty-gritty of building beds.
Garlic Planting Conundrums, Part 2, in which we ask, where can you fit garlic in a permaculture landscape, what about companion planting with garlic, and what is the most efficient way to grow really great garlic?
So, in my earlier post, we talked a bit about figuring out where to plant the garlic from year to year, and how it can be a lot of work to break new ground and turn it into something soft and loose enough to grow a well-rounded, firm, disease-free, long-lasting, ultimately flavorful head of garlic, which is what we’re all after, right?
On the Eve of All Hallows… when according to the ancient Celtics, we enter the dark half of the year…
…spiders cover the world with glitter…
I’ve written several articles about planting garlic, growing garlic, miserably failing at growing garlic, harvesting & curing garlic, and yes, eating garlic – and I have wanted to use the word, “Conundrum” in the title of every one of them. True.
“You’re tellin’ me! I need to get my act together,” I thought, as I pushed through the door.
What do 3 dozen eggs, 3 bottles of honey, and a beautiful handcrafted dish have to do with garlic?
This picture is of my three most recent trades: a pottery dish made by Linda R. Hughes, three bottles of raw, unheated honey, and 3 dozen fresh eggs. Quite an assortment! And each one special in its own way.
When we ended that last blogpost, we were returning from the Bee Walk, excited about seeing honeybees up close (they’re very gentle, especially when they are foraging, you know), along with an assortment of other pollinators and numerous little green frogs. The sunshine helped!
“But where do all these critters usually live? And where will they spend the winter? Or will they just all d-i-e???” I saw a few sad faces in the crowd when I asked this question.
Bee Walk? What does that mean? I mean, bees don’t walk much. Some say they “march,” as in marching up into the hive. But they don’t really march, either. Rather, they follow, which is interesting, considering they have the option of flying.
A Bee Walk sounds like a Moon Walk, Michael Jackson style, with a slight buzz. Hmmm. I like that idea.
So I was kind of doing some creative moves in the Willow Room when my friend, Sid Anna, who runs Annie’s Flower Farm, called to ask me if I would like to do a “Bee Walk” through her gardens.
It’s a phrase that brings me back to when my teenage kids would hang for long periods on the open door of the refrigerator
As we approach late summer, I, too, have to ask, “What is there to eat – for the bees?” (And for that matter, what’s to DRINK? Are their water sources still available?)
With this announcement, I have another – the short version is, there is not much there.
No – it’s not another infestation disaster. Simply, I scaled way back on the number and varieties of bulbs I planted (and scaled way UP in the permaculture / food forest plantings).
What this means is that although, yes, of course, I am still willing to share (how could I not?) – supplies are limited.
…or, Good Grief! Give the Bees a Break!
My 5-year-old grandson gave me a special letter the other day. Inside the envelope was a carefully folded (multiple times) picture he had colored of a rad dude on a motorcycle. (Nice job!) But more revealing was the envelope on which he had scrawled in his very best handwriting “GRAMMA,” along with a little happy face, below which was a large letter B. He explained to me that the face was a bee, because he knew his grandma loved bees. More pointedly, he had earlier told his mother, “All Gramma ever talks about is bees….
Round 3 – or is it 4…
It was Mother’s Day. We were headed to our son’s house for a celebratory feast for a room full of mothers. As the matriarch of the group, or at least, the oldest, I had made a kick-A potato salad of grand proportions. I was considering a rhubarb-cooler-sort-of-drink and headed out to the garden to pick some stalks, when I couldn’t help but notice a LOUD buzzing. The air sure was full of a lot of bees! They were flying every which way. And I thought, Oh. My. Gosh. They are swarming AGAIN!
Ok. Mass chaos yesterday in catching the swarm that was wrapped around a steel fencepost & in installing them in a new Warre Hive, but at least they are in there. But what’s this? ANOTHER swarm in the garden? NOW what??
…The bee saga continues…. Where did the swarm on the cedar go – in the bait box in the tree or in the hive on the ground?
And what’s this? MORE excitement the morning after? Adventures in backyard beekeeping…
We noticed the little cedar tree over by the beehives looked a bit odd yesterday – and as we got closer, we realized, Holey Moley! a swarm of bees was almost completely covering it! Now for the hard part: how to persuade them to move into our hive!