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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Ok – so the truth is, I just cannot narrow it down. I have spent days and days looking at websites of different nurseries and purveyors of exotic seeds – and I have spent months and months reading about plants and planning different guild arrangements and compiling “wish lists” that rivaled the loving letters I used to send to Santa Claus – and I, much like our dear friends (ahm) in Congress, cannot seem to reconcile the expenses with the budget. And, like them, the debate goes on and on – because my vision does not coincide with reality, which I am still trying to define, in terms of the vision, of course. It’s a loop-thing. As is life.
And so I took a break to try to put it all back together in the Willow Room, because even in winter, this is a good place to go see how things with a little creativity, intertwine. (Besides, it was time to do a little pruning.)
Grass, to me, is Orchard Enemy #1. I talk about how to get rid of it, how to turn an orchard into a food forest, and what to do to get your orchard ready for winter, thanks to tips from Michael Phillips’ book, The Holistic Orchard.
Before we coined the word, “Permaculture,” Nature was already perfecting it on her own. Here, Paul Gautschi describes his methods of mimicking nature by applying mulch in his garden. The results? Absolutely amazing! His approach has recently been featured in a film, “Back to Eden.” Happy International Permaculture Day!
Do you install bees? Dump them? Pour them? Knock them in? Release them? And what happens when you let loose 15,000 (or so) bees? Here’s how it went down, folks. Happy Earth Day!
A video and some close-up pictures on the Warre hives we built. If you are looking for something simple, inexpensive, and something that naturally lets the bees do what they instinctively do – this is it!
Happy Earth Day! In celebration, we are releasing somewhere around 20,000 bees into their new home, a Warre Hive situated on the back side of Barbolian Field. Here are a few videos to show you how we are getting ready for this big event (and conquering a few fears in the process!)
Hooray! It’s officially spring! Days are getting longer than the night – finally! Here are some cool tools to help you track the way the sun changes with the seasons and some ideas on how to apply that info to your garden design.
If you’re looking for a really good book on permaculture, check out Toby Hemenway’s “Gaia’s Garden, A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture,” second edition. This book was life-changing for me – and could be for the world, if we would only apply it.
I’ve hit a turning point. Actually, several of them. In the process, I’ve been examining my self-imposed limitations, my concept of sustainability, and why now is the best time to break a few rules. Another lengthy psycho-analysis post of how our gardens teach us much about life and visa versa – and what to do about it.
“Lasagna Gardening” – heard of it? read it? Here’s my review of the book and a take on a method that heaps organic matter on top of weeds and lets you kick back while nature does the work. Also a tip on slug control that doesn’t involve squishing them with your bare hands or watching them shrivel under salt.
Tomorrow, Saturday, October 2, is the 14th Annual Harvest Celebration Farm Tour in Clallam County. If you are on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State, this is a very fun event that gives you a glimpse of what the Peninsula has to offer. This year, nine different farms are opening their barn doors and throwing a party – hayrides, music, great food, farm animals & produce, demonstrations – a ton of down-home family fun.
We are incredibly blessed to have such an abundance of “real” food and local products available to us. It’s up to us to insure that availability. By supporting our local family farms, we are supporting our independence, our self-sufficiency, and our communities. Our health – and our quality of life – defined on so many levels – depends on it. So when you check out some of our local farms this weekend, take time to get to know our farming neighbors. We’re all in this together.
Save money, eat healthier, control the ingredients, be more self-sufficient – all good reasons to can your own food. It is a connection to past generations who understood the importance of self-reliance to survival. And like our grandparents, come some blustery day in the midst of winter, we can gather with family and friends, crack open a jar of those home-canned peaches, sit back, and close our eyes at the sweet taste of summer. Mmmm-hmmmm. A little sunshine in a jar.
The oil still gushing out of the bottom of the ocean in the Gulf should make us all aware that we are all part of the problem. Choosing to use hand tools instead of machinery is one small way we can cut back on our consumption. In this post, I describe how I sharpened an old sickle and cut down my green manure crop of a rye-clover-vetch mix (mostly rye) by hand. Let me tell you, it made me feel pretty darn powerful! Try it. You’ll like it. And so will our environment.
Saturday, Jan. 16, is the PCC Farmland Trust tour of the Delta Farm, part of the 400+ acres farmed by Nash Huber and his crew. Sign up and see first hand how he manages to keep us all fed through the winter. While you’re in the area, stop in and see the Dungeness Valley Creamery, which recently received some bad press by the WSDA which implied a link between e. coli and their certified raw milk. Nothing could be further from the truth! See for yourself what a wonderful dairy they have and taste the difference in raw milk that comes from cows that are catered to! Supporting our local family farms is just so important to preserving farmland in our region. It is such a privilege to have them here. Meet the hands that provide us with such incredible bounty!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Check out the phenomenal variety of goods I purchased this week from the Sequim Locally Grown outlet: cinnamon rolls and a peach pie (wow!) from Sequim Valley Products, turnips, kohlrabi, and leeks from the Lazy J Farm, shallots from the Johnston Farms, flax seed from Teri Crockett, fresh oysters from QuilBay Seafood, … Read more
A story of growing tomatoes, from training them up a trellis to having them take over the garden. If you are wondering what to do with all those green tomatoes left at the end of the season, here is the best mock mincemeat recipe I have found. Ingredients include tomatoes, apples, raisins, citrus, and spices. No meat, lard, or suet. Makes a great mock mincemeat pie just in time for Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays. This post also recommends a couple of good garden cookbooks and a great place to purchase seeds and get gardening information.
Conflicting demands of population growth, agriculture, and environmental needs (endangered salmon and other fish) are putting a huge strain on our water supply. Setting up a system to collect rainwater is easy and inexpensive and can not only get you through the dry spells, but leave precious water for other uses.