The Winter Garden Site Assessment: Gaining Perspectives

Willow Room needs haircut

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!

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

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?

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

It’s Your Day

"It's Your Day" 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.

Read more

Identity Crisis 101: The Niche-Diversity-Resiliency Equation

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!

Read more

Solstice, Suntracks, Supermoons, and a Happy New Year!

Full Moon Rise
Dear Friends,

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.)

Read more

To Convert an Orchard to a Food Forest, Start with the Soil

Orchard path at Barbolian FieldsWe 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.

Read more

Garlic Planting Conundrums – Part 3

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.

Read more

Garlic Planting Conundrums, Part 2

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?

Read more

Garlic Planting Conundrums – Part 1

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.

Garlic SignBut here’s what happened: I stopped by our local farm store the other day to pick up some bone meal, and a big sign on the door proclaimed (see sign to the right) …

“You’re tellin’ me! I need to get my act together,” I thought, as I pushed through the door.

Read more

Food Forest Beginnings and Fall Tasks in the Orchard

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.