Category Archives: Gardening

Compost happens

Composting Shaker-style

Composting Shaker-style

“We think of creation in terms of growth, but the intelligence of decay is just as astonishingly coherent and sophisticated. Rotting is creation, too, in all its glory.” (Innes, 2003)

There are a number of things we can always count on in this world. Seasons change, grass grows, the sun rises (though that is only true from our very limited viewpoint, of course). And, yes, we can be sure that compost happens.

It boggles the mind to imagine the myriad organisms and processes that naturally and automatically create living compost from organic matter, whether it be under your feet in the woods or in a pile in the garden.

As I wrote in an Earth Day post three years ago, “did you know that healthy soil should have 600 million bacteria in a teaspoon? There should also be tens of thousands of protozoa and miles of fungal hyphae. If all these little friends were in our soil, the plants which feed us wouldn’t need fungicides or bactericides.

It is because of this that I’m a compost fanatic. We compost all the vegetable trimmings from the kitchen, all the weeds and spent plants from the garden, and most everything else that will decompose, in a huge compost pile. The compost process requires and encourages the very life needed for healthy soil. The finished compost added back on your vegetable and fruit beds is like a shot in the arm for your garden.”

You’ve probably heard the Shaker song that tells us, “’tis a gift to be simple”. We have adopted a version the very simple Shaker-style of composting. We start a new pile each spring, which as you can see in the photo, gets very large. We simply let it compost through the summer, fall and winter, and by spring it has become rich, black soil, teeming with life. It is ready to be distributed throughout the garden, with reverence and gratitude.

If you are interested in getting my blog by e-mail, please sign up in the sidebar to the right.

Sorry, I’ve had problems with the “Comments” function so please drop me a line through the Contact Us page if you have questions or need more information.

Earth Day

Kokopeli in the garden on Earth Day

Kokopeli in our medicine wheel garden on Earth Day

“Today, look at the blue sky, hear the grass growing beneath your feet, inhale the scent of spring, let the fruits of the earth linger on your tongue, reach out and embrace those you love. Ask Spirit to awaken your awareness to the sacredness of your sensory perceptions.” (Ban Breathnach, 1995)

I was surprised to learn that this is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. (Check out the link at the end of this post if you are interested in the history of this celebration.)

On this Earth Day, I am honored to be a guest blogger for my fellow artist, gardener and friend, Kathleen O’Brien (http://kathleen-obrien.com/finding-purpose/). In the post, titled Finding Purpose, I pointed out that “it seems like honoring the source of everything we eat, breath, drink, and well…everything, should get more than a day, don’t you think?” I hope you’ll jump over to Kathleen’s blog and read the whole post, learn about an upcoming talk I will be giving at an event she will be hosting on May 5th, and see a couple more photos of our garden.

I hope you have a wonderful Earth Day.

Oh, and here is the link for the history of Earth Day:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/environmental-policy/history-of-earth-day-zmgz14amzsto.aspx?newsletter=1&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=SLCS%20eNews&utm_campaign=04.22.15%20MEN%20SLCS%20eNews

Spring Cleaning, Part Two

If I am content with little, then enough is as good as a feast. ~Dean Swift
Spring garden, taken by our friend, Gary

The spring garden, taken last year by our friend, Gary Bean

In the garden, spring cleaning begins with sorting and culling my seed stash, and figuring what needs ordering. I recently planted a test flat and am happy to report that some of the open-pollinated tomato seeds I had saved from my plants have germinated quite well.  So glad I learned that tomatoes are a little more tricky to save. Suzanne Ashworth, in Seed to Seed, describes how the seeds have a gelatinous sack which inhibits germination and needs to be removed through a fermentation process, which is messy but worth the effort.

Since we mulch heavily out in the garden in the fall, there aren’t too many weeds except in the hoophouses. They have been getting their spring cleaning as the early spring bedding plants are moved to their new homes.

The orchard got a cleaning a this past week with an annual pruning. Thankfully it was less of a job than it had been the past few years when I had to correct mistakes I’d made early on. Several classes on home fruit production through the Extension Service were very helpful and I am still far from an expert but it seems like I’m starting to get the hang of it.

We don’t count on tree fruit because it has not tended to be reliable on our farm. It is a case of “take what you get and say thank you”! Blueberries and strawberries have proven to be our best fruit crops (now that we have protected them from the birds) and we have made plans to net the raspberries this year. Too bad for the mockingbirds who will have to be content with a little less.

Sighs of spring

 

Frog on my frog

Well-placed peeper

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Two of the most portentous indications of spring at our house made themselves known a few days ago. One was positive and the other less so.

The first was the arrival of ants on the kitchen counter. Ants offer me quite a challenge, not only in their persistence in spite of our determination to keep them outside, but also due to my aversion to ending the life of another unnecessarily. For some reason dispatching damaging insect pests in the garden does not bother me (too much). Though they are just doing their thing, they put our livelihood at risk by jeopardizing our crops, so I say sorry little friends, and to myself chant “I am Shiva the destroyer”, knowing that I am a part of the natural process of creation and destruction on this planet.

It seems, though, that ants doing their thing on my counter shouldn’t be that big a deal. Unfortunately, I know they can overrun the place and when they find their way into the Solarium, they are quite the farmers, raising unwelcome scale and aphids on my plants for their food sources in a way similar to humans who raise cows for milk.

In the end, I sigh and make a solution of borax and sugar and put it in a shallow lid on the counter so, hopefully, the little guys will take some home to wipe out one of the gazillion colonies of ants. I tell them I’m sorry and try not to feel guilty.

On the joyous side, I heard the peepers for the first time this year! Typically, they start singing in mid- to late-February, and even occasionally during a warm spell in January,  but in the last few years they have slumbered long and hard with the cold winters and late springs. They always give me a sigh of relief and the knowledge that, yes, I can make it through the rest of the winter. More commonly known as tree frogs, I found one sitting on a cast iron frog in my Solarium a few years ago. I was delighted that it waited for me to return with my camera.

Happy Spring to you all.

Flat Hoophouse

flathoophouseforblog2

One hoophouse is holding its shape a little but the other one is pretty flat

Two weeks ago we got a foot of snow which did a job on one of my hoophouses. A couple of days ago I managed to get it back up and tight again. The snow from that storm had just melted when another 10″ or more fell (though Steve says he doesn’t think it was that much). Now both hoophouses are pretty flat.

Even so, I peeked inside and spotted some Napa cabbages alive and green and a little sad looking, but, yes, they are alive!

I hope there will be other plants; spinach, lettuce, cilantro, carrots, etc., that will rebound as soon as winter loses its grip on Kentucky. In the meantime the Solarium is my garden. A couple of flats of collards, broccoli, kale and lettuce will be ready to go into the ground soon. Can’t wait!

Early spring greens under lights in the Solarium

Early spring greens under lights in the Solarium

The room formerly known as the greenhouse

The room formerly known as the greenhouse

The room formerly known as the greenhouse

We are in the research mode of designing a solar greenhouse to attached to the small barn Steve built last year. There are so many ideas out there about solar greenhouses: cold sinks, ground to air heat transfer systems, which “skin” or glazing is best, what is the best heat sink, whether to incorporate a chicken coop, etc., so there is a sharp learning curve before we begin.

We have a fairly large room on the southwest side of our house with windows on three sides which we have always called “the greenhouse”. Our granddaughter, Ava, when she was little, asked us why it wasn’t painted green, so we did paint the door green for her.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t get enough sun to grow greens in the winter without lights. I have lettuce growing out there in pots but it gets a few hours of extra light from an LED grow light. The warm weather bedding plants I grow every year start to get leggy before it gets warm enough to transplant them to the garden.

Since we are now calling the planned solar greenhouse, “the greenhouse”, I impulsively wrote in my garden journal the other day the new name for the room on the house. It is now the Solarium (yes, fancy enough to warrant a capital “S”, don’t you think?).

White Rain

flowersonasnowyday

Flowers on a snowy day

I saw a movie a while back in which snow was called white rain. Seemed fitting.

A little over a week ago, here in Kentucky, we had a white rainstorm like we haven’t had in many years. We also had one of the longest cold spells in quite a while. Typically when we get snow, it may, or may not even, cover the ground and will be gone in a day or two. This storm system brought at least a foot, and there is still a blanket of white rain out our window 10 days later.

I am happy to report that we fared quite well through it all, though. With the wood stoves cranked up, the freezers and pantry full and the fact that the electricity didn’t fail us, we have been quite comfortable.

Amaryllis with white rain in the background

Amaryllis with white rain in the background

Picking lettuce was a treat

Picking lettuce was a treat

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have had to keep an infrared stove in the room formerly known as the greenhouse (more on that at another time). It hasn’t gotten below 58 degrees out there despite subzero temperatures. One day last week I picked lettuce out there while admiring the dozens of Amaryllis blooms, the geraniums and Impatiens, and all the greenery set off by the white snow in the background. What a treat, but I am so ready for spring!!

 

Whew!

I’ve been working all day to rebuild my web site. I am moving it to a new hosting company, Laymon Designs, in Harrodsburg. My mentor, Kathleen O’Brien, who I’ve mentioned in past postings, recommended them to me and I have been thrilled so far. It is a relief to have a local company who actually answers their own phone!

It has been quite a project but I’m pretty happy with the result. It will simplify things considerable since my blog will be on my one and only web site, lacetree.com. I’ve copied all my older blog posts so you can go back and look at the history of this blog if you are interested.

I’ve been adding photos and descriptions of all my inventory, too, so I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look around at my handwoven fiber art and wearable art.

This is a busy time of the year with the garden in full swing, but we are having a lovely cool rainy day in the midst of hot and humid weather so it is nice to have a day inside to do this work. It has been a pretty good garden year, not too wet and not too dry. I suppose Goldilocks would say it has been just right. We have continued to have fungal diseases which began in the spring and the insect of the year has been the incredibly pesky flea beetles.

Spiritually I have been doing some bungee jumping with incredible lows and wonderful highs. Both my parents passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease since February, four months apart, but the catalyst generated with their passing and the aftermath has fueled much spiritual growth.

I believe I will be able to post regularly now, at least that is my goal, so until next time I leave you in…

Love and light, Fox

 

Getting the juices flowing again

Blogging has taken a back seat to family and other issues for some time, but with the new life of spring, I’m feeling my blogging juices flow again.

My winter offered several crises giving me much spiritual “grist for the mill”, as a good friend of mine calls it. I believe I have grown with the challenges I have faced and continue to face, though, and I am so glad for the change in the weather which has lightened my mood and given me new eyes for the events as they unfold.

I have spent much of this last week in the garden, weeding, moving trees and brambles to their new locations, and today putting in a bed of broccoli I had started in the greenhouse a month or so ago. The winter lettuce is lush and baby lettuce and greens are up. The winter greens have bolted and so the timing is working well.

The hoop houses were wonderful this year. Our winter harvest was the best yet. I need to work on a way to deal with the gales which played havoc with the plastic covers, but I have a few ideas which I’ll fill you in on when I figure it all out.

Work in my studio has been spotty, too, with my attention in other directions, but I am working on a custom rug right now and have many projects planned for the coming months. It works well to do my garden chores in the cool mornings and evenings and then spend time in the studio during the heat of the day and I’m feeling excited and inspired about the upcoming work and play with my garden and my art.

I’ve mentioned before my friend, Kathleen O’Brien, who sparked the idea and set me on the path of trying to integrate my spiritual life, my gardening and my art, which are all interests we share. She suggested this blog as a way to work on that process.

Kathleen has been such an inspiration to me in many ways. I am so entranced with her art, which is filled with visions of nature and spiritual geometry of which I am also so connected. She also has been such a role model for me through the way she gets her art out into the world.

I’d like to tell you about her exhibit I am hoping to see this month. Realms of Wonder is Kathleen’s solo exhibit at the MS Rezny Gallery in Lexington, which began on April 1st and will be open until the end of the month.

Thanks! Happy Spring!

Love and light, Fox

Teltane

I have really been noticing the Sun coming up later each morning and dusk arriving sooner each evening. Our ancestors marked the day halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox as Teltane (also known as Lammas or Lughnassad). They celebrated a ritual marriage between Lugh, the Sun, and Eire, the Earth with hopes the mating would balance the male and female energies to strengthen and harmonize the Sun and Earth until harvest. This Wednesday, August 1st, marks Teltane and in honor of the Sun and the Earth, I thought I’d share some thoughts and some photos of my garden.

Herb and flower gardens at the end of June.

Despite a lengthy drought, which probably isn’t over even though we have gotten a little rain of late, my garden has flourished. Fortunately I have been able to water the vegetable garden from our pond, but there for a while I was concerned for my dear garden and all the plants and wildlife living near us as the temperatures were in the 100’s and everything looked scorched.

I am an organic gardener, and I have been building our soil with compost and green manure for many years. This year I have been planting my seeds and doing my transplanting diligently according to a biodynamic calendar. I used a calendar last summer, but I wasn’t consistent. This year, as an experiment, I decided to follow the biodynamic recommendations as much as practicality allowed. I’ll admit some scepticism but I’ll have to say that my garden appears to be doing exceptionally well.

Veggie part of the garden at the end of June.

Of course my experiment hasn’t been scientific and there are way too many variables to draw any conclusions, but it is enough evidence for me to continue using the calendar next year.

When I was taking the Master Gardener class a few years ago, other students teased me when I said I didn’t see many insect pests in my garden. They couldn’t believe I didn’t have to spray with chemicals for bean beetles and potato beetles and the like. I decided to pay close attention this year to what pests I saw, especially after a mild winter when pests might be in larger number.

One cucumber plant which has produceddozens of large burpless cukes.

 

I have seen one Colorado potato beetle on an eggplant, 9 Japanese Beetles on my okra, not one Mexican bean beetles in two succession plantings of bush beans, a couple of squash bugs, and 7 or 8 Blister Beetles in this whole growing season. I do struggle with Squash Vine Borers, though I’ve kept them at bay longer and longer each season with a couple of techniques, and my eggplant are bothered by flea beetles, though not enough to keep them from pumping out lots of lovely fruit. I do see a little pest damage on the veggies that I pick, but I don’t treat the plants with organic insecticides like Pyganic or diatomaceous earth unless I am going to lose a good share of the crop, because if I kill the “bad bugs” I’d be killing the “good bugs”, too, the predators which keep the pesty insects in check. I attribute the shortage of “bad bugs” in my garden to all the hungry birds, all the “good bugs” and to the health of my plants and soil.

I’ve started turning under the Crimson Cloverwhich has been growing in this bed so it candecompose as a green manure. It will be my winter

bed under a hoop house. I left the volunteer

zinnia and will plant around it. 🙂

 

I know it sounds like I’m bragging, and I guess I am, but I get frustrated with the common attitudes about organic gardening and I wish I could help people see the advantages of not using chemicals on their gardens.

For those of you who do fall and winter gardens, it is time to begin preparing the soil and begin some of the planting. It is time to think about planting carrots. I have been turning under the green manure on one of my winter beds and have some bedding plants started in the greenhouse. I usually go ahead and put up the hoop house and cover it with a light row cover because there are a lot of hungry insects who like those sweet young plants. Row covers are one of the best tools for pest control.

 

My friend, Donna, took this photo of my hoop housea couple seasons ago.

I hope you’ll consider a fall and winter garden, because, in Kentucky, you can get a great deal of fresh food and the growing is easy with typically cooler temperatures and plenty of rain, and the pests are taking a break. For more information about

fall and winter gardening and

hoop houses, contact us.

 

The bees are loving my dwarf crepe myrtlewhich is blooming it’s heart out thisyear and has such a sweet scent.

 

 

These Juliet “Roma” shaped tomatoes are a crossbetween a cherry and a Roma type tomato.The plants are taller than me and have

not had one sign of disease.

If things go as they usually do, they will keep

bearing baskets of tomatoes until the frost kills them.

 

I wish you all a happy Teltane and, if you garden, best wishes for a prosperous garden during this unusual garden season.