Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

I will definitely not be finishing the cookbook project I started in October of 2013. It was a fun challenge at the time, and I do still find the idea of cooking through a cookbook inspiring, but I think America’s Best Vegetable Recipes was just not the right book. For one thing, the book had sections of recipes for vegetables I can’t find locally. For another thing, the book had a whole chapter of aspics. Ultimately the project’s demise came about because I don’t enjoy cooking the way the book’s 1970 audience did. I prefer my vegetables fresher with fewer processed ingredients and an emphasis on flavor.

What I am most inspired by now is permaculture and the notion that my yard could be full of the sorts of fruits and vegetables that most want to grow in this spot. As I learn more about this way of gardening and I see more examples of people growing abundant food I am most struck by how challenging it would be to prepare and eat it all. My yard isn’t close to any kind of food production yet! The squirrels still get all of our fruit and my most daunting harvest challenge is how to use some herbs. However, it seems to me that if I want to aim for a healthy and productive garden I better start practicing how to cook and eat the produce that grows here. This means visiting farmer’s markets and eating seasonally as I continue to figure out what will grow best on my small plot of Earth.

Watch this space for more ruminations on gardening, seasonality, and what it means to eat locally. Maybe with actual photos!


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Chop & Drop

Happy New Year! Ok, I know it is the end of April already, but since this is the first time I’m posting here since the end of last year you get my holiday greetings anyway. Yes, we are still schooling the children at home. No, I am no longer cooking through the vegetable cookbook. I don’t know that I have given it up completely, but I certainly don’t think about it much. Maybe I’ll get back to it one day. Was I doing any other projects here? I don’t remember.

Lately I have been getting very interested in permaculture. Permaculture is a way of looking at the Earth (and life, and community, and many things) that emphasizes working with natural systems instead of fighting against them. It is the only thing I have found that makes sense of gardening on my unruly half acre, so I have been trying to learn as much about it as I can. For example, permaculture teaches that all of the leaves and sticks we have on our wooded lot are a resource and not a liability. I have been building new raised beds with them (in the shade, which is what we’ve got) and trusting our abundant soil critters to turn them into dirt.

Today I have been feeling particularly empowered by a gardening method called chop & drop. My unruly half acre is mostly that way because it is overrun with many different types of invasive vine. The front yard is mostly English ivy, the back yard is mostly vinca major (huge periwinkle). Pulling it all out is an overwhelming amount of work, but it is a task that I have set to for three springs in a row. A few days ago, however, while I was pulling up the vinca and its runners from under the leaf litter, I suddenly noticed the positive role the vine was playing: it was holding down leaves and building soil. The worms loved it. (It also blooms early in the season and attracts pollinators.)

This observation made me stop and think. I have been trying to encourage the building of new soil in an easy and natural way. The vinca is doing that for me.  What is it I really object to about it? It’s the fact that it looks messy. Thankfully, there is an easy way to fix that. All I need to do is cut down the part that sticks up above the runners and everything looks less weedy. I can drop the chopped stuff as mulch to compost in place and that helps the soil even more. 

Suddenly, tidying up my huge yard isn’t so intimidating. I can take care of a swath of vinca, trumpet vine, ash and redbud saplings, and everything else that makes my half acre so unruly in much less time with just a pair of clippers.  Once I get an old fashioned hand sickle (a land-working peasant tool, according to my husband) it will go even faster. I used to chastise myself for letting the place get so weedy, now I can praise myself for having the foresight to grow so much mulch. Permaculture for the win!

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Butterfly Season

Butterfly by ambermae
Butterfly, a photo by ambermae on Flickr.

I don’t know how it has been where you live, but here we seem to be having a banner year for butterflies.

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Spring Garden Tour

Most of my yard is taken over with noxious weeds and horribly invasive vines, but there are a few gems here and there.

In the backyard, this unruly camellia bush keeps producing lovely white flowers. We need to free it from the tree overgrowth around it and prune some of the longer branches after it stops flowering:


In the wild area by the road we have some pretty wildflowers like this Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata):


This unknown red flower (it’s called sweet william!):


And this stand of daisies:


Along the treeline in the front yard there is a lush carpet of wild strawberries:


Around the side of the house I cleared out a bunch of weeds (including small saplings) to find a rosebush with its first small bloom:


And a peony with its first bud:


I’m clearing out some weedy beds to prepare gardens for herbs and vegetables but it is slow going. Hopefully I’ll have something to show you in the summer.

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