Friday, February 28, 2014

Things to Think on...

Imagine you had this place that you could go to where you felt at peace, where you had friends who were always happy to see you when you arrived, where you could do what you love to do and no one would bother you or tell you that you had to stop. Imagine that you went to this place and did what you did there just because it was fun and it made you happy. You didn't have to do that fun stuff for money. You did it because that was what your heart and mind told you to do. You loved that place, your very own garden of Eden complete with plants and animals.

Raspberry, Thai Basil, Tomatoes

I found a place like that. Made it my own. Shaped it and nurtured it, filled it with things that make me happy. Like the movie Inception though, perhaps I have been too caught up in my dream world of creation, joy, change and creation again, that I have slipped too far from reality.

Willows and Poplars

I have always known that happiness is all around me--every day. I have only to look for it in the small things: the laughter of a child, the smile and wave of a friendly neighbor, the way a hawk cuts across the sky, the colors of a desert sunset, a line of quail chicks darting across the road behind their parents. The promise of new life, growth...

The taste of tomatoes to come:

And eggplants as well:

The miracle that seeds more than three years old that were forgotten and thought lost could somehow be brought to sprout:

I have often heard the expression that God gives us what we can handle. I think that's true. I think I was given an opportunity to have a place where I could be happy during a time in my life when there was a great deal of darkness and uncertainty. Today I am thankful for the good times in my happy place where I saw babies born and raised, I watched plants sprout, bloom, bear fruit and dry up with the end of the season, leaving behind their seeds of hope for the next year.

And I know that if I want to make a place like this again, the seeds for it and many others are buried deep within my soul, waiting to be planted when the time is right.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Planting Journal

Today I planted bamboo. Four of my nine phyllostachys rubromarginata, green bamboo that is grown mainly as a privacy screen, and one phyllostachys nigra, a black bamboo that is just so beautiful I couldn't resist it's charm. I also placed the snapgragons in the ground. This is all around a hugelkultur bed I built on Monday which is spot planted with lavender, chocolate mint, and purple lantana. The hugel was heavily sprinkled with a variety of flower seeds. This bed is located at the north of the property near the chicken coop and run. That side used to be where we kept Lucky the ram, so it was pretty bare and in need of some green.

After Lucky and his entourage of wives moved away, I began tilling over the ground. They'd been on it for some time and left their nitrogen rich manure. I mulched over it all with spent straw and there are already things growing in it, mostly wheat and alfalfa.

Here is a photo from Monday of the hugel:

A pathway lined with Christmas tree trunks meanders along that brick wall and I think it will be beautiful once everything is set in and fills out--a little outdoor nature walk.

I checked in the greenhouse and discovered that the cucmber seeds are already beginning to sprout:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Planting Journal

This morning I planted cucumber and bell pepper seeds in the peat pellets/Jiffy seed starting kit. The tomato seedlings are tall enough to have their lid removed. They're reaching for the sunlight from the window.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Planting Journal

This morning I hauled the last of the Christmas trees to the second unfinished hugel bed. They were all quite flat from sitting so long and still smelled of fresh pine. The better trees were tossed into the goat pen as snacks--and those three ruminants got to munching right away!

The remaining de-needled trees will be de-branched and used as fence posts or garden bed/path edging. They are beautiful and straight when done. What a shame it would have been if they went to the landfill. I've gotten so many uses out of these free trees even though they delivered way more than I expected.

My next task is to find and bring in some good compost. I know where there is some free, but it will be a chore to get it to the ranch. I would need to haul it myself and that takes time and hard work. But like anything, a little bit at a time can accomplish big things eventually.

My greenhouse has a small collection of plants who, like me, await spring warmth before they can get into the garden. I puchased the last three bareroot trees for the Three Sisters Garden (all apples) and will need to rebuild the bed where they'll go before I can set them in place. I have two six-packs of snapdragons and have started soaking the peat pellets to start some vegetable seedlings. Maybe cucumber, maybe eggplants... Maybe both.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Planting Journal

This morning there wasn't any frost. I planted 6 lavender plants and 5 artichoke plants in the Three Sisters Garden. These were placed in the rows that are visible if one is looking into the property from the main gate. I had already placed 3 Canary Island date palms in the first row. Upon turning up the dirt in the row I found a wonderful humus rich soil.

I didn't shovel dirt or compost today because I was in pain from working so much on it the day prior, but I did mulch over the finished parts with straw. The main hugel is nearly done. It needs dirt over the south side of it and some wood border along the bottom as a finishing touch. The border helps keep the dirt in place.

No pictures today. Sorry!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Getting Ready for Spring

I have not posted in some time. There are a couple of good reasons for this.

#1: There has been a lot of human caused drama out at the ranch. Bad drama. Drama that I don't want to be a part of. So, rather than elaborate on all that, I am setting my sight on the future, more specifically, spring!

#2. Spring isn't here yet. Drat.

As you can see by the frost on these mesquite logs, it's still too cold at the ranch to plant anything that can't handle a freeze. People in town are probably planting away, but not me. I have all these great raised beds in the Gigantic Garden just waiting. Sure, there's some brocolli, cauliflower, artichoke, rosemary, lavender and trees in there. But I want to plant tomatoes! I want to set in the eggplants! Ugh. It's so difficult to be patient.

It's okay though. There is always something to do out there:

For example, I had some leftover trees from last year's lot delivery. Since I only have a few goats left and about a million--okay maybe about 60 trees--I decided that I am done feeding these crusty, dried up things to my goats.

Did I mention that weeds don't care if there's frost? In the Three Sisters Garden there is a bumper crop of weeds growing between the rows. Permaculture teaches us that these weeds (which appear to be related to the dandelion family) have long tap roots and are nature's way of breaking up compacted soil. True. That soil is compacted because it's a pathway.

These weeds are tasty if you're a chicken or a cow or a goat. But when life gives you dead wood and weeds and you can't plant your seeds yet, oh and half your Three Sisters Garden needs some beds, I say make HUGELKULTUR (and a long, run-on sentence)!

Hugelkultur garden beds are raised beds made of wood, plant trimmings, and dirt. Basically, you build a pile of wood, old, new, rotten, whatever you have on hand (see what types of wood are best in the article link at the end). Then you toss on some organic matter and bury it all in compost and dirt. Plant seeds right away and water.

Does it work? *shrug* Other people online say so. Sepp Holzer wrote a whole book about it. So, I figured since I can't plant all of this stuff:

I might as well make myself useful and pile my trees and pull some weeds. It can't hurt, right? I could stand to lose a few pounds anyways. Hard work is good for the soul.

Here's a pic (above) of the nearly finished hugelkultur bed. Sepp Holzer recommends building these things high, like five feet up! That way you don't have to crouch down to harvest. This one is maybe four feet high. It's being covered with well composted manure/straw and a layer of earth (you can see the trench next to it where the earth came from). Finding enough compost/dirt to cover this is the trick. I did notice some dirt piles near my cows...

My tomato seedlings are excited! Hopefully by the time spring gets here, they'll be ready to live in that hugelkultur. And double hopefully, the hugelkultur will be done and ready. Maybe spring is waiting for me to finish?

For more information about this type of garden, check out this very informative site: