From Abundance to Overload!

No I am not complaining!  Seriously I am so grateful of all this fruit, I just sit here alone, well with my little guy wondering how …IMG_5248

on earth am I going to get this all preserved before winter, or worse rot?

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But he just laughs at all my fretting and reminds me, these are good problems to have!

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So we begin, and luckily I have a helper that doesn’t bore of washing…until of course he does…IMG_5281

But quickly finds other things to entertain him while I chop away.IMG_5287

 

One by one I get to marvel at each perfectly imperfect lucious fruit, saving the seeds of the finest favorites along the way.

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And slowly 30lbs turns onto one pot, which I mix with more home-grown goodness…IMG_5289

 

10lbs of the most pungent onions I have ever smelled, crying all the way.  Along with home-grown garlic, oregano, rosemary, basil and thyme….this might be my first 100% home-grown marinara!! Mama mia it was good!IMG_5292

 

Then I moved to something a bit more decadent, and tomato marmalade recipe that kind of blew my mind last year…I know what you are thinking, not exactly your thing, right..well a gifted jar of this stuff sat on my shelf for almost 8months before I broke it open out of desperation when a beloved guest was over and all I had to offer was toast…It has us cooing and pining for the recipe ever since… So thanks to Elsa and her mom here it is, but a warning there are way more store-bought and sweeting ingredients in this one than my puritan marinara but truthfully, well worth it!!IMG_5296

 

Thank goodness for six burners, I had them all working at once at some point during this frenzy along with every pot in the house…and that usually only happens about twice a year on big holidays!IMG_5299

 

And so lots of work and days later I now have just over a dozen pints of love….and 30 more lbs of fruit calling my name! IMG_5478

And just for the record I am feeling super lucky I have food to eat and to feed my people with.  May all beings be gifted a full belly tonight and may my growing efforts go to feed the many who simply are not nourished as they should be.

August Abundance

The most luscious month of the year is always abundant around here.  Nothing big and bold, but lots of busy hands gathering making, tidying and creating around here.  Here are a few glimpses of our Autumn Abundance that is just beginning.

 

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Onions and Herbs drying in the shade

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Lots of Basil Picking and Pesto to being made

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Artistic little hands now with an organized rainbow crayon case

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Three years old now and time to do a little growing up.

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Baby doll gets a makeover upon request ” Why doesn’t Little Red Cap have legs and clothes? We need to make him some mama”

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Standing up and wearing clothes! This guy is ready for working in the garden

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A love rekindled, what can I say!

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A new summer shawl as the knitting needles get a clicking again!

A new ( to us off Craigslist) bathtub

A new (to us off Craigslist) bathtub

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Given a lovely makeover paint job in what seems to be my favorite color of this year

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Installed and ready for lots of soaking

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Oh and of course the growth in the garden!! Calendula picking daily for oil making later on down the line

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Tomatoes ripening daily on the vine

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Lots of cooking in the outdoor kitchen

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Numberous Sunday mountain treks bearing gifts from the rains

Oh and so much more to come!

Gardening with Kids

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Growing together

I approach gardening with kids much like I approach anything with kids; with great joy, patience and as much non-attachment to the outcome as I can muster, this way when it’s fun it fun and when it’s done it’s done.

Because I am a what you might call a serious gardener, meaning I spend a larger than average time in my garden as well as garden for a living, I have had to figure out ways to not only share my great love of the earth with my son (and many other children along the way) but figure out the balance of engaging him AND getting stuff done.  This has been of course been achieved with varying degrees of success over the seasons but with his help and the help of many years as a schoolyard garden teacher I have learned a trick or two that may be helpful to you.

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Perfect fit!

Start early:

Not only is fresh air and sun shine good for you and your child post-partum, but getting babies used to where you plan to spend a lot of time with them is helpful.  As they arrive on this earth, providing them with safe comfortable ways to be here is crucial if they are to feel like they belong on this good green earth.

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Close and cozy for short spells at first

When my son was very young I put him in a little basket in the green house.  It was warm and the light was filtered so I felt he was safe from the elements and I could be nearby, sometimes not gardening at all, but given back my hands for a moment while he gazed up at the green.  It is still our chosen play spot during the colder months of the year.

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Nakey time in the sunshine!

When he got a little older he spent lots of time on his back right in the garden patch…

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So much to amaze!

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Sunny out here!

luckily there are very few itchy things to worry about here in New Mexcio whichs brings great ease to a gardening mothers heart.

But I always made sure he was well protected when the sun was bright.  He always slept really well outside.

Provide Safe Spaces:

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Where will he roam next!

As a new mother on a somewhat unruly homestead I was often nervous about where to let him roam and what was really ok to let a baby wander into. Those first couple of years my husband did a lot of baby proofing in my behalf.  Adding brick paths

Adding little edges, walls and fences to help him define boundaries of plants and people space, and of course give him something to pull himself up on and lots of safe grazing foods within reach.

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Good Grazing

Let them explore:

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Glorious rain!

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Truly Wonderful!

So much of the world is fascinating and marvelous when you are brand new and whenever I let go enough of say a wet baby on a chilly cold day, I am able to witness some of the worlds greatest delights!!  And of course had a towel and warm bath waiting.

Let them feel:

Wet and dirty, flowing water, gritty sand.  Children’s whole beings are big sensory organs and their job is to take in the world and process it.  The garden is the greatest place to experience the feel the texture of life and open our senses to all the miracles of sensory awareness the world holds and it truly is all right there in our own backyards.

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The feel of flowing water

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Pluck!

Sometimes that means letting them pluck a flower or two or eating some dirt, but the casualties are most likely worth it!

Keep them with you:

I think one of our greatest successes is that when I work in the garden, my son comes with me or at least up till now at 3 years old.  Sure I sneak moments to myself and save certain jobs for when he is with someone else, but mostly I just tell him it is time for working in the garden and he joins right in.

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What’s a little gravel in the mouth?

When he was small of course a pile of gravel was enough keep him happy , or a bowl of water or a pile of dirt….but as he grew he would wander off and get into places I was not so fond of….I started to find toddler size boot prints all throughout freshly sprouted seed beds so yes, I baby proofed the garden a bit.  It ran string about 2 feet high around the beds as boundaries and they did in fact stop him from trampling, though a few other visiting toddlers weren’t slowed in the slightest and just startled right over….I also put recycled tiles in the garden paths as stepping-stones and it seemed to be more entertaining to jump from one to another than tramp the plants, so we were both happy with that!

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Gardening within the lines

Give them spaces of their own

When kids get even older, say 2, it is important to set them up with projects you can let them work on without having to keep too close an eye.  They want to help and have meaningful work, but if you can work right there with them they need to have something important to do that does contribute to the job at hand.  If I am sowing flats of example, my son stirs the soil and fills the trays.  Often he has his own agenda when we enter a space like the greenhouse and wants to water all the plant accessible to him with his own watering can.

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At his level- he gets the have free rage over the bed under the benches

Give them meaningful work and real tools:

My husband is a champion of involving our son in projects.  He somehow has two of every thing and can set him up to work right by his side.  He also seems to have varying sizes of things so that our son had a real hammer, but one that fit in his hands and wasn’t a danger, not only so he doesn’t get so frustrated by working with something that simply doesn’t fit him, but so he can actually succeed at hitting a nail.  Now that he is bigger he is really helpful in delivering things.  He can pass tools and go grab things and loves to help in that way.  They also build real things and I am so grateful we both have real skills to pass on.  I have never seen my son use a toy tool bench, but I wonder if he would just pass it by, once you have had the real thing it is hard to play with plastic imitations.

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Real tools, kids size

Be ready, Be reasonable about expectations & Be prepared for breakdowns:

Setting you both up well is really important.  Having the hats and the gloves and the water and the shovels can seem like a lot to think about when you are just going to kneel down for some weeding….but I find my son always wants the same things and if I have them on hand and don’t have completely interrupt my flow to get things for him, we are both happier and can stay focused for much longer.

Just as giving a tiny child a huge hammer and expecting him to wield it well is silly, the same applies to planning a whole day in a sunny garden with 2-year-old, it is simply a bad idea.  Scaling my time has been important to learn so that our time and energy together is fun and not over extended.  Weather it is the right size tool or timeline, tuning into a child’s size and capacity can make or break any experience.

Though no matter how hard you try to prepare, measure and accommodate, when a child is done, he is done!  Yielding to a child’s needs is another good lesson I have learned in my power garden sessions.  Sometimes they are just done before you are and want different things at different times.  Now that my son is three he can say, “I am hungry” or “I am all done” and I can say “Ok, I will finish up here and we will go get a snack.”  It is all very civilized, however this time last year he simply could not communicate so well and our gardening together would often end in me stepping too far away for a moment and him wailing in worry, or some other seemingly insignificant thing that would abruptly end our blissful garden sessions.  But I took it all in stride.  One of the hardest things to learn as a mother in these first couple of years is that my child and I have very different needs, though any stranger could tell that just by looking at us, I really had a hard time accommodating both what he wanted and I wanted at the same time.  But as I yielded, so did he and we always managed to work together and get those seeds in the ground or the crops in from the field as well and snuggle, nurse and rest together.  And just remember, just because it may end in tears one day, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again, maybe with a few lessons learned, but there is always another chance to grow together!

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Where your done your done!

Do things together:Which often mean slowing down and letting go.

All this said I must admit the biggest lesson I have learned is that being a serious gardener and a good garden mentor don’t always align.  I often feel I must get certain things done in a certain amount of time and little ones simply don’t get that.  Yes, I do power garden on my own, but remembering that my helpers, both young and old are still learning to connect, love and savor the earth is a great lesson for me, when did I get so busy anyway?   Most of what I learn is that being in the moment really does make it last longer and gives us more.  Being in the garden with my son does involve some boundaries and guidance, but mostly it is truly a time for reverence and connection.  We are sharing in each other and in the world together and sincerely, nothing could be finer and truly neither of us want anything more.

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Every berry is a miracle

 

And now look at him!!  My little garden guy.  Marveling at the wonders all around him, sharing the miracles of life with those close to him and working, always working!!  Love that little garden guy!

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Reminding me to stop and smell the flowers!

 

PS After I wrote this I came across and similar and beautiful post about gardening with kids here where I borrowed this quote from:

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

― Rachel Carson

 

 

 

In Full Bloom

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Ahh this glorious rain, bags and baskets over flowing with seeds and fruits; the Lammas season is upon us, the harvest time has begun.  This time last week all I could think about was all that rain wasted, the seeds I didn’t sow and yes I was literally in the weeds  as they were toppling over head.  But now, thanks to the wise words of a circle of friends I am seeing the beautiful mystery in all that is unfolding without my careful sowing.  My garden is literally only half seeds I sowed, the rest were dropped there by birds and trees and mysterious forces all around, but all that is sprouting around me is a gift and I am drinking it in.  I have let go of my quest for perfection, at least in the garden for starters, the weeds literally fall over me as I scratch around them and throw out handful of seeds to the wet earth with wild abandon.  There still is many moons of growth in my garden and half way through the year I am ready to set out more wishes, intentions and hopes of more food for the family.

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This year has been intense from dry and scarce to overflowing floods…the extremes are truly a humble reminder that it is not all up to us…..As we witness the extremes in the world around us it is really hard in integrate all that seems to be happening right now I ask myself has the world always been this intense and we just were more insulted in our communities without mass media we just didn’t have to take it all in?  I really don’t know but I feel responsible some how to take it in, to be aware, to act as effectively as I can to create hope, support and effect positive change…to do enough!!

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And some days lately I simply can’t muster much of anything.  Remember those seeds my son and I threw out this spring on our new land…well I never really watered, went away and then got too tired and too hot to care.  I kind of wrote it off as a personal failure and then we wandered up there last evening and let my tell you it is a wild mess!!! But what went from being the dream of a flower farm then quickly one more project I couldn’t quite maintain, has magically transformed back into a flower farm with any of my doing.  While I slept and fretted about all the work I had to do, but simply did nothing, the ‘weeds’ grew into a million sunflowers and are all about to bloom.  BOOM, a flower farm with nothing but Mother Nature to thank,(and of course the previous farmers who dropped and ton of sunflowers seeds in the earth last year without me knowing).

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So though I am still sneaking seeds in the ground it is time to reap and appreciate, the ripeness of the season, all that we are given and all that is.  In this high time of summer with all the intensity that it has brought, we must remember to rejoice in all that we have, which is more than so many and pray for the same simple abundance for all beings on this earth.  May the fullness of this season nourish all and may we all know what we need to do and may that be enough, at least for now.

The Journey- by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!” 

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy 

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen 

branches and stones.

But little by little, 

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do—

determined to save 

the only life you could save.

 

 

 

Garden Transitions

Nothing like taking 2 weeks off from gardening in July!!  We recently left town with everything little, mulched and ready to grow, and upon returning– well grow it did!!  There was a ton of work waiting for me when I returned and though I haven’t gotten through it, I feel invigorated to do so,especially with this glorious cloudy weather in the skies above!!  I often need this break, after a big push in the spring, often mid June, I am simply done!  I let my greens go to seed in the swelling summer heat and I sit back and sip lemonade, or better yet split town.  Even though  am always happiest to come home, that break really helps me with perspective, refreshing my brain and helping me find new energy.  Now that I have been ‘refreshed’ I wander the garden a find in doesn’t have mush to yield me right now with the exception of abundant Basil,some promising green Tomatoes, tiny Cucumbers and an amazing array of flowers

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Beyond the beauty I mostly just have work to do…..I have got tomatoes to prune and tie, garlic to harvest, onions to harvest, lots of lettuce, spinach and cilantro seed to harvest…..and then when I do all that I let my chickens and turkeys lose to forage and clean up the rest.  After they do their number my garden will be pretty wide open for a whole new spring of sorts…well fall I guess.

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With this rain and cooling weather it is a wonderful time to make way for all those fall crops.  technically we could still have almost 90 good days of growing season left so we might as well fill the garden with seeds rather than weeds….

So you might ask what do I plant and when?  Well…. I may experiment with sowing an extremely late crop of Summer Squash and transplanted Basil… and then I will plant more Carrots, Beets, Lettuce, Kale, Chard, Bok Choy, Fennel, Spinach, Cilantro, Dill, Radishes and then more Lettuce from seed…..probably in that order in the next 2-3 weeks.  Hey I might even try Marigolds, nasturtiums and Cosmos to see if I can get anything this late in the game.  If you are doing the same and want an another encouragement I found this coaxing email for Johnny’s Select Seed Company telling you all the fall varieties they are selling and even a handy planting guide quite convincing.  Succession planting is really the key to a constant food supply so I remember, you don’t have to plant everything all at once.  Spacing things a couple of weeks apart will in turn space your harvesting a couple of weeks a part making your fall abundance constant!

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Since I nurse my garden along through Christmas and somethings into the new year, this planting succession is crucial for my food supply for the next six months and has proven to be the most abundant time in my garden.  I too start to perk up with the rain and relish in all the green that blesses our high desert soils this time of year… so throw out those seeds I say, and give thanks for the rain!!!

Living Outdoors

Our house is kinda small.  It is 1,000 sq feet on the outside of thick adobe walls, and though 50 years ago that was the average size home for a family of five it can feel a little snug with us three.  IMG_4124

But because New Mexican weather is so agreeable, we spend as much time outside as possible.  Lately even at 7am my son wants to eat his breakfast on the porch and of course we all linger outside until dark.  We have furthered this outdoor life by finishing our outdoor kitchen which has been a work in progress for many, many years.  It is kind of life long dream of mine and I can’t tell you what a joy it is to be able to literally be outside all day long, gardening, cooking and eating all in the fresh air.  Since it has been such a labor of love I thought I would share the process and progress through the years….IMG_3349

When I first moved in 5 years ago Joel jumped on getting the greenhouse on the house, as he knew I would make good use of it.  IMG_4118

Now it creates one end of the outdoor kitchen and is in use 365 days a year!IMG_0142

Then there was the pallet shack built over the well house, Joel’s project while I was pregnant.IMG_1041

It is filled in with mud and straw and for our baby shower it was plastered with the same by our dear friends, completing another side of the kitchen zone.

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And then began the patio with a pile of bricks that sat in the front yard and was put to good use for almost three years as a high risk toddler climbing structure

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(Don’t worry he lived through it and loved every minute or it!)

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Sand was gathered from the river,

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Bricks were lovingly laid

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digging was done

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Trenches were made (and staid a little longer than they were welcome)

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and with all that trench dirt, old abodes from another construction project years back and a big pile of stones a bonus

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Horno!!

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Which provided hours of good family fun!

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And will continue to for years

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to come!

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The bricks continue to be laid,

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But soon enough, pure satisfaction!!

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Pride of a job well done

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the joy of sharing our space with good friends

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And best of all, lots of parties to come!!  Here’s to all your good work dear!  So many thank yous for our beautiful little home, inside and out!

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Seeding Dreams

Mercury in retrograde really got me this time with my cell phone acting crazy, my car broke down and yes my modem short circuited in Saturdays storm, so I have been not only a little out of sorts & a lot out of communication.  The good news is I have been reading, yes real books… I hate to admit this, but my hands are always so busy I rarely read, but this old fashion pleasure has resurfaced this week and oh how I love it!!

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Another old fashion pleasure that has been packaged into this week was the ancient, but new-to-me art of flood irrigation.  As most of you know, flood farming dates back way beyond 1492 and yes still there are over 1,000 functioning acequias in New Mexico still today.  I happen to live right next to one and this week by a stroke of slow, steadily evolving luck, and some dear hard working farmer friends, I had my first go at flooding a field I hope to carefully tend in the season to come.  IMG_3977

Most of you readers know farming has been a long time dream of mine and a gradual work in process.  As I  sowed my cover crops seeds this week, with my little boy doing the same in my shadow, stepping right into each fresh footprint I had made, he said, ” We’re farmers mama”.

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My heart swelled.  ” We may just be son, we may just be.”  Not every young las dreams of being a farmer, but I sure did.  From the time I first lived on a farm at age 14 I really did want to be a farmer.  As I worked on farms in college I quickly learned how much work farm takes and that I may not have it in me to farm, or at least earn a living farming.  IMG_3963

I have tried lots of different ways to live a farming life; being a farmers girlfriend (totally unsatisfying as I left the farm every day to go to work!!) living and working on other people’s farms (wonderful, but not a long term solution).  And finally just gardening and teaching other people to garden, which frankly suits me quite well….but I still pine for more open land to sink my seeds in…

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and this is not because I have a ton of free time and energy, it is, I guess what you would call a calling, a vocation.  The earth simply calls to me, what can I say?  I guess it is almost like a love affair, we were made for each other, me and mother earth.  Nothing, not even ‘reality’ and ‘impractically’ can keep us apart…for now.  So for now, this field and I, we are new and consumed; irrigating in the moonlit and step by step placing every seed as if every single one was a carefully placed kiss….IMG_3984

And as with all new love affairs, we are keeping it between us right now, not quite ready to expose our tender connection, not quite ready to meet the family yet, but I just had to share, this field found us and it just might make me a farmer yet!!IMG_3959

 

The call of home

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Somehow the height of this season has brought some major disturbances both technologically and emotionally that I am deeply integrating tonight.  And all I can say right now is that they are leading me back, inside myself towards a deeper, more integrated and truly power life of gratitude and faith.  This weekend our community experienced an earthquake of sorts when a dear friend’s child went missing in the red wood forest all night.  She was gone for 23 hours and then, by a true stroke of angels, helpers and everyone I know calling her home with all of our hearts, she was found!!!  This shook us so deeply and called forth such beauty, connection and strength in all of us, all I can say is the ripples went deep.  I know her and her family will never be the same after that experience, but I know I too am deeply changed.  It showed me the power of the human heart, of little girls will and of faith, connection and pray that ties us all together.  It is such a tender thing to even share, but so powerful I can not pretend it didn’t break me open!!   Maybe because when given the opportunity to look, feel and be penetrated by what really deeply matters to your heart, you are shown what you are here to be and do and your calling and convictions no longer wait patiently in the shadows.  I wish this truly scary and profoundly joyful experience can help us all get closer to our own hearts and the hearts beating all around us.  And one thing that has me on my knees is that the world took care of her and helped her preserve to find her family.  Though this poem is nothing like I imagine her night was like, it somehow comforts me to think the great mother did in fact care for her and guide her home.

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth

remembered me, she

took me back so tenderly, arranging

her dark skirts, her pockets

full of lichens and seeds.  I slept

as never before, a stone

on the riverbed, nothing

between me and the white fire of the stars

but my thoughts, and they floated

light as moths among the branches

of the perfect trees, All night

I heard the small kingdoms breathing

around me, the insects, and the birds

who do their work in the darkness.  All night

I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling

with a luminous doom.  By morning

I had vanished at least a dozen times

into something better.- Mary Oliver

Time for sun screen!

The sun is up and the cool has gone, welcome but rough transition for some of us in the garden world.  In fact last Friday, I boldly removed my covers from my garden at SFCC, which is highly exposed to sun and wind.  Everyone was delighted to ‘finally see what was hiding under there’, but was nervous.  I was in a rush and just went for it, crossing my fingers the rain would be light & gentle and the gray skies would protect my newly transplanted babies…..Alas no such luck!!  The weather at my house is extremely different than at SFCC and it turned out the ‘rain’ there was actually hail, damaging all my newly exposed plants and even killing some newly planted ones.

 

The ones that had been uncovered weeks ago had a chance to toughen up so they weathered the storm just fine.  IMG_3924

But the ones that had been babied under row cover got deeply scarred by the rough weather.

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So what is a gardener to do?  Because row cover and custom covers are somewhat sensitive to sun and wind, I like to store them in the summer, so I can really use them when I need them in the colder months, and get the most life out of them possible.  However, a totally exposed garden in the high desert sun can really suffer from sun and wind and yes, summer hail storms…. So here is my solution, actually it is not mine, it is my husband’s idea, he is the brains behind most of our operations.IMG_6889

We bought these grass mats at Lowes that are used for fencing out your neighbors view of your yard.  We cut them into 5 ft pieces and laid them over our cattle panel hooped beds last year.  They provide great shade to a very hot part of our garden and made it useable all season.  So this season I did the same at the SFCC garden.

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Since these beds have hoops built-in, I just wired the mats to the middle bar, the sides are just clipped down so I can unclip and roll them back for easy access to harvest.   They work like a charm and look nice too, since hundreds of people walk through this garden every day, that matters!

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At home, I put them over my greens so they last just a little bit longer into the summer.  Crazy shadows make things taste better too!!

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They also work really well to shade things right after transplanting.  After a week or so they can be removed, but transplanting can be quite and shock, so protection really helps those little guys adapt.  So, since I already have had 4 people ask me, “Where do I get those”, here you go……

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This ‘Natural Reed Fencing’ is found in the way back right corner of he Lowe’s garden section with the fencing stuff.  I tried big Joe’s on Siler and they DO NOT carry them, so don’t try there.  These cost me $24.97 each and since I cut them into 3 5ft pieces, that means $8.32 per piece.  They will last me many years if I store them well when I am not using them….so I say totally worth it, especially if one is investing cash into baby plants this year.  You can of course use other things for the same effect, like old window blinds or how about loosely woven coffee sacks?  Anything that let’s rain, wind, bugs and some sun through is good.

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Whatever you choose, do consider a little sun screen for you and your plants this summer, you will all weather the weather better that way.

PS– Just a footnote on a big lesson learned (or reiterated) to me this week:

Trust you instincts

Make transitions slowly and

Don’t be afraid to protect your little ones so they can get well established before toughing up to the bright, windy, wild world.