Desert Lawns

Oh this rain!! I don’t need to say how glorious it is, as I know each and everyone of you (that lives here in the high desert) is loving every minute of it as much as I am!!  BUT OH HOW WONDERFULl!!!

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Our skin our soils our souls are soaking up every sacred drop!  The rivers are raging, the mountains inn full bloom!  All I want to so right now is wildly throw seeds around!! And of course lay in the great green grass!!

I green up on blankets of green but I admit I started to reject the typical lawn when I learned how many chemicals went into the average American lawn, not to mention water and how many other amazing plants you could squeeze into those precious spaces around ones home.

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There is a huge movement across the country now to pull out your lawn, grow food and medicine and even keep animals close to home and I am all for it!!  But I must say when I ran the garden at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum I saw how precious the lawn was for picnicing families, barefoot children and rolly polly babies alike.

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Here in the desert lawns are rare and now that I have barefoot children of my own I see the great need to have open soft green spaces for them to run and roll and rest in.  So this year has been the year of the lawn.  I probably wouldn’t have thought of it, but my son did.  In fact he asked for a lawn mower first, which he was gifted by a dear friend…but once he brought it home he realized it was not much fun on our weedy dirt…So we planted the boy a lawn.

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Luckily it has coencieded with a very wet year here in the desert, so the lawn is growing to every bare patch we have left in this little lot.  So when I say lawn- I don’t actually mean the Kentucky blue grass or fescue of my past, but an herbicous or otherwise known as a weedy lawn.  We started out by leaving to of my beloved ‘weeds’. Mallow (Malva neglecta) ( the name says it all!)IMG_8333

and Knotweed (Polygonum erectum )

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were already growing here.  They are hardy weeds, trouble for some if you are trying to rid your farm of them, but soft under foot and welcome here.  They grow low under heavy traffic and take to mowing quite nicely.  We used what was here as nurse crops and planted in plugs of Buffalo Grass, Chamomile, Creeping Thyme, and YarrowIMG_8343

Then we raked the bare soil

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mixed up a bag of Strawberry Clover, Blue Grama Grass and more Buffalo Grass seed from Plants of the Southwest.IMG_8357

Sprinkled liberally

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raked some more and covered with a bit of loss dirt from a pile we had and danced around on it.  The seeds of course need contact with the dirt and all like to be watered to begin with- and in this rain are sprouting up beautifully.

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Once they are established, they will be desert hardy and should thrive just fine on the water that falls from the sky (hopefully it will just keep coming!!)

So now we have ourselves a beautiful little lawn and an extra lawn mower when we need her!!

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How to spend a summer day

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Let your garden run wild in the hot summer sun and your kid be half naked all he wants!

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Pick the reddest ripest Nanking Cherries on the bush ( a super hardy bush cherry that does great in Southwestern landscaping)

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Wash in cold water in the hot sun

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Take your time, this is one of the best parts!

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Roll them around in your little fingers and giggle

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Dust off the old Cherry pitter and crank to your hearts delight!

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Get as messy as you want.

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Soon enough you will have a bowl full of Cherries.

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Decide to make a pie

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Roll it out and mark it with a B

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Put it on the oven (outdoor oven or solar oven if you are lucky cause it is simply too hot to bake a pie inside!)

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Wait for it!

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Give thanks

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and thoroughly enjoy!

We’re at the Farm

I woke up to this message today

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so I packed a lunch and headed up.

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Looks like last falls cloves are hanging in there

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and the water is flowing well.

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Seeds are still being set in the ground

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and the furrows constantly cut, the mud ever moving

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but we are starting to see the fruits of our labors

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and if nothing more, sweet smiles from a Sunday morning spent well.

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On a Journey

Wow- a few free minutes to touch back into the blog world only to reveal it has been a whole 3 months since I posted anything!!  Time sure does fly and what can I say, my family and I have been on a journey. IMG_7718 Little Eva is almost four months old and though she is a total delight, she arrived with her own set of curve balls that have had us all kind of scrambling for some semblance of normalcy around here.  What I am constantly reminded of though, is that life with baby is never normal, it is unique, special, fully consuming and totally fleeting, so giving life the permission to NOT be normal is my biggest task right now.  Accepting the beauty along with the challenges, and truly being grateful for all that we are given.  Daily stretching myself even further to rise to what is and releasing what is not to be. I know all humans are working on that everyday, but sometimes life gives us an extra dose to kick our growth into high gear… and that is where I am and most days I end with a humble thanks. IMG_7772 While being worked on inside and out, I have learned so much and the thing I am grateful for the most is the presence of my family.  You see, we are a little counter-culture, not really keeping up with the Jones very well.  We work for ourselves, we grow our own food and we have very little money and we spend a lot of time together.  We can get a little fussy with each other with all this time, but these past months, the support and simple company of my family has gotten me through a very hard time.  Their laughter and warmth, their help and compassion.  Honestly we have all been re-calibrated by this time and have grown strong together.  If our schedules had been different this time would have been much harder, maternity leave being long gone by now.   Though we would have had more money, I am not sure where the heck I would be right now, so I consider our togetherness our greatest wealth. Another great freedom is that I can work from anywhere right now (if my kids are with me I am working!!).  Joel was invited to Utah to work on various projects so I thought it would be a good idea to tag along a get a little fresh air.  Because we don’t really have typical family vacations in our equation, we made the trip a family adventure, totally vacating from our little hive and bringing the show on the road. IMG_0619 First we went to Boulder Utah— Have you heard of this place?  The residents will probably have my hide for letting out their secret– but this town is a gem!! Very isolated and hard to get to makes it not an easy place to live, but if you, you are pretty lucky.  Joel was asked to help them establish a food forest in their town park through a Permaculture design community process.  The kids and I got to play with some new friends but kindred souls, Ana & Jeff in the many town play grounds, rivers and their backyard which was pretty much a bird sanctuary (we saw three families of geese raising their young a whooping crane nesting 100 yards from the house!) IMG_0664 From there we drove the Burr Trail to Capital Reef which will go down in history as one of the most beautiful drives of my life.  Though I didn’t get to take any pictures, the fields of desert wild flowers were truly remarkable and this year may have been the best for Desert Wild flowers ever. IMG_0699 We then rambled up to Moab where Joel taught the Interns of Community Rebuilds Permaculture principles to integrate into their low-income straw bale housing projects.   They always welcome our little family so warmly in Moab and it is no secret that Moab is a great place to play.  The Mulberry trees were bursting and the town a buzz with spring blooms. IMG_0688 The kids and I spent a lot of time on the Mill Creek bike trail “fishing”and basking in desert shade. I frequently wandered the awesome Youth Garden Project to photograph all their cool structures for inspiration and inspiring it was. IMG_0732 Then it was on to the First Four Corners Permaculture Convergence in Cortez, COIMG_0749 where Joel gave a talk and we romped around in the mud with the Curry Boys, ogggled the baby goats and got to sleep in a very tiny house!IMG_0754 We ended the trip at our beloved Circle A Ranch with the Tracking project Mentorship program which always feels like coming home.IMG_0778 Finally home now and so happy for it.  The poppies are up to my waist, the locust tree bursting with blooms and though there is plenty of work to be done around here, there is a welcome lightness that the journey gave us which we will keep kindled in our home. IMG_7756

Sprouting up!

Well what can I say– things are sprouting up around here!  The greenhouse is full, the garden giving and I too am perking up a little. *(For those of you who read this blog solely for gardening info, and I know there are at least a few of you– the posts of this year have been very belly and baby centric so back to gardening– at least for the moment.)

Before we jump into the gardening season though, I thought I would share what we have been growing all winter because even if you don’t have a greenhouse you too can grow all kinds of food in your windows, little sprouted food.

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Recently I taught a class to Cooking with Kids teachers about indoor gardening and I think the most successful one was the one on Micro Greens.  Growing your own is so very easy and really only takes about 10 days from sowing to harvest so you really can be constantly growing food in a tiny space.  NPR even did a little story about them a few years back when they were all the new rage.

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You basically soak the seeds in water over night (or not, it just speeds up the process a bit).

Sow your chosen seed THICKLY in your chosen container (you don’t really even need to have holes in the bottom but I use plastic or wooden flats).

Cover with some soil (or a wet towel or soaked newspaper like the Santa Fe Sprout lady does).

Keep moist to the touch, watering every other day or so.

Place in a warm, sunny window (the more sun the better a south-facing window with direct sunlight all day is ideal).

Here is a great little video from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply on how they do it.

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You can harvest at cotyledon stage or when they get there first true leaves or when you get around to it!

I usually get about 1lb per flat to give you an idea.

I have done Brassica micro greens ( including Broccoli, Mustard, Kale, Cabbage) here is their list of what can be grown as micro greens…Johnny’s has a great selection too!

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Peas Shoots ( field peas work great and are cheaper than snow pea seed)

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Buckwheat sprouts

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The ever popular Sunflowers Sprouts (a great one for kids, they taste great and kids can help remove the seed coats or little hats before harvesting which saves you a lot of trouble in the washing)

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Winter Rye ( or Easter Grass)

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And whatever else you can think of.

When you get what your can eat from them, off to the chickens ( or worms, wild birds or compost pile) they go.

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Fresh, quick, easy and abundant– they best kind of food!!

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The Birth of Spring

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Our tanks runneth over and the garden is wet, the days are growing longer is it spring yet!!

The water draws me out, I can feel the sap rise and my weight sink into the mud.

The buds swell and then freeze and then thaw again to bloom full.

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Spring is erratic around here, unpredictable and swinging for months from perfectly perfect days like today and then the blustery dusty days that have past, but we all know will come again.   Death and birth as so closely linked that spring is not always comfortable and smooth, but so full of promise, a bloom around every corner, a tiny miracle reminding us daily that all this flux is worth it.  Hope is what draws the shoots upwards and our faith in new life what carries our spirits forward towards the ever shining sun.

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This spring especially, I am fully embodying rebirth, now being 6 weeks into parenting two children all the metaphors of spring are my daily truth. These past weeks have been a tender and transformative time for my family with all the gifts and shadows spring brings.

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We have all been born into a newness; my son now a brother, my husband and I now responsible for two little lives and our daughter, brand fresh new to it all!!

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The baby bubble is starting to expand and we are all slowly dipping our toes back into the “real world”, but really what could be more real than this?  Birthing life is down right as real as it gets.  Luckily my work is aligned with the cycles of the seasons so I have a very gentle transition from winter to spring, all I MUST do these days is feed the family and plant my seeds.

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I go from the rocker to the kitchen to the garden and back and though I didn’t go to school for this, I realize how well suited I am for the work of nurturing and nourishing life.  As my dad put it, “good work, if you can find it.”  And though it ain’t always easy, it really is good.

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So today I take the gift of life carefully into my hands, rolling it over, feeling it’s texture and weight for the very first time.  Seeing it all with new eyes, washed clean by the spring rains and time in the cave of winter.  There is a rawness to it all, an uncertainty,  but faithfully I embrace the precious possibility that rebirth brings.

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The stars are aligning, the sun eclipsing, the winter departing, the spring is birthing, the door is open for new life just over the threshold.  With my new babe in arms I bravely step through with all the faith in my heart that I too will be birthed safely into bloom.  And so I wish the same for all life on this blessed birth day of spring.

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Excerpt from Birth Blessing By Timothy P. McLaughlin

May this heroic lady, her body still aglow

with a great breaking forth to life,

her soul yet ringing

with the ancient song of nascence,

be granted full restoration and rejuvenation

and an easy, natural return

to this world and its insistent rhythms.

News from the Nest

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One week & two days ago today, our little baby girl came down from the heavens to stay. She came to bring gladness and joy to the earth, good people and angels attended her birth. Happy Birthday to Eva!!

Big Day Sale!!

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Lots to celebrate around here!!  My birthday is tomorrow, then the sacred day of love, spring thaw, seeds sprouting and of course baby due any day now…oh and I re- named my Etsy shop to coincide with everything else here at Seeds and Stones IMG_3610

…So, just for fun, I decided to have a spring cleaning sale at Seeds and Stones Shop.

By using the code BIGDAY you will recieve %20 off any of the items listed.

This is a quick little sale– only from now to the Feb 15th so act now!!

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Mama Katie with baby Charlotte inside Feb 2014

My gift to you, because life is beautiful & abundant and I am grateful!

What better way to share the love!

Not bad for a snow day!

Last night I trusted the whether man enough to go out at dust, uncover my greens and take a look.

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Hey not bad for total neglect!!  I haven’t looked under here since Christmas when I got another nice little harvest.  The spinach is doing beautifully (harvested 1 1/2lb and could have doubled that had it not gotten dark on me) and the kale is starting to come back too ( 1/2 lb of baby leaves) !!  This is all in the ground, no heat, thick row cover and 4mm plastic (Not very tight!!)  Cheap and Easy and a bit Lazy!!

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And here is last night harvests with this mornings snow- we have already eaten spinach in 2 meals today (going on 3!)

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And now there they are sleeping under a thick blanket of snow.  Who knows when I will get under there again, but feeling so thankful for all the moisture that will slowly seep in and keep them growing into the spring.

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Speaking of spring….If anyone wants to take a Seed Starting class with me, now this is your last chance for a while….Baby due in just 4 short weeks, but I am teaching on FEB 10th at SFCC so sign up here— you will go home with your own flat of babies ready to grow!

Starting to Seed!!

This week as a snow week!! The world is white and it seems like the perfect day to bring in the green!

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Today is also a leaf day according the bio-dynamic calendar so I will be sowing my very first leaves of 2015!  Celery, Scallions, Leeks, Spinach, Lettuce, Kale and Chard will all be in the mix today– Along with a flat of wheat grass for my chickens (poor girls need some green!! and maybe even a flat of sunflower sprouts, peas shoots, or micro greens for me!!

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If you are wanting to get started sowing today to the best place to start is with a plan.  Seeds are so small & ambitions so big this time of year, I just encourage you to really look at your garden- how much can you fit, how much room does each plant need, what do you really want to eat fresh and wheat is more cost-effective to buy?  Don’t let me rain in your parade, but doing a little garden planning will really help you achieve your garden goals and not end up with plants over running your living room.

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I have written about seed starting and garden planning for a couple of years now, so here are links to older posts you might like.

There are tons of resources out there to help you make your seeding plan like this one at Organic Gardening

and another audio webinar from Seed Savers Exchange that sounds a lot like the seed starting class I teach.

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That’s me

This year my Seed Starting class will be taught at SFCC on Feb 10th from 10am- 12pm.  It is being organized by the Santa Fe Botanical Garden so you should go here to sign up for the class.  We will be going over everything you need to know to get your garden started indoors and you will be sent home with a flat of self-sown seeds ready to go.

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I also just got my 2015 Gardeners Year Planting Calendars in the mail yesterday and they are ready to go!!  They are really pretty and full of planting dates so you will know exactly when to plant what throughout the year.

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I will be selling them at the class, but can also get you one via mail or drop off.  I only a few so they may not make it onto Etsy this year, but I do have plenty available as of today!

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So back to planning & planting!!  Happy First Leaf day of this abundant Gardening Year!!