Saturday, June 28, 2014

As Summer Begins, Flowers Spring into Bloom

Maiden's Blush rose
Apothecary Rose
Alba Alba Rose
Yellow Rose of Texas
Stella D'Oro Daylily
Mock Orange
Johnny Jump Ups

What's Happening with the Permaculture Orchard

Getting an orchard started in the woods has been a challenge. This was done a tree at a time as we added only one or two fruit trees each year. For each tree, it took a grubhoe to break through the thin but impenetrable layer of forest floor. Next, a hole was dug, another slow process as roots and rocks had to be contended with. Backfill took a large amount of compost. Each tree typically loved its new place while the roots enjoyed the amended soil. And then, after the first year each one of the trees stopped growing.
Looking down the slope from the grapevines: the fruit trees blend in with all of the other foliage.
So, forest floor between the trees was broken up with a grubhoe, and roots and rocks pried out. Again, lots of compost was worked into the infertile soil. Since, composted manure has been added each year. Using some of the ideas of permaculture, a variety of plants have been put in. 
Bee Balm is looking good.
Different plants are supposed to act as dynamic accumulators, provide mulching materials, or attract beneficial insects. The variety chosen for the area includes shrubs, edible perennials, ground covers, and flowering plants. Click here for a post on the orchard in 2012.

Murphy inspects the orchard from the berm of the swale.
Several years ago I made a swale, click here to read the post. It is now a pathway and a convenient place to toss branches and twigs fallen from nearby trees. Whether it functions as a permaculture swale, retaining moisture from rain and snow melt and gradually releasing it into the soil is anybody’s guess. We can only hope that this happens because it is too far to lug water to the orchard. The trees have to make do with moisture from rain or snow melt.
The pile of rocks from making the swale is now a stone wall.
Happy to say, the orchard is looking better this year. The plants under and around the trees are growing beautifully. No longer stunted, they are now growing to their normal heights. The fruit trees have new growth and their leaves look healthier.
Red clover and catnip look healthy.
Gardening is a process. This year I'm working along the edges of the orchard to try and get some flowers started. More process there's lots of rocks in the way! 
Comfrey is tall and flowering.
It is a challenge to start fruit trees in the woods. You might think they'd be right at home where other trees grow, but that is not the case. It appears that fruit trees are as fussy as garden vegetables. It took years to get those to grow too. Maybe one of these years we will pick fruit in our orchard. We are looking forward to that! -jmm

Sunday, June 22, 2014

You Are Invited!

There are many wonderful aspects to our efforts to pursue a healthy lifestyle. There’s the physical that involves planting, weeding and harvesting a garden. Determining what to grow, ordering seeds and drawing up plans to expand the garden are mental aspects. There’s a spiritual side with meditational walks in the woods with the dog. There’s also a societal role as we share our experiences with friends, and try to set a good example. And now, there is a bit of political activism.
Murphy loves going for a walk in the woods.
Awhile ago Marsha and I were discussing the Green Party and how its message seems to get little media attention. The question arose: “What is the Green Party doing?”  I felt compelled to turn this question around into another one, “What am I doing?” The Green Party is me. Waiting for others to act is not what I want to do. I’d prefer to take responsibility and be an example in both words and deeds.

Last saturday I attended the Maine Green Independent Party State Convention. So many like-minded people to be with! Besides seeing friends from all over Maine, there were talks about clean elections, food co-ops, peace action and other topics. Green Party candidates running for state and local positions spoke about their campaigns.

At the Green Party convention I was asked if I would accept a nomination to the State Party Steering Committee. After first declining due to lack of time, I recalled our conversation about who is doing what in order to promote Green Party ideals.  I decided not to wait for someone else to take responsibility, so I agreed to run. Bottom line; I was elected.

I came home from the convention and changed into my work clothes. I planted peppers and mulched squash. I fed the chickens and took a walk in the woods with our dog, Murphy. And i thought about being active politically. I thought I’d like to start some discussion here in my own town.

So, here’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be hosting a talk to address the question: “What Is the Maine Green Independent Party?” There is a lot of disenchantment with the two-party system, and I want people to know that a viable alternative exists. If you’re in the Limerick area on July 24th, stop by the library at 7:00 p.m. to join us.

We’ll keep making plans to do more with the  garden. Yoga and meditating will continue to be a part of my daily routine. Nature will keep providing inspiration. And there will be some political activism. It feels like a healthy way to be. -G.H.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Salad Saga, Part 1

I’ve got salad on my mind.

Is there a food that you can can eat every day and never get tired of it? For me, the answer is yes, and the food is salad. There’s lots of foods I like, but every day would be too much. Chicken, for one thing, is high on my list. But every day? It’d get old fast. I’d soon be craving beef, or fish, or lobster.

I’ve been eating a salad a day for many years. That’s three hundred sixty five salads a year; a lot of salad. It would fill a really big bowl. Imagine the size of this theoretical bowl and then go ahead and visualize it twice as big. This is because there are two us eating a salad a day. Would this much salad fill the living room from floor to ceiling? Would it fill the whole house?

So how does the garden make all of this stuff? Our own garden is where most of our salad ingredients come from. It’s not all lettuce; we harvest a variety of things for eating raw from early in spring until the last killing frost late in fall. And after that we munch on what’s in the cold frames. 
Today's salad is two kinds of lettuce, baby kale, giant red mustard, perennial onion, chives and chive blossoms.

The garden grows more salad stuff than we eat. Sometimes there is too much lettuce, for instance. If there’s too much at once and we can’t eat it all, some ends up as compost. Perennials that we use for salads are never fully harvested because plants need to keep growing so we can keep harvesting from them. Maybe the garden is growing two housefuls of stuff and we don’t even know it.  

The quantity that we need in order to have a salad every day is never apparent by simply looking at the garden. All of it is never there all at one time, and what is there never really looks like all that much. Maybe we’ve developed a knack, and arrange for it naturally. Like something that happens after sticking seeds in the ground, transplanting, trying different plants, working to make good soil, and doing this from year to year. We’re in salad nirvana. And I’m baffled. -jmm

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How It's Looking Right Now

As June has arrived, the first month of our summer growing season, I took a walk around the gardens to see how things are coming along. Hardier plants have been in the ground for over a month, and I’m getting ready to plant seeds of less hardy plants.

Lettuce seeds left over from last year were scattered in one of the cold frames in early April. The cold frame was covered on cold nights, and we now have green Simpson, Red Sails, and some Forellenschluss lettuce that is green with deep red blotches for our salads.

In the key-hole salad garden, the perennials have been productive since early spring. We’ve been using chives, perennial onions, sorrel, wild garlic, and lovage every day. Giant red mustard plants, self seeded last year, are still small, but pickable. The Wasabi arugula that sounded so alluring in the seed catalog hasn’t sprouted after a whole month. Good thing it was given only a small spot in the salad bed. Rows of lettuce, arugula and other greens planted in late April are a couple of inches high. It’s time to fill in gaps with fresh seed.

Six hills of composted soil border the salad garden, and wait to be planted with Delicata squash seeds.

The plum tree and blueberry bushes have leafed out beautifully. The plum had only a few blossoms this year, taking a rest from its prolific crop last year.

A broken wheelbarrow has a new life. It’s been filled with soil and now holds radish sprouts. They are two weeks old, and are due for thinning. The thinnings will be used in a salad.

Peas have grown to about five inches and will be needing a fence to climb. 

Garlic is over a foot tall and there are little spinach plants between the rows. 

Potatoes are looking good and will be needing some leaf mulch soon. 

Pak choi plants are about three inches tall, and were thinned last weekend. 

Three varieties of tomatoes are doing well after being started indoors.

Grape vines have been leafing out well. We are awaiting the appearance of Japanese beetles. And milky spore is in the soil awaiting them. We are hoping to see fewer of those bugs in the future.

Kale, cabbage, beet and Swiss chard seeds planted recently are sprouting. 

The raspberry bushes have expanded and are looking very green.

The onion patch has been planted with sets of red and yellow onions. The red ones are sprouting better than the yellow ones so far. 

Five horseradish roots were planted on Patriot’s Day. There is some growth on four of the five roots so far.

Next, I will plant basil, zucchini, cucumbers and winter squash.

Wandering in the garden... what a great way to spend a day as a new month begins. Things are looking good. -G.H.