Back Forty, butterbeans, More gardening, Permaculture, Slow Food

Back Forty Update

Hugelkultur bed with garden balsam

Lots of flowers are growing in this new hugelkultur bed in the front at the end of my driveway, along with lots of volunteer “mouse melons,” tiny watermelon-like fruits that taste like cucumbers. I’m using them as a ground cover – did not plant them. I believe that is a Juliet tomato there that I didn’t have room for anywhere else so I just popped it in there. It might be a Roma. There’s not any fertilizer in this bed. There is mint and parsley and feverfew and calendula. I’ve pulled out the ageratum in this photo. For next year’s bloom there is hollyhock and evening primrose, and the garden balsam blooming now which should reseed freely.

So many cherry tomatoes! And a few Roma tomatoes, although quite a few have blossom end rot despite me putting Epsom salts in the planting holes. Maybe I forgot on that particular one. We have had so much rain and it has been muggy hot, so the new garden bed in the back is lush. I gather tomatoes every day and I try to pick them just as they start to ripen to keep them from splitting, and so that they don’t tempt hungry birds and critters. The ground cherries don’t make it indoors. I eat them on the spot.

Herbs and flowers

^^^Ageratum grows everywhere, and I like to keep some to bloom for the bees in the fall, but it’s one of those plants that is selfish and wants all the land for itself. Now that I’ve pulled out most of the ageratum, this bed is devoted to herbs this year. There are three kinds of basil, mint, feverfew, tarragon, borage, and parsley (which was overwhelmed by the ageratum and did not grow well this year). In between there are a couple of dozen foxglove seedlings that volunteered from last year, and a few rudbeckia that survived the groundhog attack by hiding in the ageratum. The celery and kale did not survive the critter attack. The motion sensor spraying device there is out of business, and didn’t work except on humans. There are a few lamb’s quarters left in there that I eat for greens. Next spring this bed will look awesome with foxglove flowers and the bees will love it. Herbs will be shifted somewhere else next year.

Candy roaster squash

^^^If I get any candy roaster squash from these vines (I see the harbinger of doom in the back of the photo) they will be huge, like pumpkins but oblong. Right now they seem hellbent on Back Forty domination. No squash in sight so far, just flowers.

Butterbeans!

^^^Butterbean Survivor – there are a few bean vines that survived the groundhog feast, and some of the damaged ones are trying to play catch-up. I’m picking beans now, but only enough to add to other dishes.

Rudbeckia survivor

^^^”Rudbeckia Survivor – The groundhogs think that these flowers are very tasty so I’m proud of this tough little survivor that made it to full bloom.

Back Forty, More gardening, Permaculture, Reading, Slow Food, Western North Carolina

Sunday afternoon

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It is such a relief to be at the end of spring semester. I still have a few things to do at work, but all of the time-sensitive stuff has been done. Last weekend we went to the St. Francis book sale, where I blew my “no more buying books” pledge out of the water. In my defense, it was fill a grocery bag for ten bucks day, and I found an old book on Cornwall and a 1925 “The Etude Music Magazine.” Not a bad haul for $12, and I’ll donate some to the little free library now and the rest later.

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I have said this before, but I have enough books to read for the rest of my life. Seriously.

THEN, when we went to Black Mountain later that day, we found a sweet new bookstore where I bought two NEW books:

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I have a problem, obviously. If you saw my house, you’d understand. However, this addiction might be why our house is nicely insulated.

OH YAY! I hear a good rain shower. I was hoping for at least one today, because I was out of rainwater. Our tap water smells so clorine-y that I don’t want to use it for natural dyeing or my seedlings. My buckets are out under the gutter downspouts.

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Spinning Spider also brought baby goats and had a milking station for people to milk a goat.

I posted about the tapestry show earlier this week, but we also went to the WNC Cheese Trail Festival held at Highland Brewery in Asheville, and laid some money down for some excellent cheeses. Cheese, books, and good beer. Add coffee and chocolate, and you’ve got my version of heaven right there.

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TIME FOR GARDEN PHOTOS!!! I had a lot of catch-up to do in the yard this week. As usual, my garden is way behind. I made it a priority to clean up the mess at the end of our driveway and in front of our front door because the house next door will be for sale soon and I want to attract someone who doesn’t mind hippies but is nice, sane, and fairly neat. At least to the point of not letting invasives crawl all over the yard like on my other side. Ha! They probably think that about me in the back yard.

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Justin came over for four hours on Wednesday and helped with digging up some problem shrubs, cutting branches back to get more sun on the south front edge, and making a hugelkultur bed with some of the rotting firewood outside our front door. He dug down about a foot until he hit solid clay, filled about a 3×5 foot area with the wood, then shoveled the soil back onto the logs. I’m going to grow flowers in it first, since he says it will be a nitrogen suck for a couple of years. Maybe transfer some clover over to it and plant fava beans late this fall. We’ll see how the flowers do. I planted black hollyhocks, coreopsis, garden balsam, and transplanted a clump of daffodils around the edge. I tossed a few monarda seeds on top just for kicks. The birds are probably going to eat them all anyway.

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When I planted the foxglove seedlings, I said that I hoped they would be purple. And I did get some purple ones. The one that is truly stunning is white, though.

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This rose is on the other side of the property line, but last year it nearly died from being choked with vines. I pruned it and cleared out the vines, and this is my reward. It climbs up into my cherry tree too.

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Yellow irises have outlasted the purple irises.

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I’m amazed that this sage is so happy here. That’s one reason I am developing this side this year.

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Welp, I’m pretty whipped with all this gardening, but I’m happy. I’m seeing a new chiropractor twice a week and I’m going to the Tapestry Weavers South retreat in a couple of weeks. I got into the workshop at John C. Campbell Folk School that I was on the wait list for a week later, but by that time I had paid and committed to the TWS retreat. I was going to run up the credit card and go anyway, but then I found out that the reason a seat opened for me was because the friend I wanted to take the class with had canceled. I was really disappointed at first but after I thought about it, it was just too much to do in one month, too much time in a car (it is painful for me to sit for long and the trips will take 5-6 hours each) and too much money to spend. So be it. They were kind enough to give me my deposit back.

AND, because I didn’t think I’d get into the JCCFS class, I also signed up for another weekend workshop at Topsail Beach in June, so there’s that to look forward to (and pay for) so it was for the best.

During all this, I have been experimenting a little with natural dyeing and taking India Flint’s Alchemist’s Apron online class. I’m going to re-dye my apron to try to get it darker, and I’m going to start over with the videos now that I have time not to half-ass it. Dyeing the silk threads has been really fun.

Oh yeah, I harvested my first homegrown mushrooms. Lion’s mane. Delicious sauteed in butter.

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BYE, time for a nap.

More gardening

The front garden

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The front shade garden brings me a lot of joy. I’ve transplanted foxglove seedlings, added some different mints, and lantana. Justin is coming over today to help me with it for a couple of hours. He is going to clip back some branches on the south side so I can grow some peppers in containers on that edge. I think that I will dig up some of the lenten roses (hellebores). There are so many and they reseed like crazy. They are nice to have in the winter, though.

I’m considering running a couple of squash plants down the south side of the house too – tromboncino and North Georgia Candy Roaster squash that I got from the Slow Food Asheville table at the WNC Cheese Festival this past weekend.

That was a nice weekend – and I’ll do a separate post about that because we also went to the closing reception of the Tapestry Weavers South exhibition, and I have lots of photos.

But right now I want to give the front garden a little shout out. These were taken last week. The azaleas have faded now. I wish I had more time and ability to work in the garden right now. The weather is fabulous but according to the forecast it will rain all weekend when I am off work.

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Back Forty, coffee pot posts, critters, depression/anxiety, More gardening, tapestry

I shared this post from the Bloggess on Facebook one year ago: I’m Not Quite Myself Right Now.

It is still the best description I have ever read about low-level depression such as mine. My depression and anxiety are controlled from wild swings by medication, but I need a stronger dose and I found that the cognitive and physical side effects of that dose are not worth it to me. I can experience joy and sadness and anger and fear at normal levels, though, and that is why I encourage people with chronic depression to give medication a try. Right now, I’m having a hard time. It is difficult to make myself do things that need to be done. I have xanax for panic attacks but haven’t needed it for a long time. I came close yesterday with two near panic attacks.

This weekend we will visit my sister at Lake Waccamaw and stay in my cousin’s house that I have blogged about for years. We have an excellent pet sitter who loves our cats and will hang out on the porch with them. I hope that the mayfly swarm will dissipate and let us spend some time outside and on the pier.

A couple of weeks ago, Susanne was marbling paper and I marbled a couple of pieces. I’d like to try marbling on fabric.

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I would have stayed to do more but I was itching to weave on my tapestry (which I haven’t done since!).

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It looks like I am not going to have a piece in the Tapestry Weavers South show. I was planning to put “98% Water” in but it probably won’t be back in time for me to change the mounting device on it and deliver it. The ATA Biennial ends tomorrow and the deadline for the TWS show is around 10 days from now. I don’t have another piece ready or available that I want to put in this show. I guess I could go fetch my work from the show at the United Congregational Church and send a smaller, older tapestry.

I’m almost finished with planting and weeding and fixing the border on the front yard garden. The south side will be sunny for a few more weeks, at least. I hope it will be sunny longer. I planted a globe artichoke, borage, Salem rosemary, foxgloves, French thyme, spearmint (in a place where I don’t mind it spreading), more hellebore seedlings that I got from my neighbors (these have purplish flowers). They may not make it but they have plenty more. I bought orange thyme and lemon thyme plants from Deep Roots today.

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Above: the before photo of the south end.

In the back I planted broccoli in one half-barrel and celery in another. I’ll wait until early May to plant the stuff that likes more heat.

There is still much to do, but we have gotten a good start on cleaning up the back forty.

The cats are in love with the front porch, but it is aggravating Theo’s allergies, so I may have to limit his time out there or take him to the vet for another shot. Right now I give him loratidine every night. His new name shall be “Snufflebutt.” Diego is “Chunkybutt.” Pablocito is “Wigglebutt.”

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Diego has become a swinger.

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Pablocito does his impression of Hello Kitty for passerby.

Okay, I have to go home and do some cleaning. It finally reached a intolerable level while we were concentrating on the outside and hanging out on the porch.