Back Forty, coffee pot posts, critters, More gardening, Permaculture

Sunday morning coffee pot post

The garden is beginning to rot. So much rain! I weeded out a lot of ageratum and tomato plants that were done late Friday afternoon, and harvested basil for freezing in an ice cube tray yesterday. I found a few little potatoes in the planter. This yield was a bit disappointing but it was free, other than the bags of potting soil and compost I used. I will plant some more in it and see what happens.

So much of life now is a matter of wait and see what happens. I have always been a bit of a control freak, a trait that I have worked very hard to change for the last twenty years. Much of my art has changed as I have let go this and that “rule” or convention. My gardening is unconventional by most standards but controlled when you compare it to enthusiastic permaculturist standards.

Permaculture requires observation and reaction to the space and natural forces working within that space. My approach to the groundhog problem was to plant things that the groundhogs don’t like, such as alliums and smelly plants like peppermint and feverfew around the edges. They didn’t care for the ageratum either. Either it worked pretty well or somebody else took care of the problem. We’ve always had rabbits, but they don’t do that much damage.

I don’t think the high temperature got above 70 yesterday. That was how far the temps plunged with this last line of storms. It is still cool today so I am going to my UNCG garden plots and clean out the rest of the one that I am giving up. I will take some newspapers and a bag of good soil/compost to get the plot where I pulled out the cucumbers ready for fall planting. I hope that there will be some butterbeans ready to pick.

It doesn’t need to be said that everyone who is paying attention to the news is horrified right now. I haven’t taken a complete news break but I have avoided the hole. It helps to remember what I can and cannot control.

It is SO NICE to turn off the AC and hang out on the front porch with the cats again. I think that I will do that for a while first while I finish my coffee pot.

Why is my cat eating cobwebs? Seriously. I guess I will need to clean out here a bit too before Mr. Brilliant gets a spider bite in his mouth.

Back Forty, More gardening, Permaculture

Back Forty Update

I have been absent from the blog lately. April seems so frantic at work that when I get home I want to read a book or garden or do something creative with my hands or just sit on the porch, where we have lost the wifi signal. I definitely don’t want to sit in front of a computer screen. I don’t even want to watch TV or movies, although we have been watching Outlander and American Gods this month.

Tomatoes and peppers and flowers are coming up in the greenhouse. I planted the leeks, onions, garlic, and chives last week. Bobbe gave me some walking onions and hardneck garlic so I will have three kinds of garlic and two kinds of onions.

April gardening

April gardening

I don’t usually get any fruits from my garden but I continue to try. The birds get all the blueberries as soon as they turn red (bush on left). We have to race the ants for the figs, but usually we are able to get some (bush on right). In between, I have planted a raspberry cane and two elderberry bushes. The seckel pear tree will probably get cut down this year, since it has some kind of disease and squirrels got all the pears before they were ripe anyway. If nothing else, I do feed the wildlife around here, even if it is unintentional.

For next year I am going to plant a lot more asparagus. I let this little bunch that survived the transfer from Wharton St. go to seed. The groundhogs don’t seem interested, so that means it gets a large space in next year’s plan.

Also in this photo: lots of foxgloves, feverfew, and peppermint. Again, this garden has been planned around what the groundhogs left alone last year. There are also evening primrose, one hollyhock, echinacea, and coreopsis.

April gardening

The pineberries that I transferred from Wharton St. last spring have gone stone cold crazy multiplying. There is some catnip on the corner that gets lots of visits from the neighborhood felines.

April gardening

As you can see in the background of these photos, lots of work is going on next door. They moved the garage back and closed it in, and now they are adding a room on the back of the house. We are going to put some of the many tomato seedlings, both volunteered and greenhouse raised, in the area next to the fence. I’m pretty sure that the neighbors nuked their side of the fence with herbicide so we will have to see how this goes.

April gardening

One good thing that came from the construction next door is that I was able to retrieve enough old bricks from their digging to build up my front hugelkultur bed another layer. Great, because the area in the front used to contain potted veggies and the ground beneath that is hard rubble. I planted a lot of mint in the most shallow layer. Chives went on the bottom too. They aren’t happy, but they will probably perk up. Just planted basil, borage, arnica, sunflowers, snapdragon, and milkweed seeds in the past couple of weeks. Some of these seeds were saved and I am just giving them a chance. My friend Anne gave me some clay balls with coriander and curry seeds embedded in them so they’re in there. This should look great by the time we get back from our vacation in May.

April gardening

The front shade garden is starting to look great! Funny story – a few weeks ago I overheard a friend of ours recommend someone to my husband who “would clean up all this and make it look real nice.” HA! I didn’t say anything.

April gardening

April gardening

Concentrating on the sunny side of the front garden now. Planted a eucalyptus here and a bunch of peppermint on the strip between my stone walk and the neighbor’s lawn on the other side of our house. This strip is actually on their kind of the property line. I plan to put potted pepper plants there too. I dug up a lot of the herbs from this side and transferred them to the hugelkultur bed, so it has room to grow.

April gardening

I leave you with this shot from their neighbor’s yard in the front. These bluebells were spared from the tilling and planting of their new grass, mainly because I don’t think that they know this strip is on their side of the line.

April gardening

At some point I may talk about something other than gardening, but I haven’t finished yet. I’ll leave it for later.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, fiber art, Permaculture, Slow cloth

Sunday midday coffee pot post

Sandy noticed this first – look what the Virginia creeper vine snagged from my rock collection at the front steps. Normally I would tear this vine down after it loses its pretty red leaves but I’m going to see how long it holds on to its booty. Love those little feet. I’ve made random weave baskets from Virginia creeper vine before.

This week has been fraught with emotions, since one of our students became so sick with anxiety that she had to drop out. Not only was it very sad, but I empathized so much. How many times did I think that this might be the time I would not be able to push through and get back to functional life? But I have, and I am grateful for it. When I was this student’s age, I self-medicated with lots of alcohol. That was not a good solution and not one that I choose these days. I know that I could not have gotten through graduate school at that age, despite having the smarts for it. However, I am in a good mood this weekend, so I hope that it is a permanent lift.

The t-shirt quilt hit a snag, quite literally. I think that I will get my Brother machine back out and see if it winds a Singer bobbin. My goal is to get all these panels put together somehow by the end of the day, even if it means with pins and hand basting. I want my floor loom and worktable free for other projects.

There are too many distractions here and I need to focus. I need a cook and a maid! We are getting caught up on house cleaning little by little. Sandy subscribed to one of those meal prep services that come by mail. If it will teach him to cook and he takes over some of that it might be worth it. We’ll see. I’m picky about the sources of my food but this is his expense and something he decided to do on his own, and I grew weary of cooking a long time ago.

Yesterday was a beautiful day after so much rain and I got into the garden and worked for a couple of hours, taking lots of breaks so that I don’t overdo it and undo my physical healing after many days of inactivity. I’ve gained several more pounds from my retreat to bed every night and eating too many sweets and peanut butter.

I pulled up all the tomato, squash, weeds, and annuals from the “permaculture” bed as I think of it. The guy who designed it intended for it to be heart-shaped. I think it looks vaguely like a heart, but more like a womb, which seems fitting. I didn’t plant it with permaculture principles in mind, though, and this year will be different. I’m going to keep those groundhogs in mind, and plant the womb with perennials and biennials and self seeding plants. I already have asparagus, elephant garlic, foxgloves and one artichoke there, along with a few plants that may or may not make it through the winter such as stevia. I have plants in the hugelkultur bed in the front such as hollyhock, evening primrose, coreopsis, and mints that I will move to the womb. And I will leave the the dandelions alone from here on out. They are important plants in the garden, pulling up nutrients from deep under the surface, breaking up the soil, edible, and food for the pollinators when not a lot of other flowers are available. (Although we have an enormous quantity of violets available as well.)

As I move these perennials out, a few will remain in my reconstructed hugelkultur bed. I am building it up and outwards where the potted plants were this year into a tiered bed for my culinary herbs, mostly. I’ll leave one hollyhock and a few taller flowers at the back. I have a pile of bricks that came from the chimney that fell down at the pre-Civil War homeplace at the family farm, and I decided to use them to make the terraces. I love objects with a story.

Everything will require more fertilizer this year. The few vegetable plants that survived the groundhogs suffered from blossom end rot. I’m going to get that greenhouse set up again soon. I’ve sent an email to ask to rent a plot at UNCG community garden again for my beans and okra. Hopefully they don’t have a groundhog problem there yet.

Thanksgiving is coming up and as usual we will celebrate Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday. We will drive to Lake Waccamaw and get together with my sister at her rental house if all goes well. It will be sad to drive along Canal Cove Road but we will check out the scene there. Lisa is still mulling over whether to replace the walls in her house and sell it or sell it as is. I heard that the house where we stay and love is irreparably damaged and will be torn down. My brother and his wife will probably join us for a meal on Saturday. I’m going to make my usual asparagus-mushroom-almond casserole.

Man, my Internet connection at home has been SO SLOW lately. I don’t know why, so I’ll just blame it on the oligarchy. Maybe when my electrical work gets done it will improve. They are going to replace everything from the pole to the house and some of the wiring in the attic in mid-December in preparation for our twelve solar panels. Right now it is driving me crazy as I try to upload photos. I received notice that Flickr is going to start charging me fifty bucks a year for photo storage, and I feel rather helpless to do anything but pay it since I have over 10k photos and videos on it. It would take an enormous amount of work to quit Flickr without most of my photos on the blog disappearing. Oh well. At some point I may have to stop paying the fee to not have ads on the blog to make up for it.

Time to sew.

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, butterbeans, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, dyeing, Nature printing, Permaculture, Slow Food, whining

Sunday morning coffee pot post

mama-Laurie-1963 or so

Time for another long rambling post. Guess I’ll make a second pot of coffee.

It is hot and humid this weekend, with highs in the 90s. Anyone who is not in denial about climate change is not surprised about any freakish weather. I understand those who feel helpless and just can’t bear thinking about the future for their children. I wish that they’d try to face it, but I get it. It makes me very depressed also. What I can’t understand is those who flat out deny that it is happening because of human activity and that we don’t have to make any changes to our lifestyles to slow our journey toward the cliff ahead, whether it is because they worship money or political parties, or because they have opted out of critical thinking out of sheer mental laziness.

Well, isn’t that a cheery way to start a post on Mother’s Day? It’s not my favorite day. It’s also a day that I am glad that I made the decision not to bring any more children into this world. I definitely appreciate the hard work that most parents, especially mothers, do all of their lives. I know that I couldn’t have done it if I had wanted to, and I hail those feminists who came before me who worked so hard to ensure that I had a choice, unlike my own mother.

Believe me, I hold back a WHOLE LOT when I write on this blog these days. Mainly because I’m tired of complaining and politics in general.

I’ve been working hard this week to get the garden planted. Now I have the area along the fence to plant, and Sandy and I have decided to use the greenhouse frame as a support to grow trombincino squash on. I took off the greenhouse cover and pulled up the landscape fabric yesterday. My only concern is that this area doesn’t get enough sun now that the trees have leafed out, but I’m going to try it anyway. I used to plant in this area back when the entire Back Forty was in food production. In the meantime, I’m going to put down cardboard and landscape fabric in another sunnier area to prepare for moving the greenhouse later this year.

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The Jacob’s Cattle beans germinated well. Not so much for the saved Henderson bush lima beans, but they were a bit old. I’ll replant in the blank spots. These were planted around the outer edge of the bed.

I planted a lot of green beans. A “yard-long” bean and “Brio” bush beans that I got from the Greensboro Permaculture Guild seed swap in the middle of the bean-shaped bed – really, how could I not fill this bed with beans? A few leeks down the center between Roma tomatoes. Pat Bush’s heirloom “beautiful” beans, which are more like crowder peas, and Kentucky Wonder snap beans in pots around the fig tree, which we nearly butchered in late winter. It is coming back though. I need to keep it small.

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The herb and lettuce seeds don’t seem to be germinating in the area that did not get dug up. I’m thinking that ants may have carried off the seeds. There are lots of ants, and I am afraid that they are being pushed (and eventually will be replaced) by fire ants into our lot. Fire ants are definitely nearby.

Yesterday I bought some more mints, a French tarragon plant, and a pack of Sugar Baby watermelon seedlings, because why not? They were a quarter a piece and if it doesn’t work out, so be it. Two went into big pots, and I’m going to find a few spots for the others.

Suddenly the back faucet doesn’t leak. The front faucet, which I have been bitching about being cut off under the house where I cannot crawl, works. I KNOW that the back faucet leaked, and Sandy says he didn’t fix it. I am not so sure about the front faucet, but I haven’t had a plumber under there for a few years, so could I have been using it all this time instead of hauling the hose and watering cans back and forth?

Have I lost my mind? Really? I have slipped into that middle-aged worry that I am developing Alzheimer’s. It runs rampant in my genes. It is my greatest fear.

I ordered an animal deterrent for the groundhog problem that is a motion detector that hooks up to the hose and sends out a surprise blast of water when set off. Then Sandy reminded me that since the faucet leaked it was not a good idea to leave it on. So I canceled the order and was going to call a plumber tomorrow. Now it seems that I won’t have to. I wonder if Justin fixed it and didn’t tell me? I guess I’ll reorder the groundhog thingie.

Yesterday I clipped vines and stray trees from along the fence and I really missed him. We ran out of time (and my budget) for him to do several things that we planned. He should have a newborn son by now, so he won’t be available for a few weeks.

Tomorrow I will have my sixth adjustment at the chiropractor, and I’ve reached the phase that I am tired of it and wondering whether I am chucking my travel and hired help money down a black hole. He gave me some suggestions for how to manage my hip pain for those long drives and flights. Since I have a long drive coming up on Thursday, I’ll give it a try but honestly, he wasn’t very encouraging about me being able to prevent all my pain. Sitting for more than an hour aggravates that compressed disc and radiates pain out to my hips. The pain source is in my back, not my hips, and that was confirmed by my orthopedic doctor. So that has not improved my mood. You always like to think that you’ll get better, or healed completely. It’s part of accepting the aging process.

Anyway, I did a little eucalyptus bundle experiment with some leaves I found out back. They may be too old. I soaked them and wrapped some iron/vinegar mordanted cotton cloth and silk thread around sticks and a stone, then steamed them for an hour or so. I’ll unwrap them this afternoon when I spend some creative time with a friend. I should leave them wrapped longer, but I’m not that patient right now. Maybe I’ll do a few bundles and let them sit while I am gone for my long weekend coming up.

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We are so proud of our friend Gerald Wong, who walked his talk and ran for Congress in the Democratic primary this week. He got lots of votes despite having to work out of the area (he is an over-the-road trucker) and not taking donations. My friend Zha K was a warrior for him here at home, going to events as a surrogate and doing research. We celebrated election night on the Wongs’ back deck on Tuesday night.

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I am going to take a Sabbath today. I enjoy working in the garden and planting but it’s time to rest.