May 2012

Lots. Under leaves and in the green house, in the garden and on the vines, the world is green with promise. I’m adding pictures of the peaches that I thought were history. They’re tiny and green but the promise of cobbler is heavy on the vine. My strawberries are still gree too. But there are thousands of them. Another ten days to harvest. My Oregon Sweet Meat is the squash you see. The weather has been perfect for them. Hot and wet and that seems to be the trend. The green house of full of sweet potatoes and it looks like a pretty fair raspberry year. Peas have a load of blossoms. It’s all such good stuff.

Tomorrow is a big day around here. Karen is graduating. It was 15 years ago that we adopted her. She’s beautiful and kind and the bravest kid I know. I’ll post more tomorrow but I wanted to get the photos up.


The older I get, the quicker time passes. It’s all good stuff. The Sheep and Woolcraft Fair, getting Nate Amanda moved in, a big Memorial Day Party with all my kids and grandkids and various friends here for a picnic, but a day goes by and then another and it’s a week, then a month. I fear that most of the projects I have lined up will never happen if I don’t get myself organized.

The sweet potatoes I ordered are in and I need to get the bed in the greenhouse ready for them. It’s been sitting under black plastic for a season and it should be good to go as soon as I get the bee frames currently stored there moved to their new home. Of course, that would involve having the home ready which I don’t. The chimney man needs a call if I’m going to get the necessary work done and I have to do the chimney before the new roof can go on. Can you say overwhelmed?

On a brighter note. I had the pleasure of showing several people around my tiny farmstead this weekend. I love seeing it with fresh eyes. We don’t have a big place but we do have a produtive one. The thing I’m most proud of is how much of what we do is cooperative and how much is perennial. I put a small bed of strawberries in 2 years ago. Last year, I moved the bed, enlarged it and gave away nealy 300 strawbeerry plants. This year, the new bed is flourishing and I expect a huge harvest. I’ll need to pass on more plants as they throw out runners at an astounding rate. We finished up the last of the berries I froze last summer so I bought a bag of frozed berries (for smoothies) and a container of fresh berries (for fruit salad) this week. They were terrible on both counts. The pigs didn’t mind but I couldn’t eat them. I know better. Eat what’s in season. Be patient. The berries are small today but the first picking is just around the corner.

Was it just last week that I complained about the unrelenting rain? Now the ground is thirsty and I’m doing a little rain dance, hoping those grey clouds will turn into something.

I bought myself a drop spindle at the fair. Like a lot of things, watching an expert makes it seem easy. It isn’t but I’m getting the hang of it. Sometimes I look at the ingenuity of something like a drop spindle and I’m just amazed. A stick and a hook and that wooly animal on the hill can provide warmth. We think that the electronic innovaters of today are geniuses but when you look at real value, I’ll take a spindle over a smart phone any day.

I think this is it. Every spot of bare land has a seed or a tuber or a seedling tucked in and growing, thanks to the miracle of rain and sun. Other than a few bean seed that didn’t germinate and will need to be replaced, we’re finished. I guess that means I have to clean my messy house today. Not that it needs it. Sigh.

We have a lovely cranberry bush in the front yard. Every year it blooms beautifully but it never preoduces fruit. I just realized that I need a second bush for fertilization. Dang. I guess that means I need to find another bush and come up with a place to put it. A little research would have been a good thing. Sigh.

I stayed inside making a pie yesterday and found that Bruce had tilled up a spot in the lower garder for more potatoes. I hauled up a big old bag of seed potatoes from the basement, carried them to the garden and spend 45 minutes on my hands and knees getting them planted only to find that Bruce had already planted potatoes there. Sigh.

It’s a sigh kind of day. I’m overwhelmed with all that needs doing. Kids are visiting and moving and coming and going and making decisions that will affect them for the next 30 years. It’s time to sit back and let life happen. The sun will shine later, the house will get cleaned and it will all be good.

I’m going to take a few minutes to walk outside. I’ll check the beans and pick some asparagus. I’ll do a strawberry hunt and pull a couple of weeds. I’m not really accomplishing much. But walking in the garden will turn the sighs into cleansing breaths. A walk will settle my mind and get me going. The beans will grow, the clothes will get folded. My son’s in-laws are stopping by. We’re going to my brother’s for a happy retirement dinner with my brother-in-law tonight. The sheep and woolcraft fair is happinging tomorrow (yes, we do have a lot of fairs and festivals). I’m making butter with my 4-H kids this afternoon. For now, I’ll walk and breath.

I have no idea. But I can tell you that my potatoes are up. This time of the year I like to get up early and do a walk-about. I check the progress of the peppers and the state of the strawberries. It’s such a miracle to me. A few seeds and some rain and soil and magic happens.

I’m so pleased that my experimental potatoes, the ones I planted in a discarded basket and the ones I poked into a repurposed plastic bucket are doing well. The bucket had a lot of holes in it and the basket was only held together by some wisps of wire os drainage is not a problem. That’s good because it has rained a lot. I hesitate to complain as I know there are places that could use some water. This just isn’t one of them. Yesterday, we just said, “To heck with it”, and spent the morning in the garden. We got the corn, peppers and radishes in. We planted more carrots and beets and popped a couple of plants in the herb garden. After 3 hours in the muck and mud, we sere soaked and exhausted. It was the good kind of soaked and exhausted. The kind followed by a hot shower and a sense of accomplishment.

I know a few gardeners who wait for things to be perfect. They want sunshine and good soil. They won’t work when it’s too hot or too cool. They are waiting until they move to a place with better soil or until they can afford to hire someone to plow up the backyard. “When things get serious, I’ll grow some food,” is what they tell themselves. “Maybe next year, when my schedule is more flexible or when the kids go off to college”, are frequent excuses. My potatoes are there as an example of what you can do with next to nothing. I scavenged the containers. The soil was dug up from the back yard and the seed potato wasn’t. I just threw in some old, sprouting spuds. I move the pots around to catch the sun. When the sprouts get taller, I’ll cover them up with some old hay or crushed and rotted leaves or maybe some more dirt. It’s possible for an apartment dweller or a retired person or a young, single mother to grow a couple of buckets of potatoes.

My son’s girlfriend is from the Ukraine. He just came back from a visit there and commented on how few lawns he saw. These are people who lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union. They remember what it’s like to see empty shelves in the markets. They grow food in their yards. A few cabbages, some potatoes and beets. Maybe a patch of onions. Pretty soon you’re talking about real food.

I’m heading off to work and then stopping by the farm stand. I had terrible germination on Brussel Sprouts this year. We like them a lot and don’t want fall to come without any. I did manage to get the garden in without planting turnips. I don’t love turnips but they do store well and Bruce likes them. I guess my one empty raised bed will be full by this evening.

I had such a good time with Jenna. She’s the bravest person I know. Jenna is young, single and just bagged her job to write and farm full-time. Jenna is no trust fund kid with parents ready to bankroll her. She’s just a woman who wants to raise her animals and not be confined to a 9-5 job. I wish her well.

The participants were just as interesting as the presenters at the workshop. People came from all over the North/Eastern US and Canada. The had experience in a number of different arenas and brought up a lot of interesting ideas. One thing I took away was from a fellow who had spent years in the health care industry. He said that often, in any emergency, as many people die from the lack of soap as anything else. I have never made soap but it’s on my “really want to learn how” list. In the meantime, I just might have to make a stop at Big Lots and pick up a few more bundles of soap.

I was privvy to an on-line conversation that upset me this morning. It was all about how to get rich after a collapse. People listed the things that run out after an emergency and were suggesting what you could stockpile now and barter or sell later. I fear it misses the larger picture of the troubles we now face. Greed got us where we are and if we are still thinking about how to get more then we’ve missed something. If I stock up on soap, it isn’t to sell to desperate people after a tornado. It’s to have enough to share with my neighbors. We better learn the difference between social capital and financial capital if we ever hope to create a more durable living arrangement.

The weather here has been stunning for several days and I’m getting lots done. I still have to get the squash and corn in and some of the tender plants will wait until next week but the main garden is planted. I have a bag of potatoes left over and we keep on looking for odd spots to pop things. if there’s room at the end of a row you can bet I’m poking in another tomato or a bush bean. I had terrible germination with my beets and carrots and replanted yesterday. There’s the big reason I save seed. You never know when a crop will fail. I want enough seed to start over. Right now, no carrots would be an inconvenience. The day may come when it would be a tragedy.

The big moves are in process around here. Kids are moving from here to there so quickly that I can hardly keep up. By this time next week, Nate and Amanda and the kids will be here and Young Bruce’s girlfriend will have arrived from the Ukraine for the summer. The inspection for his new house will be complete in 10 days and the sale will take place ASAP after that. In preparation for a summer of picnics and parties and lots of coming and going, I need to call my neighbor and order a 1/2 side of beef. What I would love is about 100 pounds of free-range, local chicken breasts but nobody sells those. I’m going to pick up a couple of boxes of tea bags for making iced tea. I plan to make some big salads and keep the fridge full of greens and cheese. I also hope to get the freezer full of good bread. Then we’ll always have the makings of an easy meal. Life feels very full just now and I’m loving every minute of it.

My friend, Mike Folkerth, the man who wrote The Biggest Lie Ever Believed, just sent me a picture of his turkeys and said they have a face only a mother could love. Wrong Mike! I think turkeys are beautiful. Not the turkeys that run the banking system but the other kind. The kind that will feed my family this year. I posted a picture of our new turkeys. I also added a picture of the calves whose mamma provides our family with milk. Then there’s the Creamery. I write about it so much but I never put up a picture before. And what would this album be without a picture of Taproot Commons Farmstand. I pick up our milk here and we sell our honey and jams and such here too.

A lot of what we do and where we live has beauty in our eyes only. I can see people looking at us covered with mud ( a pig escaped a few nights ago and I had to scrape the mud off my clothes before I could put them in the wash) and thinking we live a messy, smelly life. We do. But the beauty is there in the mud and the muck. It’s real and it keeps my loved ones fed and sheltered. Taproot isn’t a supermarket. The poultry lives in make-shift pens in a drafty old barn. My food eats and poops and makes a lot of noise sometimes. Pretty is a pretty does and my life does pretty well.

I would like to thank all of you responded to my request for direction. I got great feedback and have put together a workshop that I think many will find helpful. It’s a bit ironic that, as I was working on this, I listened to a news broadcast by the PM of Greece saying that although a whole lot of people are pulling money out of Greek banks in anticipation of a disorderly default that it was not yet time to panic.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The strawberries are loaded with blossoms. Unfortunately, they’re also loaded with dandelions and other assorted weeds. So much so that I decided to ignore the rain and weed anyway. As long as I was wet I kept on going and got the rest of the beans planted. They look a little odd. Whenever anybody has a picnic I raid the trash and bring home every plastic cup I can get my hands on. With the bottoms cut off they keep the worst of the cut worms at bay. I detest those little buggers. I can’t tell you how often I have to replant to get a crop of beans. It looks like I’ve planting some mutant vegetable. Let’s hope it works.

I had enough asparagus to get a load in the Excalibur too. As long as it was going I chopped up the last of celery and carrots from a vege platter my daughter-in-law brought over on Sunday. It feels good to be putting in rather than taking out of my food storage. The freezer is looking mighty empty and all that’s left in the canned food pantry are the things that no one really likes. The pigs will probably feast on those. I have maybe 10 pounds of potatoes left. They are sad and sorry looking things but even with the eyes starting to sprout, we are eating them. I did see the first little potato sprout in the garden today. Our turkeys were delivered this afternoon. At least I can anticipate a full pantry again.

I had my permaculture meeting last night. The talk was mainly about herbs. I left my good friend and herbalist neighbor, Sara, with a list of things I would dearly love to add the herb garden. I’ll swap for some eggs or strawberries and come out with better end of the deal. I got an address for buying sweet potatoes too. I want to order tomorrow. I’ll be putting them in the smaller greenhouse and hoping for enough heat to get a crop. I love sweet potatoes and they are so good for you that it’s something I want to master if I can.

I have to work in Greenfield in the morning. I’m delighted because it gives me an opportunity to visit the Greenfield Farmer’s Co-op. I always find neat things there. They have a great kitchen section and lots of herbs.

Jenna is great about posting pictures and videos when she host gatherings so you’ll be able to watch at least parts of the weekend’s presentation. I think you’ll be pleased. I’ll be sure to give you all a shout out.


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