The big excitement for today
was a wheel alignment in Weber city.
All 4 wheels for 59 dollars.
When I strung up a simple piece of baling twine to guide our young grape vine to its trellis,
Mark rolled his eyes. Did I have to relentlessly reuse found
material?, I could see him thinking. What if the twine rotted out
before the grape hit the wire?
Luckily for me, the grape vine took to its job with gusto. Despite having been a mere unrooted twig only a little over a year ago,
the plant settled in to grow like nuts. I could watch the plant
out the trailer window, and I just knew it was going to reach the
trellis wire 7.5 feet above the ground in early July.
Then, one day, a bush katydid that I had written about in The Naturally Bug-Free Garden
as mostly harmless nibbled the growing tip right off my grape
vine! I had warning too, having watched the same insect bite the
end off a tendril just a few minutes before, but I wouldn't quite
believe my eyes. Could that sweet little insect have derailed my
baling-twine experiment so quickly?
snagged the katydid and fed it to our tractored hens (so there!), but
the damage was done. As with any plant that loses its top, apical
dominance had fled and the vine began to branch out from lower buds
rather than continuing its race for the sky. But soon enough one
shoot took the lead, and this weekend that grape finally reached the
wire, proving my crazy reusing ways weren't flawed.
So much drama! This
is my favorite part about the growing area in front of the trailer ---
since I can watch it out the window, I see every little bit of life that
occurs, both good and bad. I can hardly wait to discover whether,
next year, I might get to watch grape fruits develop from tiny blooms
right in front of my eyes.
Both of our hives are now three stories high, with an additional uninhabited attic.
This hive doesn't seem to mind
being lost in the weeds on a seldom-visited part of the farm. But
we pulled a few of the larger plants in front of their runway while we
Despite a week that felt
more like September than July, our bees have been working astonishingly
hard. Every time I pass by both hives, workers are flying in and
out like crazy. In fact, the colonies have been so busy, they
didn't even mind me weeding nearly on their doorstep last week, a sure
sign a nectar flow is under way.
has been blooming for a few weeks, and even though the trees I can see
from my window seem to be nearly done, I'm still noticing new blossoms
littering the forest floor in the woods. But my movie-star
neighbor tells me his bees are probably working basswood, which would
explain the hive traffic jams even better. Even though the lofty basswood
at the edge of our yard isn't blooming this year, there are probably
many more trees in the woods dripping with sweet nectar for our bees to
The last few times I've
taken photos up underneath our hives, I haven't seen much new
activity. In fact, if anything, it seemed like the mother hive had
eaten through some of their stores last time I checked, and the top
photo in this post shows that they haven't made much headway since last month.
But on Sunday evening, I struggled to take a photo under the daughter
hive and eventually realized the problem was that the bees had drawn
comb nearly to the screened bottom board, and that the camera simply
couldn't focus so close to the lens. Looks like the feedings I've
been giving that hive have paid off. Time to add another box and
proclaim our split a glowing success. Maybe now I can take them off the dole...again?
I've always thought lizards
are more adorable than most puppies.
Michael Judd sent me a copy of his Edible Landscaping With a Permaculture Twist
to review, and I gulped the book down the same day it arrived.
Too bad I couldn't taste the berries in those beautiful pictures!
More seriously, Judd's book is a fast and fun read, mostly geared toward
newbie suburban homesteaders, but with tidbits that will suit even the
established farmer on forty acres.
I'll discuss the one
negative right away. Most of the book's projects are clearly based
on plantings Judd made as part of his edible landscaping business, so
they focus on initial aesthetics and don't necessarily have the
multi-year followup to see what does and doesn't work. As a
result, there are a few things included that I've seen in other books,
but that have failed when I tried them on the ground. For example,
I wouldn't recommend planting comfrey right up to the base of young fruit trees (especially if your soil is poor), and I think it would be handy to note which of the unusual fruit species profiled are invasive in the U.S.
On the other hand, by keeping each section simple, Judd will probably
inspire many more readers to take the plunge and try something, which is how we truly learn what suits our site.
That caveat aside, I found a lot to pique my interest in Edible Landscaping With a Permaculture Twist.
First, there's the story of the book itself, which is self-published
based on a kickstarter campaign, but is distributed by Chelsea Green ---
I wanted to hear more about how that came about! Next, mixed
amidst the most-popular permaculture techniques (hugelkultur, herb
spirals, earthen ovens), Judd includes a fascinating section on rain
gardens, which sound very much like my sky pond but for soil that actually drains. In the same chapter, the author also explains how to make an A-frame level for easy keyline
marking, a tool I definitely plan to try out. Finally, those of
you who imbibe will likely get a kick out of the various alcoholic
recipes scattered throughout the text.
In the end, though, my
favorite part of Judd's book was the photos and diagrams. If
you're a magazine reader, you should track down a copy of his book just
for the eye candy, and I guarantee you'll end up inspired to try at
least one of project on your own homestead. Judd's beautiful and
inspiring read is just the nudge you might need to stop dreaming and
We went to the big city for a
and brought home some bags of leaves.
The last vestiges of
spring are coming out of the garden this week and next. A few
small cabbages are lingering in unneeded corners, and I just pulled out
the kale, arugula, and poppy plants after harvesting their seeds.
I probably should harvest all of the spring carrots, too, but there's
not really room for them in the fridge due to the dozen cabbages
currently chilling and waiting to be souped, so I've just been pulling
orange roots as needed for the last few weeks.
Of course, the summer
crops fill most of my attention at this time of year, both in the garden
and in the kitchen. But we've already started on fall crops, too,
setting out broccoli, cabbage,
and brussels sprouts and direct-seeding carrots and peas. Since
fall crops often germinate poorly during hot, dry weather, one of my
most important tasks at this time of year is remembering to drop back by
the fall beds a week or two after planting, reseeding as necessary.
The other thing I try
(and often fail) to remember in the height of summer is to make notes on
my gardening spreadsheet about what we planted too much of. For
example, we've had so many excess cucumbers and summer squash for the
last few years that I've had to give them away by the basketload, and
yet I keep planting the same amount. Maybe I'll remember to only
plant half as many cucurbits in 2015?
Once I installed the new decking
board I bevelled each
Without the bevel the edge
wants to dig into the dirt when you pull it.
"Onie Mae Cresong Clark, age 79, of Bristol, VA, went to be with the Lord
on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at the NHC Healthcare of Bristol. Onie was
born April 8, 1935 in Washington County, Virginia, a daughter of the
late Ward Christopher Cresong and Elvie Smith Cresong. She was a lifelong
resident of Scott County and Washington County, Virginia, where she was a
homemaker and was of the Baptist faith. She was preceded in death by
her husband, Silas Clark..."
Back when I was knee high to a grasshopper, Onie and Silas
lived up the creek from my childhood farm. I would run down to
visit, barefoot and clad only in underpants, until Onie finally put her
foot down and required me to don a shirt. Despite that one act of
tough love, our neighbor was always ready to enfold me in her arms,
where I was riveted by her neon orange chewing gum, a color I'd never
seen before in my life, and by her southern makeup, so different from
the appearance of my clean-faced Yankee mother.
appearances weren't important to me at that age. I was on a
mission, and once inside, I headed straight for the bathroom. No, I
didn't need to go, but our family's farm only boasted an outhouse, so
the concept of peeing in a toilet was remarkable to my young mind.
Plus, Onie's bathroom had real green carpeting on top of the closed
toilet lid, so soft I wanted to run my hands through the pile. In
fact, I probably hid out there for several minutes, drawing pictures in
the deep yarn.
in the kitchen, I entered Onie's domain, decorated with big ceramic
bins in the shape of mushrooms. Our country neighbor was most
likely cooking soup beans and biscuits, but hers was a version
remarkably dissimilar to the type my health-conscious parents set out on
our table. Grownup Anna knows that the difference was copious
butter and salt, plus a healthy hunk of bacon in the beans, but
child-Anna only knew that Onie could cook like no one else. There
would be yellow tomatoes with red centers, so juicy they oozed across
the plate, and perhaps an ear of sweet corn on the side. I
definitely wanted to be invited to dinner.
At the time when Onie was
part of my village, my nuclear family was so dirt poor that all of us
were fed free lunches at school. In fact, I remember my
kindergarten teacher giving me a red, hooded cape that I cherished, not
realizing she felt me a charity case. And I remember how much I
yearned for the big, beautiful boxes of crayons that the other kids
brought out to color with, complete with metallic hues and a sharpener
in the back.
I would become saddened by Christmases where the presents were never
quite what I asked for. One year, I yearned for Archie Carr's Handbook of Turtles, and was instead gifted with the larger and more colorful (but harder to read) Encyclopedia of Turtles.
I'm not even sure the issue was so much money as a difficulty
deciphering the dreams of a complicated child, but to Onie, I wasn't so
complex. My neighbor saw the silver and gold crayons dancing
through my dreams and she gave me the best gift I'd ever received in my
young life --- a box of crayons so big the sticks were arranged in
stadium seating. My brother Joey and I would later melt a few
crayons on our tin roof, molding them into shapes as glorious as the
drawings I made when the crayons were first sharp and new. That
gift may well be the reason I majored in art (as well as biology) when
the time came to go to college.
As with her husband, I
never really knew Onie as an adult. When she passed away this
week, I hadn't truly visited with her in years. But my memories of
sitting on the ground by her porch and gently massaging sedum leaves
into balloons while Onie and Mom visited together will last
forever. And whenever I walk by my touch-me-not flowers that
descended from Onie's seeds, I'll think of the colorful woman who once
made my dreams come true. Thank you for the crayons, Onie, and for
spreading color and love through my young world.
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