gardening

Spring

spring

The snow gave way quickly and just as quickly came the green.  The greenhouse went up just in time; the plants, some of which I thought must have died, buried under several feet of snow for months, poking their green sprouts out of the yet still cold earth.  This is no miracle; it is Spring.

The frogs in the back pond reappeared after a long hiatus, and frog eggs line the shallow pools in the back “roads” on the property.  I’ve seen moose tracks and more deer and turkey tracks than I care to count.  The fox is about and I hear the hawk’s screech almost everyday.  The garden is waking up and the plants stir in their pots anxious to get in the dirt.

As always Spring brings anxiety: some plants got burnt up in the newly built greenhouse (my bad).  But, most are fine and I kick myself for not putting spinach in a month ago.  Every Spring I forget what I remember the previous year.  Perhaps this is part of Spring too.

Small buds appear over night on the Birch, the Maple, the Oak and the Cedar and Spruce trees seem even greener than normal.  The fireplaces are cold and everyone is outside.  The wind blows the glorious warmth around and the leaves, freed from the snowy prison, take flight.

We all feel a bit more free in the Spring.  Perhaps Spring is when happiness gets a chance to shine, just for a little, to fly around with the leaves and rid itself of the heavy weight of winter worries.  A new start for an old, old cycle.

After Death

life-afte-deathAfter years of living in cities, longing for the country; perhaps some peace and quiet, I look out over twenty two acres of forest and a half acre of tilled earth to become garden next year.

A dream come real is no longer a dream; a reality in the form of work, wood and wonder.  Reality offers it all and reminds us with the birth of reality comes the death of a dream.
Simple needs become clear and concise.  They are many reminding me that a simple life does indeed necessitate complication.  Work is the key word, the kind of work that goes beyond a scotch in the evening listening to music and imagining and composing wishes.
Happiness, the quality of contentedness that so few find is possible, but the road is long, and comparisons begin to take the joy away from the reality.
For those who wish to live their dream do not compare, do not wish for more.  The dream as reality will not be what you think, but it will be life as it is, not as we wish it to be.
The future is still clear, the present is all encompassing and the past is full of memories, if not regrets and happy times.  Perhaps it is age, but most likely it is the realization that a dream come true is the death of the dream.
Self sufficiency has been and will continue to be the goal, it is now only a daily endeavor, a clarity of mind and a soreness of the body.  The dream perhaps lives more clearly now…after death is the life that I have dreamed of.

An Update on the Experiment

experiment

This particular post is two things: an apology and and explanation.

First, an apology.  I realize that blogs are particularly important to those who write them, and less so to those who read them.  That being the case, I must still apologize for not being consistent, if only to myself.

Secondly, an explanation.  I have embarked upon an experiment in self-sustainability that involves moving from one side of this country to the other.  Such a move takes time and effort which explains my apology above.  This experiment involves buying a small (22 acre) plot of land with a house, a barn foundation, and a full woodworking shop.  This is the result of several years of contemplation and contrary thinking that has cost comfort and security, I hope, to a good end: to see just how self-sustaining an individual can be.

To this end I would like to invite anyone interested to visit two new sites that will be up and running this fall.  First, I will have a podcast called “The Philosophy of Gardening” and at some point and time a youtube channel called Trollcastle Works.  These endeavors will simply be a video/audio blog of ongoings around the property that will include forestry work, woodworking and of course gardening.

I hope to have several projects going that include: a small fruit orchard, vegetable garden, furniture making and carpentry, hops and grain fields, and brewing beer.  The podcast and videos, I hope, will be of interest to anyone that might consider self-sustainability as a way of life.

I call this an experiment, because I see 100% self-sustainability as being the speed of light, and the experiment’s goal itself being to see how close to this ideal that I can get.  There will be failures and there will be accomplishments, and I hope to share both.

The reason for this experiment is, of course, personal, but it stems from a belief that self-sustainability for individuals and families is the only moral option.  What better way to test this belief than putting it in practice!

I hope that some of you consider following me on this adventure!

The Foundation of Life

soil

Soil is the foundation of life, and so in my quest for self-sustainability I have chosen to start at that foundational point this year. On my quest to be self-sustaining, this year started with building my own seed starting soil. With $8 worth of vermiculite I have about three wheelbarrows full of starter soil, and the vermiculite was optional. I think a little sand would have done the trick. Nevertheless, the path is clear.

Self-sustainability is becoming more and more important as the industrial agriculture machine slowly chews up its gears and we are left with fewer and fewer moral options. But why stop at not buying industrial food products? This is just a beginning, and a beginning that ironically ends at the very soil that all of our food eventually comes from.

I started with well composted manure, grass and food scraps collected all last year and turned regularly until winter set in. Before putting the soil in my homemade boxes, I ran it through the chipper/shredder. This fluffed up the soil and chewed up some of the bigger chunks. I then filtered it through my homemade soil colander (four 4×4’s with ¼ wire stapled to the bottom) into a wheelbarrow and added vermiculite.

I have started my leek, onion, cabbage, and peppers in this mix and have watered (so far) about four times with no sign of compaction. I have yet to see if my little seedlings, after sprouting, like their new home. Tomatoes go in this weekend.

It is difficult to explain the satisfaction of not buying products in order to be self-sustaining. Although I have a long way to go, this new starter soil is a further new beginning on the road to independence.

Plantitics

plantitics

Its coming up, and it’s coming up soon! Plans are being made as we speak in back rooms and workshops; in dusty places and in living rooms and across America. Are we all ready? Are we all willing? What will happen in the future!?

Tomatoes must be started just at the right time, but can they share the manure with the peppers, and where will the leek and onion be placed (those feisty fellows)? I have to sell the cabbage on sharing the space with the eggplant and at the same time make sure the squash have enough room to spread their greedy tendrils.

The funding must be in place and I have to find it somewhere. I know a rich banker down the street with horses. Perhaps there? I’ve found the gold there before; maybe again.

Of course, I’ve readied the playing field last fall but there are always changes and surprises. The beans let me down every year, but the hops always have my back.   This year the fruit trees will bear fruit and the raspberries look strong. It’ll be rough and some will go down in their prime, but that’s the rough and tumble game of plantitics.

I have to appease the worms, but they are blind and powerless; I, of course, am the master and they the slave. I have the power as the president of my garden!!!   I am the slave to no one!!! The plants will do as I say!!! They will bend before my mobility. But the worms…

I have to appease the women’s vote of course and so I’ve planted some early food in the hives to get them on my side. They’re coming out in droves on the warm days. I can count on them. I am for women’s rights and have promised a new super when the summer comes. They know I’m good for it.

I have to answer to the herb garden’s requests as they can be finicky at first.   But the tomatoes fund my work. You can never trust the ketchup lobby, but I’m strong in the salsa community. I will over the garden this year by promising to keep the “invaders” out. The Japanese beetle will be banded from our garden!

I have a plan for the plantitics of this year by pleading my case to the courts of nature. My garden will succeed and I will live as a king yet again…at least for another year.

The Choices We Make

 

choices

When I chose to get a dog from the pound about five years ago, little did I know of the ritual that would soon become my life. Every morning up at 5:30 and after the coffee cup hits the coffee table for the final time, a nudge (toy in mouth) and off we go for our morning walk. In the afternoon after work another walk, work in the woodshop or in the garden, and some playing in the yard until it is time to eat. Then, off to the favorite bed she goes watching the house from her favorite perch.

The choice to get a dog from the pound has obvious implications. My life has changed, but so has hers. I made a choice, and that choice has brought me as well as my dog a great deal of happiness. These are the choices we make, and we continually make. Other choices that we make do not always have obvious implications.

When I choose to go to the grocery store (the walk of shame as I call it), or to buy something at the local hardware store the choices we make there also have implications. However, those implications are not always as clear as bringing a dog into your life. There are animals that pay a high price for the choices we make. We make choices for many reasons, but those reasons should always be clear to us as well as the consequences of the choices we make.

An easy choice is not always the right choice, and those choices that we deem as difficult should not always be difficult. We can choose to do the right thing, but to simply do the right thing takes time, it is a habit that we must acquire. I believe that most of us know what the right choice is but are often tempted by the easy and swayed by the convenient. Our choices become others and not our own.

Perhaps it’s time to take our choices back, but this too is a choice; at least for now.

Simple Pleasures

pleasure

There’s something beautiful about seeing bees come out on a winter’s day. Walking out to the bee yard I noticed a few girls flying around. Although the sky was grey, it was just warm enough for a few brave hearts to venture outside. It is a simple pleasure, I know, but a pleasure nevertheless.

It is pleasures like this that make life worth living. It does not take money; in fact money alone is void of the kind of pleasure that is available if we just take time to notice. The garden, newly manured, sitting in the snow reminds me that there are worms deep under the soil. My ear up against the beehive and the scratching and buzzing that I hear, reminds me that we all want the same thing: a safe, warm place.

Perhaps it is this realization that warms my heart on cold winter days. When I realize the beauty that is nature I just have to stop and stare in wonderment. I think that it would be a much better world if we all took time to stand and stare in wonderment at the simple and often forgotten corners of our world.

In the back I hear chickens clucking away. I know that they are fussing about the snow, and perhaps feel a bit of cabin fever already. But they too venture out picking around in the snow, hoping to find a morsel, or maybe just doing it out of curiosity.

I like the smell of a kitchen that people cook in. I like the warmth of a home, and the cold against my face on an early morning walk. I like knowing that we all have a place, all animals; all living creatures. I like to think that there are places that are safe, that people want the best and are willing to work for it. I like to think that there is love in the world, and that there are those that are loved.

I know that these are simple pleasures, but as simple as they are, they are also simply priceless. And so I walk out back and stick my hand down in the dirt, I work on winter carpentry projects with the hope of the coming Spring and Summer. I put my ear up against the hive. I do these things and a smile comes to my face; just another simple pleasure to be thankful for.

 

a Dead Leaf

a dead leaf

Fall is often looked upon as the end of summer. In fact, as I ride around the area where I live, I see everyone sweeping up the remains of the summer: the leaves on the ground, now brown, yellow, and red. They bag these remnants up and leave them on the curb to be picked up. The trees stand lifeless and the mess which is nature is uncovered for all to see. It is as if we hide behind the fullness of life until our secrets are revealed with the death of a leaf. However, a dead leaf is much more than the end; it is in fact, the future.

I cannot stand the sight of leaves being crushed in the middle of streets under the tires of cars. This unconscious act seems to denigrate the value of death because it is often seen as the end. The leaves have done their job and are discarded, unimportant and we busy ourselves “cleaning up” the mess left behind without thinking of the cost. The trees sometimes seem disgraced in their gnarly nakedness; nothing left to the imagination. However, it is the fallen leaves that hold the future and our lack of imagination the dooms us to repeat the mistakes that we seem to believe justified.

Gardens in the fall do not help. Our gardens have produced and are now left flat and unappealing; the dirt mocking the very labor that we have spent the summer on. The end is all around us and we sweep it into bags and under the eaves of the house. We prune the leftovers almost wishing that no one will notice the seeming ugliness that we uncover.

The fall is not the end, but the beginning. A dead leaf is much more than the end, or even a representation of the end, it is the beginning. In fact, the deadness of the leaf is only an illusion because it is the life that it holds that counts. The dead leaf holds the key to the future. It is such a simple concept; an endless cycle of birth and rebirth, Buddhist in its nature. I picked up a leaf before throwing it into the shredder and looked upon its brown acquiescence. I thought as I threw it into the machine that it was at my mercy. But I was wrong: it is the other way around.

We are at the mercy of the fall and what it promises us. The fall is in fact the beginning of what will be. The labor of the summer is a direct consequence of our understanding that it is we that are at the mercy of the leaves in the fall. It is they that hold the answers and them that hold our future. Within the thin, crackly membrane of a dead leaf is the necessities of life. If we do not understand this, we are in fact, doomed.

So, grab those black bags that hold so much; rip them open and spill their precious contents over your garden, over your lawn, over your land. Remember, the land will only give back as much as we let it. The dead leaf that you crumple in your hand is a deciding factor not only for your garden, but for our lives. A society that does not value the importance of a dead leaf, is a society that is unable to value the importance of a sustainable life.

Look Up

tomato sky

Gardeners tend to spend a lot of time with a shovel in the ground digging and covering up. Making sure seeds are laid comfortably to rest bends the neck forward and the care that we give to the earth tends to take its toll on the broad perspectives that often help us understand why we do what we do. Shoulders bent to the ground, we look at the holes we dig, lay the seed gently in the ground, and cover them back up. To grow your own food is a revolutionary act, but to understand why we must revolt, why it is imperative to grow our own food, takes the willingness to look up at the sun that makes what we do possible and why we must do it.

One of the most freeing things I’ve ever read was that gardening is a revolutionary act. But like all meaningful endeavors, it comes at a cost. Sometimes, to remind myself of this, I go out in the garden late at night and look up. I always think about when the stars were considered “holes” in the cloak of the sky-ceiling; the light coming down from heaven. Sometimes I felt like the small seeds that I covered diligently with soil only to get excited when they reappeared as a one small and ever so slight leaf on a shivering stem.

How is it that revolutions start? With one, small act while all the time remembering what that act stands for and why we do it. As David Blume stated in the Los Angeles Times, “By being an organic farmer, you fly in the face of every part of the power structure,” Blume said. “Refusing to use chemicals, refusing to use genetically modified seeds–it’s a real act of defiance.” And what better reason to garden?

Give it to “the Man”; plant a tomato! Screw the corporations that siphon our freedoms, and buy a chipper/shredder! Save and trade seeds, and save human history from the Monsanto’s of the world! Do all of these things and do them proudly, but always remember why you do them: look up and be awed by nature in order to understand why revolting against almost everything we’ve been taught is so important. The corporations are the result of people forgetting to look up every once in a while.

Albert Camus once wrote that nothing will matter in a million years, and that is probably true, but revolutions do not think about futures; they act in the present. What better thing can we do than to do what we know is right, and know why we do what we do. There is nothing more gratifying than doing the right thing except for knowing why it is right.

So, look up every once in a while, while kneeling at the alter of the earth. Plant those seeds that you’ve saved and then lay in the grass dreaming of a day when we are all revolutionaries.

The Logic of Food

the logic of food

To eat is to have a garden.

To have a garden is to cook food.

So, to eat is to cook food.

To eat is to cook food

To cook food, is to have a garden.

So, to eat is to have a garden.

To eat is to have a garden.

To have garden is to understand how food is grown.

So, to eat is to understand how food is grown.

To eat is to understand how food is grown.

To understand how food is grown is to understand nature.

So, to eat is to understand nature.

To eat is to cook food.

To cook food is to have a garden.

To have garden is to understand how food is grown.

To understand how food is grown is to understand nature.

To understand nature is to have the world at your fingertips.