Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring Garden Porn

I wonder how many extra hits I'll get with the word "porn" in the title?  Won't they be disappointed!  Unless they just love garden and orchard photos!  Which can be very sensual in their own right - just wait till the apple blossoms at the end...
A little violet liquer, a very dainty and fleeting spring treat (for the eyes mostly) that turns gray if you leave the flowers in for too long.  My advice: get the violet color out of the blossoms and then strain it and store it out of the sun!

This shot is more about WHERE to plant than the actual plants themselves.  This is a big old red oak that's been laying in what is now our backyard for a few years probably.  The soil underneath it is rich and consistently moist.  I should've planted the plum in the foreground closer, but I couldn't see the lay of the land very well when I put it in.  Now I've got 3 peaches/nectarines planted up against it on the downhill side, where they can get their roots into that cool moist fertility.

Foreground: a new sweet kernel apricot just budding out.  One of the best medicines in the world for GI cancers (Laetrile) is derived from the nut inside the stone of this type of 'cot.  I say skip the doctor's office, and the cancer, and just eat the kernels after you finish the flesh of a handful of these little beauties.  Background: a few new Hen-o-the-woods (maitake) inoculations in chestnet oak, and the inoculated stump of the same tree.  I did these, electricity-free, with a chainsaw to test a method Sepp Holzer promotes in "Sepp Holzer's Permaculture."  Sepp is the man... 

In the background you see an ordinary pile of firewood, except that it isn't really all that ordinary.  It's dug into the hillside, on contour of course, and will be left to rot and collect water and nutrients coming down the hill with the prevailing wind.  In time I'll have the entire property swaled in this fashion, terrace after terrace, with fruit and nut trees and shrubs planted on the downhill side.  Of course I can always use the firewood I need off the top and replenish it as it rots into water-harvesting sponginess.  With all this pine lying around we should also have a bumper crop of fireflies this summer, too!  Happy kids...

I hope the upside-down feedsacks in the previous shot piqued some interest as well.  And this is what's underneath.  It's an experimental (for me) stump-totem combo inoculation stuffed full of lion's mane spawn in a pair of good-size maple stumps.  It has already fruited off the spawn, and I think it will make a reliable crop from the wood for at least a decade, as the stumps are converted to topsoil, and the lion's mane increases its presence in our food forest.  YUM!
I vow to never again get caught with my shorts down when it comes to having enough firewood put up for winter.  I grossly underestimated what I was going to need to keep a tent warm from early October through first of April.  (Almost 5 cords!!)  And I don't intend to have to keep a tent warm through winter here again either.  There is no way to justify that kind of energy need when you know better ways to accomplish the same task.  Our primary homesteading objective for this year has become the conversion of the tent to a wood framed structure with plenty of windows on the east and south sides for solar gain.  The cob cottage will just have to wait another year I'm afraid; this structure's half-built already.

A general overview of the joint garden developing steadily as we have time and as the season permits. 

Some of my favorite garlics and shallots - Music and Inchelium garlic, Gray and Red shallots, and elephant garlic (which is really a leek) - at the very top of the garden to help deter nibbling interlopers.

Thrilled to see my little Texas Blue Giant fig budding out after a long and late winter!

This is hardly worth photographing, except that it is a tiny pomegranate from a good friend in south Georgia (thank you, Bret!) that I thought I had killed when I set it out just before a rogue killing frost.  The only bits that made it through that boneheaded move were the bits below the mulch line.  Again, thrilled to see it emerging!

You can't have a post on spring garden porn without an aerial shot of a young developing broccoli head.  Not this one, but I planted one broccoli plant in the fall under my low tunnel, just to see what would happen, and the central head got blitzed by frost.  The secondary shoots are prolific on it, but the central head is still the primary production.  I think I'll refrain from fall-planting broccoli again, even under frost protection.

Dinner after dinner, the Swiss chard and collards have fed us for weeks now.  Delish.

Swiss chard is just one of those plants that deserves its own gratuitous photo.

My post on carbohydrate production with potatoes and sweet potatoes continues to be an all-time favorite at Small Batch.  I didn't have time this spring to get a dedicated bed for potatoes built so I fell back on old methodologies: I laid a pair of potatoes every 16 inches in the bottom of this deep swale between garlic and raspberries and covered them with about a foot of loose wheat straw.  After a week the potato sprouts are slowly moving upward through the straw toward the sun.  As they grow I will add more straw around the plants, and come harvest time, I should be able to just grab the plant and pull out a string of potatoes.  The decaying mulch and new black topsoil underneath are just an added bonus!

Blueberries, god I love blueberries, and there are scads of wild ones all over my property.  This is a rabbit-eye variety out in the proper garden, showing its first dangling blossoms, but I have a feeling blueberries will be a mainstay of our production system in the rest of the forest garden, particularly where I'm taking out dense stands of Virginia pine.

My first apple blossoms ever, and man are they lovely.  This is a Fuji that I brought from south Georgia with me, and is it ever happy to be in the mountains!  It's surrounded by a variety of medicinal herbs - from valerian to rue to self-heal to comfrey of course - but we did lose our Winesap this week to some root-gnawing rodential intruder.  May be time to set out some daffodil bulbs around the base of the others.  A hard lesson I don't want to repeat.

Well, here's a general overview of the yard/orchard area, taken from the north entrance.  It's more open than the roughly-same shot I took last year, but an established ecology like this one should never be altered rapidly.  You can see the open sky south of the yard where I've removed about 30 Virginia pine trees that were in the future driveway (selected for the driveway for this reason).  They did their duty as nurses for the oak sere, and are dying out naturally as the oaks shade them out.  As a respectful permie, I'm gently nudging this trend forward, in a way that's beneficial to as many parts of the system as possible.  From photos up-post you may remember some of the ways in which they are being used to fortify the system that they birthed almost 6 decades ago.  Over the next couple of years, several more strategic trees will be removed to let the sun into the orchard of our future workshop, this time probably oaks, but they will be used respectfully, as lentils, door posts, and mantels in the coming cob cottage, and as top-notch firewood in a less energy-wasting living arrangement.

There is still plenty of Virginia pine on the property, unsightly as it might be.  The goal here is not to exterminate or anihilate any member of the ecosystem, or to alter it into unrecognizable "production" land, but to observe the system and how it is coming of age, and then gently tweak it toward a food production system that behaves like the original ecology - and makes room for all the species that used it in the past - but that is ultimately geared toward human outputs.  In this way we can remove a substantial chunk of our demand on the farmland we never see in far away places like Iowa and California, allowing wild nature to take over a formerly-cultivated acre here along a trout stream or there adjacent to national parkland.  I'm never going to produce wheat or barley in any substantial quantity on my land, but I don't need tomatoes from Mexico or blueberries from California.  I can produce them right here, a few steps from my house and workshop, and man do they taste better that way anyway!

Till next time.
Tripp out.