Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Delicate Sound of Wonder

Something about a 3 month drought makes me want to hide under a shady fig tree and not come out until the rain falls.  Sort of like a snapping turtle latching onto, well, whatever happens to be dangling down into snapping turtle territory, and not letting go until the thunder rolls.  While that particular thought leaves my stomach a little queasy, rain is something we have finally witnessed in real life in south Georgia, so I have kept my promise and emerged from the veil of fig. 

And when the drought finally broke all hell broke loose with it.  The storm howled and unleashed its first round of hail from the south, then southwest, then west (with more hail), then northwest, then north (I swear I saw Elvira Gulch ride by on her bike in mid-air), and for just a moment there I thought we might emerge into a technicolored landscape, with Pink Floyd's "Money" rising in the background.

Losing streak suddenly over, and a few days' reprieve from endless watering duty, perhaps it's time to share some photographs of Small Batch Garden, and talk about some of the wondrous things that have transpired here since we last met behind the camera.

It was a long wait, but I finally got to see how my new on-contour French Intensive market beds performed in a downpour.  The first adverb that comes to mind is "smashingly."  The second round of okra is high and, well, maybe not dry, maybe good and soaked is closer to the truth, but considering the fact that we probably had 4 inches of rain in an hour, I'd say the young okra plants are riding a moist but very happy perch of safety. 

Busy day before the storm.  I pasteurized a bunch of wheat straw and stuffed eight new buckets of golden oyster mushrooms for production through the heat of summer.  I'm hoping the Po Hu variety already bearing in the shop, along with these bright yellow 'shrooms, will keep us in nutritious fungi for a while.  I had my first two bucket pre-orders for this weekend's farmers market.  At $25 a pop they pay for themselves pretty quickly. 

Ozone Pete, if you're reading this, those are your runner beans climbing up my little shed!  In the foreground, Swiss chard and a couple varieties of kale are mainstays for us at the farmers market.  In between is chicory, and of course the bane of our first season here, bermuda grass.  Still trying to find the silver lining of bermuda grass.  Front and back of this bed, I've allowed all the lettuce varieties to finish their life cycle, and they're about ready to lay down for the season.  Should have a variety of lettuces coming up everywhere when the weather is right.  Along with chicory and flat-leaf parsley, the flowers and seed pods, or "arugula peas" as I call them, of the bitter bolting arugula, are favored additions to our rabbits' diet.  I highly doubt we'll have to plant arugula again!  Although I have the perennial version, 'Sylvetta,' entering the line-up this fall.  The more rabbit food we can grow the sooner we can close that part of the loop, and arugula seems to have a lot of promise in that regard.

While a had a large vessel of hot water, I also dispatched a few extra roosters from this spring's McMurray order.  And in between got several shiitake logs plugged.  Productive day for sure.  We do quite a bit of summer cooking on this little campfire, and the big black canning pot makes a nice oven when placed over oven-y things like sweet potatoes; hopefully next summer we'll have a full-on outdoor kitchen working, and potentially a little solar cooker.

One of my tomato patches up by the shed.  The bushes got beat up a little in the storm, but they'll recover, they're tomatoes.  Word of caution:  maybe it's not the best of ideas to plant succulent red tomatoes right next to the chiken pen, if they can manage to get over the fence! 

Some big boys on a potato-leaved variety called 'German Johnson'.  (No jokes;)  This is the first potato-leaved variety that's been productive for me in the deep South...if I can just keep the damn chickens off of them.  I think that poultry yard roof project needs to be moved up the list!

Just a quick update on some of the more important elements in this garden.  The fruit trees are all doing well, especially the peach trees.  I wondered why they were performing so much better than the others, but I think I found the answer.  See that power pole directly behind the row of peach trees?  It's supporting a wire that runs directly over them.  Dawned on me, seeing a pair of doves perched up there, that this particular stretch has probably seen a lot of bird poop over the decades.  In essense, the electrical wire is serving at least a couple of the ecological functions that an upper forest canopy would serve.  Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for small fruit like cherries, I'm considering running a series of high wires over all the fruit tree rows in the orchard, coupled with some flowering and fruiting vines and birdhouses, to try and recreate the results we've seen in the peach row, without having to wait decades on a high canopy to grow, or forfeiting any significant solar access for a densely-planted orchard.

On to that little ailing nectarine tree we talked about in May 24th's post, Fast Forward.  At that time the tree was not happy, looking like it was ready for some winter rest, and sporting a black spot issue on the leaves.  If you remember, we treated it by chopping that big healthy comfrey plant underneath it back to the ground, and using it as a mineral dense, high-potassium mulch, (which is the whole reason it's there).

I took this photo right after the rain storm when it was pretty windy, so it's not the best shot, but you can see that the little nectarine tree in question has greened up considerably and ditched the black spot issue, despite the stress of an ongoing drought.  (It did this before the rain, smart alec, I just happened to grab the shot while I was taking the others;o) It's almost as if we've transferred some of the life force of the comfrey to the target nectarine, and in reality, that's what has happened.  The comfrey is not quite back to full strength yet, after only 4 weeks, but you can see that it is coming back on strong.  It will be ready to cut again in a few weeks.

Well, no aerial tour this time.  The black asphalt roof is too hot to climb up on!  But hopefully there was something useful in this photo set that you can apply to your garden, and more importantly, to your philosophy.  I'll check back in with you again very soon...



  1. Tripp…wonderful!

    German Johnsons are one of the best tasting tomatoes ever! You are in for a treat. Here in Central VA, the plants stop production after about a month and a half, but the taste and yield are phenomenal! It is an old VA heirloom, from what wintersown’s info had to say.

    You have inspired us to start using the spent crops or prunings right on the soil they grew in…so much easier and better for the soil web than separate compost piles.

    Arugula as a fodder crop…interesting. What zone is “Sylvetta” a perennial? We are in 7, but I’m thinking about making a sun trap for it.

    Thanks for your inspiring blog!



  2. Gail, I think you'd be just inside the perennial boundary for Sylvetta. I would roll with that suntrap or at least mulch it heavily for winter. Arugula has been a really prolific producer around here. Use it if you can!

    Just picked the first German Johnsons and am excited about slicing them up for dinner! They're huge!

    Thanks for the kind words.

  3. i love that shed. I want one just like it with a day pen for my hens. they wont stay out in the garden with me. they run for the trees (smart little things)

    I just came from CFN. I cant take it over there anymore. ozone, if you stop by, "hey"

    Im having a humbling summer. My blueberries are infected with cherry fruit worm and tomorrow I am going out to deal with the problem. Koby terrorized a baby dove and it flew into the chicken pen and Koby tore it up trying to get at that dove and now I have a rebuild to do too. My peppers never really did much and i yanked them out today - i believe it was that last may frost that did it. they just never recovered. Im trying to start some pepper seeds now. Pumpkins and winter squash look okay - im on the lookout for bugs there. sooooooo hard to not use chemicals. easier is dealing with the japanese beetles. I love picking them and dropping them in water. soon their decomposing bodies will stink and send off any new bad guys. I have a white winged dragon fly hanging around...i hope he is eating flea beetles.

    my strawberries were good - i wish they had been a tad bit sweeter. theres some research for next year.

    I got a "square" - a little gizmo that you plug into your cell phone an lets you accept credit and debit cards. folk art sales are up.

    my best tomato is the green zebra.

    finally, i saw where you wrote about the horror of gnats. i agree! I would take a daily sting if i could get rid of the gnats. they sell these ball caps with beads hanging off the edge of the brim. people say it keeps the gnats of your face. i might buy one.

    love that french intensive. I might try it. also: check out the video i did about the local farm to table chef's new project:


    Youre the bomb brutha. Give your lovely botticelliesque wife a hug from me.

  4. arugula is awful. I cant believe people like it.

  5. Aw, come on, arugula's not too bad in small doses! Although I mostly grow it for the rabbits. Chicory is another one we've added this year, and it is about as vitamin and mineral dense as plants get. Maybe you at least like the name of that one better, although it's doubly bitter! (Sells better at the market as 'chicory' than 'Italian dandelion' too!!)

    Had to google Boticelli - I know, I'm an art-tard - but you're absolutely right, Jess is a Boticelli! How wonderful!! She feels flattered, by the way.

    The little square thing for you phone is wicked cool. People here have been trying to get us to get one (although we have had all of zero requests to use plastic at the market). Almost makes me wish I still had a cell phone. Almost.

    Can I tell a story about gnats here? Jess and I were sitting out under the shade of a pecan tree yesterday, soaking our feet in a tub of cool water, and we noticed this pretty little dragonfly perched on a stick about 2 feet away. It kept repeatedly flying toward Jess's face and then returning to its perch, kinda weird, but as we watched more carefully we discovered it was catching gnats out of mid-air and lighting to chew them up. There was another of the same species sitting on top of the fence behind me, not catching gnats, but it was chasing off other dragonflies whenever they came around. Coolest part, there were still plenty of gnats, but when the dragonflies were around most of the gnats would bugger off! Soon as the aerial attackers left the gnats came back in force.

    More dragonflies, please.

    Some gardening seasons seem like they're there just to remind us that we are human. Try the French Intensive beds; I've got a young okra crop in a new one that is dynamite.

    Peace and love, dear.

  6. i had to get a square because my price point average is $40. food is my loss leader ;-).

  7. Our market booth is kinda the same. We spend more time on producing and presenting the produce at our table than probably anything else. But our money-makers are Jess's herbal creams and my mushroom logs and buckets! $15-$25 a pop! Just need all the vegetable decorations to draw people in. Very much like your booth...

    Kale and spring onions have been surprisingly good sellers.

  8. i use kale in my chicken soup and in salad. and the chicks love it. I didnt thin my spring onions enough. I have now and we'll see. WHen will you start putting fall seeds in? I should get a mushroom log from you. I dont eat them, but i like to look at them.

  9. Chickory, we tend to wilt it in olive oil and/or bacon squeezins with some onion, garlic, and salt, and eat it as a side of greens. Gotten to where I kind of like the stuff! Especially the Tuscan/Dinosaur variety. Way better than 'red russian'. I also usually plant my onions from sets and let em go - cheating, yes, I know, but way easier! I'll figure out seed-growing onions eventually, or I'll just grow perennial bunching onions if it comes down to go time. Ordering some this fall, and I'll let them spread until I need them.

    This will be my first big fall plant down here in the south, but I'm thinking I'll start in late August. Considering ordering a roll of shade cloth and some white low tunnel fabric too. Would like to have access to fresh broccoli from Thanksgiving until April Fools Day. Should get sunchokes, leeks, shallots, and several gourmet varieties of garlic in the ground this fall too.

    Check out my first farm blog workshop post:


    Later, gator.

  10. I read this post over at the blog "Freedom Guerrilla." "Settled Work."
    I don't know why, but I immediately thought "This sounds like Tripp / Tripp would like to read this. Somehow, it's permacultural. (Think I just invented a new word. Spell checker doesn't recognize it. :-)