Saturday, May 2, 2009

Scrounged Garden Dec

Aw, I had so many outdoor plans for today, but the winds kicked up and I don't want to be taken out by a flying widower-maker. So I'll share a few of my projects.
I collect rocks from wherever(which apparently there's a bill in Congress which would make this illegal) because I love geology and they make pretty good souvenirs. Eventually they find their way into some doo dad. The bowly rock above came from the east side of Mt Hood where we ride motorcycles, the round white rocks came from Lake Wenatchee in WA. In the summer I'll put some water in the bowl-rock for butterflies. I saw the first swallowtail a few weeks ago!
I made a trellis in the garden, this year I'll grow some scarlet runner beans on it. Again, scrounged oak branches(the size of small trees) and sticks picked up in the woods. I haven't wired the top together yet, but it seems pretty solid(it survived the 50mph+ winds today) and I like the idea of adding or taking away sticks.

A work in progress next to the house. I'm not sure how I'll finish it off yet. I got the rocks free from a lady who was ripping out half her pond. I took those toothy rocks from the first picture to make the sunflower/sun/maybe a sundial(some installations are temporary, ha!). I think I'll get some creeping thyme (creeping time?). The violets and dovefoot geranium will be allowed to stay when they creep in there. I'm not putting down any sand or crushed gravel like I'm supposed to(no money--unless I find some for free). I started sorting the pebbles Andrew Goldworthy-style in case I get an idea.

The things I wanted to do today:
Pick up rotten logs in the woods to lay in the new garden beds a la "hugelkultur"
Ride my dirtbike.
Start work on a new trail(actually it's cleaning up a deer trail).
Transplant two Oregon Myrtles from the woods to the garden. Also Fringecup, Oregon Iris and Lemon Balm. And stuff.
Clear my head by listening to the wind in the trees and nothing else--that's what I needed to do the most.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Other Side of the New Leaf

For awhile I've been mulling if I should include my gardening here on this blog. The focus of this blog is the "natural" ecology of my home, not neccessarily the artificial ecology of my garden. However, in spending 8 years now observing and contemplating the forest, who lives there and how they live there together, I find things I learn about the forest have influenced how I think about my garden.

Gardening in the temporate rainforest at elevation has its difficulties(technically it's located in transition between oak savannah and fir forest, at 1000 feet). The soil stays colder and damper longer, making seed germination iffy, at least when I wish seeds to sprout. The soil is a heavy clay, with lots of nutrition, but understanding is needed to unlock those nutrients. One can't just add compost ad nauseum to clay soil either, there are chemical bonds that are affected by certain elements. All a bunch of science very fun to learn. Over the years I've learned to improve the tilth of my soil, but I wanted to move beyond using outside fertilizers and amendments--for reasons of money(none to spare), and also the idea I should be able to use what is available right around me.

So after years of seeing the forest around me produce a jungle of biomass--I'm thinking why can't I produce that same abundance in my garden, instead of so much traditional spacing out. I've known about the Three Sisters concept--corn, beans, squash--but wanted to learn how to expand that for other vegetables. Of course this draws from basic concepts like square foot gardening and companion planting. But in the back of my mind I was making connections more based on relationships I observed in my forest and wanted to mirror those, in species and habit, rather than a vegetable garden that essentially is still full of a monoculture of non-native species I have to coddle.

Completely by accident I came across a group for Edible Forest Gardening on Facebook, and was happily gobsmacked that my idea was actually a "real" now I have a name for it. I'll continue my gardening experiments and share the info here, since inspiration comes from the forest--the land itself where I am gardening. making my garden native, instead of invasive.

The photo above shows my food garden before I started messing with it this year. The deer are voracious here as well as bionic, so the fence needs to be tall. It's mostly set up with raised beds. Last year I did nothing with the garden except mulch most of the beds, with either tarps or leaves, and added wood ash from the stove.

I gave myself a few parameters to work with this year:
1. Use free stuff, scrounge, beg, repurpose, recycle stuff from the junkpile.
2. Learn more about how the forest nourishes itself and use those same materials in my garden. After all, the dirt I've been working with has evolved to work with those resources, why not use them(relationships!).
3. Use more native species in the garden, either as food(Oregon Myrtle for example) or as nutrients to compost or mulch.

(and don't worry, I still ride my dirt bike in the woods...responsibly)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Striped Coralroot

Usually parasites are considered disgusting wormy things, but this one is certainly pretty! This orchid feeds through the mychorrizal soil fungus, one of those beings whose existence utterly depend on the total ecosystem package of soil, fungus, trees, and other living things.
Standing tall with its hosts, as it sucks their bloooood.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dandelion Whine

Yup! that's me.

I've always loved dandelions, and spent a lot of time picking them, even before I could say their name. My dad let them grow in the side yard just for me. I love their bright yellow pop and watching the flight of the seeds...what's not to love? (Thus the whine...)

Turns out dandelions can practically cure cancer(and may well do that too!). I came across a wonderful foraging-foodie blog I tried the recipe for Dandelion Bread and it turned out great!!! (recipe here ). Even my boys loved it.
The recipe calls for 1 cup of petals, this was all I could find in my yard. They made almost a packed cup.

The bread even looks yummy. It has a cornbready texture with just the right amount of moistness. I had to tweak the recipe a tad because I had to sub sugar for honey, here is my modified recipe:
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dandelion petals
1/4 cup oil
scant 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
scant 1 1/4 cups milk

I can feel that dandelion miracle cure zapping through my dad is visiting this weekend to celebrate his birthday, I'm going to make him some Dandelion Bread!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hummingbird Chick Photos

I've often thought about hummingbird eggs and chicks--how impossibly small and fragile they are. The grown up bird is a wonder in itself--so much ferocity and daring in a such a small package--and then this package dares to migrate a thousand plus miles twice a year! Kind of makes my own derring-do seem pansy by comparison(no offense to pansies). And the nest is an architectural work of art to boot.

Eggs the size of a tick tack. Will wonders never cease. NO!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A New Leaf

After an extra long winter(for here), spring is creeeeeeeping in . My camellia is blooming a month late. Been puttering around toting rocks, making new garden beds, adding native plants. I've also started researching and experimenting with using "foraged" fertilizer--or rather stuff that the homesteaders here would have used a hundred years ago because a) they had no money and b)that was all that was available, just like my situation. This entails learning about the characteristics of my native soil, how it behaves, and how to work with it so it will grow happy plants. I'm finding there is quite a lot of good stuff just lying around! I'll report back on the native resources/chemistry/garden interface here. Still thankful, more every day, to be planted here. Utterly.