Friday, June 4, 2010

Wild Columbine(or "Bengay-of-the-Woods")

Another favorite of mine, these little star-balls of fire are blooming now. The native americans used to chew up the roots and/or leaves to rub on achy joints or keep sore weary runners running into tomorrow. I just like how it shoots up through everything else and dangles there in mid-air.

I've been transplanting some into my garden. Wild Columbine grows alongside wild strawberry, dove foot geranium, nettles, etc, so here it is peeping out at the top of the photo, among strawberries, dead nettle, a mum, along with native veronica and dovefoot geranium in a pear tree guild,which also includes bronze fennel, forget-me-not, violet, and a few bush beans(once this weather warms up!).

Technically the columbine is a full to partial shade dweller, but I've observed that as long as its feet are well shaded by at least 12" of vegetation, it can take the full sun. Perfect example of pushing a plant's comfort zone by having a lot of friends! I transplant them in the early spring when things are still very wet and will be for at least another month--they DON'T like a thirsty new home!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Using the Native Indian Plum in My Forest Garden

The Indian Plum(or Osoberry, an older name)has been an old friend to me along my life here in the Pacific Northwest. When it pushes out its tassels of white flowers in February, that means Spring is FINALLY unleashed. Its sprawling form with upright shoots of new leaves glow like candleflames in candelabras, lighting up the end of grey Winter.

The Indian Plum(Oemleria cerasiformis) is a shrub or small tree that grows under the taller firs and maples of the forest, and is usually most happy towards the edges where there is a bit more sun. Male and female flowers are on separate trees, so only the female trees bear fruit--which are hard to catch because the birds are right on the ripe little 1/2" plums and gobble them up.

I thought the upright "whippy" form would be a great small fruiting tree in my forest garden structure. It would provide a filtered shade, as well as support for pole beans or peas. In the photo above is an Indian Plum I transplanted from the woods when it was about 12" tall. It's been in that spot for 5 years, so you can see it grows fairly fast. It really took off in the 3rd year, after establishing roots underground after transplanting. The deer have trimmed the bottom half of the tree, keeping it leaf free and "airy".

I've transplanted some small Indian Plums into my vegetable garden beds as well. They are still small, making roots. I'll do what the deer did and prune them a little to keep them airy. Although the trees don't get that bushy anyways--it would take intentional pruning to make them bushy and dense.

If you are digging up saplings from the forest it's the luck of the draw whether you get male or female trees. Again, go for 12" or shorter saplings. Above are the plums from the tree in the first photo--which you can also see a smaller Indian Plum tree to the right, which is a male. They do indeed taste plummy. I LOVE the glowing orange of the ripening plums, which turn the deep plum purple when ripe. There are several baby trees sprouting under this one, so it self seeds/germinates fairly easily. This particular tree(the female) gets full morning sun, and full afternoon shade. It does not need extra water in the summer(though of course new transplants will, keep them well watered the first year).

If you want to harvest the plums, you will HAVE TO net the tree(thinking about crocheting a net...). The birds are voracious on the plums(good for the birds though!). They snatch these at the cusp of ripe perfection, so you'd better be paying better attention than the birds!

I'm keeping my fingers crossed I have females in my forest garden. But males are welcome too--for their cooling canopy and structure for beans.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Springtime Harvest

I found this piece of purple cabbage stem that I had thrown in the weeds last fall. It has made a little cabbage head and is sprouting on the leaf scars. I potted it up and will see what happens?

This area was a place I had been throwing weed slash for the past few years. I was looking at it and realized my raspberries had sent runners into it and sent up 21 new canes. I tied them to some fennel stalks with some pieces of old t-shirt. I added rocks to make a border and a few sword ferns and snowberry, which grows as companions to the wild black raspberry in the woods. I will add in some fringecup and violet(also woodland companions).

This area shows a few different things going on. The tarp which is pulled back, was put over the Sacred Corn Patch last year after I had chopped weeds off with a hoe to prep it for planting. The Sacred Corn Patch is My Husband's Sacred Piece of Ground for Corn, I'm not allowed to do anything with it, ha--except keep it weed free of course! But he didn't plant the corn so I covered it with the tarp to keep it clear for this year. You can see it's nice clean dirt under there, and the weed clumps have composted. It used to be very weedy with that tall clumpy grass you can see, as well as thistles.

I'm cutting down the weeds and throwing the slash on a new bed I'm making. The brown patch of dirt is where I pulled up an old small door that I used to cover last year's slash pile, which is now nice compost and ready to plant. The slashed weeds will be mulch, and eventually more compost. Again, the cover of the door killed that nasty thick clumpy huge grass, which is very hard to dig up. Easier just to smother it. I plan to plant cabbages there, and eventually a small apple tree. A green table grape is growing on the fence above.

Before I plant in this bed I'll pull back the mulch and add a layer of duffy dirt from the woods to bring in more good bugs and seeds and fungus to make happy whole soil.

I'm experimenting with potatoes this year, since my bag of potatoes forgotten on the counter sprouted so vigorously. There is a potato in each cat food bag, and I'll add dirt as they grow and unroll the cat food bag. The bottom of the bag is still sewn shut with a paper strip, which will rot off pretty soon, the left of the potatoes is a row of peas coming up. I figure the potato bags will be just about full by the time the peas are done, so I'll gently scoot them next to the pea support so they wont' fall over. When it's time to harvest the spuds, I'll just pull the bag UP since the bottom will be undone. That's the plan anyway! The branch is laid on top to keep the cats from pooping in the bags.

and lastly, a haiku that came to mind in the doing of it all...

vultures, black angles
silently boomerang, slow
under a thundered sky

Iris Luv

Last night the setting sun was throwing unusually spectacular golden light which was bouncing off the flat bottom of a huge giant grey cloud. The light through the iris petals was almost coppery. #1 is a clump of purple and yellow iris(the yellow hasn't bloomed yet), interplanted with Lamb's Ear, wild dovefoot geranium, hens and chicks, and bronze fennel. #2 and #3 is breaking the rule "never shoot a photo into the sun", which I break this rule a lot. I got these by holding the camera at knee height and not looking through the viewfinder(which I also do a lot), I liked the unplanned composition and effects.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Went to Bethany Nursery the other day, north of Beaverton, Oregon. It is right on the edge of the Urban Growth Boundary(which has wonderfully preserved a lot of farmland and woods from development). Had fun walking around and enjoying all the colors. No money tho!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Another Year Gone by

The garden this spring, haven't planted any veggies yet, what you see are the perennials(healthier than ever!). Forest gardening huge success!

My 2009 garden journal is here

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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Good Morning

Here's the view as I turn down the hill on the way to the bus stop in the morning. It was cool to see the sun just crack open over Mt Hood's southern side. I like catching the sun when it first comes over the hills(or sets in west) because you can see the movement of the earth, and realize how fast we are rolling through space. I took this through my foggy windsheild--I lucked out that the camera didn't focus on the windsheild but rather on the trees. A trick I'll have to remember.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tree Bones

One aspect of snow I really enjoy is how it show the form of the tree as an individual.

Update on the mare's tails--when I looked up mare's tails on the web, it said they "foretell" a major change in the weather(in our case going from dry and very cold to wet and cold), as well as a warm air mass moving over.  Now the weather man was saying "snow"--which is essentially a cold air event.  How does the warm air "aloft" fit into the weatherman's schedule?  The next day had freezing rain, rain that falls and freezes on contact with things in the cold air below the warmer air.  Then the next day came the snow ;0).  The mare's tails were more accurate than the weatherman who is looking at blobs on radar.  All I had to do was look up.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mare's Tails at Sunset

I thought these were beautiful examples of some mare's tails (um, I think), caught in the sunset.  The weatherman says snow's a comin', mare's tails say a big weather change's a comin'.  Maybe the weatherman will be right this time!